A former provincial health department messenger who forged a letter to procure R23.7m worth of personal protective equipment during the Covid-19 state of disaster has been sentenced to a decade in prison for fraud.
Ayanda Matinise, 37, took advantage of his proximity to the office of then Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba and disaster regulations which permitted deviation from ordinary procurement procedures, said regional National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luxolo Tyali.
Matinise wrote, signed and sent a forged letter to Falaz Protection Services in September 2020 under the pretence that the provincial health department was committed to procuring PPE, including surgical masks. The company submitted a declaration of interest and a quotation of R23.7m to Matinise.
The PPE was then delivered to the department’s OR Tambo district stores in Mthatha.
Once the company realised officials responsible for payment had no knowledge of the forged letter, they opted to collect the consignment, “but large quantities of it were missing, including 130,000 KN 95 masks and 70,000 surgical masks, to the value of R2.6m. Investigations conducted by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Hawks led to the arrest of Matinise,” said Tyali.
“He pleaded not guilty, downplaying his role to that of a mere messenger, and attempted to implicate the officials who blew the whistle as having been involved in large-scale corruption. However, under cross-examination, Matinise contradicted himself and changed his version at least three times. The court rejected his defence.”
Eastern Cape director of public prosecutions Barry Madolo commended the prosecuting team, SIU investigators and Hawks for securing the conviction and sentence of a person who used the pandemic to illegally enrich himself.