'Gupta clinics' suspected of doctoring the books
Either the residents of Southey, in the North West, are a very sickly bunch or the invoices submitted for their treatment by a Gupta-linked company have been doctored.
The tiny village of about 2,000 residents near Ganyesa is where mobile clinic company Mediosa claims to have seen 16,000 patients in seven months.
Duplicated names have been noticed by the province's department of health, raising concerns that the company - which is paid per patient - may have inflated numbers to claim larger amounts.
The North West health department was "alarmed by the purported number of people said to have been seen by Mediosa mobile clinics, which did not correspond with the number in the villages", said MEC Magome Masike.
"These numbers are concerning to us because we know the village where Mediosa claims to have seen 16,000 patients to have a population of less than 2,000. There is a need for them to tell us where they get the numbers."
The company was contracted to work in Kagisano-Molopo and Ratlou local municipalities, where the department said it claimed to have seen 24,448 patients between July last year and January. The company was using four mobile clinics - two in each municipality. The department said it was shocked to find out that one mobile unit had processed 16,000 patients in one village, meaning a total of 8,448 patients were seen at the three other sites.
Mediosa, which is owned by Sundeep Kalsi and Inish Merchant, has been widely linked to the Gupta family.
The leaked Gupta e-mails revealed that Merchant's visa application to enter SA was allegedly assisted in 2015 by Rajesh Gupta.
Gupta-linked businessman Kuben Moodley was a director when Mediosa was known as Cureva. He resigned in June last year.
The Sunday Times has previously reported that the Guptas planned to set up a billion-dollar medical facility in Dubai with shareholders who were awarded lucrative contracts to provide mobile clinics to health departments in the North West and Free State.
Mediosa and the North West health department both claim they are owed money by the other.
According to a three-year contract signed in March last year, Mediosa was paid R30m upfront by the North West government. Invoices would be deducted from this.
Mediosa said its financial problems were due to outstanding payments from the North West and Free State.
It was put under business rescue in March and the North West health department terminated its contract last month. Its 120 employees - who have not been paid since February - were officially jobless from the beginning of August.
North West health spokesperson Nthabiseng Sebake said Mediosa claimed to have treated 24,448 patients between July last year and January this year. At R954 a patient, Sebake said, the total amount for this number of patients was R24.2m, which left Mediosa owing the province almost R5.8m.
Mediosa has denied wrongdoing. "Services for the advanced payment were rendered [from] June 2017 to February 2018 according to records in our possession, which have been shared with the department," said Mediosa business rescue practitioner Asif Latib. "The directors are of the view all services quoted for have been provided."
The department has refused to release Mediosa's mobile clinics until all invoices are verified.
But Latib said this was unlawful. "According to records in our possession, the department owes [Mediosa] R548,988, yet unlawfully and illegally, without any order of court, is holding vehicles and equipment of Mediosa and other innocent creditors as ransom."
North West health spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane last month announced the termination of the Mediosa contract, "which was procured without following the correct procurement procedures".
Department head Thabo Lekalakala has been suspended for his alleged role in awarding the contract.
Mediosa has so far received payments of more than R25m from the Free State, but Latib claims it is owed a further R15m.
Free State health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi said invoices totalling about R11m could not be paid until they were verified.
The department had identified discrepancies, including one in which a "patient appeared more than once on the invoice" and some in which patients' "identity numbers were tampered with".
Mvambi said: "There was also an overbilling of R2.5m for September 2017."