Health dept, police, in court for corruption

Eight ambulance officials and five policemen in Middelburg are facing corruption charges for allegedly receiving bribes to call tow-truck drivers after an accident and before calling an ambulance, Mpumalanga police said today.

“When they got the alert that an accident has happened they will phone a tow-truck driver before they phone the ambulance.., and then they get a kick-back from the tow-truck driver,” said spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi.

The five police officers, aged between 28 and 42, were arrested yesterday and appeared in the Middelburg Magistrates Court on the same day facing charges of corruption.

They were granted bail of R1 500 each and their case was postponed to January 14 for further investigation.

Hlathi said seven of the eight ambulance officials, including four women, aged between 31 and 47, were arrested yesterday and the eighth one was arrested this morning.

They are employed by the department of health to receive calls from the public or the police about an accident and then dispatch an ambulance to the scene, he said.

The group would be appearing before the Middelburg Magistrates Court today also facing corruption charges.

The Mpumalanga department of health was not immediately available for comment.

“There is a lot of competition between tow-truck drivers to get to the scene [of an accident] first... they paid ambulance officials and the police between R700 and R1 800 per call to be called first [about] an accident.”

He did not know how long this corruption had been going on for.

“We still need to check when it all started but we have been investigating this for three months. We have a lot of evidence.

Police and the ambulance officials were not working together in this activity, he said.

“They were working uniquely.”

He said no arrests of tow-truck drivers had been made and he would not speak about possible charges that they would face.

“It was different [tow-truck] companies that were paying the bribes.”

He would not comment on the possibility that lives were lost because tow-truck drivers were informed of an accident before an ambulance.

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