A lawyer representing former Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku says, for the past three months, his client has endured an “onslaught of unfounded allegations” that were used to “tarnish” his integrity and image.
Masuku has approached the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to review findings by the Special Investigating Unit.
He has denied any involvement in a PPE procurement scandal that saw him removed from his post.
The SIU recently placed Masuku at the centre of processes in the health department from where presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko’s husband won a R125-million tender to supply personal protective equipment (PPE).
“For a period of three months, Dr Masuku has endured an onslaught of unfounded allegations that have been used to tarnish his professional integrity and image, thereby violating a wide range of his rights in law and denying him justice,” said Masuku’s lawyer Mojalefa Motalane.
The matter is expected to be heard on Tuesday 24 November.
Masuku argued that the findings and recommendations made by the SIU against him were unconstitutional and therefore invalid, and requested that they be set aside.
The SIU issued a letter to Premier David Makhuru on 1 October, which recommended he take administrative action against Masuku.
He said the decision to centralise procurement was taken by the provincial government in line with various practice notes issued by the national Department of Finance and were not influenced by him. He added that his department’s priority was to protect frontline workers and prevent the spread of Covid-19, which saw the provision of PPE take a central role in the department’s response plan.
“To regulate this process, the provincial government, in line with the then national treasury practice note, resolved that the procurement of PPE and other medical related equipment would be centralised to the department.
The department, neither through me not any of its officials, initiated the centralisation of the COvid-19 procurement,” said Masuku.
The pressure was to procure as much PPE as the department could, said Masuku.
The potential shortfall of PPE saw the provincial government extending a broad invitation to service providers who could supply the needed goods and services, to approach the department, which Masuku believes was transparent and consistent with the Constitution.
“I, as an executive authority, was never involved in the PPE procurement nor could I have asked to be involved.
Any involvement would amount to unlawful interference with operation matters that do not fall within the ambit of functions performed by an executive authority,” he said.
He added that he was not involved with supply chain management and was not aware that Royal Bhaca Projects (RBP) had made a bid.
“From 30 March, various service providers were appointed and these included RBP. The appointment of RBP appears to have followed a quotation which was dealt with by the supply chain management officials,” said Masuku. “I was never involved in, nor was I aware that that these appointments were being made and for what amounts.” ‘I was surprised’ He said he was surprised to hear RBP had bid to the department.
“Since Mrs Diko and I were comrades and friends, I was surprised that her husband has received a PPE contract from the Department.
“I believed that I should at the very least have been informed that it had tendered to provide PPE. Had I been advised, I would have told RBP not to bid for the provision of goods and services, as I would any other friend, family member of close associate,” he said.
He added that Diko said she was not aware of the bid and that following a conversation she had with her husband, the contract had been cancelled.
Masuku has also clarified an email referenced by the SIU, between RBP and himself.
He said he had a discussion with the erstwhile CFO about providing a list of service providers to the Motsepe Foundation, as the foundation wanted to donate PPE to the department.
This email was sent as a confirmation that the list had been provided, and Masuku said he did not open or read it.
Masuku said that he was the one to urge an investigation into PPE procurement take place after concerns were raised by staff.
He also said he approached the Gauteng Audit Services to carry out the investigation, and that the matter had been escalated to the premier and the premier’s Integrity Unit.
“Before the matter was in the public eye or was reported on by the media…I took a decision that an investigation to uncover any wrong doing had to commence.
At the time I was under no pressure from any political or media stakeholder to commence the investigation, I did it because I believed it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Masuku added that he volunteered to take special leave during the investigation, so that it not appear to be influencing the investigation.