North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has suspended the Health Department’s head, Dr Andrew Thabo Lekalakala, over a contract given to Gupta-linked healthcare company Mediosa. Mediosa, which also paid for Lekalakala’s junket to India in 2017, was allegedly awarded a R30m, three-year contract by the health department, in advance, and without it going out to tender, reports News24.
Mahumapelo’s spokesperson Brian Setswambung said Mahumapelo had instituted forensic investigations in the NW Health Department following allegations that were made against Lekalakala regarding the Mediosa contract. “The forensic investigators have given the MEC for Finance and Economic Development a preliminary report and based on this report Mahumapelo has suspended Dr Lekalakala whilst the disciplinary proceedings against Lekalakala commence,” Setswambung said.
The report says earlier this year, on 21 February, the North West legislature laid criminal charges against the Lekalakala following a marathon interrogation over the contract which lasted until the early hours of the morning. During the interrogation, Lekalakala admitted to the committee, that a delegation from the department was taken to India just seven days after the health group received the payment.
Committee chair Madoda Samabatha is quoted as saying at the time that the HOD was facing numerous charges, which include fraud and corruption, contravening the Public Financial Management Act as well as being in contempt of the legislature. Media reports had revealed that apart from the R30m upfront payment that the department made to Mediosa, it had also made a R180m purchase of a mobile clinic. This was before the company had done any work on for the department.
On 2 March, during a walkabout at the mobile clinic site in Setlagole, at Ratlou municipality Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi called on the Mahumapelo to sack Lekalakala. He described Mediosa as an ATM used to loot from the state.
Lekalakala was subsequently placed on special leave as investigations into the matter commenced.
Gupta-linked company Mediosa has responded to the controversy surrounding its health services contract with the Free State and North West Health Departments, links to the infamous family and salary non-payments, reports City Press. “All allegations that have been levelled at Mediosa are patently untrue,” said Inish Merchant, director at Mediosa. “As a company we have followed all necessary procedures that were stipulated by both the Free State and North West departments of health. We have fulfilled, and in many cases exceeded, all our contractual obligations with both departments of health,” he said.
According to reports, Mediosa received a R30m advance from the North West Health Department before it started operating its mobile clinic in the province. The company provided similar services in the Free State Health Department. Citing a financial crisis, the company’s managers were reported to have left the country without paying the salaries of more than 100 of its employees.
“Mediosa is currently owed a substantial amount in outstanding payments due by the Free State and North West Health Departments respectively, which has resulted in the company applying for business rescue in order to continue its operations in South Africa. It is this cash-flow crisis which has additionally seen Mediosa staff negatively impacted,” said the company is quoted as saying.
It is also alleged that Mediosa, formerly known as Cureva, had direct involvement with the Gupta family but the company has denied this. And, the report says, last month, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said Mediosa’s services were not needed at all. “I don’t think I’ll be wrong to characterise it as an ATM card through which the Guptas are withdrawing money from the department of health,” he said.
The company claimed the only assistance it received from the Guptas was with Mediosa’s (then Cureva) management’s visa applications in 2015. “The company directors emphatically deny having directed any money to the Guptas via Dubai, nor derived any commercial benefit arising from this acquaintanceship. In point of fact, Mediosa has strenuously endeavoured to distance itself from the contentious family in the wake of state capture revelations,” the company said.
“We have received a verbal agreement from the Free State Health Department confirming the debt that is owed to Mediosa. Based on this, we are certain the company will soon be a in a far more steady financial position,” Muhammed Asif Latib, an independent business rescue practitioner appointed by Mediosa is quoted in the report as saying.