BHISHO has stripped the beleaguered Health Department of responsibility for supply chain and human resources management.
In an effort to avert national intervention, Eastern Cape Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana said yesterday the provincial Treasury would manage the supply of services, materials and equipment.
The office of the premier would manage staff.
The department has had trouble recently with:
- Meeting the government’s 30- day deadline for the payment of small and medium businesses supplying public entities;
- The payment of about 7000 nurses and doctors;
- Ensuring a ready supply of medicines, including antiretrovirals for people infected with HIV;
- Hiring staff who had not been budgeted for; and
- Managing an escalating bank overdraft.
The provincial government’s move is in line with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) which allows the Treasury to assist departments to build their capacity for efficient, effective and transparent financial management.
Opposition members largely welcomed the move, but the UDM’s Max Mhlati said the national government, and not Bhisho, should have stepped in.
Announcing the intervention, Gqobana said he welcomed the partial implementation of section 18 (2) of the PFMA by the Treasury.
"These new measures are expected to strengthen financial weaknesses that have been identified in the Health Department and also to assist in turning around the department,” Gqobana said.
He said the Treasury would "provide direct support to the chief financial officer of the department in discharging financial management oversight”.
"In this regard, two senior officials from the provincial Treasury have been seconded to the department and are expected to report for duty on Monday,” Gqobana said.
He also said the office of the premier would take full responsibility for staff management, but authorisation of recruitment would have to come from the Treasury.
The department had, until recently, been at loggerheads with the Treasury over the payment of 7000 health professionals after it took away the department’s power to make payments.
Premier Noxolo Kiviet yesterday gave a thumbs up to the intervention, which was endorsed by her executive council on Wednesday.
"The responsibility of the office of the premier is, where there are weaknesses in the system, to offer intervention and give support where it is needed,” she said.
"It has always been the case that the two departments’ [Education and Health] weakest areas are that of supply chain management and human resources management.”
Kiviet also said her office had appointed specialists to be assigned to the two departments.
"Already specialists have been deployed to the Education Department, and it is now the turn for health.
"We are doing this so that there is smooth running of the department and to alleviate the pressures on the system itself in the department.”
The officials to be seconded to the department would work with superintendent-general Dr Siva Pillay, who would remain head of the department.
"It is support for him,” Kiviet said, adding that Bhisho had opted for the intervention because it still had capacity to support the department.
The DA’s John Cupido said the intervention made a lie of the department’s denials that it had any problems in human resources and supply chain management over the past two to three years.
"This proves there are problems and it does not end there. The money allocated to the department is not enough,” he said.
"However, the intervention is a step in the right direction,” he said, adding that the budget and how the department did things needed to be reviewed.
Mhlati said his party had long ago called on national government to take over the department because the province did not have the capacity to rescue it.
"The budget cuts in all the departments are done to salvage the Health Department, which continues to operate on overdraft,” he said.
Although he welcomed the takeover of the supply chain management, he doubted the capacity of the premier’s office to take over human resources.
Mhlati insisted the National Treasury should step in to clean up the department’s payroll.
Health portfolio committee chairman Mxolisi Dimaza said the ANC had long asked for the intervention as the department was riddled with human resources problems.
"We are very happy with the intervention,” he said.