Levy Mosenogi, the head of the project which saw 118 Life Esidimeni patients die apologised to the families after his testimony before the arbitration hearing on Wednesday.
Mosenogi, who asked for permission to address the families of the mentally ill patients who died after they were moved to a number of unlicensed NGOs, said both he and the families needed to heal.
"I had said that I had a foreboding... I have tried my best to do what I could.
"On my behalf, I want to apologise... It was difficult for you," he said as some of the family members broke down weeping.
Earlier, he testified that he only found out about their deaths through the media.
Mosenogi, the director of planning, policy and research at the Gauteng health department, said he hadn't been aware that patients were dying or that patients had been transported on the back of bakkies, with some of them tied down.
"To my knowledge, it didn't happen. I read about it," he said after being asked about the allegations, and the health ombudsman's report that patients were transported on the back of bakkies.
Mosenogi was pushed by the chairperson of the hearing, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, to answer the question about patients being tied down while they were transported, but again, Mosenogi said he wasn't aware of this.
Throughout the morning, Mosenogi struggled to answer questions, and his answers were vague.
Asked about whether he had raised his concerns about the project with anyone other than former health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, Mosenogi said he had raised it with his prayer group and his ANC branch.
Family members crying as an emotional Levy Mosenogi apologises for the #LifeEsidimeni tragedy pic.twitter.com/LWAMG9vGD8-- Sikelelwa Mdingi (@SikiGeyaMdingi) October 11, 2017
Mosenogi admitted that he and the department could have done better.
"I think the Gauteng Department of Health has been very unstable in terms of management," he said