GOVERNMENT hospitals are riddled with massive corruption, underhand dealings as well as the flouting of State Procurement Board (SPB) regulations and procedures in the procurement of medical equipment, an official investigation has revealed.
According to a report titled Investigations Report on the Procurement Processes by Government Hospitals under the Targeted Approach by the National Economic Conduct Inspectorate (NECI), the investigation was triggered by reports of irregularities in the procurement of hospital requirements at Parirenyatwa and Mutare General hospitals by government officials in connivance with suppliers.
The report is now in the hands of the police and Anti-Corruption Commission.
The 151-page report covers investigations conducted in several government hospitals including Parirenyatwa, Harare, Mpilo, Mutare, Gweru Provincial, Masvingo Provincial, Marondera Provincial and United Bulawayo Hospitals.
The report reveals an inspection in loco was carried out at Harare Hospital, the first recipient of funding under the Targeted Approach scheme to resuscitate essential health services after an outcry on the parlous state of affairs at the institution.NECI noted glaring irregularities in the tender for a C-Arm mobile image intensifier acquired by the hospital on September 23, 2009.
"The tender was awarded to the lowest bidder, Axis Medical which quoted US$48 600. After awarding the tender, the end user decided they wanted a C-Arm with an LCD monitor as these had become outdated," the report states.
When specifications are changed under normal circumstances, the bid should be re-tendered but in this instance, Axis Medical alone was asked over the telephone to requite the C-Arm on October 1, 2009 and other bidders were not consulted.
"Axis upped their price from US$48 600 to US$72 000 and were awarded as they were the cheapest tender. The fact that bids from other companies had already been opened meant that Axis Medical had information on what the next bidder had offered thus presenting an unfair advantage over the other bidders. Bantex Global had quoted US$78 000," NECI revealed.
"The changing of specifications after the tenders have already been opened leaves room for manipulation of the tender process. In all fairness, the Procurement Tender Committee (PTC) should have come up with more precise specifications in the source document, re-tendered the C-Arm or should have asked other companies to provide quotes on the new specifications for the benefit of all other bidders," NECI said.
The report says there were numerous cases where sole bidders were awarded tenders at the hospital. In some instances, awards were done on the basis of two quotations yet the same committees ordered re-tendering under exactly the same circumstances, according to the report.
In one case of tenders for the repair of elevators, the department of works unilaterally raised the price two and a half times on behalf of the bidding party -- an act the report called "a treacherous act whose motivation may need further probing".
It also noted the process of recommending a sole supplier without having noted what others had quoted as in the case of the tender to overhaul a boiler at Harare Central Hospital is subject to abuse as the government may end up paying more for what could have been procured for less.
The report stated that there was no ranking system at Harare Hospital and tenders were not always awarded on the basis of the lowest bid as the criteria is often changed circumstantially, rendering the tender process susceptible to manipulation.
One of the main findings at Mutare Provincial Hospital, which received US$3 million of the Targeted Approach funds by the Inspectorate, was that the prices which the hospital was buying basic items such as keys, paint, paint brushes and wire nails, were inflated by as much as 100%.
The report queries why basic items were procured from Harare yet they were readily available in Mutare. It also pointed to the purchasing of 100 beds from Micknon Engineering for the nursing home in Mutare which started sagging within days of being assembled, with some ready to be thrown away.
"A physical inspection by officers who went to Mutare proved this as the beds were in a sorry state. The springs were loose and the mattresses were being perforated by the springs resulting in them being unusable," NECI report said.
"The usage of US$16 387 on beds which were condemned before a year speaks volumes of financial management at the hospital. Management at Mutare Hospital should be held responsible for purchasing these substandard beds," the report recommended.NECI said a substantial amount of purchases at the hospital exceeded US$50 000 as per SPB procedures.
In other findings, Gweru Hospital awarded a tender to Telstone for US$60 000 for the acquisition of a washing machine extractor despite having a ranking score lower and more expensive than Acqui-Pack which had quoted US$40 365.