Health Department report reveals R500 million irregular expenditure

Although the Gauteng Department of Health received an unqualified report by the Auditor General (AG), it was criticised for its R500-million irregular and wasteful expenditure.

The report was recently tabled in the Gauteng Legislature.

The Democratic Alliance’s Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health, Jack Bloom, commented that the report showed ‘poor controls and failure to follow procedures in a number of key areas’.

The report showed the department spent almost R500 million in irregular expenditure and R7,4 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The AG said effective steps were not taken to prevent such expenditure.

The department’s accounting officer, Dr Barney Selebano said in his report that the department did not record any unauthorised expenditure, but that R2,2 million of the wasteful expenditure was due to expired medication. The other, almost R5,2 million was attributed to infrastructure development.

The AG further said effective and appropriate steps were not taken to collect all money due and interest was not charged on patients’ debts.

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Selebano explained that the collection failure was because of ‘multiple factors’ such as the late implementation of the Uniform Patient Fee Schedule (UPFS) due to prolonged stakeholder consultation.

Certain payment delays caused by a newly implemented claims system further added to the department’s ‘non-collection’.

“The late billing of patients by institutions remains a concern. To address the problem, billing units of the health institution’s personnel are regularly trained and attend capacity-building programmes,” Selebano said.

Legal claims is another concern revealed by the report. Bloom said he is concerned that legal claims against the department have grown by R3,8 billion in the last year to a total potential liability of R16,5 billion.

“R13,4 billion of this is for medico-legal claims, R1,6 billion is for civil claims, and R1,5 billion for premature termination of contracts,” he said.

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Selebano said in an effort to address the increasing medico-legal matters, the department has appointed two law firms to conduct a legal audit of all litigation matters from 2005 to date. “The objective is to reduce costs, minimise or reduce unnecessary litigation and identify key factors that contribute to litigation cases,” he said.

The report also revealed that investigations based on allegations of procurement irregularities, fraud, theft and negligence are being performed by the department.

Bloom said whilst there has been some improvement in the department, the AG’s findings show ‘that there is still a long way to go to achieve good management and effective use of funds’.

Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said the report finding is ‘heart-warming’, especially since the department received a qualified report the previous financial year.

For a detailed view of the report click here 

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  AUTHOR
Chantelle Fourie

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