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AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Hawks probe into Tembisa Hospital PPE tender scandal at ‘advanced stage’ following CEO death

Hawks probe into Tembisa Hospital PPE tender scandal at ‘advanced stage’ following CEO death
Tembisa Hospital, Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo images / OJ Koloti)

Amid condolences sent to the family of suspended Tembisa Hospital CEO Dr Ashley Mthunzi, who reportedly passed away last Tuesday after a brief illness, questions linger over the status of the ongoing investigation into the hospital’s alleged involvement in the massive PPE tender scandal.

The Gauteng Department of Health announced the news of Tembisa Hospital CEO Dr Ashley Mthunzi’s death on their Xpage last Wednesday. His wife Lerato Mthunzi also confirmed the news in a Facebook post along with his burial arrangements which were scheduled for Saturday 27 April 2024.

At the time of his untimely death, Mthunzi was still under scrutiny following his suspension as the CEO of Tembisa Hospital, as confirmed by the Gauteng Department of Health.

“Yes, the Department can confirm that Dr Ashley Mthunzi was still on suspension at the time of his passing,” a response to Daily Maverick questions read.

Mthunzi was placed on suspension in August 2022, following recommendations of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation, appointed by then Premier David Makhura which found nine officials to be implicated in the alleged tender graft at Tembisa Hospital. Mthunzi was suspended on allegations of authorising purchase order requests in the scheme of the irregular tenders at Tembisa Hospital that whistleblower Babita Deokaran helped uncover before she was assassinated.

Ashley Mthunzi, Tembisa Hospital

Suspended CEO Ashley Mthunzi, who was linked to the corruption findings, has died. (Photo: X)

The suspended Tembisa Hospital CEO’s disciplinary hearing was initially scheduled for August 2023, with the premier’s office tasked with handling the case. However, it was postponed until October 2023 and subsequently pushed to March 2024, prolonging his suspension period to approximately 20 months with full pay.

Commenting on the delays DA Gauteng shadow MEC for Health Jack Bloom said, “The DA is most concerned by slow discipline against officials accused of irregular activities involving huge amounts of money that should have been used to improve treatment for patients. Excessive delays also mean millions of rands are paid to officials suspended with pay. Could it be that some cases are dragged out as they could implicate senior ANC officials? Professional management of disciplinary cases is needed to ensure speedy justice.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Health Department’s procurement failures cleared the way for a ‘bid-rigging’ businessman

In December 2022, the Gauteng Hawks swooped in on Tembisa Hospital to conduct a search and seizure operation based on information about the irregular contracts awarded by supply chain management at the health facility to 217 service providers.  However, updates on the investigation have remained scarce.

Hawks’ investigation into Tembisa Hospital PPE scandal update

Daily Maverick reached out to Gauteng Hawks with a set of questions for a progress update on the investigation and how the passing of Mthunzi affects the ongoing investigation. Captain Lloyd Ramovha, Gauteng Hawks spokesperson, responded.

“I am informed the investigation is at an advanced stage… the investigation itself has many facets. With regard to the deceased person, it won’t hinder the investigation process as much. Now, it would mean that the deceased part or alleged role will have to be excluded as they won’t be able to account for themselves,” said Ramovha.

Meanwhile, six men — Phakamani Vincent Hadebe, Nhlangane Phinda Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Siphakanyiswa Dladla, Zitha Radebe, and Siphiwe Thabane Mazibuko — were sentenced for murder, attempted murder and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, following the murder of Babita Deokaran. The count of attempted murder relates to a person who was in Deokoran’s car at the time of the shooting and received sentences ranging from six to 22 years last August, but the court and public at large are still left with questions on whose instructions the six acted.

Read in Daily Maverick: Babita Deokaran killers plead guilty and get jail terms, but the shooter and assassination mastermind remain at large

At the time, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prsued ‘persons of interest’ whose information had been provided by the convicted.

According to Karam Singh, Executive Director at Corruption Watch:

“The case is very complicated. I would assume the case is at different levels with different mandate holders. The passing of the CEO should not deter or end the matter as he wasn’t the sole person responsible — he was part of a network. Many other people in the process already need to go through disciplinary. We need to see that process proceed in a way that is not prolonged any further. We also expect in terms of the ongoing investigations having got the group of suspects sentenced for Babita’s killing. The investigation must finalise and determine the kingpin and the important principle that funds are recovered. And surely there have to be DPSA guidelines in terms of the public sector around how long suspension can last because often they are suspended with pay which is a huge loss to the fiscus.”

As the investigation unfolds, the Hawks’ conclusion holds significance, not only for accountability but also for the potential recovery of misappropriated funds. With public scrutiny and the NPA’s determination, justice may yet prevail in bringing closure to the Tembisa Hospital PPE scandal and the legacy of Babita Deokaran. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    What a curious turn of phrase, so does that mean they are going to stop any investigation into the deceased criminal’s activities. Stop any attempt to find out what happened to the proceeds of the corruption and refuse to even attempt to recover any of the taxpayers stolen funds and undeserved remuneration?

    WTF is your job then, when you cannot even complete it in reasonable time?

    There is NO WAY anyone can be OK with this.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    Babita Deokaran reported fraud and was assassinated. She was assassinated because she was a dedicated public servant who refused to look the other way. She was somebody who cared enough about our country and our people to put herself, and her personal safety, second.
    She is not the only one – we have had people like Themba Maseko say ‘not in my name or on my watch’.
    Heroes like Charl Kinnear.
    Then we have ‘others’ – people like Ashley Mthunzi who can sit at home for two years on full pay – comforted by the fact that the people responsible for disciplining him are in no haste to complete the process. Similar to the people in Tswane responsible for investigating the Blackhead Consulting tender.
    My question is a simple one. Why would anyone be honest in this country? Its not only dangerous – its reckless.
    This is the ‘house’ the ANC has built – which Cosatu and the SACP continue to support – and the people -well they are only as valuable as their votes and they only matter every 5 years.
    People, you think these elections are about YOU – forget it, it’s about maintaining the status quo and taking from you until there is nothing more to take

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