Why has Hlongwa not been charged with others in Gauteng Health corruption?

The DA welcomes the appearance in court today of four former officials of the Gauteng Health Department who were arrested in connection with alleged corruption in the award of a R1.2 billion tender to the Baoki Consortium in 2007.
The suspects include Sybil Ngcobo, former Gauteng health department head and accounting officer; Mmakgosi Mosupi, former chief director of Information and Communications Technology; Valdis Romaano, former director of Supply Chain Management; and former deputy director general Obakeng Mookeletsi.

This all happened when Brian Hlongwa was the MEC for Health and he is also implicated in the irregular award of the Baoki and other contracts.

The evidence includes the role of an Austrian citizen Mr Heinz Smidek, whose companies were part of the Baoki Consortium, in purchasing Hlongwa’s former home in Bryanston for R4.6 million as well as other gratifications to him in order for him to allegedly improperly influence the award of the tender to Baoki.

We need to know why Hlongwa has not been arrested and charged together with the officials who appeared in court today.

I have long suspected that the long delay in bringing this case to trial has been because Hlongwa had political protection.

The Gauteng Health Department has still not recovered from his disastrous tenure when financial controls dissolved and service delivery suffered.

There should be no fear or favour in ensuring that Hlongwa is also held to account along with others in this matter.

Nokuthula LSEN still not fully functional despite MEC Motara’s proclamation that the school can be fully utilised

Today, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng conducted an oversight inspection at Nokuthula LSEN School in Lyndhurst and we were disappointed to discover that the school is still not being fully utilised despite that the Gauteng Infrastructure Development MEC, Tasneem Motara stating that all facilities at the school are open and can be fully utilised.

MEC Motara was responding to my oral questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) on Tuesday.

During the oversight inspection at the school we also discovered that the school is still operating on a temporary occupational certificate hence it is still not being fully occupied.

The school can only be fully occupied once it have been issued with a permanent occupational certificate.

This means that the dormitories are still not being utilised and learners are forced to commute everyday to school.

This clearly indicates that MEC Motara misled the House by stating that all facilities at the school are open and can be fully utilised.

The permanent occupational certificate will only be issued once all outstanding matters relating to site development and building plans have been addressed.

The DA calls on MEC Motara to provide a timeframe as to when the defects at the school will be fixed as the department has set aside a budget of R2,5 million.

The R300 million state-of-the-art school is not in a good state , the fascia boards have fallen out , there are roof leakages which are affecting the ceiling and the walls and the hydrotherapy room is non functional.

We will continue to monitor the progress with regards to the fixing of these defects to ensure that the school complies with the standard building regulations and can be issued with a permanent occupational certificate.

The DA further calls on the Department of Education to take over control of its entire budget as the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) is incapable of building proper schools.

Gauteng Premier rebuffed on reinstating Health MEC

The DA notes that the ANC Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) has approved Premier David Makhura’s axing of Health MEC Bandile Masuku and has called for a new Health MEC to be appointed urgently.

This is a rebuff to Makhura who wanted to reinstate Masuku if the final SIU report cleared him of corruption as opposed to his failure to stop it in the first place.

I agree that we need a new Health MEC who is ethical and capable of fixing the deep rot in this department.

Makhura shares the blame for the failures in this department because he was the one who appointed Masuku and Professor Mkhululi Lukhele, the Head of Department, and he did not monitor them effectively.

The PPE scandal follows after the Life Esidimeni tragedy caused by Makhura’s disastrous appointments of Qedani Mahlangu as Health MEC and Barney Selebano as Head of the Department.

There are currently 28 senior management vacancies in the Department that need to be filled urgently.

Makhura should abandon cadre deployment and ensure that all new staff at the Gauteng Health Department are appointed purely on merit.

Gauteng Health pays millions for empty beds at Nasrec

Only 26 COVID-19 patients have been treated at the 1000-bed NASREC field hospital since 1 September, but the Gauteng Health Department is paying to keep it open until 31 January next year at a potential total cost of R256 million.

This was revealed yesterday by Acting Gauteng Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo in an oral reply to my questions at a virtual sitting of the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mamabolo, R58.1 million was paid by the end of August for the 500 bed quarantine and isolation facility at NASREC, and R69.3 million for the 1000 bed step-down hospital facility. This is really exorbitant as only 604 people were quarantined or isolated, and only 96 patients were treated there for this period. It amounts to R96 000 paid for each quarantined/isolated person, and R720 000 for each patient treated at the field hospital.

Mamabolo says that the Department is paying for the 1000-bed facility to ensure that there is capacity for a possible second wave of infections or a spike over the December holiday period. The projected total cost was originally R350 million but the projection is now between R157 million and R256 million for all costs inclusive of assets to be recovered.

This is hugely wasteful expenditure. There were clear signs after the initial alarmist projections that the COVID-19 epidemic would peak in July rather than in August/September as was originally expected. There was no scenario that infections would be surging in January next year, yet a 6 month contract for 1000 beds was signed on 1 August with the Joburg Expo Centre which runs NASREC.

