Scorpions charge Nkonyeni

2008-12-09 00:00

The soon-to-be-disbanded Scorpions yesterday charged Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni with corruption in relation to the controversial procurement of an ultrasound cancer scanning machine at an inflated price by her department.

While the Scorpions could not be drawn to comment on the charges, The Witness established that Nkonyeni is suspected of having unlawfully influenced the awarding of the R1,5 million tender for the procurement of the scanner, which could have been obtained for about R400 000. It is also alleged that she accepted a bribe in relation to the tender.

The tender was awarded to Rowmoor Investment, a company allegedly owned by Lindelihle Mkhwanazi, who, the investigators claimed in an affidavit, had a “personal relationship” with Nkonyeni.

The controversial procurement of the scanner also led to the breakdown of the relationship between Nkonyeni and the former head of the department, Dr Busi Nyembezi.

In January, the department charged Nyembezi with theft after the scanner “disappeared” from Grey’s Hospital. Nyembezi later told the media that the scanner was at the Natalia building and had never left the premises as the department alleged.

By that time Nyembezi was under suspension following an investigation into procurement irregularities in the department.

She was later to tell the media that there was a concerted effort to discredit her by some senior officials in the department.

She also vowed to take the premier and the department to court in a bid to clear her name.

However, after more than six months on suspension, Nyembezi resigned in April after allegedly

receiving a payout from the government.

Asked about the case, NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali said: “We are not commenting”. He also refused to be drawn into commenting on what the charges are.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said Nkonyeni has been asked to appear in court today.

“We as officials in the department are shocked by this,” he said.

Mbangwa said he believes the case against Nkonyeni is political.

“If there was any irregularity [in the procurement of the scanner], the MEC does not have anything to do with that. This is purely an administrative issue and the MEC as the political head of the department does not have anything to do with administrative issues. That is why I believe that the case is political.”

The ANC in KZN said it had been aware for some time that the Scorpions were investigating Nkonyeni, who is also the party’s provincial treasurer, adding that she will continue in her government and party roles as she “remains innocent until proven otherwise”.

The IFP said it was pleased by the Scorpions’ move to charge Nkonyeni before the unit’s dissolution. “This case is yet another proof that South Africa needs a corruption-busting unit and that the demise of the Scorpions cannot be justified,” said the IFP’s Lionel Mtshali.

Margaret Ambler-Moore, the DA’s provincial spokeswoman on Health, said her party is not at all surprised by the charges against Nkonyeni. “It has been a long time coming …” she said.

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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