Picture: 123RF/PHOTO SKY
Picture: 123RF/PHOTO SKY

The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) has fired its CEO and CFO after a disciplinary hearing found they were guilty of misconduct relating to tenders worth an estimated R200m.

The NHLS is a crucial part of the public health service, as it provides all the tests used to diagnose and monitor diseases, ranging from HIV to listeriosis. It also provides a training platform for pathologists and technicians.

The NHLS suspended then CEO Joyce Mogale, and CFO Sikhumbuzo Zulu in February 2017, following allegations of corruption and maladministration leveled by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu). Their disciplinary process was dogged by delays, but was finally concluded on April 30.

On Thursday, NHLS chair Eric Buch issued a statement saying Mogale and Zulu had been charged with irregularities and failure to fulfil their duties in relation to three procurements, worth approximately R200m. The charges relate to exceeding delegations of authority, irregular payments to service providers, and irregular appointment of service providers.

Buch, who was not immediately available for comment, said in his statement that the chair of the disciplinary hearing, Nazeer Cassim, concluded that both employees were guilty of misconduct. He quoted Cassim’s judgment as saying: “In the circumstances of this case, it suffices for summary dismissal. They breached the trust vested in them by their employer.

“They acted contrary to their duty of good faith, contravened the law and the employer’s supply-chain management policy. They plunged their employer into serious financial prejudice. No employer [could] be expected to put up with their conduct.”

Cassim had recommended their dismissal, and that the NHLS institute legal proceedings to recover the irregular expenditure. These recommendations were adopted by the NHLS board at a meeting on May 1, said Buch.

The board had reported the procurement irregularities to the Treasury’s chief procurement officer, and laid charges with the SA Police Service. The board had also requested the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to initiate a probe, which is currently underway. President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the SIU investigation in March.

“The board trusts that this will lead to all those involved in the corruption facing civil and criminal liability,” Buch said in the statement. He added that the NHLS is in a strong financial position and had ended the 2017/2018 financial year with a R1.2bn surplus, turning around the R1.8bn deficit of the previous year.