SIU recovers public funds from Life Esidimeni NGOs that unduly benefited

Four have paid their debts and one continues to pay

Families of patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy sing outside the venue where arbitration hearings took place in 2018. File photo.
Families of patients who died in the Life Esidimeni tragedy sing outside the venue where arbitration hearings took place in 2018. File photo.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has recovered money from five non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that unduly benefited from the relocation of Life Esidimeni patients six years ago.

San Michele Home, Dolphins Acre, Life Esidimeni, Hephzibah Home Care and Ubuhle Benkosi Care Centre have signed acknowledgment of debt agreements with the SIU.

“Four NGOs have paid their debts and one NGO is still paying. The debt is estimated to be settled by March 2025. The SIU will return the money to the South African Social Security Agency,” said the SIU.

According to the investigating unit, the total is R355,414.

The report into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of mentally ill patients in Gauteng found 27 NGOs to which patients were transferred operated under invalid licences.

Five patients died in the care of Hephzibah Home Care, which was operating without a valid licence.

There was no evidence patients were selected according to the skills and experience of NGO staff with respect to the diagnostic categories and severity of patients' disabilities.  

San Michele Home in Brakpan was formerly a high school with ample accommodation and usable space, although it was in need of 30 beds.  

The financial stability of the NGOs enabled them to withstand external factors such as the unfavourable state of patients on arrival from Life Esidimeni and delays in financial support from the Gauteng health department.

Ubuhle Benkosi Care Centre was found not to be fit for purpose as it was undergoing major renovations, yet patients were placed there. It was intended to care for orphaned children.

The NGO existed for only one month before being appointed as a service provider by the health department and did not have a demonstrable track record or capacity to take care of mentally ill patients.

In 2012 the Gauteng health department announced it intended to cut the number of beds at the Life Esidimeni Hospital to 40% of available beds. The following year it realised the number of chronic patients requiring full-time care was increasing and there were few NGOs to provide such services.

In 2014 it paid R323m for the Life Esidimeni contract, or 1% of its annual budget of R31.5bn.

In October 2015, then-health MEC Qedani Mahlangu announced the termination of the Life Esidimeni contract. Late in 2016, it became apparent mentally ill patients had died after being moved from Life Esidimeni due to starvation, thirst and other factors.




Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.