Tuesday, 16 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateAlleged 'bid-rigger’ scores millions in Gauteng Health contracts

Alleged 'bid-rigger’ scores millions in Gauteng Health contracts

Johannesburg businessman Paul Mojalefa Mokoena, previously implicated in irregular contracts at Tembisa Hospital, has been accused of repeated bid-rigging at the Gauteng Department of Health’s Masakhane Cook-Freeze and Laundry facility, allegedly getting associates and family to pose as “competition” in tender bids.

An amaBhungane investigation, published in Daily Maverick, has revealed that apart from possible fraud at Tembisa, Mokoena was involved in serial bid manipulation at Masakhane, where alleged tender-rigging had, between 2016 and 2020, led to inflated prices for plastic food containers that facilitated “kickbacks” of R8m for senior officials.

Mokoena shot into the spotlight in 2022 when the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) released a preliminary report on possible fraudulent suppliers and transactions at Tembisa Hospital – flagged by slain whistle-blower Babita Deokaran.

Her report, detailing hundreds of potentially fraudulent payments made to more than 200 service providers, included four of Mokoena’s companies: Fairg Holdings, Oneall Distributors, Shiloba Holdings and Meiday Trading and Projects.

Mokoena was not named as a director of any of those companies in the SIU’s report.

However, the News24 investigations unit would later reveal his identity by scrutinising a single R495 000 contract to supply the hospital with chicken pieces, a contract awarded to Fairg Holdings through a process the SIU found wholly irregular.

Fairg Holdings won the contract even though it “did not meet the RFQ 9request for quotation) requirements” and had “provided false information … current and correct director details and … has possibly committed fraud”, showed the SIU’s findings.

The SIU recommended the company be referred to the NPA for possible prosecution.

AmaBhungane obtained copies of several bid documents concerning contracts awarded to companies either directly or indirectly linked to Mokoena, this time by Masakhane, which falls under Gauteng Health’s special projects unit.

The documents include purchase requests, quotations and orders largely for plastic containers used for frozen meals that Masakhane in turn supplies to six hospitals and 17 healthcare institutions across Gauteng.

Undercover

The documents reveal that, at different times, different companies belonging to or linked to Mokoena through family and associates would apply for contracts simultaneously in what could be interpreted as “cover-quoting”.

This is when two or more companies collude to submit bids for the same contracts to ensure a particular company is appointed. On the surface, this can seem like genuine competition.

The seven contracts evaluated by amaBhungane were all valued under the R500 000 threshold for public tenders, allowing them to be concluded using the RFQ process – based on invitations to already accredited suppliers, further compounding the lack of competition.

The earliest purchase requests, which were also, on the face of it, the most obvious examples of possible collusion and cover-quoting, are from November 2019.

The concurrent purchase requests were for the supply of computers – one contract for five laptops, another for 16 desktop computers.

In both instances, the same companies responded: Mafahla Logistics and Projects, Bitbest Investment and Oneall Distributors.

All three were owned by Mokoena, and despite evidence of his involvement in at least two of the companies’ application documents, this was missed by the bid adjudication committee.

The contract for five laptops was awarded to Mafahla, which submitted a R27 000 quote for the devices – significantly lower than the R63 750 quote from Bitbest or the R65 000 quote from Oneall.

Oneall was, however, awarded the contract to supply the 16 desktop computers at a cost of R307 000. In this instance, Mafahla’s quote of R360 000 was the highest, followed by Bitbest’s R336 000.

It’s clear from the bidding documents submitted by Mafahla that the company is owned by Mokoena, its sole director.

It should not have been hard to spot that Mokoena was, at the same time, linked to at least one of the “competitors” – Oneall.

Oneall’s bid application is signed and submitted by Vukani Sibeko, who identifies himself as a “member” of the company.

However, company registration information shows Mokoena was appointed sole director of Oneall in April 2019, six months before the RFQ was issued, replacing one Eric Mthai.

