14 ARRESTED OVER MPILO CORRUPTION

POLICE have arrested 14 Mpilo Central Hospital workers while four executives suspended for alleged abuse of office have reportedly been served with notices to appear before the Health Services Board.
As investigations into alleged corruption at the institution gather pace, sources at the hospital yesterday told The Chronicle that the suspended quartet of the chief executive officer Lawrence Mantiziba, operations director Regina Duduza Moyo, finance director Charles Govo and Central Buying Unit chairperson Mxolisi Sibanda were on Friday served with notices to appear before the HSB on September 14.
 
The four are being charged with a total of 20 counts of misconduct and abuse of office.
Moyo is facing 11 counts. Sibanda, is facing five, Govo has one count while Mantiziba has three.
 
In a Saturday morning raid, officers from the Criminal Investigations CID fraud squad swooped on the hospital and reportedly interrogated about 25 workers who have held various posts in the Central Buying Unit and the Procurement and Tenders Committee since June 2011.
 
Fourteen of the workers, including Govo and Sibanda were arrested. Police sources yesterday said although warrants of arrest were issued for Mantiziba and Moyo, they were not arrested as they could not be located.
 
“The pair arrived at Bulawayo Central Police Station with their lawyers this morning and their statements were taken,” said a source close to the case.
 
The 14 briefly appeared before Bulawayo provincial magistrate Sithembiso Ncube yesterday but their trial failed to kick off as the state failed to prepare a charge sheet for them.
Naomi Ndlovu, Prosper Ncube, Vengai Majada, Mxolisi Sibanda, Charles Govo, Admire Zamba, Hebron Mutema, Elena Phiri, Nomvelo Mahlangu-Mangena, Kushupika Dube, Bekezela Ncube, Joblinah Masango, Siphathisiwe Noreen Dube and Vulindlela Zukwini Dube, were remanded out of custody and the court will proceed by way of summons.
The prosecutor, Whisper Mabhaudi, said the state wished to apply for amendment of the charge sheet.
 
“Your worship the state cannot proceed with this matter because the charges being levelled against the accused persons don’t show what they actually did, therefore the state would like to proceed by way of summons,” said Mabhaudi.
 
The lawyers representing the suspects complained of unlawful detention by the police.
“The over detention of our clients is unlawful. They were arrested on Saturday around 0900 hours and were still in custody until 3PM when they appeared in court. The 48 hours as stated by the constitution expired at 0900 hours today,” said James Mutsauki.
Other lawyers representing the 14 members were Kholwani Ngwenya, Lawrence Chikwakwa, Sifisosethu Nkomo and Simba Mawere.
 
The lawyers said their clients were first charged with abuse of office and it was later altered to fraud. HSB chief executive Ruth Kaseke had, by the time of going to Press, not responded to an e-mail of questions The Chronicle sent to her yesterday morning.
 
The Mpilo Hospital Board chairperson Sichelesile Moyo-Ncube declined to comment on the issue, saying it was being dealt with at a higher office.
 
However, she said the hospital board acted according to the dictates of the Health Services Act in appointing PNA Accountants to carry out the preliminary audit which led to the bigger investigation by government auditors.
 
“We carried out our mandate as espoused by the Act as we reacted swiftly to serious corruption allegations. As per the Act, we handed our findings over to the HSB which is now dealing with the issue,” said Moyo-Ncube.
 
The preliminary audit suggested that the suspended executives could have been involved in corrupt deals that prejudiced the hospital of millions of dollars.
 
A copy of the government audit in The Chronicle’s possession concluded the executives could have acted as a syndicate to bleed millions from the hospital’s coffers.
An official from the hospital, who cannot be named for professional reasons, explained that the executives were facing cases of both criminal and administrative nature.
 
“Millions of dollars can’t be accounted for at the hospital. The criminal case deals with concrete evidence directly linking the bosses to fraud. It may have a lesser figure because what can’t be proved will not stand in court,” said the official.
 
“However, in the administrative hearing set for September 14, they’ll be called upon to account for all the millions that allegedly disappeared on their watch.”
 
Among the findings of the government auditors were that Mpilo Central Hospital officials bought drugs from private suppliers without government pharmaceutical watchdog NatPharm’s approval, with implications that the hospital was not realising value for money on purchases. Existing stock would disappear from the stores department when the health institution bought new stock, the audit revealed.
 
Mpilo Central Hospital bought drugs worth more than $1 million, whose origins or quality could not be vouched for, in the last three years.
 
The Chronicle broke the story on the alleged corruption in February, when a $3 million tender, which had been awarded to Bulawayo businessman, Ashton Mpofu’s New Planet Company, was cancelled after he allegedly refused to bribe Mantiziba and Moyo.
 
Mantiziba and Moyo strongly deny allegations of soliciting bribes. Moyo alleged that Mpofu threatened to harm her following the cancellation of the tender and requested a bodyguard. The tender, according to the audit report, had been illegally and unnecessarily split into smaller ones. Auditors said if the contract had been given to one company, it would have cost approximately $1,049 million. After being split up, it ended up costing up to $3 million.

Corruption has always been whispered about at Mpilo Central Hospital but no action was taken until the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa appointed a new board last year. The board comprises Moyo-Ncube as chairperson, Siqokoqela Mphoko, Goodness Msimanga, Hudson Hlabangana, Prince Kunaka and Nomathemba Ndiweni. chronicle

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