Monday, 22 April, 2024
HomeMedico-LegalFull salary for North West health official despite 11-month absence

Full salary for North West health official despite 11-month absence

Despite not reporting for duty since January, a senior North West Health Department official facing misconduct and criminal charges related to alleged tender fraud has been paid nearly R600 000 in salaries this year.

Vuyo Mbulawa, who blames his absence on the department’s “ill treatment” of him, and his resulting “severe depression and memory loss”, is the chief director of the provincial department, and was charged in an R86m tender fraud case. He was also charged with misconduct by the department.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said he faced 10 counts of fraud after allegedly signing off on dubious invoices.

News24 reports the hospital procurement scandal to which Mbulawa is linked dates back to 2008, and he was first charged with misconduct in 2013. On that occasion, he challenged the process at the Labour Court and succeeded, remaining in his post until 2018, when he moved to the North West Premier’s Office – and faced the misconduct allegations anew.

Thereafter, he returned to the Health Department in January this year. The misconduct matter was waiting for him.

North West MEC Madoda Sambatha said: “He has never attended any sittings of the disciplinary inquiry, thereby occasioning several postponements. The reason for his non-attendance was the alleged ill-health.”

He said Mbulawa's last attempt to postpone the case did not succeed.

“His application for postponement was dismissed by the inquiry chairperson, and the inquiry proceeded in his absence. The chairperson is expected to hand down a ruling on the matter before the end of this month.”

Mbulawa has since applied for incapacity leave – additional sick leave granted conditionally at the employer’s discretion.

“Since his transfer, he has never reported for duty and his doctor recommended sick leave. The nature of the sickness has remained confidential, but the department’s health risk managers will meet this month to determine whether the incapacity leave should or should not be approved,” Sambatha said.

His employment history in the North West Government:

• He was employed by North West Health as chief director of corporate services on 1 December 1996;
• In 2008 and 2009, he allegedly signed service-level agreements for the construction of Moses Kotane Hospital in Ledig and Morolong Hospital in Vryburg. However, the companies that won the tenders allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices, which were paid by the department after being authorised by Mbulawa.

It was reported that this cost the department R86m.

• In 2013, the department charged him with misconduct;
• In December 2013, the Labour Court declared the department’s case unlawful and invalid, and set it aside;
• In August 2015, a forensic report by audit firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo found that Mbulawa signed off multimillion-rand payments for medical equipment that was not quoted on, purchased or delivered;
• In May 2018, Mbulawa left the Health Department for a promotional transfer to the Premier’s Office, where he started on 1 June 2018;
• In January 2023, he returned to the provincial Health Department. He has not spent a day in office ;
and
• In September, he appeared at Mahikeng Magistrate’s Court on 10 charges of fraud and the case was postponed for early next year.

Misconduct charges

Mbulawa said his problems began when the department charged him with misconduct and later dismissed him. According to a Labour Court judgment dated 24 December 2013, the court found that the department had no authority to dismiss Mbulawa. The judge declared the dismissal unlawful and invalid, and the dismissal was set aside.

“I won the case … even when the department tried to dismiss me. In 2015, I returned to work. However, because of the poisonous environment, I decided to look for another job. In 2018, I was employed in the premier's office for the same position (chief director of corporate services),” he said.

Before he left the department, the Health MEC charged him again for the same charges he won in 2013.

“I delayed my departure for three months for the hearing to conclude, and I eventually left. Last year in January, Premier Bushy Maape wrote me a letter saying he was transferring me back to Health.”

Mbulawa wrote a 28-page representation, seen by News24, raising 104 points on why he should not be transferred back to the Health Department. He complained that the post was a demotion, and he had a house and a child to care for in Mahikeng.

He was transferred anyway.

“I am currently on treatment and have presented evidence to the chairperson of the disciplinary inquiry. In addition to submitting a sick leave form, my doctor also submitted an affidavit. Still, the chairperson ruled that he was going ahead with the hearing and, strangely, called a witness. I can clearly see the outcome of dismissal,” he told News24.

He refused to comment on the charges of fraud.

In August, the government said it had spent nearly R51m on paying thousands of civil servants who were sitting at home, either on suspension or sick leave.

NPA spokesperson Henry Mamothame said the criminal charges against Mbulawa relate to service-level agreements signed for the construction of the two hospitals.

“The services were not rendered, while these companies allegedly submitted fraudulent invoices, which were paid by the department after being authorised by Mbulawa. This led to a loss of more than R86m to the provincial department of health,” he said.

Mbulawa is out on a R20 000 bail, and his case has been postponed to early next year.

 

News24 article – North West senior health official hasn't spent a day in office this year, has drawn R600 000 salary (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

No evidence to back North West graft cover-up claims against Phaahla

 

Ex-DG faces R86m hospital tender fraud charges

 

Unions combine to hobble North West Health over corruption

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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