Indian-origin Covid scam whistleblower shot dead in South Africa
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BABITA Deokaran, an Indian-origin woman in South Africa, was allegedly gunned down on Monday (23) for exposing critical information about a multi-million-dollar personal protective equipment (PPE) fraud during the Covid-19 lockdown in the country last year. The 53-year-old, who was a high official at the Gauteng provincial health department, was shot several times through her car’s door and window outside her house in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg. She was rushed to hospital but succumbed to her injuries.
South Africa’s Daily Maverick reported that none of her possessions was removed from her vehicle, including her mobile phone, handbag and laptop. A high-level investigation was launched into the murder.
The Maverick cited a few key sources to say that an arrest was imminent in relation to the case. However, police refused to divulge details. On Tuesday (24), Gauteng premier David Makhura said a dedicated police team has been asked to nab the criminals.
Deokaran had provided critical information regarding a fraud amount to more than $20 million into the supply of PPE during the pandemic-induced lockdown in South Africa last year.
Serious Crime Investigation Unit spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said Deokaran was one of the witnesses in the investigation by the unit into corruption in the health department and it was nearing conclusion. He also said that Deokaran never indicated that she had felt threatened by her participation in the probe.
Makhura said Deokaran had been removed from her position as the chief director of financial accounting to acting chief financial officer in August 2020 in the wake of the PPE fraud claims, which had resulted in some dismissals last year, including the provincial health minister.
Deokaran was “a distinguished and exemplary public servant who served the people of Gauteng and the Department of Health with exceptional professionalism, unswerving dedication and high ethical standards,” the premier said. He added that Deokaran had unearthed corruption and stopped payments for a number of irregular contracts in the department.
Makhura confirmed that Deokaran had unearthed corruption and stopped payments for a number of irregular contracts in the department.
“She took to heart the call to bring perpetrators of corruption and looting of public resources to book. The result of her good deeds led to successful dismissals within the department and saw the institution of civil claims to recover public funds from businesses and government officials responsible for malfeasance and corruption,” Makhura said in a statement.
“On behalf of the provincial government, I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to the Deokaran family and her colleagues in the Gauteng Department of Health,” he added.
The premier also said that everything will be done to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.