HEALTH DEPT LOSES R45M TO FRAUD

“They must just make sure those people are brought to book. They must follow up on the criminal cases.” — Pine Pienaar

FRAUD and corruption have cost the provincial Health Department a whopping R45 million in the past three years.

The biggest case – amounting to R18m – directly links eight officials to tender procurement fraud.

Some of the officials have already resigned, while the rest have been suspended.

Another case under investigation relates to a “lost” amount of R14m that was meant for the maintenance of medical facilities and new building activities.

The last matter involved a R13m contract for an air ambulance.

The fraud and corruption charges came to light after a recent investigation by auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Speaking to the Dispatch yesterday, department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said: “The investigation started last year after the department noticed a number of irregularities.”

A total of 35 companies have reportedly profited from malfeasance. Some of the cases have already gone to court and seen judgment handed down.

Derek Luyt, media and advocacy head of Rhodes University’s Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), welcomed the news.

“I hope the investigations will be speedily concluded, and that in all cases where prosecution is warranted, including those officials who have already resigned, prosecution will indeed go ahead.”

Luyt said Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana should remember prevention was better than cure.

“If policies, regulations and practice notes are adhered to, there should be a significant reduction in the space in which corrupt officials can operate,” he said.

DA Health MPL Johan Pienaar said the party fully supported the department’s efforts in “cleaning house”.

“They must just make sure those people are brought to book. They must follow up on the criminal cases,” he said.

Gqobana could not be reached for comment yesterday. — michaelk@dispatch.co.za