Gauteng Health underspent R217m that could have paid for Esidimeni

Suspended Gauteng Health Department Head, Dr Barney Selebano, told the Esidimeni arbitration hearings yesterday that the contract with Esidimeni had to be cancelled because there was no money.

But the Department failed to spend R217 million of its budget last year, as revealed in the Department’s 2016/17 Annual Report.

This money would have covered an extra year for the 1700 patients at Life Esidimeni, which was paid R10 000 per month for each patient.

A study commissioned by the Department in 2015 showed that the contract for mental patients at Life Esidimeni was providing good value.

According to Selebano, the Department could have purchased the Esidimeni facilities for R100 million, which was another option that was not pursued.

The mystery deepens why former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu was so adamant about cancelling the Esidimeni contract even though she had the budget to pay for it and mental health professionals warned her about the consequences.

I am also concerned that Selebano said that he was aware of 36 deaths at the NGOs in July last year, but this was the same number of deaths that Mahlangu told the Gauteng Legislature in response to my questions on 13 September.

We now know that there were at least 77 deaths by September, so the Legislature was knowingly given a wrong figure.

Selebano needs to explain why the mounting death toll was covered up and why more was not done to prevent further deaths.