Gauteng Health headless in the middle of a pandemic

The announcement that Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku will be on leave of absence for at least four weeks in the wake of a tender corruption scandal exposes the complete brokenness of ANC rule in Gauteng. Real leadership cannot be expected from the appointment of Jacob Mamabolo as acting Health MEC at this crucial time as he has no health background or prior knowledge of this department.

Masuku was brought in to fix the long-running management problems in the Gauteng Health Department and was energetic in filling vacant hospital CEO posts and responding to certain pressing issues. Yet, he could not explain away the sudden resignation of Chief Financial Officer Kabelo Lehloenya at the end of May amidst allegations of PPE contract irregularities.

It is utterly incredible that this department is again embroiled in scandal a few short years after the deaths of 144 mental patients in the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

It seems that corruption is too embedded in the ANC to be easily removed, and the usual vultures swooped in to take advantage of the millions being spent to counter Covid-19. Meanwhile, many hospital staff do not have proper PPE and have become infected by the virus.

We now have a headless department in the midst of a pandemic, and Premier David Makhura should also be held accountable for this disaster. He appointed Masuku and failed to effectively monitor what was happening in his department. He failed with Life Esidimeni and he is failing now.

GEP uses Covid-19 pandemic as excuse for not meeting youth training targets

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that the Department of Economic Development in the province is using the Covid-19 pandemic as one the reasons why it did not meet its target set for the Youth Accelerator Programme.

This information was revealed to me by the MEC for Economic Development, Winifred Mosupyoe to my written questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

In the department’s fourth quarter report for the 2019/2020 financial year it was revealed that the target set for this programme which is administered by the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) was only partially met.

For the previous financial year, the department had a target of training 450 youth as part of the Youth Accelerator Programme, but the department only managed to train 239 youth.

This trend of not meeting critical training targets is becoming a norm for GEP.

Training programmes like the Youth Accelerator Programme is important as it will equip our youth with skills needed to find sustainable job opportunities or to become entrepreneurs.

The constant underperformance of this entity has a negative impact on the fulfilment of its core mandate which is to promote, foster and develop small enterprises in the province.

Entities like GEP play an important role in boosting the economy and helping particularly the youth to establish their own businesses, which in turn allows them to create job opportunities in their own communities.

The DA will be closely monitoring the measures put in place by GEP to ensure that they meet the targets set for the Youth Accelerator Programme for this financial year.

Bara hospital battles Covid-19 with staff shortages and inferior PPE

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is currently treating 280 Covid-19 patients, the highest number in Gauteng, but is short of staff, and management is concerned that some personal protective equipment (PPE) is substandard.

This was revealed yesterday in a presentation by the hospital to the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee.

The hospital has 7 132 approved posts but 846 (12%) are currently vacant, including 8 out of 19 management posts (42%) and 167 out of 886 administration posts (20%). They are also short of 280 nurses and 71 doctors. This shortage is worsened by the high number of staff off sick because of Covid-19.

More staff is being hired, but according to the presentation “the funds allocated do not meet 50% of what was initially requested”, and the hospital “is trying to do more with less amidst Covid-19 infections amongst staff.”

Problems with PPE for staff include the following:

  • non-availability of stock from contracted suppliers;
  • sub-standard quality; and
  • long lead times of delivery.

This shows how the poor choice of PPE suppliers, which is probably because of corruption, has put the lives of hospital staff at risk.

Contractors are now rushing to complete 500 extra beds at Baragwanath hospital in addition to the 480 beds designated for Covid-19 patients out of 2680 total beds. But these beds will require staff that have not yet been hired by the hospital.

Other public hospitals in Gauteng face similar challenges. The reality is that years of neglect and poor staffing in our hospitals is hindering the fight to save as many lives as possible from the Covid-19 pandemic.

DA welcomes Prasa arrests

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng welcomes the arrests of a Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa is a South African (Prasa) manager and a former employee found in possession of R2 million worth of railway equipment. Prasa’s services in Gauteng has been brought to a halt due to theft and vandalism of its infrastructure to the point that only one of their lines, Pienaarspoort, is currently operational.

The DA estimates that the damage to and theft of infrastructure, especially during the lockdown, runs into tens of millions of rand, a price tag the agency cannot afford.

This is once again confirmation that the protection of railway infrastructure in Gauteng requires urgent improvement to prevent a break in services. A combination of technology and police services should be used to protect railway infrastructure in the province.

If this does not happen, Prasa trains will not find their way back to their tracks and Gauteng commuters will be left stranded. It will also place pressure on other straining public transport systems that will struggle to absorb the additional load.

Public transport is a key economic determinant in Gauteng, the country’s economic powerhouse. It is therefore crucial that all public transport in the province operates at full capacity if we wish to grow the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Urgent attention must be given to the protection of Prasa’s infrastructure. If this does not happen it will have dire economic consequences for Gauteng and the country.

