Ramaphosa relative scores R381 million contracts from Gauteng hospitals

Companies linked to Mr Hangwani Morgan Maumela, a nephew by marriage to President Cyril Ramaphosa, have scored contracts worth R381 million in the last three years from Gauteng public hospitals.

This astounding figure is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

I asked her about contracts awarded to 12 companies that got R36 million from Tembisa Hospital last year. Murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran had identified them as “possibly fraudulent” and other suspicious payments totalling R850 million.

According to a News24 investigation, these companies are linked to the Maumela family – Hangwani is a director of nine of these companies, while a relative heads the other three firms.

All the contracts were under R500 000 and were therefore signed off by the Tembisa Hospital CEO instead of going out to tender.

It is now revealed that the Gauteng Health Department has paid a total of R381.4 million to these 12 companies from April 2019 to date.

Of this amount, R356 million came from Tembisa Hospital, R22 million from Mamelodi Hospital, and R2.4 million from a number of other hospitals.

Much of this amount was for medical products. Still, Nkomo-Ralehoko admits that “none of the listed companies has SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) approval for the sale of medical products”, and she blames “inadequate processes and oversight.”

At various times, some of these companies were not tax-compliant or were deregistered for a period. They do not look like serious companies that provide real products at decent prices.

From available information, it appears that seven of Maumela’s nine companies operate from a single unit in a Sandton residential estate.

It is very suspicious that none of the hundreds of contracts awarded is over the amount of R500 000 which would require a tender process instead of the CEO signing off on them.

Nkomo-Ralehoko says that “after a number of assessments it was noted that the process followed could not detect split billing and some compliance issues.”

When I asked what was being done about the irregularities, she says lamely: “the department has now improved the internal controls at the Supply Chain Management (SCM) process in ensuring that there are reviews to identify split-billing and non-compliance through checklists.”

Maumela has been identified as a central figure in the Tembisa Hospital purchases that Babita flagged, scoring R36 million in contracts last year in one month alone.

He also has ties to Bejani Chauke, who is Ramaphosa’s principal political advisor. They are neighbours in a plush Hyde Park complex in walking distance of Ramaphosa’s private residence.

The SIU is already investigating the splurge of Tembisa Hospital payments last year, but needs to extend its probe to all payments made to Maumela’s fishy companies. Ramaphosa should authorise this by proclamation if he is serious about cleaning up all corruption in the Gauteng Health Department.

We need to know whether the products supplied were actually delivered and were good value.

I suspect that millions of rands were wasted that should have provided decent services to hospital patients.

It is utterly deplorable that the new Health MEC is not blacklisting companies that were seemingly non-compliant with legal requirements.

She admits there were serious irregularities, but doesn’t commit to any sanction against these companies or the errant officials. I will be pressing her to do so.

I will be writing to SAHPRA to investigate whether Maumela’s companies were legally authorised to sell medical products.

Strict action is needed to root out the rot in this department, not weak promises to do better in future

Suspended Tembisa Hospital CEO tries a comeback

Suspended Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi tried to make a comeback this week when he arrived at Tembisa Hospital on Wednesday.

He claimed he was the CEO as 60 days had elapsed since he was placed on precautionary suspension following the outcry about R850 million hospital payments that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran identified as “possibly fraudulent”.

While disciplinary charges are supposed to happen within 60 days, a return to work is not automatic when an extensive investigation is required.

I have been informed that Mthunzi was arrogant and threatened specific staff at Tembisa Hospital.

Fortunately, the head office intervened, and he was ordered away from the hospital yesterday.

I suspect that Mthunzi has high-level political connections he was counting on to retain his position at Tembisa Hospital.

We know that Mr Sello Sekhokho, the ANC Ekurhuleni Treasurer-General, scored 55 contracts worth R14.5 million from Tembisa Hospital in the last three years.

The SIU investigation needs to be speeded up and determine whether Mthunzi has links to senior ANC officials who benefited from hospital contracts.

