Health spending: IFP voices concern

2010-05-05 00:00

UNDERSPENDING to the tune of R225 million in KwaZulu-Natal’s hospitals was tabled for discussion in Parliament yesterday.

The move came after the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) expressed concern about the persistent underspending on the hospital revitalisation programme in the province.

IFP finance spokesperson in the provincial legislature Roman Liptak said the underspending continues to occur against an overall overdraft in the KZN Health Department, which currently stands at R2,312 billion.

The programme is funded partly by the R1,3 billion given to the country’s hospitals through various budget allocations for construction, maintenance and equipment.

Liptak alleged that the allocated revenue is unspent as a result of poor cash and supply chain management coupled with a lack of proper planning.

“The revitalisation programme is officially the worst spending conditional grant across the entire government with the total projected under-expenditure of more than R813 million nationally, with R225 million in KZN.

“This is unacceptable given the sorry state of public health care infrastructure in the country,” said Liptak.

He said the IFP notes that unspent conditional grants are back-paid to the National Treasury and therefore forfeited, compounding the challenges of the country’s public hospitals and holding back delivery of quality health services to South Africa’s citizens.

“The disproportionate growth in overspending figures for December 2009 (R535 million) and March 2010 (R813 million) suggests that this trend appears to be worsening at an accelerated pace.

“The worrying part is that underspending in the programme is recurring despite the fact that hospital revitalisation remains the provincial government’s declared priority,” he said.

Liptak also alleged that underspending by the department has led to a loss of R86 million in comprehensive HIV and Aids grants.

“We view this as counterproductive to service delivery as well as the infrastructure backlog.

“These spending patterns confirm our assessment that the department’s focus has been on reversing unintended consequences of past policies and building capacity to implement policy rather than on immediate challenges such as the poor state of hospitals and the HIVAids pandemic,” said Liptak.

Health Department spokes­person Chris Maxon said he could not comment as the matter was still under discussion.

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