Gordhan lays down gauntlet on corruption

Pravin Gordhan. Picture: GCIS

Pravin Gordhan. Picture: GCIS

Today’s Budget Speech lays down gauntlet on corruption with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan warning government employees, tenderpreneurs and private individuals that there will be no more hopping onto the gravy train.

He also made it clear that money is tight and that wasteful expenditure will not be tolerated.

“Corruption is a no-go zone,” the minister told The Citizen during a media briefing.

“In some instances, governance has been weak, corruption has taken hold, and service delivery has faltered,” the minister said in a prepared speech.

He added that government has “heard your pleas” and that service delivery mechanisms will be improved whilst corruption is stamped out.

The country has been hit by a number of protests this year, many which became violent. Often, protesting community members blamed a lack of service delivery, or a perceived corruption of local government officials, for their unhappiness.

“This Budget lays the foundation for the structural reforms envisaged over the next term of this Government… So the new economic order we seek cannot just be a pact amongst elites, a coalition amongst stakeholders with vested interests, his speech read.

In presenting his R1,25 trillion budget, the minister said the new Chief Procurement Office will conduct and analysis of the business interests of government employees.

It will also create an “inspectorate to monitor procurement plans and audit tender documents”.

These initiatives will be critical as the 2014 Budget once again poises the country for more infrastructure spending.

During the last round of infrastructure spending, large-scale collusion between some of the country’s biggest construction firms took place.

The resulting findings by the Competition Commission showed that taxpayers had been fleeced of billions.

Gordhan told The Citizen that any previous infrastructure spend “issues” should not “repeat themselves” this time around.

Following the Public Protector’s damning reports into inflated leases for government buildings last year, Gordhan also said the Public Works department has conducted a review of state leases. It has highlighted a number of worrying trends:

  • Accommodation that is unoccupied but being paid for;
  • Accommodation occupied by non-governmental entities;
  • Discrepancies between the size of accommodation occupied and what is paid for;
  • Marked divergences from market rates per square metre;
  • Procurement through inappropriate non-competitive procedures;
  • Missing or invalid lease agreements and unsubstantiated payments to landlords.

Gordhan added that within the revenue constraints created by a weakened economy, Treasury – along with a number of official offices and departments – will implement initiatives to further curb wasteful expenditure and corruption.

This includes cutting budgets “for consultants, travel, accommodation and venue hire have been curtailed, which will contribute to savings over the next three years”.

Last year, the public protector also investigated a number of incidents where senior government officials and former cabinet members were accused of wasting taxpayer money by staying in expensive hotels and guesthouses for prolonged periods.

The budget will attempt to strike a balance between the money available and the projects embarked on.

“Our present circumstances oblige us to live and spend modestly and keep a careful balance between social expenditure and support for growth,” the prepared speech reads.

Nevertheless, there will be a strategic shift away from “consumption expenditure” to infrastructure spending.

The minister added that Treasury is not willing to fund this spending with a larger budget deficit, but within the frameworks set in the mini-budget in October.





today in print