Disgraceful exploitation of virus tragedy must end
And so the cycle of self-enrichment continues ... as major industries, including the tobacco, liquor and tourism industries remain shuttered and millions lose their jobs, the greedy continue to profit during the Covid-19 health crisis.
The shameful inflating of the prices of personal protective equipment and other essential items is breathtaking in its scale in the Bay, with some suppliers charging more than double the recommended prices.
According to a PPE price list sent to municipalities by the National Treasury, type 1 surgical masks for patients should cost no more than R10.22 each and the price for type 2 masks for health care workers should not exceed R12.48.
Some of the companies allegedly guilty of the massive markups are owned by politicians or their close family members.
One company is owned by an ANC councillor’s sister, who was given a tender to supply four batches of PPE.
She delivered 34,400 masks at a cost of R19.50 each.
Another is owned by a former Bay mayor and ANC regional task team convener.
This company charged the municipality a hugely inflated R24.15 each for 15,000 face masks — and then R21 each for a further 500.
A Port Elizabeth husband and wife have also profited substantially through their individual companies — together scoring a total of R10m in tenders.
The wife charged the municipality more than R19 a mask and R3,250 per infrared forehead thermometer, as opposed to the Treasury’s listed price of R2,527.20 each.
She has claimed a total of R4m for these and other items.
Her husband’s company claimed about R6m for various items, including more than R47,000 for leather gloves, which are not on the procurement list.
He charged R19.50 per mask.
The absolutely shameless price gouging, at a time when our hospitals are collapsing and health care workers are crying out for protective gear, is nothing short of criminal.
The EFF and DA have rightly called for an investigation into the excessive pricing by the companies.
However, the Treasury’s PPE price list is an essential guide to help prevent municipalities from overpaying for essential Covid-19 items and, ultimately, it is up to those meant to guard the public purse to decide whether or not to accept the prices.
The municipality has thus failed the public by accepting these prices and ignoring the Treasury’s guide.
While it is not clear if the companies have actually been paid yet by the municipality, as neither the companies nor the municipality responded to this question, should it be the case then the person, or people, responsible for making the payments must also come under the microscope.
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