Ex-MEC faces 15 years in jail

CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­press.co.za

An ex­otic hol­i­day with a friend, an out­stand­ing tax bill and a fam­ily trip to the Kruger Na­tional Park – those are just some of the free­bees a for­mer Lim­popo health MEC al­legedly scored from two com­pa­nies that re­ceived con­tracts from her depart­ment while she was in charge.

Now pros­e­cu­tors are con­fi­dent that Miriam Se­gabutla – who was re-em­ployed as a chief di­rec­tor in the depart­ment of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion (Dirco) af­ter she was fired from her MEC post – may find her­self be­hind bars for 15 years.

Se­gabutla and her co-ac­cused, busi­ness­men Johnny Lu­cas and Pi­eter Eras­mus, are fac­ing charges of cor­rup­tion and fraud in the North Gaut­eng High Court. The three are out on bail of R25 000 each.

City Press has seen the fi­nalised foren­sic re­port into their al­legedly cor­rupt re­la­tion­ship that re­veals Tsepo Tech­nol­ogy Con­sult­ing and Trispen So­lu­tions – both owned by Lu­cas – bankrolled life­style ex­tras for Se­gabutla and her fam­ily to the tune of at least R154 000. The re­port, fi­nalised late last year, re­veals that be­tween 2009 and 2010, while she was MEC, the com­pa­nies paid:

R50 000 for Se­gabutla to go on a trip to Brazil with a friend. She re­ceived the pay­ment through a con­fer­ence del­e­gate while at­tend­ing a pro­vin­cial ANC Woman’s League con­fer­ence in Polok­wane;

A pay­ment of R36 000 “re­gard­ing Ms Se­gabutla’s [SA Rev­enue Ser­vice] ad­mis­sions”;

School and reg­is­tra­tion fees at a top Pre­to­ria pri­vate board­ing school for Se­gabutla’s daugh­ter, to­talling R68 000; and even a

R150 pay­ment for a book bought at CNA by a sec­re­tary for one of the com­pa­nies for her daugh­ter.

The foren­sic re­port re­veals Se­gabutla went on a two-night trip to the four-star Kruger Park Lodge with her mother, daugh­ter and her daugh­ter’s friend, driven there by a driver from the Lim­popo depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment.

“Ms Se­gabutla signed in at the lodge us­ing her maiden name, K Sao­hatse,” the driver wrote in his po­lice af­fi­davit.

Other trips Se­gabutla went on cour­tesy of Lu­cas’ com­pa­nies in­cluded a R17 000 jaunt to the five-star Walk­er­sons Ho­tel & Spa in Dull­stroom, Mpumalanga, and a R12 000 two-day trip to the five-star Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel in Umh­langa. Her daugh­ter spent a night at the Gar­den Court Ho­tel in Hat­field, Pre­to­ria, with a friend, cour­tesy of Lu­cas’ com­pa­nies.

The foren­sic re­port con­tains ex­ten­sive call records that show that be­fore the two ten­ders, worth a com­bined R16 mil­lion, were awarded to the two com­pa­nies, Se­gabutla was in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with their owner, Lu­cas, and his proxy, Eras­mus.

With­out it go­ing to ten­der, the com­pa­nies were awarded con­tracts to con­duct a foren­sic au­dit on the pro­vin­cial health depart­ment’s “Cisco Net­work Equip­ment Ac­qui­si­tion” and the Pro­vin­cial Health In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem. City Press has, how­ever, seen a let­ter writ­ten by an of­fi­cial from Tsepo Tech­nol­ogy Con­sult­ing and sent to Se­gabutla of­fer­ing to per­form the au­dit for the depart­ment for free.

The ar­range­ments seem to have changed and Tsepo Tech­nol­ogy Con­sult­ing and Trispen So­lu­tions were later of­fered two con­tracts to per­form the jobs.

The foren­sic re­port found that Lu­cas tried to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that the two com­pa­nies were in­de­pen­dent of each other, and even went so far as to re­sign from one of the com­pa­nies, but con­tin­ued to have ac­cess to its bank ac­counts. He ap­pointed Eras­mus as a proxy owner.

Se­gabutla, whose con­tract at Dirco is ex­pected to ex­pire soon, listed Lu­cas among her daugh­ter’s “un­cles” per­mit­ted to visit her at the Pre­to­ria school.

The re­port re­veals in­ves­ti­ga­tors vis­ited hospi­tals in Lim­popo to es­tab­lish if any ser­vices were pro­vided to them by ei­ther com­pany. Some of the of­fi­cials they found told in­ves­ti­ga­tors they had not heard of them.

The Hawks ar­rested Se­gabutla, along with Lu­cas and his em­ploy­ees and as­so­ciates Kwena Mase­hela, Pro­fes­sor Mush­wana and Mer­riam Mase­hela in a predawn raid in March 2013. Some among the group turned state wit­ness.

In a re­port ti­tled Be­fud­dled In­ter­est re­leased in Fe­bru­ary 2012 Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela found that Se­gabutla acted im­prop­erly and was guilty of con­flict of in­ter­est when award­ing ten­ders to two com­pa­nies owned by her “friends”. Madon­sela rec­om­mended she be made to ac­count for this and fur­ther rec­om­mended that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma rep­ri­mand Se­gabutla for un­eth­i­cal con­duct.

While in­ter­view­ing pro­vin­cial health of­fi­cials, the po­lice were told that some of­fi­cials had been or­dered to lie to the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Two weeks of try­ing to ob­tain com­ment from Se­gabutla and her co-ac­cused by voice mes­sage, SMS and through friends and col­leagues proved fruit­less.

CAUGHT OUT For­mer Lim­popo MEC for health and so­cial de­vel­op­ment Miriam Se­gabutla and one of her al­leged ac­com­plices, Johnny Lu­cas, in the dock

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