Health department in deep trouble

2011-11-23 08:36

The Eastern Cape department of health is heading for over-spending more then R800 million this financial year.

At a portfolio committee meeting in Bhisho yesterday, the department’s acting head warned that it was losing the fight against over-spending.

Giving an account of finances for the halfway mark of the financial period starting March this year and ending April next year, Dr Thabo Sibeko said budget pressures, mainly from occupational specific dispensation payments, were to blame.

The provincial legislature is scheduled to debate the province’s adjustment budget this afternoon.

Yesterday six social cluster departments, including the troubled health and education departments, appeared before committees.

Challenges facing the health department included poor financial capacity in health facilities, and underfunding, which saw money allocated to bursaries cut from R97 million to R72 million.

Sibeko quoted a number of successes, such as exceeding by 184 the targeted 3 000 cataract operations for this period.

“Thirteen sub-districts have employed optometrists and are now providing optometry services,” he said.

Sibeko also added that immunisation coverage of children under the age of 1 was at 80.2% against their target of 90% for the period between March this year and April next year.

More than 8 000 Grade R and Grade 1 learners had been screened for barriers to learning in the past six months.

“It is safe to say the department is on the right track towards recovery,” he said.

In another meeting, of the education portfolio committee, officials struggled to provide reasons for the department’s failure to account for spending.

Chief financial officer Philisa Mdikane appeared before the committee without MEC Mandla Makupula and head of department Modidima Mannya, who were both on other business.

The department received a disclaimer from the auditor-general for the past financial year after it failed to provide records for billions in expenditure, including:

» R2.6 billion for the compensation of employees;

» R2.9 billion for capped leave, and

» R967 million for business transactions with employees’ relatives.

It also recorded fruitless and wasteful expenditure to the tune of R75 million in respect of compensation of employees, goods and services, conditional grants, and capital expenditure.

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