Limpopo Premier stalls on corruption report

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has been accused of not acting on a report that could have led to criminal charges against senior government officials.

Mathabatha spent the past two years sitting on recommendations by the provincial Department of Treasury to act against officials fingered in a multi-million rand corruption tender awarded by the Department of Health under his close ally, MEC Phopi Ramathuba.

In August 2015, City Press reported that the provincial health department irregularly awarded a lucrative tender to Mphefedzi Business Enterprises to render laundry services to 22 of the 41 hospitals in the province. This despite an inspection report stating the company did meet tender specifications and was therefore “not recommended” to render the service.

Mathabatha, who styled himself as a corruption buster when he dramatically fired alleged corrupt officials after taking over from his predecessor Cassel Mathale, initially claimed there was nothing wrong with the tender.

But he later ordered the provincial treasury department to investigate. He also vowed to take tough action should the investigation confirm irregularities.

But two years after the damning report was handed to him with recommendations to take action against senior officials close to Ramathuba, Mathabatha is yet to take action.

The confidential treasury report, in possession of City Press, highlights a range of discrepancies, including violations of the Public Finance Management Act.

The report read in parts: “The Bid Adjudication Committee failed in its role to ensure that the scoring was fair, consistent and correctly applied. Two conflicting versions of the terms of references were issued out to prospective services providers”.

It goes on: “There are instances where there is more than one score sheet by a Bid Evaluation Committee member for one service provider with different points allocated”.

Treasury investigators further uncovered that Mphefedzi Business Enterprise was rated 36.5 points and 92 points in different score sheets and that it was appointed 21 days after the expiry of the validity period.

Ramathuba has also been accused of giving then acting chief financial officer (CFO), Justice Mudau, a permanent CFO position instead of booting him out.

A source told City Press: “It is shocking that, more than two years after receiving the damning treasury report, the premier has not taken any action against the MEC and the CFO. Under normal circumstances the MEC, the head of department and the CFO should have been sacked for misleading the premier, and the CFO should have faced both internal disciplinary processes and a police probe for financial misconduct.”

“How do you give a higher salary level to an official who deserves to be hauled over the coals? This is disgraceful, especially for a premier who, on arrival, convened so many press conferences announcing suspensions of officials in a Hollywood style,” said another source.

Treasury head of communication Sydwell Sibanda said: ‘‘The department of Treasury in Limpopo has done its work following the report you are talking about. The report in question was requested by the Premier and the department did its work and made some recommendations. We can’t take any further action against anybody. The department of health must take action against officials who have been found to have acted improperly. The premier’s office must also deal with this matter. Ours is to follow the instruction and recommend but we won’t act against other officials from other departments.”

Other documents seen by City Press reveal that Mphefhedzi Business Enterprises was not vetted whereas all bidders short-listed for this tender had to undergo this scrutinising process.

Oriel Masiavhula of Mphefhedzi Business Enterprises did not respond to questions sent by City Press through SMS and WhatsApp.

Provincial secretary for Forum of Limpopo Enterprise, Siviko Mabunda, told City Press he has already laid criminal charges with the Hawks to investigate another tender for hospital innovation amounting to about R198m.

Limpopo provincial government spokesperson Phuti Seloba claimed there is a ‘‘political witch-hunt’’ against Mathabatha, the MEC of health and his administration.

Seloba threatened to take action against those who leaked the report to City Press, labelling them ‘‘political opportunists’’ who are gunning for Mathabatha.

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