The change in directorship was, however, not updated in the company’s profile on National Treasury’s Central Supplier Database (CSD). Instead, Mthai was still listed as the director six months later.

The same email address Mokoena used in Mafahla’s bid documents was also found in Oneall’s CSD profile.

Bitbest’s connection to Mokoena was harder to discern in 2019 when the computer contracts were awarded. Mokoena was appointed as the company’s sole director long afterwards, in November 2022, according to company registration records.

At the time of the computer bidding, Tshepo Mei was correctly listed as the company’s director on the CSD. But even then, serious inconsistencies could be found in the company’s declaration document – and again lead to Mokoena’s door.

All returnable documents submitted by Bitbest appear to have been signed by Mei using his first name, but other documents were supposedly filled in by Joseph Seloane as a “member” of the company, while still using the same signature.

Seloane told amaBhungane he was only an employee at Bitbest and was responsible for filling in and signing bid documents.

More importantly, Seloane said Mokoena has “always been the owner” of Bitbest, but he would not respond on why three of his boss’ companies submitted quotations for the same contracts.

Tshepo Mei, who was 21 then, is the son of Anastacia Mei, a former director in two other companies now controlled by Mokoena.

All of the above suggests that when these three companies bid for the same contracts, Mokoena was the declared owner of one, the sole director of another and the seemingly undeclared owner of the third.

Containers

More recent contracts, where the possible collusion was less transparent, still involved one company owned by Mokoena bidding against supposedly independent rivals with links to Mokoena either through his daughter, associates or business partners.

In March 2022, four companies submitted bids to supply Masakhane with 60 000 food containers.

Similarly to the computer contracts, an analysis of the bidders found that at least three of the four had links to Mokoena.

After reviewing the quotations submitted by all four companies, members of the bid adjudication committee recommended the R477 000 contract be awarded to Mokoena’s Mafahla Group.

The next month, Masakhane issued another purchase request for 60 000 containers. Again, Mafahla was awarded the contract – beating four other bidders, with a R453 000 quote.

Interestingly, the two “rival” companies that amaBhungane has been able to link to Mokoena kept their prices the same in each bid.

For 60 000 containers, Tobetsa Trading submitted quotes valued at R495 000 and Talita Collection’s quote in both cases was R499 800.

Mokoena’s links to these two “competitors” can be established via company records, social media and dodgy paperwork.

Tobetsa’s director, David Motaung, is linked to Mokoena through a company called Freegift Projects. Mokoena was appointed as the director of Freegift Projects on the same day Motaung resigned in March 2019. This suggests they are, in a different context, business associates.

With the other losing competitor, Talita, there are several points of contact.

Social media searches reveal that the company’s sole director had previously been Thalitha Dlamini, who is Facebook friends with Mokoena in two of the accounts linked to her on the website.

Dlamini, a nurse, resigned as the company’s sole director in 2021 and was replaced by her nephew, Samuel Mashishi, before the bids in question.

When amaBhungane tracked down Mashishi in a North West village, he claimed to have never heard of the company, but acknowledged Dlamini was his aunt.

Following the process

Asked to explain, Mokoena told amaBhungane to direct our questions to the department and Masakhane.

Mokoena maintained he followed department bidding processes.

The department’s media team and spokesperson Motalatale Modiba did not respond; attempts to reach Thalita Dlamini were unsuccessful.

Gauteng Health has repeatedly ignored questions about the progress of investigations into allegations against the three officials.

The Hawks investigation is “still ongoing”.

 

Daily Maverick article – Gauteng Health Department’s procurement failures cleared the way for a ‘bid-rigging’ businessman (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Juicy R500 000 Tembisa hospital chicken tender allegedly irregular

 

Tembisa Hospital corruption ‘well-orchestrated’ and ‘meticulously planned’

 

Tembisa tender kingpins to face prosecution

 

 

 

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