Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have asked Treasury to withhold payment in the K4 billion ambulance contract the Ministry of Health awarded to Paramount Holdings until investigations it has called for on the matter are concluded.
In a statement released yesterday, HRDC is calling on Treasury to freeze payment until some ministry officials are investigated for alleged malpractices.
The statement follows revelations that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) never vetted the contract.
The procurement law requires that ACB vets all single sourcing as well as high-value contracts.Section 37 (ii) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Act, states: “Single source method of procurement or any high-value procurement shall be subject to vetting by the Anti- Corruption Bureau, pursuant to the powers conferred on the bureau under Section 10 of the Corrupt Practices Act”.
“We find it alarming that the Ministry of Health circumvented the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) by not submitting the ambulance contract for the Bureau’s vetting as required by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA) Act,” reads, in part, the HRDC statement co-signed by chairperson Timothy Mtambo and his deputy Gift Trapence.
The statement adds: “Even the conduct of the Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) at the Ministry of Health—accepting expensive trips with millions of allowances from bidders and then the same people returning to make contract award decisions—is tantamount to corruption..”
In May this year, the Ministry of Health awarded a contract to Paramount Holdings, to supply ambulances to address an acute shortage of transport in the public health sector—the process which has attracted controversy following a protest from its competitor that it had incurred a lot of costs related to the inspection of the ambulances by the bid team.
In June this year Nation on Sunday exposed how a team of 10 officials in the ambulance procurement process moved from one country to another under the sponsorship of bidders to inspect ambulances, a development PPDA said was against the law.
HRDC claims it has information that government has already paid K2 billion out of the total contract sum, but we could not independently verify this as Paramount Holding officials were not available for comment.
However, in an earlier interview, both the Ministry and Paramount Holdings confirmed delivery of 40 ambulances, saying the remaining consignment would be in soon.
HRDC wants the Ministry of Health IPC investigated, adding that failure to act on these demands the rights activists will take legal action.
Meanwhile, four members in the 10-member team that travelled to Dubai to inspect ambulances have been transferred at the ministry.
While confirming the transfer in an earlier interview, the ministry’s public relations officer Joshua Malango said it was a “normal movement necessitated by the exigencies of duty”.
Malango asked for more time to respond to HRDC’s demands and queries on the matter.