A forensic report into an apparently flawed and – to date – failed repair and maintenance project (RAMP) at the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) flagship 1 Military Hospital is littered with words ranging from “unsound relationships” through to “continued dilapidation”, “further contract extension”, “guess estimates” and “off-the-record meetings”.
All point to failure and the current situation where one floor of the multi-storey hospital on the northern side of Thaba-Tshwane is still locked up and out of bounds.
The RAMP goes back as far as 1999 when the then Department of Public Works, now the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), launched a RAMP for the military hospital. This morphed into a RAMP expansion and again into what is presently described as “refurbishment” by Abacus Financial Crime Advisory in a presentation to the Joint Standing Committee on Defence on 17 February.
In 2019 it was estimated that refurbishing 1 Mil would cost R1.4 billion and by 2019/20 over R1 billion was spent on other health service providers to accommodate patients in the absence of facilities at 1 Mil.
Other damning quotes in the report by Abacus Financial Crime Advisory run from “irregular conduct” through to irregular expenditure and appointments.
According to the forensic report by the Rivonia, Sandton, financial crime advisory firm, over R20 million worth of medical equipment was procured “without involvement or guidance from the principal agent/contractors”, some never used equipment had to be declared obsolete and Department of Defence (DoD) officials should be held accountable for “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.
It’s particularly critical of expansion of the RAMP project terming it “a manufactured and manipulated procurement process – therefore irregular”.
The refurbishment which followed the RAMP expansion also comes under fire for, among others, failures demonstrating technical shortcomings.
The report ends by stating: “An alternative and workable solution be put in place to address the lack of required expertise, capacity, capability and ensure the refurbishment project proceeds”.
JSCD co-chair Cyril Xaba is reported by TimesLive as saying: “This (hospital) was considered a jewel of the defence force at the time. It boasts 500 beds, a prime facility meant to provide treatment to the President, deputy and their predecessors, as well as members of the military, veterans and their families.
“It treated presidents of other countries but today the first floor lies in ruins.
“The first floor has 12 theatres, ICU (intensive care units), casualty departments that catered for emergencies and the trauma unit, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology and other ancillary services. All were taken out when this project started.
“We have been told this led to some specialists leaving because the work they were meant to perform is no longer offered by the hospital.
“This has literally led to the hospital being a white elephant.”