East Cape reels under R35m worth of health tender scams

Chandré Prince and Kathryn Kimberley

THE beleaguered Eastern Cape Health Department has been hit by yet another scandal – this time the police want to question a former MEC for her role in a R11.8-million fraud case which could lead to her arrest.

Provincial police assisted by the elite Hawks unit want to rein in Nomsa Jajula and grill her on a multimillion-rand fraud and corruption scandal involving the department when she was still in the hot seat.

This follows the arrest and court appearance of former superintendent-general Lawrence Boya and four others.

It is the latest development in a string of dodgy tenders allegedly coordinated by corrupt high- placed officials which has meant a loss of tens of millions of rands to the department over the past four years.

Among examples of previous investigations are fraud and corruption totalling R13-million for an air ambulance contract and the non-delivery of R11-million worth of hospital equipment that was procured but not delivered. Other tender procurement fraud involved millions more.

These amounts total R35.8-million, but a report by auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found at least R45-million had been lost to fraud in the health department over the past few years.

Police visited Jajula’s King William’s Town home on Saturday to question her, but she was not there.

Provincial Hawks head General Yvonne Badi confirmed yesterday they wanted answers from Jajula as she had been the political head of the department when the alleged crimes were committed.

“Depending on what she says, she will either be a witness or a suspect,” Badi said, adding that they were still trying to contact Jajula.

Boya, who now works for the City of Johannesburg after leaving the province in 2009, was arrested in Johannesburg last week and made a brief appearance in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court where he was given R5000 bail.

He and the others – Malibongwe Mtuzula (former chief director: infrastructure), Akhona Ngxola (deputy director infrastructure) and businessmen Dion Botha and Dumisa Bellman – are accused of fraud, corruption, bribery and theft totalling more than R11.8- million.

The Hawks made the arrests at the weekend after an internal investigation by the Health Department. Mtuzula, Ngxola, Botha and Bellman appeared in the East London Magistrate’s Court yesterday and were released on R5 000 bail – they are also implicated in bribery totalling R482000.

A forensic report unearthed alleged irregularities and maladministration between 2007 and 2009.

Badi said central to the charges was a hospital revitalisation plan, specifically at the Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital in Mdantsane, East London.

“Among others, procurement processes were incorrect.”

A 2010 PricewaterhouseCoopers report said although a Cape Town company, Sakhiwo Health Solutions, had been irregularly appointed a service provider, Mtuzula had still motivated for its payment.

The auditors said the appointment of Sakhiwo’s services had been procured irregularly in 37 cases, but Mtuzula had motivated for the payment of the company.

In a November 9 2009 memo to Boya, Mtuzula wrote that Jajula wanted Sakhiwo appointed “within two weeks” to develop 37 “business cases” at all district, specialised and tertiary hospitals.

Jajula wanted to submit the business cases urgently to the National Treasury for funding.

Jajula did not answer her phone or respond to text messages.

Badi said more arrests could be expected in the next three weeks.

Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said: “The investigations and the arrests will continue. We want the millions allocated to the Eastern Cape Health Department to be used for the people of this province.”

Meanwhile, details of how millionaire businessman Theunis Crous allegedly paid former Health Department officials to expedite payments owed to one of his companies emerged in documents before the East London Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Court documents filed by the prosecution detailed just one of the ways in which officials allegedly defrauded the department.

Crous allegedly paid Mtuzula and Ngxola close to R400000 between 2009 and 2010 to expedite payment owed to one of his companies, Ho Hup Corporation.

It is also alleged he paid Mtuzula to set up business meetings between him and Santa Hospital in the city. Ho Hup was provisionally liquidated by the Port Elizabeth High Court just months later.

Crous shot to fame when he had an affair with socialite Khanyi Mbau.

Documents state that on August 6 2009 Mtuzula met Crous’s colleague, Phillip Brown, who paid him R5000 to influence payments for work the company had been contracted to do.

In December 2009, both Mtuzula and Ngxola allegedly met Crous and accepted R300000 to expedite payment of R7-million owed to Ho Hup.

Another R60000 was allegedly paid at two other meetings.

Then on April 22 2010 Crous allegedly met Mtuzula for the last time. It is alleged he offered to pay him R10000 to set up a meeting between him and board members at Santa Hospital in the city to discuss “a business venture”.

It is not clear what work Crous was doing for the department.

The accused appeared briefly in court yesterday morning.

Mtuzula and Ngxola face up to five charges of corruption, while Botha and Balma face charges of corruption, fraud, forgery and uttering. They have not yet pleaded to the charges.

The state did not oppose bail because the accused were not considered to be flight risks.

The matter was postponed to April 13 for a trial date to be set.

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