…healthcare provider accuses of looting hospital equipment ahead of its departure
THE government’s fight with the Tšepong Consortium is far from over. Even after the Consortium handed back the Queen Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH) to the government this week, the two parties are still feuding amid allegations that one of the main partners in the Consortium “engaged in sabotage and looted hospital equipment”.
What was supposed to be an 18-year public-private-partnership (PPP) agreement for the Consortium to manage QMMH prematurely ended this week. This after the government terminated the contract citing several infractions over the years by Netcare, the biggest company in the Consortium.
Health Minister Semano Sekatle and the Director General of Health Services, Nyane Letsie, both accused Netcare of sabotage and looting ahead of handing over the hospital and its three filter clinics to the government. The three filter clinics are Qoaling, Likotsi and Mabote.
“The government wishes to announce that as of Sunday 1 August 2021 (today), the Ministry of Health will take over the full running of QMMH,” Mr Sekatle said in a press conference in Maseru over the weekend.
“The government is also taking over the Qoaling, Likotsi and Mabote Filter clinics. The Likotsi and Qoaling clinics will be managed together with other government clinics in the Maseru district while Mabote will now be managed under the Berea district.
“We will still engage in talks with the Consortium “with regards to the hospital’s finances, staffers, equipment and other documentation that is of value in this termination process.”
Mr Sekatle also accused Netcare of sabotage and looting equipment from the hospital and the three clinics on 7 July 2021. He said the ‘looted’ equipment included bed sheets, mattresses and sensors.
“What they did was pure sabotage. How could they suspend some key services and instruct a mere security guard at the gate to turn away patients even without knowing their condition?
“Initially they (Netcare) denied taking the equipment but they now admit taking it. They however, excuse their actions by claiming that that the equipment was theirs and even had Netcare branding. This does not make sense because these are government facilities and the Consortium was only operating them on behalf of government,” Mr Sekatle said.
This week, Dr Letsie echoed Mr Sekatle’s allegations, saying Netcare had also removed projectors from QMMH. She said the removal of the projectors would negatively affect the training of 10 junior doctors currently on housemanship at QMMH.
She said they would conduct investigations to establish the extent of the looting and if need be, they would deduct part of the termination fees due to the Consortium and use it to replace the “stolen” equipment.
“Currently we have ten doctors on internship and this will badly affect them because the projectors are used for their training.
“The first option is for the equipment to be returned, failing which the government can deduct from the money we are supposed to pay for the termination of the (Consortium’s) contract and divert it to buying new equipment to facilitate the smooth running of this hospital,” Dr Letsie said.
The government has received the support of one of the Consortium’s directors, Lehlohonolo Mosotho.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of the hospital earlier this week, Tšepong Pty (Ltd) director, Professor Mosotho accused Netcare of removing hospital equipment without the knowledge and permission of other members of the Consortium.
“They removed projectors. Tšepong has never given anyone an instruction to take even just a needle from the hospital. But Netcare has taken projectors and even tampered with the systems that are used for recording patients’ information. Currently everything is being recorded manually because of this.
“Those projectors were bought by the Consortium not Netcare. That means we have to get them back. If need be, I will open a case of theft at the police station. We will conduct a forensic audit and open a case because acts of criminality have occurred,” said Professor Mosotho whose Afri’nnai Health company holds 15 percent shares in the Consortium.
Netcare has 40 percent shares while Afri’nnai of South Africa, Excel Health, Women Investment and D10 Investments (all from Lesotho), hold the balance of the shares.
Last February, Prof Mosotho accused Netcare of siphoning millions of maloti from the company under “dubious and unexplained circumstances”.
Prof Mosotho accused Netcare of siphoning money out of the consortium and paying out a total of M312 million without the approval of the board. He alleged that Netcare paid itself M201 million in just nine months.
He said the amount was way more than the M161 million that Netcare had submitted to the Tšepong board as its management fees in the 2017/18 financial year.
Prof Mosotho alleged that Netcare paid Botle Facilities Management M47 million between January 2018 and May 2019 without the approval of the board. Netcare owns shares in Botle which has been responsible for repairs and maintenance services at QMMH over the years.
Prof Mosotho also accused Netcare General Manager (Finance), Christoffel Smith and Netcare of vehemently opposing a forensic audit into the affairs of the consortium because they were fully aware that the net was closing in on them.
Last August, Prof Mosotho successfully petitioned the court to remove Netcare representatives from the list of signatories to the bank accounts of the hospital.
Under the new arrangement, Netcare- which manages the hospital on behalf of the consortium- has to seek the board’s approval before making payments.
This week, he repeated his accusations against Netcare. He said his company and others had “unfortunately partnered with hyenas” to manage the hospital on behalf of the government.
“This is a state-of-the-art hospital which us built by us, Basotho, not Netcare. Our biggest mistake was to give hyenas the responsibility of looking after our flock and now that they have finished devouring the sheep, we are complaining.
“There have always been unpleasant surprises with Netcare. One time I went to the bank and found that all the money in the (Consortium’s) account had been wiped out. Five months ago, I woke up to the news that close to 300 nurses had been dismissed by Netcare.
“But I must say that we are not just handing over the building alone, we are also handing over all the staffers of this hospital to the government. No one has been fired.
“The Ministry of Health will finally take over the hospital. Although we are in this divorce process, it is my responsibility to ensure that you (staffers) get paid your August salaries,” Prof Mosotho said.
He said a settlement agreement was still being negotiated between the two parties which will clearly state how much the Consortium would get for the termination. He said an agreement is expected by month end latest.