Retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke who is chairing the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings into the death of more than 140 mentally ill patients in Gauteng. File photo: ANA/Brenda Masilela

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng government has spent R15.7 million so far on the Life Esidimeni arbitration hearings into the deaths of more than 140 mentally ill patients in Gauteng, and is expecting to pay a total amount of R47 million for all the costs of this alternative dispute resolution process, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

This was disclosed by Gauteng premier David Makhura in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng legislature, Gauteng MPL Jack Bloom said.

According to figures provided in the reply, the provincial treasury allocated R13.6 million for Esidimeni-related expenses in this financial year ending March 31, but R15.7 million was spent as at February 12, 2018, leaving a deficit of R2.1 million.

More than half the expense was spent on the Emoyeni Conference Centre as the venue for the hearings, which cost R8.4 million.

"This is grossly excessive, bearing in mind that Emoyeni is owned by the provincial government which has an arrangement with a private company to rent it out. I will be asking questions on how this can be justified and who has profited from this," Bloom said.

Other major expenses included community radio stations and newspapers for the announcement for families to register for the arbitration (R2,048,913); Mirror Effect Trading for video production and streaming services (R1,498,781); Werkmans Attorneys (R1,188,913); Vila Mora Express for transport services (R1,121,760); Wits Language School for sign language and interpretation services (R639,679); and Uwhakaziso Trading & Projects for recording services (R423,250).

According to Makhura “the expected approximate total amount is R17.6 million in the current financial year, R14.3 million in 2018/19, and R15.1 million in 2019/20.”

It remained to be seen if enough had been budgeted to cover the financial award that former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke would be announcing for the relatives of those who died. 

"Financial compensation is necessary but not sufficient for the Esidimeni tragedy, which also requires the criminal prosecution of all those responsible for the deaths," Bloom said.

African News Agency/ANA