Government officials in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province have scrapped a procurement process after confidential details of bidders were leaked.
Contractors had been bidding for contracts to provide security, cleaning, and landscaping services at hospitals, clinics, and health centres across the province.
But key tender documents were leaked, prompting KwaZulu-Natal's Department of Health to scrap the contest and start again.
In a statement, the government department said: “In a bid to clean-up the now “contaminated” procurement process of appointing contractors to provide security, cleaning, and landscaping services at health facilities across the province, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has decided to cancel and start over.”
The statement, issued last month, revealed how documents from the department’s technical evaluating committee, containing details of companies bidding for department contracts, had been made public.
“The premature sharing - including on social media - of such information has contaminated the process, and means that whatever decision is taken henceforth regarding the appointment of successful bidders, is likely to cause strife among or even between the parties concerned,” it said.
The decision to start the process again from scratch was being taken regardless of whether or not any of the applicants had been prejudiced in any way, it added.
The statement claimed there was "no evidence" that bidders had been affected by the leaks.
The department said it was “extremely concerned by this malicious breaching of its established internal document management protocols” and was investigating the leak.
It has formally requested that KwaZulu-Natal's Treasury officially withdraw and restart the entire process.
In the meantime, affected services at hospitals, clinics and community health centres will continue to be managed on a month-to-month basis, according to the statement.
South African media has reported that around 30 employees from the acquisition unit of KwaZulu-Natal's Department of Health have been redeployed to other jobs while the leak is investigated.
The IOL news website quoted an anonymous source, who said: “The department had to stop the process because it was no longer fair. It resolved to move the employees from the acquisitions unit of the supply chain management (SCM) to other employment posts.”
They added: “The management of SCM will reconstitute the acquisitions unit with new staff who will undergo strict background checks, among other security measures.”