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.

DA refers appointment of Tembisa hospital CEO to the Public Protector

Following the Gauteng Health Department’s bizarre about-turn on whether the Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi was facing disciplinary charges when he was appointed last year, I have referred this matter to the Public Protector for investigation.

The Department accuses me of “sensational allegations” and “deliberate distortion of facts” after I stated that Dr Mthunzi was appointed even though he was facing a disciplinary charge which should have disqualified him.

I based my statement on an official reply by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi (see here) in which she says as follows:

“On 15 September 2021, the acting Head of Department, Dr Sibongile Zungu approved recommendations that Dr A Mthunzi should be disciplined for contravening the Recruitment and Selection Policy. The Labour Relations Directorate was supposed to implement the said recommendations.”

When I asked who provided the false information that he had not been found guilty on any misconduct charge, the reply was that it was the former Acting DDG: Hospital Services Mr Freddy Kgongwana.

According to Mokgethi: “The Selection Committee did not have knowledge or information on Dr Mthunzi’s pending disciplinary hearing whilst at Pholosong Hospital”, and the reason is that “The Selection Committee was not aware as the information was not in his personal [file] nor in the register of pending disciplinary cases.”

It is clear from the above that Mthunzi was indeed facing a disciplinary hearing when he was at Pholosong Hospital, and that it was wrong that this information was not given to the Selection Committee.

Why is the department now contradicting an official reply by the Health MEC?

While they concede that the former Acting Head of Department signed a report recommending that Mthunzi be given a final written warning, which confirms that he was facing a disciplinary charge, they now claim it was invalid as they did not provide Mthunzi the opportunity to respond.

I do not believe this is true. It’s a cover-up by Mthunzi’s buddies in the department who are trying to shield him as they are themselves implicated in irregular activities.

It confirms my suspicion that there was a plot to get Mthunzi appointed at Tembisa Hospital, which was followed by a surge of payments to suspicious companies that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran says were “possibly corrupt”. She requested a forensic audit but it was never done.

The Public Protector is already investigating the alleged irregular appointment of the Department’s CFO Lerato Madyo after a whistleblower referred it to them and also a referral by myself to the PSC which passed it on to them.

We need to expose the sinister network at the Department that colluded in massive theft while patients suffer in under-staffed and poorly equipped hospitals.

It’s all “coding errors” – no jeans, armchairs or hand towels at Tembisa hospital, but R734 million overspent

There are no skinny jeans, cloth hand towels or leather armchairs at the Tembisa Hospital – this is what I found when I visited this morning to check whether these items reportedly bought for R1.5 million had actually been delivered.

I was accompanied by local DA councillors Selby Thekiso and Philip Thamahane, and we met the hospital’s Acting CEO Dr Mohlamme Mathabathe and his management team.

We were informed that the hospital does not use cloth towels, only paper towels (see photo here).

There were no skinny jeans either. They said that “coding errors” were to blame. In the case of the towels the word “paper” was omitted, and monocryl sutures should have been coded, not skinny jeans.

They said that the 100 armchairs could be found in the ICU and high care wards.

We then visited an ICU ward and were shown adjustable-height chairs without side-arms (see photos here and here). When I pointed out that these were definitely not the leather wingback armchairs that were recorded as being bought for R5000 each, they again said it was a “coding error”.

These three items were part of hundreds of payments totalling R850 million that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran flagged as “possibly fraudulent” as they went to fishy companies and were all under R500 000, which means they did not have to go out to tender and were signed off by the hospital CEO.

I was shocked that last year the hospital overspent its annual goods and services budget of R320 million by R734 million.

This year’s budget is still paying off the massive splurge of suspicious payments last year.

Meanwhile, the hospital has 849 official beds, but has squeezed in another 351 beds to treat 1200 patients, with an overall budget of R1.7 billion, of which R1.2 billion is spent on personnel.

This highlights the need to spend the budget on needed items at the best price, instead of wasting money on unnecessary and over-priced goods.

The hospital said they have tightened up on purchasing procedures, which I hope curbs the abuses of the past.

I am a great believer in transparency in this matter. As they say “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

The DA propose that all hospital purchases should be on a public website so that irregularities can be picked up speedily by competing suppliers.

This will halt the feeble excuse of “coding errors”.

Were skinny jeans and armchairs delivered to Tembisa hospital? Department won’t tell so I will see for myself

The Gauteng Health Department has refused to confirm whether over-priced skinny jeans, luxury armchairs and hand towels were delivered to the hospital after paying R1.5 million for these items.

In a written reply to my questions regarding the purchase of these items by the hospital, Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi responded as follows:

“The office of the Premier has appointed the special investigating unit (SlU) to investigate all matters related to the alleged fraudulent activities in Tembisa tertiary Hospital that were flagged by the late Ms Babita Deokaran.

