Picture: 123RF/RONSTIK
Picture: 123RF/RONSTIK

The medical schemes regulator has reinstated one of the six senior officials it suspended for alleged corruption and maladministration last year, after an internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The Council for Medical Schemes (CMS), which is responsible for overseeing the conduct of medical schemes, brokers and administrators, has been rocked by a series of events that have left it hollowed out and facing scrutiny from the special investigating unit (SIU). The medical schemes industry covers 8.9-million beneficiaries, that provided a contribution income of R160bn in 2018.

While the CMS’s head of legal services Craig Burton-Durham has been exonerated by its internal probe into his conduct, he returns to work for a mere two months, as he is among a group of long-serving senior staff who were notified late last year that their contracts will not be renewed after March 31.

Burton-Durham was notified on Friday that his suspension had been lifted after the internal probe, which was triggered by a complaint via an anonymous tip-off line, found no grounds to conclude he had breached the regulator’s processes and procedures. He was instructed to return to work on Monday.

CMS registrar and CEO Sipho Kabane declined to comment on the nature of the investigation or its outcome.

“I can’t say he is in the clear [because] there is an investigation that the SIU is carrying out,” he said. The SIU launched a probe into the CMS in July for maladministration and corruption.

Burton-Durham declined to comment, as he is challenging the non-renewal of his contract at the commission for conciliation mediation and arbitration (CCMA).

In December, it emerged that the CMS was effectively terminating the services of six of the 11 managers reporting to Kabane. Combined with resignations and retirements, it means only three of the managers who were part of an 11-member team in January 2019 will still be in place on April 1.

In addition to Burton-Durham, CFO Daniel Lehutjo; chief information officer Jaap Kugel; and the general managers for financial supervision (Tebogo Maziya), benefits management (Paresh Prema), and human resources (Lindelwa Ndziba) are being axed.

The CMS head of compliance and investigations, Stephen Mmatli, who was suspended in early 2019 pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged corruption, resigned in September before the probe had been concluded. The general manager for accreditation, Danie Kolver, retired in December.

Kabane was at pains to emphasise that the CMS’s council had not decided to not renew the contracts of its top managers, but to allow those that were coming to an end in March to “run their course”.

None of the other staff suspensions have been lifted at this stage, according to Kabane. The lifestyle audits of senior staff that he announced in September had been postponed until April 1, he said.

“The investigations needed to be completed,” he said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za