Unpaid Bills Leave Gauteng Hospitals Unfinished

Neil Campbell MPL

DA Gauteng Deputy Spokesperson on Health

Significant delays in completion of the much needed New Natalspruit and Zola-Jabulani Hospitals in Vosloorus and Soweto was mainly due to failure of three provincial government departments to pay contractors timeously. This was recently revealed during an oversight visit by the Health Portfolio Committee of the legislature.

All work milestones are signed off on completion by independent assessors and the account must then pass through the provincial departments of Finance, Health and Infrastructure Development before payment can be made. These departments are contractually obliged to make payment within 21 days of sign-off, yet rarely meet this obligation.

In one instance the Department of Infrastructure Development alone sat on a payment for 18 days and took a further 3 days to deliver the payment documentation to the Finance Department. This left no time for Health or Finance to carry out their checks and do their sign-offs.

The effects of these delays are numerous, with contractors being unable to pay sub-contractors, many of whom have gone bankrupt. Expensive equipment cannot be ordered because the cash flow of the contractors is impaired.

This inter-departmental inefficiency has led to penalties and interest of an estimated R120 million incurred by the provincial government. This is an unacceptable waste of public money and diverts much needed resources from critical service delivery programmes. Heads should roll for such inefficiencies, which unfortunately seem to be tolerated within certain provincial departments. This practice must stop immediately.

The public urgently needs these hospitals which should have been completed years ago. This would not only have reduced the costs of the projects and the burden on public money, but would also have served the public better.

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