We are paying for hundreds of empty beds at NASREC until January next year even though fewer than 10% of these beds were used at the peak of the epidemic in Gauteng. A field hospital is meant to be set up and taken down in a few weeks to cope with the peak of an epidemic, rather than kept open for an extended period at great expense.

Premier David Makhura has not replied to my request for the contract with Joburg Expo Centre to be made public, so I have made an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act for this contract to be revealed.

We need to know why this contract is kept secret and whether there is any corruption in the sub-contracts that have been awarded for the NASREC facility.

City of Ekurhuleni may have violated the National Environmental Management Act

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is extremely concerned that Section 30 of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) has been violated by the City of Ekurhuleni.

Last month a fire broke out at the Simmer and Jack landfill. In a reply to my written questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Winifred Mosupyoe said the fire was started by reclaimers who were reclaiming recyclable waste on the working phase of the landfill.

The MEC further indicated that the fire incident falls within the provision of Section 30 NEMA incidents.

Section 30 of NEMA makes provision for incidents resulting from a major emission, fire or explosion that causes, has caused or may cause harm significant harm to the environment, human life or property.

However, the DA has been reliably informed that the City was warned that the conditions of the site were conducive for fires. The site was not compacted daily and it was about two weeks before the fire broke out on 8 September 2020.

In addition, we were informed that the site contractor did not have a vehicle to do the compaction and also did not have funds to repair the vehicles or get new ones. Furthermore, the contractor has been awaiting payment since July by the City of Ekurhuleni.

The DA believes that the Waste Management License (WML) was violated and that NEMA was transgressed.

The DA is now awaiting the report from the Green Scorpions about this incident and if it is found that the WML was violated and the NEMA transgressed we will ensure that those responsible are held to account.

DA calls on MEC Mazibuko to investigate allegations that EMPD K-9 Unit dogs have reached retirement age

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko to investigate the allegations that the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) K-9 Unit dogs have reached retirement age but are still rendering services to the EMPD.

We have also been reliably informed that one dog died last week and that the EMPD is only left with nine K-9 Unit dogs.

The DA is worried that nine K-9 Unit dogs are insufficient to provide much needed services to the EMPD considering the fact that they all have reached their retirement age.

According to the Ekurhuleni MMC for Community Safety, Cllr Frans Mmoko, the periods for replacement cannot be pre-determined, as prognosis can only be determined after the dog has been in service, assessing their in-service skills, health, and well-being.

MMC Mmoko was responding to the DA’s written questions tabled in the Ekurhuleni Council.

This clearly indicates that there is no plan and no timeframe with regards to the replacement of the EMPD K-9 Unit dogs.

MMC Mmoko further stated that a budget of R2 158 836,00 has been allocated in the 2020/2021 financial year for Animal Services, which means canine and equestrian services combined. This also includes medical costs, feed, and veterinary services.

Worryingly, there is no allocated budget for the replacement of the EMPD K-9 Unit dogs.

The K-9 Unit dogs are used for perimeter patrols, crowd control, building searches and the tracking of perpetrators from a crime scene and play a significant role in crime prevention.

The DA calls on MEC Mazibuko to initiate an urgent investigation into these allegations. Should these allegations prove to be true, the MEC should ensure that the EMPD K-9 Unit dogs are replaced as a matter of urgency.

Gauteng Premier ducks question on untrue statement on health official’s resignation

Gauteng Premier David Makhura has ducked my questions on why he did not correct the Gauteng Health Department’s untrue statement that Chief Financial Officer Kabelo Lehloenya resigned for “personal reasons” rather than because she was facing disciplinary action for the irregular award of PPE contracts.

In today’s virtual sitting of the Gauteng Legislature he replied to my questions on this issue by saying he would not say anything that would prejudice investigations and disciplinary actions in this matter.

According to the official timeline of events published by the provincial government, there was a PPE procurement audit on 28 April, and on 25 May the Premier signed a letter to the President requesting a SIU investigation.

Also, on 25 May, the then Head of Department Mkhululi Lukhele gave notice of precautionary suspension to Lehloenya, at which stage she gave notice of her resignation.

The Department announced that she had resigned for “personal reasons”, which was knowingly untrue as they knew the real reasons. Inexplicably, however, they allowed her to delay her resignation for three months so she would still be working until the end of August. How could she be allowed to stay on if she was being investigated for alleged corruption in the award of R2 billion PPE contracts?

The real reasons for her resignation only emerged after media exposure of further details of the PPE corruption.

The then Health MEC Bandile Masuku surely knew the real reasons for her resignation, and the Premier as well, but they failed to inform the public for unknown reasons.

Masuku’s failure to be transparent on the CFO’s resignation is more evidence that confirms the SIU’s finding that he failed to exercise the oversight to prevent the PPE corruption. Only later was her resignation rejected so that she would not escape disciplinary action.

