The Gauteng Health Department is delaying the announcement of findings of a forensic investigation into suspected financial irregularities at the provincial medicines supplies depot in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
The investigation was commissioned in the hope that the investigation will uncover financial corruption and help reduce the costs associated with the depot’s services.
The services of the Gauteng medicines supplies depot costs the provincial health department R250 million per month. The huge bill is a thorn on the side of the ailing provincial health system. The department commissioned a forensic investigation into the finances of the depot and in October, Health MEC Hope Papo said he would be having the findings of the audit and would have recommendations of what process to follow before the month ended.
“The depot costs us R250 million per month. We hope that we’ll actually take the cost down. We are going to be getting a report on the investigation on the medical supply depot. That report will actually tell us whether there is wastage in that depot or not; and the actions we need to take. It’s part of the work which the HoD and myself are working on this month to ensure that the month doesn’t end without recommendations on the table on what we are going to do once we get the final report on that forensic investigation. We hope by the end of this month we would have had recommendations and an action plan in relation to that investigation”, Papo said at the time.
The forensic investigation was commissioned by the former head of health, Dr Nomonde Xundu, who found the medicines supplies depot’s bill to be abnormal. But almost a month later, Papo’s office hasn’t released the findings of the investigation. Requests for interviews regarding the findings have gone unanswered. But at today’s question and answer time in the Gauteng legislature, MEC Papo is expected to give an oral reply to a written submission by the Democratic Alliance’s provincial spokesperson on health, Jack Bloom, with regard to the findings of the forensic audit.
“The DA wants to know what were the findings, how much money did we lose from this scam that we think is going on at the medical supplies depot and what are the recommendations of this forensic investigation and, finally, what action is being taken based on the recommendations and findings of this report”, says Bloom.
Bloom says he believes that the investigation has uncovered shocking fraudulent activities and corruption and the audit report needs to be released urgently.
“We need to know the truth about this forensic audit. My view is, I think, the rot goes very, very deep. That’s why we’re seeing delays in announcing the findings of this report. We need to know what the findings were. I want to know how much money did we lose… how much was stolen. I think there’s a lot of fraud and corruption in that medical supplies depot. The public need to know and we need to know what’s going to be done about it to fix up this shocking situation”, he says.
According to Bloom, corruption and mismanagement at the depot are the root causes of the shortage of medicines supplies that hit the province’s health facilities towards the end of last year.
To date, the province has not fully recovered from that shortage, with the depot having just around 70% stock of essential drugs.
“I think there were probably fraudulent orders to certain companies, we’re probably being grossly over-charged by certain companies – that’s on the one hand. And, then, there is just unbelievable mismanagement – companies not being paid. And companies that are not paid for whatever reason – those companies don’t deliver medicines. So, we have a situation of extremely poor management where drugs are not delivered on time and we seem to have lost an enormous amount of money through fraud, corruption… who knows what was going on there”, he says.
It is hoped that today’s sitting of the Gauteng legislature will shed some light into the secrecy surrounding the much-awaited findings of the forensic investigation into the medicines supplies depot.