R250m hospital tender haunts premier’s new top appointees
North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo is under pressure to explain the employment of his most senior civil servant, the director-general, and another senior official despite their alleged involvement in a tender storm that has cost the North West government as much as R250 million.
North West provincial director-general Dr Lydia Sebego and acting head of the provincial public works department Vuyo Mbulawa say their hands are clean, but the two could still face possible fraud and corruption charges for their role in the tender. The two started in their new top positions last month. A forensic report by audit firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo that City Press obtained this week shows that, during his previous term as chief director of corporate services – at the provincial health department – Mbulawa signed off on multimillion-rand payments for medical equipment that was not quoted on, but was purchased – and yet not delivered.
Sebego was then the head of the health department.
The SizweNtsalubaGobodo report, concluded in October 2012, led to a fraud and corruption investigation by the Hawks in 2013. City Press heard this week the investigation was concluded and awaiting a decision from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on whether to prosecute.
North West NPA spokesperson Frank Lesenyego said the investigation was finalised in April this year, but “we are still awaiting some financial information, whereafter a final decision will be made”.
Mbulawa and Sebego told City Press neither SizweNtsalubaGobodo nor the Hawks had sought their side of the story since the investigation was commissioned in 2011 to look into alleged irregularities in the procurement of X-ray machines and scanners for a regional hospital in Vryburg and a district hospital in Ledig.
The SizweNtsalubaGobodo report revealed that the expensive X-ray machines that had not been quoted on were paid for but not yet delivered. Other machines that were bought did not have the necessary licences – and could expose patients to danger.
Payments were claimed without evidence of invoices submitted.
Mbulawa maintained: “I have never been interviewed. I have never been favoured with a draft copy of the report following the investigation.
“My side of the story must be heard so that I can also assist the investigation and provide information, including documents, that can close the gaps in the report.”
Sebego said she was not aware of any investigation into her activities. She said that when she was appointed director-general in July, the office of the premier had checked whether she had a criminal case pending, and nothing was revealed.
Premier Mahumapelo’s political opponents have questioned his decision to keep the two officials in the employ of the provincial government – at senior management level – despite the criminal investigation against them.