KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo. File picture

PIETERMARITZBURG - KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has come under fire from Members of the Provincial Legislature over his absence when his department appeared before the finance committee on Friday as part of budget hearings. 

Committee chairperson Sipho Nkosi told committee members that Dhlomo and Head of Department Dr Musa Gumede had been called by KZN Premier Willies Mchunu to an urgent meeting with Finance MEC Belinda Scott in Durban. 

The committee, however, expressed reservations over the absence, suggesting that Mchunu had undermined the work of the legislature. 

Committee member Cyril Xaba of the African National Congress said stronger measures had to be taken to ensure that MECs and the Premier attended meetings called by committees.

“We are accepting the MEC's absence begrudgingly and we hope that a precedence is not set for other members of the executive to do likewise. The Premier himself knows that he accounts to the legislature and therefore should respect the work of committees,” said Xaba.

Another committee member, Dr Imraan Keeka of the Democratic Alliance, said Dhlomo's absence deprived the committee of an opportunity to properly engage the MEC and HOD on the department's programmes, especially on how the department would arrest runaway expenditure.

The committee chairperson said a letter would be written to alert Speaker Lydia Johnson about Dhlomo’s absence and to ensure that MECs and the Premier placed emphasis on attending budget hearings and other meetings in the legislature. “We will put a full stop on this,” said Nkosi.  

While it is unclear why the premier called the meeting on Friday, the department has come under fire over the oncology equipment crisis which has seen cancer patients not receiving treatment timeously and the on-going go slow by mortuary staff in some parts of the province. 

African News Agency/ANA