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DG candidate withdraws after delays

29 November 2004 Angelo Coppola

The frontrunner for the position of Director General of Health, Dr Victor Litlhakanyane, has withdrawn, apparently frustrated by the long delays in the finalisation of the post.

The department has been without a director general, the department's highest official and chief accounting officer, for over a year.

Recently, the Auditor General reported that there were "fundamental deficiencies and non-compliance" with the law in the department, amounting to billions of Rands, and relating to issues such as the inadequate monitoring of conditional grants and a lack of control over assets.

Litlhakanyane, currently head of health in the Free State, confirmed this week that he had been interviewed for the post but had decided to withdraw and leave the public sector altogether.

"I resigned for personal reasons and look forward to continuing to contribute towards the transformation of the national health system but this time around from the private sector," said Litlhakanyane.

However, sources within the department say that Litlhakanyane had become increasingly frustrated by the months of delay in finalising the post.

The former director general, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, left his post in September last year.

Litlhakanyane, the first black doctor to qualify in the Free State, has been head of Free State health since April 2001. The province is on a sound footing in terms of delivery, services and management and Litlhakanyane is widely acknowledged as a strong and sound leader.

In contrast, the national department appears to be struggling. There are a number of key vacancies and it was not even able to meet its Parliamentary deadline for the tabling of its annual report for 2003/4.

There is little overall co-ordination of the comprehensive HIV/AIDS plan, and a number of hospitals that say they are ready to provide anti-retroviral drugs but are still waiting to be accredited to do so by the national department.

Department of Health officials failed to respond to queries despite being given a week to do so.

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