HOSPITALS OVERSPEND BY MILLIONS: THE HERALD

According to Eastern Cape DA health spokesman, Pine Pienaar, “a mere 26% of the province’s R13.5-billion budget was allocated to health work itself”.

WHILE all four of the Bay’s hospitals have had their budgets increase with inflation in recent years, top officials in the department admit this is not enough, as they are overspending by hundreds of millions of rand.

This follows the Auditor-General’s damning report late last year in which he issued the department with its eighth disclaimer in 10 years, saying he could not obtain enough evidence to provide an audit opinion of the department.

He said the department had been unable to give supporting documents for employee benefits payments to the tune of R858.5-million, as well as R219-million in allowances and bonuses. The department says it expects to overspend its R13.5-billion budget for 2010/11 by R1.23-billion. In the Bay, the budget for all four hospitals has increased steadily from R968-million in 2008/9 to just under R1.35-billion for 2010/11.

Despite this, they are overspending by R130-million this year.

A senior provincial employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said the hospitals’ budgets were “consumed by the cost of employment, leaving little funds for goods and services

“Often we are given policies to implement which aren’t always funded,” he said.

According to Eastern Cape DA health spokesman, Pine Pienaar, “a mere 26% of the province’s R13.5-billion budget was allocated to health work itself. A gross 63% is allocated to the cost of employment”.

Education researcher Daygan Eagar, who works with advocacy group Section27, said the problems stemmed from officials “not understanding how the accounting system works”. Overspending has been something which has been building up over the past 10 years. It’s come to a head. The question is whether the political will to fix the department will be sustained in the medium to long term, after the local government elections,” said Eagar.

Since 2007/8, the national health budget has steadily increased from R63-billion to R113-billion for next year while the Eastern Cape’s health budget has risen from R8.1-billion to R13.5-billion this year.