R20 million owed to local government -120 days late and counting

The Gauteng Education department owes the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Lesedi Local Municipality over R20 million in unpaid bills. The bills are 120 days late and counting.

According to Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, the department is disputing the bills made out to schools by the municipalities.

This was revealed in a reply to a DA question on amounts owed to municipalities by provincial departments.

The MEC failed to provide a detailed explanation for the aged debt, simply citing a “dispute”.

Furthermore, the department’s current debt account stands at over R12.5 million and it owes municipalities and Eskom almost R5 million in debt, aged 30 days.

These late payments fly in the face of Finance MEC, Barbara Creecy’s “on time payment” policy and Premier David Makhura’s “no late payment” remarks.

By simply passing the buck and blaming municipalities for billing, the MEC yet again dodges accountability.

MEC Lesufi would do well to take charge and strengthen the financial oversight role in his department.

Late payments severely affect municipalities in delivering good quality services. Residents all over the province feel the impact of these service backlogs.

The DA will continue to monitor expenditure trends within the Education department in order to hold them accountable for every cent – spent, to be spent, not spent and wasted.

Spare beds at Sizwe TB Hospital

The Sizwe Tuberculosis Hospital in Sandringham, Johannesburg is currently underutilized with only 100 out of 260 beds occupied, but the extra capacity will be important if there is an upsurge in multi-drug resistant TB.

I visited this specialist TB hospital yesterday after receiving photos and a video of disruptive activities by a patient on Saturday night, including a small fire and the strewing of rubbish in Ward 16.

Two weeks ago there was another incident by unruly patients.

I met the Hospital CEO Dr Marian Louw who confirmed the incidents and said that it occurred for various reasons, including frustration at being confined in the hospital for a long period of time.

The average stay for a patient is 56 days but it could be longer.

This hospital treats multi-drug and extensively-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB and XDR-TB) which is vitally important as this could become an epidemic if not contained at an early stage.

The reduced numbers at Sizwe Hospital are due to successful devolution of treatment to local clinics with supervision to ensure that long medicine courses are completed.

The expertise at Sizwe is a vital resource in containing the outbreak of drug-resistant TB which needs to be retained and enhanced.

MEC Vadi must protect whistle blowers and act against corruption

The DA finds it very disconcerting that Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC, Ismail Vadi, chose to rather go after a whistle blower in his department than investigating allegations against his Head of Department.

Reports in yesterday’s Sunday Independent and today’s Star, suggests that Vadi has been loath to investigate the head of his department. The allegations he refuses to investigate are related to the potential irregular payments of R26.5 million and R600 000 respectively to service providers.

What makes matters worse is that Vadi has decided to keep quiet about his action, or lack of action, in these two cases as well and also decided not to lay criminal charges against his former HOD, Benedicta Monama, as reported last week.

It is time Vadi came clean about these allegations and I challenge him to utilise the opportunity he has in the Gauteng Legislature sitting scheduled for tomorrow.

I also call on the Premier to appoint an independent investigator to scrutinise these allegations of impropriety in Vadi’s department, as it now clear that the MEC is tainted.

Overspending by Department puts patients at risk

Foreign patients make up between 15% and 35% of the total number of patients at Gauteng hospitals, placing major strain on the health budget.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa said this in her presentation of the department’s First Quarter report to the Gauteng Legislature Health Committee last week on Friday.

She said that there was a need to look at other funding models for foreign patients whose numbers were not included in the equitable share from the national treasury.

The Department’s Chief Financial Officer described the financial situation as “seriously in distress”.

They have overspent by R456 million on compensation of employees and goods and services in the April to June first quarter of the financial year.

In contrast to this overspend, there was a R254 million underspend on capital despite the poor condition of hospitals and clinics which need to be renovated or rebuilt.

The overspend was caused largely by the payment of accruals from the previous year and the high cost of medical negligence payouts.

Priority has been given to paying small and medium companies and non-negotiable suppliers, but it was admitted that certain suppliers were not paid.

R600 million is normally paid every month for goods and services, but only about R450 million of this was being paid. This means that R150 million debt is accumulated every month – by the end of August it will amount to about R750 million.

Department officials said that medico-legal claims were escalating to “quite dangerous” levels, and they were looking at an “insurance model” to make these payments which were currently taken from the budget for patient care.

I am alarmed at the department’s precarious financial situation as they could run out of money by December this year.

This has compromised the fight against HIV/Aids as medical male circumcisions were “postponed because of cash flow” and 14.5 million male condoms were not distributed because of lack of funds.

I agree that national treasury should allocate more funds to Gauteng health to assist with the treatment of large numbers of foreign patients.

The mounting burden of negligence payouts is best tackled by improving the quality of health care and settling cases fairly and speedily out of court, thereby saving on legal fees.

