BLUNDERS by the Eastern Cape government have cost taxpayers more than R67-million on legal settlements this financial year – three times more than last year.
The health and transport departments were the biggest offenders with slip-ups costing them R43-million and R19-million respectively.
Health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department was currently defending 269 cases of medical negligence dating to 1999.
He said cases of medical negligence were crippling the quality of healthcare in the Eastern Cape because the department did not budget for lawsuits and settlements were seen as wasteful expenditure.
According to Kupelo, the majority of cases the department faced during the 2011-2012 financial year included caesarian section blunders and false HIV results.
The figures were released last week, after the DA’s Bobby Stevenson put the parliamentary question to the office of the premier.
Stevenson said the amounts paid for legal claims were alarming.
"This means funds which should be available for service delivery are being swallowed up by legal settlements,” he said.
According to the figures released by premier Noxolo Kiviet, although Bhisho settled more cases in the 2010-2011 financial year, there was a three-fold increase in the amounts paid out in 2011-2012.
In 2010-2011, R18-million was spent on 57 settlements across four provincial departments.
In 2011-2012, R67-million was paid out for 42 cases across six departments. This included:
- R43-million by the Health Department;
- R19-million by the Transport Department;
- R4.2-million by the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs;
- R375000 by the Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture;
- R90000 by the Education Department; and
- R31000 by the office of the premier.
Stevenson said: "Those responsible need to face disciplinary action so they are held accountable for their actions.”