Note to Editors: This speech was delivered by Jack Bloom MPL during the budget vote on the Gauteng Department of Health in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today.
Madam Speaker, this is the 30th health budget that I am speaking on.
In 1994, when I was first elected to this Legislature, the population of Gauteng was about seven million people.
It has grown to more than 16 million today, but Gauteng’s health budget has also grown impressively.
It was less than R6 billion in 2000, compared to R60 billion this year. This is a threefold increase when adjusted for inflation.
So, the big question is why there are so many deficiencies in the health care provided today when the budget has grown significantly more than our population.
Why does this department get terrible reports from the Auditor-General year after year?
The Gauteng Health Department should be on par with the Western Cape Health Department, which has got four clean audits in a row.
It should have a functioning health information system which was first promised by the first Health MEC Amos Masondo. That’s how far back this goes, with many failed attempts including R1.2 billion on a corrupt contract under Brian Hlongwa.
We now have yet another suspect company awarded the contract for a health information system which it won’t deliver.
There is one sense in which the Gauteng Health Department is not inefficient at all. It is in fact very efficient at benefiting the crooks who get paid for contracts that charge outrageous prices or don’t deliver at all.
Babita Deokaran uncovered the tip of a vast iceberg of corrupt syndicates siphoning off money needed to treat patients.
The SIU found that more than R1 billion was misspent on corrupt contracts over three years at the Tembisa Hospital. Just think how that money could have been spent providing hospital services instead of buying skinny jeans and R5000 armchairs.
The corruption machine in this department is very efficient indeed. It’s quite likely that at least 20% of the R20 billion goods and services budget is lost due to corruption. That’s about R4 billion in total every year.
It’s an Eskom level of corruption that is literally killing people because ambulances don’t arrive on time, machines aren’t working, or there are too few ICU beds.
Madam MEC, you are surrounded by snakes and you won’t make any progress until they are identified and dismissed.
I am sure the lifestyle audits you mentioned this week will be a revelation.
I am reminded of what Kgalema Motlanthe said in 2007 when he was ANC Secretary-General:
“This rot is across the board … Almost every project is conceived because it offers opportunities for certain people to make money.”
The Honourable MEC rightly praised the Gift of the Givers for raising R60 million to build a state-of-the-art stores facility in record time at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.
This is very worthy, but we have to ask why the department is incapable of doing this itself, or even simple things like drilling a borehole for water.
I would guess that if the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department was involved it would cost R200 million and take three years because the first contractor won’t be able to do it, and another contractor would have to finish the job.
Now just imagine if the Gift of the Givers ran the Gauteng Health Department.
What would they do with a R60 billion budget?
This is really the standard that we should be aiming at.
We need more private/public partnerships like the new project that involves Section 27, the Cancer Alliance and private hospitals to cut the backlog of cancer treatment.
But we don’t need a state pharmacy which is likely to be just another sinkhole of waste and inefficiency, with money diverted to politically connected people.
I don’t want to paint all doom and gloom with this department because there are some amazing people who do their best to innovate and selflessly dedicate themselves to their patients.
It’s really wonderful that Sebokeng Hospital can now do brain surgery.
There is vast expertise in our university medical schools that should also be brought on board.
There is really so much opportunity, but it’s currently drowned by bureaucracy and the crooks and incompetents that proliferate in this department.
For the record, the DA is voting against this budget because of the continuing failure to spend effectively and efficiently to meet the health needs in our province.
These failures include the following:
1. late payments of suppliers and staff
2. poor emergency ambulance response times
3. unsafe hospital buildings
4. the high number of acting personnel in senior positions
5. massive irregular spending on security and other contracts
6. lack of progress in implementing a health information system
7. worrying numbers of infant deaths and maternal mortality
8. non-achievement of vaccination targets
9. huge waiting lists for surgery
I could add to this, but you get the picture. The reality is that budget objectives will only be met when the Auditor General’s recommendations are fully implemented, and he can issue a clean report.