Gauteng Health’s R2.7bn under-expenditure slammed by health stakeholders

Gauteng Health’s R2.7bn under-expenditure slammed by health stakeholders

Gauteng Health’s R2.7bn under-expenditure slammed by health stakeholders

Johannesburg – Health stakeholders have labelled the R2.7 billion under-expenditure by the provincial Health Department as a cue for a much-needed skills audit to find competent people to ensure the budget goes where it’s most needed.

During a meeting of the Gauteng legislature oversight committee on Friday, it was revealed that the Gauteng Health Department had failed to spend a whopping R2.7bn of its budget in the 2022/23 financial year, which concluded on March 31.

The DA’s Jack Bloom said what was most concerning was that despite the “decrepit state” of most public hospitals, the majority of the underspent budget was in the health infrastructure budget to the tune of R550 million.

Considering that not a single Gauteng state hospital complied fully with the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Bloom said underspending on such crucial elements as infrastructure posed a safety risk to thousands of staff and patients.

Bloom said, according to the department, the low spending on infrastructure was “due to slow construction, the progress of projects, and contractors abandoning sites”.

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Furthermore, the R1.6bn underspent in district health services, which includes HIV/Aids treatment and the procurement of hospital machinery, was allegedly blamed on the delays in supply chain management processes due to the need for probity audits, contract finalisation, and tender processes under machinery and equipment and minor assets.

“The overall underspend would have been higher except that it was partly offset by over-expenditure in paying medical negligence claims and accruals from the previous year. Although the department has applied for the money to be rolled over into the next financial year, it is likely more than R300m will be returned to the Provincial Treasury.”

“It is disgraceful that year after year the department fails to spend its full budget, which is needed to provide quality care to patients. Last year they failed to spend R2.6bn and R1.1bn the year before,” Bloom said.

Similar sentiments were shared by the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa’s (Denosa) provincial secretary, Bongani Mazibuko, who said the constant failure of the department to fully utilise its budget was frustrating.

Mazibuko said the repeated failure by the department to adequately spend its budget made the organisation and others in the health sector question the leadership at the helm and if it was able to do what was required.

“At the moment we are battling a shortage of nurses and health-care workers, with many hospitals having to deviate from crucial primary health-care programmes due to a lack of funds, and yet we have this unacceptable occurrence where a department is failing to spend its budget.

“Looking at the health ombuds report on challenges at facilities such as Rahima Moosa and the decaying infrastructure at Tambo Memorial Hospital, it is truly shocking that the department can sit with such a massively underspent infrastructure budget.”

Mazibuko added that perhaps it was time to look into the qualifications and skills of departmental representatives and remove or reallocate those who were not assisting the department in meeting its mandate of providing crucial health care to the people.

Another avenue to consider, according to the provincial secretary, was for the health department to consider the implementation of functional occupation and safety committees to ensure institutions’ needs and upgrades were monitored, reported, and factored into the budget.