News24 Wire
Wire Service
4 minute read
20 Nov 2020
10:21 pm

Judgment reserved in matter between SIU and ‘corrupt’ Gauteng PPE contractors

News24 Wire

In August, the SIU obtained an interim order to freeze R38.7 million held in at least 40 contractors' bank accounts.

Picture for illustration. A healthcare worker rearranges protective face masks in an intensive care unit (ICU) in a Stockholm hospital is pictured on 11 June 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Jonathan NACKSTRAND/AFP

The Special Tribunal has reserved judgment in the matter between the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and a number of Gauteng-based contractors, which benefitted from a tender involving the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In August, the SIU obtained an interim order to freeze R38.7 million held in at least 40 contractors’ bank accounts.

The interim order also interdicted the Government Employee Pension Fund (GEPF) from releasing pension benefits to the department’s former chief financial officer, Mantsu Kabelo Lehloenya.

Lehloenya is accused of having signed off on irregular PPE contracts to the tune of R2 billion, News24 previously reported.

On Friday, the tribunal only heard from about 20 respondents.It is understood that some respondents “either settled or failed to file responding documents”.

According to the SIU, it had uncovered that contracts were corruptly awarded to Ledla Structural Development, which is a “proxy” for Royal Bhaca Projects, owned by Madzikane ll Thandisizwe Diko, husband of presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.

The SIU was represented by advocate Paul Kennedy SC in the matter.

In court documents, the investigating unit highlighted that it wants an order reviewing and setting aside the “purported award of a contract by GDoH [Gauteng Department of Health] to Ledla as unlawful and invalid”.

The SIU wants the tribunal to confirm the interim order prohibiting the GEPF and the government pensions administration’s agency from releasing funds to Lehloenya.

The SIU said Ledla was awarded a contract for the supply of Covid-19 items, and that the tender was unlawfully, irregularly and corruptly awarded, at prices which were grossly inflated in excess of market-related prices.

It also alleged that Ledla transferred a large portion of the proceeds it received into the bank accounts of various other entities and people.

The SIU also alleges that the former CFO and Ledla “knowingly participated in a fraudulent and corrupt scheme designed to ensure that the contract which the company was otherwise not entitled to be awarded, was awarded to it for its benefit and the benefit of Mr Diko, who is the sole director of Royal Bhaca as well as for the benefit of Mr Sangoni, who is a cousin to Mr Diko’s wife”.

The unit further states the contract, which was awarded to Ledla, was initially awarded to Royal Bhaca, but “later purportedly cancelled in order to create a false impression that Mr Diko – who had admitted to his close familial ties with the MEC of GDoH – would not appear to benefit from the contract, whereas in fact he would, and he did so benefit”.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who represented Lehloenya, told Judge Billy Mothle the SIU failed to show any evidence that his client was dishonest.

He also said: “The SIU does not allege theft, my client is not accused of theft, the SIU alleges fraud, but it does not assert a single fact to underpin the allegation of fraud.”

Ngcukaitobi also said his client had no role in the actual payment.

The advocate said the R38 million was paid on 3 August 2020 to Ledla, but his client left the department on 29 May – and afterwards she said, “I made no decision, I was disconnected from the system”.

“So who made this approval? Mr Kennedy (advocate for SIU) suggested to your lordship that the person who was at the heart of this was my client and yet we know the payment itself happened on 3 of August, some three months after my client had left the department,” he said. Ngcukaitobi also said the SIU was “unwilling to go after the right culprit”.

“My client is completely innocent of the transaction and her pension should not have been taken away because SIU was unable to show causation – they were not able to show who actually made the payment,” he argued. “She [Lehloenya] received absolutely no payment. She has no relationship with Ledla and has no relationship with Royal Bhaca,” he said.

Other respondents, who appeared before the tribunal, also argued the investigating unit did not make out a case against them, with one saying her client was just a bystander in the matter, adding the SIU had “no shred of evidence”.

Judge Mothle said he would deliver a ruling on 8 December 2020.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.