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Saul defends spending on PPE

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Zamani Saul has defended spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the Northern Cape, which he indicated was comparable to the expenditure of other provinces.

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PREMIER Zamani Saul has defended spending on personal protective equipment (PPE) in the Northern Cape, which he indicated was comparable to the expenditure of other provinces.

Addressing a provincial command council meeting on Wednesday, Saul announced that an additional R4.4 million had been set aside for PPE at early childhood development centres (ECDs) in the Northern Cape.

“We have noted in the auditor-general’s report that the prices were 12 percent more than what was prescribed. According to the National Treasury’s norm, a variance of 10 percent based on locality is allowed. This means that our variance is only two percent above, which is the least compared to other provinces,” said Saul.

He indicated that a committee was set up by the Provincial Treasury to audit the procurement of PPEs and Covid-19 material following an outcry from the public regarding allegations of fraud and corruption.

“We have taken the initiative to publish a comprehensive list of all companies who were awarded contracts to supply PPEs since the outbreak.”

He added that the committee was established to speed up the work of the internal audit around these procurements, verify the status of service providers and pricing and adhere to remedial action on issues raised by the auditor-general.

“This is to ensure that there is complete transparency around this process, where we pick up discrepancies or elements of misconduct or criminality. Such information will be referred to law enforcement agencies and state money will be recovered from those individuals.

“It is anticipated that this process will commence this coming Monday and conclude its work in a month’s time.”

Saul stated that the Department of Social Development was working with government-funded ECDs to finalise the procurement of PPEs at ECD centres.

“This process is currently under way and will be closely monitored to ensure transparency and compliance. All privately-funded ECDs are currently open, accounting for about 5 000 children.”

He added that funding would be made available for 143 feeding scheme projects.

“To date, 81 facilities have been approved for funding with the remaining 62 to be approved in the next two weeks based on readiness assessments that are currently being conducted by the Department of Social Development in partnership with local municipalities.

“Training will take place at all 143 of these projects during next week in terms of safety protocols.”

Saul indicated that tenders had been advertised for the provision of PPEs.

“We are anticipating opening by the end of October. An amount of R20 million has been set aside for food provision in areas where the Department of Social Development currently has no footprint in terms of food provision.”

He expressed concern over the disregard of Covid-19 health protocols to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

“Regrettably we have observed with shock and disappointment the reckless behaviour of some of our citizens since the easing of the lockdown regulations. I appeal to everyone to take responsibility for your own health and that of others. We can only overcome it if we all work together and share and also buy into the efforts of containing the spread of the virus.

“We are continuously mindful of the ‘second wave’ of infections experienced by other countries and therefore we are still working tirelessly with our districts and civil society to ensure that this does not happen.”

Saul stated that 454 health care workers in the Province had tested positive for the virus so far, of which 352 have recovered.

Saul indicated that the virus was expected to peak during September, where it was projected that there would be 11 929 positive cases in the Province.

He stated that during the surge, hospitals would limit all surgical and other admissions to urgent and emergency care.

“We remain confident that we have enough bed capacity in the Province for all patients who need to be admitted with Covid-19 complications.

“As at September 8 the Province had a total of 12 222 cases, with a total recovery of 8 956 cases and 3 114 active cases. Regrettably 150 people have succumbed to the virus.

“There has been a total number of 86 672 people who have undergone testing and 2 977 526 screenings have been done, including repeat screenings.”

Saul added that the Department of Education had ensured that all schools were supplied with the appropriate PPE and hygiene packs.

“The department appointed 645 cleaners in substantive vacant posts in schools. All cleaners and screeners were trained on Covid-19 protocols with the assistance of the Department of Health.

“A total of 2 100 screeners were appointed in schools through the EPWP incentive grant to ensure that all learners, educators and support staff are screened daily.”

He said all schools were disinfected prior to the reopening and all school management teams, educators and pupils were taken through Covid-19 orientation processes.

“As an added precautionary measure we ensured that schools are linked to the nearest clinic to respond to emergencies in double time should such be required. The Department of Education also partnered with the Department of Social Development to extend the services of social workers to schools to address the psychosocial challenges relating to the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Schools implemented differentiated timetables to ensure reduced numbers of learners on school premises daily and have staggered the breaks to ensure social distancing is maintained at all times.”

He said that through the national school nutrition programme the Department of Education continued to provide daily nutritious meals to 267 427 pupils.

Saul indicated that the Northern Cape Department of Education received a total of 2 044 applications from educators with co-morbidities.

“To date 1 110 applications were approved for educators to work from home. The profiles of these educators are spread across the curriculum and cover a wide range of subjects. The department is taking into consideration the need to accommodate the teachers with co-morbidities in critical subjects and the fact that all grades have returned to schools resulting in a large shortfall of teachers.”

He explained that given the huge cost implications linked to substitute educators, the department was considering employing education assistants to assist teachers who received approval to work from home.

“The assistants will be paid a stipend, not a full salary.”