The Gauteng Department of Health has taken disciplinary action against 123 employees suspected of corruption since MEC Qedani Mahlangu took office in May.
Of these employees, 72 have received final written warnings while a further 12 have been dismissed. The department adds that 30 employees will know their fate once internal disciplinary panels have determined their guilt or innocence.
“This is one of the ways of strengthening our systems to ensure that corruption doesn’t happen at all levels”, Mahlangu told Health-e News.
Mahlangu said that rooting out corruption was on the top of her list as this has the potential of affecting service delivery.
Her spokesperson Prince Hamnca elaborated that other employees are currently being investigated for allegations including bribery, abuse of overtime, dishonesty and fraud although he could not say how many.
“Selective discipline” dividing department
However, the Democratic Alliance Caucus Leader in the Gauteng Legislature Jack Bloom believes Mahlangu must be more ruthless when dealing with corruption, and that the department continues to lack financial control mechanisms.
“There was a backlog of dismissals waiting to be signed, so it is good that Mahlangu shortened it but discipline is generally slow,” he said. “Mahlangu has a number of long-running, alleged corruption cases (against the department)”.
He alleged that “selective discipline” – in which cases involving politically connected officials are not pursued as vigorously or punished as harshly as others – was dividing the department. He added that this why he believed that President Jacob Zuma had signed off a Hawks investigation into alleged corruption that had occurred during Brian Hlongwa term 2006-2009 as MEC of Health.
“There is a lack of capacity to investigate, so (disciplinary) action is drawn out, which is why criminal charges have still not been laid against Hlongwa”, Bloom told Health-e News.
Among her priorities for the year, Mahlangu said she will continue to address late payments to suppliers and accruals within the department. In the 2013/2014 financial year, the Gauteng Health Department had accruals amounting to R3.8 billion.
Currently, R1.billion owed to more than 1000 suppliers. She said that suppliers owed less than R2 million will be paid at the end of March. Suppliers owed more than that will be paid in tranches between now and the end of the next financial year.
The department also plans to modernize health care by introducing a hospital bed management system, which will allow hospitals to coordinate patient transfers.
“We need to improve patient waiting times, so this system will tell us which bed is available at which hospital at any given time”, said Mahlangu, who will be reaching out to private hospitals for guidance on how to use bed management systems. “We can’t have our patients being shuffled from pillar to post”.
Electric patient file systems, currently been rolled out at Zola-Jabulani Hospital and the new Natalspruit hospital, will also be rolled out to all health facilities by December, according to Mahlangu.– Health-e News.
An edited version of this story first appeared in the 6 March edition of The Star newspaper