R4.6bn for Gauteng health department consultants

2013-10-13 14:01

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“The hiring of consultants has been abused,” says Themba Godi, chairperson of Parliament’s public accounts watchdog committee Scopa.

In just three years, the Gauteng department of health spent R4.6 billion on consultants – and most of it cannot be accounted for.

A report released last week by Auditor-General Terence Nombembe found that, in most cases, consultants were hired without a needs assessment being conducted.

Nombembe slammed the department for not having a human resources plan in place between 2008 and 2011 when the money was spent.

His auditors could not account for most of the R4.6 billion since the department’s record-keeping was such a shambles. Below are a few cases that they found:

» A consultant was appointed to implement the bar coded asset audit, a register of fixed assets, in 1999. This entailed maintaining the register, verifying assets and general management support. Ten years later, the contract was still active and the consultant had been paid about R36 million. Auditors could not obtain a copy of the contract because of the department’s poor archiving;

» A consultant was hired to implement a smart card system to facilitate the digitisation of patients’ medical histories and hospital records to reduce waiting times. The project was piloted between April 2008 and February 2009. The consultant was paid about R37 million, although there was no formal contract in place and no project deadlines;

» A consultant was appointed to install a computer network at 134 healthcare facilities between December 2007 and February 2008 at a cost of about R30 million. The network was not set up at some facilities and, in others where it was installed, there were no computers to connect it to;

» The department needed more nurses, so it approached nursing agencies. The agreement was that the agencies would provide nurses for two years, but the department extended the contract another 12 times beyond the initial agreement, stretching the budget to R132.7 million. It could not provide reasons for the extensions and could not offer proof that a prior needs assessment had been conducted; and

» The department appointed a consultant, paying R2.6 million over three years, to help health NGOs “build capacity”. But the report found there was nothing specific in the contract detailing what the consultant had to do.

The consultancy state at work

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