#Let’sGetGautengMoving: DA to assess measures put in place to deal with corruption at Xavier Junction DLTC

Tomorrow, Thursday, 13 October 2022, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport, Fred Nel MPL, the DA Gauteng Spokesperson for Roads and Transport, Evert Du Plessis MPL, will be conducting an oversight inspection at the Xavier Junction Driver’s Licence and Testing Centre (DLTC), Mondeor, Johannesburg.

Earlier this year, two people were arrested at this DLTC for selling driver’s licences. During our oversight inspection, we will be assessing what measures have been put in place to deal with bribery and corruption.

In addition, we will also engage with the management of the DLTC to find out what impact load-shedding has had on their operations and, if they have any backup generators in place as well as how they are dealing with driver’s licence backlog.

Our residents deserve to have DLTCs that are free from corruption and render adequate services. This will ensure that our only drivers who have fulfilled all the requirements of obtaining a licence are issued with a driver’s licence, and it will reduce the number of fatalities on the roads.

The media is invited and there will be an opportunity for interviews and photographs.

Details of the oversight visit are as follows:

Date: 13 October 2022
Time: 10am
Address: 5 Rente St, Ormonde, Johannesburg South, 2091

Surgeons operate in dangerous heat as aircon broken at Charlotte Maxeke hospital

Surgeons are operating in dangerously high heat in the theatres at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) as the air-conditioning broke down this week.

This is the second major hospital to experience air-conditioning failure in the recent hot weather as the chillers at the Steve Biko Hospital broke last week.

It is risky to operate in high temperatures as it increases the risk of infection. Still, surgeons are reluctant to cancel operations at CMJH as there are long surgery waiting lists.

There needs to be a thorough overhaul of maintenance at our public hospitals, which are poorly served by the notoriously corrupt and incompetent Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development.

Major hospitals like CMJH and Steve Biko should be able to do their own maintenance and choose decent contractors who can do the job.

Devolving maintenance and minor capital works would also help with challenges like the water shortages experienced by the Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa hospitals.

Meanwhile, the primary victims are patients whose operations are cancelled and staff who are stressed by the poor conditions under which they work.

Another Premier of no-action was installed by the ANC, while service delivery continues to decline

Gauteng residents can look forward to more of the same type of service delivery from Premier Panyaza Lesufi.

Today at a special sitting held at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), Lesufi was elected as the new Premier for the province.

As the Democratic Alliance (DA), we do not expect Lesufi to do anything different. Gauteng residents will continue to suffer under the leadership of the ANC.

Corruption will continue unabated, and there will be no value for money when tenders are awarded.

Just like Makhura who was unable to execute and implement policies in place that will better the lives of our residents, Lesufi will also be blocked by his political masters and will not be able to make strategic decisions that will benefit the residents of our province.

If Lesufi is committed to changing how the provincial government does things, he will ensure that all lifestyle audits are completed before the end of the year and that officials implicated in the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tender scandal are brought to book.

Furthermore, if Lesufi is really committed to building a non-racial and non-segregated Gauteng he should publicly denounce his previous divisive statements around the Afrikaans language in schools.

Service delivery will continue to suffer under the leadership of the ANC-led Gauteng government.

Our residents have the power to change the current ANC government and vote for a capable DA government in 2024, which will deliver better services and improve lives.

Year-long postponement in Hlongwa corruption case highlights failure to all-or-nothing approach

The Democratic Alliance notes the year-long postponement of the corruption case against former Gauteng Health MEC Brian Hlongwa, his wife Jolene and five others, who are facing 258 charges that include fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

This postponement was granted yesterday at the request of the State as they were applying for the extradition of one of the accused – businessman Richard Payne – from an undisclosed country, and also because one of the accused is appealing a racketeering certificate.

It is very disappointing that this case continues to drag out for events that occurred 14 years ago, including the award of a R1.2 billion tender to the Baoki consortium in 2008 to set up a health information system and electronic health record. They were paid more than R400 million before their contract was cancelled a year later with no system installed.

