Corruption is an ongoing problem in the healthcare sector. Picture: 123RF/DARIO LO PRESTI
Corruption is an ongoing problem in the healthcare sector. Picture: 123RF/DARIO LO PRESTI

Public health facilities are crippled by a variety of corrupt employment and procurement practices as well as misappropriation of scarce resources. These are some of the findings contained in a report titled X-Ray: The critical state of the health sector in SA, which was compiled by Corruption Watch.

According to the report, which was released on Wednesday, since the launch of Corruption Watch in 2012, the antigraft organisation had received almost 700 reports of corruption relating to the health sector. According to the report, absenteeism accounted for 39% of cases in the health sector employment category, which was also characterised by allegations of nepotism and favouritism as well as the appointment of unsuitable candidates with no accountability for employment decisions.

The report says “cases of employment corruption were highest in the Northern Cape at 55%, followed by Mpumalanga at 51% and KwaZulu-Natal at 36%”.

Corruption in procurement manifested itself in the form of inflated prices, irregularities in the awarding of tenders, preferential treatment of suppliers and kickbacks paid to officials when contracts were awarded. Most cases of corruption in procurement were reported in Limpopo, which leads the pack at 50%, followed by the Free State at 46% and Western Cape at 28%.

According to the report, the misappropriation of resources involved the mismanagement of public funds and use of state resources by officials and employees of various hospitals and clinics for their own benefit.

Corruption Watch researcher Melusi Ncala, who authored the report, said the major “headache” for the country was to apportion scarce resources to an ailing health sector that was inherited from apartheid SA.

“The criminals occupying the halls, offices, wards and dispensaries of our health centres are compounding the problems we face by siphoning funds from a kitty that is running dry and by thieving from depots that are short on medical supplies. The issue of corruption in the health sector should be of paramount concern as it prevents a vast section of the population from accessing their right to decent healthcare,” Ncala said.

In his report, Ncala wrote that in 670 cases of corruption in the healthcare sector, 52% pointed a finger at provincial governments while about 40% were at national government.

“In the breakdown of provinces, Gauteng leads with 39% of corruption cases which may be due to Corruption Watch’s strong presence in the province. The second highest percentage comes from KwaZulu-Natal at 16% and the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga were respectively at 8%.

“The hundreds of corruption cases received by Corruption Watch illustrate the significant problem plaguing the health sector in SA,” Ncala said.

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