His bosses knew the junior clerk owned a herd of cattle so they asked him for one in exchange for a favourable performance bonus.
The clerk gave them one but then he was caught out . But his bosses refused to return the cow so he spilt the beans.
The controversial issue, at the Elim Hospital near Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, is now the subject of a high-profile investigation .
According to a highly placed source two officials are involved in the cow-for-cash scandal.
A deputy manager and a senior administrative officer in the logistics unit will have to face the music, according to Phuti Seloba, a spokesman for the department of health and social development.
The senior officer allegedly visited the clerk and offered to process the payment of a performance management system bonus if the clerk gave him a cow.
According to departmental findings the senior administrative officer was given the cow.
The deputy manager also got some of it when it was slaughtered. He took it home to treat his family to a meat feast.
It is alleged that the deputy manager gave the senior administrative officer a pat on the back for visiting the clerk at home to discuss the cow issue.
The payment was processed after they swapped the payment of another employee to channel the money into the clerk's account.
But it is not clear how much money was involved.
The scandal was uncovered after the hospital's labour relations unit intervened.
The administrative clerk, now minus a cow, was instructed to pay back the money since he was not entitled to it.
He blew the whistle when his seniors refused to give back his cow.
They told the clerk that they had already sold the meat.
According to sources at the institution, the senior administrative officer sold his share of the cow so he could repair his car.
Seloba yesterday confirmed that the department was investigating the matter.
He gave the assurance that the harshest punishment would be meted out to those who had brought the department into disrepute.
"We know there are opportunities for thugs to manipulate the performance management system for their own selfish interests, but this time it is worse," Seloba said.
He said they had already instituted internal disciplinary measures and hoped to deal with the culprits.
"Heads will roll," he said.