The former head of department at Gauteng health, Mkhululi Lukhele, will not go down without a fight, and is this week set to “meet and consult” with his legal team on a way forward, after he resigned from his position subsequent to his suspension last week.
Speaking to City Press, Lukhele said he could not go into detail about his plans pertaining to allegations that he had, as the head of department, “failed to exercise his responsibility in the awarding of contracts to certain companies ... in relation to the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” which led to his “precautionary suspension”.
“I am seeing my [legal] team and because the matter is sub judice, perhaps it will only be proper for me to give my side of the story once the matter has been cleared.”
Lukhele’s suspension was announced by Gauteng Premier David Makhura on Thursday, after an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
“The premier is acting on the recommendations of the SIU following the update report presented to him on September 22,” read a statement from Makhura’s office.
“The SIU found that the head of department failed to exercise his responsibility in the awarding of contracts to certain companies for the procurement of goods and services in relation to the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“The actions, or omission, by the head of department may have resulted in the department incurring fruitless and wasteful expenditure.”
However, Lukhele subsequently handed in his resignation a day after he was suspended.
He told City Press: “The reasons under which I resigned were stated in a letter sent to the premier and, before I make them public, I will have to discuss this with my legal team. I wouldn’t want to engage on that yet, until things are cleared.”
“There has been an indication that [I] must pay back about R30 million. I am consulting on that and I need to get the relevant advice on this matter.”
Last month City Press reported that Gauteng health department officials who were implicated in the province’s Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) looting scandal had been ordered to pay back nearly R30 million to the state, and that their pensions had been frozen.
The order came after the SIU unearthed damning evidence of price tampering, inflation of the value of goods, and collusion between Gauteng health officials and companies that were awarded lucrative PPE contracts.
It was also revealed that Lukhele was flagged for failing to institute disciplinary processes against former Gauteng health chief financial officer, Kabelo Lehloenyane, when the matter was reported by chief director of supply chain, Thandi Pino.
The investigative unit wants Lukhele and Lehloenyane to be held responsible for the wasteful expenditure.