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By Devina Haripersad

Senior Business/Finance journalist


Life Esidimeni: “There were no budget cuts” says former MEC Creecy

Creecy dismissed claims of cost-cutting pressure as the reason behind the termination of the contract.


Former Gauteng member of the executive council (MEC) for finance, Barbara Creecy, testified in the Pretoria High Court on 23 May 2023, in the ongoing inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

She said the Department of Health was actually not cash-strapped and did not force former MEC Qedani Mahlangu to make budget cuts that resulted in the termination of the contract with the private psychiatric hospital.

During her testament on Tuesday morning, Creecy dismissed claims of cost-cutting pressure as the reason behind the termination of the contract, revealing that the Health Department had actually underspent its allocated budget.

ALSO READ: Life Esidimeni: R400m paid to victims, with more compensation expected

Mahlangu claimed that the decision to terminate the contract was made by the premier’s budget committee (PBC), chaired by former premier David Makhura.

Underspending in Health Department

Creecy provided insight into the budget allocations and expenditure within the Health Department during the relevant years.

She disclosed that in the financial year 2014/15, the Health Department had underspent its budget, despite being allocated R31.4 billion.

The trend of underspending continued in subsequent years, including a slight underspending in the 2015/16 financial year, despite receiving an increased budget allocation of R34.1 billion.

In the following year, an overspending occurred, with the department spending R42 billion against an allocated budget of R40.2 billion, Creecy said.

No budget cuts

Contrary to allegations of budget cuts, Creecy confirmed that there were no reductions in the health budget between the financial years under examination. She emphasised that the overall mental health budget remained consistent.

Creecy also shed light on the specific budget allocation for mental healthcare within the Health Department.

The allocated funds were designated for psychiatric or mental hospitals, Life Esidimeni, mental health non-profit organisations (NPOs), and other mental health district services. Notably, she highlighted variations in the amounts allocated to Life Esidimeni in different financial years.

ALSO READ: Life Esidimeni: Patients’ transfer ‘not a rushed job’ – Qedani Mahlangu

Qedani Mahlangu had previously claimed that the decision to terminate the Life Esidimeni contract was made by the premier’s budget committee, and that MEC Creecy was aware of the proceedings.

Creecy’s testimony in the ongoing inquest into the Life Esidimeni tragedy provided crucial information regarding budget allocations and expenditure within the Gauteng Health Department.

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