He gave Gupta firm R30m. Why hasn't he been fired?
North West health boss gave company advance payment
North West health boss Thabo Lekalakala is still in his job despite a recommendation by the provincial legislature that he be suspended immediately for his role in a premature R30-million payment to a Gupta-linked company.
Lekalakala is so far the only man who may be taking the fall for the multi-million-rand advance payment to Mediosa, a company supplying mobile clinics.
The money was paid in 2017 by the department even before the equipment had been inspected by its officials.
The department had used a clause in the Public Finance Management Act which allowed it to grant the contract without it going to tender because the Gupta-linked company was already offering a similar service in the Free State.
But Lekalakala landed in hot water last week after it emerged that the North West department made the advance payment just a few months after the Free State issued a contract to the company.
Lekalakala also admitted, during a joint sitting between the standing committee on public accounts and the health portfolio committee, that he went on a trip to India, paid for by Mediosa.
He was accompanied by his wife and a friend for the trip.Speaking to Times Select on Monday, health portfolio committee chairman Mahlakeng Mahlakeng said the trip was to ensure that the equipment was there and was working.
“[This was] around March 18. The R30-million invoice had already been received on the 15th [of March], in other words he had already paid even before he [inspected] them,” he said.
On Tuesday last week, North West premier Supra Mahumapelo instituted a probe into the health department in the province over allegations of corruption, which included the R30-million advanced payment.
Mahumapelo’s spokesman, Brian Setswambung, said the premier had received a report from health MEC Magome Masike which informed him of the recommandation to have Lekalakala suspended.
“The report was submitted on Friday and as you know Friday was a day of [the state of the province address]. The premier attended [the ANC national executive committee meeting over the weekend], so I don’t think he has had time to look at the report and apply his mind,” said Setswambung.
In the report, which Times Select has seen, Masike also states that Lekalakala should be suspended pending the probe instituted by Mahumapelo.
“I have noted the concerns surrounding the challenges in the department. The challenges raised are administrative and moreover the HOD’s acknowledgement of having received a sponsored trip to India by the service provider in question, have the potential to undermine the capacity and integrity of the department to deliver services,” said Masike in his report.
He said he intended to urgently “deal decisively with the underlying issues” to ensure his department was back to its former reputation and provided quality healthcare.
“I recommend that the HOD be put on precautionary suspension pending the forensic investigation that the office of the premier intends to institute. This will ensure the integrity and credibility of the investigation,” said Masike.According to reports, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) records show Mediosa is owned by Merchant and Sundeep Kalsi.
The #GuptaLeaks emails showed that Merchant had his visa application to enter South Africa facilitated by Tony Gupta in 2015, through the company Saharah Computers.
A joint investigation last year by The Times and Business Day showed the “Guptas were planning to set up a billion-dollar medical facility in Dubai with shareholders who were awarded lucrative tenders to provide provincial health departments with mobile clinics in the Free State and North West”.
A company named Cureva, which was later renamed Mediosa, was awarded a three-year contract in October 2015 by the Free State health department.
The pilot project for the supply and running of two mobile clinics had a potential value of R50-million a year while the Gupta family and their associates planned for a national rollout worth an estimated R1-billion a year.