“Consequences” sought for 1 Mil RAMP non-performance

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Using politically correct language, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) urges the senior command cabal of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and its civilian leaders to “ensure consequences” for those involved in the debacle that is the continuing 1 Military Hospital repair and maintenance project (RAMP).

Shortcomings in the project, which first saw the light of day 22 years ago, are pinpointed in a forensic report presented to the committee last week. The report by Rivonia, Sandton-based Abacus Financial Crime Advisory, paints a damning picture of what was once the national defence force’s premier medical facility containing an internationally respected burn unit as well as a VIP treatment facility. Neither of these, along with any number of operating theatres and wards plus a closed pharmacy and other medical and treatment facilities are locked up and do not work, according to the report.

A Parliamentary Communication Services statement has it the JSCD seeks “consequences for those identified in the forensic report into the ongoing RAMP at 1 Military Hospital in Tshwane”.

“The report,” the statement has co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nachabeleng saying, “exposes the rot and bad state of affairs around the project”.

“We believe this report assists the department (of defence) in the sense it lays a foundation for consequence management and prosecution of those in the wrong. For every wrongdoing, there must be associated punishment.”

Quoting the example of medical equipment purchased without ensuring it would fit through doors in the multi-storey building the JSCD calls this “unacceptable”.

Another condemnation comes for using “unqualified and inexperienced people” in the redesign of the hospital’s first floor. This saw a “too narrow passage” unable to accommodate hospital beds (should be gurneys) built for access to the operating theatre complex.

“A civil claim must be lodged against those responsible to recover the ill-gotten gains directly arising from illegal acts perpetrated in the name of the RAMP. Also, the office of the Auditor-General must initiate actions, as per the Public Audit Amendment Act, to act against corruption and recover lost funds,” Nachabeleng is quoted as saying in the statement.

The JSCD cautions against abandoning the 1 Mil RAMP “particularly in light of the strategic nature of the hospital in providing healthcare to soldiers and military veterans (sic)”.

It wants effective and stronger oversight to ensure efficiencies and better spending of taxpayer’s money. To keep track of what is being done – and spent – on the project, the JSCD instructed Minister Thandi Modise’s Department of Defence (DoD) to provide it with quarterly progress updates and plans.

The RAMP project and its associated refurbishment project has, according to the forensic report, seen R1,5 billion of taxpayer money spent to date with zero delivery of either a functional hospital building or one that can undertake and execute medical procedures ranging from surgery through to pharmaceutical and others.

The last word, at present, on the deplorable state of what was the premier healthcare facility of the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS), comes from Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veteran minister Kobus Marais.

“In Afrikaans a ‘ramp’ is a disaster and that is probably the best word to describe what has happened and is still happening at 1 Mil,” he said.