We called this press conference to share with you information about decisions we have taken about governance matters of our provincial government.
Before we do that, allow me to update you about our response to COVID-19 in the Eastern Cape province. The report released by Minister Zweli Mkhize last night showed that our province has 193,413 people that have been infected with coronavirus, sadly, we have lost 11,150 people, 181,385 people have recovered from the virus and we have 878 active cases in the Eastern Cape.
Our province has received 8,120 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and 4,920 doses have been distributed to Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha and 3200 doses have been distributed to the Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth.
We are proud as the Eastern Cape province to announce that this vaccine was tested in the province. We are proud that both the Medical School of Walter Sisulu University and the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital took part in the research trials of this vaccine. We appreciate people that participated in the research trial, we appreciate scientists of the Medical School and the staff of the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital for their involvement in the research trial.
We are also proud that during quarter 2 of this year, this vaccine will be manufactured in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in our province. This will put us in a better advantage going forward in terms of our vaccination programme. Tomorrow I will be visiting the Nelson Mandela Academic hospital to monitor the start of the vaccination programme in our province.
Governance and administrative matters in the provincial administration
When allegations were made about the government’s procurement of goods and services, I wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa in May last year, asking him to proclaim the SIU investigation of all allegations made against the provincial government. Investigations were conducted and departments cooperated with the investigations. The task of the SIU was to find evidence of wrongdoing, and identify those responsible for wrongdoing in the procurement of goods and services.
We also note that, concurrent to these SIU investigations, the Public Protector is also conducting investigations on the same matters. We are happy that at the national level there is a Fusion Centre where they work together and compare notes.
In October last year, we met with the SIU for an update on the investigations conducted by the Unit in the province. That meeting took place on October 13, 2020 and during the meeting we informed the SIU that we wanted final reports and not preliminary reports. The meeting was important because as the Premier of this province, I wanted to know the status and progress made in all investigations being conducted by the SIU in our province.
My office received hand-delivered copies of the referral letters from the SIU on February 1, 2021. When I received the letters from the SIU, I immediately acted on them and this was followed by a meeting with the SIU on February 4, 2021 where they formally tabled the report to me.
Arising from the meeting, SIU committed on a supplementary submission as a response to clarity seeking questions that were raised in the meeting, and their supplementary submission was received by my office on February 12, 2021. In the report, the SIU submitted serious findings of misconduct against both the MEC of the Department, Ms Sindiswa Gomba and the former Head of Department, Dr Thobile Mbengashe.
As part of their process, the SIU referred to the letters concerning their findings about MEC Gomba and Dr Mbengashe to me for me to take an action on the findings. I engaged both MEC Gomba and Dr Mbengashe on the findings of misconduct against them that were made by the SIU in the report. As part of that engagement, I asked both MEC Gomba and Dr Mbengashe to submit representations on why an action should not be taken against them. They both submitted their representations to me, thereafter I met with them to communicate the action we had to take that was appropriate under the circumstances.
The SIU report confirms that there was an award made by the department to the company but there was no public money spent on the procurement of motorbikes.
Findings on other procurement matters
There were other findings from the investigations conducted by the SIU on the procurement of goods and services by the OR Tambo District Municipality, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
With regards to the findings made against the two municipalities, we expect the Mayors of these municipalities to take action against individuals found to have breached procurement policies and laws, equally, we expect Municipal Councils to ensure that proper action is taken by the Municipal administration of these two municipalities.
We welcome the fact that no irregularities were found in the procurement of service providers by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to refurbish our health facilities, work that is still ongoing. Infrastructure upgrades at 66 health facilities have been completed in our province.
We also welcome the fact that the SIU report confirms that the Provincial government did not award a tender to a company of a deceased person as it was wrongly claimed, falsely reported by the Daily Dispatch; a story that was carried by a number of other media houses and commentators that relied on false and incorrect information from the newspaper.
As the provincial government we publicised the list of all service providers that we procured goods and services from during COVID-19 pandemic as part of our transparency and accountability commitment. We will continue publishing such lists on quarterly basis. We did not only publish names of companies, we also published names of directors of these companies because we have nothing to hide.
Criminal charges against MEC Gomba and others
We also note that Gomba is one of the people charged by the National Prosecuting Authority for fraud and corruption on a matter related to the preparations for the funeral and memorial service for the late former President, Nelson Mandela.
Now that the charges have been re-enrolled, all persons accused will get an opportunity to deal with the charges that have been there for a long time. We are concerned that this case has been there for more than seven years without progress to a point where charges were provisionally withdrawn.
It is worth making this point that, when law enforcement agencies investigate allegations of corruption and wrong doing, they must investigate thoroughly, arrest people for prosecution and not to arrest to investigate as justice delayed is justice denied.
It is important to raise this point because investigating thoroughly will mean, when arrests are made, cases are ready for prosecution so that people accused can answer to the charges and matters can be processed by the courts of law properly, in the spirit of justice. It is not in the interest of justice to prolong investigations after people have been arrested and dates of trial keep on being postponed.
Decision on MEC Gomba
I engaged Gomba on the findings of the SIU report, and in light of the charges she is facing after the NPA re-enrolled the charges, I have taken a decision to relieve Gomba of her duties as the Member of the Executive Council for the Department of Health.
The decision will allow her time and space to attend to the case against her. This decision is in the best interest of the MEC, and of the provincial government. I want to thank Ms Gomba for her service to the people of our province during her time as the MEC for the Department of Health. She led the Department during the most difficult and trying time of [the] COVID-19 pandemic.
I have decided to appoint MEC Xolile Nqatha as the Acting MEC for the Department of Health for the time being. The appointment of the MEC of Health to lead the Department will be announced in due course.
Decision on Dr Mbengashe
Findings against Dr Mbengashe relate to the work he did when he was the Head of the Provincial Department of Health. I engaged Mbengashe on the findings of the SIU, I asked him to submit representations on the findings. I have taken a decision that, in light of the findings, the representations he made, Mbengashe will be subjected to a disciplinary action in line with the recommendations of the SIU where he will be given an opportunity to present his case, answer to the findings of the SIU regarding his actions on the procurement of the motorbikes by the department. We will wait for that process to conclude.
We welcome the fact that after investigating these allegations, the SIU referred some of the matters to the Tribunal, others to the NPA for prosecution. The action I have taken on this matter is to ensure that our government attends to all allegations and that people implicated are held accountable for their actions. In this case allegations were made, we acted and called for an investigation. Investigations were conducted and now we are acting on the findings of the report.
There are other investigations that are still being conducted by the SIU concerning the procurement of goods and services by the provincial government departments and other institutions of government in our province. When reports of those investigations are submitted to me, I will apply my mind as the Premier of this province and announce my decision on each matter.
The SIU report that was published on matters that have been investigated by the Unit thus far shows that government is investigating allegations of corruption and wrongdoing and that action is taken when corruption and wrongdoing is found. We want to make sure that the work of government continues without stains of corruption and wrongdoing. We will continue fighting corruption and wrongdoing in our government.
I have instructed the Director General and the Head of Department of Provincial Treasury to form a rapid response team, together with the Acting HOD of the department of Health to attend to ongoing operational and administrative challenges in the department. These range from failure to pay service providers within 30 days.
We encourage Community Health workers to use proper channels to raise their labour matters. Closing down clinics is not the right way to raise their concerns. Health facilities belong to the people of this province, no person has a right to close them down.
We understand the situation they are facing. However, the financial position of the department makes it impossible for them to be absorbed. Appreciating the work they are doing for our people, working with the national department of health, we are exploring all possible solutions to the problem.