Masuku faces battle to clear his name in R125m PPE tender saga
Johannesburg - Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku faces a daunting challenge to convince the Gauteng ANC executive committee that he had no role in the alleged irregular award of R125million tenders to his family friend.
Masuku and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko were expected to separately submit comprehensive reports to the special provincial executive council following the award of the tender to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) to Royal Bhaca Project, a 1-year-old company wholly owned by Amabhaca King Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, Khusela Diko’s husband.
The Masukus and Dikos are close family friends.
The Sunday Independent reported that Diko was among the beneficiaries of R2.2bn PPE contracts awarded by Masuku’s department within five days of Ramaphosa announcing the national lockdown on March 26. It charged taxpayers inflated prices for supplying and delivering 1million medical waste plastic bags, and 500000 dust masks, sanitisers and surgical masks each, according to official internal documents.
Masuku has repeatedly denied the allegations against him. In his explanation, he said, the process of awarding contracts within the department rested entirely with the supply chain management function in finance.
His rebuttal was likely to cause rifts in the Gauteng provincial government under Premier David Makhura following conflicting instructions on who was responsible for the procurement of PPE at the time Diko was allegedly awarded the controversial tender.
Coincidentally, and exactly five days after Ramaphosa announced the lockdown, Gauteng MEC for Finance Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, who is also ANC deputy secretary, told Gauteng residents and taxpayers that her office, particularly Gauteng Treasury, would be responsible for Covid-19 procurement processes.
In a statement on April 2, Nkomo-Ralehoko said: “Gauteng Provincial Treasury has centralised procurement of goods and services related to Covid-19 to ensure compliance with supply chain management rules and regulations, and the guidelines issued by National Treasury."
Nkomo-Ralehoko further said adjudications of tenders in public would be suspended until the lockdown period ceased.
“In urgent cases, which cannot be postponed, bid adjudication committee meetings may be conducted internally, without public observation subject to accounting officer (HOD) or accounting authority (MEC) approval," she said.
On Tuesday, Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe appeared unaware of Nkomo-Ralehoko’s statement.
“Initially, when it all started, the agreement was that the procurement of PPEs for Education and Health will be centralised in Health,” Masebe said.
As Masuku was protesting his innocence, insiders told Independent Media that he was likely to face a barrage of questions on the sudden departure of former chief financial officer Kabelo Lehloenya under mysterious circumstances in May in the middle of a global health crisis.
Masuku’s office said through its spokesperson Kwara Kekana that Lehloenya’s resignation was for personal reasons.
DA Gauteng spokesperson on health Jack Bloom said the department needed to explain the resignation.
According to insiders, the Gauteng Audit Services, under Nkomo-Ralehoko, blew the whistle which prompted Makhura to petition an SIU investigation in May, the period of Lehloenya’s exit.
Gauteng ANC spokesperson Bones Modise said the outcome of the PEC meeting would be known on Thursday.