The investigation into corruption relating to the acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE) by the Gauteng provincial government has claimed another scalp.
Professor Mkhululi Lukhele, the head of department (HOD) for Gauteng health, has been placed on precautionary suspension after allegedly being implicated in wrongdoing by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
City Press revealed last week that Lukhele was flagged for failing to institute disciplinary processes against former Gauteng health chief financial officer (CFO) Kabelo Lehloenya when the matter was reported by chief director of supply chain Thandi Pino.
According to SIU documents, “on April 6 2020, the unlawful and irregular conduct of the first defendant [Lehloenya] was brought to the attention of Lukhele who failed to act”.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Wednesday announced that he had placed Lukhele under precautionary suspension with immediate effect.
In a statement, the premier said he was acting on the recommendations of the SIU following an update report presented to him on September 22.
“The SIU found that the HOD failed to exercise his responsibility in the awarding of contracts to certain companies for the procurement of goods and services in relation to government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The actions, or omission by the HOD, may have resulted in the department incurring fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
“Lukhele will remain in precautionary suspension pending the completion of the investigations by the SIU and disciplinary proceedings for misconduct,” Makhura added.
City Press reported on Sunday about documents from the SIU Special Tribunal which reveal that Lehloenya altered the prices from a quotation submitted by Thandisizwe Diko, the husband to presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.
The documents form part of a civil litigation in which the two Gauteng officials are blamed for the massive looting of the PPE funds.
“The SIU identified that the metadata of the quotation was created by Madzikane II Thandisizwe Diko and modified by the first defendant on April 17 2020, prior to the first defendant accepting the quotation,” the document reads, adding that the prices accepted by the former CFO were in excess of maximum prices regulated by National Treasury.
The SIU estimated that Ledla Structural Development, the company that Diko had used, was overpaid by nearly R30 million, and wants Lehloenya and Lukhele to be held responsible for the loss.
“Having regard to the circumstances set out above, it is just and equitable that Lehloenya and Lukhele should be ordered to pay the sum of R29 676 709.10 to the SIU, the Gauteng health department and/or the state, joint and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved,” the documents read by City Press revealed.
Lehloenya resigned from her post following the discovery of the irregularities.
The payment was made through Ledla, even though the company did not appear on the original list of 75 successful bidders that shared R2.2 billion worth of PPE contracts.
The SIU has already secured an interim order in which several bank accounts belonging to the implicated companies and the two officials pension funds have been frozen.