Stolen funds equal to 15 doctors’ pay

2012-03-03 16:36

Five senior health department officials who allegedly lived the high life at state expense appeared in court this week.

They were charged with fleecing the government of R11.8 million and accepting bribes from celebrity businessman Theunis Crous.

Last Friday, the Hawks police unit arrested the men who worked for the Eastern Cape health department – one of whom, former superintendent-general Laurence Boya, is now the boss of Johannesburg refuse utility Pikitup.

As Boya appeared in Pretoria’s Commercial Crimes Court, the other four?– former chief director of infrastructure, Malibongwe Mtuzula, his deputy Akhona Ngxola, and two businessmen, Dion Botha and Dumisa Balma – appeared in the East London High Court.

Police said this week the alleged fraud went on between 2007 and 2009 and former health MEC Nomsa Jajula’s name has also been dragged into the case.

According to a forensic PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) report, Mtuzula, who owned a fleet of luxury cars including a black Range Rover during his stint at the department, allegedly received bribes through a network of bank accounts held in the names of businesses with which his girlfriend was associated.

The girlfriend, whose name is known to City Press, was a bank teller at the time and also had interests in Mtuzula’s other companies. Mtuzula and Ngxola were charged with five counts of fraud, including accepting bribes of almost R400?000 from Crous, the owner of Ho Hup Corporation.

Crous allegedly paid to have payments due to his company speeded up. He was not arrested, but the provincial department of health said this week that they did not rule out an arrest in future.Botha and Balma are alleged to have defrauded the department of almost R200?000.

All five men were released on bail of R5?000 each.

Mtuzula has also been implicated in tender irregularities involving R11.8?million relating to payments to consulting firm Sakhiwo Health Solutions.

The company was paid to develop business plans to be sent to national Treasury to obtain funds to renovate hospitals. The PWC report reveals that no proper processes were followed in appointing the company and that Treasury did not receive the plans.

Although he motivated for Sakhiwo to be appointed, Mtuzula later claimed to be following orders from Jajula, who wanted the company appointed in a hurry. PWC traced close on R10?million in payments from Sakhiwo’s account to various other accounts, including a payment of R195?000 to a company of Mtuzula’s girlfriend.Jajula could not be reached for comment.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Marinda Mills said she had not responded to a subpoena but had 14 days to do so.

Eastern Cape health department head Siva Pillay said with the stolen money he could have hired 15 desperately needed doctors for a year.

“I can now do very little because we don’t have that money. Treasury has just told us to stop appointing doctors because there is no money. When people steal our money they are actually denying people healthcare,” he said.

The City of Johannesburg said it would not take any immediate action against Boya. City spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said they would keep a close eye on the case and, “if need be, review our position on allegations against Boya”.

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