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Slain Gauteng health official was an SIU witness in PPE investigation

Special Investigating Unit says Babita Deokaran was one of 300 witnesses

24 August 2021 - 10:15 By graeme hosken
Allegations of PPE tender corruption have rocked the Gauteng health department.
Allegations of PPE tender corruption have rocked the Gauteng health department.
Image: 123RF/Oksana Smyshliaeva

Senior Gauteng health department financial officer Babita Deokaran, who was gunned down outside her Johannesburg South home on Monday, was a witness in the Special Investigating Unit’s probe into PPE purchase irregularities.

Police on Monday said 53-year-old Deokaran, who died in hospital, was shot outside her home in Mondeor shortly after dropping her daughter at school.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago, speaking to TimesLIVE, confirmed that Deokaran was a witness in their investigation into the Gauteng PPE scandal.

“She was one of 300 witnesses who we have in the case. At this point we are giving the police the space they need to investigate and establish the motive for the killing.

“While we view what has happened in a very serious light and are very concerned by the murder of one of the witnesses in our case, we cannot yet attribute it to the investigation we were conducting.”

He said that Deokaran’s murder would not jeopardise the investigation.

“She was one of many witnesses in our investigation.”

Gauteng health department MEC Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi said Deokaran, whom she described as “invaluable”, worked as chief director of the financial accounting department.

“She at times acted as the CFO.”

It has since emerged that Deokaran was also a key witness in an investigation run from Gauteng premier David Mkhura’s office.

Speaking to TimesLIVE on Tuesday, Makhura’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, confirmed that Deokaran had been instrumental in the investigation as well as in disciplinary hearings against numerous health department officials.

“Babita played a crucial role in the investigation. She provided key information into how certain of the tenders were awarded. She was part of a group of officials who stepped up and said they were not prepared to allow what was happening to continue,” said Mhaga.

He said Deokaran had testified against certain individuals, including in their disciplinary hearings.

“During her tenure as acting CFO in the department, Babita uncovered serious corruption around tenders, which included those linked to hospitals. She helped stop numerous questionable payments for PPE tenders.

“While the investigation into her murder is still ongoing and the exact motive is not yet known, given the testimony that she provided in the premier’s office investigation, and that she was a witness for the SIU, we have a particular feeling that her death is linked to her coming forward to the SIU and testifying against unscrupulous people implicated in this PPE case,” he said.