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Ex-North West health chief opposes evidence in Gupta-linked mobile clinic fraud case

Ex-North West health chief opposes evidence in Gupta-linked mobile clinic fraud case
The medically equipped Gupta-linked Mediosa trucks are parked unused at the Ratlou Community Health Centre in North West. (Photo: Nthusang Lefafa / Spotlight)

The legal counsel for former North West health department head, Dr Andrew Lekalakala, in the Gupta-linked fraud case, has opposed evidence brought before the North West legislature’s portfolio committee on health. What was discussed at the committee took place in a closed session, he contends.

Lekalakala’s counsel raised this objection during his trial in the North West High Court on Thursday, as the health department’s deputy director-general, Konred Motlhabane, was about to testify about proceedings of the portfolio committee.

According to North West National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Henry Mamothame, the court then asked the State and the defence to submit heads of arguments by Friday, 18 August, and additional heads by Wednesday, 23 August. 

Virtual arguments will be heard on Monday, 4 September for the judge to determine on the admissibility of the evidence.

Lekalakala is charged with fraud, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and violating the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

The Hawks arrested Lekalakala in December 2019 and released on R5,000 bail after a brief appearance in the Mmabatho Magistrates’ Court in Mahikeng. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The charges stem from the alleged fraudulent awarding of a contract for mobile clinics in February 2017 to Mediosa, a company linked to the Gupta family. The clinics were intended to serve rural communities in North West.

It is alleged that Lekalakala approved payments of R30-million to Mediosa before it rendered any services.

Furthermore, the Gupta Leaks emails show a clear relationship between the Guptas, Mediosa and its directors. The first semblance of what would become Mediosa is contained in an email from Sunil Sachdeva, sent on 9 May 2015 to Tony Gupta.

The affected community

The expensive mobile clinics have since been gathering dust.

Daily Maverick reported in May 2022 on the disastrous repercussions of the saga throughout the province, with rural residents bearing the brunt – including waiting for up to eight hours for an ambulance, drug shortages, high travel costs and walking vast distances to clinics.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Medicine stockouts, Gupta-linked Mediosa busses thwarting North West rural healthcare 

In August 2020, the DA’s constituency head, Sello Seitlholo, who has been monitoring the situation since 2020, said the Cokonyane Clinic, a mobile container clinic which cost the provincial health department nearly R1.2-million, has no space to store patient files and medication. There is also no privacy for pregnant women to deliver.

The State’s case

It is the State’s contention that a similar project had already been implemented in the Free State province, and Lekalakala, as the then accounting officer, allegedly decided to participate in the same contract and elected to apply the Treasury Regulations, which allow for participation in an existing contract arranged by another organ of state, with the same contract terms.

However, it was discovered that the contract was not awarded in accordance with those regulations, and the project was not budgeted for. 

North West ambulance

An EMS vehicle in North West. Some residents say that they sometimes have to wait more than nine hours for an ambulance in rural North West. (Photo: Nthusang Lefafa/Spotlight)

“The accused also falsely indicated, during a management meeting, that the service by Mediosa Health was a National Department of Health initiative that would be rolled out to other provinces. He further lied that there was compliance with the Treasury Regulations,” explained the NPA’s Mamothame.

“Mediosa Health allegedly received an upfront payment of R30 million and Lekalakala, is alleged to have received gratification, in the form of a trip to India, accompanied by his spouse and his associates. The state also intends to prove that the service level agreement was signed on this trip and not at the Department of Health offices.”

Evidence was also heard about a benchmarking trip to India, when the former head of department at the Free State health department, Dr David Motau, took the stand for the State.

The court heard that the trip was meant to guide the department on the functionality of mobile clinics, but that only tourist sites were visited, which had nothing to do with the mission. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Please continue to shine a bright light on the system that distributes misery on residents while accumulating cash to the crooked! Cadre deployment must be declared unconstitutional. That also applies to DA cadres by the way.

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