SIU wants former North West health boss’ pension frozen pending probe of Gupta-linked deal

Former North West Department of Health HOD Dr Andrew Thabo Lekalakala. Picture: health.nwpg.gov.za

Lekalakala’s advocate, Matthews Mojapelo, says the SIU’s application should be dismissed with costs, saying the unit did not make out a case.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has approached the Special Tribunal in an effort to halt the payment of the pension of former North West health department boss Thabo Lekalakala, pending investigations into a multi-million rand contract awarded to a Gupta-aligned company.

During a visual hearing on Thursday morning, advocate Judith Ramoshaba for the SIU, said they were currently investigating several allegations of financial irregularities during Lekalakala’s tenure.

The SIU is looking into the tender irregularities involving Buthelezi Emergency Medical Services (Buthelezi EMS).

It has also made an application in court for the controversial mobile clinic tender, dubiously awarded to the Gupta-aligned company Mediosa, to be included in their investigation, she said.

Mediosa was allegedly awarded a R30 million, three-year contract by the health department, in advance, and without it going out to tender, News24 previously reported.

She said the SIU’s investigation into Lekalakala’s involvement in the awarding of the tender irregularly were at an advanced stage.

Ramoshaba argued that should the pension of around R2m be paid, the state would suffer irreparable harm.

But Judge Thina Siwendu was seemingly not impressed with the SIU’s case, saying she found it lacking.

She said the SIU broadly stated that Lekalakala faced a disciplinary hearing for one of the tenders and was later disciplined for gross negligence, however, they did not disclose to the tribunal what irregularities were found during his disciplinary inquiry – and how he was ultimately accountable for the awarding of the contract given that he said the decision was not his.

“On the papers, I expected you to set out the facts to enable the tribunal to come to a decision that there is some prima facie right on which the court can grant relief,” Siwendu said.

In response, Ramoshaba said: “It is common knowledge that he was dismissed for failing to take responsibility in terms of the awarding of that R30m contract to Mediosa.”

The judge said this was not common knowledge to the tribunal and that the SIU should properly set out its case.

She said: “We are not running a kangaroo process, we are running a legal process. You’ve got to make your case in the papers. What is common knowledge to you, is not common knowledge to me.”

She said the SIU pleaded so “thinly”.

“Your investigation is not complete, we understand that, but at the least, there were other aspects that you could have brought before.

“What you found in the disciplinary hearing, that even if it’s on appeal, that is available and that is not sub judice. You understand?

“I really had difficulty with the way that you set out your case here and I think more could have been done in this instance, to assist and to make clear particularly because part of the complaint is not in the jurisdiction of the SIU yet. So if you don’t tick all the boxes you’re going to have a hard time before me at the least.”

‘Irregular appointment’

Lekalakala’s advocate, Matthews Mojapelo, said the SIU’s application should be dismissed with costs, saying the unit did not make out a case.

He said the SIU’s application seemed to rely on the Mediosa contract.

“All the other allegations… all we hear in their affidavit is that the investigations are at an advanced stage. There is only a repetition of what the proclamation says but we are not told the facts about what is it that is done by the respondent.”

He also said the SIU expected the tribunal not to exercise its independence but to rely on the outcome of Lekalakala’s disciplinary hearing, without knowing what evidence was presented there.

Siwendu is expected to make her ruling on Friday at 14:00.

Lekalakala was suspended on allegations of financial irregularities pertaining to his alleged involvement in the Mediosa scandal.

He then faced a disciplinary inquiry which found him guilty of gross negligence. He was later dismissed.

However, the SIU launched an investigation on a different tender and approached the tribunal on the basis that payment of his pension funds should be halted.

In August last year, Lekalakala was arrested along with former North West Finance MEC Wendy Nelson in relation to his “irregular” appointment as the head of the health department in 2014.

Lekalakala allegedly provided false information but despite this, was still recommended for the post.

They were each released on R20,000 bail.

Again in December, Lekalakala was charged with fraud and corruption related to the Mediosa contract, City Press reported.

Lekalakala was released on R5,000 bail.

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