Health spokesperson Dumisani Mlangeni would only say an in-depth report in the Star newspaper was flawed and "exaggerated".
The front-page report detailed how provincial health MEC Sibongile Manana irregularly used R6 million from the HIV/Aids budget for questionable publicity campaigns while hospitals struggle to raise money for doctors or drugs.
The R6 million spending spree, The Star adds, irregularly used funds from a national government conditional grant meant solely for treating people living with HIV/Aids.
"Look, all I can say is that they got their facts wrong. Our records show we've only spent R2 million on promotional projects, and all this has been from our normal budget," said Mlangeni.
"But the media obviously has a 'deepthroat' in the department that is leaking information, so I cannot say anything more and risk being proved wrong tomorrow."
Some of the more
extravagant expenditure includes a R1 million cultural village near the holiday
Questions have also been asked about a R2.4 million drama programme that appears to include multiple invoicing for the same theater productions, and inflated production costs.
"Look, if there are problems, we will investigate them. But, you can't withhold money to check things like company registrations when dealing with something as urgent as HIV/Aids," said Mlangeni.
Not first brush with notoriety
The controversy is not Manana's first brush with notoriety.
The outspoken former nurse infuriated HIV/Aids activists and the medical fraternity two years ago when she described anti-retroviral drugs as 'poison' designed to kill poor black people, and banned them from all government hospitals.
Manana has since repeatedly clashed with human rights activists, firing doctors and evicting non-profit organisations that challenge her anti-retroviral ban for rape survivors.
She has also repeatedly been criticised by the medical profession and individual provincial hospital superintendents for preventing the provision of potentially life-saving anti-Aids drugs such as Nevirapine to pregnant women.
The Treatment Action
Campaign (TAC), Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu), the SA
Local TAC organiser Thembane Shabangu said the organisation had documentary proof that the province was only supplying nevirapine at two pilot hospitals, and not the 40 institutions Manana claimed in her reports to government.
"This is in
defiance of the
"At least three
major hospitals have applied for nevirapine, but have been refused on grounds
that they were not adequately prepared. We know the hospitals are prepared, and
are already supplying nevirapine ourselves to
TAC is in the process of lodging complaint against Manana with the SA Human Rights Commission, and is demanding an urgent national government investigation into the department's financial management.
Alliance (DA) has meanwhile written to the Auditor General and Scorpions special
investigative unit demanding an urgent probe and possible criminal charges.