Fired Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku plans to go to court to challenge the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report on his role in awarding controversial personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts, which led to his dismissal, announced by Premier David Makhura on Friday, reports Daily Maverick.
In a statement released hours after Makhura announced his dismissal, Masuku slammed the SIU, claiming its report “makes incorrect and non-factual findings about my role as executive authority”.
The SIU investigated Masuku’s role in R125m worth of PPE deals awarded to Thandisizwe Diko’s Royal Bhaca Projects, which was subsequently cancelled. Diko is married to presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko. The Masuku and Diko families are close friends.
Makhura said the SIU found Masuku “failed to execute his functions in compliance with the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act”. The SIU found Masuku’s office was aware of PPE tender irregularities but failed to act.
In responding to the SIU report, Masuku said: “I consider it fair that I finally speak for myself. I do so because I understand that in politics, perceptions do matter. I wish to state it upfront that – just as I have done to all the accountability platforms I have been to – I did not act in a dishonest, illegal or corrupt manner to benefit myself, family and friends at the expense of people who face major suffering against COVID-19.”
The former Health MEC accused the SIU of ignoring all affidavits but one – he didn’t say which – and making no reference in its report to the evidence he and his office presented. He claimed the SIU confused the distinction between his role as MEC and the accounting officer, the department’s DG, and investigators failed to link the evidence to its findings.
Commenting on his axing in a 13-page media statement, Masuku fired a broadside at the SIU, accusing it of either bowing to public pressure or venturing into political games. “The SIU is either under extreme pressure from the legitimate public outcry against corruption and the need to ensure accountability or it is deliberately engaged in politics for ends that are yet to be established,” said Masuku is quoted in a Sowetan report as saying.
“The SIU report makes incorrect and non-factual findings about my role as executive authority. It is unclear whether the report is final, and to this end I have written to the premier to explain to him that in fact, and in law, I will be exercising my rights in law to review the findings in a court of law to set them aside,” said Masuku.
He felt strongly that the SIU report had ignored all other affidavits, including his, and had chosen to rely on one affidavit.
“(The report) makes no reference to the information, facts and documentary evidence presented by me and my office. (It) confuses the roles of an executive authority and the accounting officer and thereby undermines the principle of the separation accountability. [and] makes no connection between evidence and findings,” said Masuku. He maintained that there was no evidence pointing to his interference with PPE procurement and that he did not steal people’s money.
Masuku said the report uses innuendos in a manner that gives an impression that they are engaged in political speech rather than the search for truth and facts.
The SIU says the report implicating Masuku is based on facts, reports eNCA. SIU spokesperson, Kaizer Kganyago says the recommendations in the report are based on evidence at hand.
According to the report, Makhura has made it clear that Masuku hasn’t been found guilty of corruption. He says investigations into alleged PPE corruption are still ongoing. The current acting MEC Jacob Mamabolo will continue in the position while the investigation into acts of corruption and collusion around PPE procurement is completed.
Makhura said Masuku could be reinstated as MEC should the SIU investigation exonerate him of collusion and corruption.
Masuku was fired because he had failed in executing his duties in terms of government procurement laws and other related policies, Makhura said. According to TimesLIVE, Makhura said: “Based on their (SIU) finding where they say the MEC has failed to execute his functions in compliance with the Constitution and the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act), I have decided … to discharge Dr Bandile Masuku from his responsibilities as the Gauteng MEC for Health. I have taken into cognisance the contribution MEC Masuku played in improving the Department of Health since his appointment in May 2019 and the leadership that he provided during COVID-19 is indisputable.”
He said based on its finding, the SIU had recommended that the Premier should take administrative action against Masuku over his suitability to hold office as the responsible MEC for Health.
According to the (SIU)report, Masuku had known about the department’s irregular procurement processes. Masuku has also been placed on special leave, with a decision on his fate expected imminently. TimesLIVE reports that another critical preliminary SIU finding is that it had identified metadata which indicates a quotation by Ledla, a company which is allegedly a front for Royal Bhaca, was allegedly created by Thandasizwe himself. It says the awarding of contracts to Royal Bhaca, Ledla and Beadica was unlawful.
The report states that the expenditure the Health Department incurred on the three companies should be deemed irregular in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and other related laws.
The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) in Gauteng has, meanwhile, called on Makhura to step aside to give space for the ongoing investigation into the Gauteng Health Department. According to a Pretoria News report, Denosa’s provincial chairperson Simphiwe Gada said the union was yesterday preparing a letter to Makhura calling on him to vacate his position until the completion of the SIU probe.
“His name has been coming up. We think that where there is smoke there might be fire. Therefore, he should also consider taking special leave and allow for the SIU investigations to conclude. When that process has happened and his name is cleared as well, we will gladly work with him,” Gada said.
He charged that Makhura had never been personally held accountable for major scandals that plagued his administration in recent years, including the Life Esidimeni tragedy and fire at Lisbon building which housed the Health Department and which was declared to be non-compliant in terms of occupational health and safety standards.
Full Daily Maverick report
Full Sowetan report
Full eNCA report
Full report in The Times
Full TimesLIVE report
Full Pretoria News report