Ex-health department head in Limpopo Thokozani Mhlongo loses bid to get her pension

Former Limpopo head of the Heath Department, Dr Thokozani Mhlongo. Picture: Supplied

Former Limpopo head of the Heath Department, Dr Thokozani Mhlongo. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 14, 2023


Pretoria - Former Limpopo head of the Heath Department, Dr Thokozani Mhlongo, has lost her bid to have a tribunal unlock her pension.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) froze her pension benefits after her resignation following the personal protective equipment scandal that rocked the province in 2022.

It prompted Mhlongo to resign but she remains under investigation.

Last year, the public protector investigated allegations of maladministration and procurement irregularities in the awarding of tenders for the supply of equipment at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, revealing the department had not followed due processes in the awarding of the tender.

It was also revealed that Mhlongo’s conduct was in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and constituted maladministration.

Last year, the SIU obtained a preservation order from the Special Tribunal to freeze Mhlongo’s pension benefits and interdicted the Government Employees Pension Fund from paying out or transferring benefits due to her.

Mhlongo unsuccessfully approached the Special Tribunal to reconsider the order last week.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said: “We welcome the Special Tribunal order dismissing, with costs, an application by Dr Mhlongo, to reconsider an order authorising the Unit to freeze her pension benefits. We apply for preservation orders when we uncover prima facie evidence against officials. It makes it easier for the SIU to recover financial losses suffered by the State.”

He said the SIU approached the Special Tribunal to freeze Mhlongo’s pension benefits after she resigned with immediate effect in June 2022.

This was in the face of a disciplinary hearing, which emanated from SIU investigations into the department relating to the procurement of PPE in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

SIU investigations uncovered irregularities in the appointment of the companies Clinipro, Pro Secure, and Ndia Business Trading for the supply of PPE items, which resulted in the department incurring irregular expenditure and/or a fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R182 million.

Kganyago said the SIU investigations found Mhlongo exposed the department to wasteful expenditure when she authorised the procurement of 10 000 cellphones to the value of R10 million for Covid-19 household screening. It was found the department only distributed 388 of those phones between September 2020 and March 2021 – and without the required screening application installed.

“After the physical counting of cellphones in storage by SIU investigators in March 2021, the department distributed 9 588 cellphones to community health workers for Covid-19 vaccination without the required application installed.

“The SIU will pursue officials who resign amid investigations or face disciplinary action by freezing their pension benefits and institute civil litigation to recover financial losses suffered by state institutions.” Efforts to contact Mhlongo were fruitless.

Pretoria News