I suspect that the Gauteng Health Department will have to receive a financial bailout this year, but this should be conditional on measures to ensure financial discipline as we need to drastically cut wasteful health spending.

ANC brings job creation hubs to grinding halt

The provincially managed Winterveld Enterprise Hub and the Mabopane Thusong Centre in Tshwane are adding little value to the lives of residents of the communities in which are situated, as they are either completely dysfunctional or plagued by ANC crony forces that exclude non-party members from making use of these facilities.

The Winterveld Enterprise Hub was established to support the informal automotive sector with the intention of training and developing the youth through the assistance of the Automotive Investment Development Centre (AIDC).

However, despite the hub being open, it is not completely operational, due to business instability.

Worryingly the local ANC ward councillor in the area has taken it upon himself to “run” the hub – making space only for those entrepreneurs that he deems fit from his ward.

Earlier this year, this led to clashes with community members who expressed dissatisfaction with the antics of the councillor. This matter has been reported by the DA to the Chief Whip of Tshwane as this hub is not for the sole use of ANC members, but for the benefit of all residents of the community.

Hollard, who had committed to partnering with the hub, also backed out of the partnership due to the uncertain nature of the hub’s business model.

Similarly, the Mabopane Thusong Centre is equally dysfunctional.

The offices to the centre are situated in an obscure location with absolutely no signage to indicate that a Thusong centre is located there.

While there are servers in place, which have been supplied by the Gauteng Department of e-Government, there are no computers in place to offer services to the community which the centre is supposed to serve.

What is abundantly clear is that this administration likes to talk a good game, but when it comes to implementation – the substance is lacking.

As part of its transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation agenda, sites such as these should be invaluable to kick-starting the province’s economy and creating self-sufficient entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately it is clear that this ANC-led administration has no tangible plans to assist the thousands of unemployed residents of Gauteng.

A DA government would ensure that centres such as these are fully operational and open to all members of the public, not just a select few. Come 2019 the DA will bring real change to the residents of Gauteng.

Madala Hostel: empty promises and empty flats

Residents of Madala Hostel in Alexandra are tired of empty promises from the Department of Human Settlements as on many occasions the Department had promised to maintain the hostel and convert it to family units but that has never materialized.

During the DA’s visit to this hostel we were distressed by the appalling and inhumane living conditions that our people are exposed to on a daily basis.

The hostel infrastructure is old, dilapidated and there is no maintenance. There is a shortage of toilets and bathrooms as both males and females are sharing what ablution facilities there are.

Although part of the hostel was burnt down in 2013, it has never been renovated by the Department. There is still no roof and the residents are living in fear of water leakages as we are approaching rainy season.

The DA also visited the vacant and incomplete River Park Flats that are also crumbling.

The walls are cracked, the doors are broken and the fence and bricks have been stolen.

These flats have been standing empty for almost seven years now. It is alleged that the developer was liquidated and could not finish the project.

This project is a complete waste of money and indicates a lack of planning from the Department.  The province has a housing backlog of more than 600 000, yet we have a number of housing projects that are incomplete.

The caring DA-led City of Joburg administration has allocated R100 million for the 2019/2020 financial year for the redevelopment of Madala Hostel.

We will hold Gauteng Human Settlements MEC, Paul Mashatile, to account to ensure that the River Park Flats project is complete and that Madala Hostel is redeveloped and maintained.

We will also be tabling questions at the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain the following:

·         Why is there no maintenance at the hostel?

·         Why has the part of the hostel that was burnt down in 2013 not been fixed?

·         Did the insurer pay for the fire damage, if the answer is yes, how much was paid and what was done with the money?

·         If the answer to the above is no, why has the insurer not paid for the damages?

·         What action steps has the department taken?

·         What plans does the department have for the hostel?

Bara baby horror

I am alarmed and saddened by the report today of poor care received by a woman in labour at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital that allegedly led to the death of her baby daughter.

Rudzani Molaudzi (22) says that she was “forced” to deliver her baby by herself last week at the hospital after being ignored for hours by staff while she was in labour.

When her baby was born, a doctor pronounced that she was dead without examining her. The baby then started crying and was rushed to ICU, but died nine hours later.

This latest incident comes after the disclosure by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature that 1338 infants died at birth at this hospital between 2014 and 2016.

The department claims that there is no negligent care at the neonatal and maternity units, but I really doubt this denial.

There are 15 vacancies at these units that need to be filled urgently and answers are needed about the many reports of poor care.

I have requested the Gauteng Health Department for an oversight visit to the hospital next week to find out why so many babies are dying or become brain-damaged because of negligence.

We need to know what the problems are at this hospital and what is being done to fix them.

Gauteng Government’s EPWP programme having little impact on the lives of residents

The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG), after years of defending its position, has finally admitted that the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) and the way it’s implemented by both local and provincial government in Gauteng, is in a shambles.

