Kimberley - Unions are calling for the immediate suspension of the acting HOD of the Northern Cape Department of Health, Dr Dion Theys, after he appeared in court this week on charges of contravening the Public Finance Management Act.
The charges relate to lease agreements for accommodation for nursing students, amounting to R96 million, that were concluded with the JP Hugo residence in 2014.
Theys was granted bail of R30 000 in the Kimberley Regional Court on Wednesday.
The provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa), Anthony Vassen, said that Theys was not fit to hold office at the Department of Health after being implicated in “such serious charges”.
“These allegations have dented the trust of clinical staff, including nurses, around the Province who risk their lives on a daily basis,” said Vassen.
He pointed out that during the period in question, nursing students had to live in harsh conditions at the JP Hugo hostels.
“They suffered immensely, having to bear very harsh living conditions as well as many issues around food which posed a direct threat to their health. Besides this, our nursing students continuously complained of the unprofessional, rude and racist behaviour of the landlord at that time. During our deliberations during this period it became clear that the building in fact belonged to Transnet. As Transnet was a state parastatal, we continuously raised concerns that the lease for accommodation for students should have been much cheaper.”
Vassen added that in the meantime, the accommodation of nursing students in and around Kimberley had not improved much.
“The half-completed building for nursing accommodation that is being constructed next to the Northern Cape Mental Health Hospital has become a white elephant. This has resulted in the Department of Health further spending millions per year on private contractors to accommodate and transport nursing students. This expenditure amounts to further mismanagement of funds, which in itself is corruption.”
Cosatu stated that while it was “thrilled” that the acting HOD of the Department of Health had been arrested, it believed that certain state officials were simply redeployed when they were implicated in wrongdoing.
Cosatu provincial secretary Orapeleng Moraladi pointed out that they were disturbed that the matter dated back to March 2014.
“It is only now, seven years later, that the law enforcement agencies decided to prosecute the matter,’ said Moraladi.
“This case is but one among others which involve the accused’s predecessor at the Health Department, former HOD at Education, the HOD at the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC), and the former municipal manager at Phokwane Municipality who is now the HOD at the Department of Safety and Liaison. All of them currently enjoy the privilege of either redeployment within other provincial departments or suspension with full pay and benefits.”
Moraladi said that it was discouraging that law enforcement authorities, including the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks, appeared to be moving at “a snail’s pace when dealing with corruption”.
“Law enforcement agencies should speed up the processes of arrest and prosecution and ensure that all those who are found guilty receive the maximum sentence.
“The federation is equally unimpressed by the talk show of the premier when it comes to corruption. Provincial government must walk the talk and stop paying lip-service.
“We demand thorough investigations on all these matters, including the personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal that robbed the country of millions of rand, and further demand the arrest of municipal officials who deduct workers’ pension fund monies and fail to pay such over to the fund.”
Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) in the Northern Cape indicated that it was “not shocked” by Theys’ arrest.
Nehawu provincial secretary Steffen Cornelius urged for the immediate suspension of Theys.
“The allegations levelled against him are serious and are gross in nature. He cannot continue to hold such an important task of running the department,” said Cornelius.
“We further demand that an investigation team be appointed from Treasury to conduct a forensic investigation at the Department of Health with immediate effect. Corruption will not be tolerated as it robs the poor and the working class of improved service delivery. Failure to adhere to this demand will lead us to mobilising our members for the withdrawal of our labour.”
Cornelius added that while they were continuously told by the acting HOD that there was no money to permanently absorb community health workers or appoint non-clinical staff, Theys was implicated in serious fraudulent activities involving a large amount of money.
“The department has been reluctant to investigate allegations of top officials inflating their salaries up to three times what they should be getting paid, while our members have been targeted and charged with frivolous and trumped-up charges by the same department when raising these allegations of misconduct.”
Neither the Northern Cape Department of Health nor the Premier’s Office responded to media enquiries regarding whether action would be taken against the acting HOD.