Bloom barred from Gauteng Health Head Office

Officials at the Gauteng Health Head Office barred me yesterday from doing an oversight visit in order to see how employees were coping without the furniture removed last week by the Sheriff of the court in order to force payment of a R6.2 million medical negligence payment.

I arrived at the Bank of Lisbon building in central Johannesburg and was kept waiting in the foyer for 40 minutes after requesting to be admitted to the department’s offices which are on the 11th to 23rd floors.

Two senior officials eventually came down and informed me that I could not enter unless I had an appointment with someone inside.

I am used to being barred from hospitals, but what do they think they are hiding at the head office? Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa claims that operations have not been affected by the lack of furniture and equipment but I suspect the situation is even worse than we think.

According to Charles Phasa, a department employee and branch secretary of the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union, the working conditions are “very bad” as everything with any value was taken.

He says that “every year the sheriff comes in and the department waits until the 11th hour to negotiate some sort of way to cover their payments, but this time around it is just too much.”

Some staff have been moved to the Tshwane district office which is very inconvenient for them.

Meanwhile, the department has not negotiated with O Joubert Attorneys who are owed a number of payments for medical negligence.

Ramokgopa needs to tell us what her department is doing to pay all that it owes, including medical suppliers, rather than pretend that things can continue as they are without a hard day of reckoning when the budget runs out later this year.

R1.1 million spent on house security for Gauteng Premier and MECs

A total amount of R1.1 million has been spent on security upgrades at the private residences of the Gauteng Premier and his MECs over the past three years.

This is disclosed by Premier David Makhura in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Makhura, the Ministerial Handbook provides guidelines for the security costs for private houses after a security assessment has been done.

The cost for security upgrades was fixed by Cabinet at R100 000 in June 2003, with provision to account for inflation, which now amounts to about R200 000.

Makhura says that he has ordered that any MEC whose private residence security upgrades have exceeded R200 000 should pay the difference.

Security for his own residence has cost R71 229, and nothing has been spent on upgrades at the houses of four MECs in this term of office because was already done in a previous term – this is the case for Transport MEC Ismail Vadi, Economic Development MEC Lebogang Maile, Finance MEC Barbara Creecy and Cooperative Government MEC Paul Mashatile.

The big spenders were former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu (R252 558), former Sports, Arts & Recreation MEC Molebatsi Bopape (R230 190), Education MEC Panyasa Lesufi (R200 000) and Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Molebane (R149 536).

Most of the costs were incurred on the upgrade of perimeter fences, security gates and cameras.

But MEC Lebogang Maile has a security guard assigned to his private residence “as part of the general security contract for guarding the department’s buildings.”

Makhura explains the extra cost for security at Mahlangu’s house as arising from a threat and risk assessment done by the police before 2014. Her security was improved, including guarding services, and this cost R251 558 for the period May 2014 to February 2017, which amounted to R8000 a month.

Makhura says that “any decision about placing static security at any MEC’s private residence will now be subject to approval by the Premier, on the basis of the recommendation of SAPS. All these measures will ensure that there is no abuse or unnecessary spending on security.”

I welcome Makhura’s commitment to stamp out abuse in this area, which indicates that there has been unjustified security spending in the past.

According to Makhura “there were loopholes with regard to expenditure cap on security because departments were instructed to pay whatever was in accordance with the recommended security upgrades, regardless of the cost.”

We all face the risk of crime, and the state should only pay for extra protection for politicians if it is related to their work and justified by an objective police assessment.

I will be asking further questions concerning whether former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu paid the extra R51 558 which exceeded the R200 000 limit, and why MEC Maile has a security guard at his house paid for by a general security contract.

Thousands of Gauteng’s cops on the beat without firearm competency

The DA calls on the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, to ensure the 2031 SAPS members in Gauteng without firearm compliance certificates, undergo competency testing. We would also like to know from the MEC when all members of the SAPS in Gauteng will be fit to carry fire arms?

According to the MEC’s response to a DA question in the Gauteng Legislature, there are currently 2031 SAPS members patrolling Gauteng’s streets without firearm compliance certificates.

Of the 2031 members that are active without a firearm compliance certificate, 627 officers are stationed in Tshwane. Ekurhuleni has 351, and Johannesburg has 196. The worst affected stations are Evaton with 45 and Sebokeng with 49 uncertified members. This means that these members should not be deployed outside the confines of the station as the risk and liability are enormous.

Since April this year, 14 members without valid compliance certificates discharged their firearms and I will be asking further questions of the MEC to establish the circumstances in which this occurred.

These members are not only a danger to themselves, but to the public whom they are sworn to protect.

