By Ayanda Mkhwanazi

The Hawks are investigating a former Wits University dean and National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) head for his alleged role in the laboratory’s procurement of HIV testing kits worth R18-million, that never arrived.

Professor Ahmed Wadee has been at the centre of the investigation since January, when the NHLS laid criminal charges against him.

The charges came four months after the laboratory service dismissed him and shortly afterwards he resigned as health sciences dean at Wits University. According to an investigation by Health-e News and Corruption Watch, Wadee’s dismissal was linked to his involvement in the orders of the kits over 10 years.

Wadee was allegedly responsible for ordering between 13 and 26 testing kits each month from SA Cosmetics, at a cost of R3 353 per test. NHLS officials picked up irregularities in an order placed in January last year and launched a forensic investigation.

It was found that payments were processed before delivery notes were received – notes on each of the purchase orders stated that they should be emailed to Wadee and not to the NHLS.

The NHLS’s brand manager, Vusi Langa, said Wadee was suspended on 8 August 2013, “pending the outcome of internal investigations and external forensic investigations, for alleged fraudulent activities”.

After disciplinary proceedings, Wadee’s employment was terminated, said Langa, adding that the case was then referred to the Hawks, who were investigating.

According to police sources, the NHLS’s CEO, Dr Sagie Pillay, made a statement in which he accused Wadee of colluding with SA Cosmetics in the ordering of the HIV testing kits.

Hawks on the case

Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko confirmed that the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Unit was investigating charges of fraud – but he declined to name the individuals involved.

A police source, who cannot be named because he is not mandated to speak to the media, said investigators were waiting for outstanding documents before referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Wadee’s lawyer Paul Leisher said, “Our client has no intention whatsoever of answering any questions as requested by yourselves.”

SA Cosmetics director Suliman Abed referred Health-e News’ questions to his lawyer, Ismail Ayob, who said the company was defending a civil summons issued by the laboratory service.

A full set of documents were sent to laboratory service last year, Ayob said.  “These documents reflect a complete and comprehensive proof of the defence by Mr Abed and S A Cosmetics,” he said, adding that Abed was not aware of the criminal investigation.

Ayob further denied allegations that the kits were irregularly procured and that they were never delivered.

* First published in The Star.

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Excerpt
A joint investigation, conducted by Corruption Watch and Health-e News into alleged irregular procurement at the NHLS, has resulted in a referral of the case to the Hawks, who now have the laboratory service’s former head – who is also a former Wits dean – in their sights and have opened a forensic investigation.