- Gauteng Premier David Makhura expressed dismay over having to place the province's Health MEC on leave.
- The province's Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo will fill in as acting Health MEC.
- Makhura says 102 firms will be probed in connection with tender corruption claims.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura said, while he had anticipated that emergency procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic would be abused, the open tender system fell away when the state of disaster was declared in March.
Emergency regulations had made way for the province to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) much faster than what the open tender system would allow.
The premier, speaking to journalists on Thursday during a provincial command council briefing, said he knew emergency procurement could be "abused" - with tenders awarded to those who aren't deserving or did not qualify.
His address came just hours after the ANC in the province placed Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku and City of Johannesburg MMC (member of the mayoral committee) Loyiso Masuku on a leave of absence.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa's spokesperson Khusela Diko took leave from her government roles.
The three have been embroiled in a media scandal over the Department of Health awarding a R125 million tender to Royal Bacha Projects, the company of Diko's husband, Chief Madzikane II Diko.
Makhura said the allegations were damaging to the work done by the Health MEC because he led the province's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I must say that I am disappointed, at this point. I am really, really disappointed to have an MEC, who has been leading from the front very well, facing allegations that I can't ignore," said Makhura.
The visibly upset Gauteng premier described this as the biggest financial scandal to have hit the province since he took over in 2014.
Makhura has sought to promote "clean governance" throughout his tenure.
In explaining how the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) became involved, he gave journalists a breakdown of events. It followed a request he received from Masuku and his head of department, Mkhululi Lukhele, for the provincial audit services to conduct an internal audit.
The audit services said it had identified areas of non-compliance in the procurement of PPEs at the health department, and recommended a forensic investigation.
There are 102 companies to be scrutinised in the process, after an initial 91 were flagged.
Makhura emphasised that he was not suggesting the companies were all corrupt, or had not been appointed appropriately, but all had to be assessed by the SIU.
He also said R1 billion earmarked for PPEs had been saved, after the provincial treasury department halted payments due to the investigation.
He added that many contracts had been cancelled, with others expected to follow suit.
While the premier refused to deal with individual tenders, including the president's son, Andile Ramaphosa, he insisted that emergency procurement regulations, including the centralisation of processes, were "well meaning".
"In emergency regulations, they are well meaning, they can be applied and can work well to prevent corruption," said Makhura.
He also called on those found in the wrong to face not only disciplinary processes but criminal charges, where needs be.
The premier also revealed his own frustration at how some departments often just gave wrongdoers a "slap on the wrist".
Makhura announced at the briefing that he had appointed Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo as acting Health MEC.