Medic denies R480K fraud claim

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Independent Newspapers

Dr Patrick Mokhua appears in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on fraud charges. Photo: Etienne Creux

Pretoria - A medical doctor accused of defrauding the Department of Labour’s Compensation Fund of R480 000 has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts.

Dr Patrick Mokhua, 39, from Hartswater in the Northern Cape, is on trial in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

He is accused of claiming money from the fund for patients he did not treat.

Mokhua received 17 payments, involving almost R480 000, from the Compensation Fund on November 12, 2009.

The fund is a public entity that provides cover for work-related injury, illness or death.

The State called a document analysis expert to discuss invoices relating to the case logged in the Compensation Fund’s electronic archives.

The expert said aspects of the records of payment to Mokhua aroused suspicion – among them that the invoices were processed after normal working hours.

She also found the payments to be abnormally high for a general practitioner.

The unique numbers attached to the payments were sequential and featured a number formatting the fund had not used at that stage.

All the payments were processed over four days in September 2009.

The analyst also found almost 150 phone calls had been made between Mokhua and an official at the Compensation Fund over the period in which the claims were received, processed and paid out.

Most of the calls were made to the official’s cellphone after hours. Also, the official did not work in the section dealing with medical claims.

“This is abnormal. I do not expect this type of communication to happen after hours. If these calls are work-related, I will expect this type of communication to be done through a work telephone,” the analyst said, adding that only four calls had been made using the official’s office phone.

The analyst also found Mokhua was in regular contact with other doctors who were under investigation for defrauding the fund.

An official in the fund’s indexing and scanning section said she had been unable to find supporting documents, which had to be submitted before payment could be made, for the 17 payments in the department’s archives.

“I cannot tell if ever such documents existed. It is my first experience since 1992 being with the Compensation Fund that claims documents could not be found,” she testified.

Mokhua was found guilty of gross misconduct by the Health Professions Council of South Africa in June.

The council found the payments had been made to Mokhua illegally.

Mokhua was fined R100 000, which he had to pay over six months.

He was also suspended from having a private practice for five years, but was allowed to continue working at public hospitals.

The matter resumes on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, physiotherapist Abel Diokana received a six-year sentence, suspended for five years, for defrauding the Compensation Fund of almost R1 million.

Diokana appeared with six other accused.

They have been labelled the “Group of Seven”.

Each faces four counts of fraud and two of money laundering.

Diokana turned witness and pleaded guilty in April.

The six co-accused, who are former Compensation Fund employees, are to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Pretoria News

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