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North West department head charged over R470m Brits Hospital tender

North West department head charged over R470m Brits Hospital tender
Illustrative image: From Left: Johannes van der Merwe, Lekitlane Mutsi, Barbara van der Merwe, Tshiamo Mhoholo, former municipal manager at Mahikeng Local Municipality, Hennie Smit and Brian Moholo. (Photos: Supplied | Facebook)

In the latest corruption-related case in the province, the head of the North West health department has been granted a leave of absence after he was arrested on charges related to a R470-million tender to build a hospital. His predecessor also faces criminal charges.

Obakeng Eden Mongale, the former head of the North West public works department and current head of the province’s health department, appeared in the Mahikeng Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 2 November, in connection with the alleged irregular awarding of a tender worth R470-million to build Brits Hospital in 2008.

Following a brief appearance, Mongale was released on R50,000 bail and ordered to surrender his passport and not to interfere with State witnesses.

He is charged with contravening the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). It is alleged that in 2008 he awarded an R470-million tender to Ilima Projects and Tsoga Developers to build Brits Hospital.

A probe by the Serious Commercial Crime Unit revealed that two companies were awarded the tender without meeting requirements. 

According to North West National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Henry Mamothame, Ilima Projects was purportedly placed in provisional liquidation in 2010. As a result the contract was terminated.

He said a new company was appointed to complete the construction of the hospital. When the contract was terminated the department had spent more than R57-million.

“The new contractor had to carry out two major remedial works amounting to more than R4-million, which resulted in the extension of time and cost, which constituted wasteful expenditure,” he added.

On Monday, 6 November, North West health MEC Madoda Sambatha said Mongale has been granted a leave of absence pending the finalisation of the court case.

In November 2020, a North West health department delegation led by Sambatha, administrator Jeannette Hunter and acting deputy director-general of health Pule Monale went on a fact-finding mission to Brits Hospital following complaints.

A video showing people sleeping on the floor of the hospital’s casualty section triggered the fact-finding trip.

Sambatha indicated then that the treatment of the complainant’s mother and other people on the floor was harsh, unprofessional and lacking in empathy.

Heads of department in the dock

Mongale is reported to have led North West’s public works department from 2002 to 2013. He was appointed to lead the province’s health department on 7 April 2021.

He replaced former health head of department Dr Andrew Lekalakala, who has been arrested himself for alleged fraud of R49-million through his company, Raliform Investment, in the construction of Moses Kotane Hospital in Rustenburg and Joe Morolong Hospital in Vryburg.

Lekalakala is facing charges of fraud, contravention of the PFMA and violating the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act in a Gupta-linked fraud case.

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. Lekalakala allegedly approved payments of R30-million to Mediosa before it rendered any services.

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.

‘Yet another corruption scandal’

On Monday, 6 November, Gavin Edwards, the DA’s North West health spokesperson, welcomed the arrest of Mongale, saying the party had rejected his appointment as head of the health department in April 2021.

About the decision to place Mongale on special leave, Edwards said: “Once again, the North West department of health will be left with an acting HOD, while paying Mr Mongale’s full HOD salary during his special leave, incurring more wasteful expenditure.

“This situation could have been avoided had MEC Sambatha considered our objections in good faith when we raised them in 2021 and to rather appoint an individual that is fit-for-purpose and above reproach.”

Edwards added that the North West health department has been mired in corruption scandal after corruption scandal.

“Three years later and the North West provincial government has still not finalised the investigations into the multimillion-rand Buthelezi EMS contracts that syphoned millions away from medical services through the notorious State Capture era, and we are again dealing with yet another corruption scandal,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Spotlight: Medical staff accuse Buthelezi EMS of running a taxi service, not an ambulance service

The Mongale case has been postponed until 31 January 2024 for further investigation. 

Other criminal cases involving North West government officials include:

  • Four suspects charged in a North West court over a dubious multimillion-rand SA Express contract. The Zondo Commission found that an SA Express contract worth R400-million was riddled with procurement irregularities and money was paid for services not rendered;
  • North West is the focal point of more than 50 criminal cases involving theft of public money;
  • Hennie Smit, a former municipal manager of Mahikeng Municipality, is facing a slew of charges including fraud, theft and money laundering regarding the 2007 sale of municipal land worth R144-million. Another five suspects were arrested in connection with this land deal two weeks ago, on 25 October. The Molopo Magistrates’ Court postponed the case against Lekitlane Mutsi, Brian Moholo, Tshiamo Moholo, Johannes Petrus van der Merwe and Barbara Christiane van der Merwe to 8 December 2023, in order to arrest the remaining suspects. DM

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Charge them all with first degree murder and treason. Finish and klaar.

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    When are the South African Tax payers going to learn that unmonitored multi-million procurement packages are invitations to Fraudsters and Tender Entrepeneurs to steal multi-millions of Tax Payers money from the careless South Arican government???

    At risk of boring the readers, yet again, I have written about this before, as a DM Insider, but it seems to fall on deaf ears/or blind people who will not see…?

    I am aprofessional person who has acted as Project Manager/Consultant on behalf of a foreign countries in many international tenders. I mentioned, that speaking to USA tender/procurement officers, I was told that the USA had this huge problem many years ago. It was only after they introduced a centralised Tender/Procurement Board for the entire country: that, in future, by law, all tenders/procurements above acertain threshold, shall be submitted only through this national body: the “Bidding/Tender/Procurement National Office” any other forms of these activities would be deemed to be declared illegal and fraudulant activities and would be unacceptable and would be subject to penalties… All the illegal activities then stopped.

    We can be sure that our local and Government, “Tender Fraud Entrepeneurs” and other other criminals would not like their operations to be monitored. Good, Bad luck. But you have to now toe the line, a team of professional people will be watching every wrong move you make.

    Let’s Do this, and get rid of all Tender Fraud!!!

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    Please help me to implement such a centralised Tender/Procurement Board for the entire country: that, in future, by law, all tenders/procurements above acertain threshold, shall be submitted only through this national body: the “Bidding/Tender/Procurement National Office”.

    I personally am tired of continually being ripped off by criminals

    It is envisaged that all professional people would be transparently selected from a group who had a clean records. By necessity, this group should include professional, leading, part-time members of professions: from the Legal Fraternity, a variety of Engineers, Architects, and Quantity Surveyors all with broad experience in large activities of this nature in Procurement, etc.

  • daniel arendse says:

    The lady reader`s reading is worse than a grade four pupil. Send her back to school.

  • ute nolan says:

    What is particularly galling, is that incompetent, unqualified people who do nothing but enrich themselves, still get to draw a salary, go on special leave, while awaiting court cases, against them. A salary we, the taxpayers pay. We all pay tax. Let’s not forget VAT.

    • Bob Kuhn says:

      But only the anc manage to tax their vast army of civil servants who are only paid by the grace of the free market taxpayers form their taxes…all part of the anc’s socialist money-go-round laundry.

  • Corruption seems to run in their veins

  • Johan Herholdt says:

    It seems to me that people with political connections should be disbarred from holding any government job or tendering for government work. Currying favour with politicians has become an industry for those without the necessary skills and motivation to deliver to get rich quick.

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