With an MEC facing corruption charges and having overspent the budget by more than R1,5-billion this year alone, the KwaZulu-Natal health department is reacquainting itself with the term ”penny-pinching”.
On Wednesday the department’s political head, Peggy Nkonyeni, was charged with corruption in a case relating to her department’s procurement of a mammogram machine at more than three times the market value.
Nkonyeni appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court with co-accused Lindelihle Mkhwanazi, the owner of Rowmoor Investments, and Mduduzi Ntshangase, the department’s head of supply chain management. Mkhwanazi, who is alleged to be Nkonyeni’s lover, was charged with corruption and fraud, while Ntshangase’s charges include fraud and contravening the Public Finance Management Act.
The charges relate to a mammogram machine bought from Rowmoor at a cost of R1,5-million in an allegedly flawed tender process. It is understood that the cancer-screening machine was to be bought initially from another company at a cost of R425 000.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tlali Tlali confirmed that further separate investigations into the ”very interesting relationship between the three accused” were ongoing, suggesting further allegations of manipulating health department tender processes.
”It is not a mistake that we have these three people in the dock,” said Tlali, who refused to be drawn on the nature of the other investigations.
Nkonyeni, Mkhwanazi and Ntshangase were released on bail on condition they do not interfere with three state witnesses employed in the department’s procurement section.
While the trio will reappear in court on January 22, it seems likely that further NPA investigations will reveal whether — and to what extent — Nkonyeni has any personal responsibility for the health department’s astronomical overexpenditure.
Nkonyeni — whose self-publicity has extended to plastering herself on billboards around KwaZulu-Natal and the release of a health department calendar that features ”Peggy Pin-ups” — is considered a key provincial fundraiser for ANC president Jacob Zuma.
It is understood that she lobbied Zuma’s support to stand for the treasurer’s position at the ANC’s mid-year KwaZulu-Natal conference. This was much to the chagrin of the provincial leadership, which had hand-picked Sizani Dlamini, another Zuma-ite, for the position.
Earlier this year Nkonyeni tried to discipline a rural doctor when he allegedly threw a picture of her into a bin after she accused rural doctors of seeking profit and not caring for people.