TAC Statement on Auditor-General's Qualified Audit Opinion of the Department of Health

18 October 2004

"Napwa became a perfect and convenient restorer of credibility in the Government's continued legitimisation of the Department of Health's outright refusal to provide anti-retroviral treatment to millions of people living with HIV and Aids. ... Napwa was strategically ... manipulated [by the Department of Health] into becoming an unofficial spin doctoring cover ... " Lucky Mazibuko, The Sowetan, 12 October 2004.

The Auditor-General (AG) in its report to Parliament on the financial statements for the National Department of Health for the year ended 31 March 2004 issued a qualified audit opinion. This was on the basis that, amongst other things, the department had not complied with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in the way it transferred funds to non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The AG found that "the organisations funded did not comply with Treasury Regulations and the conditions of the funding agreements with the department. They did not provide the department with audited financial statements and quarterly reports as required by the funding requirements. Funds are transferred by the department without obtaining assurance that the beneficiary has implemented effective, efficient, and transparent financial management and internal control systems. This represents non-compliance with the PFMA." (Department of Health, Annual Report 2003/4, presented to Parliament 11 October 2004) The amount distributed to NGOs for the period in question was R110 million.

The report further states, "A complaint has been received in respect of [the National Association of People with AIDS] NAPWA to which the department has transferred R5.192 million (over the past two years) and a forensic investigation is being scoped by [the office of the AG]."

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has previously publicly raised the issue of NAPWA's lack of accountability as well as probed allegations of financial irregularities and mismanagement. In particular we questioned the accountability of its leaders Nkululeko Nxesi (former director) and Thanduxolo Doro (deputy national director). Some of our senior members signed an open letter in 2003 calling for greater accountability in NAPWA to which NAPWA and its board did not respond. In the last year we have limited our public statements on NAPWA's lack of accountability so as not to divert attention from our main concern - providing life saving treatment to people living with AIDS. We also wanted to avoid creating confusion or further disunity among people with HIV/AIDS and organisations that represent them.

However, faced with overwhelming evidence of financial mismangement, earlier this year we wrote to NAPWA's funders and potential funders alerting them to the divisive conduct of certain office bearers in NAPWA and their lack of accountability. We also lodged a complaint with the office of the AG alleging financial mismanagement by NAPWA of funds received by it from the Department of Health. We also complained that the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development flouted the provisions of the PFMA and certain Treasury Regulations. On the basis of this complaint and prima facie evidence of financial irregularities, the AG decided to conduct a forensic investigation into public funds given to and received by NAPWA, inlcuding funds given by the Department to NAPWA.

Our full complaint to the Auditor-General can be downloaded from:

http://www.tac.org.za/Documents/ComplaintAG.doc

Below we reprint two important newspaper articles written by Lucky Mazibuko, a journalist with The Sowetan who lives openly with HIV. Mazibuko is also a former member of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). We support his call for an external and independent forensic audit of NAPWA's finances (on-going through the office of the AG) as well as an inquiry into public funding of NGOs that offer HIV/AIDS related services. We also call on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health to question the Minister of Health and ask her to explain the findings of the AG relating to the Department's financial conduct.

There is a need for a national organisation for people with HIV/AIDS, such as NAPWA, as well as for unity between non-governmental organisations campaigning for the rights of people with HIV/AIDS. But there is also a need for accountability, transparency and ethical conduct. We support the efforts of the NAPWA staff members, some of whom allegedly have not been paid for months, and supporters who are working to ensure that NAPWA's affairs become properly and ethically managed.

[END OF TAC STATEMENT]

(The TAC reprints the two newspaper articles below from The Sowetan. We believe them to be accurate in critical respects, but we cannot take responsibility for any inaccuracies there might be in them.)

AIDS body in deep financial trouble

By Lucky Mazibuko

Reprinted from The Sowetan, 12 October 2004

The National Association of People living with HIV-AIDS (Napwa) is in financial trouble and more than 60 employees have not been paid for more than six months.

Allegations of mismanagement and maladministration have haunted Napwa in the last few years, but insiders say things have hit rock bottom.

Napwa’s deputy national director Thanduxolo Doro blamed the non payment of staff and the breakdown of services on the Department of Health, who he claims, owes his organisation R3,2 million.

Most of Napwa’s provincial offices have been closed down, telephones suspended and the workers are up in arms. Napwa claims to have 100 000 members, the majority of whom are people living with HIV and AIDS.

"We submitted our audited financial statements almost two month ago but the Department of Health has still not effected payment and this is quite frustrating, especially for the beneficiaries of the programmes aimed at alleviating the plight of people living with HIV", said Doro.

