Bloemfontein - The Free State health department on Wednesday denied a R1 million office upgrade took place while medical services were lacking.
The upgrade was “modest” and had been budgeted for separately from medical services, provincial health department spokesman Mondli Mvambi said.
“We have budgeted for the security upgrade of the MEC's office.”
He was reacting to Democratic Alliance MPL Mariette Pittaway's statement that “R1 million could be found for the luxurious refurbishment to the offices of health MEC Benny Malakoane and his head of department”.
Mvambi said the approved budget was from the previous MEC's term and necessary to prevent “leakages of information”.
These had happened because staff did not have separate private spaces.
“This compels us to put partitions in the offices of the MEC and head of department.”
He said wallpaper was stripped off and replaced by paint. Old chairs were re-covered and broken ones replaced.
Pittaway said the upgrade came at the same time as the department's contracted medical waste removals company, whose accounts were more than 90 days overdue, suspended services.
“This is completely unacceptable considering the financial crisis the department finds itself in due to financial and administrative mismanagement.”
Pittaway said health facilities in the province were “struggling to feed patients” and that some had run out of medicine and surgical equipment.
Mvambi said medical services were separately budgeted for.
“We are not experiencing any challenge with medication.”
He said the DA should not “go running to the media on false claims” and raise issues in the legislature.
Mvambi said the department was determined to provide medical care to the province.
Earlier this week, Pittaway said the department had entered the current financial year with a R700m shortfall, curtailing its ability to meet current financial obligations for salaries and medical services.
At the time Mvambi said the provincial leadership and Malakoane were working on the financial problems.
“There are financial constraints due to accruals. We are working on them.”