This is a political failing that Makhura failed to address because he wants to rescue his Masuku who is his political ally even though the ANC’s provincial integrity commission also found that he failed to exercise the necessary oversight.

It is another reason why Masuku should not be reinstated as Health MEC even if the SIU finds he was not directly involved in the corruption.

8 months of lockdown and thousands of Gauteng athletes and artists still awaiting relief funding

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is disappointed to learn that none of the Gauteng athletes and artists who applied for financial assistance from the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR) as part of the relief fund have received these funds.

The DA is in possession of an SMS sent to all Gauteng Relief Fund applicants by the department. The department apologises to the applicants for the delays in processing their applications and states that the outcome of the Gauteng Relief Fund is currently in the audit phase.

The SMS also states that the outcomes were supposed to be released on 30 September 2020 and will now be released by no later than 30 October 2020.

The applications for relief funding were opened on 14 June 2020 and was closed on 26 June 2020 and the payment process was supposed to have begun in July 2020.

The fact that none of the applicants has received relief funding due to unnecessary delays is a clear indication that this department cares little about the challenges faced by our artists and athletes during this national lockdown period as a result of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

It is worrying that in eight months of the national lockdown the department has not yet provided any financial relief to our artists and athletes who are struggling financially and unable to make ends meet.

The DA calls on the Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR), Mbali Hlophe to take full responsibility for her department’s poor showing. We will continue to monitor the process of providing financial assistance to our artists and athletes and will continue putting pressure on MEC Hlophe to speed up the process.

Another alleged rape at a Gauteng Hospital

The Gauteng Health Department needs to investigate another alleged rape of a psychiatric patient which took place at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital on Saturday this past weekend.

This follows other recent alleged rapes at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, Tara Mental Hospital and the Stanza Bopape Clinic in Tshwane.

It appears that a male psychiatric patient at Bheki Mlangeni raped another male patient who was then taken to the Nthabiseng rape centre at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

There is a concern amongst staff that the hospital management will cover up this incident which follows the alleged murder by a psychiatric patient of another patient at the hospital in May this year.

This is the 11th violent incident at Bheki Mlangeni since the beginning of the year, yet the CEO Ruth Mabyana has been allowed to return to her post despite being initially put on precautionary suspension while investigation continues into the murder.

In my view, Mabyana is the worst hospital CEO in Gauteng and should have been removed long ago after scandals that include a string of violent assaults on patients and staff as well as a jobs-for-sale racket.

It is not forgivable that yet another assault has occurred on a patient at this hospital. Effective steps should have been taken to ensure that mental health patients are only admitted to a dedicated high security ward.

New management is needed urgently at the hospital to ensure that patients and staff are in a secure environment without threat of violence.

R71 million Gauteng security tender linked to Siphiwe Nyanda should also be probed

The new evidence at the Zondo Commission that Transnet gave a R18 million contract to a security company linked to former ANC Cabinet Minister General Siphiwe Nyanda casts new light on a R71 million contract that the Gauteng Department of Public Transport, Roads and Works (GDTRW) gave this company irregularly in October 2007.

According to Bowman Gilfillan director Christopher Todd, the then Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama cancelled an open tender for security services to make way for General Nyanda Security (GNS) to submit an unsolicited bid and it was given the contract in December 2007. Todd also said that GNS didn’t even exist as “It had no prior track record and it was not registered with the regulatory authority Psira it was only registered the following year and more importantly, it had no employees.”

After I laid a complaint with the Public Protector she investigated and recommended that the Gauteng Premier investigate alleged improper conduct in the award of a R71 million security contract without tender to GNS Risk Advisory Services (renamed Abalozi Security) which was part-owned by Siphiwe Nyanda. This contract was only cancelled on 16 March 2010 by former MEC Bheki Nkosi after a legal review found that prescribed procurement processes were not followed and that other companies could do the service at a much lower rate, but R71 million in total had already been paid to this company.

According to the PP’s report, there was “no evidence” that General Nyanda “was directly involved in securing the contract, although by its own admission, the GDTRW did take into consideration his background in the security sector in the award of some of the contracts.” The report also found that “the circumstances under which the contract was issued is cause for concern, particularly as there seems to be a growing trend in this direction, with attendant risks regarding the quality and cost effectiveness of goods and services procured under these circumstances as well as the impact on fair competition.”

More than three years after the PP’s recommendation, the then Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said in March 2014 that President Jacob Zuma had referred the PP’s report to her “a while ago” and she was “quite satisfied” with the pace of the investigation.

It was typical of Mokonyane to pay lip service to corruption investigations and she only responded on the matter because I sent her the PP’s report and asked her a question in the Legislature.

I will request Premier David Makhura to follow up on the tender awarded to GNS and to re-open the investigation if necessary. It is important that there are no cover-ups and there should be consequences for irregularities that waste public money.