A process of scoping and gathering more information on top of what is currently being publicised regularly in the media. To that extent, the Department is unable to respond to all matters raised in the question from (i) — (x) pending the finalisation of the investigations.”

This is a poor excuse not to answer at least some of my questions on these suspicious purchases, including whether the items were actually delivered.

Why is the department scared to answer this simple question?

If they won’t tell me, I will find out for myself.

According to a News24 investigation, the hospital paid R850 million to fishy companies for over-priced goods, including R500 000 for 100 leather armchairs, face cloths at R230 a piece, and 200 skinny jeans for young girls at R2500 each.

Meanwhile, patients suffer because of a shortage of beds and equipment at this overcrowded hospital.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 21 September), I will visit Tembisa Hospital at 10am and see if I can find out if the armchairs, jeans and face cloths are at the hospital.

Media are welcome to attend.

Cover-up! Gauteng Health Department falsely denied Tembisa hospital CEO misconduct charge

The Gauteng Health Department falsely denied that suspended Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi was appointed as the CEO last year while facing a disciplinary charge that should have disqualified him.

In a written reply to my questions signed on 20 June 2022, Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi denied that Mthunzi had been found guilty on a misconduct charge.

But when I asked a question challenging this denial as I had information, he was given a final written warning for misconduct on 15 September 2021, Mokgethi replied as follows:

“On 15 September 2021, the acting Head of Department, Dr Sibongile Zungu approved recommendations that Dr A Mthunzi should be disciplined for contravening the Recruitment and Selection Policy. The Labour Relations Directorate was supposed to implement the said recommendations.”

I asked who had provided the false information that he had not been found guilty on any misconduct charge, and the reply was that it was the former Acting DDG: Hospital Services Mr Freddy Kgongwana.

The important issue is that Mthunzi should never have been appointed as the Tembisa Hospital CEO as he was facing a disciplinary charge that occurred when he was the CEO of the Pholosong Hospital.

According to Mokgethi: “The Selection Committee did not have knowledge or information on Dr Mthunzi’s pending disciplinary hearing whilst at Pholosong Hospital.”

The reason given is that “The Selection Committee was not aware as the information was not in his personal [file] nor in the register of pending disciplinary cases.”

This is the second time that a hospital CEO has been appointed despite facing a disciplinary charge – a Far East Rand Hospital CEO was dismissed after he was found guilty of fraud at his previous hospital position.

I suspect there was a deliberate cover-up of the disciplinary charge facing Mthunzi in order to appoint him as the Tembisa Hospital CEO.

A surge of payments to suspicious companies took place shortly after he was appointed as Acting CEO at Tembisa Hospital in April last year. These payments were flagged by murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran who requested a forensic audit that was never done.

We need to know why Mthunzi’s disciplinary charge was not disclosed to the Selection Committee that appointed him as the permanent CEO in June last year.

Mokgethi says that the department will investigate and take “appropriate action” against those responsible for the incorrect information given to me previously.

This is not good enough. There needs to be a shake-up of the entire top management of the Gauteng Health Department to eliminate a buddy-buddy network that influences appointments and protects those involved in wrongdoing.

It’s an extremely serious matter to provide an incorrect reply to the Gauteng Legislature.

I will be writing to the Speaker to follow up on this.

There must be no cover-up of who pulled the strings to get Mthunzi to head the Tembisa Hospital, which was followed by R850 million payments to fishy companies that Babita Deokaran said were “possibly corrupt.”

DA welcomes Gauteng Health suspensions but more is needed

The DA has called for four weeks for the suspension of Gauteng Health CFO Lerato Madyo and Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi, and we welcome their suspensions today.

But more needs to be done to ensure accountability for the growing scandal of suspicious payments totalling R850 million by Tembisa Hospital that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran flagged as “possibly fraudulent”.

The department has been slow to suspend the CFO and the Tembisa Hospital CEO.

We need to know more details of the investigation promised by Gauteng Premier David Makhura which needs to be no-holds-barred, speedy and decisive in holding to account all those involved in corruption.

We Need Justice For Babita!

Tembisa hospital pays R498 000 for skinny jeans but CEO still not suspended

The scandal engulfing Tembisa Hospitals gets worse and worse, but CEO Ashley Mthunzi remains in his job.

It’s now revealed by a News24 investigation that R498 000 was splurged on 200 pairs of skinny jeans for girls aged 6 to 7. That’s R2500 each!

The jeans were bought on 24 June last year from a fishy company called Inez Chaste formed just one month earlier. It’s one of ten firms owned by retired soccer star Themba Shabalala and his wife Evelyn.

According to News24, they have “established a medical supply empire featuring in a broad network of 45 shell corporations – controlled by nine people – which scored more than R110 million in contracts from the hospital in two months.”

Today is exactly one year since Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran was assassinated shortly after she flagged up to R850 million payments by Tembisa Hospital as “possibly fraudulent”.

But her report that called for a forensic investigation and a halt to the payments was buried by the Gauteng Health Department.

Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi is in the spotlight as amounts under R500 000 don’t have to go out to tender, and he can sign them off.

Despite the mounting evidence against him, as well as a DA protest outside the hospital on 12 August, he has still not been suspended and details of a promised investigation have not been provided by the Premier’s Office.

The Tembisa Hospital is notorious for overcrowding and poor service but splurged on luxury armchairs and skinny jeans in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. They even bought 2000 hand towels for R230 each!

There is a direct ANC connection as well – ANC Ekurhuleni treasurer-general Sello Sekhokho scored R2.3 million for over-priced goods bought from three of his companies.

We need to know why this scandal was covered up after Babita was murdered, and decisive action is needed to clear out all the rot in the Gauteng Health Department.

No more excuses. There must be Justice for Babita!

Tembisa Hospital CEO still not grilled on fishy payments

Despite weeks of disturbing revelations of fishy multimillion payments by the Tembisa Hospital, the hospital’s CEO Ashley Mthunzi has still not been grilled by the Gauteng Health Department in this matter.

This was disclosed last week on Friday by Head of Department Nomonde Nolutshungu at a meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee.

Nolutshungu said that following the first News24 exposé on 27 July of the suspicious payments flagged by murdered whistle-blower Babita Deokaran, she asked the Department’s Chief Financial Officer Lerato Madyo to respond within 24 hours as to whether Babita had ever submitted a report to her on these payments.

Madyo requested extra time to respond, and on 8 August she categorically denied that she had received such a report from Babita.

But Madyo later conceded that Babita had expressed anxiety about the Tembisa Hospital payments and they had agreed that her report should be confidential. She claimed that payments had been stopped.

These unsatisfactory responses by Madyo are further reason for her to be suspended while a forensic investigation is pursued into hundreds of Tembisa Hospital payments that total R850 million.

It is inexplicable, however, that the hospital’s CEO has not yet been asked to account for his role in this matter.

A Department report admits, “underestimated the currency of the matter” given the “relentlessness and rising public outrage.” See attached the Department’s report, here

We still do not have details of the investigation that Gauteng Premier David Makhura has promised, but there should be no more delays in suspending the CFO and the Tembisa Hospital CEO.

The DA will press for a speedy and thorough investigation with regular report-backs and criminal charges against implicated people.

Premier Makhura must act on Tembisa Hospital corruption

The below speech was delivered by Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health at a DA picket outside Tembisa Hospital today.

See pictures here, here, here and here

It is nearly three weeks since strong evidence was made public that murdered whistle-blower Babita Deokaran was scared for her life after identifying R850 million in possibly fraudulent payments by Tembisa Hospital last year.

These contracts are all under R500 000, which means they don’t have to go out on tender and can be signed off by the CEO of Tembisa Hospital, Dr Ashley Mthunzi, who took over in April last year.

At least one ANC big wig, Mr Sello Sekhokho, scored three contracts worth R2.3 million.

Much of what was bought was grossly overpriced.

Examples include 2000 hand towels bought for R230 each, and 100 fancy leather armchairs for R500 000, which works out at R5000 a chair.

Meanwhile, patients at this hospital suffer because of overcrowding, and the shortage of staff and equipment.

Why leather armchairs when this hospital is short of beds?

Something is seriously wrong here, but what is the response of the Gauteng Health Department?

Implicated people should surely be suspended and a high-level investigation done to find out what is really happening.

But nobody has been suspended and there is no investigation. It smells like a cover-up.

The DA has called for the suspension of the Department’s Chief Financial Officer Lerato Madyo, who authorised fishy payments that Babita tried to stop.

We now call for the immediate suspension of Dr Ashley Mthunzi, the CEO of Tembisa Hospital.

That is why we are here today.

I am reminded of the Life Esidimeni tragedy when Premier David Makhura failed to dismiss Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu when she first revealed deaths of mental health patients in reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

It took more than four months before she was forced to resign after the devastating Health Ombudsman’s report.

Premier Makhura, you failed then, and you are failing now!

I have a message for Premier Makhura:

You are failing Babita’s family. You promised that you would clean up corruption, but you are doing nothing about the new evidence.

Premier Makhura, your silence is deafening.

People are dying in our hospitals because massive amounts of money are stolen and wasted.

As we did with Life Esidimeni, the DA will not not stop until everything is exposed and justice is seen to be done.

DA Welcomes Removal of Tembisa Hospital CEO

Tembisa Hospital CEO Daisy Pekane

I welcome the removal of Tembisa Hospital CEO Daisy Pekane from her post.

This should have happened a long time ago as I have seen for myself how bad conditions are at this hospital.

Poor management there has resulted in staff resignations and equipment failure.

I commend Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu for taking this action.

She should also remove other non-performing CEOs from hospitals that are badly managed.

This is the best way to improve accountability to ensure quality treatment for patients.

 

Media enquiries:

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health

082 333 4222

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