Cape Town - A former senior hospital administrative clerk faces close to 200 counts of fraud and corruption for allegedly using his position to secure lucrative medical contracts to bankroll his extravagant lifestyle.

This emerged in the Western Cape High Court this week in an application which could see the man, Wendell Louw, and former colleague Jakob Claassen stripped of assets worth several million rand.

Claassen, who has also been charged alongside Louw, was a purchasing clerk at the George Provincial Hospital, where the men worked.

The hospital services the entire southern Cape and Karoo area, home to many of the poorest of the poor.

According to court papers, the alleged fraud was uncovered in 2011 when Claassen’s colleague came across a fax in which the outcome of a tender award was announced.

She noticed that a regular supplier had been disqualified and raised the alarm, which led to an internal investigation.

During the investigation, suspicions deepened when it was discovered that Louw had made “extravagant purchases”, including luxury cars, which administrative clerks usually could not afford.

The health department’s forensic investigation unit later took over, before handing the matter to the police for criminal action.

The criminal investigation revealed that Louw and his relatives were linked to commercial entities allegedly used as front companies to tender for hospital contracts.

The entities are Imvusa Trading 1559 CC, WJ Medical Suppliers CC, Commercial Enterprises (ENT) and Southern Cape Healthcare CC.

Louw was the sole member of WJ Medical Suppliers, which had a non-existent address in Athlone, and a fax number linked to Louw’s provincial government e-mail address.

Louw also allegedly used his work computer for tasks related to the entities. Claassen, who was perfectly positioned in the procurement office, is accused of giving Louw a heads-up when contracts became available.

Once the entities linked to Louw submitted a bid, Claassen allegedly ensured that competing bidders with cheaper quotes were disqualified as non-compliant.

It is believed that the two men benefited to the tune of close to R5m in the three years prior to the discovery of the alleged fraud.

In addition, investigator Ricardo Rhoda stated that large withdrawals, and the manner in which money was moved between bank accounts belonging to the entities, the two men and other entities, were indicative of money laundering.

The men are out in bail and are to be tried in October.

In an affidavit, Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) head in the Western Cape Gcobani Bam said that, on the basis of the nature and tenor of the evidence in Rhoda’s affidavit, there were reasonable grounds to believe that the men would be convicted. He asked the court to grant the AFU a provisional restraint order to effectively freeze the men’s assets in order to satisfy a confiscation order in the event they were found guilty.

Judge Monde Samela granted the order this week.

Weekend Argus