Limpopo administrators ‘cut corners’

2014-03-09 14:01

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Civil servants in Limpopo have accused a national government administration team of boosting the province’s finances by not paying contractors.

Six provincial government employees in three departments told City Press the administration was cutting corners by, among other things, not settling travel claims and insisting that contractors lower their fees before awarding tenders.

Siviko Mabunda, the secretary of the Forum of Limpopo Entrepreneurs, confirmed this, saying contractors were paid selectively.

Mabunda said some companies had been waiting for payment from government for more than six months.

He said: “People are not being paid and everything has virtually come to a standstill since the administrators came in.

“Tenders were stopped and contractors are taking a knock as a result and, I believe, service delivery as well.”

This week, chief administrator Monde Tom, whose team was installed in Limpopo in terms of Section 100 of the Constitution in December 2011, said they were unlikely to leave at the end of March as planned.

Tom, whose team was sent in to rescue the province from a culture of maladministration, fraud and corruption – which left Limpopo unable to pay salaries – said there was a need to leave sustainable mechanisms in place to ensure uninterrupted service delivery.

Five Limpopo government departments were placed under administration two years ago when the province racked up a R1.7?billion overdraft and R2.7?billion in unauthorised expenditure.

Tom told City Press earlier this week that although the province was now on the mend financially, the administrators still needed to make sure delivery mechanisms were in place before they could ensure the handover was completed.

“We also want to make sure that skills are in place.?We believe that Limpopo’s finances are right but delivery mechanisms are a matter that still need to be addressed,” he said.

But some of the province’s civil servants are worried that the cost-cutting measures by the administrators will open the floodgates to debt claims once they leave.

A civil servant from the provincial department of health said: “It is indisputable that Limpopo has recovered. But how much are we going to be left with if the right thing can be done and we pay everyone who is owed, including contractors?

“It is good that administrators have come in and tightened the purse strings, but it can’t be good that they are doing it at the expense of contractors and other creditors.”

An official from Premier Stan Mathabatha’s office said the departments will start settling debts as soon as the administrators leave.

“These administrators do not listen to anyone. In some instances, they have been forcing contractors to lower their quotations before they can award any tenders,” the official claimed.

“If a security tender is awarded at an extremely low price, this will affect security guards working for that company who will be paid peanuts,” the official said.

An education department employee said the department had to “lodge complaints with the finance department because administrators would, among other things, not pay the officials’ travel and relocation claims for more than a year.

“It will only be good if the administrators can pay all creditors and settle everything and then they can tell us if our finances are still good,” the employee said.

Tom did not respond to repeated calls and text messages on Friday and yesterday.

Although officials spoke anonymously of their frustration with the administrators, Limpopo government spokesperson Phuti Seloba said they were happy with the work done by Tom and his team.

“We’re seeing stability and hope and believe that when the time comes for administrators to leave we’ll continue with the good work,” Seloba said.

“They’re working with our people and continue to build capacity and we won’t disappoint when they hand over the baton.”

Mathabatha recently said 300 people were facing internal or criminal charges for their alleged part in Limpopo’s near collapse.

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