He conceded that Napwa had failed to pay its employees while it continued to pay its managers on time.

However, Collen Bonnecwe the Department of Health’s director for HIV-AIDS NGO funding said Napwa was squarely to blame for the appalling state it found itself in.

"The reason that money has not been paid to Napwa is because of their sloppiness and poor accounting tendencies. For the past three years it has been the same story", said Bonnecwe.

"On a number of occasions I have literally gone to their offices to beg for audited financial statements."

The impression now is that the Department of Health is treating Napwa with kid gloves, he said.

As a result of the unpaid salaries and general malaise at Napwa many employees are struggling to make ends meet, especially those who need special health care because they are HIV-positive.

A provincial coordinator, who has been diagnosed with TB, has been lying in hospital for the past three months and during that time has not been paid.

Daisy Sikali (36), the Napwa Gauteng coordinator, was only discharged from Sizwe Hospital yesterday. She is now entirely dependant on her mother and her mother in law to pay her rent for the flat she shares with her partner and her 11-year-old daughter. "I don’t answer private calls on my cellphone anymore because all my accounts are in arrears. I am concerned because my name will be blacklisted and I will never be able to open an account or run a business. I am in so much trouble it’s unbelievable", said Sikali.

Over the years Napwa has ignored or dismissed claims and allegations of financial mismanagement and maladministration, particularly from the Treatment Action Campaign and also public pressure for their leadership to exercise openness and transparency in utilising public funds.

"The fact that they cannot provide essential services and their offices are closed down is their problem, the director of health should not be the scapegoat.

"They must get their house in order," said Bonecwe.

[END OF FIRST ARTICLE FROM THE SOWETAN]

 

Scandalous Shenanigans

By Lucky Mazibuko

Reprinted from The Sowetan, 12 October 2004

For a very long time now, Napwa has been let off the hook. Consistently there has been concerted testimony to controversies, inefficiencies, maladministration, political and personal infighting with the organisation and an eye for an eye policy towards the Treatment Action Campaign.

While all of these shenanigans were being reported and allegations being made, the Department of Health, particularly the Minister for Health, Doctor Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was content to wrap them under her troubled wings, especially at the height of the no holds barred public and legal battles with the TAC.

Napwa became a perfect and convenient restorer of creditability in the governments continued legitimisation and justification of the Department of Health’s outright refusal to provide anti retroviral treatment to millions of people living with HIV and Aids.

Even as we speak, this Mickey Mouse, so called rollout of Anti-Retroviral treatment, is in a shambles as the Department of Health has clearly shown that it has no political will and that there is no effective plan for such a complex rollout of treatment to meaningfully and decisively address the issue of prolonging peoples lives.

I certainally found it shameful to be represented by an organisation that did not have its priorities right. Instead, NAPWA was strategically turned and manipulated into becoming an unofficial spin-doctoring cover, and to lick the backsides of public servants and to polish the dented image of the Department of Health, who flatly refused to act decisively.

The taxpayers' money, yours and mine, is being wasted on an unaccountable, ineffective structure that does not seem to have the interests of people living with HIV at heart.

Since December 2001 there have been ever-increasing volumes of dissatisfied Napwa office bearers, intended beneficiaries and even board members.

In one example, one of the provincial co-ordinators described her cruel and unnecessary abuse at the brutal hands of the leadership within this condemmed structure that carries no weight, influence, legitimacy and credibility. Her case is currently before the CCMA.

The previous National Director of Napwa has also resigned under doubtful circumstances. One of his reasons for leaving this embattled organisation, according to impeccable sources was that "he was not a person living with HIV" which implies he could not deal convincingly with pertinent issues directly impacting on people living with HIV. In the ensuing political backstabbing, former National Director of Napwa, Nkululeko Nxesi was pushed out.

The board was meeting infrequently and at some stage it did not meet for more than a year. These are the people entrusted with monitoring and giving direction to such an important organisation. This is despicable, and it actually puts the integrity of people living with HIV into disrepute.

What about the millions of people who are supposed to benefit from Napwa? What about the children, the orphans? What about the destitute families of Napwa employees who have not received a single cent of their salaries in six months? Does anybody care what they eat? This is scandalous.

Napwa needs an urgent overhaul. There must be an external and independent forensic audit immediately. An enquiry must be commissioned and it must look not only at Napwa, but also into other HIV-Aids-related civil societal structures, particularly regarding funding and how such taxpayers' funds are used or wasted.

 

[END OF SECOND ARTICLE FROM THE SOWETAN]