DA Gauteng MPL Jack Bloom. File picture: DA/Supplied

Johannesburg - The Gauteng Health Department paid R174 000 to the law firm that gave legal advice to terminate the Life Esidimeni contract for mental health patients, a decision that led to huge trauma and the deaths of at least 144 patients who died after being moved to ill-equipped facilities, Jack Bloom, a Democratic Alliance MPL in Gauteng, said on Wednesday.

Bloom said this information was revealed on Tuesday by the provincial department of health in a reply to his questions in the Gauteng legislature.

“According to the reply, Ngcebetsha Madlanga Attorneys (NMA) advised that six months’ notice had to be given to exit the contract in terms of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) signed with Life Esidimeni. This simple legal advice cost an outrageous amount of money and could have been done by the department’s own legal experts who deal with SLAs with a wide range of organisations."

"It is definitely fishy that NMA was given this job, as well as other jobs that earned this law firm R103 million in total from October 2014 to September 2017," said Bloom.

He said NMA was also used to oppose the two court applications that tried to stop the transfer of mental health patients to unsuitable NGOs where the 144 patients died. They were also the personal lawyers for former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu before she was called to testify at the Esidimeni Arbitration Hearings.

"A disturbing association that makes me suspect that she irregularly favoured them to ensure they got lots of legal work from the Department," Bloom added.

"The large bills by NMA should be scrutinised by the Law Society so that money can be recovered for any overcharging which seems to be likely," concluded Bloom.

African News Agency (ANA)