Fat cats glibly consume our taxes

2010-11-28 09:25

While ministers and directors-general are frequently raked over the coals for their excesses at the taxpayer’s expense – and correctly so – it appears that living the high life is not confined to the upper echelons of government. Junior managers and clerks in government departments and state-owned enterprises also engage in serious elbow wrestling at the trough.

I recently learned from a boastful and juvenile relative who works for a state-owned enterprise about the astounding practice of overbooking. Government employees apparently collude with service providers, such as hotels, by overbooking rooms knowing full well that fewer employees will eventually turn up. What’s even more astounding is that the ­employees, in most instances, do this with the knowledge of, and sometimes with the blessing of, their ­superiors.

Usually the amount allocated for these “occupied” rooms is then ­redeployed to cover their insatiable appetite for food and expensive drinks. This conduct would see ­employees in the private sector, at the very least, made to repay the money or even summoned to appear before a disciplinary committee – if not fired outright.

It appears that in their quest to compete with the spending prowess of the tenderpreneurs and sushi kings of this world, such government employees know no bounds to trough-gouging at the taxpayer’s ­expense.

Unlike our sushi king, who has gone out of his way to assure the ­public that his conspicuous consumption was made on the back of honest earnings, this errant coterie of government employees cannot justify their insatiable appetite for the finer things in life.

Not only do they try to justify out-of-town travel and accommodation at the drop of a hat, they also do as little work as possible behind their desks. Some prefer to spend most of their working days either catching up on their Unisa assignments or abusing state resources such as cars, telephones and internet connectivity (possibly to ogle Outoilet).

Others, as once claimed by ex-president Thabo Mbeki, prefer to arrive late, take long tea breaks and head home early.

What is most sickening for an entrepreneur is the perverse low levels of service delivery realised at the hands of these high-collared-multicoloured-shirt-and-pointed-shoe slobs. They even seem to think that they are shareholders in all the companies that the government does business with. They often make unjustifiable demands for immediate financial dividends should you wish to be paid in time (read 90 days!).

A colleague of mine and I once found ourselves at a meeting at the pinnacle seat of government north of Joburg. We were ushered into a room decked out with so much food it made Gordon Ramsay’s helpings at his then joint One&Only in Cape Town look like fare for battle-weary Mujahideens in Tora ­Bora.

Is the government really serious about cutting down on excesses and combatting corruption within its ranks? If so, it can do no better than decree that ministers’ apparent ­ostentatious lifestyles be moderated and that all employees bring or buy their own meals for meetings, as is common practice in the private ­sector. Ministers and government employees must desist from justifying their undeserved lavish lifestyles while ordinary people live in abject poverty and squalor.

Otherwise, with so many perks that come with state employment, it is little wonder officials don’t have the time or the drive to deliver services to an already weary populace.

» Khaas moonlights as president of the Small Business Forum and occasionally chases a ­tender

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