Home News R1 million legal fees for Theys, NC Health dept footing the bill

R1 million legal fees for Theys, NC Health dept footing the bill

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The bill that is being footed by the Northern Cape Department of Health for the legal fees of the former HOD of the department, Dr Dion Theys, amounts to around R1 million so far.

Dr Dion Theys. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE BILL that is being footed by the Northern Cape Department of Health for the legal fees of the former HOD of the department, Dr Dion Theys, amounts to around R1 million so far.

The Specialised Commercial Crimes Court dismissed an application to discharge Theys of the charges relating to three leases that were concluded for nurses’ accommodation at the JP Hugo hostels amounting to R96 million.

During a press briefing last week, the MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, said that the total amount of the legal fees would depend on how long it would take for the matter to be finalised.

“There is no allocated budget for court cases at the department. We do have money set aside for such matters. We also do not know who might sue the department and for what amount we might get sued. So we cannot put a certain amount aside for court matters,” said Lekwene.

Theys, along with chief financial officer Daniel Gaborone and the former HOD for the Department of Health, Steven Jonkers, has also been charged for the procurement of personal protective equipment worth R43 million.

The trial is expected to be referred to the Northern Cape High Court.

The head of the legal unit at the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, meanwhile pointed out that Lekwene’s application to overturn a public protector’s finding cost the Department of Health in the region of R500 000 in legal fees.

In her findings, Public Protector Busiswe Mhkwebane instructed that steps should be taken against Lekwene for an irregular appointment while he was the MEC for Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism.

Mkhwebane recommended that the Premier should discipline Lekwene for improperly appointing Vincent Mothibi as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Northern Cape Gambling Board.

The Department of Health footed the legal costs as Lekwene had since left the Department of Finance, Economic Affairs and Tourism and at the time was employed as the MEC for Health.

Henderson said that the Department of Health was in a dire financial position and could ill-afford to spend millions of rand on protracted legal battles.

“The implicated officials who have been criminally charged earn salaries and should pay for their own legal costs. It will also act as a deterrent against officials who believe they can recklessly empty the state coffers without any impunity. The money should be instead used to buy sorely needed equipment, ambulances and beds that are in short supply.”

He pointed out that it also set a precedent where all officials would expect the state and taxpayers to carry the financial burden of covering their legal fees.

“In most cases, senior counsel is hired from outside the Province to defend matters involving state officials, which increases the cost of legal fees.”

Henderson added that taxpayers should not be saddled with funding the legal fees of state officials, especially when they allegedly benefited from fraudulent and corrupt activities.

“Policies should be put in place to prevent officials from draining the financial resources of the department through an ‘unlimited’ budget for legal fees.”

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