Gupta-linked North West health boss free to return to work

North West health department head Thabo Lekalakala.
North West health department head Thabo Lekalakala.

A North West head of department who was suspended and then forced to take a special leave says he was not ready to go back to work.

Dr Thabo Lekalakala, who was suspended because of his alleged involvement in the Mediosa contract, said on Monday he will first assess what was in store for him.

Lekalakala was suspended in April after the National Health, Allied and Workers Union called for his removal. Union members said at the time they refused to be led by someone linked with spending millions of rand on a mobile clinic while the department did not pay their bonuses.

Asked whether everything was in order for his return to work, Lekalakala said he was not ready.

“I want to do some back office stuff first so that I am clear what is going on," said Lekalakala. “I want to know what is in store first because planning something in my head without knowing what’s prevailing will not make sense."

His return to work came after the arbitration court ordered the North West health department to reinstate him. His suspension lapsed in June and then he was placed on special leave as he was accused of benefiting from the Gupta-linked Mediosa company.

He said he was not worried what will be the reaction of the workers when he turned up for work because many of them wanted him fired. “That’s why I approached the court; its not my job to keep people in check.”

The provincial health department was placed under section 100 after the suspension of Lekalakala and has since been run by an administrator. “These are the kind of things I want to understand first and also on how to deal with these things."

Health department’s spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane has welcomed the arbitration verdict, saying Lekalakala was suspended following allegations of procurement irregularities which affected some contracts that have since been subjected to an investigation. “One such contract is that of Mediosa which has since been terminated,” Lekgethwane said.

He said the health department's administrator will make recommendations to premier Job Mokgoro after studying the court arbitration verdict.

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