High time state staff step up to the plate

2013-10-06 14:00

Can’t get books to schools? Get a consultant to do it.

Can’t get medicines to hospitals? No problem, get a consultant.

Can’t get water to the people? Get a?...?well, maybe not.

This practice of hiring consultants to do the jobs our civil servants should be doing seems to be the only way government is able to deliver.

In the 2011/12 financial year, government spent R33.7?billion of taxpayers’ money on consultants. While this figure was slightly less than the year before, it is still way too much.

In most cases where government has outsourced its services, there are government staff members permanently employed to do such work. They are still paid their full salaries and benefits while consultants do their jobs for them.

This practice, which is turning South Africa into a state run by consultants, is hugely concerning.

Auditor-General Terence Nombembe is also worried about it, cautioning that the use of consultants by government is, in many instances, covering up the fact that government has employed people in the civil service who are not qualified for their jobs.

The Public Service Commission warns that this overreliance on consultants often leads to government paying twice for services that should simply be provided by public servants.

Parliament’s watchdog body, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), is also tired of senior government officials who fail to provide adequate answers to questions of spending – mostly because the jobs they are quizzed about were done by consultants.

The frustration is so great that Scopa is now considering calling consultants to account on government’s spending.

While training civil servants to do the job is one of the conditions prescribed when consultants are appointed, it doesn’t happen in may cases.

It is time for government to verify whether they have civil servants they already pay to do the jobs consultants are doing. This will go a long way to helping to rid the public service of consultants and improve service delivery.

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