Some hope for the Eastern Cape

Some hope for the Eastern CapeEastern Cape Health MEC Dr Bevan Goqwana was fired by the premier this week, leaving a department which under his stewardship failed to properly account for R18.1 billion out of a total budget of R22.6 billion.

Eastern Cape Health MEC Dr Bevan Goqwana was fired by the premier this week, leaving a department which under his stewardship failed to properly account for R18.1 billion out of a total budget of R22.6 billion.

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The Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) has called on Eastern Cape premier Nosimo Balindlela to urgently appoint a ‘€œsuitably qualified’€ person to replace Goqwana who had a ‘€œdeplorable track record’€.

PSAM is an independent monitoring and research institute based at Rhodes University. PSAM provides information on the management of public resources, the delivery of public services and handling of misconduct and corruption with the aim of assisting parliament and South African citizens to hold government officials accountable for their performance.

Critical staff shortages, severe under spending, dilapidated hospitals and crumbling infrastructure, corruption charges, shortages of essential medical equipment and medicine ‘€“ are just some of the characteristics that underpinned Goqwana’€™s tenure as Eastern Cape’€™s Health MEC since 1999.

Goqwana was fired along with economic affairs MEC Andre de Wet on Monday. Balindlela’€™s move came a week after Goqwana suspended his superintendent general Lawrence Boya. Boya has been reinstated by Balindlela.

According to PSAM researcher Thokozile Madonko the booting of Goqwana is long overdue. ‘€œIt is clear that under the leadership of Dr Goqwana the department has been unable to address many of these long standing systemic issues that continue to compromise the delivery of public health services in the province,’€ Madonko said in a statement.    

Under Goqwana the health department has received five audit disclaimers between 2000 and 2005. This means the department failed to properly account for R18.1 billion out of a total budget of R22.6 billion.

Goqwana has a track record of shifting the blame for an underperforming department.

First, he suspended the then head of his department ‘€“ the late Dr Siphiwo Stamper ‘€“ blaming him for the poor management of the health sector.

Then it was the turn of Emergency Services Director Shanks Maharaj, who has been on suspension since 1994. Maharaj is still fighting his case in the labour court.

According to sources Goqwana was quick to suspend managers who were seen to be too keen to investigation allegations of corruption that involved the MEC.

During his tenure Goqwana was embroiled in corruption charges that saw him taking nine months fully paid leave.

He was investigated by the Public Protector over allegations that he owned a private specialist practice and an ambulance service while in public office. He faced over a thousand fraud charges in 2002. He was found not guilty on all charges.  

In the last study that PSAM conducted it indicated that the Eastern Cape had one medical specialist for every 47 529 people, one professional nurse for every 1 278 patients, one pharmacist for every 53 662 people and one occupational therapist for every 554 507 people.

In a recent interview with Health-e News Service (before being fired) Goqwana acceded that the health services in the Eastern Cape were in dire straits. At the time he blamed it on the ‘€œrural nature’€ of the province –  About 63 percent of the Eastern Cape residents live in rural areas.    

Goqwana has failed to take any calls from Health-e News Service. The premier’€™s office refused to respond to any of Health-e News Service’€™s queries. The premier’€™s spokesperson Masisa Mazizi dismissed the queries as wasting his time.

Read the PSAM Report: The Crisis of Public Health Care in the Eastern Cape