There is strong evidence that Hlongwa received kickbacks from other tenders issued when he was the Health MEC.

The Gauteng Health Department has never recovered from this early example of state capture which diverted money that should have been used to treat patients in our hospitals.

It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. Hlongwa received political protection against corruption charges for years, and state incapacity could drag it out for many more years as well.

What hope is there that recent cases like the PPE corruption and the R850 million fishy Tembisa Hospital payments will ever get to court in good time?

It does not look like there will be justice anytime soon for the 144 mental patients who died in the Life Esidimeni scandal six years ago.

The state simply does not have the resources to speedily prosecute and convict corruption cases. There are all the Zondo commission cases, and more corruption in government departments is revealed all the time.

My view is that success is far more likely by selecting the easiest-to-prove charges in complicated corruption cases, so that implicated people get convicted for at least something.

My fear is that the all-or-nothing approach can end up with nothing.

There are lots of lesser charges that Hlongwa and his colleagues could have faced in court long ago, without the potential for endless stalling tactics.

The cancer of corruption will only be stopped when crooked people are speedily charged and convicted.

DA will push full disclosure on Gauteng corruption reports

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura has repeatedly missed his own deadlines to release all the corruption reports on his provincial government that have been handed over to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), but has finally committed to releasing a consolidated report by the end of next week.

This was disclosed by Infrastructure Development MEC Jacob Mamabolo on behalf of the Premier in an oral reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature earlier this week.

Initially Makhura said in a written reply that he would release a consolidated report in June last year, and later in a committee meeting said by the end of 2021.

According to Mamabolo, the delay was due to the need to verify information with all departments and other agencies.

I pressed him as to why the individual reports would not be made available, but he refused to comment on this.

The individual reports cover all investigations since March 2014 and probably contain dynamite information on corruption involving billions of rands.

It appears that many investigation reports were simply filed away years ago and not acted on.

I hope that the consolidated report will not hide key details in the individual reports that may implicate MECs or other senior ANC officials.

There should be no cover-up or fudging of accountability for corrupt or negligent acts that have wasted huge amounts of money that should have benefited people in this province.

Stealing government money hurts the poor the most as they suffer when clinics and schools are not built in time, or welfare benefits don’t reach them.

The DA will push for full disclosure of all the reports and the full implementation of corrective actions to stop the stealing.

Legal action not taken against officials implicated in ‘jobs for pals’ scandal in Emfuleni

The Emfuleni Local Municipality has misled the Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Lebogang Maile about taking legal action following allegations of the irregular extension of political appointees’ contracts in the Mayor, Chief whip, and council speaker offices.

These appointments were made weeks before the local government elections which the DA objected to and requested MEC Maile to investigate the matter. These political appointments were illegal as the officials were linked to the previous administration’s political term.

The DA has been informed by MEC Maile in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature that the investigation into the matter was never carried out because Emfuleni had taken legal steps to remedy the situation. The Emfuleni Mayor indicated that the council has resolved to approach the labour court to adjudicate the disputes over contracts of the staff in the political offices which were extended before the end of the previous political term of office.

Emfuleni has provided misleading information to MEC Maile as the suspension of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was the only matter that was tabled in council and referred to the labour court.

The DA has been reliably informed that the CFO was suspended for among other reasons, extending the contracts of the officials’ weeks before the local general elections. However, the suspended CFO is alleging that he was following orders from the former mayor and former chief whip as he was the acting municipal manager at that stage.

The DA demands that MEC Maile initiate an urgent investigation into this matter to ascertain whether the issue of extending contracts of political appointees was referred to the labour court. Should it be found that Emfuleni misled the MEC those responsible should face severe consequences.

Giving jobs to pals is clear corruption and flouts all ethical practices within any organization hence consequence management must take place.

