Elderly, women and children feel the brunt of health-sector corruption

Corruption in the public health sector results in shortages of medication and malfunctioning equipment, or pressure to pay bribes for access to services that are a basic human right, Corruption Watch says.
Corruption in the public health sector results in shortages of medication and malfunctioning equipment, or pressure to pay bribes for access to services that are a basic human right, Corruption Watch says.
Image: Phasut Waraphisit via 123RF

Corruption in SA's health sector leads to medication shortages, malfunctioning equipment and pressure to pay bribes for services that are a basic human right.

Corruption Watch made these remarks when it released a report on Wednesday titled X-Ray: The critical state of the health sector in SA.

The anti-corruption body said employment corruption (39%), impropriety in procurement (22%) and the misappropriation of resources (16%) were the most prevalent forms of corruption complaints it had received in the health sector since 2012.

Of the 28,196 reports the non-profit organisation - which investigates reports of corruption and hands its findings over to authorities to take further action - had received in the past eight years, 670 related to corruption in the health sector.

“The cases are troubling, considering that our most vulnerable – the elderly, women and children – are the ones feeling the brunt of a shortage of medication, malfunctioning equipment, or the pressure to exchange cash for goods or services,” said the author of the report, researcher Melusi Ncala.

Corruption Watch said it hoped the report would lead to change for more than 80% of the population relying on about 4,300 public health facilities nationwide.

Gauteng led with 39% of corruption cases reported, followed by KwaZulu-Natal (16%) and joint third were the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga at 8%.

Other complaints of corruption received by the organisation related to abuse of power (7%), bribery (5%) and fraud (5%).

“In relation to employment corruption, the issues range from employees and officials claiming time for work not done, that is absenteeism, to allegations of nepotism and favouritism.”

Corruption Watch said most apparent in procurement corruption were prices inflated without any thorough justification, documents being amended or destroyed to disadvantage competitors, nepotism, favouritism and officials benefiting from kickbacks or soliciting funds from companies that won tenders.

Whistle-blowers stated that kickbacks were set at about 10% for contracts worth millions of rands.

“In some cases, it is claimed that senior officials will award lucrative tenders to companies without those tenders being advertised.

“To inflate the amounts, we heard, in one health facility the specifications of a tender were altered to remunerate greedy officials who stood to benefit from a service provider for circumcisions,” said the organisation.

Corruption Watch said in this instance, the facility had budgeted to perform 10,000 circumcisions at R750 per procedure, but the number was allegedly dramatically increased to 260,000 circumcisions.

In relation to misappropriation of resources, Corruption Watch learnt that officials and employees of various hospitals and clinics mismanaged funds and used state resources to benefit themselves as well as their relatives.

According to the reports received, money allocated by the Treasury for particular projects and programmes was squandered and doctors made use of state-funded medical equipment and medication in their own practices.

In some reports, officials illegally used state vehicles, fuel and accommodation for themselves, their friends, and their family members.

“The outcome of such negligent and corrupt acts is a shortage of medication, equipment that is lost or damaged, and the state paying exorbitant amounts of money to fund the lifestyles of officials.”

© TimesLIVE 


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