Esidimeni officials receive over R1m while suspended on full pay

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Two senior officials implicated in the transfers that led to the deaths of more than 100 Esidimeni patients have received R1.169m while suspended on full pay. And, says a Business Day report, six other officials involved in the scandal around the treatment of state psychiatric patients are still working for the Gauteng Health Department. The report says this was disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng legislature by the DA’s Jack Bloom.

Head of department Dr Tiego Selebano and director of mental health Dr Makgabo Manamela were suspended in February this year after the report of the Health Ombudsman, Bloom said. “Dr Selebano has since been paid R784‚040 and Dr Manamela has received R385‚269 while their disciplinary process continues.”

Health ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba conducted an inquiry into the deaths of state psychiatric patients after they were transferred from Life Esidimeni care centres to 27 unregistered NGOs across the province. The report says Makgoba called for urgent action to be taken‚ including the closure of some NGOs, and for the remaining patients to be moved to registered facilities.

“I am disappointed that the disciplinary cases are taking so long and that huge amounts of money are being paid to suspended officials‚” Bloom said. “It also means that a permanent head of department and mental health director cannot be appointed so long as the incumbents are still employed by the department. Every effort should be made to conclude the disciplinary cases as soon as possible so that there is accountability and justice for the victims.”

The report says Makgoba recommended disciplinary action against Selebano for gross misconduct and incompetence in accordance with the disciplinary code and procedure. He recommended disciplinary hearings against Manamela for gross misconduct and incompetence as well as tampering with evidence. Makgoba said the officials should also be reported to their respective professional bodies for “appropriate remedial action with regard professional and ethical conduct”.

Bloom said a further six deputy directors faced disciplinary hearings but had not been suspended. He said according to Ramokgopa this was because there was no reason to suspend them, “when the health ombudsman’s recommendation was for ‘corrective’ disciplinary action”. Ramokgopa said the reason for the delays was that the department had to follow supply-chain processes to get outside professionals to handle the disciplinary hearings.

Bloom said: “A detailed report on the outcomes is awaited by the MEC and will be communicated thereafter‚ and it is anticipated that the remaining hearings on two of the six deputy directors will be concluded by the end of August.”

The report says the premier’s office is handling the matters of the head of department and mental health director.

Business Day report

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