Three organisations, Section27, Corruption Watch and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), have released a statement on a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) report they say documents widespread corruption in the Gauteng department of health to the tune of R1.2 billion.
Corruption Watch’s David Lewis describes “extraordinary impunity enjoyed by major alleged perpetrators”, who still “occupy high political office”. These include Brian Hlongwa, former Gauteng health MEC and now ANC chief whip in the Gauteng provincial legislature.
A statement released by the organisations details alleged ineptitude (or possible corruption) by the SIU in their handling of the matter.
The unit, according to the organisations, failed to update them on the progress of the investigation despite regular requests. The investigation was authorised by then president Jacob Zuma back in 2010, and was only handed to the president in 2017. It was released this year only after the Presidency was forced to do so after a Promotion of Access to Information Act request.
Lewis said: “We find it frustrating that it took the SIU seven years to complete this investigation, despite the media having documented, as early as 2014, many of the most serious allegations and evidence of corruption traversed.”
According to the statement, “the financial misconduct is essentially rooted in the procurement of goods and services by the department, much of which benefited particular private-sector entities and the public-sector officials who colluded with them”.
The statement went on to say that, alongside Hlongwa, 10 other former senior officials of the Gauteng health department were implicated in the report.
The organisations alleged that those concerned got away without a slap on the wrist. Some “were lightly penalised following disciplinary inquiries, others of whom were simply permitted to resign without the imposition of any sanction whatsoever”.
The private sector has also been implicated in the scandal, according to Lewis, who described the case as “a textbook example of state capture in practice”.
The SIU report also documents kickbacks received by the key public officials. This includes the usual litany of free overseas vacations and, in Hlongwa’s case, the wherewithal to purchase a R7.2 million residence in 2009 in a high-end Johannesburg suburb.
Anele Yawa, the general secretary of TAC, said there was a direct connection between the current devastating financial crisis in the Gauteng health department and Hlongwa’s tenure.
Yawa said: “The Gauteng health system is in crisis. Patients’ needs are growing, yet critical posts are being frozen; community health workers are unpaid; billions of rands are owed to critical institutions like the NHLS and SA National Blood Service, threatening their viability. And despite all this, several implicated officials remain in high office. This sends the message that crime does pay.”
The organisations have called on the ANC to immediately remove Hlongwa as a member of the Gauteng legislature.