DA calls on MEC Maile to investigate who pays for Sedibeng Municipal Manager’s two bodyguards

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Lebogang Maile to investigate who is paying for the Sedibeng Municipal Manager’s two bodyguards.

According to MEC Maile, there is no service provider that was appointed by the Sedibeng District Municipality to provide protection to the Municipal Manager. The Sedibeng District Municipality is not paying for the bodyguards of the Municipal Manager.

MEC Maile was responding to the DA’s written question tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

It is alleged however that a service provider in Sedibeng District Municipality is paying for the Municipal Manager’s bodyguards which contradicts MEC Maile’s response.

Should these allegations prove to be true, the MEC should investigate how this service provider was awarded the tender by the Sedibeng District Municipality. They should also determine whether the Municipal Manager influenced the awarding of the tender to the service provider and what the reasons are for the service provider paying for the Municipal Manager’s bodyguards.

The DA calls on MEC Maile to urgently initiate an investigation to determine who pays for Sedibeng Municipal Manager’s two bodyguards.

Gauteng must fix its yo-yo Covid-19 hospital figures

The Gauteng Health Department’s daily figures for Covid-19 patients in hospital lack credibility as they yo-yo up and down and appear to exclude many public hospitals.

Yesterday the hospitalization figure was given as 5007, on Saturday it was 3617, and on Friday it was 7193, whereas it was as low as 2417 on the Tuesday before.

It appears that the large jump last week was because patients from the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital were included for the first time. How can it be that our largest hospital was not reporting Covid-19 figures for such a long time?

I suspect the real total figure is closer to 10 000 as most of the public hospitals are not reporting their figures and one can expect that between 15-20% of active cases would be hospitalized.

The department needs to give accurate total figures for Covid-19 hospitalizations so that we can properly track progress in fighting this pandemic.

Gauteng’s 2020/2021 budget adjusted by R4 billion for Covid response

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes today’s special adjustment budget that was delivered by the MEC for Finance and e-Government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko for the 2020/2021 financial year.

During the tabling of this special adjustment budget it was clear that the impact of COVID-19 on the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) expenditure budget is minimal and that the bulk of the additional funding would come from reprioritizing current departmental budgets through savings.

But the DA is concerned about the serious impact this has on the financial sustainability of our local municipalities.

During her special adjustment budget speech, the MEC announced an upward adjustment of R4 billion from the March budget that was tabled.

Economic relief measures are being implemented to assist the economy to recover and build a new economy. While we welcome this, it is a little too late as we have seen many businesses close because there were no relief measures in place earlier.

Whilst Growing Gauteng Together projects remains a priority this government needs to be proactive when it comes to protecting businesses and jobs in the province.

Furthermore, the MEC reiterated that fiscal sustainability remains critical.

The additional funds were allocated to the following departments:

  • R2.1 billion for Health for phase 1,2 and 3 of HR capacitation and R786 million for Covid 19 infrastructure relief
  • R5.2 billion for Education for getting schools ready, financing catch up programmes, screening of teachers and pupils  as well as for water and sanitation
  • R257 million for Social Development for PPE equipment and shelter for the homeless
  • R46.5 million for Community Safety for community patrollers and overtime for traffic officers
  • R79.4 million for Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture for artists and sporting professionals

In addition, the MEC also stated that safeguarding our residents’ livelihoods is important and government needs to make sure that their hard earn taxes are used appropriately so that there is value for money.
Some of the savings that provincial government made came from the delays in filling vacant posts, since the HR capacitation has prioritised filling vacancies in the Health Department, leading to other departments delaying the filling of vacant positions.

The DA will be supporting this budget on a conditional basis.  I will be closely monitoring how this new budget is spent to ensure that all the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) departments and entities adhere to the regulations put in place by National and Provincial Treasury. In addition, there should be transparency and accountability in order to eliminate corruption and inflating of prices by the suppliers.

Maile’s department neglects provincial rental stock in Eldorado Park

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is shocked to learn that the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has for months now not done any maintenance at the provincial owned rental flats in Eldorado Park.

There is a severe lack of proper regular maintenance at these flats.

These flats are dirty, there are sewer and drain blockages with raw sewage flowing all over the yard and outside the flats to the main road.

There are serious plumbing and electrical faults that are putting the lives of residents at risk.

At some of these flats the roofs are loose and there are structural challenges and water leakages.

The most affected flats are Goud Street flats, Hillbrow flats block M, N, P and Q, Block 47 and 52.

There is also a unit 77 B which was burnt down in 2015 and to date it has not been fixed and the tenant still does not have a proper place to stay.

See photos here, here, here and here.

The conditions in these flats are appalling, unsanitary and pose a health risk to its residents.

The department is aware of these maintenance issues and has, on several occasions, promised to fix, however, to date no maintenance has been done.

It has been over four months now and the department’s Supply Chain Management is still in the process of appointing a maintenance contractor for these flats.

