AfriForum takes aim at KZN Health over R1.3bn 'irregular expenditure'
Durban – KwaZulu-Natal’s embattled health department is facing additional challenges as lobby group AfriForum laid a complaint against its former head of department (HOD) on Monday for allegedly wasting R1.3 billion of taxpayers’ money.
The complaint was laid in KwaZulu-Natal and forms part of AfriForum’s national campaign against misappropriation of public funds in the health sector.
The group will be laying charges against the heads of all nine provincial health departments throughout this week for “wasting over R10 billion during the 2016/2017 financial year”.
Speaking to on Monday, AfriForum’s Wico Swanepoel, who is the organisation’s legal advisor on local corruption, said the charges were laid against the former KZN Health HOD, Dr Sifiso Mtshali, because he was in charge of the department during the time period in question.
Mtshali quit in December last year over the provincial “oncology crisis”, wherein the department was slammed by the South African Human Rights Commission for failing to maintain radiation therapy equipment. This led to an exodus of oncologists from the public health sector and severely increased the waiting time of patients needing cancer treatment.
In a nine-page complaint handed in to the Vryheid Police station, Eugene van Aswegen, AfriForum’s KZN coordinator, said the department failed to act against any official despite more than R1.3-billion being unaccounted for in its 2016/2017 annual report.
He said the annual report showed that R5 763 000 had been deemed fruitless and wasteful expenditure, R1.325-billion recorded as “irregular expenditure” and an amount of R18 997 000 was “recorded as unauthorised expenditure”.
“The notes to annual financial statements reflect that no disciplinary steps or criminal action [was taken in these instances]. Such disciplinary steps and recovery are some of the measures to be taken in order to prevent fruitless and wasteful expenditure, irregular expenditure and unauthorised expenditure which is the responsibility of the accounting officer,” read van Aswegen’s complaint.
The complaint further stated that even the Auditor-General highlighted a lack of any action, stating that: Effective steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure amounting to R17.58 million incurred on procurement of medical suppliers; contractual obligations and money owed by the entity were not met and settled within 30 days; goods and services of a transaction value above R500 000 were procured without inviting competitive bids and contracts were extended without approval.
“Considering the report of the AG and the astronomic amounts involved one cannot avoid the inference that there has been non–compliance with section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act. It would appear that there has been a serious and gross deviation of the duty of care,” read the complaint.