by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC
The cash-strapped Gauteng Health Department has paid R103 million to Ngcebetsha Madlanga Attorneys (NMA) for work that included an opinion on terminating the Life Esidimeni contract, and opposing the two court applications that tried to stop the transfer of mental health patients to unsuitable NGOs where 144 died.
This is disclosed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.
According to Ramokgopa, NMA was paid this money from October 2014 to September 2017, whereafter she is not able to obtain any reports of additional work “due to the exodus of senior legal officials who were directly involved in dealing with this service provider”.
Ramokgopa says that the firm was first appointed by participating in a contract for a panel of legal service providers.
A contract/Service Level Agreement was entered into on 4 January 2016, which was for ten months up to 31 October 2016, and then an addendum was signed that extended the contract to 31 October 2017.
This looks quite fishy, but Ramokgopa claims that “there were no irregularities identified in connection with this law firm”.
In addition to work related to the Esidimeni saga, the firm did work on labour issues, medico-legal claims and some other matters.
The amount paid to this firm is grossly excessive, and it is disturbing that much of this was for bad advice that contributed to the Esidimeni tragedy.
Ramokgopa concedes that “a detailed review of the work done by this law firm must be undertaken given the amount of money/fees paid by the Department”, and this will determine whether NMA will receive future legal work.
I believe that an internal review is not sufficient, and an independent inquiry is needed into the outrageous payments made to this law firm.