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Johannesburg - An alleged corrupt relationship between Brian Hlongwa, the current ANC chief whip in the Gauteng Legislature, and two companies that won tenders worth hundreds of millions is at the centre of a probe by multiple government agencies.
The investigation dates back to when Hlongwa was MEC for health. Now he may be charged on several counts of corruption over alleged massive corruption in the awarding of contracts in the province’s health department.
In addition, several former Gauteng Department of Health officials are likely to face criminal charges for their involvement in a corruption ring, allegedly co-ordinated by Hlongwa when he was health MEC.
This is according to evidence submitted to the South Gauteng High Court this week as part of the National Prosecuting Authority’s application for preservation orders on claims by two sets of companies that benefited from irregularly awarded contracts.
The evidence has provided intricate details of an alleged “generally corrupt relationship” between Hlongwa and businessman Richard Payne and the web of government officials, businesspeople, employees and companies that managed the administration of the contracts and specific corrupt activities.
The charges are recommended in a report by forensic auditor Andre Prakke, who formed part of the Anti-Corruption Task Team’s investigation team and a separate report produced by the Special investigating Unit (SIU) last year, which describes a series of alleged frauds and corrupt acts through local and international trips, cash payouts, and alleged bribes.
SIU spokesman Boy Ndala did not wish to comment, saying the matter was sub judice as it was before the courts.
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed the corruption investigation was at a mature stage but said neither Hlongwa nor Payne, or any department of health officials, had been charged.
“We are guided by the investigation as to who should be brought to book,” said Ramaloko.
However, in his report Prakke alludes to massive kickbacks which would form the heart of the State’s case against Hlongwa and the officials: “Money, donations, gifts, loans, sponsored trips, spa treatments, renovations and alterations, furniture and or any other form of gratification from 3P Consulting, Ukwakha and or any other affiliate entity to any department employees or officials constitutes gratification as defined in section 1 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.”
Payne’s company 3P Consulting initially won a contract to do a budget compilation for the department, which led to it producing a turnaround strategy which called for a project management unit (PMU) to be set up.
Payne’s 3P crafted a proposal of the PMU and later bid for the establishment of the unit, which eventually managed 144 contracts for the department.
Initially the contract was signed off at R60 million per year but by 2008, it increased to R138m.
And in 2009, before Hlongwa was redeployed to the legislature as chief whip, he extended the contract for three years at an additional R273m.
Health department staff acted under the unwarranted dictates of Hlongwa in awarding the contract to 3P, increasing its value and extending its period, according to an affidavit by Hawks Colonel Thabo Motedi, which formed part of the application.
In exchange for the contracts, 3P, through Payne, made over R3.5m in cash payments to Hlongwa in addition to paying R1.6m towards a R7.2m house in Bryanston.
Regiments Capital chief executive Niven Pillay, who received the contract to review the Folateng Hospitals, contributed R1m to the purchase of the house.
According to the evidence, Hlongwa, his head of department Sybil Ngcobo, chief operations officer Abdul Rahman and deputy director-general Obakeng Mookeletsi were allocated offices in the executive wing of 3P’s offices and had special access rights.
And Ukwakha Dezign, a shelf company owned by Payne, furnished the residences of Hlongwa, Mookeletsi and supply chain director Valdis Ramaano, at no cost to them.
Neither Hlongwa nor Ngcobo, Ramaano or Rahman could be reached for comment this week.
But Mookeletsi, speaking to The Sunday Independent, denied any of the trips listed were for material benefit.
Commenting on possible charges being levelled against him, he said: “If there is evidence of wrongdoing, there should have been a charge.”
He said one of the trips listed to Cape Town was for a standing committee on public accounts meeting and was not paid for by 3P but rather by the Project Management Unit. It was possible that Pillay invited him to the Durban July in 2008 but it was not a secret in the office, said Mookeletsi.