Bheki Mlangeni hospital: Gauteng health dept not ready to release report after R3 million probe

  • The Gauteng health department says it’s working on the implementation of findings in an Open Waters report on a probe into Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital. 
  • Investigators were paid about R3 million to probe suspected irregularities related to infrastructure, human resources and procurement at the hospital.
  • The department says it’s not ready to make the findings public and that forensic reports are “not automatically public documents”.

The Gauteng health department says it’s working on the implementation of recommendations contained in a forensic report that was compiled after a R3 million probe into Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital in Soweto.

In 2020, the department hired Open Waters, at a cost of R3.3 million, to investigate suspected irregularities related to infrastructure, human resources, and procurement at the hospital.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said the report was received in three parts – the last part in April – and it was handed over to then-acting head of department, Sibongile Zungu.

“The departure of the incumbent led to a delay in some of the internal processes to manage the report.”

Nomonde Nolutshungu was appointed head of department (HOD) in April and, according to Modiba, she started working on the report in May.

READ | Steve Biko hospital in Pretoria halts surgeries because of broken air conditioners

“This led to the development of an action plan in August 2022, which was approved by the HOD. The management of Bheki Mlangeni hospital has been engaged, so they are able to take the process forward, given that the majority of the recommendations from the forensic investigation need to be implemented at the level of the institution itself.”

He added that forensic reports were “not automatically public documents”.

He said:

They are within the custody of the accounting officer, and the findings and recommendations could be publicly communicated at the discretion of both the accounting officer and the executive authority within the ambit of all relevant legislative directives.

Modiba insisted that the department was not concealing the report.

“There is no concealment of the report. It is standard practice in line with the rules of natural justice and the recently enacted POPI (Protection of Personal Information) Act of 2013 for the department [to] act with great care to manage the processing of the report until there is [a] firm verdict against those implicated. Failure to do so might compromise the process of holding accountable those implicated.”

ALSO READ | Patients evacuated from Panorama Hospital in Cape Town as chip fryer causes fire

But one of the people who was interviewed during the investigation said: “They are trying to hide the findings because they are going to paint the hospital and the department in a bad light. After spending too many millions, why not make the report public? I don’t even believe that it has been handed over to the hospital because nothing has changed here. It is still the same management and the same issues going on.”

According to Modiba, however, the recommendations in the report include disciplinary referrals and criminal proceedings against those who contravened the Public Finance Management Act, as well as civil action against implicated individuals.

He said the report also stated that the hospital needed to improve internal controls.

“No punitive measure has been taken as yet as the report was recently handed over to the hospital management as part of internal processes to ensure that the recommendations of the report are acted on,” Modiba said.