The residents claim that it usually takes a long time for maintenance to be done and that for the last three years the grass has not been cut.

This clearly indicates that this department cares little about ensuring that our people have proper dignified housing.

The DA calls on the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Lebogang Maile to ensure that his department speed up the process of appointing service providers to do maintenance at these flats. We will also table questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to ascertain when last maintenance was done at these flats, why there has been no proper regular maintenance and how much budget has been allocated for maintenance.

There must be no cover-up of fishy Gauteng PPE contracts

I am concerned by the disclosure in today’s Sunday Independent of close ties between ANC Johannesburg Councillor Loyiso Lugayeni-Masuku and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko, whose husband Thandisizwe Diko reportedly scored R125 million in contracts to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the Gauteng Health Department.

Clr Lugayeni-Masuku is the wife of Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku, which raises suspicions about improper influence in awarding the controversial PPE contracts.

According to photos on their Facebook pages, the Masuku and Diko families are close friends who attend events together, and the wives were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings.

ANC sources allege that the award of contracts to Thandisizwe Diko’s company Royal Bhaka Projects (RBP) was part of a fundraising strategy to assist Clr Lugayeni-Masuku to win the position of Chairperson of the ANC Johannesburg regional conference. She also seems to be ambitious to be Mayor of Johannesburg.

There now appears to be a witch hunt against finance and supply chain staff at the Gauteng Health Department by moving some of them to the NASREC command centre.

Premier David Makhura has promised to announce details of Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigations this week, but I am skeptical that there will be real consequences for corruption.

We have seen far too many investigations drag on and never get to court. Ten years ago President Jacob Zuma signed a president proclamation for a SIU investigation into R2 billion fishy contracts at the Gauteng Health Department which implicated former Health MEC Brian Hlongwa, but no one has yet been charged. And where are the criminal charges against those who were culpable for the deaths of 144 mental health patients in the Life Esidimeni tragedy?

It is outrageous that anyone could seek to profit from the COVID-19 crisis in Gauteng, while health staff complain they don’t have enough PPE to protect themselves and many have become infected, placing further strain on our hospitals.

There should be no cover-up of any corruption in the PPE contracts and swift prosecution should follow for those involved.

I have tabled questions in the Gauteng Legislature concerning the fishy contracts and will insist on answers and proper accountability.

Fiscal discipline needed as Gauteng tables 2020/2021 special adjustment budget due to Covid-19

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes that the MEC for Finance and e-Government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko will tomorrow, 23 July 2020 table a special adjustment budget for the 2020/2021 financial year due to Covid-19.

The budget will be tabled during a hybrid sitting of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) tomorrow.

In an unprecedented move, a second budget will be tabled because of the Covid-19 pandemic which has necessitated that government provides additional funding to help curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Gauteng’s revenue has declined due to the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore it will become critical to plan for daily cash flow requirements.

The DA is calling on the MEC to ensure that serious consequences are imposed for violations of budget rules including withholding of funds.

Furthermore, the DA is concerned that additional money might be allocated without a detailed plan. Therefore, additional money allocated must be focused on spending priorities, as this will create a balance in cost mitigation and the enforcement of efficiencies. In terms of the local government equitable share each municipality will determine how best to use the funds to respond to local pressures.

Provinces had to reprioritize R20bn from the Provincial Equitable Share to Covid-19 from their own budgets. The main concern with this is that the criteria for reprioritization per province was not clearly determined. Each province has a different disease risk profile.

Local government is impacted more than provincial government when it comes to the reprioritization of funds. Local government conditional grants will decrease by 8.9% from R51.4 billion to R46.8 billion in this special adjustment budget. This at a time when local government’s revenue has severely declined because of an increase in indigents, provision of water and sanitation to informal settlements and homeless shelters.

The reprioritization of some grants will in the long run affect service delivery and result in the deterioration of infrastructure with the potential of escalating costs in the future.

Provincial departments will also need to adjust their business plans in a short space of time to accommodate reprioritized spending.

In order to adequately address the Covid-19 pandemic it will be important to see an increase in funds allocated to the public health system, schools and social welfare services.

Ensuring that the public health system runs smoothly is critical as Gauteng is now the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, we are also seeing patients from other provinces coming to Gauteng for proper treatment because their own public health system is failing them.

Now more than ever fiscal discipline, accountability and transparency regarding spending is needed.

Furthermore, there needs to be a critical balance of the adjustment budget versus our people going hungry.

There should be value for the money being spent by the departments and they should ensure that no one benefits at the expense of the residents.

For this to be achieved departments should adhere to the National Treasury regulations regarding emergency procurement for the Covid-19 pandemic and emergency Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes.

The DA will be closely monitoring how this new budget is spent to ensure that all the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) departments and entities adhere to the regulations put in place by National and Provincial Treasury. In addition, there should be transparency and accountability in order to eliminate corruption and inflating of prices by the suppliers.