When it comes to rank, 1034 of these members hold the rank of Captain within the SAPS.

Given the high number of incidents in Gauteng involving police brutality, it is imperative that these officers are taken off the streets and confined to office duty until they have passed their compliance tests.

Having so many police members not able to competently conduct their duties leaves the residents of Gauteng in the precarious position of being badly under-resourced and under-protected.

This is an unacceptable situation that should be urgently remedied.

Gauteng Social Development: underspends, underperforms and understaffed

The Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) has failed to meet some of its targets for the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial, leaving the province’s most vulnerable citizens exposed.

In terms of its mandate, the DSD is tasked, inter alia, “to plan, implement, co-ordinate, and monitor the delivery of developmental social welfare services; to implement and monitor programmes in accordance with national norms and standards; and to develop and render specific services”.

If the Department is not meeting critical targets then it is failing in its mandate to serve the most vulnerable people of Gauteng.

For example, the DSD received a quarterly budget allocation of R1.1 billion and spent only R911.9 million. Thus, the Department underspent its budget by R180.2 million.

The budget underspending affected programmes such as Child Care and Protection Services, where only 55% (or 731) of the targeted 1 311 children were placed in foster care. It is worth noting that all four targets under Child Care and Protection Services were not achieved in the quarter under review.

Many of the missed targets are symptoms of understaffing in the Department, which sits with a vacancy rate of 20%.

These vacancies are also in critical positions: For social workers and related professionals, there is a vacancy rate of 96.4%; of the 14 occupational therapist posts, only 1 was filled resulting in a vacancy rate of 92.8%; and there was a 100% vacancy rate for a psychologist, as the Department could not fill the 1 post needed for the quarter.

It is clear that Gauteng’s DSD does not care about the people of Gauteng.

Several of the Department’s targets were not achieved as a result of beneficiaries not being aware of services being offered and were therefore not accessing them. Some of these were around older persons, persons with disabilities, family reunification programmes and other social work services, such as households in need not receiving psychosocial services.

I will be submitting a series of questions to the Department in order to ascertain what is being done to ensure that programme targets are met so that the vulnerable people of Gauteng receive much needed services from the Department.

Under a Democratic Alliance government, Gauteng’s most vulnerable will be a priority and the DSD will fulfill its mandate.

Gauteng Health staff to be moved because of lack of furniture

I am concerned that Gauteng Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, is downplaying the effect of the removal of truckloads of furniture from her head office by the Sheriff of the court last week.

She claims that operations are continuing as normal, but staff are hampered in their work by the lack of computers, desks and chairs.

Important meetings have been cancelled and some staff have been told that they will move to district offices, including Pretoria.

No attempt has been made to communicate with O Joubert Attorneys who initiated the action by the Sheriff to force payment of R6.2 million for a medical negligence claim.

The blatant disregard for a court-ordered payment is shocking.

The Sheriff is likely to come back for the remaining furniture which will make things even worse.

If the removed furniture is auctioned, new furniture will have to be bought at great expense.

The MEC should not be so nonchalant about this serious matter and should urgently seek solutions to the financial crisis faced by her department.

Gauteng government fails to comply with the law

The Gauteng provincial government has failed to meet its obligations in terms of legislation to manage the immovable assets under its control.

The Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) has as its main objectives the provision of an uniform immovable asset management framework, alignment of the use of assets with service delivery needs and the provision of information to Treasury to allow for the allocation of budgets for capital works and maintenance.

Gauteng’s Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) is the custodian of an estimated R30 billion worth of assets and in terms of its obligations it must provide an asset management plan (C-AMP) as part of its annual strategic planning and budgeting process.

The user departments of the assets, for example Health in the case of hospitals or Roads and Transport in the case of land expropriated for the building of roads, are also obliged to create their own asset management plans (U-AMP) and both the custodian and the user plans are required to be provided to Treasury for purposes of budget allocation.

As a result of non-compliance by government, no budgetary allocations have been made for the maintenance of certain assets such as land and buildings set aside for the building of roads in the future.

As a result, these assets have deteriorated and have lost value.

This is the people of Gauteng’s money that is going down the drain.

In addition, the illegal use of some of these assets, such as individuals illegally occupying land of dilapidated government buildings, has a direct impact on the residential amenity of residents and negatively impacts on their rights.

In the meantime, there is much finger pointing going on between GDID as the custodians, and the user departments, as to who is responsible for the management and maintenance of the assets.

In terms of Section 21 of the GIAMA Act, the Accounting Officer of a government department is liable to a fine or imprisonment if they wilfully or negligently fail to comply with provisions of the Act.

