Not-for-profit organisation Corruption Watch (CW) on Wednesday released its ‘X-Ray: The critical state of the health sector in SA’ report which aims to uncover the impact of corruption in the healthcare sector.
The report demonstrates how people who are reliant on public health facilities in South Africa bear the brunt of corruption.
According to the report author, Corruption Watch researcher Melusi Ncala South Africa’s major challenge is to apportion scarce resources to an ailing public health sector inherited from the country’s apartheid era.
Since its launch in 2012, CW has received almost 700 reports of corruption in the health sector.
Ncala says in a country where people are afraid to report corruption, these reports are significant.
“They highlight the troubling reality that it is the most vulnerable in our society, namely the elderly, women, and children, who are most likely to bear the brunt of the fall-out from corruption. This corruption takes a variety of forms, ranging from embezzlement of funds to procurement irregularities resulting in shortages of medication and malfunctioning equipment, or pressure to pay bribes for access to services that are a basic human right,” said Ncala.
According to the report, the most widespread forms of corruption in the health sector countrywide are employment corruption at 39%, procurement corruption at 22%, and the misappropriation of resources at 16%.
In employment, this manifests as absenteeism, allegations of nepotism and favouritism, and the appointment of unsuitable candidates, with no accountability for decisions around employment.
Cases of employment corruption were highest in the Northern Cape at 55%, followed by Mpumalanga at 51%, and KwaZulu-Natal at 36%.
The report also highlights corruption in procurement as a concern, which takes the form of inflated pricing, irregularities in awarding of tenders, preferential treatment of suppliers, and kickbacks paid to officials when contracts are awarded.
Most cases of corruption in the area of procurement were reported in Limpopo at 50%, followed by Free State at 46%, and the Western Cape at 28%.
Also featured in the report are cases relating to misappropriation of resources, which involves the mismanagement of funds and use of State resources by officials and employees of various hospitals and clinics for personal benefit.
These activities result in shortages of medication, lost or damaged equipment, and unlawful pressure on State resources, and in some cases loss of life.
“The criminals occupying the halls, offices, wards and dispensaries of our health centres are compounding the problems we face by siphoning funds from a kitty that is running dry and by thieving from depots that are short on medical supplies,” says Ncala.
He says at the end of it all, almost 50-million people's constitutional right to life amounts to nought.
Ncala says the issue of corruption in the health sector should be of paramount concern as it prevents a vast section of the population from accessing their right to decent healthcare.