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MBABANE - The investigation into the shortage of medical supplies and drugs in public health facilities, which was instituted by the auditor general, has been marred by allegations of bribery, corruption and extortion.

It is alleged that a South African man, who is part of the company from his home country, contracted to carry out the investigation, reportedly demanded  money from Principal Procurement Officer in the Ministry of Health Sincedile Magwaza  and Deputy Director-Pharmaceutical Services Fortunate Bhembe. Charles Kwezera allegedly demanded the money in order for the investigators to compile a ‘favourable report’ that would exonerate the Health official.  The investigator purportedly sent a litany of WhatsApp messages to Magwaza, where he allegedly made the monetary demands. Magwaza is alleged to have believed that the investigator made the demand on behalf of the entire team.


It is alleged that the investigator demanded a sum of E487 000, which was subsequently lowered to E225 000, in order to exonerate Magwaza in the event she was guilty. With respect to Bhembe, at a later stage, the investigator allegedly demanded a sum of E45 000 in order to engineer the report in her favour as well. The code that was purportedly used by Kwezera when demanding the payment was kilogrammes (kgs).  The money was to be put in his car, which he allegedly told Magwaza she would find unlocked at the parking bay. One of the WhatsApp messages that were purportedly sent by Kwezera to Magwaza reads: “We will discuss how I can remove the dismissal recommendation on your friend, provided you and her talk to put some kgs for her 45kgs, it’s fair just to feel appreciated but if it cannot be then I can just leave it like that (sic).”The matter was reported to the police, who are also currently carrying out their own investigations. The duo has since approached the High Court on an urgent basis. They are, among other things, seeking an order interdicting the respondents from carrying out the forensic investigation against them.  

The respondents are the minister of Health, principal secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, auditor general (AG) and the three South African companies, which were contracted by government to conduct the forensic investigation. The three companies are Nkilitha Consultancy, Clariscent Consulting and Funduzi Forensic Services. The applicants (Magwaza and Bhembe) want the court to interdict Nkilitha Consultancy from requiring them to appear before an investigating panel constituted by individuals who previously associated with the three South African companies.  It is further their plea to the court that it should declare the forensic investigation carried out by the respondents to be tainted with illegality, impropriety; fraught with multiple irregularities and that it was anchored on impermissible acts of entrapment. According to the applicants, the outcome of the forensic investigation has been pre-determined. They also entreated the court to declare that same did not constitute a legitimate and fair investigation, therefore, should be declared unlawful, irrational and invalid.  These are allegations whose veracity is still to be tested in court and the respondents are yet to file their papers. They further implored the court to declare that the decision of the auditor general to appoint a forensic investigation team was tainted with illegality for want of compliance with the country’s procurement laws.  


The applicants contended that there was failure by the forensic investigators to follow fair and lawful process in the discharge of their functions.  They also averred that the entire process had been vitiated to the extent that it could no longer be regarded as a lawful, fair and legitimate investigation. In her affidavit, Magwaza narrated how she was accosted by the investigator, Kwezera, who allegedly demanded money from her. She told the court that on May 4, 2023, to her utmost surprise, and after her initial interview, she received a WhatsApp message in her private mobile phone from one of the persons who had been part of the team of forensic investigators she had met on April 12, 2023.  The caller, according to Magwaza, identified himself as Charles Kwezera. She alleged that Kwezera requested that she should call him back on WhatsApp as he wanted to have a discussion with her. Magwaza alleged that she duly complied with the request as she assumed that this was still part of the investigation.“He informed me that there was no evidence implicating me in any wrongdoing, but my employer had identified me as one of the persons who had to be implicated in wrongdoing at all costs. He proceeded to advise that he would assist me to ensure that I was exonerated,” submitted the principal procurement officer.  She related to the court that from the date of first contact up until June 5, 2023, Kwezera had maintained contact with her for a variety of issues.  Magwaza alleged that Kwezera told her that they had been given a mandate to find wrongdoing against identifiable employees.  

She further alleged that during their conversation, Kwezera told her that there was no evidence implicating her in wrongdoing. The investigator (Kwezera) is alleged to have stated that in return for a monetary payment, the panel would ensure that she was exonerated. She said this was later extended to the second applicant (Bhembe).“In the course of my communication with Charles, I gained the distinct impression that the integrity of the investigation was highly suspect and the forensic auditing team cannot be trusted with the confidentiality of the information that one would be obliged to disclose in an investigation of this nature,” she argued.


She submitted that this impression stemmed from the fact that Kwezera allegedly informed her about a pre-determined list of individuals who were to be dismissed at the conclusion of the investigation.  She said Kwezera specifically mentioned that Bhembe was one of the persons who were targeted to be dismissed.“He also coached me on how to answer certain questions that were shared with me. In essence, I was to appear on June 5, 2023 before a ‘staged investigation’,” submitted Magwaza. She informed the court that, in the course of her engagements, she took the decision to ‘play along’ with him. She alleged that Kwezera mentioned that the forensic audit firm that was carrying out the investigation was called Nikilitha Consultancy.
“I immediately carried out a desktop investigation into this firm and could not establish the nexus between Charles and this firm. I was able to identify the directors of Nikilitha as being Thozama Mahlangu and Aubrey Njunga. There was no mention of Charles in the firms’ profile,” averred Magwaza.  She further related to the court that Kwezera also sent her other confidential information, which indicated that she was being targeted for dismissal.


“He explained how he would be able to engineer my ‘exoneration’ in return for the payment of a sum of money. He went on to divulge what I believed was supposed to be highly confidential information sourced from government by their forensic investigating team,” submitted Magwaza.  She said this included information extrapolated from personal files of the suspended officials, their positions and personal details. Kwezera, according to Magwaza, shared correspondence, wherein the auditor general wrote to the principal secretary in the Ministry of Finance, requesting a schedule of all tenders awarded between 2018 and 2023.“In his various discussions with me, he made suggestions to me, which I was later to be advised, constituted extortion. In return for a ‘favourable report’ he demanded monetary payments,” she argued. She told the court that having considered Kwezera’s conduct, the information shared and on the advice of their attorney, they formed the distinct impression that the integrity of the investigation had been severely compromised. She alleged that it was resolved that they should object to the investigation and take no further part in same until such time that a court of law had issued a pronouncement on the legitimacy and lawfulness of the investigation as having been commenced and executed by the respondents.