Obakeng Eden Mongale, the embattled head of the North West Department of Health, has been placed on a leave of absence following his arrest by the Hawks for allegedly awarding a multimillion-rand irregular tender.
In a statement released on Monday (November 6), MEC Madoda Sambatha said putting the embattled HOD on special leave will “assist” the department and allow it to seek legal advice on the way forward.
The 52-year-old official was released on R50 000 bail last week after appearing before the Mahikeng Magistrate’s Court on Thursday (November 2) about a tender awarded to two companies without adhering to proper procedures.
“While the [HOD] handed himself over to the police on the 3rd November 2023, he has protested his innocence, and it is only fair that he should be given space and time to deal with the allegations. I have therefore, granted him a special leave of absence pending the finalization of his court case”, said Sambatha.
Mongale handed himself over to the police on Thursday for allegedly awarding IIima Projects and Tsoga Developers a contract to build the Brits District Hospital even though the companies did not qualify. He was charged with contravening section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) for the 2008 crime.
Meanwhile, Dr. Madipuo Tlhogane, the department’s chief director for corporate services, has been appointed as the acting HOD while Mongale is on leave.
There has been a shakeup in the top structures of the North West Department of Health.
According to Tebogo Lekgethwane, spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, Bertha Maleka, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), has been found guilty of several offenses. These include contravening various supply chain management regulations, violating the department’s records management policy, engaging in financial misconduct, and other related charges.
According to Lekgethwane, there are additional charges against Vuyo Mbulawa, a high-ranking official in the Department of Health, related to tender irregularities.
Lekgethwane said Mbulawa was transferred from the Office of the Premier to the Department of Health in January 2023. However, Mbulawa has not reported for duty since then, allegedly due to ill health.
He has recently applied for temporary incapacity leave. The application has been referred to the department’s health risk managers to determine whether the incapacity leave should be approved or not, Lekgethwane added.
“Prior to his appointment at the Office of the Premier, Mr. Mbulawa was a Corporate Services Chief Director in the Department of Health and was on several occasions appointed as the Acting HOD. He was charged with misconduct relating to the procurement of medical equipment for Moses Kotane and Joe Morolong Memorial Hospital,” said Lekgethwane.
“He never attended any sitting of the disciplinary inquiry, thereby occasioning several postponements. The reason for his non-attendance at the hearing is his alleged ill-health. His last attempt to have the case postponed did not succeed. The chairperson dismissed his application for a further postponement, and the inquiry proceeded in his absence. The Department adduced evidence from its witnesses and closed its case.”
Lekgethwane said Sambatha is awaiting the report from the disciplinary committee before making any decisions regarding Mbulawa’s future. The report is expected at the end of November.
Sambatha stated that he would not interfere with Mbulawa’s disciplinary processes until he received a report from the inquiry chairperson. He said he has approved the advertisement for the CFO position because of the results of the disciplinary process involving former CFO Maleka.
Maleka and Mbulawa could not be reached for comment.