NYDA wastes over R2.6 million of taxpayers’ money building one RDP house in Evaton

While millions of Gauteng youth are struggling to access sustainable job opportunities and to access funding for their start-up businesses, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has wasted over R2.6 million building one RDP house in Evaton West.

This wasted money could have been used to fund about 25 youth businesses with each being given R100 000 funding.

This information was revealed to me by the Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to MEC Maile, the NYDA appointed a service provider to build an RDP house in Evaton West because they have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Sedibeng District Municipality. The project started in mid-March and was completed in mid-October, and they spent over R2.6 million.

The request for the building of this house was tabled in the Sedibeng Council on 11 December 2020, seeking Council approval to build a house in Evaton West. This follows a letter written by a grade eleven girl from Evaton dated 10 October 2019 to the Sedibeng MMC for Health and Social Development requesting the extension of the RDP house because there are too many occupants, while her mother is ill and unemployed. However, we do not know what the outcome of the discussion was.

The DA conducted an oversight inspection at the house and was disappointed and shocked to discover that there was no extension, however, there was an additional house that was built and left incomplete.

The photo of the house can be accessed here _here_ here_

There are no tiles in some of the rooms in the new house, and the walls have cracks.

The house is not worth R2.6 million as the value of such a house is a mansion.

The DA will be demanding to see a copy of the MOU between the NYDA and Sedibeng. The DA councilors in Sedibeng will request the MOU from the council and challenge the council to conduct an oversight inspection at the newly built house to determine whether there is value for the R2.6 million spent on it. This will allow us to ascertain what role if any the council played in building a new house and if the council had any oversight over the building of this new structure. If it is found that due processes were not followed, we will be demanding that immediate action be taken against the officials and politicians involved.

In addition, should it be found that our taxpayers’ money was misused by officials and politicians they must pay back the money immediately and be held accountable. They must also fix the defects and complete the house.

Disrupting Corruption: The Case for Data Science

By Ina Cilliers MPL, DA Gauteng Spokesperson on the Standing Committee for Public Accounts (SCOPA 

South Africa has a big problem with corruption in government supply chains. The most salient recent example would be the looting of funds during the Covid 19 pandemic, specifically the procurement of personal protective equipment in the Gauteng Department of Health. Mark Heywood correctly asserted in the Daily Maverick that unless we introduce the certainty of punishment for corrupt public officials, we will lose the fight against corruption. The “July Insurrection” has taught us that these events affect our daily lives. They cause job losses and food price increases and are especially hard on the Youth sector. Even Cosatu recognized back in 2017 that corruption costs us at least 27 billion rand and 76 000 jobs a year. That was before the pandemic. 

Now imagine a scenario where an accounting officer in the Department of Health can accurately predict the likelihood that fruitless and wasteful expenditure will occur, and act to prevent it? Ponder for a moment the transformative power to predict the likelihood of xenophobic attacks or unrest such as the now infamous July unrest of 2021, so that they may be averted altogether? What if an entire government supply chain can be managed by a distributed ledger like a Blockchain, so that not a single public official is involved? 

Business domains including the banking and insurance industries have been making these kinds of predictions using data science tools for some time now. By employing machine learning to predict risks to its own business models they predict the likelihood of a client defaulting on a loan or instituting an insurance claim. Have you ever wondered why the bank did not want to give you a loan? There is an algorithm behind that!  

Data Science is an emerging field of inquiry usually associated with buzzwords such as Big Data (BD), Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). All of these terms have their roots in classical statistics. Stated plainly, statistical learning is quite simply, learning from data (. This is made possible by two conspiring realities: the costs of storing data has decreased enormously over the years, and commensurately, the computational power of hardware has increased exponentially (McCallum, 2008). This means that it is computationally possible to find patterns and correlations in very large datasets (hence, Big Data). One way of understanding this ability is to say: if the data is too large for an Excel spreadsheet, or too large for a CPU to handle, its potentially a job for data science. 

What if we brought data science and good governance into the same room for a chat? I think there are enormous benefits to such an approach for good governance, evidence-based policy making, and in the fight against corruption. Full disclosure: I am wearing more than one hat. 