The DA will follow up with the relevant departments to ascertain what action is being taken against non-compliant Accounting Officers, whether charges have been laid and, if not, why the provincial government is allowing those in charge of infrastructure that belongs to the residents of Gauteng to fall into disrepair.

Gauteng’s slow turnaround time on debt kills jobs

The Gauteng Provincial Government’s (GPG) inability to speed up its payment of invoices within a 90 day period reflects that this administration is not taking proactive measures to deal with its debt and accruals, leading to job losses and businesses having to close down.

According to the latest Section 79 Report, the GPG fared worse than the DA-led Western Cape when it comes to irrecoverable debt. In terms of irrecoverable debt, which is over 90 days, the Western Cape had the least amount at R6.4 billion compared to Gauteng’s massive R34.7 billion – which is the highest in the country.

A similar situation is true of the non-DA Metro in the province. The City of Ekurhuleni’s 90 day debt stood at 79.1%.

In the DA-led cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, 30-day debt stood at 15.7%, and 20% respectively.

These statistics make it abundantly clear that the service providers, small businesses and the like are not being supported by this ANC administration, despite claims to the contrary.

In this downgraded economy, it is untenable to work without compensation. This administration must ensure that it turns this situation around sooner rather than later before it adds more misery to the already long unemployment queues that stretch around the province.

Gauteng ANC Premier spent R5.1 million on Gupta media

ANC Gauteng Premier, David Makhura revealed in a reply to a DA question in the Legislature that his office cumulatively spent over R5.1 million on Gupta-owned media.

In the past six years, the Premier’s office spent R4.7 million on advertising in The New Age and spent over R460 000 between the period of May 2015 to August 2016 alone.

The ANC in Gauteng would like to distance themselves from the National ANC and the Guptas, yet continue to fund their propaganda newspaper and broadcast channels.

The Office of the Premier’s entire advertising budget is well over R127 million for the past 7 years.

The Premier’s propaganda machinery is hard at work painting a glossy image of a Premier hard at work. However, the reality on the ground is a completely different story.

Instead of spending millions on unnecessary advertising on projects and programmes which are freely available, the Premier chooses to prop up his public image.

It is a shame that the Premier needs to spend millions on vanity projects when action could speak louder than a couple of A5 print pieces and billboards.

The DA in Gauteng will continue to monitor expenditure trends with regards to advertising and the ANC Gauteng’s close links with Gupta media.

It is our hope that many more South Africans will open their eyes and truly see the ANC for what it is, a failed organisation, under threat. There is no difference between the ANC in Gauteng and the National ANC, they are working together to protect President Jacob Zuma and his corrupt cronies, the Guptas.

Spare no effort in rescuing the brave Kusasalethu miners

The DA sends our condolences to the families of the miners whose lives were lost after having been trapped underground following a tremor that took place on Friday.

We know that there are miners who are still trapped underground at the Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville. We therefore urge the mine owners and authorities to do everything in their power to ensure their safe return.

We also urge mine owners and authorities to support the families of those who remain trapped underground during this difficult time.

Miners work in extremely challenging conditions to provide for their families and to contribute to this vital sector of our economy. They deserve to have no effort spared in ensuring their safe return.

Sheriff attaches furniture at Gauteng Health Head Office

Staff at the Head Office of the Gauteng Health Department are sitting on the floor without desks, chairs and computers because the Sheriff of the Court has removed two truckloads of furniture to force payment of R6.2 million for medical negligence.

The Sheriff took the furniture on Thursday last week from four floors of the Bank of Lisbon building in inner city Johannesburg.

The writ of attachment lists the following items:

• 400 desks
• 600 chairs
• 400 computers
• 200 filing cabinets
• 50 printers
• 10 fridges
• 10 microwaves
• 3 lounge suites

The action was brought by O Joubert Attorneys, acting on behalf of a child who suffered brain damage when she was born at the Pholosong Hospital in December 2009.

The court ordered payment on 8 March this year, but the department has not paid, even though the attorney offered an agreement to pay in installments.

It is a terrible injustice that this case has dragged on for more than 7 years, with further suffering for the child and her family, and now the department delays further.

I am appalled that the department has yet again disregarded a court-ordered payment, which has led to attachment of furniture that is crippling the work of head office staff.

Delays in payment also add to the costs as 10.5% penalty interest is charged – in this case, this amounts to more than R300 000.

The Gauteng Provincial Government is being destabilized by the endless financial woes of the Health Department, which faces a potential medico-legal liability of more than R13 billion and owes large sums to suppliers as well.

Premier David Makhura has to step in and ensure that the department can meet its pressing financial obligations and plan a way forward to provide quality health care with minimal negligence claims.