Criminal microscope on how the cash was splashed at SA laboratory agency
President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate multiple allegations of maladministration, improper or unlawful conduct, and intentional or negligent loss of public money at the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS).
The NHLS, which serves more than 80% of the population through a national network of laboratories, is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa. It also provides a training platform for pathologists and technicians.
"The allegations of wrongdoing pertain to the period July 1 2015 to the present," the presidency said on Thursday.
The SIU investigation will include the provision of computer hardware and network connectivity, as well as building maintenance and renovations.
"Any unlawful or improper conduct by the employees or officials of the NHLS or applicable service providers will be examined by the SIU," said the presidency.
In 2017, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union alleged there were instances of corruption and maladministration at the NHLS.
Auditors SizweNtsalubaGobodo highlighted irregular expenditure of more than R1bn in 2016-17 and cast doubt on its ability to continue as a going concern because it reported a R1.879bn deficit for the year.
In 2018, the NHLS said it had made progress with two major challenges - improving its revenue collection from provinces and tackling historic debts. "The picture is not rosy, but with the current levels of payments and pending agreements [on historic debt] the NHLS is in a better financial position than it was last year," Business Day quoted board chairman Eric Buch as saying.
The NHLS welcomed the SIU investigation.
In a statement released on Thursday evening, it said it had discovered irregularities in the procurement and awarding of tenders and quotations during the period of 2015 to 2017.
NHLS said the implicated officials were subsequently suspended and disciplinary proceedings initiated. The irregularities were brought to the attention of the office of the chief procurement officer in 2017.
The reviews conducted by the office of the chief procurement officer had identified tender irregularities and non-compliance, the service said.