Hlongwa’s amazing ‘looting’ spree

Johannesburg- Former Gauteng health MEC and ANC heavyweight Brian Hlongwa will come face to face with his feisty successor Qedani Mahlangu in court.

The controversial Mahlangu has been lined up by the state as one of the key witnesses in a multimillion-rand corruption trial involving Hlongwa, his wife Joeline Davids-Hlongwa, and seven other co-accused.

Hlongwa and his co-accused appeared at the Johannesburg High Court last Tuesday to face a cocktail of corruption charges that include fraud, money-laundering, racketeering and violation of the Public Finance Management Act.

They have been slapped with 258 counts for the alleged looting spree of R1.2-billion from the department Hlongwa once headed.

Apart from Mahlangu, former department CFO Fanie Meso is among a host of nearly 100 witnesses assembled by the state.

In the indictment presented in court this week, the state says that Hlongwa and his subordinates in the department illegally awarded 3P Consulting, a company owned by fugitive Richard Payne, a multimillion-rand tender to produce a turnaround strategy for the

When the tender was awarded,  3P Consulting came up with the concept of a project management unit while still contracted to develop the turnaround strategy.

Based on the indictment, the department accepted 3P Consulting’s concept and advertised a tender for the establishment of the project management unit, with a private company being appointed to manage projects on behalf of the department.

The tender to establish the unit was then awarded to 3P Consortium, an entity comprising 3P Consulting, Africon and  Hoffmeyer, Herbstein and Ginwala Attorneys.

The tender was worth R68-million a year for a period of two years.

Of particular importance in the case is Meso, who is listed as witness number four.

Meso was CFO of 3P, which in turn seconded him to the health department as CFO once it was awarded the controversial contract.

“He became a referee and a player,” said a former official in the department. The first thing Mahlangu did when she succeeded Hlongwa was dismissed Meso in the wake of the auditor general’s disclaimer.

Accused number one is Obakeng Mookeletsi, who is a former deputy director in Hlongwa’s department, and who also chaired the bid evaluation committee.

He was also a key member of the department in the bid evaluation committee that evaluated the tenders for the project management unit. Mookeletsi was also a former employee of Africon, which is a part of 3P Consortium. Mookeletsi was also deployed by the department to be a project manager of the project management unit.

Former Gauteng department of health head Sybil Ngcobo, who also chaired the department’s adjudication committee for the project management unit tender, had signed the service level agreement with Payne on behalf of 3P Consulting, whereas the tender was awarded to 3P Consortium. She is listed as accused number two.

Curiously, the two-year contract was extended by the department for another three years at a contract value of more than R273-million, with 3P Consulting simultaneously charging the department 5% administration fee on each invoice submitted to the department regarding project management unit.

This fee was not included in the service level agreement.

It also emerged that 3P Consulting charged the department more than R1.4-million for a budget compilation contract, whereas that tender was worth only R799 500.

It also emerged that Payne’s company paid for travel expenses for Hlongwa and three of his officials, as well as spa treatments for Hlongwa and his wife while 3P was a service provider.

Amazingly, 3P Consulting also paid for what is described as goods and services for the benefit of accused three, Valdis Ramaano, former chief director in the department’s supply chain management, and Mookeletsi.

The gratifications were paid through Ukwakha Design, a company that Payne was a partner in.

Hlongwa and his wife owned property in Bryanston, which was refurbished and renovated by Ukwakha Design.

Another property bought by the Hlongwas in the same suburb under a company name – Golden Pond Trading 363, whose sole director is Hlongwa – was demolished.

A former business associate and friend of Hlongwa, Niven Pillay, paid R1-million towards the purchase of that property, while Ukwakha Design paid for the construction of a new home on that property following instructions by 3P Consulting.

Pillay’s company, Regiments, was one of the companies appointed by 3P Consulting to provide services to the project management unit. Sources privy to the situation say once 3P had entrenched itself in the department, important departmental meetings started being held in their offices. Effectively, Hlongwa had outsourced the whole department to 3P, whose owner, Payne (a UK national), has since fled to Mauritius with the health
department’s loot, allegedly enabled by Hlongwa.

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