Gauteng Premier David Makhura is liable for more than R42.8-million in alleged Covid-19 procurement corruption because he “failed to prevent officials of the Gauteng provincial government (from) acting unlawfully in awarding contracts”.
This was the contention made by former Gauteng health department chief financial officer Kabelo Lehloenya, who is facing a Special Tribunal hearing on Thursday related to her allegedly corrupt role in the province’s awarding of personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts to combat the coronavirus at the start of the pandemic last year.
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which has brought the civil claim before the tribunal, seeks to recover money that was allegedly illegally awarded to Ledla Structural Development and Beadica 430 for the procurement of surgical masks, face masks and hand sanitisers, among other items.
The contracts were irregularly awarded, according to the SIU’s findings, given the companies’ links to Thandisizwe Diko, who was close to axed Gauteng MEC for health Bandile Masuku. Diko, who died in February, was married to suspended presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko.
In papers filed before the tribunal, Lehloenya argued that Makhura, as premier, should have foreseen that there would be harm to the state in the issuance of PPE contracts; that the premier should have taken steps to prevent any financial harm to the state, and that he “failed” to take these preventative steps.
“[Makhura] authorised, directed or caused or failed to prevent officials of the Gauteng provincial government acting unlawfully in awarding contracts and/or making payments to [Ledla] and/or [Beadica]; and did so with reckless disregard for the means of ascertaining the extent of his power to do so,” the documents say.
“[Makhura] is liable for the alleged malfeasance based on his role in the administration of the Gauteng provincial government or as head of the executive council of the Gauteng provincial government.”
The Mail & Guardian sent questions on Monday, 16 August to Makhura’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, who acknowledged receipt and undertook to respond on Tuesday after consulting with the premier’s legal department. Mhaga had not responded by the time of publication.
The SIU said it was gunning for Lehloenya in her personal capacity because the former health department’s chief financial officer “forfeited … any and all state protection flowing from her intentional, unlawful and wrongful misconduct”.
Lehloenya was the department’s chief financial officer from February 2018 to May last year, when she resigned. Her contract was terminated in August 2020.
The SIU said in July it had sought and obtained the freezing of Lehloenya’s pension fund following her resignation “pending the finalisation of civil action against her”.
In her filed papers, Lehloenya denied that the SIU was legally entitled to recover losses to Gauteng’s health department from her, or that she was personally liable for those losses.
“The first defendant denies that she committed any unlawful and wrongful conduct. The first defendant denies that the SIU conducted any investigation,” reads her argument.
“To date, the first defendant has not been interviewed or questioned by the SIU. No report has been filed consequent upon said investigation by the SIU nor has the first defendant been requested by the SIU to comment on any of the allegations against her.”