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Report on PPE fraud shows health care workers were not a priority – union

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Special Investigating Unit report on investigations into allegations of dodgy Covid-19 PPE procurement by state institutions makes for “disturbing reading”

The head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), advocate Andy Mothibi, briefed the media on the report of finalised investigations and outcomes of investigations into allegations on Covid-19 PPE procurement fraud by state institutions. Picture: Siyabulela Duda

THE SPECIAL Investigating Unit (SIU) report released last week into procurement fraud during the coronavirus state of disaster makes for “disturbing reading” and underlines the urgent need to relook at the government’s supply chain management controls by the National Treasury.

The spokesperson of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa), Sibongiseni Delihlazo, said: “Denosa is particularly disappointed that R13.3 billion, which is close to 50% of the whole procurement, is subject to investigation, which is the clearest indication that health care workers were never the priority to protect.”

According to Delihlazo, the infection of more than 43,000 health care workers, and the subsequent death of more than 436 of them, could well be closely linked to the supply of substandard quality products which the investigation has unearthed so far.

“This vindicates many health care workers who complained to us of the poor quality of PPE (personal protective equipment) at the time when health care workers needed the best protection in the face of the deadly virus that has killed over tow million people globally.

“Health care workers are owed an apology, explanation and a recourse from both the government and implicated companies over this malaise, because many are still feeling the hard knock-on effects of infection, while family members of those who died have lost breadwinners and parents permanently.

“Those companies that supplied substandard quality PPE have set health care up for failure and placed their lives on the line.”

The nursing organisation called for all funds that were retrieved successfully by the investigation to be returned and used to buy quality PPE to safeguard the health care workers, especially in light of a possible third wave of Covid-19.

Given the seriousness of the report’s implications to health care workers, Denosa has not ruled out the possibility of legal class action.

Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said while he could not comment on the report, as the department had not had sight of it, the implications were serious. “We do take their (Denosa’s) concerns very seriously. It is definitely something we will look into, but we are currently not in a position to comment on it.

“We will do what is necessary to protect our health care workers across the board. The safety and well-being of our health workers in the workplace is our main concern,” he added.

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