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Furor over Big Expenditure on Consultants could be a sign

29 January 2013, 10:11

The public spillage by the office of the Auditor General that national departments had misspent billions on consultants has angered people. It trashes the reputation and credibility of all public officials and consultants and harms the public’s trust in government.

The news that R33 billion was spent on consultants by national departments over a period of three years has angered an annoyed public and professional have responded in anger.

One presumes that the true facts are not on the table yet. If the true facts reveal that executives were misusing funds then executives must be fired and poor services and contracts must be closed down. Consulting firms must then taken to task.

If however, the facts reveal that government departments were in a process of strategically outsourcing essential services that would ultimately ensure sustainable service delivery at lower costs, senior officials and consulting firms should be complemented and rewarded.

If public servants were trained by consultants to do work in a way that improves service delivery in a lean environment, this could be viewed as an investment in human capital and optimization. Benefits must then be assessed. Should there be real benefits and improvement, these involved must be rewarded.

The expenditure on so-called consultants must be investigated thoroughly and scrutinized in depth for any sign of corruption. The true facts must be assembled in context and shared with the public. The business cases supporting the contracts must be revealed. Not only is the moral excellence of public officials under fire, but consultants are also implicated. If it is proven that consultants exploited a skill starved public service situation, those involved must be named and shamed.

If the outcry over the expenditure proves to be misplaced or blown up out of proportion, it could be symptomatic of a much bigger problem that is plaguing government organizations.

The outcry of the office of the auditor general could be a symptom of what a black HR manager in the public service called the PHD-syndrome. This has nothing to do with academic jealousy or nepotism or hate of consultants. It has to do with the absolute disrespect and arrogance with which some senior people in government treat ambitious, hardworking colleagues and subordinates.

The PHD-syndrome refers to the put-him/her-down habit of many senior managers who have no respect for the abilities and ideas of colleagues or subordinate managers and who refuse to consult staff. The PHD-syndrome is the emotional legacy of neglect and poverty and manifests in self-importance, arrogance and cruelty.

The result of PHD is that subordinates withdraw emotionally and actively from their responsibilities to escape the hurt. They then purposely promote and support the use of consultants to escape the malice and humiliation of senior managers.

People, who honestly want to bring about the transformation that is needed to improve performance, are not popular because they stir and cause inconvenience in pursuit of excellence.

The public must get the facts (tenders, contracts, business cases, strategies, costs, fees, services and providers) about the contracts that were awarded to so-called consultants. Then the public can decide who was in the wrong. We cannot afford to destroy the respect people have always had for the integrity and ethics of government and consultants.

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