Maverick Citizen


National Health Laboratory Service bosses suspended after PPE procurement probe

National Health Laboratory Service bosses suspended after PPE procurement probe
The National Health Laboratory Service conducted an internal audit on the emergency procurement and thereafter resolved to engage the services of PwC to conduct a forensic investigation.(Photo: EPA-EFE / Rungroj Yongrit)

The National Health Laboratory Service has suspended its chief financial officer, supply chain head and an unspecified number of other officials after a PricewaterhouseCoopers audit implicated them in procurement misconduct linked to personal protective equipment.

National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) chairperson Professor Eric Buch said on Thursday he was not in a position to share an investigative report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) that led to the suspension of senior employees. “At this point only the board has it and we are still preparing disciplinary cases,” said Bloch.

Maverick Citizen understands that CFO Michael Sass and head of supply chain management Tlangelani Mabundza were suspended two weeks ago, but an official statement was released only on Thursday, after several media outlets became aware of the situation.

The NHLS has been at the forefront of the county’s Covid-19 testing roll-out and has had to procure large quantities of equipment, reagents and personal protection equipment (PPE) for its staff. The statement said the NHLS had conducted an internal audit on the emergency procurement and thereafter had resolved to engage the services of PwC to conduct a forensic investigation.

Following this, the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) requested information from the NHLS regarding transactions involving the procurement of PPE during the March-April 2020 period.

The PwC forensic investigation covered six companies identified by the DPCI as well as individuals at the NHLS who were directly involved with PPE procurement.

“Disciplinary proceedings have been instituted against individuals who were identified in the PwC report as having prima facie committed misconduct,” the statement said.

“The officials concerned were suspended pending disciplinary inquiries. The suspended officials include the head of supply chain management and other staff in supply chain and the chief financial officer of the NHLS.

“In the interests of expediting justice, the board further resolved to share the PwC report and the associated legal opinion with the DPCI and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU),” the statement said.

It is understood the board suspended Sass, Mabundza and the other supply chain staff members two weeks ago pending disciplinary action.

In the statement, the NHLS board added: “…measures have been put in place to ensure that the NHLS continues to provide high-quality services to the people of South Africa.” DM/MC

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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