Gauteng increases mental health spending after Esidimeni crisis

7 March 2017
Business Day

Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy on Tuesday tabled a R108bn budget for the province, which included R10bn added to the baseline of departments to meet increased demand.

Gauteng is the largest contributor to the country’s economy and accounts for 35% of SA's gross domestic product (GDP).

The main priorities for the provincial government were education, health and infrastructure.

The largest amount - R40.8bn - was allocated to the education department. This was up from R39.5bn.

The budget for the province’s public health system also increased, from R37.6bn in 2016-17 to R40.2bn in 2017-18.

“Improving the health of our citizens and restoring public confidence in our public health system is a major priority for this year,” she said.

Over the medium term, R893.8m has been allocated to support mental health patients.

Gauteng spent about R700m in the last medium term.

This follows the death of more than 100 psychiatric patients who were moved from Life Esidimeni facilities to unlicensed nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).

Creecy said the provincial treasury was committed to supporting the health department in implementing the recommendations of the health ombudsman’s report on the tragedy.

“When the alternative dispute resolution process is complete, we will appropriate any necessary resources for the families of the victims of the Life Esidimeni tragedy from the provincial revenue fund,” she said.

‘Shovel ready’

Over the 2017 medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF), Gauteng reserved R44.4bn for infrastructure spending.

Creecy said R31.9bn had been set aside for what she called “shovel ready” projects while R12.5bn was in a reserve for when projects became ready.

“Our purpose in doing this … is to incentivise sound infrastructure planning practices,” she said.

All projects that were “shovel ready” were part of departmental baselines.

Departments that presented additional projects that were ready to roll out, in the course of the financial year or in future financial years, would be allocated more money.

“During the tabling of the adjustment budget I shared with this house our commitment to eliminating wasteful expenditure in infrastructure, which generally emanates from poor planning and management…. Our new approach to funding infrastructure projects is intended to make this commitment a reality,” Creecy said.

The MEC said in order to save costs, the provincial government cut back on noncore expenses, such as catering, corporate branding, accommodation and travel, and managed to save R414m.

Last year, Gauteng saved R386m in fruitless and wasteful expenditure by reducing interest paid on overdue accounts.