The immediate removal of Gauteng ANC chief whip Brian Hlongwa, investigations against more than 10 corrupt officials, the seizing of assets – these are among the calls made by SECTION27, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Corruption Watch.
This comes after the civil society organisations partnered together and released explosive details of a Special Investigation Unit report on massive corruption within the Gauteng Health Department.
The 122-page report, which was quietly shelved for over a year, exposes rot amounting to about R1.2 billion and documents widespread corruption and gross financial mismanagement which took place within the department from 2006 to 2010.
And now they are calling for swift and heavy action as well as intervention by the Asset Forfeiture Unit and other authorities who have been asked to respond by next Wednesday(27 June).
Seven years to finalise
The original investigation was commissioned by a presidential proclamation in 2010. Back then Corruption Watch, TAC and SECTION27 regularly asked the SIU for updates on the progress of the investigation – but were met with silence.
The report took seven years to finalise and was eventually presented to then President Jacob Zuma on March 29 last year. Yet nothing was made public and no action was taken.
Now, following a Promotion of Access to Information Act request, the Presidency has released the report to SECTION27, who have made the damning findings public.
Civil society reacts
Hlongwa, the former Gauteng Health MEC under whose watch the corruption took place, and at least another 10 other former officials are implicated by the report in financial misconduct. A few have been lightly disciplined after disciplinary enquiries, others were allowed to resign and walk away and Hlongwa remains in office, seemingly protected.
“It appears that the Gauteng government failed to refer any of this conduct to the criminal justice authorities, and quite a few people who were implicated were never investigated so we will also be following that up,” said Kavisha Pillay of Corruption Watch.
She said the TAC and Corruption Watch have this week written to the Johannesburg Director of Public Prosecutions, where criminal matters from the SIU report were referred for further investigation. The Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) and the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) were also made aware of the information and a second letter was sent to the AFU, as assets held by Brian Hlongwa and others.
Section 27’s Mark Heywood, “This is a textbook example of state capture in practice – happening before the time we even started talking about it. And what’s important to note is that it’s not unique to Gauteng. Now that we have things out in the open in black and white, it needs to be slapped down in other provinces.”
Kickbacks received by key public officials included free overseas holidays and a R7.2 million house in an upmarket suburb was bought for Hlongwa in 2009.
A system in crisis
Anele Yawa, the general secretary of TAC, said there was a direct connection between the current devastating financial crisis in the Gauteng Health and the rampant corruption that had gone on for years.
“The Gauteng health system is in crisis. Patients’ needs are growing yet critical posts are being frozen; community health workers are unpaid; critical institutions like the NHLS and SA National Blood Service are owed billions and their viability is threatened. And despite all this, several implicated officials remain in high office. This sends the message that crime does pay,” Yawa said.
The partner organisations will actively engage the Gauteng government and the Presidency to ensure implementation of the policy recommendations contained in the SIU report. They want Hlongwa to be removed swiftly and investigations into other corrupt officials to go ahead quickly. – Health-e News.