While the Democratic Alliance is pleased that construction on the long overdue mental hospital has finally resumed, we are sick and tired of a lack of transparency regarding the whole saga and remain adamant that those responsible for the related financial wastage must pay, and not the taxpayer.
There can be no denying that the Northern Cape is desperately in need of a new mental hospital. Up until now, the province’s lack of seriousness about mental health has been marked by government’s inability to integrate mental health into the primary health care system; the little that is being done to lure mental health professionals to the province and train adequate numbers of health professionals on psychological services; as well as little to no collaboration between departments when it comes to mental health. We thus hope that by resuming construction on this hospital, the province will turn over a new leaf with regards to prioritizing mental health and we will watch closely to see whether the new 24 month deadline is actually met.
This said, we remain concerned about the costs involved to complete the hospital. The required budget seems uncertain and now appears to have jumped into the billions. According to the Auditor General’s report of August 2011, the cost of the project had escalated from R290 million to R354,4 million by 2010 and the report stated that a further estimated R53 million was still needed to finish the project. During a visit to the province by the National Council of Province’s committee on finance in January this year, however, it came to light that a further R650 million would be required to complete the facility after R420 million had already been spent. The big question then is who is going to foot this bill? It was the past succession of MEC’s and HOD’s who failed to act decisively on this matter, and cost the province millions, so why should taxpayers have to fork out more money? It is the DA’s view that all decision makers should be made to take responsibility by having them stand as surety.
In order to ensure that the true extent of the infrastructural bungle that is the mental hospital does not get covered up, the DA intends to pass a motion in the House that the Auditor General’s damning report on Infrastructure, as well as the as yet unseen report by Gobodo Consulting, get presented to the portfolio committee, and debated.
Transparency and accountability must prevail. The DA is sick and tired of MEC’s pretending that everything is ok, when clearly it is not. We are not cash cows and should not have to fork out money for MEC’s who did not do their job!
Issued by Karen de Kock, MPL
DA Northern Cape: Spokesperson for Health