Dept refers law­suits to pri­vate firm LE­GAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE DE­PART­MENT OF HEALTH

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - SANDI KWON HOO CHIEF RE­PORTER

THE NORTH­ERN Cape De­part­ment of Health has re­ferred 46 med­i­cal le­gal claims, ex­ceed­ing R60 mil­lion, to a pri­vate law firm for lit­i­ga­tion.

The firm in­di­cates on its web­site that it spe­cialises in mat­ters re­lat­ing to the Road Ac­ci­dent Fund (RAF). It also has ex­per­tise in deal­ing with gen­eral in­sur­ance law, gen­eral lit­i­ga­tion, con­veyanc­ing, con­struc­tion and con­sumer law.

The at­tor­neys and con­veyancers have of­fices in Cape Town and Kim­ber­ley.

The neg­li­gence cases, many of which are be­ing claimed against the MEC for Health, date from 2014 up un­til this year.

The services of the State at­tor­ney for the 46 cases were ter­mi­nated by the head of the medico-le­gal unit, Papi Motin­goe, last month.

Some of the mat­ters are at crit­i­cal stages of trial, in prepa­ra­tion for trial, or where the set­tle­ment amounts are be­ing de­cided upon.

The chair­per­son of the North­ern Cape Civics Or­gan­i­sa­tion, Ross Hen­der­son, ques­tioned why the mat­ters were re­ferred to a pri­vate law firm.

“While some of the cases are be­ing ar­gued in court or at stage of full and fi­nal set­tle­ment, the files are be­ing pe­rused from scratch. The av­er­age cost for the pe­rusal of doc­u­ments amounts to about R22 000 per file. Ad­vo­cates will also have to be ap­pointed for court ap­pear­ances,” said Hen­der­son.

He added that many of these cases should be set­tled out of court, where the de­part­ment had con­ceded the mer­its and was ad­vised that they were not “winnable cases”.

“Fur­ther­more, these cases were re­moved from the State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, which pro­vides le­gal services to the De­part­ment of Health free of charge.”

Hen­der­son in­di­cated that gov­ern­ment de­part­ments were given a man­date to en­sure that lo­cal busi­nesses were given an equal op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide services to state de­part­ments.

“There do not ap­pear to be any ten­ders ad­ver­tised for the lit­i­ga­tion of these 46 mat­ters. It is pre­scribed reg­u­la­tion for the State At­tor­ney’s Of­fice to rec­om­mend a pri­vate law firm if their services are ter­mi­nated, while the MEC for Health as well as the board must be ad­vised of this de­ci­sion.”

Hen­der­son also called for a com­mis­sion of in­quiry to be in­sti­tuted by an in­de­pen­dent judge or re­tired judge into the “rot at the de­part­ment”.

“While the task team claims to be re­duc­ing le­gal costs, it is in­stead es­ca­lat­ing ir­reg­u­lar and waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture.”

The spokesper­son for the MEC for Health, Le­bo­gang Ma­jaha, in­di­cated that the MEC had planned a manage­ment meet­ing, to be con­vened to­day, to re­view the process plan to swiftly deal with the medico-le­gal claims faced by the de­part­ment.

The pri­vate law firm stated that the claims were all sub ju­dice and were of a con­fi­den­tial na­ture.

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