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Tembisa Hospital corruption 'well-orchestrated' and 'meticulously planned'

The Tembisa Hospital tender scandal was not an overnight idea. Rather, it was a well orchestrated, meticulously planned series of thefts and corruption of massive proportions involving a complicated, huge network of individuals – brazen thieves who plundered the institution, and the system, remorselessly. And yet, some of the low-earning proxy frontmen appeared not to have scored financially: it seems it was mainly the bigwigs who raked in the millions.

News24 reports that tender don Stefan Govindraju – who took control of an empire of companies which scored R116m in deals red-flagged by Babita Deokaran – has longstanding links to an extraction network that saw bank tellers, call-centre agents and sound technicians become overnight millionaires.

After News24 exposed the hospital tender mafia, company directors inexplicably resigned en masse and ceded control to Govindraju. His takeover played out in less than 48 hours.

Govindraju’s connection to the companies, behind a flood of unregulated medical equipment sold to the hospital, was uncovered as the final link in a chain of lovers, relatives, friends, and co-workers.

One link to a former company director stretches back years, an indication that his corporate coup, in which he took over nearly a quarter of the 217 entities identified by Deokaran, was anything but a coincidence.

Govindraju refused to answer questions for fear of “self incrimination”.

Jobs, and tenders, for pals

The nexus between Govindraju and the tenderpreneur web is his wife, pharmacist Dhereshni Govindraju, employed by a Johannesburg company.  It is understood that she organised a job for Christine Signarian, a former call-centre agent, as a packer at the company through a labour broker in May 2021.

When she started work at the factory, she was the sole director of five companies which had all been formed on the same day, one year earlier, according to Companies and Intellectual Property Commission information. All of these entities were flagged by Deokaran in a report she filed three weeks before her killing, which drew attention to “possibly fraudulent” entities in trade with Tembisa Hospital.

Gauteng Health expenditure ledgers, contained in 60 000 internal e-mails, indicate that Signarian’s companies landed Tembisa Hospital contracts to the tune of R10.92m in a period spanning only weeks.

All of her companies used fake addresses and existed only on paper. None held licences to sell medical products. In her first month working as a packer, her companies scored 19 contracts supplying medical equipment to Tembisa Hospital, all valued at just under R500 000. This amount is important, as it the maximum amount within the hospital CEO’s delegation of authority. Spending above that threshold requires a more rigorous procurement process.

Christine Signarian continued to draw her meagre wage, less than R5 000 per month, even while banking millions in state contracts, News24 can confirm.

The companies then controlled by Christine Signarian sold everything from ventilators to wound dressings to Tembisa Hospital, all while her sound technician husband, Avikash also saw a multi-million rand windfall from the facility.

In the same period her husband banked R17.31m in Tembisa deals that had been channelled to his own companies. Much like his wife, these five entities were also formed on the same day. Collectively, companies steered by the pair landed Tembisa Hospital contracts worth R30m, all while the pair worked full-time jobs, earning meagre salaries.

Even with favourable profit margins and a rush of business as hospital suppliers, the couple lived in a rented backroom in Lotus Gardens, Pretoria. Their frugal lifestyle raises questions over whether they were the ultimate beneficiaries of millions from the public purse, or proxies for a hidden hand.

Connecting the dots 

Avikash Signarian and Samendran Chin were colleagues employed as sound technicians at Gresham Media, and Chin, through his five companies, raked in R7.88m from Tembisa deals.

CIPC director information indicates that she too was the controlling hand in five companies. While these entities were not flagged by Deokaran, she – like others in the network – handed control of her companies to Govindraju at the end of August.

Repeated calls to Avikash Signarian, Christine Signarian, Loteesha Signarian and Samendran Chin went unanswered.

In an e-mail last week Stefan Govindraju said that he would not be talking to the media.  “According to legal advice received I was told that I have the right against self-incrimination, which includes the right to refuse to answer an incriminatory question,” he said.

The Signarian relatives and Chin abandoned their businesses between 31 August and 1 September this year, with Stefan Govindraju appointed as director in their stead.

In unison, 12 directors of 54 companies moved to distance themselves from the entities, now mired in scandal. That the power transfer occurred in just two days, and was shifted to one person, points to an ordered effort.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) registered a case of fraud against companies then controlled by the Signarians – related to the sale of medical products without a licence –which is now under investigation by the Hawks.

The company transfer took place while a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) graft probe is up in the air. SIU boss Advocate Andy Mothibi announced his officials would start a preliminary investigation into Tembisa Hospital procurement on 23 August, the anniversary of Deokaran’s death.

Through a secondment agreement, SIU sleuths have been allowed access to critical Health Department documents. If the Tembisa Hospital buying spree doesn’t concern PPE, the SIU will be forced to apply for a presidential proclamation, which will allow a widescale probe.

One hundred and four days after Mothibi made the announcement, SIU spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said there was “no time frame” for this process and did not respond to questions.

 

News24 article – SILENCED | Babita Deokaran flagged network of lovers, friends and co-workers 'fleecing' public purse (Restricted access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Tembisa Hospital audit buried for a year and recommendations ignored

 

ANC bigwigs score millions from Tembisa Hospital

 

Tembisa Hospital pays footballer and wife R500,000 for skinny jeans contract

 

 

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