Gauteng suspends official involved in irregular awarding of PPE contracts

09 August 2020 - 00:01 By SIPHO MASONDO
The Hawks launched a fraud investigation into the supply of PPE to the Gauteng health department. Stock image.
The Hawks launched a fraud investigation into the supply of PPE to the Gauteng health department. Stock image.
Image: Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash

The net is closing on crooked officials and companies suspected of defrauding the Gauteng health department of hundreds of millions of rands by inflating the prices of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other Covid-19-related goods.

The Sunday Times can today reveal that provincial health authorities this week suspended a procurement executive after slapping her with a raft of financial misconduct charges. This comes as the Hawks in Gauteng launch a fraud investigation into the supply of PPE to the department.

Thandi Pino, the health department's supply chain chief director, was suspended on Friday morning. Pino's suspension - the first in the province in connection with Covid-19 procurement irregularities - was on the recommendation of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), asked by premier David Makhura in May to investigate any corruption in the awarding of PPE contracts.

The SIU also opened a Covid fraud case at the Johannesburg Central Police Station this week. SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyagosaid the case involves three companies, which he would not name.

A police general who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Sunday Times that "it is a fraud case and the crime was committed on March 30. No-one has been charged as yet."

Pino and Kabelo Lehloenya, the department's former chief financial officer who resigned abruptly in June, have been named as being behind the irregular awarding of hundreds of millions or rands' worth of PPE contracts. Both declined to comment. Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the department will now prepare for Pino's disciplinary hearing.

Some of the contracts under investigation by the SIU include one for R125m awarded to the politically connected Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of Khusela Diko, President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson, who took leave in the wake of the scandal. Last week the premier placed health MEC Bandile Masuku on a month's leave amid fears that his wife's friendship with Khusela could have influenced the awarding of the contract to Thandisizwe. The contract has been cancelled.

A presentation prepared for Makhura by the provincial treasury's Gauteng audit services reveals the department paid R4.5m to companies that did not supply any goods, and R5m to companies to deliver PPE though the department had no contracts with them. Goods worth R12m were delivered before purchase orders were issued, and R82m worth of goods were ordered from companies not registered with the Treasury's central supplier database.

Goods and services worth R239m were ordered from companies that were not tax compliant and whose bank accounts had not been verified.

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