SA’s poor fleeced to build Dubai hospital for the rich

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The poor in North West Province and the Free State were fleeced to build a billion-dollar hospital for the rich in Dubai, in a plan concocted by the Gupta family. According to a City Press report, out of the R954 charged per patient for screening by healthcare provider Mediosa, R650 was to be paid to subcontracted companies from Dubai. The money would then be funnelled into the companies’ United Arab Emirates bank accounts, from where it would be used to fund the Guptas’ new business venture: Dubai Healthcare City.

The report quotes a former senior Mediosa employee as saying that the Guptas hatched the plan to raise money through lucrative health tenders in `Ωa;pw[0-§South Africa. He said Mediosa was a Gupta front company that planned to expand across the country.

They apparently intended to do so using officials including North West Health Department head Thabo Lekalakala, whom they fêted at a five-star Oberoi hotel in India. North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has been drawn into the fray, because he was in control of the department at the time Mediosa’s R180m contract was awarded.

The report says documents obtained show that, while Mediosa had lucrative contracts with North West and Free State, the plan was to sign up all nine provinces. The company projected an annual income of close to R1bn once this had been achieved. According to the documents, Mediosa’s existing clients would pour more money into the project.

“It is anticipated that both provinces (North West and Free State) will increase their spend on this project within the next six months, based on the successful roll-out and positive impact of the project on the targeted communities,” states a service-level agreement between Mediosa and two Dubai companies. “It is also anticipated that more provinces will award the company with the deployment of the project in their areas in the short to medium term. The total expected contract value on a national level is expected to be in the region of R950m per year.”

According to the report, the former employee said Mediosa was about to seal a deal with KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. “The two provinces were promising and the company had people meeting officials in other provinces,” he said. This is confirmed in the same document: “The company has been actively pursuing various other provinces and national departments in government to facilitate the large-scale implementation of the project on a national level in South Africa. The feedback has been very positive and the company hopes to secure similar contracts in the short to medium term.”

The report says the Hawks are investigating Mediosa’s contract with the North West Health Department.

The senior staff member worked closely with Mediosa directors Inish Merchant and Sundeep Kalsi. He said they, like the Guptas, were quick to leave the country when investigators began closing in on the family. “The Mediosa directors are out of country fearing the Hawks inquiry. Inish Merchant left hurriedly on 14 February, the day the Hawks raided the Guptas’ Saxonwold home and Sundeep Kalsi never returned after he left in January.

“I am one of the people who ran errands for the Gupta family and helped set up Mediosa’s operations and administration. I am also leaving for home. I can’t be here when it is clear that things are not working out and everyone is on the run.”

Government departments were, however, not Mediosa’s only target.

In April 2017 Mediosa wrote to Eskom stating: “We would like to combine our services with yours through Eskom’s entrepreneurship development programme so that we could reach out to the masses to create a deeper impact”. At the time, the power utility was already in a controversial coal supply contract with Gupta-owned mining firm Tegeta.

The report says Lekalakala took his wife, a “family friend” and his wife on a Mediosa-sponsored trip to India in March last year. The intention was for Lekalakala to find out about Mediosa’s mobile clinics. However, in the previous week, he had already awarded the company a R180m tender.

In a letter to Mahumapelo, dated 22 February, Health MEC Magome Masike states that the provincial legislature’s portfolio committee on health heard that “the trip included (Lekalakala’s) friend and family” and that “the friend has received projects from the department to the tune of R3m”. However, Lekalakala told the committee that his “friend” had never done business with the department.

Meanwhile, the report says, information obtained shows that Mediosa’s sister company, Medanta, booked Lekalakala and friends into the five-star Oberoi Rajvilas hotel in Jaipur, India. The #GuptaLeaks show that the Guptas booked their favourite politicians and civil servants into the Oberoi hotel in Dubai. Medanta paid just over R8,000 per night per “premier room” for the couples and offered them airport transfers in one of their fleet of Audi Q5 or Q7 cars.

The report says the information thread suggests that Lekalakala lied to the provincial health portfolio committee last month when he insisted that Mediosa only picked up the tab for him and the department’s deputy director-general, Kgosi Motlhabane. Lekalakala told the committee that he paid for his wife, and the other couple paid for themselves. But a 16 March 2017 email to the hotel from the office of Medanta and Mediosa co-founder Sunil Sachdeva contradicts this. The names of all four guests are mentioned in the email booking for “double occupancy” for two couples and a request to organise a “city tour (places of interest)” for them. “Entire bill will be paid by Mr Sunil Sachdeva,” the email states. “Above-mentioned are guests of Mr Sachdeva and, as requested, send their entire bill for payment to us.”

The report says Lekalakala was asked to take leave while the Hawks investigate. Mahumapelo, who authorised Lekalakala’s India trip, announced a government probe into the matter, which he said would be concluded by the end of next week. Lekalakala declined to comment: “I’m not answering any of your questions until the investigation by the premier’s office is finalised and communicated.”

The report says copies of contracts obtained show how two Dubai-based companies – HSP Plus, represented by Gupta lieutenant Gurdeep Singh and Metric Plus – would receive R650 from the R954 the company would charge the state per patient.

Mediosa has reportedly already seen more than 20,000 patients in North West alone. The company doesn’t treat any of the patients, but merely screens them and then refers them to the department’s clinics for treatment. “I know some money has already left the country to Dubai through this arrangement,” said the former employee.

The report says Mediosa’s contract is under threat after it was exposed how the North West Health Department handed it the tender, allegedly without competitive bidding, and paid it R30m before any patients were seen.

Mediosa was known as Cureva when it won its first mobile clinic contract from the Free State Health Department in 2015. Cureva’s founders include Medanta’s Sachdeva and Gupta-linked businessman Kuben Moodley, a former adviser to former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Moodley resigned from Mediosa in June last year. According to the #GuptaLeaks, Rajesh Gupta facilitated Merchant’s visa application in 2015, through the family’s company Sahara Computers.

The leaked emails show Rajesh received cost calculations of the mobile clinic project before the Free State tender was awarded and before Sachdeva established Cureva.

A video posted online last year shows plans for the Guptas’ Dubai hospital. It shows Sachdeva and his Medanta co-founder Naresh Trehan, as well as the faces of the Gupta brothers with Sachdeva and a destination sign that reads “Dubai: The largest medical destination in the world”.

City Press report

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