Fabric Maker Feels Ditched

A South African fabric maker claims it was at an aanced stage of sealing a deal with the Ministry of Health and Social Services for the supply of fabrics for manufacturing nurses’ uniforms when the health ministry left it in the lurch.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Andrew Ndishishi, however denied the veracity of the claim, saying the South African fabric maker was “lying” and that the ministry only held talks with local company August 26 Garments and Textiles (Pty) Ltd.

“The ministry approached a local garment and textile company to manufacture the uniforms but it seems it (August 26) wanted to outsource the work to the South African firm which cannot be allowed,” explained the health and social services P.S.

Durban-based Gelvenor Performance Fabrics claims it held talks with the health ministry to supply the fabric before the ministry abruptly pulled out of the deal and instead opted for a Chinese fabric supplier, a decision the ministry has now rescinded following a public outcry.

“We were contacted by the MHSS through August 26 Garments and Textiles (Pty) Ltd about supplying a quality, lasting fabric to the MHSS in November 2012. A local contact of Gelvenor made a presentation to the Permanent Secretary Andrew Ndishishi and other deciding members and it was agreed that the products are what the MHSS is looking for and that they should visit the Gelvenor factory in Durban to further strengthen ties,” stated the firm’s business development manager for Africa Anton Poplett.

Poplett said talks were aanced to the extent that the ministry even sent some of its officials to South Africa to visit the textile company’s factory in Durban last year. “They (Gelvenor) are lying because we only had discussions with August 26, who made a presentation to the ministry with the South African company,” shot back Ndishishi. Ndishishi admitted that ministerial staff visited the Gelvenor factory last year, but explained the aim of the visit was only for the ministry to see where August 26 would be sourcing the fabric. Poplett told New Era yesterday that Gelvenor was supposed to provide fabric measuring up to 115 000 linear metres costing N$4 million before the health ministry “disappeared without a trace”. Commenting on the alleged failed deal, Poplett said: “I have no idea why the ministry disappeared, I tried contacting them for 15 months and no one responded. I called, left mails and verbal messages for the P.S. Ndishishi and Mr Peter Ndaitwa – however neither of them responded. Even until today,” insisted Poplett.

“I have been trying to get hold of the P.S. just to find out what has happened, just to see in the newspaper that they are buying uniforms from China,” said Poplett, adding: “Why they could not be upfront with me is beyond me.” Poplett however remains hopeful that the health ministry and Gelvenor can still work together in future.

“Gelvenor fabrics did all the work in the first place. The fabric and colour were signed off and the correct medical finishes applied. This should be a medical barrier protection fabric that lasts. It’s not entirely about money,” Poplett said.

Ndishishi denied that the ministry signed off any fabric or colour.

“We would definitely like to supply even if it’s half what the original discussion was,” said Poplett.

Poplett said the ministry was informed by August 26 that if they imported the fabric they would have issues with logistics, quality and consistency.

Poplett said he had worked with August 26 for years and thought the company capable of producing the required uniforms.

“None of the local companies have the capacity to do this because they do not have the right machines, We need to take into consideration that the machines required to manufacture T-shirts are not the same as those needed to make jackets,” Ndishishi said.

“Our fabrics are designed specifically for the medical industry and stops diseases, are easy wash and wear and will last longer than any current cheap import. Why this is not attractive to them is beyond me once again,” said Poplett.

“I do not understand the comments ‘due to the urgency of the matter’ as this has been pending for 15 months,” he said.

“We want to give the job to a local company, so where is the South African company coming from? It makes no sense to give the tender to a local company on paper but in reality the manufacturing takes place outside the country,” Ndishishi said

The lack of in-house capacity, Ndishishi said, was the reason why the ministry opted for the more “capacitated” Chinese company that would also help with training locals. “By doing so, we wanted to invite a few local companies, inspect, train and capacitate them so that they will be able to manufacture the uniforms under monitoring and supervision,” he explained.

Source : New Era