Wednesday, 29 May, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalFired Gauteng Health MEC fails to overturn SIU report on COVID deals

Fired Gauteng Health MEC fails to overturn SIU report on COVID deals

Former Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku has lost his bid to overturn a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report that led to his sacking over the alleged dodgy procurement of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) by his department, reports TimesLIVE.

Masuku was removed from the post late last year by Premier David Makhura after an SIU report found he had failed in his duties as MEC. His department awarded multimillion-rand contracts to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by the late Nkosi Madzikane Thandisizwe Diko II, husband of Khusela Diko, the suspended spokesperson of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Judge Roland Sutherland of the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) dismissed Masuku's application with costs. “In my view, the SIU was not at all irrational in forming its opinion. The SIU saw no crime having been committed by Dr Masuku.

“The SIU saw no basis for civil action against Dr Masuku. Indeed, it decided there was no action it could or should take. The SIU faithfully reported what it had learnt to the Premier and to the President,” said Sutherland.

“It deemed Dr Masuku's conduct to be wanting. To form such an opinion is plainly within its scope of functions. No irrationality can exist in the SIU being disappointed by Dr Masuku's discharge of his role. That Dr Masuku held a different view about his accountability is unimportant. The SIU has no obligation to defer to Dr Masuku's perspective, which he voiced fully and was part of the matrix of facts investigated.”

Sutherland pointed to Masuku's rebuttal about his knowledge of the alleged corruption in his department, saying it was simply to protest that he was entitled to remain wholly detached even in a pandemic. “When news of improprieties was brought to his attention, he was content to fob off the investigation to the internal auditors and take no steps to inform himself at all to assess the status quo and intervene urgently,” said Sutherland.

“What he is criticised for is not lying – his ignorance was taken at face value, despite the scepticism it fully deserved – but for neglect.”

TimesLIVE adds he further criticised Masuku for being “deaf and blind” to the risks of alleged irregularities in his department and that he took no steps to protect it.

The judge further explained that Makhura was not instructed by the SIU to fire Masuku but he was given an opinion that there was a case of neglect by the former MEC. “Moreover, whether the removal of a political office-bearer is an instance of administrative action is a question not necessary to address in this judgment.”

 

Masuku's legal team said it would carefully study the judgment and determine an appropriate course of action. Masuku said he noted that the court found the unit saw no crime committed by him and that there was no basis for civil action, reports News24. The court also noted that the report's text was substantially padded and that it posed an unanswered question about why Masuku supported a decision of the executive council to centralise procurement in the department and, speculating that it might have been for nefarious purposes, was unsubstantiated.

Masuku also welcomed a conclusion that he was “not accused of corruption or nepotism”, and that the SIU's findings were opinions for Makhura to rely on when making a decision.

Masuku's legal representative, Mojalefa Motalane, said: “Dr Masuku is, however, concerned that the judgment does not address the crucial matter of executive oversight by executive authorities, one of his main contentions. Such an oversight by the court does not help to clarify the confusion that exists about the extent and limits of executive oversight.”

Motalane added that, as a result, an opportunity to define a standard and strengthen governance was “terribly missed”, especially in the context of the court finding that the PFMA would not have assisted the MEC in stopping any malfeasance.

The lawyer said that, overall, the judgment removed any doubt in the public that Masuku was involved in PPE procurement or financially benefited. “This has been the public perception, and it is now put to rest. The courts have now emphatically said that there are no adverse findings against him,” Motalane said.

 

Full TimesLIVE report (Open access)

Full News24 report (Open access)

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