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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health and its health portfolio committee have denied reports that they failed to account for R12 billion of its R26bn budget.
Their denial came after The Star reported last week that Auditor-General Terence Nombembe had found that the department’s accounting officer had failed to prevent “unauthorised, irregular, wasteful and fruitless” expenditure.
Nombembe, in his Public Finance Management Act audit report for the 2012/13 financial year, found that the health “accounting officer did not take effective steps to prevent unauthorised expenditure (note 11: R6 095 207 000), irregular expenditure (note 28: R5 748 235 000) and fruitless and wasteful expenditure (note 29: R408 050 000), as required by the section 38 of the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury regulation”. This adds up to R12.25bn.
Instead of challenging Nombembe’s report, both the department and the health committee chose to attack The Star for publishing the story.
Committee chairwoman Molebatsi Bopape claimed that The Star’s article was incorrect. The Star, however, stands by its report.
“The committee… can confirm that the claims of R12bn unauthorised expenditure by the department as reported in the The Star newspaper on Monday is incorrect. According to the report, this emerged in the Auditor-General Terence Nombembe’s findings when conducting an audit on the department’s 2012/2013 financial year,” said health committee spokeswoman Pfano Bulasigobo.
“The amount mainly consists of unauthorised expenditure, irregular expenditure as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure accumulated over a period of seven years. The amount of R6 095 207 000 that is reflected in the 2012/2013 financial statements as unauthorised expenditure is an accumulation of unauthorised expenditure balances from prior financial years.”
Bulasigobo said Bopape found it “concerning that these untrue and damaging claims should emerge as we approach elections”.
Health department spokesman Simon Zwane has also denied that it failed to account for more than R12bn.
He said the article misinterpreted concepts used by auditors such as unauthorised expenditure, irregular and wasteful and fruitless expenditure to mean that public funds could not be accounted for.
“In reality, an amount of R15.2bn was paid to over 63 000 employees. R2bn was transferred to municipalities for the provision of emergency medical services, public health care and HIV and Aids services.
“The department acquired assets to the value of R1bn, which was fully accounted for in the asset register for the department for medical equipments and hospital and clinic infrastructure,” Zwane said.
He also gave a breakdown of where the department had spent its money, saying that R1.2bn was paid for laboratory services, R3.7bn for medical supplies and medicines, R500 million for municipal services, R189m for blood and blood products, R818m was transferred to non-profit institutions, and R2.4bn to other goods and services.
Zwane contradicted Nombembe’s report, saying that unauthorised expenditure was R324m in the 2012/2013 financial year. While he tried to paint a rosy picture of the department, Nombembe, however, also found material underspending by the department.