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Health dept opens criminal charges against NGO


The Northern Cape Department of Health has opened criminal charges against a non-governmental organisation after 112 Covid brigade workers were apparently not paid for the past two months.

Covid brigade workers waited outside the offices of the HOD for the Department of Health after not receiving their stipends. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has opened criminal charges against a non-governmental organisation (NGO) after 112 Covid brigade workers were apparently not paid for the past two months.

The workers last received their stipends of R3 500 on December 15, 2023, and they were later informed that their stipends would be diverted to pay HIV peer educators.

The executive director of the NGO indicated in January that there were “unexpected delays” in processing payment.

He stated that the NGO was working “diligently to ensure that all payments were made promptly and rectifying the situation”.

The Covid brigade was later informed “with great sadness” that the outstanding stipends would not be paid on January 31 as scheduled.

On February 6, the workers were advised “with a very heavy heart” that due to challenges and delays in payment, the funds from the Covid brigade were instead used for the HIV/Aids programme in December.

“A refund is expected to be paid back.”

The workers, who are employed at various health facilities including the Kimberley City Clinic, Galeshewe Day Hospital, West End Specialised Hospital, Kimberley Mental Hospital, Floors Clinic, Madolye Clinic, emergency medical services and Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, waited outside the office of the acting HOD for the Northern Cape Department of Health this week, demanding answers.

A representative of the workers, Philadelphia Nxumalo. Picture Soraya Crowie

A representative for the workers, Philadelphia Nxumalo, said they would embark on a go-slow until they had been paid.

“We have been given nothing but excuses for what we regard to be fraud and theft. We are going to be evicted as we are unable to pay our rent or keep up with policy payments,” said Nxumalo.

She was concerned that workers would also not receive their stipends this month.

“Our contracts end in June and may not be renewed due to a marked decrease in the number of Covid-19 cases.”

Nxumalo stated on Thursday that they were promised payment before the end of the week.

The director of the NGO explained that he was running the Covid brigades alongside an HIV/Aids and LGBQTI programme.

He stated that the necessary supporting documents were submitted to the department and that he was also patiently waiting for the December refund to be paid over.

“Workers will receive their money on February 25. Due to cash-flow problems, the NGO was not able to pay the stipends in advance, before the funds were received from the Department of Health,” said the director.

“I was considering fund-raising but it will not be enough to cover the expenses. I was also not able to do part payments as it would have caused confusion.”

He cautioned workers that if they were not at work, deductions would be made from their stipends.

“The department owes the NGO a substantial amount of money dating back to last year,” he said.

Northern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lulu Mxekezo indicated that the acting head of the department (HOD) had instituted a civil case to recoup the funds.

“A criminal case was also opened for the transgression of the Public Finance Management Act against the NGO,” said Mxekezo.

“The department has a contract with various NGOs who are managing the Covid-19 brigades and their salaries.

“The stakeholders concerned are dealing with the challenges, which will be resolved very soon.”

Mxekezo explained that the stipends were outstanding for one month.

“They receive stipends on the 25th of each month. The Northern Cape Department of Health profusely apologises for the inconvenience that it has caused for the Covid-19 brigades.”

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