Zuma wants more bang for his buck from civil servants

2015-03-24 14:53

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President Jacob Zuma has slammed civil servants who misuse consultants and employ their friends and relatives who cannot do their jobs properly.

Zuma also criticised civil servants who did not do the jobs they were employed to do and relied on consultants to finish off their work.

He warned that the danger of being overreliant on consultants was that consultants who got contracts with the government would always identify areas in the government where their services were always required.

Zuma said if he were a consultant he would do the same to ensure more work came his way. He was addressing the South African Local Government Association (Salga) national members assembly at the Gallagher Estate in Midrand this morning.

Local government councillors, municipal managers, chief financial officers, mayors and other key role players at local government are attending the three-day meeting of the assembly, the second highest decision-making body at Salga.

Addressing delegates on the need for the government to tighten its use of consultants Zuma was scathing.

“There’s been a complaint about too much work given to consultants. If a consultant has a job to do he will not rush to finish it. So there’s going to be a [never-ending] relationship [between the government and the consultant], because they say my job is to be a consultant at all times. So it is important how we tighten how we operate,” said Zuma.

He appealed to municipal officials and councillors to communicate regularly with communities about their projects to avoid a situation where communities assumed that local government was not doing enough to provide services.

He lashed out at officials who hired friends and relatives, most of whom did not know how to do the work.

“We [should] not employ our friends and family just because they are unemployed and we feel for him or her or our cousin. We should employ people who know what they’re doing because the cousin might not know what they are doing. We employ the wrong person and it causes more problems and the damage is done. You can’t employ a person who doesn’t know how to drive because they are going to damage [government] cars. Perhaps they have bought their [driver’s] licences.

“That must apply to every cleaner and sweeper because you can’t employ someone who is just going to dust the top and forget [to dust] under the table, because that’s a profession.

“If we want to use money let us employ someone who knows how to count money. They have to know how to count and balance the books. Why were you employed if you can’t do the work? That’s the question,” said Zuma.

He later reiterated his call for the right people with skills to be employed and said this was why the government had introduced the September deadline for municipal managers and chief financial officers at local government level to attain specific academic skills and comply with minimum competency requirements.

“There should be no compromise in ensuring that officials possess the necessary skills. Chief financial officers should be skilled and other municipal staff should be well versed in what they have been employed to do. That is a solution to the problems facing local government,” said Zuma.

Local government and traditional affairs minister Pravin Gordhan this year wrote to provincial MECs for local government imploring them to axe officials who will miss the September deadline to attain the minimum competency requirements according to the Municipal Systems Amendment Act.

He also reminded them that their service to the people should be executed in a caring and professional manner.

“We should always remember that effective public administration is not a privilege in a democracy but a fundamental right,” said Zuma, repeating the same line for effect, adding that when services are delivered efficiently it made the public’s experience of government services a “pleasant one”.

He said municipalities that had a zero tolerance for corruption, laziness and underperformance for officials displayed good service delivery and improved their financial management every year, adding that struggling local councils should emulate and learn from these municipalities.

Zuma jokingly slammed the “mango mentality” among some South Africans who did not want to put in the work to improve their own lives.

Zuma said the “mango mentality” was that of a man who waited for the mango to drop from the tree instead of picking it himself.

In jest, he said that if he were a dictator for a year, he would provide those who needed government housing with the materials to build the houses and expect them to build the houses themselves or at least be involved in the construction of their houses.

“If I were a dictator I would make a lot of changes, but we live in a democracy,” said Zuma, as he giggled with delegates who found his statement funny.

“We can’t have the ‘mango mentality’ where we’re waiting for the mango to drop. It can’t be,” said Zuma.

A lot of hard work in the past 20 years was also evident in the better lives that people now live, but this meant the government should pull up its socks for the millions of others who are still waiting for basic services in areas where they live, said Zuma.

He urged municipal officials and other civil servants to up the ante in service delivery because if something went wrong in the government the public pointed a finger at him saying “that Zuma”, blaming him for all the shortcomings in the government.

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