Limpopo residents hopeful after official in Mpumalanga arrested for PPE corruption

Residents in Limpopo are growing impatient after not seeing any action being taken against PPE corruption in the province.

The arrest of a high-ranking Mpumalanga provincial government official by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) over corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders has brought hope to the people of Limpopo who want to see similar action in their province. 

On Friday, the Hawks pounced on the acting head of the department of education in Mpumalanga, Jabulani Rolland Nkosi. Nkosi was arrested for contravening various sections of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in the procurement of PPE tenders amounting to R21.9 million. 

Nkosi was seconded from the Mpumalanga Department of Health to the position of accounting officer and he has since returned to his position as chief director in the department of health.

Nkosi’s arrest comes after procurement of PPE items like hazard bin liners, face shields, hand sanitisers, industrial disinfectants, infrared thermometers and safety goggles, resulted in unauthorised, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the department.

Special Investigating Unit (SIU) spokesperson Kaiser Kganyago said Nkosi appeared at the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Friday and was granted R10,000 bail. The matter, according to Kganyago, was remanded to 20 April 2022 for further investigation.

Kganyago said the SIU had intended to approach the Special Tribunal to seek a review and to set aside the PPE tender, and hopefully recover financial losses suffered by the State and the education department at the time the tenders were awarded. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in July 2020, signed a proclamation authorising the SIU to investigate widespread corruption allegations in the procurement of Covid-19 PPE tenders. This came after reports that some government officials had channelled millions of rands in public funds, intended to fight the spread of Covid, to politically-connected companies, some of which were found to have been registered around the time the country was hit by the pandemic. 

The final report of the investigations, which took place from July 2020 to January 2022, was handed over to the president this year. Ramaphosa said that if the SIU found evidence that a criminal offence had been committed, it was obliged to give the evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). 

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa receives final SIU report into alleged PPE corruption

According to reports, the SIU has since investigated a total of 5,467 contracts awarded to 3,067 service providers with a total value of R14.3 billion. It said investigations have been finalised with respect to 4,549 contracts, of which 2,803 were found to be irregular. This amounts to 62% of the finalised investigations. The final report had been referred by the SIU to the NPA, departments, entities in the public sector and other parties, who will finalise the process of bringing wrongdoers to book. 

Phillip Machubeni, of Morutji Village in Bolobedu outside Tzaneen, is appealing to Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha to release the SIU’s report into Covid-19 PPE tender corruption. Photo: Alex Japho Matlala

But it seems some residents in Limpopo cannot wait to get their hands on the report. The displeased residents, who have been waiting for the report to be made public told The Citizen on Tuesday that their patience was wearing thin. They claim the report has been gathering dust in Premier Stan Mathabatha’s office while he should have made it public. 

“We want to know who is involved, how much was irregularly spent, whose companies are implicated, how do the owners of this companies relate to the officials or politicians and what action you are going to take against those involved.

“We are pleased that an arrest has been made in Mpumalanga and we hope the same can happen in Limpopo,” said Phillip Machubeni, a resident of Morutji village in Bolobedu. In its report, the SIU found that 33 tenders worth over R125 million were irregularly awarded by the Department of Health and other entities in the province. 

Contacted for comment, spokesperson for the Limpopo provincial government, Ndavhe Ramakuela had only this to say: “The process to finalise the implementation of the recommendations of the SIU report is underway, awaiting conclusion on aspects that require treatment in terms of Labour Relations Act, especially those that affect senior managers within government.”

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