THE rot at a Soweto home for the mentally handicapped has gone so deep that the Johannesburg high court has ordered its running to be handed over to an administrator.
On Tuesday, the court ruled that the Avril Elizabeth Home for the Mentally Disabled should take over the running of the Takalani Home for the Mentally Disabled in Diepkloof. The centre is home to about 200 mentally and physically challenged adults and children.
This happened after Gauteng MEC for health and social development Qedani Mahlangu filed an urgent application for the temporary removal of board members from their positions pending an investigation against them.
The home's director Lynnette van Rooyen was suspended by the board chairperson Samuel George because she could not account for money that "had just disappeared".
The department is conducting a forensic investigation into allegations of "gross mismanagement" of the home and its funds and the use of "government funds for personal gain" by Van Rooyen and George.
The court heard that the department had based its arguments on audit reports conducted on the home dating 10 months ago.
Mahlangu's lawyer, Thabiso Mashaba, argued that the director could not account for vast amounts of money that had been donated by private donors and the government.
"In March the department picked up that R2million was donated to the home by a private donor. R1,5million of that money was transferred to an unknown account," Mashaba said.
The allegations that Van Rooyen used the home's money for personal use, which are being investigated by the department, have also been raised by former employees.
These allegations include:
l The use of the home's petty cash to pay for Van Rooyen's children's petrol expenses and other members of the family, who hold various positions at the home;
l Van Rooyen's son, Warren's 21st birthday celebration held at Gold Reef City last year at a cost of R38000;
l Hospital expenses incurred during the birth of Van Rooyen's granddaughter at a private clinic at a cost of R12000;
A former employee accused Van Rooyen of stealing clothes, food, toys and toiletries donated by companies for herself and family.
"If for instance it was a really big order, Lynn would give instructions that the donations be taken straight to her house. There she would pick the best of everything and the rest would go to Takalani," he said.
Two reports by the department's Mental Health District Services District also highlighted neglect of patients and disintegrating conditions at the home.
Released last month, a monitoring and evaluation report revealed that though the home had been audited "several times" in the past, there had "not been any improvement and the funds have continuously been mismanaged".
The report found widespread neglect and deterioration of the services offered at the home. Among its findings were:
l Patients sleeping on worn or "condemned" mattresses that were "always soak[ed] in urine";
l Patients did not have enough clothes and slept with threadbare blankets so "thin and transparent" they would not "provide any warmth in cold weather";
l Malnourished children whose diet was mainly "soft porridge with no milk or butter served for breakfast daily";
l The infrastructure of the home posed a threat to the safety of the children. This included leaking toilets, broken hand basins, "no hot water at times", a broken burglar door and clutter in the wards where there is broken equipment;
l Lack of stimulation and wheelchairs for the children despite "rehabilitation funding provided to all mental health NGOs".
The findings were corroborated by staff, who told Sowetan that the children were often forced to wear mismatched shoes and were fed food that was not nutritious or had expired.
Another report by the Johannesburg metro region found the home's administrative system to be in shambles. Among its findings were:
l The centre does not have a monthly budget;
l Funds are spent randomly;
l Some board members were offering their services at a cost;
l Financial transactions that do not have supporting documentation and specifics;
l General governance and administration is poor.