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AG blasts Ministry of Health for ignoring court orders

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

Auditor General (AG) ‘Mathaba Makenete has sharply criticized the Ministry of Health for its blatant disregard of court orders, leading to significant financial repercussions.

The Ministry’s refusal to settle a M10.4 million payment arrears has drawn Makenete’s ire, highlighting a troubling disregard for judicial authority and fiscal responsibility.

“These outstanding amounts accrue interest at varying rates, and additional costs are incurred alongside the interest charges. Consequently, the figures continue to increase until they are settled,” Makenete stated in her report for the year ended March 31, 2022, published this week.

She disclosed that during the audit of the Consolidated Financial Statements (CFS), further verification revealed that these cases had reached their conclusions, with judgments being issued through court orders.

However, despite the clear directives, the Ministry of Health’s Legal Department advised against fulfilling these obligations.

“The non-payment of the court orders results in the accumulation of arrears which puts the government into more debt, increasing financial risk. This could result in additional litigations, leading to higher legal costs and penalties, further straining the Government’s fiscal position,” Makenete stated.

She expressed deep concern over the ministry’s stance, noting the absence of any evidence indicating the filing of appeals against judged cases. She underscored the fiscal and legal dangers posed by the ministry’s actions, urging immediate compliance with court orders.

“I recommended that the Ministry of Health must implement the court orders accordingly. Where they disagree with such, appropriate legal routes should be taken,” she added.

The AG’s report paints a stark picture of a government ministry acting with impunity, ignoring legal obligations, and risking further financial strain.

The Ministry of Health’s failure to comply with court mandates not only undermines the rule of law but also burdens the government with increasing debt and potential additional litigation costs.

In addition to the disregard for court orders, Makenete also highlighted financial mismanagement regarding COVID-19 vaccine funds.

She mentioned that the Ministry of Health Contingency Advance amount of M26 million for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines was shown as an imprest advance both in the Ministry of Health’s financial statements and CFS, as opposed to being shown as a contingency advance, and treated appropriately.

She said the advance erroneously appears under amounts to be appropriated under the Supplementary Bill submitted to parliament.

“It was explained that the contingency was not used because the World Bank paid for the vaccines. I recommended that the advance be removed from the Supplementary Bill and put back into the Contingency Fund. Further, updates should be made in the register of advances to be properly classified as a contingency advance,” she said.

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