Health seniors suspended

2010-10-20 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department suspended four more senior officials yesterday pending investigations into corruption, fraud and nepotism.

Since the department’s turnaround strategy was launched in August last year to rid the institution of criminal elements and recover finances that were lost to fraud, more than 10 senior officials have been fired, with 13 more resigning before the department could fire them.

A source close to the department told The Witness yesterday that one of the suspended officials is from the Pietermaritzburg headquarters while the other three are from Zululand district.

They are on precautionary suspension pending a disciplinary hearing.

Department spokesperson Chris Maxon confirmed the suspensions, saying that the department adopted the turnaround strategy after it had overspent for two consecutive years — 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 — to the tune of R2 billion.

“Since last year the department implemented efforts to curb the over-expenditure and eliminate the rampant fraud and corruption from within,” he said.

“Some officials are on precautionary suspension pending the finalisation of disciplinary hearings against them. However, this does not infer that they are guilty, but they have a case to answer,” said Maxon.

He wouldn’t say how many officials are on suspension.

The department has declined to say which units they worked in, said Maxon, for fear the officials may be prejudiced.

He revealed that three of the four suspended officials are from St Francis Hospital in Mahlabathini, Zululand.

“The officials will face criminal charges and forfeiture of their assets to recover millions of rands lost by the government. At this stage we don’t want to taint people unfairly as the due process of a disciplinary hearing is still to follow. However, we want to warn people who continue to steal from the public purse that their days are numbered,” he said.

Maxon said the suspensions, resignations and dismissals have had no significant impact on the department’s service delivery as in most cases there are people to fill the gaps.

He said an assessment will be done to ascertain the need for the positions before they are advertised.

On October 29, MEC Sbongiseni Dhlomo will present a half-yearly report to the legislature detailing the turnaround strategy’s progress.

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