Left-over funds were used to buy a R940,000 vehicle for North West health MEC Magome Masike, his department said on Friday.
Spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane rejected as misleading a report in the Mail&Guardian that the car was purchased with money meant for ambulances.
It reported that R200,000 was taken from funds intended for mobile clinics and R740,000 from those for patient transport acquisition.
"We had a target of how many ambulances we wanted to buy for the financial year," said Lekgethwane.
"Those were bought and distributed. This money (which was used to buy the car) was a surplus fund remaining in the account," he said.
He said the budgets for ambulances, pool cars for officials and patient transport fell into the same category, and were divided among them.
Lekgethwane acknowledged that there was a shortage of ambulances in the province. "There will always be a shortage of ambulances. You will never have enough emergency vehicles," he said.
This is the second car bought for Masike within three years.
Lekgethwane said this was because the MEC's old vehicle was faulty.
"When a car gets to 120,000km, it gets out of the service plan and it starts becoming costly to maintain," he said.
"His old car, which was on 169,000km, started to give him problems and... left him stranded on the side of the road a lot."
The Mail&Guardian reported that the department did not put the vehicle purchase out to tender, despite a directive by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last year that this be done for any purchase above R500,000.
Lekgethwane blamed the public works department for this.
"The department of health doesn't buy cars," he said. "There is currently a contract with Mercedes and we can't overstep that and buy cars for the MEC on the side."
Asked what would happen to the MEC's old car, Lekgethwane said this was not for the department to decide.
He said the public works department could use it elsewhere. "They could even auction it," he said.