Malfeasance and corruption has necessitated a shake-up in Gauteng’s health department with the announcement of Dr Thembi Mokgethi as the province’s new political head.
Premier David Makhura made the announcement on Wednesday after he axed Mokgethi’s predecessor, Dr Bandile Masuku, in October for alleged corruption in the procurement of personal protective equipment for Gauteng at the advent of the government’s Covid-19 pandemic response in March.
The Special Investigating Unit probed the awarding of the multimillion-rand contract and made adverse findings, which led to the axing of Masuku.
Makhura was blunt in his assessment of what he felt were gross irregularities during Covid-19 procurement processes.
“The Covid-19 procurement corruption and malfeasance have set us back on the remarkable progress that we had made in turning the Gauteng department of Health [around].
“The involvement of senior officials in irregularities in the procurement of goods and services related to the government’s response to Covid-19 has severely weakened the management structure of the health department,” Makhura said.
“The Gauteng department of health requires urgent intervention to strengthen its systems and processes,” he added.
On the new MEC, Makhura enthused: “Having assessed the strengths of the current serving MECs, I have decided to make the following changes: Dr Thembi Mokgethi is the new MEC for health.
“She is not new to the sector and her knowledge, experience and qualifications make her a strong candidate to lead the portfolio.”
New intervention team for Gauteng
The premier also announced a 12-member intervention team, which includes Mokgethi and representatives nominated by the national health department and the treasury.
The intervention team, Makhura explained, would comprise health experts and professionals to assist the provincial government.
“The intervention team is made of multi-disciplinary experts [who] aim to ensure a seamless and well-integrated approach towards responsiveness to intervention, with its primary objective to improve departmental performance, and drive the Gauteng provincial government response to Covid-19,” Makhura said.
Gauteng’s health department has been plagued by scandal over the medium term, which included the tragic deaths of more than 150 mentally ill patients between 2016 and 2017 during former MEC Qedani Mahlangu’s tenure.
Mahlangu was axed in 2017 following a report by the then health ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who found that there was gross negligence in the closing of the province’s Life Esidimeni care centres.
Mahlangu stopped subsidising the centres, which led to thousands of patients being sent to unregistered nongovernmental organisations.
Meanwhile, Makhura also recalled former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau from the national government to head up economic development in Gauteng.