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Jonkers lands top Health post

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A number of controversies surfaced at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison shortly before Jonker’s employment was terminated.

WELCOMED: The new Head of Department Steven Jonkers (left).

THE FORMER HOD for the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Steven Jonkers, who was acquitted on charges of corruption and contravening the finance regulations last year, has been appointed as HOD for Health with effect from August 1.

Media enquiries that were directed to the Department of Health as to whether the post was advertised, if any candidates were shortlisted and if Jonkers had received a notch promotion, were not answered.

Following a labour dispute, the Premier’s Office was ordered in 2016 to pay Jonkers almost R1 million in compensation and reinstate him to his former position in May last year, after his contract was not renewed at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison in 2015.

He, however, never returned to the department and was appointed as an administrator at the Department of Health in March this year.

A number of controversies surfaced at the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison shortly before Jonker’s employment was terminated.

This included the irregular expenditure of funds, where R34 million was allocated from the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) for road safety awareness campaigns.

Items purchased with these funds included furniture to the value of R1.1 million, golf T-shirts (R198 000), ladies pantyhose
(R20 976) and white nylon gloves (R11 970).

The department has yet to release a report on an investigation into this spending and payments from RTMC funds by the department, despite promises from the former MEC, Martha Bartlett, and the former HOD, Lesego Wolfe, in February 2016 that the necessary steps would be taken if any wrongdoing could be proven.

Under the helm of Jonkers the doomed intra-provincial flight service, Phakalane Airways, which was run and marketed from the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison office, was discontinued.

A complaint was also lodged on the national anti-corruption hotline in 2015 regarding alleged bribery involving high-ranking officials in the department relating to multimillion-rand pupil transport tenders.

Bartlett had indicated that the lease of the department’s headquarters with Ocean Echo Properties was the subject of a Hawks investigation.

In 2014, former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan had instructed the former Northern Cape MEC for Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism, John Block, to cancel the contract due to irregularities in the ten-year lease that was signed.

The DA had also opened charges of fraud and corruption with the Hawks relating to the lease.

The MEC for Health, Lebogang Motlhaping, officially welcomed Jonkers to his new position on Tuesday.

“The meeting was also arranged to discuss among others the current state of health in the Province and a turnaround strategy aimed at improving the financial and performance management of the department.”

He stated that the post had been vacant for five months since Premier Sylvia Lucas had made a commitment during her 2017 State of the Province address to build the administrative capacity in the Department of Health.

“The inclusion of Jonkers brings about change and a wealth of experience in an attempt to strengthen health care systems in the Province. The MEC is of the view that his skills and experience will guide the department to fulfil its constitutional mandate.”

He appealed to all stakeholders to co-operate with the new HOD in restoring credibility in the daily administration of the department.

“The MEC believes this move will accelerate service delivery machinery to turn the health and living conditions of communities around.”

Motlhaping extended his appreciation to the chief director for district health services, Nomathemba Mazibuko, for serving as acting HOD for the past six months.

The spokesperson for the Office of the Premier, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, pointed out that the criminal charges that were brought against Jonkers were taken into consideration before his appointment as HOD for Health.

“He was found not guilty and was therefore considered for the position. As far as the ongoing investigation is concerned, Jonkers is presumed to be innocent unless proven by a court of law to be the contrary. With the appointment to the post, his expertise and relevant experience as well as all other qualifying criteria for appointment were considered.”

She added that the employer respected the right to confidentiality relating to the compensation of employees.

The spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Keitumetse Moticoe, referred questions relating to the Hawks investigation to the Hawks, who did not respond to enquiries by the time of going to print.