Johannesburg - Explosive details of a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on massive corruption amounting to about R1.2billion within the Gauteng Health Department have been revealed. Civil society organisations Section27, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Corruption Watch on Thursday made public the 122-page report, which had been quietly shelved for more than a year.
The report documents widespread corruption and gross financial mismanagement, which took place within the department from 2006 to 2010. And now they are calling for swift and heavy action against former health MEC Brian Hlongwa and other implicated officials, as well as intervention by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and other authorities, who have been asked to respond by Wednesday.
“Brian Hlongwa has been protected for years by the old government under Jacob Zuma. We need to believe that the new government under President Cyril Ramaphosa will not tolerate this anymore. We hope that they will take action quickly,” said Mark Heywood of Section27.
The original investigation was commissioned by a presidential proclamation in 2010. Back then Corruption Watch, the TAC and Section27 regularly asked the SIU for updates on the progress of the investigation - but were met with silence. The report took seven years to finalise and was eventually presented to then-president Zuma on March 29 last year. Yet nothing was made public and no action was taken.
Now, more than a year later and following a Promotion of Access to Information Act request, the Presidency has released the report to Section27, who have made the damning findings public. David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, said the delaying of the report had been extremely frustrating.
“This has abetted the extraordinary impunity enjoyed by major alleged perpetrators, at least one of whom, Brian Hlongwa, the former MEC for health and now the ANC chief whip in the Gauteng legislature, continues to occupy high-political office,” Lewis pointed out. He said much of the misconduct involved the procurement of goods and services by the Gauteng Health Department, with the deals benefiting companies and government officials through collusion.
At least another 10 other former officials are implicated in financial misconduct, with a few having been lightly disciplined in inquiries while the others were allowed to resign and walk away. “It appears the Gauteng government failed to refer any of this conduct to the criminal justice authorities, and quite a few people implicated were never investigated, so we will also be following that up,” said Kavisha Pillay of Corruption Watch.
She said the TAC and Corruption Watch had written to the Joburg Director of Public Prosecutions, where criminal matters from the SIU report were referred for investigation. The Anti-Corruption Task Team and the AFU were also made aware of the information, and a second letter was sent to the AFU, as assets held by Hlongwa and 3P Consulting are in dispute.
3P Consulting and its directors have been fingered in five of the 10 matters, along with a network of other private sector participants clustered around 3P Consulting. Their conduct has also been referred to the authorities. Heywood said: “This is a textbook example of state capture - long before we started talking about it. And it’s not unique to Gauteng. Now that we have things out in the open, it needs to be slapped down in other provinces.”
Kickbacks received by key public officials included free overseas holidays, and a R7.2million house in an upmarket suburb was bought for Hlongwa in 2009. Anele Yawa, the general secretary of the TAC, said there was a direct connection between the devastating financial crisis in the Gauteng Health Department and the rampant corruption that had gone on for years.
“The Gauteng health system is in crisis. Patients’ needs are growing yet crucial posts are being frozen; community health workers are unpaid; and crucial institutions like the National Health Laboratory Service and SA National Blood Service are owed billions and their viability is threatened.” - Health-e News