Bandile Masuku and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) are set to square off in court on Thursday over findings
which implicated him in a multimillion-rand Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tender scandal that got him axed as Gauteng health MEC.
The findings were made on the back of a wide-scale probe which looked, in part, at Masuku’s role in the awarding of R125 million tender to Royal Bhaca Projects (RBP) and included that he had failed to fulfil his oversight functions in terms of the constitution and the Public Finance Management Act.
Royal Bhaca is owned by Thandisizwe Diko, whose wife Khusela Diko is the suspended spokeswoman for the presidency. The family is known to be close with that of Masuku.
While the tender was eventually cancelled due to the conflict of the interest, it’s alleged Diko has still scored from the department through what the SIU has labelled a “proxy” company, called Ledla Structural Development.
Last October, Gauteng premier David Makhura announced the dismissal of Masuku as a result of the SIU’s findings against him.
But Masuku – who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing – has made it clear he’s not going down without a fight and has now taken the findings on review in a bid to get back his job.
The case has been set down to be heard by a full bench of the High Court in Pretoria today, when Masuku will argue the findings are not supported by any evidence as well based on a procedurally irrational process.
“The findings of the [SIU] are not supported by documents and/or statements under oath by officials confirming [Masuku’s] wrongdoing,” his lawyers said in the heads of arguments that have been filed with the court.
Instead, they charged, the findings were rooted in speculation, hearsay and conjecture.
Masuku has denied having had any knowledge of the award of the tender to Royal Bhaca until weeks after it was made.
But central to the case against him is an e-mail he was sent from the department’s chief financial officer in April – just two days after the fact – which listed the company as a provider.
Masuku said it was sent to him pursuant to a request from the Motsepe Foundation for a list of suppliers to use to donate PPE but that he never opened it.
“Desperate for results, lacking the finesse to obtain objective evidence, the SIU made a logical leap that an e-mail [that was meant to assist a Foundation that wanted to procure PPE and donate it to the department] was proof of [his]
involvement in procurement,” his lawyers lashed out,
“This illogical leap, with respect, cannot be countenanced. It is procedurally and substantively irrational. It is not a product of a sound investigation.”
However, the SIU has accused Masuku of trying to avoid responsibility “for the established acts of corruption, unlawful and improper procurement”.
“We submit that [he] cannot escape the obligation he had of accountability enshrined in section,” the SIU lawyers charged back in their heads of argument.
And it has described his claim that he never opened the April e-mail, as “simply implausible”.
“There is no explicable and acceptable reason why the CFO could have sent the e-mail to [Masuku] if [he] had no reason to have knowledge of the contents of the e-mail, namely, the identities of the suppliers and quantities of the PPE ordered and supplied by them, through public procurement by the provincial department.”