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No law will solve problems with country’s health laboratory service as long as corruption and fraud are at the order of the day

*Note to journalists: Here follow excerpts from the speech delivered by FF Plus MP, Wouter Wessels, earlier today in parliament during the debate on the National Health Laboratory Service Amendment Bill.

Simply amending the act will not solve the problems with South Africa’s national health laboratory service. Political will is required to turn this important service around. Corrupt elements must be criminally charged and competence must take precedence.

This service has deteriorated so much so that a surplus of R274 million was wiped out in a single year and at present there is a deficit of nearly R1 billion with irregular expenses amounting to R1.8 billion.

This is not only as a result of provinces’ outstanding debt; despite it being a big problem that is addressed by the National Health Laboratory Service Amendment Bill. The real problem is corruption and financial mismanagement, which became more and more pervasive over time. It has paralysed the institution and must no longer be allowed to continue.

Action must be taken and the guilty parties must be called to account. It has become customary for officials who lined their own pockets with public money to simply resign when their misdeeds come to light – and this is exactly what happened at the laboratory service.

This has to change. There must be consequences to bear for those who steal money from the state; they must be criminally prosecuted at once.

This Bill gives the minister the power to appoint competent council members who, in turn, can appoint competent and reliable officials. This is a good place to start to get the institution back on track.

However, the Bill alone will not make any difference. The will to take action against offenders is needed and competent staff must be appointed. Training and development must be prioritised along with upgrading of the equipment, which is out of date and inadequate.

However, when the service’s director of acquisitions is more interested in his own wallet than the condition of the equipment, that will never happen.

Contact numbers: 082 674 6670 / 065 801 7216

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