The fourth Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF) will take place tomorrow (Friday, 12 November 2010) in Johannesburg. The BEMF draws together individuals and organisations from civil society to focus attention on the state’s health budgeting and expenditure.

The focus of tomorrow’s meeting will be on understanding the findings and recommendations of the Integrated Support Team (IST) reports for each provincial health department. These reports were commissioned under former Minister of Health Barbara Hogan. Recently SECTION27 and the Rural Health Advocacy Project made public copies of these IST reports because of their public importance.

These reports describe a bleak situation of health departments that are failing to meet their mandates in large part because they are unable to manage their finances appropriately. Patients bear the brunt of poor and unlawful financial management through medi cine and diagnostic stockouts, unfilled health worker posts and unhygienic health facilities. But the IST reports also contain recommendations that are a blueprint for rectifying the health system and preparing for the introduction of a National Health Insurance scheme.

At tomorrow’s meeting we will also discuss the poor state of health budgeting and expenditure in Gauteng Province. The provincial Department of Health and Social Development has received disclaimed audits for two consecutive financial years. It cannot adequately account for R19 billion of its budget from last year.

BEMF invited the Director General of the Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development to address the meeting. We sent a formal invitation to the Head of Health in Gauteng on 10 September. We also sent many reminder emails and phoned the department almost daily for weeks. Last week we finally got a response from the acting Director General, requesting a preliminary mee ting with the organisers of tomorrow’s meeting. Regrettably on Tuesday we received a formal apology that no one from the department’s management would be able to attend because of a clashing meeting.

Democracy works better when civil society is able to work with government to address service delivery, budgeting and accountability problems. It is therefore disappointing that no-one from the Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development will be available to address tomorrow’s BEMF meeting.

We will release a detailed statement in coming weeks on the content of and decisions taken at tomorrow’s meeting.

Released by SECTION27 incorporating the AIDS Law Project, who co-ordinate the BEMF.

The BEMF’s founding members are: SECTION27, Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, Democractic Nursing Organisation of South Africa Africa (DENOSA), Enhancing Children’s HIV Outcomes (ECHO), Equal Education, Free State AIDS Coalition, Health Systems Trust, NEHAWU, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Rural Health Advocacy Project, Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and Treatment Action Campaign.