Gauteng Health boss Lerato Madyo lied when she told Babita Deokaran that her discovery of R850m in dubious Tembisa Hospital payments had been bumped up the chain of command. There never was a request and a report for an investigation, according to then acting head Gauteng Health HoD Sibongile Zungu.
News24 reports that it was only on the day of Deokaran’s assassination that Madyo mentioned to her superiors, in passing, that the whistle-blower was worried her life was in danger after moving to stop payments to a politically-connected businessman and hundreds of other companies.
But apart from that, the report in which Deokaran called for an urgent probe into the hospital’s spending patterns was never formally escalated.
Madyo had received it three weeks before the murder.
The report Deokaran compiled after scrutinising some Tembisa Hospital purchases orders had clear recommendations. “While this seems prevalent in Tembisa Hospital, there is a high possibility of possible fraudulent transactions in other facilities as well,” she wrote.
“It is therefore recommended that the Acting CFO through the Acting Head of Department request an investigation into these companies as well as all procurement transactions relating to these companies.”
This message, according to Zungu, never reached her and she was later replaced, and returned to secondment at the National Health Department.
Instead of a forensic examination of the payments, the department embarked on a random supply chain compliance audit.
Nearly a full year after Deokaran was assassinated outsider her south Johannesburg home, the payments out of the hospital have yet to be probed in their entirety.
Madyo, as chief financial officer, is a central figure in Deokaran’s final graft probe and was among the first to be notified that expenditure out of Tembisa Hospital was alarmingly high.
In a formal report, Deokaran identified R344m bound for the hospital’s suppliers –exactly a quarter of the provincial department’s R1.4bn spend – from a single payment proposal. She also provided a list of more than 217 companies she felt needed closer scrutiny.
More than 60,000 emails and the contents of Deokaran’s cellphone reveal how she confided in Madyo that her Tembisa Hospital investigation and the stopping of payments could place her life in jeopardy.
On 11 August, 12 days before the murder, Deokaran sent Madyo a WhatsApp message. “Morning CFO I am just worried that the guys in Tembisa are going to realise we are not releasing their payments and know that we on to something. Our lives could be in danger.”
Madyo responded: “Morning Babita I’ve requested HOD to grant approval for investigation,” to which Deokaran replies: “Thank you. I am praying she grants approval soon so that work can start. Thank you for the support.”
Zungu, responding to questions, said the first time she was made aware of Deokaran’s call for an investigation into Tembisa Hospital was on the day of her murder.
“She (Madyo) was responding to my question on how she was feeling. She did not communicate any request for an investigation… she did, however, share a screenshot of their Whatsapp conversation. (This was) not necessarily reporting or requesting an investigation but rather highlighting that it seemed like Babita had a premonition about the activities at Tembisa Hospital,” Zungu added.
Zungu’s version of events were put to Madyo and Gauteng Health spokesman Motalatale Modiba in writing. Neither responded.
One of the first suppliers of Tembisa Hospital that pricked Deokaran’s suspicions was a little-known company called Kaizen Projects, controlled by ANC Ekurhuleni Treasurer-General Sello Sekhokho.
A News24 investigation identified two other businesses owned by Sekhokho – Nokokhokho and Bollanoto Security – that were also supplying medical equipment to the hospital at inflated prices. In the payment proposal red-flagged by Deokaran, Sekhokho would secure R2.3m in payments. He has denied any impropriety.
This week, Gauteng DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom called for a thorough investigation into what Deokaran discovered and for Madyo to be placed on leave.
“The massive scandal needs to be thoroughly investigated. This requires the first step of suspending Madyo so that evidence will not be tampered with,” Bloom said.
See more from MedicalBrief archives: