Corruption has always been rife in the health sector — Covid-19 just hoisted the flag.

This is according to the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), advocate Andy Mothibi, who was speaking during a webinar on the Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum (HSACF) on Sunday night.

The SIU hosted the webinar in partnership with Corruption Watch, the Health Funders Association, The Daily Maverick and The Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism.

Mothibi said their observation over the years was that there were a lot of investigations in the health sector. He said there was a “measure of impunity”, with people “just really expecting that nothing will happen to them”.

“The tide is turning when we look at criminal cases and civil litigation,” said Mothibi, who added that what had been lacking was the proper monitoring of the sector.

“There needs to be clear monitoring and clear auditing measures put in place to detect future abuse,” he said.

The SIU head said the country was failing on the basics, such as having systems in place that would detect and prevent corruption.

With the procurement of PPE, Mothibi said they found irregularities that included companies not registered on the database of suppliers of health products having secured tenders.

Mothibi said 20 cases were reported to the SIU. Most of those were from the health sector, and he said they were already seeing results as most of those cases had been referred for action to be taken.

Mothibi made a specific reference to the Gauteng health department, where he said the matter was receiving priority, and said action would be taken against senior officials such as the head of department, CFO, and GM for human resources, as they were found to have been part of the irregular procurement of PPE in the province.

Mothibi said the procurement processes in the health sector was riddled with maladministration, and pointed out that almost everything in the health sector had some elements of corruption.

“There is corruption in the NHLS, there is corruption within the HPCSA with the registration of doctors. There is corruption within the health sector product authority when it comes to products entering the market inappropriately,” Mothibi said.

“The health sector is so important because it’s about people’s lives. The poor are dependent on the effectiveness of the health sector,” he said.

Mothibi said with their investigations, they wanted to ensure that people’s lives are taken care of by a competent system free of corruption.

Karam Singh of Corruption Watch said corruption was something that had been with SA since the dawn of democracy. He touched on the issue of ghost employees in KwaZulu-Natal and the millions lost due to that. He also spoke about the SIU reports dating back to 2007/2008, highlighting fraud in the procurement processes.

“Between 2006 and 2019, R1.2bn was lost to graft. This is the kind of shock of overlooking corruption and something that we’ve been sitting with,” Singh said.


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