The Gauteng department of health and social development's annual report has revealed that it wastes millions of rands on lawsuits and security for empty buildings while patient care is compromised.
In the report, which health MEC Ntombi Mekgwe made public on Friday, the auditor-general slammed the department's poor financial management and performance, and its failure to pay service providers within 30 days.
This follows reports that the department is unable to pay R200-million to companies that provide services to health institutions - including medicine deliveries - because of cash flow problems.
The annual report states that the department has failed to meet critical performance targets because of budget constraints. As a result it has not adequately implemented a workplace education drive to reduce HIV and Aids infection.
The report also stated that the department:
-- Faced R875-million in lawsuits;
-- Wasted R217-million on "fruitless expenditure", which included paying rent on unoccupied buildings and paying for security for a tuberculosis hospital that had been closed;
-- Failed to provide sufficient audit evidence for tangible assets valued at R3.1-billion; and
-- Wasted R1.5-billion on the premature cancellation of contracts with service providers.
A report by the auditor-general, Terence Nombembe, blasted the department for its failure to pay suppliers within 30 days, as required by Treasury regulations.
The report also paints a worrying picture of how the vacancy rate for qualified doctors, specialists and pharmacists continues to rise as they leave the public service for better working conditions in the private sector.
Though the number of lawsuits the department is facing could not be verified, the report showed R98-million in civil claims, a R900000 crimen injuria claim and R4.8-million in claims relating to the performance of Emergency Management Services.
The majority of the cases are medico-legal lawsuits relating to allegations of hospital negligence in the treatment of patients.
Health and social development spokesman Simon Zwane said yesterday that the department was working towards strengthening its risk management and procurement processes to curtail with all wasteful expenditure.
Regarding complaints about late payments to suppliers, Zwane said the suppliers were also to blame because they submitted invoices that were either inflated or had been settled.
Jack Bloom, the DA's health spokesman in Gauteng, said the number of lawsuits against the department was "disturbing".