MEC in row with official over tenderComment on this story
Durban - Kwazulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo told a senior official a day before he was suspended from his job that he “had no respect for the ANC”, querying why a multimillion-rand hospital waste management contract had been removed from one contractor and given to another.
“Did you ever consider the political implications of that?” the MEC allegedly asked in an SMS to the department’s chief financial officer, Mashaka Enos Ravhura.
“If you withdraw the award, as I will instruct you to do, what reasons will you give them (the company)?
“Why does it appear that you seem to believe you are operating in the environment that has no political leadership,” he allegedly asked, saying he would report the matter to the ANC “as you are making without political directive (sic)”.
Details of the SMS are contained in an urgent application Ravhura made in the Durban Labour Court this week for an order lifting his suspension and allowing him to return to work. The application was dismissed, with costs.
Ravhura’s attorney, Brian Denny, said Judge David Gush had ruled that there was no urgency.
Ravhura declined to comment.
However, according to the court papers, he will now face an internal disciplinary inquiry and take his case to the bargaining council later this month.
Ravhura says in his affidavit he was headhunted in October 2012 because “I am considered one of the best chief financial officers in the public service”, having obtained “clean audits” for several other government departments.
The SMS he claims Dhlomo sent to him on Friday, November 22, began with a forwarded message from an unnamed disgruntled tenderer.
It read: “Afternoon Comrade. I just got the disturbing news that the original decision of the Bids Adjudication Committee to award our company two regions has been reversed… and Compass Waste has been awarded all four regions. I am shocked that this can happen with the ANC in power.”
Dhlomo then appears to write: “Dear HOD, this cannot happen under the ANC government. I don’t know between HOD and CFO who does not want to respect the ANC.”
He then instructs the two senior managers to come to Pietermaritzburg over the weekend for a meeting with “first item for discussion the matter I sent you about Compass”.
The Mercury understands that the R150 million three-year waste contract was divided into regions. Initially one region was given to Compass and two to Ecocycle Waste Solutions.
Compass appealed and the provincial treasury overturned the decision, removing the two regions from Ecocyle and giving them to Compass.
Ecocycle Waste Solutions’ website says it is a black-owned company whose shareholders are the Sifiso Khuzwayo Family Trust and Mduduzi Ngcobo.
On its website, Compass lists four white directors.
Ravhura says the following Monday, November 25, he received a letter from HOD Sibongile Zungu suspending him from work pending an investigation into “irregularities”.
Following lawyers’ letters – attached to the court papers – he received a letter from the department’s attorneys saying a full forensic investigation had been launched and he was implicated in irregularities of more than R150 million regarding procurement of the Intenda supply chain management system, travel agents, security companies for hospitals, linen and clothing contracts.
It was also alleged he had been staying in a hotel for more than a year at a cost of R500 000.
A detailed charge sheet was promised “shortly”.
This was only given to him on January 24 and listed only two charges related to a contract for the supply of linen. Ravhura said the main thrust was that he was “negligent” as opposed to dishonest or corrupt.
“My reputation has been substantially damaged. The text message from the MEC supports my belief that my suspension was politically motivated and was used as a mechanism to remove me from the workplace,” he said.
In an answering affidavit, the department’s labour relations manager, Sibusiso Mnyango, described the application as “fatally defective”.
He said Ravhura was seeking to malign the MEC “in relation to a subject matter which does not form the subject of the disciplinary inquiry” and which would be dealt with in the appropriate forum in due course.
He said the charges against Ravhura had “serious financial ramifications” and the department was well within its rights to suspend him.
Dhlomo was contacted by The Mercury on Wednesday, but declined to comment.