Maker allegedly knew half its products were duds

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

The company at the heart of the condom scandal, Latex Surgical Products, knew that up to half its output failed quality standards tests, says a source close to the company.

LSP continued using obsolete machines after ignoring a US technician's advice to replace them, the source said yesterday.

The company is accused of bribing an inspector at the South African Bureau of Standards to approve defective condoms.

The informant, who asked to remain anonymous, said two years ago LSP had brought in the expert from the US to refurbish and modify the company's 20-year-old machines.

He was unable to get the obsolete machines to work properly, and advised LSP to replace them altogether. The company allegedly chose to ignore his recommendation.

The source estimates that half the condoms the company produced were probably defective.

When in-house testing showed a failure rate of more than 50percent, the source said the company changed its procedures to cook the results.

Every condom is scanned by an electronic testing machine before it is packaged. Initial tests found leaks in more than half the condoms when running the machine at its recommended voltage. So LSP simply cranked down the voltage until it met its target failure rate of less than 10percent, the source alleged.

"The SABS tests condoms by filling them with 400ml of water to see if they leak or tear. LSP's condoms were riddled with pinholes and weak spots."

Company executives now face fraud and corruption charges for allegedly paying an SABS inspector to pass defective condoms.

The source said "the chances of any one condom being defective are probably better than 50:50".

The source said the company had failed to pick up contracts for surgical gloves in Gauteng and Western Cape because its products were so defective.