At a stakeholder meeting with the residents of Kagiso in the West Rand, Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure, Jacob Mamabolo admitted that the program was confusing and poorly administered.

MEC Mamabolo’s comments came about as a result of numerous complaints from residents about the fact that many participants of the EPWP were not paid on time or sometimes not at all, received differing amounts as a stipend every month, had unknown deductions made from the stipend and were not provided with skills or a certificate of participation in the program.

In addition, the program caused confusion by being called different names by different implementing agencies and participants being paid different amounts for the same work done.

The major flaw of the EPWP programme at a local level has been the allegations of corruption where ward councillors have turned the allocation of EPWP opportunities into party patronage networks. Some of these councillors have even allegedly gained financial rewards for “securing” job opportunities for people at a fee. In most cases, these positions have been exclusively reserved for ANC members.

The DA is opposed to the current set-up of the EPWP system in the province.

In the DA-run City of Cape Town, EPWP participants are selected in a lotto-style manner to rid the system of bias and political interference. In the municipalities where the DA governs in Gauteng, similar systems will be put into place to ensure fairness of selection.

Likewise, skills transfer is highly important and is a priority for the DA. Participants of EPWP programmes should obtain skills that they can then take with them to obtain better jobs and become self-sufficient.

The DA will continue to monitor the GPG’s roll-out of their EPWP programme whilst continuing to improve the lives of residents in the cities where we govern.

Huge bed shortage and poor facilities for psychiatric patients in Gauteng

Treatment of psychiatric patients in Gauteng is hugely compromised by a shortage of about 2700 beds and unsuitable facilities in bad repair.

This is my conclusion following a 22 page comprehensive written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature (Full reply can be accessed here).

According to norms for severe psychiatric conditions, there should be 28 acute psychiatric beds/100 000 people. There should therefore be 3780 such beds for 13.5 million people in Gauteng, but there are only 1058 beds.

A major problem is that many patients admitted to hospitals for the required 72 hour treatment and observation period are not placed in dedicated psychiatric wards.

Gauteng public hospitals admitted 18387 psychiatric patients in 2016, but 4425 of these (24%) were placed in ordinary wards with other patients.

The worst affected hospital is South Rand Hospital which had 2586 psychiatric patients last year, but 972 of them were placed in ordinary wards because the two psychiatric wards were full. This led to three psychiatric patients dying because they jumped from windows, and one patient raped another because of inadequate security.

The following hospitals have no dedicated psychiatric wards at all but still accept large numbers of psychiatric patients:

Pholosong – admitted 763 psychiatric patients in 2016
Far East Rand – admitted 711 psychiatric patients in 2016
Heidelberg – admitted 285 psychiatric patients in a general medical ward in 2016
Bheki Mlangeni – admitted 95 psychiatric patients in 2016

Other hospitals do have psychiatric wards but these are inadequate so many psychiatric patients are placed in other wards as per the following figures for 2016:

Thelle Mogoerane – admitted 1504 psychiatric patients, 1113 of whom were placed in general wards
Sebokeng – admitted 673 psychiatric patients, but 192 were placed in general wards
Tambo Memorial – admitted 507 psychiatric patients, but placed 214 in general wards
Jubilee – admitted 495 psychiatric patients, and placed 49 in general wards
Leratong – admitted 965 psychiatric patients, and only had to place 24 in other wards

Placement of psychiatric patients in general wards is not ideal as there should be special security measures both for their safety and the safety of others. A number of suicides, injuries and sexual assaults have already been reported at various hospitals for this reason.

Many of the psychiatric wards are in a poor state and need urgent repair.

The psychiatric ward at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital was meant to be upgraded ten years ago, but has been delayed by incompetent contractors who could not finish the job. The department says there are “plumbing challenges” at this ward – earlier this year patients could not take a bath or shower in the ward because of leaks into other wards. The latest projection is that ward renovations will be completed in May next year, which remains to be seen.

New psychiatric wards at Helen Joseph Hospital have also been delayed for many years by incompetent contractors. Ramokgopa says that the construction work has been suspended and work will commence after a contractor has been reappointed.

Psychiatric Ward 2 at this hospital has basic facilities but doors don’t close properly in the bathrooms, and there are no toilet seats. There is no facility to properly house contained patients – they are now put into lockable rooms with a moveable bed instead of an immovable/concrete bed.

Psychiatric Ward 3 at the hospital is ” an incomplete shell. No vinyl on the floor, no equipment, no beds or linen.”

The only psychiatric wards deemed to be in reasonable condition are at the Steve Biko, Chris Hani Baragwanath, Bertha Gxowa and Kalafong hospitals.

