- Three companies owned by ANC boss Sello Sekhokho have, in three years, seemingly scored contracts worth nearly R100 million from the Gauteng Department of Health.
- They supplied everything from food to medical gear, and a security company did roaring trade selling overpriced clothing, according to ledgers supplied by the department.
- His companies were flagged by Babita Deokaran in her investigation into an R850 million spending surge at Tembisa Hospital, just three weeks before she was assassinated.
Three little-known companies owned by ANC Ekurhuleni treasurer-general Sello Sekhokho have scored nearly R100 million in Gauteng health department contracts in three years, supplying everything from boerewors to bandages.
Kaizen Projects, Nokokhokho, and Bollanoto Security were among hundreds of Tembisa Hospital suppliers Babita Deokaran flagged three weeks before her assassination – and a News24 investigation first identified a string of deals worth R2.3 million pushed his way.
In the days before her death, Deokaran raised concern over the flurry of transactions to Sekhokho's companies. When she tried to halt the payments, now suspended health department CFO Lerato Madyo told her to release the money and to keep the transactions secret.
Gauteng Health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, responding to questions in the provincial legislature posed by the DA's Jack Bloom, has now revealed that 225 contracts from state hospitals, worth nearly R84 million, were awarded to the companies since 2019. This according to ledgers attached to her answers.
In the same period, Sekhokho banked R15 million supplying Tembisa Hospital. His combined windfall is now in sharp focus.
Speaking to News24, Sekhokho said the claims were "rubbish" and "nonsense".
"It is poignant that this bombshell information is revealed today, when the family of murdered Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran commemorate what would have been her 54th birthday," Bloom said in a statement.
Boerewors, bandages and boots
Bloom added that Bollanoto Security sold a wide variety of goods and even food supplies to state hospitals. According to a schedule of payments provided by Nkomo-Ralehoko, they were not paid for providing security services.
According to Bloom, Bollanoto supplied:
- 108 "rain suits" of various sizes for men and women at a total cost of R1.88 million. This equates to R17 000 for each rain suit.
- R196 000 for 17 V-neck jerseys – R11 500 per jersey.
- The company, in the space of a week, sold nearly two tons of boerewors for nearly R1 million. This is equal to R490 per kg for the meat, far above fair market prices.
- R280 000 for 27 pairs of men's parabellum brown leather shoes.
"Gross overcharging abounds in the purchase orders of all three companies…overpriced goods were still being bought from the companies in July this year," he said.
"It looks like a giant scam to fleece hospitals which desperately need money for decent care to patients who suffer terribly when machines are broken, staff are short, and buildings are falling apart," Bloom added.
Sekhokho the money man
In July, News24 revealed that Sekhokho and his companies were among the first to appear on Deokaran's radar as she struggled to understand an R850 million spending surge at Tembisa Hospital. In total, she identified 1 232 purchase orders out of Tembisa Hospital – in four months – which were valued at less than R500 000.
Goods or services above that threshold require a public tender process. Those below that mark, the hospital's CEO can sign off.
In internal e-mails obtained by News24, Deokaran told colleagues it was dubious that an "events company" was a supplier of medical equipment, and that Madyo had overruled her, and instructed that they be paid.
On August 17, 2021 – six days before her assassination – the whistleblower directly raised concerns with Madyo in a WhatsApp exchange:
14:25 Madyo: "Noted. Did u put them [payments to Sekhokho's firms] in the [payment] run?"
14:26 Deokaran: "We did. Will check the documents and if not in order will recall the money."
14:54 Madyo: "Eish I just don't like dealing with politicians u know?? Pls keep this private. Will speak to u soonest."
Madyo, alongside Tembisa Hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi, were placed on precautionary suspension in August.
A price analysis of Sekhokho's Tembisa Hospital deals revealed gross overcharging that he refused to explain. In one instance, he supplied medical equipment at nearly 500% more than quotes – for the same product in the same quantity – sourced by News24.
Previously, Sekhokho strenuously denied impropriety, insisting that his business dealings with hospitals in three provinces were above board.
He refused to reveal how much he made on state contracts, citing "client confidentiality".
On his pricing, he said: "Most of the products we supply are imported into the country, while others are sourced locally... Our pricing is mostly influenced by the fact that we do not buy the majority of our products directly from the manufacturers, but rather from the secondary sources who put markup prior selling to us."
SILENCED | Why Babita Deokaran was murdered
On Wednesday, Sekhokho said there was no way he had profited to the extent set out by the health department in their answers to Bloom.
"This is just pure lies...there is no way that I could make so much money and I am going to tackle this head on," he said.
"Since my name has been mentioned I have needed to get a bodyguard because people are threatening me...they are even trying extort me because they think I have all the money," he added, insisting that he was considering shuttering his companies.
"The Democratic Alliance demands that a freeze be put immediately on all further payments to Sekhokho's companies. Furthermore, measures must be taken as soon as possible to get money back from his companies which benefitted from massive price gouging," Bloom said.
When Madyo and Mthunzi were suspended in the wake of revelations of a News24 investigative series titled SILENCED, erstwhile Gauteng premier David Makhura announced that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) would probe the spending spree first discovered by Deokaran.
"We need not wait for the SIU investigation to conclude when the overcharging evidence is so obvious," he added.