unhealthy spending

THE embattled KwaZulu-Natal department of health is implementing a streamlined financial plan to help curb overexpenditure in excess of R2billion.

Cutbacks include the suspension of three senior managers, economy class flights and fewer travel trips for officials.

Entertainment budgets and car hire and advertising will also be slashed.

Yesterday in Pietermaritzburg MEC for health Sibongiseni Dhlomo and his finance counterpart Ina Cronjé announced their turn-around strategy in a bid to halt overexpenditure.

At the time of going to press Dhlomo had not released the names of the managers being suspended for certain irregularities.

The department of health has been criticised for overspending by large amounts over the past two financial years. Cumulative overexpenditure is currently in excess of R2billion.

Cronjé said the budget overruns in the department introduced a risk to the fiscal stability of the province.

"As a result, cabinet approved that officials from the treasury be seconded to work with the department and assist it with financial management of its affairs."

Dhlomo said that, among other factors, budget management was weak and financial management staff at most institutions were not adequately qualified to perform required functions.

By coming up with these measures, Dhlomo said, the government was not attempting to cut spending on public healthcare, but was trying "to move money" to healthcare priorities.

"Our medium-term goals would be to reduce committees and unstructured meetings, cut out expensive venues, reduce air travel.

"There will be no more business class travel . and we will reduce the size of delegations for any travelling."

Projected savings to May is half a billion rand.