Gauteng hospitals’ maintenance backlogs of R2.5 billion puts the lives of patients and staff at risk

Many of our hospitals are simply falling apart and despite warnings to the Gauteng Department of Health, no steps have been taken since 2017 to remedy the situation. In addition, the longer the facilities deteriorate, the higher the cost to repair the damage.

See pictures here, here, here and here.

An explosive report was presented to the Health Portfolio Committee in Gauteng which highlighted the fact that there is a backlog of maintenance in the facilities that would cost an estimated R2.5 billion to fix.

The report highlights that some of the infrastructure issues may compromise the safety and health of patients, for example, theatres not being available, the inability to sterilise critical equipment, and not being able to provide food to patients.

This is reminiscent of warnings to the national government in 1998 to urgently build additional power-generating capacity. These warnings and recommendations were ignored and today our economy suffers the consequence of electricity shortages.

Whether the abdication of responsibility by the Health Department is based on incompetence or a lack of budget is not known, since the department has not provided input as to their failure.

Much of the mechanical equipment in the hospitals, which includes boilers, chillers, autoclaves, lifts, and generators have reached the end of its service lifespan and must be replaced. For example, of the 86 boilers, 45 have passed their expected service life of 30 years, some of which are more than 55 years old.

There is also a backlog in the refurbishment of facilities to deal with occupational health and safety regulations which are not adhered to.

This is expected to cost an additional 6 to 8 billion Rand to address.

The expectation of residents for a better future has been dashed by a government that has shown itself to be incapable of running a modern province, including the ability to manage infrastructure.

Although the Premier has announced he would remove the maintenance function from the Department of Infrastructure and transfer this responsibility to the health facilities themselves, there is now some doubt as to whether these facilities have the expertise and resources to do so. The DA will ensure that a lack of due diligence in terms of the Premier’s announcement will not exacerbate the already dire condition of health facilities. This is one of many empty promises made by Premier Makhura during his time in office, and it is high time that he vacates the office.

The government has dashed the hopes of citizens by depleting the fiscus to the point that it will take a very long time to plug the backlog. The DA will pressurise the Department of Health to reprioritise its budget to speed up the process of rectifying the maintenance failure.

Tourism continues to suffer as R2.9 billion Suikersbosrand Nature Reserve is in a state of disrepair

The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve at some point in the past was functional and attracted tourists. It was valued at R2,9 billion in 2009.

After years of missteps and mismanagement by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the reserve today has no tourism activity besides a few day visitors.

Failed projects to install water pipelines managed by the Department of Infrastructure Development resulted in the reserve closing its doors because of the fire risk. At some point, without water, the reserve opened its doors again and the risk of fire seemed to fall off the table.

Other bulk services such as electricity and sewerage are also problematic in terms of deteriorating infrastructure. The total estimated cost of restoring the bulk services is estimated at approximately R117 million.

Another risk to the future of this reserve as a tourist attraction is the poor security situation that exists. The fences are often damaged or stolen, the animals are sometimes poached, and all the while the performance of the security company hired to protect the reserve is questioned. Maybe some lessons could be learned from the Kruger National Park as to how to apply resources to protect visitors and wildlife.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, which is responsible for the reserves, has admitted that it does not have the expertise to encourage and manage tourism in Gauteng. Instead, they have employed a private transaction advisor to make recommendations as to how to commercialise the property. They estimate that a further R90 million would be required to attract a private partner via a Public Private Partnership.

When it was suggested that because of a lack of expertise, in order not to throw good money after bad, the reserve should be sold off to the private sector, members of the ruling party objected to the DA’s proposal.

There is a price to pay for a lack of expertise and competence. It is most unfortunate that the taxpayers of Gauteng are the ones to pay the premium for the government’s inability to manage professionally.


Gauteng residents continue to fork out money for nine suspended Anglo Gold Ashanti officials

Residents in Gauteng are still paying for the salary of nine officials from the Gauteng’s Department of Infrastructure Development and Health, seven months after their suspension.

The officials were suspended because of the irrational decision to spend more than half a billion rand on refurbishing the Anglo Gold Ashanti hospital.

Many months down the line there has been no movement in the case against these officials who are currently at home.

This is just another example of the administrative ineptitude of the government and calls into question whether a case exists at all.

The fact that this hospital was not utilised in the fight against Covid and today stands abandoned, adds weight to the argument that those responsible for this decision must be investigated for the waste of such a large sum of money.

The decision to refurbish this hospital was taken by the Covid Command Council, with Premier David Makhura and former MEC Bandile Masuku as its most senior political participants. Premier Makhura remains in office, while Masuku was removed as the MEC for Health.