As a legislator in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) and a member of The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), I often hear well-founded complaints about the ex post facto way we do oversight. The Sector Oversight Model (SOM) adopted by the South African legislative sector is a backward-looking tool. Oversight typically occurs months after irregular public expenditure has occurred. Committee recommendations do not scare corrupt officials. 

As a social researcher and budding code writer (Python is fun!), this makes me wonder of the potential to use an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) or a Decision Tree Regressor as a catalytic mechanism in the fight against corruption. The specific model is not as important as a few reality checks though: 

In the web-native world of data science, anybody can write code, train a computer model, and set it free on real data. This is indeed encouraged by the fact that free and open-source resources are now ubiquitous. According to Urban and Pineda adequately problematizes this abundance of free information: Most of it is not sufficiently rigorous to warrant deep enquiry, and few resources, if any, are aimed specifically at the policy maker. A simple Google search reveals thousands of short form resources in the form of “How To” video tutorials, articles, listicles and snippets each dealing with a specific subset of the myriad of elements of data science. Topics such as “Preparing data with Pandas” or “How to select features and responses” or “How to determine if my chosen algorithm is performing” all invite enticing glimpses of problem solving. Rarely is the world of data science systematically unpacked, referenced and peer-reviewed specifically for the policy maker, the legislator and the government official. And yet, on the periphery of applied policy making, most officials are aware of concepts such as BD, ML and AI. These concepts need to be firstly demystified before being introduced formally in the governance domain.  

The second question is whether the data exists. Let me explain. Data about government performance is everywhere, and it is abundant.  In my case SCOPA members are inundated with data all the time.  Data sources include portfolio committee reports, the AGSA, the public service commission, the financial and fiscal commission, the SIU, internal audit reports, departmental quarterly reports, and the list goes on. Yet in the midst of all this information, I very much doubt that a dataset exists that is ready for machine learning. If anyone reading this would like to rebut my assertion, I would welcome such a development. It will save my research several months! 

The third issue is with reproducibility. If my team and I build an ML model that performs well on unseen data, we must share! It should be standard practice that not only datasets but the actual code must be made available as a standard part of the research (Data School, 2014). This is because sometimes algorithms don’t work, machine learning models experience degradation over time, or we make the wrong business decisions from the data. In such cases, we may all learn from our failures just as much as from our triumphs. 

For the policy maker, machine learning can become the tool that helps us prove or disprove our intuition about the problem we are trying to solve. Here are a few of my recommendations for disrupting corruption with a data-driven approach: 

Firstly, governments need to become data driven learning organisations. For this to happen much more research and experimentation is needed. Officials and domain experts in government department are vital to the success of the undertaking because they make those vital inferences from the data on which decisions for say, corruption busting, hinges 

Secondly, we need  to find a place for data science in the policy life cycle. Ideally more than one place. Statistical models can help policymakers move from inputs and outputs to outcomes and impacts. This would depend on the computational efficiency available and the particular problem that the machine is trying to learn on, but every stage of the policy life cycle can benefit from machine learning. 

Next is to bring together the data scientist, the statistician and the domain expert. Governance is an immensely complex undertaking. Every moment of the day, thousands upon thousands of financial transactions happen across municipal, provincial and national budget line items, often involving staggering amounts. This is all happening in an environment regulated by a myriad of complex laws and regulations. Officials often underestimate their domain knowledge and they don’t get credit for being able to assimilate all this complexity. The current consensus is that the best problem solving teams include data scientists, statisticians and domain experts (Mukherjee, 2019). All three have distinct roles to play in arriving at informed governance decisions. 

The possibilities for machine learning to tackle corruption are very exciting. But it still requires humility from the data scientist, an understanding of the theory, and a willingness from the government official to give freely of his domain knowledge. And finally, no model can ever predict with a 100% accuracy. We should be honest about that when pitching solutions to legislatures and governments alike.