Gauteng Premier tightens controls to avoid another Esidimeni debacle
2 May 2017
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has tightened controls in a number of areas in order to avoid a repeat of the oversight failure that led to the deaths of more than 100 mental health patients who were sent to unsuitable NGOs after the cancellation of the Health Department's contract with Life Esidimeni.
In a written reply to my questions on this matter in the Gauteng Legislature, Makhura says that there was "no monitoring of the decision to transfer mental health patients to NGOs because such a decision was not approved or reported to the Premier or the Executive Council."
He says that the transfer of the patients to NGOs was brought to his attention only when the former Health MEC was responding to questions in the Legislature.
Makhura has taken the following measures to improve internal controls and enhance risk management:
1) The Service Delivery War Room and the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) Unit in his office will now be directly involved in the implementation of all major decisions of the Executive Council and Departments.
2) No Department will implement any major decision or policy without seeking the approval of the Executive Council - this is because "the current decision-making system of the Executive Council inherited from the previous administration allows for too much discretionary action on the part of Departments."
3) All MECs have to ensure that every legal action instituted by Departments has the explicit approval of the Director-General and where the Premier is cited as an applicant or respondent, the Premier should also give explicit approval - "this is born out of the realization that for many years Departments have cited the Office of the Premier in litigation matters without seeking approval."
These are sensible changes that enhance the role of the Premier's Office in keeping track of bad developments that need to be terminated before further damage is done.
But the real reason for the Esidimeni tragedy was the Premier's head-in-the-sand attitude as he ignored a torrent of adverse media reports on the rushed transfer of patients to NGOs.
Extra controls cannot substitute for good judgement by the Premier who is ultimately accountable for the successes and failures of his administration.
Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health, 2 May 2017