Justice delayed is justice denied and while the officials are being paid salaries to sit at home, the politicians present themselves as crusaders against corruption while doing little to ensure that the matter is expedited.

The DA will continue to fight for this investigation to go ahead as the incompetence and wastage we see in this province must come to an end. It is high time that the current administration is replaced with a DA government that will spend our taxes openly and transparently.

Pupils failed as Gauteng refuses to investigate R82 million Mayibuye School project

The Gauteng administration is backtracking on an agreement to hold an inquiry into the failed project and waste of money that arose when the Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) built the Mayibuye Primary school on a sewerage line.
After spending R82 million, the project was abandoned and the incomplete buildings are deteriorating while politicians dither.

As a result of unsatisfactory answers from GDID as to why the project failed, the GDID Portfolio Committee sought permission to hold an inquiry into the Mayibuye project. This request was approved by the Speaker.

The Committee was shocked when at a subsequent meeting the Chairperson of the committee indicated that he was experiencing resistance from the administration and doubted whether the inquiry would ever go ahead.

The apparent reason for the concern expressed by the administration is that the contractor involved has threatened legal action. If the Department of Infrastructure has nothing to hide and has acted according to legislation, policies, and regulations, then they should not fear legal action from any quarter.

The hesitancy of the Gauteng Provincial Government to approve the investigation and allow a process to unfold to determine exactly what went wrong is very concerning.

We are concerned that someone is trying to hide the reasons why millions of rands in taxpayers’ money have once again been wasted by GDID on a critical project that will ensure better education facilities for our children.

The DA will continue to apply pressure to ensure the inquiry goes ahead. That is the least that the voters of Gauteng should expect from politicians who are tasked with spending hard-earned taxpayers’ money openly and transparently, and with their best interests at heart.

R59 billion Kopanong Precinct Project fails the construction industry

The Kopanong Precinct Project, which is meant to house officials of the provincial government in buildings in downtown Johannesburg, has failed an audit of the tender process because officials did not adhere to regulations and policies that control the awarding of tenders.

The hope engendered that the project would support the economy by stimulating the construction industry and job creation, has been dashed by the Department of Infrastructure Development’s manipulation of the tender processes to irregularly propose the appointment of companies for construction, as well as the operation of the precinct.

The project, which was first mooted in 2003, has been plagued by many false starts and has at some point been impacted by former Gauteng politicians such as Mbhazima Shilowa, Paul Mashatile and Nomvula Mokonyane.

In 2015, the Gauteng government announced that the project would be resurrected as a Public Private Partnership, that the construction valued at R7,5 billon would be carried out over 5 years and that the operation of the precinct over a 30-year period would cost the taxpayer R59 billion.

The audit report indicated that not a single bidder for the work was compliant with all the requirements. Some of the bids ignored mandatory pre-qualification criteria, submitted invalid equity ownership and BEE certificates, and did not comply with legislation related to sub-contracting of local labour. As a result, the audit report recommended that the tender be cancelled and re-advertised.

Despite this, there are voices within the administration that wish to ignore the recommendation of the audit report. There can be little doubt that legal action will stop the process in its tracks if the unlawful actions are not rectified.

The fact that in 2022 the process of evaluating tenders is deemed not to be compliant with prescribed legislation and policies, proves that the wheels of government turn very slowly and calls into question the motives of officials who ignore legislated regulations and policies. One would have thought that after the PPE scandal, officials would be more circumspect in evaluating tenders.

Government has lost the confidence of Gauteng residents due to years of inefficiency and wastage as a result government’s inability to efficiently implement high impact infrastructure such as the Kopanong Precinct.

One hopes that this manipulation is not a last gasp attempt by cadres to extract the maximum amount of money from the public purse before they are voted out of power in 2024.


Gauteng Department of Infrastructure’s Project Managers are not registered with professional bodies

The lack of professional project management skills impacts every project undertaken by government. This is especially so in the Department of Infrastructure Development, where of the 8 chief project managers, 17 project managers and 19 candidate project managers employed by the department, none of the chief or candidate project managers are registered with a professional project management body.

This has resulted in the department’s inability to complete infrastructure projects, resulting in most projects overrunning both time and cost estimates.

The lack of project management skills has a huge impact on the quality of life of Gauteng’s residents.

Examples of this are the project at Mayibuye Primary School which was initiated in 2015 and is currently abandoned because it was built on sewerage lines.

Another incomplete project is Braamfischerville Primary School which has come to a standstill after more than 4 years because the contractor has not paid the subcontractors.
The Khutsong South Clinic initiated in 2016 stands abandoned because the contractor walked off the site.

In addition, we have the Anglo-Gold Ashanti hospital where the government spent more than half a billion Rand to refurbish an unused hospital that belongs to a third party. This hospital was meant to provide 181 ICU beds for Covid, but was eventually not used for this purpose and today is a white elephant.

