The special investigation unit (SUE) has now been given a mandate to investigate the scandal further.
A proclamation was published on Friday, authorizing the SOE to investigate allegations of large-scale corruption and maladministration in relation to the affairs of the Gauteng Department of Health and Thembisa Hospital. In particular, it gives the SOE authority to investigate the activities of a suspected syndicate for corruption and fraud and to investigate additional areas not covered by an initial investigation. All contracts, purchases and operations for the period from 1 September 2020 to and including 1 September this year may be investigated.
Last year, the SOE entered into an agreement of secondments with the Gauteng Department of Health to investigate allegations of corruption, fraud and maladministration in issues related to supply chain management processes at this Pretoria hospital.
The SOE consequently found that fraudulent payments of R850 million were made to 227 companies through irregular contracts. At the time of her murder, the whistleblower Babita Deokaran had already drawn up profiles of 224 of the companies and contained them in a forensic report of her own.
The companies belong to four businessmen, including Stefan Govindraju. He is identified in the SOE’s report as the main beneficiary of the irregular procurement practices at Tembisa Hospital.
These findings forced the SOE to apply for the proclamation.
This enables the investigation unit to investigate, among other things, the purchase of or contracting for goods and services by or on behalf of the Department of Health for Thembisa Hospital. The investigation unit will also investigate any irregular and fruitless or wasteful expenditure incurred by the department or the hospital, as well as any illegal or improper conduct by officers or employees of the hospital, the state or service providers.
The proclamation also enables the SOE to subpoena evidence, check electronic devices and bank statements, as well as question witnesses under oath. The unit can take further action against officers implicated in the initial investigation and file civil claims to recover money and assets confiscated by the state. Cases can also be referred to the relevant law enforcement authorities such as the National Prosecuting Authority to criminally charge offenders, and regulatory bodies such as the South African Revenue Service to blacklist offenders.
The unit will also identify system errors and make recommendations on how the system can be improved, in order to prevent similar fraud in the future.