The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) will recover more than R600,000 from two Gauteng Health service providers after a successful probe into the Life Esidimeni tragedy, with nine more NGOs in the units sights.
“We are pleased to advise on the successful order that was granted in relation to the Life Esidimeni investigation against two service providers. The SIU is now executing on the judgment and any money received will be paid to the Gauteng Health Department,” the unit is quoted in a report in The Citizen as saying.
In terms of the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act of 1996, the SIU had been tasked with probing matters relating to unlawful and improper conduct on the part of 28 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) tasked with the care of mental health patients.
In 2017, then president Jacob Zuma issued a proclamation, mandating the SIU to investigate the Life Esidimeni tragedy and whether NGOs were paid “in a manner that was not fair, transparent, equitable and contrary to applicable legislation”.
An “ill-fated marathon project” to transfer patients from the Life Esidimeni healthcare facility to NGOs across the Gauteng province resulted in the death of 144 mental healthcare users.
The report says the South Gauteng High Court granted judgment against the defendants, The Anchor Centre for the Intellectually Disabled and Dorothy Evangeline Franks, and they were ordered to pay R663,275.03.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the judgment, reports News24. “I hope that criminal charges will also be laid against the people at these NGOs who fraudulently obtained these payments. It highlights the administrative ineptitude of the department as they paid over money even though they should have known that the patients had been transferred elsewhere, Gauteng DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom said.
Bloom however expressed concern over the delay in charging those whose criminal negligence led to 144 deaths of the mental health patients in their care. “Why is it taking so long for this to get to court? The lives that were lost are surely more precious than stolen money,” Bloom said.
“The DA is continuing to press Gauteng Premier David Makhura to use the law to ensure that former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her top officials contribute from their own pockets towards the more than R300m that has so far been paid in compensation to Esidimeni victims,” Bloom said.
The SIU is preparing action against nine more NGOs implicated in wrongdoing in the Life Esidimeni scandal. SIU says the value of the pending civil litigation is R5m. Spokesperson Nazreen Pandor is quoted in a Sowetan Live report as saying that the unit will ensure that action was taken against the NGOs and consequence management meted out against officials implicated. “We intend to complete this investigation in three months time to be able to submit a final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa,” Pandor said.
“President Ramaphosa issued a proclamation last month mandating the SIU to investigate matters in respect of the Gauteng department of health. The unit instituted civil litigation in the Gauteng High Court Division.