Problems at other hospitals include the following:

Thelle Moegerane (New Natalspruit) Hospital) – the bed capacity of the psychiatric unit is smaller than the previous Natalspruit Hospital and there is no CCTV in the ward.
Sebokeng Hospital – the current ward is not compliant to the provisions of the Mental Health Act.
Pholosong Hospital – the cubicles where the psychiatric oatients are admitted are not conducive for such patients. There is no seclusion facility for violent patients.
George Mukhari Hospital – the sewage system needs revamp. The seclusion rooms need refurbishment. Need an appropriate recreation room.
Tembisa Hospital – no space for Occupational Therapy Services

There are infrastructure problems at all the four specialized mental hospitals, with major renovations needed at the Weskoppies and Tara hospitals.

Cullinan Hospital

Only 8 out of 14 wards are functional at the Cullinan Hospital which has 285 beds for mentally retarded patients.

Sterkfontein Hospital

This hospital has 813 beds in total. Most of the wards are in acceptable standards but minor infrastructure defects arise intermittently.

Ward 11 is habitable but requires significant infrastructural renovations.

Ward 5 was found unsuitable for use and is currently closed.

Weskoppies Hospital

Ramokgopa’s reply gives four-and-a-half pages of detail on repair, maintenance and required upgrading at this hospital which has deteriorated alarmingly.

Of greatest concern is that Wards 8, 9, 12 and 13 were “Urgently renovated to accommodate Life Esidimeni patients. Presently not in good condition … the sewer line, water pipes and locking systems not addressed. Plumbing a great challenge.”

It is horrific that Esidimeni patients rescued from unsuitable NGOs are now in substandard wards at Weskoppies.

The High Risk Forensic Ward and the Observation Unit are not in good condition and need to be renovated.

Eight wards have been evacuated and are closed because they are in poor condition.

Other buildings at the hospital are also assessed to be needing repairs.

Unreliable electricity for shock therapy –

the building used for Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) does not have an uninterrupted power supply, and power failures have interrupted ECT, which is disastrous. An uninterrupted power supply is needed urgently, but is not budgeted for in this financial year.

A new 300 bed hospital is in the planning phase, with building meant to commence in 2018, but I doubt that this will happen given the past poor record in building hospitals.

Tara Hospital

There are 8 functioning wards with 137 beds but a myriad of faults and structural issues are listed.

Problems include the following:

Ward 1/2 – physical structure not conducive to the treatment of patients, space too small on the first floor. Adolescent patients may be able to jump through the windows. Courtyard and garden not usable as patients can abscond, so patients are kept indoors most of the time.

Ward 4/5 – there is no examination room, same room is used as a computer room. Cracked ceiling causes leakage during rainy season and all the rooms need painting.

Ward 6 – there are no rooms to conduct group sessions. No space to fit a bed for physical examination in the treatment room. No burglar bars in the kitchen and the TV room.

Ward 7 – leaking pipes, blocked toilets. Courtyard needs proper fencing. Security gate and CCTV cameras not working, high risk of patients absconding.

Ward 8 – roof and toilets leaking. The ceiling in the corridor leading to the courtyard is about to collapse.

Ward 9 has a variety of structural issues and becomes extremely cold in winter.


Psychiatric patients are very vulnerable, but present treatment facilities are grossly inadequate.

I am greatly concerned by the shortage of acute psychiatric beds and the poor state of many psychiatric wards in Gauteng.

The Esidimeni tragedy has focused attention on the plight of mental health patients but much more work is needed to provide consistent high-quality care for mental health problems.

Gauteng’s Infrastructure Department unable to manage its fixed assets

The Property Management Directorate within Gauteng’s Department of Infrastructure Development (DID), has as its prime responsibility the management and optimisation of Gauteng’s land and buildings, lease management as well as the disposal of the assets.

One of the directorate’s primary objectives is to maximise the amount of revenue earned from the leases of its residential, as well as commercial properties. In terms of policy, the leases must deliver market related rentals, an objective that the department has failed to achieve over many years.

Not only has the department lost track of many of the assets, resulting in deterioration, but its poor management has resulted in many of the assets being occupied illegally without leases.

As a result of the financial crunch, the department cannot afford to maintain its assets as it is legally required to do as a landlord. Thus a decision was taken to dispose of those assets not required by government for service delivery. The uncertainty created by this decision has resulted in many lease holders simply refusing to pay their rent.

The first quarterly report of the department indicated that only 14% of total expected rental was paid by lease-holders.

The Property Management Directorate is understaffed and under-budgeted and unless measures are taken to reverse this, will continue to underperform.

The impact of this is prejudicial not only in terms of the under-recovery of revenue, but also in terms of the impact to residential amenity caused by the deterioration of these assets.

I will question DID MEC Jacob Mamabolo to ascertain what steps will be taken to beef up performance of the Property Management Directorate, so that free-loaders, who in many cases are employees of government, are prevented from taking advantage of poor management.