SIU authorised to investigate health department and 'Life Esidimeni' NGOs - Zuma

2017-07-04 17:22
President Jacob Zuma waves during the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

President Jacob Zuma waves during the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg. (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma has signed a proclamation allowing the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to investigate allegations against Gauteng’s provincial department of health, according to a statement from the Presidency.

In terms of the Special Investigations Unit and Special Tribunals Act of 1996, the SIU has been tasked with investigating matters relating to unlawful and improper conduct on the part of 28 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were tasked with taking care of mental health patients, the statement read.

According to the SIU’s website, their core function was "to recover and prevent financial losses to the state caused by acts of corruption, fraud and maladministration". They are a unit that was given power by the president in the abovementioned act in 1996 to subpoena and interrogate witnesses under oath, as well as cancel contracts where improper procedures were applied.

According to the statement, the SIU will look into whether the NGOs were paid "in a manner that was not fair, transparent, equitable and contrary to applicable legislation" in their procurement.

The investigation also aims to look into unlawful or improper acts, maladministration or omissions by officials of the health department or staff, as well as unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the health department.

Also read: Life Esidimeni families concerned about progress on ombudsman’s recommendations

Any non-performance on the part of the 28 NGOs will also be looked into, as well as any unlawful irregular or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure or practice that has a bearing on state property, the statement said. 

This comes after the deaths of more than 100 mental health patients in the province between May and June 2016.

In February, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba revealed in a report that 94 patients had died after being transferred from Life Healthcare Esidimeni to various NGOs across Gauteng due to cost-cutting measures. The report also found that several human rights were violated in the process. Initially, Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said that only 36 patients had died, but the number was found to be higher in December, sky-rocketing to more than 100 by mid-February 2017.

This lead to opposition political parties calling for Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, to step down; and others calling for the resignation of Mahlangu.

Head of Gauteng Health Department, Dr Barney Selebano, was suspended following the scandal, while Mahlangu stepped down a week before the report was published.

In the report, Makgoba identified Mahlangu, Selebano and director Dr Makgabo Manamela as the "key players" in the project.

Also read: Home takes Gauteng health department to court over R2m debt

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  life esidemeni

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