Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

One year of Covid-19 in Gauteng: PPE corruption, resignations and almost 10 000 deaths

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 5, 2021

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Johannesburg - Gauteng’s Covid-19 fight in the past year has been marred with rampant allegations of personal protective equipment (PPE) corruption, investigations, dismissals, resignations and almost 10 000 virus-related deaths.

The first Covid-19 case was recorded on this day last year.

Ever since, Gauteng has had the most confirmed cases, with more than 400 000 and just almost 10 000 deaths.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) also received the most complaints for PPE-related corruption, with 34 allegations being referred to it from Gauteng.

Only nationally were there more allegations of corruption (51), with the SIU receiving a total of 189 matters as of February.

In the SIU’s PPE corruption report, advocate Andy Mothibi, the head of the SIU, observed that service providers for Covid-19 procurement had been paid without proof of delivering services.

He said they were also paid despite not being tax complaint and they charged exorbitant prices, favouring suppliers who were friends and/or relatives of officials.

The SIU found that between July and October 2020, Gauteng spent R3bn on Covid-19 related procurement, which included health and education.

He said emergency supply chain processes were abused and it appeared that service providers were determined before purported supply chain processes were instituted.

Supplies were also exorbitantly overpriced and the provincial departments did not follow guidelines as set out by National Treasury.

More than 2 300 Covid-19 procurement contracts worth just under R10bn were currently under investigation by the SIU, as of February.

Gauteng cases under SIU investigation

The R139m contract where Ledla Structural Development secured a PPE tender in the Gauteng Health Department has seen over 30 entities implicated in the deal.

The SIU found that Ledla Structural Development, which was allegedly used as a front company by Royal Bhaca Projects, owned by the late Bhaca king Thandisizwe Diko, had been awarded the R139m contract irregularly.

Mothibi also found that the money that was paid to Ledla, had been paid to at least 36 other entities. A scathing Mothibi said Ledla was paid R38.7m by the Gauteng Health Department, despite the SIU investigating the company.

The SIU found that Ledla had inflated prices by between 211% and 524%.

The Special Tribunal ordered that R26m be frozen from the bank accounts of 39 suppliers that had benefited from the deal.

In terms of officials implicated in the deal, the SIU said it was on a quest to recover over R43.5m in losses to the department through the case and aimed to recoup the money from former chief financial officer Kabelo Lehloenya and Professor Mkhululi Lukhele, the former head of department.

The matter has been set for a tribunal hearing in June 2021, with both Lehloenya and Lukhele, opposing the matter.

Lehloenya resigned in May, reportedly, for personal reasons, while Lukhele followed suit in October after he had been placed on suspension by Premier David Makhura.

Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, remains on suspension after the Presidency told the SIU it would take the “relevant steps” against her.

She was implicated in the PPE corruption through her husband’s dealings with Ledla and the Dikos close relationship with the Masukus.

Dr Bandile Masuku was the former Health MEC. He was subsequently fired in October.

Meanwhile, Mothibi has called for legislative amendments to safeguard state institutions in cases where they enter into contracts with domestic influential persons and immediate family.

He wants the failure to disclose proximity to such persons or officials must be unlawful and the intentional non-compliance should be criminalized.

TEMBISA HOSPITAL

Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba found that the death of Shonisani Lethole at the Tembisa Hospital, was negligent and could have been avoided.

Makgoba found that the man had not been fed for a combined 100 hours during his stay at the hospital.

He called for the hospital chief executive Dr Lekopane Mogaladi to be subjected to a forensic investigation which would determine if he was fit for purpose.

He was suspended shortly after the report was released.

Meanwhile, at least 20 people including doctors, nurses, kitchen staff and support staff, failed to provide adequate duty of care to the deceased. Some of them had also lied and falsified evidence.

Makgoba recommended disciplinary action against them.

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