Health department to cut frills

2009-09-09 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department will cut spending on travel, entertainment, frills, car hire and advertising, among other things, in an attempt to save R500 million by March 31.

Speaking during a joint press briefing in the legislature yesterday, the health and finance MECs, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and Ina Cronje, said the provincial cabinet insisted in July that a plan be developed to deal with over expenditure in the department, and put measures in place to prevent it from happening again.

Cronje said the cabinet adopted the plan on August 26. She said the department’s cumulative over-expenditure over two years is more than R2 billion.

Cabinet determined that new managers were required to deal with the issues and seconded officials from the provincial Treasury to assist health with financial management of its affairs. Two officials from the Health Department were seconded to the KZN Treasury where they do other government work.

A steering committee of the heads of department for health and finance plus a representative of the national Treasury will ma­nage the recovery, and the MECs will report fortnightly to the cabinet, Cronje said.

Dhlomo said that a thorough diagnostic exercise revealed the following areas of concern:

• budget management is weak,

• financial management staff at most institutions are not adequately qualified or the posts are vacant,

• supply chain management (SCM) is poor. This has a crippling effect on the efficiency of all other elements that rely on the SCM unit,

• there was incorrect completion of the in-year monitoring (IYM) that hid impending over-expenditure until it was too late, and

• human resource management was weak.

“Government is not attempting to cut spending on public health care,” said Dhlomo. He said the health budget continues to grow, but they are trying to move money to public health care priorities, reduce wastage and inefficiency, and address public concerns that the public health care system is ineffective and near collapse.

He said the department aims to deliver more and better with the same resources and prevent fraud and corruption. “[We will] weed out fraudulent and corrupt elements that have infiltrated our system, prosecute them and recover losses incurred,” said Dhlomo.

Dhlomo said a three-pronged approach to achieve this has been adopted.

The immediate approach is to stabilise the budget and the bank account and to achieve this the department will reduce:

• administrative costs and spending on travel, prohibit specific items such as entertainment, frills, car hire and advertising

• filling of posts, except critical and especially clinical posts,

• purchase of motor vehicles, except ambulances, and

• advertising, marketing, recruitment and gifts.

The medium-term plan aims to improve procurement, reduce reliance on external consultants and review corporate services staffing levels.

It will also reduce committees and unstructured meetings, cut out expensive venues, reduce international travel and sizes of delegations.

He said that the long-term plan is to take strategic decisions now that will save large amounts of money in future.

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