The latest report by the Auditor General is confirmation that the Eastern Cape Health Department has lost all control over its R13,6 billion budget.

The AG says in his report that because he could not obtain appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion, he cannot express any opinion on the financial position of the Eastern Cape Department of Health at the end of the 2009-2010 financial year.

This is the worst possible opinion any public department can receive from the AG and points to the most serious financial looting taking place in this department. It is also proof of complete loss of financial control by the MEC and his officials.

The AG report on the financial statements of the Eastern Cape Department of Health is nothing short of a horror story. The AG found that the department:

• failed to maintain adequate records of outstanding payments for goods and services or provide supporting documents;

• did not give supporting documents for the amounts of R858.5 million payments in employee benefits;

• overstated R8.8million in Occupation Specific Dispensation and Human Resource accruals;

• could not provide evidence of backdated and arrear salaries of R404 million relating to Human Resource Operating Project Team payments of R219 million in allowances and bonuses; and

• overstated salaries by R30.5 million and staff debt by R5.9 million.

If one reads further, the same pattern emerges for expenditure of capital assets, departmental revenue, receivables for departmental revenue amounting to millions, and evidence of irregular expenditure of R954.5 million, and wasteful expenditure of R8.5 million.

If one takes into account that 350 cases of disciplinary action are still to be conducted against staff for various financial- and other forms of misconduct, it is clear there is no control in this department. We all know that a R13.6 billion budget should be managed with utmost control.

Contrary to the ruling party begging the national government for a larger health budget, what is actually needed are managers who can adequately manage such a large budget. We need to take action to retrieve fruitless and wasteful expenditure and put management control systems in place.

Only a takeover by National Government can achieve this, as the province has now proved beyond doubt that it is incapable of doing so.

Services are horrible: medicines are not being delivered at clinics, hospital departments are closing because of a lack of staff and poor people are dying because of administrative incompetence and the lack of financial control.

If the National Government chooses not to step in, the ruling party will have to be held accountable to the suffering of the poor in the Eastern Cape who cannot afford private medical care.

It is time the National Health Department takes over full command of this provincial department.

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