R40m wasted on unaccredited DUT courses for mortuary staff
The funds were paid to train people as mortuary technicians at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in about 2008, but the course was not recognised by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) or the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Mortuary technicians dissect bodies for forensic pathologists to examine.
Pawusa provincial secretary Halalisani Gumede said they wrote to the department last year requesting an investigation and the possible recovery of the money spent on the course.
Gumede said that in a written reply dated February 21, the department said the matter had been closed because irregularities could not be identified due to a lack of relevant documents.
“The money paid to DUT cannot be recovered. Their facilities were used and some DUT staff assisted in the course. The department does not have grounds to challenge the amount paid to the institution. Even though there are no disciplinary process records, it is evident that the department dealt with the matter as the officials’ service was terminated. The course was abandoned due to challenges with the HPCSA and the SAQA,” reads the written reply.
The reply, signed by Vukani Dlamini, the department’s risk assurance management services head, stated that the department received funds for the development of the 2007/08 curriculum in 2006.
A former senior department employee and two consultants arranged for the mortuary technicians to be registered with the HPCSA.
For the course to be registered with the HPCSA, it had to be presented by an institution accredited by SAQA and the Department of Higher Education.
However, the health department had managed to get the course registered only with the Higher Education Department, and not with SAQA and the HPCSA.
The HPCSA declined to register the course and the training was postponed after running for two years.
The health department’s reply states that the senior department official involved in the initial stages of the course was suspended in November, 2009, and then later retired, while the contract of the two consultants was terminated.
In 2010, the university distanced itself from the arrangements and the course was abandoned, reads the reply.
Gumede said the department was short of professional technicians and that the lost money could have been better used to recruit or train more people in the speciality.
“How can we lose money for an unaccredited course? We have a situation where workers embark on go-slows because of non-payment for multi- tasking.
“The department, since it took over the mortuary services from the police in 2006, has been using people from different units to assist as technicians or assistant technicians.
“We now know that the money wasted will not be recovered and all will be left like that. The provincial health department is sick,” Gumede said.
Mary de Haas of the Medical Rights Advocacy Network said staffing issues were central to the current “dysfunctionality” of the mortuaries.
“It is illegal for unqualified people to work with human tissue, and has the potential for litigation against the department. The department has been violating the Health Professions Act for too long,” De Haas said.
Health department spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said: “It is regrettable and unfortunate that attempts by the department to upskill forensic pathology staff through this training programme were thwarted by administrative challenges.
“In a bid to ensure transparency and accountability, the department conducted a thorough internal forensic investigation into how this process was administered, and not a single person was found guilty of any offence.”