$600 million SA Health corruption fear MUST be catalyst for Royal Commission or complete ICAC investigation: SA-BEST

5 December 2019

Startling revelations from one of the state’s most prominent economists that corruption within SA Health could be costing taxpayers up to $600 million a year must be the catalyst for a Royal Commission - or at the very least a complete ICAC investigation - into the besieged department.

SA-BEST MLC and Health spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, revealed in Parliament yesterday modelling released by SA Centre for Economic Studies economist, Darryl Gobbett, that exposed corruption inside SA Health could be between $200 million and $600 million a year.

SA-BEST MLC and Health spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, said: “Enough is enough – this madness has to stop.

“People’s lives continue to be at risk while the government continues to procrastinate and pontificate! It is in a paralysed state of denial and inaction,” she said.

“It’s continued behaviour in the face of growing and alarming allegations throughout SA Health is scandalous.

“If this turgid government is not prepared to decisive and urgent action, SA-BEST look at all measures – including a potential no confidence motion in the Health Minister - to ensure this crucial matter is elevated to the level that’s required.”

In Parliament yesterday, Connie asked Health Minister, Stephen Wade, this question:

Widely respected Centre for Economic Studies economist Darryl Gobbett was quoted on radio this morning—and I will quote him verbatim to ensure accuracy: Corruption in healthcare is estimated at 3-8% of healthcare spending in Europe and North America… Applying that to SA's public sector spend in 2019-20 of $6,888m ($6.88 billion) is a cost of corruption of $207m-$550m per annum…SA probably is at the higher end of this.

If that is true—and there's no reason to suspect otherwise after Commissioner Lander's scathing report—my question to the Minister is: Do you accept that Commissioner Lander's request for an additional $2 million so he can undertake the investigation he wants into SA Health is a drop in the ocean compared to the figures quoted by Mr Gobbett?

Minister Wade’s response included this statement:

I have no doubt that corruption and maladministration are a gross waste of public resources. As I have said previously, every dollar that we waste in maladministration, inefficiency, corruption—whatever it will be—is a dollar that is not going to be available to deliver public health services to South Australians.

Minister Wade also revealed in Parliament yesterday – in response to a question from Connie’s colleague, SA-BEST MLC, Frank Pangallo, that the taskforce established in the wake of ICAC Commissioner, Bruce Lander’s scathing report into SA Health does not have the powers to lay - or refer - criminal charges against any South Australian health employee if it finds to have committed some criminal activity.

Mr Gobbett used overseas studies to calculate the potential level of corruption with SA Health, including estimations of corruption in healthcare spending in Europe and North America is between three and eight percent.

When applied to SA Health’s budget of about $6.8 billion, the potential cost of corruption is between $200 million and $550 million per annum.

Mr Gobbet claimed SA would probably be at the higher end of the calculation.

“The more the crisis enveloping SA Health deepens, the more it’s becoming apparent the Minister is getting further out of his depth – or continues to be fed advice by senior bureaucrats that they want him to hear, not actually what’s going on at the coalface,” Connie said.

“I don’t understand the government’s reluctance to hold a Royal Commission – or at the very least giving the ICAC Commissioner the $2 million he’s requested to thoroughly investigate SA Health,” she said.

“The government has nothing to lose and everything to gain - the crisis besieging SA Health had its genesis with the former Labor Government.

“Minister Wade claims a Royal Commission will cost too much money and take too long to complete – what cost do you put on patients’ lives?

“As well as raising concerns about corruption and maladministration in SA Health, the ICAC Commissioner also says critical care is being severely impacted.

“I have a level of sympathy for the Health Minister and the mess he inherited, but 18 months into this government’s administration SA Health leans from one crisis to another.

“I call on this government to hold a Royal Commission -or at the very least a complete ICAC investigation - into the state’s public health system – not to do so will be at its own peril.”

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