South Africa

COMMERCIAL CRIMES

Former Northern Cape Department of Health boss pleads not guilty in R96m leasing scandal

Former Northern Cape Department of Health boss Dr Dion Theys. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Emile Hendricks)

Former Northern Cape Department of Health boss Dr Dion Theys has pleaded not guilty to violating the Public Finance Management Act in a R96m leasing scandal. It’s not the only case Theys has to answer.

The case against former Northern Cape Health Department head Dr Dion Theys commenced on Tuesday in the Kimberley Commercial Crimes Court, where Theys pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Theys is charged with contravening section 86 (1) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) relating to unlawful lease agreements amounting to R96,094,163.60.

Theys is before the court to answer to averments by State prosecutor advocate Isaac Mphela that he, by virtue of his portfolio, was the accounting officer in the Northern Cape Department of Health when the allegedly unlawful leases were signed.

Documents show that Theys allegedly concluded three lease agreements with JP Hugo Trading amounting to more than R90-million. The three lease agreements were entered into without following proper PFMA prescripts and procurement processes.

The first lease agreement was concluded on 12 July 2010 and it is the State’s contention that Theys entered and concluded the lease agreement without following any procurement processes and without recording the reasons for deviating from inviting competitive bids.

In terms of the lease agreement, 60 rooms were leased for the period 27 June 2010 until 30 June 2011 for 60 nursing students at a cost of R120 per student per day.

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The second lease was valid from 1 November 2010 until 30 April 2011 for 41 nursing students at R3,600 per student and the third lease stretched from 1 July 2011 until 30 June 2012 for 200 students at R210 each.

The prosecution argues that Theys “unlawfully” and “wilfully” failed to comply with provisions in the PFMA.

The role of the accounting officer, the State outlined in its court papers, was to ensure that the Department of Health maintained an appropriate procurement and provisioning system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective. Theys had a duty to prevent unauthorised, irregular and/or fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

The State, in its indictment, underlined that section 217 of the Constitution provides that when an organ of the state in the national, provincial or local sphere of government contracts for goods or services, it must do so in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.

Another important point the State amplified in its indictment is that, in terms of Treasury regulations, accounting officers are required to report to the relevant Treasury and the Auditor-General within 10 working days after the award of all cases where goods and services above the value of R1-million are procured.

NPA spokesperson Mojalefa Senokoatsane said: “The charge sheet outlines that the accused, who was the accounting officer at the time, did not adhere to the PFMA prescripts and procurement processes on how the public purse was to be utilised.”

Theys is out on bail of R30,000 and his bail has been extended until the conclusion of the trial. 

In a separate matter, Theys, along with the Northern Cape Department of Health’s chief financial officer, Daniel Gaborone, is facing charges relating to procurement irregularities and tender fraud in connection with the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) worth R43-million. This matter is back in court on 13 April.

Despite stringent measures to stem the tide of fraud and corruption, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating multiple cases relating to PPE and other tender irregularities.

The SIU recently indicated it had investigated 5,467 contracts awarded to 3,066 service providers with a total value of R14.3-billion in regards to spending on Covid-19. Investigations into 4,549 contracts have been finalised, of which 2,803 were found to be irregular.

The list of prominent people implicated includes former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who is linked to the R150-million paid to communications company Digital Vibes, and former police manager James Ramanjalum, who faces corruption charges along with 14 other accused in connection with SA Police Service PPE procurement. DM

 

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