Former EC Health messenger sentenced for fraudulent R23.7m PPE contract

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A former messenger in the office of ex-Eastern Cape Health MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, has been handed a 10-year prison sentence for fraudulently awarding a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tender.

This was after the Mthatha Specialised Commercial Crimes Court found that Ayanda Matinise (37) used his proximity to the office of Gomba to commit the fraud, as the country was in a State of Disaster.

During the State of Disaster at the time, government departments and entities were allowed some deviation from the ordinary procurement procedures.

In a statement, Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Luxolo Tyali, said: “In the period between 9 and 17 September 2020, Matinise wrote, signed, and sent a forged letter to Falaz Protection Services (PTY) LTD (FALAZ) under the false pretences that the ECDOH [Eastern Cape Department of Health] commits to procuring 700 000 nitrile, non-sterile, powder-free examination KN 95 surgical masks.

“Consequently, FALAZ submitted the quotation and a declaration of interest to Matinise, accompanied by a quotation valued at R23.7 million. Upon the authorisation of such supply and delivery through the forged commitment letter, a delivery of consignment of PPEs was made by FALAZ at the ECDOH OR Tambo District stores in Mthatha.”

Tyali said when the FALAZ Director demanded payment for services rendered, and even paid Matinise R3 000 to expedite the payment, it became apparent that the officials responsible for payment and issuing of commitment letters at ECDOH had no knowledge of the forged commitment letter.

“The company decided to collect the consignment, but large quantities of it were missing, including 130 000 KN 95 masks and 70 000 surgical masks, to the value of R2.6 million. Investigations conducted by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) and the Hawks led to the arrest of Matinise,” he said.

During trial, Matinise pleaded not guilty, downplaying his role to that of a merge messenger and attempted to implicate the officials who blew the whistle as having been involved in large scale corruption.

However, under cross-examination by the State Advocate, Matinise contradicted himself and changed his version at least three times. The court rejected his defence.

The prosecution prayed for the imposition of the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years for the fraud amounting to more than R500 000, but the court found that compelling and exceptional circumstances existed justifying a deviation.

Eastern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions, Barry Madolo, commended the prosecuting team, SIU investigators and the Hawks for securing that conviction and sentence of one of the people who used the COVID-19 pandemic to illegally enrich themselves. –