Health spending shambles

07 September 2011 - 02:38 By ANNA MAJAVU
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

The health departments of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape are underspending on vital forensic pathology, hospital revitalisation and HIV and Aids grants, parliament's select committee on appropriations has been told.

The committee began public hearings on the performances of the provincial departments of health yesterday.

The Treasury's Ogalaletseng Gaarekwe said Eastern Cape had underspent its HIV/Aids grant by R105-million in the first quarter of this financial year. Limpopo underspent by R49.5-million.

Eastern Cape underspent its budget for forensic pathology by R1.4-million and Limpopo by R1.2-million.

Eastern Cape underspent its hospital revitalisation grant by R35.9-million; Limpopo by R27.3-million.

Renovations of hospitals had been delayed because, it was said, of poor communication between the departments of health and of public works, and because of the "poor or slow performance of contractors who are awarded tenders for projects they cannot execute", Gaarekwe said.

When contractors did not perform, they tended to take government departments to court, holding up hospital renovation projects for years, he said.

Mpumalanga health MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu said some projects in his province had been delayed since 2003.

Eastern Cape health department head Siva Pillay said his province had many problems, including book-keeping being done "on paper" in all but four centres.

"We have had five MECs and four department heads. We have uncovered huge fraud.

"When you start corrective measures for faults, it puts the brakes on spending."

It would take two to three years to "turn around" the department, he said.

Pillay told MPs that he had to fire his chief financial officer Phumla Vazi in July, because the health department was doing business with 121 companies owned by Vazi's husband, daughter, two sons and sister.

He also fired 325 people from the ambulance service, including the head and deputy head, "over corruption".

"The cost of a bed, if you go from province to province, can move from R890000 to R3-million. That shows you how we are played."

Pillay said construction companies were involved in "collusive tendering across the board".

In Mpumalanga, Mahlangu said the department could not attract an engineer for its hospital revitalisation project because the salary offered was too low.

The department spent only R81-million of its R134-million HIV/Aids grant.

"This is gross underspending. We have the second-highest [HIV] prevalence in the country; we're standing at 34% prevalence in the province . and would have expected that this grant would be overspent," Mahlangu said.

The head of the Limpopo health department, Daisy Mafubelu, said antiretroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV worth R36-million had been donated to her department, thereby cutting the draw on her budget that would otherwise have been necessary.

She admitted that the hospital revitalisation programme was off-track, attributing this to 56% of project posts being vacant and the department being unable to monitor the work.