SIU still to recover R14m more from Diko company Ledla over dodgy PPE tender

10 February 2021 - 20:27
By Kgothatso Madisa
SIU head Andy Mothibi told Scopa that evidence was being destroyed as it investigated PPE fraud. File picture.
Image: Freddy Mavunda SIU head Andy Mothibi told Scopa that evidence was being destroyed as it investigated PPE fraud. File picture.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) still has to recover R14m from Ledla Structural, money which was irregularly awarded through a R139m personal protective equipment (PPE) contract by the Gauteng health department.

Though the SIU had managed to stop R100m from being paid, Ledla still received R39m from the department. The unit has so far managed to recoup R24m from Ledla, leaving it with an outstanding R14m.

This emerged when the SIU appeared before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in parliament on Wednesday.

SIU head advocate Andy Mothibi told the committee that they would go back to the Special Tribunal judgment to find out what the ruling was on the remaining millions. The Special Tribunal found that Ledla, which was irregularly awarded a multimillion-rand contract, was used as a proxy of Royal Bhaca, which was originally awarded the contact.

The contract was initially awarded to Royal Bhaca, owned by Chief Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of former presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, which was as said to have used Ledla as its proxy once allegations of corruption and possible conflict of interest arose.

“There’s that R14m gap and I was reaching out to our legal team because it can only be from the judgment that they draw the rationale of why this gap,” Mothibi told Scopa. “So I'd like our legal team to look at that and possibly at the end of the session we can provide an explanation.”

The SIU is investigating contracts worth R13bn around the country which were alleged to have been riddled with corruption and fraud.

Mothibi told Scopa that as of November 25, 26%, or 164, of these investigations had been concluded, which translated to R3.5bn.

It was found that the Gauteng health department proceeded to pay R39m to Ledla even though the contract was flagged and the SIU had initiated its investigation. DA MP Benedicta van Minnen said this was concerning and that action had to be taken against the responsible officials.

“Because it is very worrying that though people know what is in fact in the pipeline, those payments were still made and it certainly, from what we can see in the report, indicates a deliberate intention to disperse monies irregularly or fraudulently,’ Van Minnen said.

Mothibi assured Scopa that action was being taken.

“Some of those actions have been included in the referrals against the CFO [former CFO Kabelo Lehloenya], against the head of SCM [supply chain management Vusi Mokoena], [and] against the head of the department [Mkhululi Lukhele]. I would also include against the MEC [Bandile Masuku] and as we speak those actions are being taken. We are monitoring the disciplinary processes. The criminal investigation is under way relating to the corruption we want to go deep into [by the Hawks and NPA]. We are supporting that investigation,” Mothibi told Scopa.

Destruction of evidence

Mothibi told Scopa that one of their major challenges during the SIU’s ongoing investigations into PPE corruption was that evidence was being destroyed. This concerned Scopa as some members said it pointed to defeating the ends of justice and that names of those responsible should be forwarded to the committee.

In giving his example of incidents where evidence was destroyed, Mothibi made mention of a warehouse at the Carletonville Hospital that burnt down last week.

The building was being used to temporarily house PPE for health workers at the Anglo-Ashanti Hospital during its construction phase. All the PPE was destroyed.

Mothibi said the warehouse formed part of the SIU investigation into infrastructure.

“Recently, I think last week, we saw a building burn in one of the Gauteng warehouses and it was [reported] in the media. We’re investigating as part of the infrastructure investigations — that building is part of our investigation.

“In the warehouse example,  a case has been opened, the Hawks are investigating whether it’s arson and so on. So we do find instances where people deliberately do acts that are mean to defeat the ends of justice,” Mothibi said.

Intimidation of investigators

Scopa was also taken aback by reports that the SIU investigators were being intimidated in an attempt to block them from doing their work. This intimidation arose mostly during the search and seizures that the investigators conduct to get documented evidence.

Members of Scopa said this was concerning as it was a growing trend since the auditor-general also raised it as an issue. Mothibi told Scopa that one of such incidents happened in the Free State where one of the investigators had to be placed under special protection.

“In the Free State area we’ve had one of our investigators being intimidated and threatened. We have had to get the SAPS involved, who did a quick threat analysis. We act on such analyses and we have documented it and put measures in place. As SIU we have to take steps to ensure that our members are protected.The member is now under protection — that is just one example,” Mothibi said, adding that such protection came at a high cost.

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