Six months after President Jacob Zuma placed Limpopo under administration, the cash-strapped province faces a potential health crisis after over-stocked medicines worth millions expired, while others were allegedly looted or sold by corrupt officials.
Boxes of expired medicines worth about R14 million were awaiting disposal after expiring two months ago, the Weekend Argus’ sister publication, The Sunday Independent, has ascertained.
The medication, which includes antibiotics, ARVs and HIV test kits, is in a storeroom of the provincial pharmaceutical depot at Seshego, outside Polokwane, according to staff, unions and official documents.
The stocks were ordered as part of the pharmaceutical contracts awarded irregularly to eight companies – including a firm owned by former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s cousin, Tshepo – in February last year. The pharmaceutical contract was among controversial tenders blamed for the province’s R2 billion cash flow crisis.
The department launched an internal fraud and corruption probe into the tenders last year, after it emerged they had been awarded through a written-quotation system, despite Treasury regulations requiring competitive bids for contracts of more than R500 000.
Tshepo Malema’s Arandi Trading Enterprises scored contracts worth R44m.
The department outsourced the procurement, warehousing and distribution of medicines to Vuna Healthcare Solutions in 1995, but the company’s contract was not renewed when it expired in January.
Now a Sunday Independent investigation has revealed that not only did overstocked medicines expire, but officials allegedly colluded with suppliers to over-stock in exchange for kickbacks and other favours.
Orders were also duplicated or placed without needs analyses being conducted.
It emerged the depot accepted medicines with expiry dates just months away, despite regulatory bodies the SA Pharmacy Council and the Medicines Control Council requiring a minimum 18 months before expiry.
A staffer said: “Vuna officials had relationships with suppliers. They would just order stock to support friends. They duplicated orders…”
Phuti Seloba, Limpopo health department spokesman, confirmed medicines worth R14m had expired, and the province’s 46 hospitals and more than 360 clinics had run out.
The department was “aware of allegations of corruption and tender irregularities”.
“Investigations have been conducted and corrective measures have been taken, and as for nepotism, the department has yet to receive such a complaint if, indeed, it exists.”
He blamed the supply problem on “short-dated” stock “which could not be used”, among other things.
Seloba blamed Vuna for the mess, adding that the depot crisis had been reported to the national government.
Stanley Mashego, one of Vuna’s directors, refused to comment on the expired medicines and allegations of corruption and collusion, “because Vuna and the department are dealing with that, and it has not yet been finalised”.
Public sector doctors with the Junior Doctors Association of SA and the SA Medical Association have threatened to strike over the crisis.
Read the original Sunday Independent article HERE