EMS owner accused | News24

An ambulance from Buthelezi EMS Ambulances (Pty) Ltd for which the Free State Department of Health had offered a multi-million dollar contract to transport patients in the province for the period of 2015 to 2019.Photo: Teboho Setena

Owner of controversial ambulance company Buthelezi EMS, which reportedly benefited from a lucrative R1bn deal with the Free State’s Department of Health, faces charges of tax evasion and fraud .

This case arose out of a thorough investigation by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) after it uncovered the filing of false tax returns between 2014 and 2019.

Thapelo Buthelezi (43), together with his wife, Monica Buthelezi (41), and accountant, Nkosana Sekobane (42), appeared in Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on September 1, representing two companies managed by Buthelezi: Buthelezi EMS (Pty) Ltd and B EMS Close Corporation.

Phaladi Shuping, provincial spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said they collectively face 95 charges ranging from fraud to contravention of the Tax Administration Act and failure to submit the corporate income tax. They each got bail of R30,000 and the case was adjourned to February 23, 2023.

The state alleges that they unlawfully and with the intent to defraud Sars made false statements to Sars between 2014 and 2019 when submitting corporate tax returns.

Shuping said investigations found that the companies’ trading activities were misrepresented by claiming that the companies were not trading and submitting no returns.

“The companies did business with the Free State Department of Health and were paid around R1 billion for providing emergency medical services. Sars realized the claims were fraudulent and suffered actual damage of R132 million. The money had to be paid with their tax return, Shuping said.

According to Shuping, Sars has so far recovered around R100 million of the money in question.

“They’ve arranged with the bank that any money given to the companies will go to Sars instead,” Shuping explained.

The Buthelezi EMS ceased operations in the province at the end of 2018 following enactment in the Official newspaper for the investigation of controversial contracts awarded by the Provincial Ministry of Health by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), during Dr. Benny Malakoane’s tenure as MEC of Health.

The DA took the matter to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on July 3, 2018 for investigation. The insolvent department had supply contracts with Mediosa, Halo Aviation, and Buthelezi EMS to transport patients. The DA lamented the controversial deal which severely crippled the department financially. During Buthelezi’s tenure, the department’s ambulances were not fully operational and workers were idle. The private company’s fleet of 48 ambulances charged the department R6.5 million per month, against the department’s budget of R148 million.

A similar agreement has been reached with the North West Department of Health.

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