You are being looted right now

2013-01-27 10:00

The Deputy Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, said this week: “We are asking the question: if there is more being done with less, are we perhaps not achieving too little with too much?” as he released a shattering report on the state’s use of consultants.

It is a question we should answer truthfully.

We, the public, employ over 1.2?million public servants.

It is a huge figure, one of the highest proportions of civil servants to population in the world.

Go into any government department and you will see how much paper shuffling takes place.

We spend a lot of money and employ many people in education, in health and in running the state smoothly, but bang for buck is poor.

The release of Makwetu’s report should make you very, very nervous.

What does it tell us?

There is a parallel government of consultants doing the work of the 1.2?million people for whom we pay R315-billion (state’s wage bill) a year.

We are running two payrolls, yet the outcome is not an efficient or effective state.

The exodus from public to private schools and from public to private hospitals is one indicator.

Other indicators include the poor results in annual national and global assessments of South African pupils.

The only beneficiaries are the companies that put the consultants into state service – the Auditor-General’s report suggests that rates of remuneration don’t offer equal value.

As in other areas of public life, it appears the state is often fleeced.

Double-payments, consultants employed to oversee other consultants and overruns on deadlines are but three instances Makwetu has highlighted.

The debacle over delivery of school textbooks was evidence too, where it was clear consultants were overseeing a system that did not work.

The political demise of former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema came about because his consultancy service, On Point, was found to be looting the state in the guise of a Limpopo-based project management unit.

And, finally, the story of the gargantuan spending on President Jacob Zuma’s private residence is also a story of consultants ripping off the Public Works department.

What each case reveals is that the civil servants employed by government do not know how to govern.

In the hubbub of South African life, we do hope someone is paying attention to Makwetu this week.

The report reveals the root of the rot and, if not arrested, it will be too late for the state to fulfil the promise of the National Development Plan.

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