Esidimeni debacle: SIU to investigate
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 NGOs, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 psychiatric patients.
A statement issued by the Presidency yesterday said the SIU would investigate the department’s procurement of 28 NGOs 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, owner or staff of the entities referred to above”, as well as whether any unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful spending took place, among other things.
In May, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said during his budget speech in Parliament that the National Prosecuting Authority was preparing to open inquests into the deaths of the patients, who died mostly of 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 had been made in implementing all 18 of the health ombudsman’s recommendations, promising the Speaker of the National Assembly a full report.
A police investigation into the deaths was under way, disciplinary proceedings against government officials who were 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 NGOs that do not meet standards was in full swing, he said.
Motsoaledi also revealed that he had approved revised guidelines, which were drawn up by a team of law and mentalhealth experts for the licensing and regulation of communitybased facilities that deal with people with mental and intellectual disabilities. – ANA