A TUG of war has erupted between the Limpopo Health Department and Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) over aeromedical tenders awarded to black owned companies.

Departmental Deputy Director General of Corporate Services Matome Mawasha expressed his concern after AMS criticised the department for awarding aeromedical tenders to Buthelezi Emergency Services and Phuluso Ambulance Services. AMS claimed that the two companies aren’t equal to the task therefore the department shouldn’t have awarded them the aeromedical contracts as a result thereof.

These assertions and lampooning statements are taking place while the department is set to announce a three-year R16 million a year worth R48 million aeromedical tender contract to replace Phuluso Ambulance Services contract should they were found to be not equal to the task.

Mawasha said: “We are concerned that, while we are busy with a long term tender, there are these attacks on the service on one those who would possibly be participants. This is unfortunate.”
Phuluso’s directors are Louis Trichardt general practitioner Dr Muraga Vincent Mpilo and Polokwane obstetrician-gynaecologist and Mediclinic Limpopo director Dr Fulufhelo Tshivhula.

Both doctors dismissed allegations that they are inexperienced and that they run a small-scale ambulance service in Louis Trichardt (Makhado) in Limpopo with no aeromedical experience and landed a lucrative air ambulance contract with the provincial health department which has already paid out close to R3-million in four months.

“We are not going to entertain baseless allegations that must seize to exist. We are not on experienced but equal to the task therefore such allegations are controversial and extremely misleading. We condemn them with the contempt it deserves,” said the both doctors.

Mawasha added his voice to the doctors’ statements: “The department contracted with Phuluso on a short-term basis while completing the longer term tender. This followed a process approved by the Provincial Tender and is therefore above board. The Department did not and would not have been allowed by the Provincial Treasury to contract a company that would not have the capacity to deliver appropriately.”
He added: “If any of the individual black doctors or the doctors as a collective do not themselves have experience, they made sure that the entity that is providing the service (which the department has contracted with) has the requisite capacity through a joint venture.”
AMS took the matter to court in 2018 which is still pending over the province’s participation in a previous national aeromedical tender claiming that it was sidelined in the province in favour of a controversial joint venture between Buthelezi EMS and HALO Aviation. AMS further claimed nevertheless been maintaining a base in the province as it was given notification by the Limpopo department of health to resume services on 1 April 2018. This notice was later rescinded without reason so they claimed.

In responding to the above mentioned Mawasha said: “The department will not by bullied into contracting with any service provider on an automatic basis. The Department insists on following the normal state tender processes. The processes may result in any company which meets the requirements winning the tender.”
“The department will make sure that it procures a quality service for the sake of the people of the province. The challenges relating to the previous national aeromedical tender are being misrepresented and misconstrued.”
Health Department in Limpopo has also urged AMS to refrain from targeting black owned companies through media, PR exercises and approaching courts when they aren’t awarded tenders by government department’s especially Health department. “The South African public can be assured that the Department is resolute that a deserving service provider will be awarded the tender and not on the basis of any pressure from any news house or company. It is a well-known fact that procurement process in this country provide for consideration of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment. It would be sad if the attacks are a call for the department to ignore this aspect of the Supply Chain Management Policy in the country. That would amount to breaking the law,” Mawasha said.

Last year again AMS claimed that in a remarkable judgment asserting the rule of law, the North Gauteng High Court has ordered the Limpopo Department of Health to obey court orders and reinstate an aero-medical service provided by Red Cross Air Mercy Service. The order will force the province to cancel its contract with the controversial Buthelezi HEMS, something it has been reluctant to do despite an earlier order from the Supreme Court of Appeal unequivocally stating that Red Cross AMS, and not Buthelezi HEMS, should provide the service as per an awarded tender.
Owner of Buthelezi EMS, Thapelo Buthelezi said: “It will be disingenuous to entertain allegations. I’m putting to you thou that black companies are equal to the task in any industry therefore aeromedical and emergency services aren’t exceptional. It cannot be a sin that black owned companies are emerging and growing in the economy. Should there be a need to engage my legal representatives to defuse any bullying or character assassination I put it to you Mr Dube one will not hesitate to deal with them.”
Mawasha said: “The Department has indeed received that Court order in relation to the previous service. The department was participating in a national tender and we were instructed by the national treasury to stop utilising Red Cross Air Services after alleged findings on impropriety relating to the procurement process at that level. We could not run without a service and therefore contracted another service provider on a participation basis given the time constraints at the time. Participation in another contract procured by another state institution is perfectly legal and the proper procedures were followed to do so. We have, in our papers to the court in relation to the contempt matter referred to in the statement, indicated the challenges of implementing the order in that it would have amounted to breaking another law by having two service providers at the department providing the same service.”
AMS spokesperson Venessa Horn said: “AMS is an organisation that has for several years competed for aeromedical tenders in the various provinces. All we ask is that tenders are conducted transparently and professionally, and that all applicants are able to compete fairly and openly. In terms of the court processes, those are publicly accessible.”


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