It seems like the Department of Health in Mpumalanga is suffering from an acute case of financial ill-management as it received another qualified opinion from the Auditor General (AG) for the 2014/15 financial year.
The annual report revealed that the department's financial health remains in the red, despite a turnaround strategy implemented after it was placed under curatorship.
For the year under review, irregular expenditure skyrocketed by R1.9 billion from R1 330 006 000 to R3 248 902 000.
Commenting on this, the AG noted: "I was unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence for irregular expenditure, as internal controls had not been established to recognise and investigate irregular expenditure identified in previous years. I could not confirm whether all irregular expenditure had been recorded and investigated by alternative means".
Fruitless and wasteful expenditure
Claims against the department increased to R1.4 billion, while unauthorised expenditure clocked in at R10 million, with fruitless and wasteful expenditure reaching R3.6 million.
"Effective steps were not taken to prevent unauthorised, irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure," wrote the AG, adding that effective steps and appropriate steps were also not taken to collect all money due.
The AG also had harsh words over the poor management of finances, with the accounting officer coming under fire for, among other things, not exercising oversight responsibility regarding financial and performance reporting and compliance as well as related internal controls.
The AG further pointed out that management did not ensure that the audit committee was fully functional through the year under review.
Provincial health spokesperson Dumisani Malamule told Health24 the department has developed an audit action plan to address all the findings by the Auditor General.
"The implementation of the audit action plan is monitored by the Departmental Audit Steering Committee on a monthly basis and the Audit Committee on a quarterly basis," he said.
"The department is currently appointing officials in critical positions with the finance business unit since this was one of the problems that the department did not perform at the correct level."
Malamule expressed confidence that the department's financial woes would end. "A clean audit will be achieved once all the audit findings are fully addressed."
Curatorship needs to be reinstated
He added that the department was placed under curatorship, but it was lifted after a turnaround strategy was developed and implemented. "The department is currently at 83% in terms of implementing the turnaround strategy," said Malamule.
However, the DA is now calling for the province’s executive to reinstate the curatorship.
"The issue is that millions and millions of rands continue to be wasted while the people of Mpumalanga don't have access to quality healthcare, DA MPL and spokesperson on health and social development, Jane Sithole told Health24.
"This trouble has been coming along for many years – it is not new. In fact the AG report has gotten worse from the previous year."
Sithole said the DA was hopeful that the curatorship, which lasted for a few months only, would put stringent financial controls in place. However, she said it was lifted too soon.
"The rot is way too deep to put it under curatorship for such a short period. Our main concern was that the period was way too short and the AG reports proves that we were right," she said.
The DA is recommending that department be placed under curatorship and that it only be lifted once the department is stable enough to manage its own finances. "If we continue on this downward spiral, the department will completely collapse," warned Sithole.
The DA on Thursday called for Health MEC Gillion Mashego to step down with immediate effect.