On 16 and 17 May 2014, reports emerged about the purchase of a new vehicle for the MEC for Health in the North West Province. The vehicle was reported to have cost R940 000 and to have been paid for using money in cost centres dedicated to the purchase of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) vehicles. The reports appeared on the Mail & Guardian website and on the Timeslive website.
Statements of the departmental spokesperson that are quoted in each article suggest slightly different versions of the incident but both versions present a cause for concern. Whichever version is correct, the use of funds in this case is worrying both because its consequence is the ongoing violation of the constitutional right not to be refused emergency medical treatment and the right of access to health care services; and because the shifting or use of funds without proper reasons being given to justify it suggests a lack of financial controls in the context of limited resources. In addition, the purchase of a luxury vehicle for the MEC is in direct contravention of the former Minister of Finance’sMedium Term Budget Policy Speech in October 2013, which called for fiscal prudence particularly in relation to the purchase of official vehicles.
SECTION27, The Budget and Expenditure Monitoring Forum (BEMF), the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have written a letter to Mr Supra Mahumapelo, Premier, North West, Ms Sussana Tsebe, Speaker of the North West Provincial Legislature, Mr Magome Masike, MEC, North West Department of Health, Mr Nhlanhla Nene, Minister of Finance, Mr Collins Chabane, Minister of Public Service and Administration and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health. The letter is available here [Letter on vehicle purchase for the North West]. In the letter, the signatories ask the following questions:
- do either of the reports referred to contain inaccuracies and, if so, which statements / allegations are inaccurate?
- which funds were used to purchase the vehicle for the MEC?
- what are the reasons given to justify the decision to use these funds?
- will potential violations of the Public Finance Management Act be investigated and action taken and, if so, when is such investigation expected to occur?
- if funds have been shifted from EMS cost centres to pay for the MEC’s vehicle, have those funds been replaced and, if not, when will they be replaced?
- when will the Ministerial Handbook be amended to apply the directive of the former Minister of Finance in his October 2013 statement to the expenses of executive authorities?
The signatories expect a response to their letter by 18 June 2014.