Health officials yet to account for missing R16m

By Time of article published Aug 1, 2012

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THREE former senior officials of the Gauteng Health Department who allegedly defrauded the provincial government of more than R16 million in tenders are still to be brought to account.

In 2010, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, then acting president, signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate the three officials after the department awarded contracts worth R1 billion.

Motlanthe ordered the SIU to investigate any serious maladministration, unlawful or irregular appropriation or expenditure since 2006 in the department, and to look into recovering any losses.

The investigation arose from problems identified in the auditor-General’s report on the department for the 2007/2008 financial year.

At the time in 2010, Parliament heard that officials in the National Treasury had hired a private forensic auditors’ firm to look into the Gauteng Health Department after it had overspent by R722m, but still had bills of R573m to pay in 2008/09. The department’s budget in that financial year was R13.8bn.

It also heard that about R36m in contracts were awarded without competitive bidding, and nearly R1bn was spent on consultants.

Forensic investigators found that the department had not followed proper procurement processes for a number of significant contracts.

The department could not account for R62m in assets, and investigators found that procedures had been bypassed in favour of certain contractors.

The forensic auditors’ report was then referred to the SIU to investigate former health department head Sybil Ngcobo, former chief financial officer Fanuel Meso and former deputy director-general Obakeng Moekeletsi after they were implicated in acts of corruption.

In its findings, the SIU laid three charges of fraud against the officials as well as service providers.

The SIU report stated: “All charges are based on misrepresentations these parties made to the department which resulted in improper payments to service providers of R681 916, R15.3 million and R1.2 million.

The SIU recommended that two claims for damages for the loss of R15.3m and R1.2m must be lodged against senior officials.

The report also said: “The unit has recommended the recovery of approximately R11 million in duplicate payments made to one service provider.”

SIU spokesman Boy Ndala confirmed that the implicated officials had not yet been arrested for the alleged crimes.

“The SIU can confirm that the matters related to senior officials (as reported in the SIU interim report April-September 2011) in the Department of Health in Gauteng have been referred to the Anti-Corruption Task Team for further action.

“We cannot reveal anything further at this stage as the investigations are in a sensitive stage. The Anti-Corruption Task Team… has been mandated by the president and the justice, crime-prevention and security cluster in the cabinet to focus on dealing with high-level corruption involving government funds,” Ndala said.

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