The Cuban Doctor Training Programme is being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) following a Department of Health internal audit, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has disclosed.
The disclosure from Phaahla was in a December written response to parliamentary questions from Democratic Alliance MP Haseena Ismail. Ismail had asked if there were any corruption charges against the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme, better known as the Cuban doctor Training Programme.
According to an IOL report, in his letter, Phaahla said no corruption charges had been brought to his attention regarding the programme.
“However, when the national Health Department did an internal audit and reconciliation with the provinces on this programme, from October to December 2021, it was not conducted for the Gauteng Health Department,” he said, adding that the SIU had removed all files relating to the Collaboration Programme Unit, pending an investigation.
None of the provinces had said anything to him about withdrawing support for the programme or stopping payments, Phaahla said.
The amount payable for tuition fees for students in Cuba is billed in US dollars and payable by the national Health Department based on the exchange rate at the date of transfer. The amount is fixed per level of study per student, and the stipend is also billed in US dollars.
Phaahla said R31,740 was the cost per student for the programme preparatory level, R76,935 for students in the first year up to fifth year, and a R38,088 stipend for each student.
There are added costs of two return flight tickets per student during the six years of study and/or during a bereavement of next of kin.
He said R986,367 was paid by the department towards the integration of students at local universities between July 2018-19 and July 2021-2022.
A total of R231,325.00 was paid in 2018-19 and R241,734.63 the following year.
In 2020–2021, a total of R252,612.68 was paid and R260,696.28 in 2021-22.
Phaahla told IOL that his department had asked the provinces to make an additional payment over and above those they were supposed to make last year (2021).
“This was a shortfall for the 2019/2020 academic period of students in Cuba. The shortfall was because the exchange rate baseline that was used in calculating tuition fees for students in Cuba was at R15 for the 2019/2020 academic period.
He added that the department has just done an internal audit and reconciliation exercise from October 2021 to November 2021. “The findings have been sent to provinces for review and approval,” he said.
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