Mbabane: Stolen from government and donated to the same government!
This is the apt way of describing alleged criminal acts currently playing out in the Ministry of Health, where Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) donated to government were later stolen by certain individuals working at the Medical Stores and from the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) who then sold them to private local suppliers which in turn sold them to public companies. Amusingly, the same stolen PPEs were donated to the same government. Independent News has also obtained documents showing that one of the public companies unknowingly bought PPEs obtained unscrupulously from government worth E153 000.
This publication has reliably learnt that the suspects’ modus operandi always started by scouting companies that needed PPEs to sell to government or to companies with intention to donate to government or other charity organisations.
The suspected culprits are said to be under pursuit by a selected group of Royal Eswatini Police, who are intensifying investigation into the allegations of stealing the PPEs, more especially, protective gloves.
Independent News has learnt that the law enforcement agents are finalizing their investigation and could apprehend the suspects any time from now and haul them into the dock on charges of theft.
The names of the suspects who stole the government PPEs and some of the suppliers are known to this publication, but cannot be revealed because they have not been formally charged.
Senior sources from the ministry of health told Independent News that they started noticing the foul play when the National Disaster Management Agency (NMA) was distributing protective surgical gloves which were donated by Eswatini Railway and that was when they discovered that they had received the same equipment they got earlier on from other companies but were reported stolen.
Independent News has learnt that one of the suspected individuals who had been pivotal in the stealing of the equipment is a certain male employee of the ministry employed under the EMS.
Through its police sources, this publication has established that about five suppliers have been called for questioning at Matsapha Police Station, popularly known as Sigodweni. The sources went on to disclose that the police investigation is focusing mainly on those suppliers which supplied Eswatini Railway, because most of the stolen equipment were sold to that said company.
Sive Manana, Manager, Corporate Communications at Eswatini Railway said he is not aware of the ongoing investigation into the alleged theft of the PPEs which were reportedly sold to the public company. Manana was quick to say: “Should anything come up in relation to the alleged theft of the PPEs, Eswatini Railway will gladly assist the investigators.”
As the net closes in on the suspects, Independent News has established that the Asset Forfeiture Unit is in the process to attach a car worth over E300 000 that belongs to the kingpin (man working under EMS) which it believes he bought trough corrupt means.
Some of the suppliers who allegedly benefitted from the trading of stolen equipment, however, denies any wrong doing and are saying they were oblivious that there were buying stolen items. They claim those who sold them the equipment gave them what look like proper and authentic invoices for the purchased supplies.
Director of Health Dr. Vusi Magagula confirmed knowledge of the ongoing investigation, adding that the matter was reported by the ministry to the police to launch an investigation after they received protective equipment which went missing from their stores. “We are patiently waiting for the police report that will detail how much is the worth of the stolen equipment, how they were stolen and who was involved so that we can prevent same from happening in the future,” Magagula said.
The director went on to say they also want to understand how long has the theft been happening.
Chief Police and Information Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati said the matter does not reflect on their records for now which suggest that it is still under investigation.
In April, following the Covid-19 (coronavirus) positive results of a nurse at RFM hospital and isolation of 10 others, nurses instructed their union to take government to court for gross negligence.
By then, the nurses wanted the court to direct government to supply adequate PPEs to all health care workers.