Health Department hiding audit report of Cuban programme

Issued by Haseena Ismail MP – DA Member on the Portfolio Committee of Health
12 Jul 2022 in News

Please find attached soundbite by Haseena Ismail MP.

It seems that that the Department of Health is trying to hide an audit report into the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Collaboration Programme that has been referred to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for an investigation.

In light of Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla’s concerning remarks on eNCA last week that his Department is looking into collaborating with the Department of Higher Education to use National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for the programme that trains South African medical students in Cuba, the DA is calling for the audit report to be made public. We will also write to the parliamentary portfolio committee on health to request Minister Phaahla’s urgent appearance before Parliament to explain the worrying state of affairs.

The DA has made numerous efforts to try and interrogate the situation and see the report regarding an internal investigation into the disappearance of students’ bursary contracts – we’ve submitted parliamentary questions (PQs) and a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application. In all this we’ve been sent from pillar to post with Minister Phaahla’s answer to our latest PQ indicating that either his Department is completely inept or they are doing all in their power to keep the report from seeing light of day. The Minister answered, “when the National Department of Health conducted an internal audit and reconciliation with the Provinces on this Programme from October to December 2021, it was not conducted for the Gauteng Department of Health. The details from the Gauteng Department of Health are that all files relating to the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Collaboration Programme have been taken by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) for an investigation.”

The SIU is denying any knowledge of the matter and Treasury has indicated that they are not responsible for the investigation.

It is extremely concerning that Minister Phaahla would go so far as to suggest the use of NSFAS to fund this flawed program. Students associated with the program have complained about the lack of proper and necessary support while being stranded in Cuba in poor living conditions. Their parents were also forced to send them suitcases of supplies during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when both the South African and Cuban governments refused to take responsibility for the students.

The Minister needs to account to Parliament as soon as the new term starts for his remarks about NSFAS, the missing audit report and the efficacy of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro Collaboration Programme.