Bandile Masuku in PPE findings fightback

Bandile Masuku in PPE findings fightback

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku is mounting a fightback against adverse findings made against him by the ANC's provincial integrity commission after its investigation of his conduct in relation to Covid-19 PPE procurement by his department.

This is according to a letter Masuku wrote on Monday to Trevor Fowler, the chairperson of the ANC Gauteng PIC, disputing some of the findings made against him.

Masuku was forced to take leave from his job as MEC while he was being probed by the PIC over revelations of dodgy tenders awarded to Royal Bhaca, a company owned by Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of president Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko. The Dikos are family friends with Masuku and his wife, Loyiso, who is also a member of the mayoral committee in the City of Johannesburg.

In his letter to Fowler, Masuku said he does not welcome findings that he did not exercise sufficient oversight at his department. He also protests against the finding that there was a lack of transparency and accountability, and that he failed to manage public perceptions that he benefited from personal protective equipment procurement.

“I do not welcome the PIC finding that alleges that I did ‘not exercise sufficient oversight early on’. Besides the fact that the PIC does not explain what ‘sufficient oversight’ is, it is my view that this finding does not take into consideration the facts put before the PIC,” said Masuku.

He said it was through his interventions that his department had requested an audit into PPE procurement four weeks after the national state of disaster, which he said was early and prompt.

“My oversight role is supported by the office of the premier and the provincial command council (PCC). Due to the unprecedented nature of this national disaster, the Gauteng government took the right decision in line with the national disaster management structures, to centralise oversight under a provincial command council and a provincial war room,” said Masuku.

He said the reason he disagreed with the finding about lack of transparency and accountability was that he actually increased transparency around PPE procurement by ensuring a virtual PPE portal for suppliers was put in place.

“This was also instituted timeously and was meant to strengthen already existing systems like the central supplier database (CSD). We further directed that there be a PPE expo, something which was accepted by the war room,” said Masuku.

He said he was sufficiently accountable to the public as he addressed weekly media conferences with premier David Makhura where PPE procurement was accounted for.

“The weekly media conferences are meant to update the public on the pandemic and ensure that we remain accountable and transparent in our work. The weekly media conferences are available as a public record.

“I also accounted fully to the people of Gauteng via the portfolio committee on health in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature,” said Masuku.

He said he was also the one who initiated his appearance before the PIC.

“I also do not accept the PIC finding that I did very little to ‘prevent public perception’ that I allegedly benefited from PPE procurement. Once more, it is my view that this finding does not take into consideration the facts put before the PIC,” said Masuku.

He said there were falsehoods that he purchased a R9m house for cash and that the purchase was linked to PPE procurement. “This was challenged and subsequently publicly retracted after we served the responsible person with legal papers ...

“We issued media statements and did a number of media interviews in response to the media reports concerning the conflict of interest matter. However, consistent with the fact that we respect the law, we deliberately did not comment much about the facts under investigation, so that we avoid jeopardising due processes of law,” said Masuku.

— This story will be updated with comment from Masuku and Fowler, once obtained.