South Africa

Tribunal judge slams SIU's 'scanty' case for stopping pension payment to former NW health head

Tribunal judge slams SIU's 'scanty' case for stopping pension payment to former NW health head

The Special Tribunal will pass judgment on Friday in an application by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to halt a pension payout to former North West health department head Dr Thabo Andrew Lekalakala.

The SIU asked the tribunal, during a virtual application on Thursday, to halt the payment of about R2m due to an investigation into Lekalakala. The SIU said the investigation was at an advanced stage but was not finalised because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lekalakala's legal representative argued that no case had been made for withholding the pension after his dismissal in January.

Tribunal judge Thina Siwendu expressed dissatisfaction with the case presented by the SIU.

Siwendu said though the SIU said Lekalakala was disciplined by his employer and later dismissed, what she found lacking in the application presented to the tribunal was detail about the allegations against Lekalakala.

She said the SIU should have informed the tribunal as to what the findings of the disciplinary action were.

“We are not privy to what is going on. Give us the facts to enable the tribunal to ... grant the relief you seek,” Siwendu said.

SIU advocate Mamokete Ramoshaba said investigations by the SIU related to a contract awarded under Lekalakala's watch in which there were alleged irregularities.

She said though Lekalakala's pension was about R2m, the value of his potential transgression was more than R30m.

“What do you say to his submission that he did not award this tender but that the tender was awarded by a bid adjudication committee? How is he responsible for the decision of the adjudication committee?” asked Siwendu.

Ramoshaba said as the accounting officer, Lekalakala had the final say in what happened at the department.

Siwendu also expressed concern at the way the SIU filed its application, saying it had “pleaded so thinly and scantily” without showing a legal and factual case as to why Lekalakala's pension should not be paid out.

Siwendu also expressed concern that the founding affidavit was not commissioned.

“How do you explain that kind of basic error? Do you want this tribunal to condone and deal with this basic error?” asked Siwendu.

Ramoshaba said it was an omission by the SIU.

Siwendu was not satisfied with the answer and said a lot depended on legal practitioners satisfying the basic requirements of the court processes.

“If you don't, you risk not getting the relief that you want. You should know this tribunal is not the SIU. It is an independent body tasked to hear your matters manned by high court judges.

“You have to set out your case properly. I am not asking for bells and whistles. I am asking for basic requirements. I want to send out that warning quite clearly,” Siwendu said.

Advocate Matthews Mojapelo, for Lekalakala, said the SIU's application was heavily defective in many regards and seemed to rely on an allegation about a Mediosa contract.

However,he said, the SIU was not yet authorised to investigate that contract because there was still no proclamation by the president authorising a probe. Mojapelo said Lekalakala was being told that the investigation against him was at an advanced stage, but he was not told what it was that he is alleged to have done.

Mojapelo said the SIU alleged it had a good case against Lekalakala and others. "We do not know when this case will be instituted and finalised.”

Mojapelo said if the tribunal were to find the SIU had made a case for Lekalakala's pension to be preserved, provision must be made for his living expenses and legal costs.