Taiwan Department of Health officials pack a milk powder sample for melamine contamination testing in Taipei September 22, 2008. Taiwan has banned further imports of Chinese milk products after a scandal over contaminated baby formula that has sickened thousands of children in China, Taiwan officials said on Monday. REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)

Polokwane - A senior local government official has been suspended for his alleged role in the procurement and failure to distribute baby milk formula to recipients in the North West, the provincial health department said on Friday.

“Mr Cornelius Lebeloe, director of Advocacy, Social Mobilisation and Communication in the province, was suspended for his alleged role in the procurement of baby formula milk,” said departmental spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane.

He said the department wrote to Lebeloe and two more senior managers to explain their role in the procurement and processes that led to baby milk being incinerated.

The provincial department reportedly bought R7 million worth of baby milk formula, failed to distribute it for three years, and then spent almost R2 million on incinerating the expired milk.

According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper's report on April 4, the province procured 20 000 cases of milk formula worth R7m - using almost half of its HIV/Aids budget - in May 2011, only to destroy the bulk of it almost three years later, in January this year.

The milk expired between August and December 2013 without reaching its intended beneficiaries.

“Based on what the preliminary investigations revealed, a decision was then taken to suspend Mr Lebeloe,” Lekgethwane said.

Lebeloe's suspension was effected on Friday. He was the director responsible for HIV/Aids programmes in the North West at the time the milk formula was procured.