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PPE graft involving R332m claims another Gauteng scalp

The fallout over the “irregular” awarding of more than R332.5-million in tenders for personal protective equipment (PPE) by Gauteng’s health department has claimed another senior scalp with the axing of its chief director, Thandiwe Pino. 

On Monday, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) welcomed the announcement that Pino, who was the provincial health department’s chief director for supply chain and asset management, had been fired for her involvement “in the irregular awarding of contracts” to three companies, two of which were linked to former health MEC Bandile Masuku

The contracts were awarded last year as part of the province’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The SIU said the investigation formed part of allegations of “maladministration, greed, nepotism and corruption” by Gauteng’s health department. 

The breakdown of the more than R332.5-million included Royal Bhaca Projects’ contract of R125-million, which was deemed irregular given the proximity of its director, Thandisizwe Diko, to Masuku. Diko, who died in February, was married to suspended presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.

The other contracts, the SIU said, included R139-million awarded to Ledla Structural Development, which has links to Royal  Bhaca; and more than R68.5-million to Beadica 430 for the supply of, among other items, surgical and face masks. 

“The SIU finalised the investigation into the award of contracts by [Gauteng’s health department] to Royal Bacha, Ledla and Beadica. The investigation revealed that proper procurement processes were not followed in awarding contracts to Royal Bacha, Ledla and Beadica by the former chief financial officer, Kabelo Lehloenya and the chief director [for] supply chain and asset management … Thandiwe Pino,” the SIU said.

“Lehloenya resigned when the allegations surfaced. The SIU was granted a preservation order by the special tribunal to freeze her pension benefits, pending the finalisation of civil  action against her.”

The unit said it had made recommendations to the provincial department for action to be taken against Pino and had provided evidence and support to the health authorities during her disciplinary hearing. 

“The SIU was informed that Pino was found guilty on the disciplinary charges and a sanction of [a] dismissal was made. The SIU welcomes the sanction meted against Pino for her involvement in the irregular awarding of PPE contracts to Royal Bacha, Ledla and Beadica. The action … is a clear demonstration of implementation of SIU referrals for disciplinary action,” it said.

Masuku was fired in October last year for his role in the scandal. He applied for a review of the SIU’s report and referrals at the Pretoria high court, but this was dismissed in April as an “ill-founded” complaint based on “perpetration of grotesque irregularities”. Masuku was ordered to pay the cost of the application, including the costs of two senior counsel. 

Masuku’s lawyer, Mojalefa Motalane, said his client welcomed the court’s finding that there was no basis for civil action against him. 

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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