Fired MEC Masuku slams SIU corruption probe in court fight
● the primary casualty of the Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal in Gauteng, former health MEC Bandile Masuku, is fighting back in court, condemning the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) findings against him as “garbage”.
In a 123-page affidavit submitted in an urgent application within the Pretoria supreme court on Friday, Masuku has gone to court to line aside adverse findings in two letters from the SIU to Gauteng premier David Makhura that formed the idea of the choice to fireside him. Masuku said the SIU had ignored material facts; its findings weren’t protected by evidence and were supported a scarcity of understanding of the applicable laws.
Masuku’s supporters say he’s the victim of a strong faction in Gauteng that desires to get rid of Makhura from the position of ANC chair within the next provincial conference.
Masuku and his friend, presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, will now need to appear before the party’s disciplinary committee for his or her alleged role within the scandal.
“It’s all about the provincial conference. The move is aimed toward eliminating those that are a threat to a number of them,” said an ANC leader sympathetic to Masuku and Diko.
Makhura had tried to shield Masuku by not appointing a replacement health MEC while the SIU investigation was under way. However, he was defeated at the ANC provincial executive committee by those pushing for a replacement MEC to be appointed.
Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said Makhura would abide by the ANC instruction to appoint a replacement MEC.
The disciplinary process is predicted to start out within the coming week and tension is mounting over who should lead it.
At this week’s provincial executive board meeting , Masuku’s detractors pushed for provincial disciplinary chair Ntombi Mekgwe to recuse herself because she had sided with Masuku and Diko during debates.
ANC spokesperson Bones Modise said party officials would formulate charges tomorrow and choose who will chair the disciplinary committee.
Masuku and Diko are implicated during a PPE contract awarded to Royal Bhaca Projects, owned by Diko’s husband, Thandisizwe. The contract was later cancelled but the SIU said it had been then awarded to Royal Bhaca’s “proxy”, Ledla Structural Development. In recent weeks the SIU told Makhura of its findings and Masuku was fired.
“The painstakingly flavoured and flamboyant adjectives contained within the [SIU’s] report were clearly meant to make sure that I unjustifiably get propped up and nailed because the proverbial posterboy of Covid-19 related corruption. This I cannot leave unchallenged,” Masuku says in his affidavit.
He says it had been the provincial government’s decision — following the national government’s model — to centralise procurement within the department of health. it had been not his decision.
Masuku was handling the SIU’s finding that hewas “actively involved (in the capacity of co-chairperson)” within the decision to form the health department the central pro
curement agent for the entire province.
The SIU said he should have known the department had an extended history of negative audits and had been battling its supply chain management. “As such the choice to market or support any proposal for the centralisation [for PPE] made no sense the smallest amount |the least bit|in the slightest degree|in any respect”> in the least and was irrational to mention the least.”
The SIU went on to say: “Consequently, the MEC’s support of this proposal may are for nefarious purposes … to potentially benefit himself, his wife or their friends.”
But Masuku says there’s no evidence to copy the claim that he lobbied for centralisation. “The decision was in line with what the national government had done and what other provinces were doing, which was to make sure that the department liable for health care issues and deals with procurement of PPE.”
He says his department achieved an unqualified audit and there was no basis to doubt that it could handle the procurement.
“I take great exception to the language employed by the SIU because it isn’t supported by any evidence but is just an allegation plucked out of the air and used for atmosphere, grabbing of headlines and for effect.”
Masuku also says that, in terms of the law, the MEC isn’t directly involved in procurement. “I, as an executive authority, was never involved within the PPE procurement nor could I even have asked to be involved. Any involvement would amount to unlawful interference with operational matters that don’t fall within the ambit of functions performed by an executive authority.”
He says that, as MEC, the “proverbial buck” stops with him, but “compliance with instruction notes in procurement is that the granular operational detail that doesn’t ordinar
ily fall within the realm of an executive authority”.
And he didn’t know that Royal Bhaca had tendered for PPE contracts until May, he says. An e-mail to him from former CFO Kabelo Lehloenya on April 1, relied on by the SIU to point out that he knew or need to have known about Royal Bhaca, had been taken out of context, he says.
The e-mail listed the recipients of PPE contracts and included Royal Bhaca. But Masuku said he never even opened the e-mail. “I only saw this e-mail for the primary time on 14 August once I was interviewed by members of the SIU as I had never opened it prior thereto.”
Masuku says he asked for the list because the Motsepe Foundation had asked for it therefore the foundation could buy PPE then donate it to the department. He had asked that the list be forwarded to the inspiration and once he knew this was done, he didn’t got to open the e-mail and actually didn’t do so.
“I had no other reason to open the e-mail as i used to be not involved in SCM [supply chain management] …
“The erstwhile CFO, the chief director, SCM and therefore the head of department were running that process.” He says that when other service providers were appointed, he had not been e-mailed about this.
He had told this to the SIU, but the SIU appeared to haven’t properly considered his version, he says.
Nor had the SIU investigators who interviewed him ever put to himthe allegation by supply chain chief director Thandy Pino that Lehloenya had, when Pino asked her about the appointment of Royal Bhaca, said “the MEC wants his people”.
“I didn’t instruct the CFO to appoint RBP as that instruction would be unlawful, nor did I inform anyone for that matter that I wanted my ‘own people’ to be appointed.”
Once concerns about irregularities had been delivered to his attention on April 7, within fortnight he initiated an investigation, he says. “Thus before the matter was within the limelight or was reported on by the media … I … took a choice that an investigation to uncover any wrongdoing had to commence.”
Masuku says the conclusion that he had failed in his oversight role was “a jump” not supported by the law or the facts.
“With respect, if the state goes to uncover corruption there must be better investigative work and investigators need to be conversant in the elementary tenets of the environment that they’re investigating. The findings are simply garbage.”
Masebe said the premier wouldn’t file a responding affidavit.