Home News Northern Cape Health department unable to quantify litigation costs to defend officials

Northern Cape Health department unable to quantify litigation costs to defend officials

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The Northern Cape Department of Health is not able to quantify how much it spends on defending officials in court, as it is a ’running account’.

The HOD for the Northern Cape Department of Health, Riaan Strydom, and Health MEC Maruping Lekwene at the press briefing. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health is not able to quantify how much it spends on defending officials in court, as it is a “running account”.

The former acting head of department (HOD), Dr Dion Theys, the former HOD, Steven Jonkers, and the chief financial officer, Daniel Gaborone, are currently facing criminal charges in relation to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the Defensor security contract as well as leases that were concluded for nursing accommodation.

The MEC for Health, Maruping Lekwene, this month won an application to set aside the public protector’s findings against him.

Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane had recommended that the premier should discipline Lekwene as he had “improperly” appointed Vincent Mothibi as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Northern Cape Gambling Board while he was the then MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism.

The current acting HOD of Health, Riaan Strydom, indicated that the department only provided legal assistance to officials currently employed at the department.

“Therefore, Jonkers does not qualify for legal assistance. We try to keep medical-related legal costs to a minimum but sometimes we get more cases than were planned for. It is also important to respond quickly and accordingly to protect the department in terms of the Constitution. It is important that no one’s rights are undermined or abused.”

Lekwene added that in the event that an official was found guilty in a court of law, there were processes to recoup legal fees, such as the freezing of their pensions.

He accused the DA in the Northern Cape of using “pure gutter politics based on cheap politicking and propaganda” after the opposition party called for the department to be placed under administration.

“Their attempt to portray the Department of Health as collapsing is an attempt to scrape the bottom of the barrel in seeking political relevance while the country is experiencing a pandemic.”

He stated that the department was showing significant improvement, while they were rooting out corruption and were effectively managing medico-legal cases .

“No stone will be left unturned when it comes to irregular contracts. A number of corruption-related cases are with the Special Investigations Unit, the Hawks and other law enforcement agencies. Some of these cases are already before the courts. Internal disciplinary hearings have also started in this regard.”

Lekwene added that officials would be subjected to vetting and lifestyle audits.

“New fridges will be procured for the forensic mortuary in Postmasburg and Kimberley, while 20 new ambulances and ten 35-seater buses will be added to the existing fleet. This implies that between 80 and 90 ambulances on average per day are on the road.”

He said that since the beginning of October 2021 the department had developed a stringent approach to cash management, where it would no longer request cash advances from Provincial Treasury.

Lekwene added that the department was in the process of distributing 1,500 wheelchairs to “cushion the backlog”.

“The department will also issue 250 crutches and walking aids, as well as 480 hearing aids to identified clients. We will also receive 350 additional wheelchairs from a valuable stakeholder in the next few weeks.”

He added that in excess of 1,000 staff members had been appointed over the past few months to address staff shortages.

Strydom indicated that hiccups were being experienced with the new nursing accommodation after new service providers were appointed last year.

“We are engaging with the Department of Roads and Public Works to expedite the process.”

HOD for the Department of Health in the Northern Cape, Riaan Strydom. Picture: Danie van der Lith

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