Suspended Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku. Picture: SHARON SERETLO/GALLO IMAGES
Suspended Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku. Picture: SHARON SERETLO/GALLO IMAGES

A damning Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report has placed suspended Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku firmly at the centre of dodgy Covid-19 tender procurement processes for personal protective equipment (PPE) worth R125m from a politically connected firm.

This is according to an SIU preliminary report prepared for Gauteng premier David Makhura as part of its investigation into Masuku’s role in the awarding of tenders to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by Thandisizwe Diko, husband of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko.

The Dikos and the Masukus are family friends.

Masuku has consistently distanced himself from his department’s procurement processes related to Royal Bhaca, but the SIU report paints a different picture. Dated October 1, it places him firmly at the centre of the “irregular tender” to Thandisizwe Diko’s company and two other companies associated with him.

According to the report, Masuku had known about the department’s irregular procurement processes. It states that its newly appointed supply chain head, Thandy Pino, had informed former head of department Prof Mkhululi Lukhele that then CFO Kabelo Lehloenya had been procuring PPE without complying with the relevant laws, and that this information was escalated to Masuku’s office.

Pino is on suspension pending the SIU investigation, while Lehloenya quit her position in May. Lukhele resigned from his position at the height of the scandal last week.

Masuku has also been placed on special leave, with a decision on his fate expected this week.

“Ms Pino’s report resulted in a grievance/dispute arising between the CFO and the head of SCM [supply chain management], which was escalated to the office of the MEC, and an adviser of the MEC was involved in trying to resolve the grievance/dispute,” the report says.

“However, the grievance/dispute was never really resolved and the CFO was merely allowed to bypass the head of SCM and to continue procuring in the irregular manner before.”

The report states that as a result of the dispute, Masuku knew about the irregular procurement, or “ought to have reasonably known about the irregular procurement”.

“The MEC promoted it [irregular procurement], facilitated it, allowed it and/or merely turned a blind eye and failed to do anything about it,” the report says .

It further rubbishes Masuku’s attempt to distance himself from the day-to-day transactions of his department, saying it was clear that the department and Lehloenya had gone out of their way to fully inform Masuku about the PPE procurement.

“One such example [of informing Masuku] is the fact that during April 2020, the MEC was copied-in on an e-mail by the CFO of the GDoH [Gauteng department of health] in respect of the list of service providers for the supply of PPE, which list clearly indicated that Royal Bhaca, represented by Mr Diko, had been awarded a substantial contract.

“The question arises as to why would the then CFO of the GDoH have sent the MEC an e-mail regarding a list of supplies of PPE, whereas by virtue of his position as MEC and by his own admission, the MEC is normally not involved in the administrative functions of the GDoH, including its procurement processes.”

The report further states that the investigation into alleged collusion, corruption and the involvement by Masuku and his wife Loyiso in it is continuing.

Another critical preliminary SIU finding is that metadata indicates that a quotation by Ledla, a company that is claimed to be a front for Royal Bhaca, was allegedly created by Thandisizwe Diko himself and later modified by the former CFO.

It says the awarding of contracts to Royal Bhaca, Ledla and Beadica was unlawful. The expenditure on the three companies incurred by the Gauteng department of health should be deemed irregular in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and related laws.

“Furthermore, the investigation found that the department suffered a loss or fruitless and wasteful expenditure in respect of the three contracts in a total amount of R45,532,709.10,” the report says.

Makhura’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, said the premier has received the report and he would inform Gauteng citizens on the action to be taken during a press conference on Friday.

Masuku declined to speak about the report, saying it was directed at the premier and not given to him for comment.

The SIU could not be reached for comment.

Timeslive

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.