Media Statement by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas on the interventions at the Department of Health

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Members of the Executive Council
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen


As you are aware by now, the Department of Health, for the past two months has seen and experienced the most devastating protest action in recent times. This state of affairs is most unfortunate and regrettable and as we stated on numerous times we condemn these acts of violence and intimidation in the strongest of terms. We have also on several occasions stated that we acknowledge the right of labour to demonstrate and raise matters of concern to them. However these must be done in a safe, responsible and appropriate manner.

What we have seen - the reckless and dangerous manner in which grievances was and continue to be raised, has now escalated into violence, damage to property and reckless endangerment. This we cannot, and will not tolerate. All acts of criminality and intimidation will be dealt with accordingly. This is in no way a means to scare employees participating in these acts, but we as government, employees and civil society, have a responsibility to uphold the law and order and also to respect the rights of every citizen in this country.

I have said it before and I wish to reiterate, that the problems and issues raised cannot be solved overnight. We are committed to deal with all the issues and to do justice to the process; we need time to deal with the issues in a systematic and thorough manner. To resort to guerrilla tactics when things do not favour you is not creating an environment conducive for negotiation. If we share the same goals and if we are genuine in our collective concern for the wellbeing of the institution and the people we serve, we need to work together and in a spirit of cooperation and trust.

The situation at Health has a long history and I want to start off by giving you a brief background. The former MEC for Health, Mr Mac Jack had concerns, very serious concerns relating to maladministration, fraud and corruption at the Department of Health. This prompted him to establish an internal task team in 2015 to investigate these irregularities. The terms of reference of the task team were clear and the scope of their investigation was to investigate and report on their findings.

Reports and allegations of fraud and corruption were made by trade unions, employees, service providers and the general public. The seriousness to which MEC Jack viewed these allegations was demonstrated when he called in the Hawks to a meeting and agreed to ground rules for a collaborative approach. The process was kick-started with interviews with staff and company representatives. Written submissions were received from potential witnesses and a review of finance and supply chain documentation.

The team also reviewed all service providers through CIPRO to identify fraudulent and ghost companies. Site inspections were carried out to review progress on capital projects and the procurement of equipment. A summary of the findings were submitted to the Executive and handed over to Labour Relations for further action.

The Province collaborated with National Department of Health and forensic investigators and labour relations experts were deployed to assist with the investigations. Over a six month period the task team spent a number of hours on interviews, analysing evidence, researching information and travelling to health care facilities. A large amount of submissions, transactions, witness statements and invoices were analysed and similarly a large number of interviews were conducted.


Allegations have been made by the unions previously that officials are on suspension for months now without any action being taken against them and therefore they require these members to return to work. The opposite is however true.  I will now give you a brief run-down of the findings of the task team. Please bear in mind that these are the findings presented by the task team and covers only the scope of their mandate.

The team uncovered a web of fraud and corruption, including intentional and systematic flaunting of supply chain and procurement processes and prescripts.

Employees and service providers submitted testimonies of rampant kickbacks demanded by senior and junior personnel. The level of alleged fraud uncovered is estimated at a staggering Four Hundred Million Rand. More shocking is the announcement at a meeting last month with the Hawks and `National Treasury that the values in question were confirmed to be in excess of Five Hundred Million Rand.

Further findings of the team include and are not confined to amongst others:

  • Falsification of documents
  • Price fixing through collusive corruption.
  • Quotation forgery, VAT and income tax fraud.
  • Circumvention of Open Bid and Tender Processes. In many instances the contract value was just under Five Hundred Thousand Rand to avoid going on tender.
  • Overriding Internal Controls.
  • Exploitation of the Sundry Payment System.
  • Extreme flouting of SCM Processes.
  • Fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
  • Unauthorized and/or irregular expenditure, and
  • Conflicts of interest and non-declaration thereof.

Upon release of the findings the Head of Department was requested to issue precautionary suspensions to a number of staff implicated in alleged wrongdoing. These included:

  • Three Chief Directors
  • Two District Managers
  • Two deputy Directors
  • One Assistant Director
  • Four Senior Administrative Officers, and
  • One Administrative Officer.

Precautionary transfers of a Senior Administrative Officer, an Administrative Officer and a Clerk were also affected.

To demonstrate the seriousness with which the matter is being treated the following outcomes were affected after subjecting fingered employees to disciplinary processes:

  • Human Resource Development Assistant Director was found guilty and dismissed.
  • Deputy Director Finance: Guilty on 96 charges. Dismissed.
  • One Chief Director found guilty on 26 charges and awaiting sanction. Another Chief Director who was on contract was relieved of his duties and the contract was terminated. A third Chief Director’s hearing was delayed due to a failed challenge of suspension and challenge with the appointed Chairperson of the Hearing. The matter is with the Labour Court.
  • One District Manager has been found not guilty but found to be negligent in performing duties and is back at work. The matter has however been referred for external investigation. Another District Manager’ hearing is currently underway.
  • A Senior Administrative Officer found guilty and we are awaiting sanction.
  • All other matters not dealt with yet will be concluded once all processes have been finalised.

Intervention team

In June this year I deployed a group of officials to serve as an intervention team that would stabilise the Department and set it on course to function as an effective institution geared towards providing quality health services. This team has been met with challenges and resistance from the union formations.  In their short stay at the Department this intervention team has managed to a great degree to ensure efficiencies of resources and regularise especially the procurement processes and are looking at ways to reduce the contractual obligations in order to make for more cost saving expenditure. The current impasse however has warranted us to review the process and to this end we have resolved the following:

  1. The intervention team was deployed to the Department of health with the specific and direct mandate as to their scope of work and will thus continue with their work.
  2. As alluded, the verdicts and outcomes of some of the cases have been decided and officials that have been found not guilty have been advised to return to work. Other cases of officials still on suspension are in the process of being finalised.
  3. The findings of the task team are compelling me as the Premier to instruct the Provincial Treasury to institute a section 18 intervention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). A Section 18 intervention of the PFMA requires the Provincial Treasury to exercise control over the implementation of provincial budgets and to assist departments in building their capacity for efficient, effective and transparent financial management.
  4. Lastly, in consultation and in agreement with the current Head of Department, we have decided that we will redeploy her elsewhere in the administration and appoint a caretaker Head of Department that will work with the entire management team as well as a turnaround team until we are satisfied that the Department of Health is functioning the way it should.

We have made that concession and it’s a demonstration of our willingness to negotiate in good faith. This however is no reflection on the capabilities, character and leadership of the HOD. Like any responsible official and true leader, the HOD requested to be released in order for the work to continue and so ensure that we serve those we are constitutionally and morally obligated to serve. I wish to offer my thanks and gratitude to Ms. Botes for the work done in her very short stay at Health.

I want to conclude by stating that resolving the issues at the Department will depend on all stakeholders. Both the Department and the labour formations need to recommit themselves to mend relationships and work together for the greater good. We call on NEHAWU to act with restraint and with respect for the rights of their colleagues and those they serve. This Government remains focused on delivering on the mandate of health services and a normalised situation is needed now to ensure that all centres of health can be conducive for the provision of health services.

Thank you

Released jointly by the Northern Cape Provincial Government


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