R14m spend includes cost of counting rugs, cushions

2012-10-21 07:50

Public works spent R14 million counting its scatter cushions, curtains and Persian rugs.

This was among some of the things state departments splurged on, as revealed in their annual reports.

These details come against the backdrop of a R5 billion bill for official travel, entertainment and catering by government departments.

This as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan called on the state to tighten its belt after two recent credit downgrades by international ratings agencies.

Annual reports now include details of outsourced state work between April last year and March this year, and show generous outlays of flowers, interior decoration, awards functions and work that could have been done in-house.

The reports show:
» The presidency spent almost R28 million on the presidential review committee on state-owned enterprises;

»
The environmental affairs department spent nearly R40 million on an exhibition, including the construction of a temporary exhibition centre, to showcase government’s conservation efforts during the COP17 conference in Durban last year, and another R55 million on an awareness campaign;

» Parliament spent more than R3 million on plants and flowers; and

» The public service and administration department spent more than R550 000 on its centre for public service innovation awards, including R70 500 on a “voting gadget”, R69 900 for sound hire and R281 580 to record it.

The details on the costs for the state-owned enterprises committee were handed to Cabinet last month and are yet to be made public.

Committee member Glen Mashinini said the presidency’s budget did not cover all the expenses for the committee’s work, which spanned 22 months and covered 715 entities.

The R40 million climate change expo took place during COP17 in Durban. Environmental affairs spokesperson Roopa Singh said that although no entrance fee was charged and municipalities were given free exhibition space to the value of R7.2 million, the expo still generated R12.4 million in revenue.

Bukiwe Mgobozi, the spokesperson for the public works department, said the asset verification payment was for recording movable assets such as computer hardware and software, furniture, office equipment, and valuables in all regional offices.

Public service and administration spokesperson Dumisani Nkwamba said the spending for the innovation awards was justified because it was a year-long function.

According to Nkwamba, the R70 500 “voting gadget” was an “audience response system used during a conference to interact with delegates”.

He said: “The awards programme is critical for developing an enabling environment for public servants to challenge themselves to excel in providing public services expediently.”

He said the R215 329 spent on plants and flowers was for the health and wellness of the director-general and was in line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

According to parliamentary spokesperson Estelle Randall, the R3 million bill for flowers, plants and decorations was for “major events and official visits to and from Parliament”.

She said: “Parliament exercises due consideration in its use and management of public funds,” adding that Parliament spent what was appropriate, “considering the circumstances”.

Democratic Alliance MP Sandy Kalyan said flower arrangements were provided for MPs weekly, and that parliamentary staff often took the bouquets home on Fridays.

Congress of the People (Cope) leader Mosiuoa Lekota said the expenditure was not surprising.

“Cope regards the pointless expenditure as being obscene and heinous. The ministers and heads of department who authorised such expenditure should be booted out of office seeing that the president in his 2012 State of the Nation Address declared poverty, inequality and unemployment the triple supreme challenges that government had to overcome with all the resources it could muster,” said Lekota.

Merina Willemse, an economist at Efficient Group, said that although international ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s probably didn’t survey government spending on a micro level, the spending
trends reflected in the annual reports did mirror what was happening to the economy on a macro level.

“The ratings agencies noted a lack of policy direction and uncertainty over political stability. In this context, large spending on inessential services by government shows there is no proper control over spending, and no goal-oriented type of government,” she said.


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