The project managers were appointed at a time when the Occupation Specific Dispensation for Engineers and Related Professionals legislation was being implemented. In terms of the legislation, it would not be possible to appoint these unregistered project managers today.

The Department of Infrastructure Development refuses to acknowledge the poor quality of project management and does not have the expertise to provide the type of support needed.
The cynical attitude of the department is a clear sign that they don’t care and cannot be trusted to do the right thing.

Come 2024, when the DA is part of government, we will take steps to ensure that skill levels are increased, and the requisite level of support is provided to project managers to improve the rate of successful project completion.

R700 million AngloGold-Ashanti Hospital not legally donated to the Gauteng Provincial Government

Gauteng Premier David Makhura and his MEC For Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara are now scrambling to find a way to legalise the donation of the Anglo-Gold- Ashanti Hospital after spending R700 million of taxpayers’ money on the hospital.

This mistake is scandalous on its own, but there is another aspect that the administration of Premier David Makhura is desperately trying to deflect.

Premier Makhura and his Covid-19 Command Council took an amateurish decision to spend this huge amount of public money on refurbishment and medical equipment to create just 181 ICU beds in response to Covid. That equates to R3,8 million per bed.

To make matters worse, this hospital was never used for its intended purpose and there are now discussions to decide how to repurpose it. That will cost additional money and time.

The absolute disregard for public funds is demonstrated by the fact that a new high-tech hospital can be built from scratch for this amount of money.

One would have thought that Premier Makhura and his Covid Committee would have had enough experience to question the cost-benefit of such a large expenditure, but clearly, they were found wanting. Not only does this poor decision-making erode trust in government, but it diminishes the hope that residents have for a more prosperous future.

Residents of Gauteng should take comfort in the thought that after 2024, any considerations undertaken by a new government will be carried out within the framework of professional decision making and an acute awareness of value for money.

Gauteng residents are left in service delivery limbo as GDID once again fails to deliver

The well-being of Gauteng residents is once again in jeopardy after yet another dismal performance by the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) for the fourth quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year.

GDID is critical to ensuring that basic services infrastructure such as public healthcare facilities, libraries and schools are delivered to our residents unhindered.

However, over the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted that this department is full of cracks that no amount of plastering will fix.

The fourth quarterly report indicates that the department failed to deliver on its targets set in the following areas:

• Only 50% of operational performance targets were met.
• Of a target of 24 projects, only 13 were completed.
• Wasteful expenditure of R26,8 million and irregular expenditure of R76,7 million was recorded.
• Of a target of 66 conditional assessments of Gauteng-owned buildings, not a single assessment was completed.
• Only 68% of the temporary job opportunities targeted for the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) programme were achieved.

This follows the shocking approval of a budget for the next financial year that is underfunded to the extent that it will prevent the department from meeting its mandate.

In addition, several projects may have to be postponed.

While this department is in a downward spiral ,the acting MEC Jacob Mamabolo pretends that all is well and whitewashes the poor performance of the department with gimmicks and propaganda.

None of this is unknown to the administration of David Makhura, who during the recent State of the Province Address (SOPA) debate lamented the fact that the Department of Infrastructure, because of its poor performance, is not able to meet its mandate.

He went on to strip the department of the responsibility to refurbish Charlotte Maxeke Hospital after the fire, as well as to maintain health facilities.

Despite this, Premier Makhura insists on allocating a budget of R3, 2 billion to the department, with no consequence mechanisms to ensure performance and efficient spending.

The only victims in all this are the residents of Gauteng. The fact that the department is unable to fulfil its mandate means that residents are subjected to longer waiting times at state healthcare facilities and will struggle to find a school near where they live for their children.

The only solution is that Premier Makhura gives in to the demands of the DA and places this department under administration with immediate effect.

Patients suffer as Gauteng government has little to show for maintenance spend

Many Gauteng residents who are solely dependent on the public healthcare services will continue to endure poor or no services due to the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development’s (DID) poor contractor performance and poor management of hospital maintenance projects.

DID has overspent the hospital maintenance budget by 120%, while only 67% of maintenance projects were completed. In addition, the value of invoices that were not paid because of cash flow problems amounted to R280 million and this amount, called an accrual, must be paid out of this year’s budget.

This information was revealed during the Gauteng’s Portfolio Committee of Infrastructure Development (GDID) meeting last week which highlighted that the maintenance programmes of hospitals are on the brink of collapse.

At the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, the budget was overspent by 248% with an 82% project completion rate while at Charlotte Maxeke, the budget was overspent by 138% with a project completion rate of 72%.

To add insult to injury, the maintenance budget for this year has been cut by 17%.

