HOD’s demotion is premier’s ‘deployment’

2013-10-17 14:51

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza has played down the demotion of provincial health and social development department head Richard Mnisi as just a “deployment” to an area where he could be used better.

Mnisi quietly stepped down over a month ago to take another job as general manager for municipal support in the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta). He now reports to Cogta head of department, David Mahlobo.

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said: “From time to time government looks at the strength of employees and deploy them accordingly. We felt that he would be better used there considering his financial background ... he was a chief finance officer (CFO) in the agriculture department at some point.”

Mnisi’s transfer to Cogta, however, came in the wake of a scandal in which he awarded a tender, worth R182 million for the circumcision of 260 000 boys without following procedures, to Mkhago Health Care Services, owned by Dr Ebby Bongani Mkhabela.

Mkhabela also allegedly performed a botched circumcision procedure on a four-year-old Mpumalanga boy five years ago and the department is now facing a R10 million lawsuit as a result.

Mabuza’s cabinet this week decided to dispatch a support team to sort out this department’s bad state of finances. Other departments to be supported include agriculture and safety and security.

Mnisi’s career in government has never been short of controversy.

In 2004, he was demoted as health CFO after audit reports implicated him and then departmental head, Riena Charles, in the misuse of the HIV-Aids budget for soccer matches, prayer days and concerts, and buying machines hospitals had not ordered.

At the time more than R19 million of HIV-Aids funds were squandered and hospital machines worth about R30 million were irregularly purchased.

Mnisi resigned after his demotion.

He then returned, along with other officials, who were given a new lease on life when Mabuza took over as premier in 2009.

Mnisi was appointed corporate services chief director, a position he held until Mabuza charged him with leading the health department.

He acted as agriculture CFO after former MEC Meshack Malinga was axed following a cabinet reshuffle in 2010.

Mnisi could not be reached for comment as his phone was off.

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