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Sun Sep 21 06:07:11 SAST 2014

Government blows R33bn on advisers

SIPHO MASOMBUKA | 25 January, 2013 00:17
Parliament during finance minister Pravin Gordhan's 2012 Budget Speech. File photo.
Image by: POOL / REUTERS

The government spent R33.5-billion on consultants employed to develop media monitoring projects, plant trees, offer basic adult education to police officers and audit staff skills - tasks that could have been done by public servants.

Deputy auditor-general Kimi Makwetu yesterday revealed that in some instances government departments wasted millions on contracting consultants to monitor the work of other consultants.

Consultants were even roped in to deal with sensitive security issues, including the development and management of the police firearms control system.

"Consultants have been employed to provide services such as the preparation of financial statements, for which departments should have internal staff. However, since these skills were not available internally or departments were not successful in recruiting suitable staff, they relied on consultants to perform these functions," Makwetu said.

The biggest amount spent, according to the audit report, was the R10.44-billion the Department of Defence paid consultants between 2008 and 2011. Water Affairs spent R4.263-billion on consultants and the police R4.039-billion.

Correctional Services spent R2.03-billion, Transport spent R1.86-billion and Rural Development spent just over R1-billion.

The billions were lavished despite austerity measures introduced by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in October 2009. Gordhan urged government departments to trim consultancy, entertainment, conference and travel spending.

Last night, government spokes-man Phumla Williams said ministers and heads of administration of affected departments had engaged extensively with the A-G's office and had committed to take ''immediate action to remedy the situation''.

SA Institute for Accountability director Paul Hoffman said that the widespread use of consultants was due to the government employing incompetents.

"People are given jobs that they have no capacity to do," he said.

Hoffman encouraged victims of poor service delivery to complain to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela about the millions paid to consultants.

Many state departments, however, blamed the overspendingon "change of leadership", high vacancy rates, "people with existing skills not being used in the correct roles" and "realignment of organisational structures".

Some of the big spenders:

  • Rural Development and Land Reform spent more than R49-million on recruitment consultants because its human resources division did not have the capacity;
  • Lack of capacity in Correctional Services resulted in consultants being paid to monitor the work of other consultants responsible for the development of an IT system. The department also paid more than R1.8-million for media monitoring.
  • Defence spent R76.6-million to clear audit qualifications because staff did not have the necessary skills. Air Force skills supplementing cost the department R859.9-million and the provision of general and unskilled labour cost R10.9-million.
  • Environmental Affairs spent R14.2m on financial services and R264480 on consultants for the development of a business plan for the Greening Project 2010.
  • The police outsourced the development and management of their firearms control system at a cost of R92.8-million; R10.2-million was spent on adult basic education;
  • Water Affairs spent R3.1-million on the "enhancement of job evaluations";
  • Transport spent R14.3-million on the management of the Transport Month campaign;
  • Poor planning in the appointment of a contractor for the supply of a maritime pollution prevention strategy cost R98-million because the contract was extended three times.

DA spokesma n Mmusi Maimane said : " Hire people who can do the job. The government needs to ensure that people appointed to key positions are fit for the purpose."

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa blamed the ANC government's cadre deployment policy.

"The government hires people who have no clue and I can bet it is worse at local level."

The audit report details departments' non-compliance with regulations, including not following competitive bidding processes. It states that contracts worth millions were open-ended in terms of costs and time, and contracts were awarded without tax clearance certificates or proof of registration with the appropriate professional body.

The A-G recommended:

  • Sanctions in instances of non-compliance with legislation, regulations and policies;
  • Specific oversight of the use of consultants quarterly by portfolio committees;
  • Planning must be done before inviting tenders;
  • Vacancies and capacity should be assessed regularly and internal processes that hinder the filling of posts should be revised;
  • Contracts must provide for skills transfer.

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Sun Sep 21 06:07:11 SAST 2014 ::