Furthermore, none of the Gauteng hospitals is compliant with the Health and Safety regulations. The estimated R5 billion to remedy this situation is not available to the Gauteng fiscus.

This, together with the poor maintenance will result in the progressive downward spiral of the physical condition of hospitals, an issue which impacts negatively on the quality of health services in the province.

Premier David Makhura and the MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara must be held accountable for creating the infrastructural wasteland in our hospitals.

The DA will be closely monitoring the maintenance of our hospitals, and their adherence to the policies and processes put in place to ensure that basic services are delivered to our residents.

Why is the government so bad at implementing infrastructure? 

By Alan Fuchs MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Infrastructure Development 

A string of failed infrastructure projects across the country and in Gauteng have given rise to a huge backlog of infrastructure. This impacts negatively on the economy and kills any hope that citizens have of a better future. In a meeting with development financiers President Ramaphosa said that in recent years, the government has witnessed the accelerated deterioration of some of its most important assets required to improve the quality of life of citizens. 

At last year’s Sustainable Infrastructure Development Symposium, he said that the infrastructure backlog was so immense that it would take billions of rands and decades to fill the gap without the contribution of the private sector. During this year’s State of the Province Address (SOPA), Premier Makhura finally admitted that the poor performance of the Infrastructure Development Department in Gauteng has had a negative impact on service delivery and job creation.  

 So why is the government so bad at implementing and maintaining infrastructure?  

It should come as no surprise that one of the major contributing factors is the lack of skills and expertise in the public sector. The haemorrhaging of technical engineering and financial skills has contributed significantly to the bleak state of public infrastructure. The situation is exacerbated by ideological considerations such as BEE, employment equity and cadre deployment, which do not necessarily result in the appointment of the most skilled applicants for a position or contractors for a tender.

Any skilled professional worth their salt is naturally attracted to the private sector as working in government is associated with chaos, lack of discipline, wastage, and inefficiency. The loss of necessary skills has undermined all aspects of infrastructure implementation from planning and design to project management, asset management and maintenance. 

Then, of course, there is the vexing question of corruption. It takes many forms including fraud, or more subtle forms such as rent-seeking, abuse of power or patronage. Procurement systems enable the appointment of ‘connected’ middlemen who inflate the costs and provide kickbacks to officials and political parties.  The wilful subversion of government decision making processes gives rise to the extraction of billions of rands which land in the pockets of the manipulators. 

The emergence of so-called “business forums”, which demand participation in projects and resort to violence and project stoppages if they do not get their way, is becoming more prevalent. 

If not thwarted by robust policing and an agile criminal justice system, the dream of infrastructure development that supports the economy and job creation is pie in the sky. This criminal activity exacerbates the inability of the public sector to spend the available budgets allocated to projects.  

One cannot underestimate the impact of bureaucratic red tape and regulatory framework inefficiency on the ability of the state to implement and manage infrastructure.

The regulatory framework needs to be re-engineered because more than sixty per cent of any development process is currently spent on obtaining statutory approvals, twice as long as it takes for construction. The cost of these delays is borne by the taxpayer.

In addition, not only do public sector developments have to adhere to the same statutory approvals that private sector projects do, but public projects are further impacted by extremely slow and complicated procurement processes, decision-making and inter-governmental regulations, which results in regular under-expenditure of budgets.

A very important aspect that prevents efficient infrastructure implementation, but which is not visible to those outside of government, is the question of governance in terms of how and where decisions are made that affect infrastructure implementation.  

The institutional governance model in Gauteng has several weaknesses.  

There are numerous participants in the creation of infrastructure including the different levels of government, SOEs, government agencies and the private sector.

It is essential that their activities are coordinated by a single vision that ensures the strategic objectives of growth and spatial coherence. That is currently not the case because of a lack of coordination.  

In the case of Gauteng, this vision exists as the Gauteng Provincial Government Spatial Development Framework 2030 (GSDF 2030). This document gathers dust inside the cupboards of officials and politicians and in addition, has weaknesses such as a distinct lack of linkage between policy and implementation. Within the Gauteng government, there are several departments that implement social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and economic infrastructure, such as roads. The scarce skills that exist are thinly spread across these departments and are diluted to the extent that the quality of output is poor.

It would make much more sense if the scarce skills in terms of planning, design, financial management as well as data analytics were centralised. The individual departments that currently implement would then be stripped of responsibility for planning and design and only be responsible for implementing the plans developed by the centralised, strategic, multi-disciplinary infrastructure entity.  Every one of the impediments mentioned above has a solution but requires skill, experience and commitment to fix them. There is doubt that the current government has the wherewithal to do so, hence the promise of an infrastructure-led economic recovery will remain a distant dream until this government is removed.