CAPE TOWN, July 4 – President Jacob Zuma has signed a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) proclamation sanctioning a probe into the role of the Gauteng health department in the transfer of patients from the Life Esidimeni Centre to several NGO’s which ultimately resulted in the deaths over 100 psychiatric patients.
A statement issued by the presidency on Tuesday, said the SIU would investigate the department’s procurement of 28 non-governmental organisation in whose care the patients were left and whether the payments made to the NGOs were “not fair, transparent, equitable and contrary to applicable legislation”.
The unit would also look into “any unlawful or improper act or omission by officials of the Department or owner or staff of the entities referred to above”, as well as whether any unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful spending occurred.
The SIU would also probe allegations of:
— Non-performance by the 28 NGOs mentioned above;
— Serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of the Department;
— Improper or unlawful conduct by the officials or employees of the Department; and
— Unlawful irregular or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure or practice having a bearing upon State property.
In May, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said during his budget speech that the National Prosecuting Authority was preparing to open inquests into the cause of deaths of the patients who died of mostly dehydration, starvation and hypothermia.
“The NPA have just requested all the files because they want to start conducting inquests into the cause of death and start prosecutions of people who need to be prosecuted,” Motsoaledi said at the time.
The minister said progress has been made in implementing all 18 of the Health Ombudsman’s recommendations, promising the Speaker of the National Assembly a full report.
A police probe into the deaths was well underway, disciplinary proceedings against government officials implicated in the Ombudsman’s report had commenced, the South African Human Rights Commission was probing human rights violations, and the process of closing down NGO’s that do not meet standards was in full swing.
Motsoaledi also said he has approved new guidelines for the licencing and regulation of community-based facilities that deal with people with mental and intellectual disabilities. The guidelines, he said, were drawn up by a team of law and and mental health experts, and would be published in the Government Gazette on May 19.
– African News Agency (ANA)