The Sowetan newspaper yesterday reported a sting operation which resulted in the arrest of health officials involved in a syndicate fraudulently selling ARVs to patients who were supposed to get them for free. Although there were a few heroes involved, we single out the anonymous whistleblower who started it all – he is the Corruption Watch hero of the week.
The whistleblower is a patient at the Esselen Street Clinic in Hillbrow, a public health facility under the City of Johannesburg. The clinic handles tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, contraception and HIV counselling and testing, and is supposed to provide medication free of charge to its patients.
The whistleblower will remain anonymous because of fear of victimisation, but after months of frustration with the service he got at the clinic, he did approach a Kaya FM reporter to report his suspicions that the officials running the facility were conning the very people they should have been looking after.
The man said that patients would arrive at the clinic on the day of their appointment, which implies that the staff knew to ensure that drugs would be available then, as arrangements were made ahead of time.
But, he said, often patients, including him, were turned away on the pretext that there was no medication. Later the staff would contact him to say that there was some available, but it wasn’t free. He said the only way to get his medication was to buy it.
The Kaya FM reporter, Nomsa Zwane, reported the matter to the police, who promptly launched an investigation. The elite crime-fighting unit, the Hawks, handled the matter and according to spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko, discovered that the medication was being sold for between R80 and R100 a box.
Six months later the sting operation was set up, which resulted in the arrest of two members of the syndicate. They will appear in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court soon, Ramaloko said.
Zwane said that the handovers would take place away from the clinic’s premises, in public places such as parks.
She and the police force are also to be commended for their roles in this successful operation, but for taking the brave first step, the anonymous whistleblower is our hero.