The ministry of health was forced to intervene and assign another caterer to feed patients at the Botha Bothe Government Hospital, after they were left home and dry when the company that provides catering services at the hospital did not show up on Saturday.
- Patients spend hours without food
- Govt arm-twisted into awarding catering contracts
- Officials coerced into flouting tender procedures
This was confirmed by hospital administrator ‘Mapoi Masupha, who said Mama’s Catering Company of Motebang Hospital had been roped in to replace Leker-Koz Catering Company since Saturday.
Masupha declined to delve into the circumstances surrounding the mishap, and instead referred all questions to the ministry’s headquarters.
The ministry’s chief spokesman, Tumisang Mokoai, also confirmed the intervention measure, adding that the ministry was working round the clock to address the debacle as it had come to its attention that many companies that provide catering services to government hospitals are operating courtesy of court orders and are underperforming.
“That catering company – Lekre- Koz – has not been paid this quarter due to unforeseen circumstances that government encountered, which resulted in failure to pay caterers on time. We still pay them, even though these caterers do not work very cordially with the government.
“Some of the caterers only work at the hospitals because they were granted court orders, after they had instituted legal proceedings complaining that the companies that were awarded catering tenders by the tender panel had won the tenders unfairly. What is disheartening is that ever since they got the tenders via the legal route, they have been offering bad services to the hospitals; the quality of the food they serve does not match the price,” Mokoai said.
The ministry of health spokesperson also revealed that the parliamentary portfolio committee for health, education and sports visited the hospital earlier this year, whereupon they received a complaint from the hospital that the catering company was not working very well with the hospital; the committee also inspected the caterer’s food storage facility which they found to be of unhygienic and ‘unsatisfactory’ standards.
“The catering company was warned about the complaint but the situation did not change. They always threaten to take the government to court whenever a complaint is raised regarding their services.
“We are working on the matter and will soon find a solution because that company is not the only one that did not receive payment; others continue to provide services because they know that they will eventually get paid.
“What happened on Saturday was the catering company’s staff decided not to show up for work as their boss had not paid them. We however acted swiftly to contain the situation; we asked the catering company that serves Motebang Hospital to come in and as we speak they are still serving the two hospitals while we work of the matter.”
Meanwhile, in a bid to get a comment from Leker-Koz Catering Company, this publication managed to track a lady who identified herself as ‘Mataoana Makhoshe, who said she was not in a position to talk to the media about the company and its operations.
“I am only holding the do in the absence of the owner of the company, ‘M’e ‘Mantlafalo ‘Maitain. She is currently sick. However, the company did write notice that we will not be servicing the hospital anymore. I do not know the date on which the notice was given I am not the one handling the matter.
“Yes the company did not serve the hospital on Saturday due to the reasons the hospital is aware of, the matter is currently handled by our lawyer. I do not know the name of the lawyer,” she said.
theReporter has since learned that some of the catering companies operating through court orders have links to an individual in the highest echelons of power.
According to a senior ministry of health official who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal, a former principal secretary of health was given a list of companies from (the corridors of power) that were to be given the catering contracts. The evaluation team was set up by him and the list was given to some tender panel members
“I was once called by (the individual) to their residence where I was given instructions to make sure that a certain company gets a catering job. I did not respond. I have no power to award tenders. The evaluation team had done its job and the PS accepted their report. I did not want to involve myself in corruption.”
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the health, education and sports portfolio committee, Moshoeshoe Fako confirmed the visit to Botha Bothe Government Hospital, and added the committee also visited hospitals in Mokhotlong, Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek. He said the committee would summon the Botha Bothe catering company to appear before it.