State inquiries show there's no place to hide

Suspended Gauteng Health Department HOD Dr Barney Selebano.
Suspended Gauteng Health Department HOD Dr Barney Selebano.
Image: Veli Nhlapo/ Sowetan

After exhausting his legal options not to appear at the Life Esidimeni hearings this week, suspended Gauteng health head of department Dr Barney Selebano was eventually forced to testify and explain his role in the fiasco.

Although Selebano started out with a cagey demeanour, the barrage of critical questions posed to him soon started to unveil why he was so determined to stay away from the proceedings.

South Africans heard how it took the intervention of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to prevent further deaths by demanding that mentally ill patients placed in ill-equipped and unsuitable NGO facilities be removed from those institutions.

This while the department had known of the escalation of deaths with no one taking the responsibility to investigate them.

The doctor has since admitted that greed, poor planning, negligence and the lack of intervention by senior officials in this shambolic operation led to the unnecessary deaths of 143 patients.

Elsewhere, in parliament, the reluctance to account by trying every trick to avoid taking responsibility, was also on display this week.

Suspended Eskom CFO Anoj Singh, tried to ambush MPs by handing in documents only a few hours before he was supposed to give testimony in the Eskom inquiry.

With lack of time to interrogate his submissions, which would have sabotaged their ability to question him properly, MPs saw right through him and sent him packing.

The attitude of some senior officials called on to give evidence at state inquiries, like Singh did this week, is a cause for concern and should not be tolerated.

Even government ministers show disdain to parliament by either not attending hearings or cancel at the 11th hour.

Such arrogance only says some officials think they are above the rules and regulations that are meant to keep them in check and that they are more powerful than those who elected them into office.

Officials such as Selebano and Singh should know that there is no place to hide when MPs - mandated by their oath of office, aggressively seek answers in pursuit of the truth and accountability to citizens.