Gordhan gunning for government’s wastrels and fraudsters

2014-02-27 00:00

FINANCE Minister Pravin Gordhan is on the warpath.

He is fed-up with bad public service and the wastage of resources.

He now aims, according to his latest Budget proposals, to improve the quality of public services. To counter the waste of resources, his department has implemented a number of initiatives:

• The Office of the Accountant-General has strengthened its control over government’s financial system. Over the last 12 months it has conducted 68 investigations into fraud, corruption and maladministration. These resulted in 47 criminal investigations and 65 disciplinary hearings. Payments worth R503 million have been cancelled and R61 million has been surrendered back to the fiscus.

• The budget for consultants, travel, accommodation and venue hire has been curtailed.

• Spending reviews are under way and conducted by both the Treasury and Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation.

• These reviews have also been conducted in the provincial governments.

The minister also revealed that a review of the validity and cost-effectiveness of all government properties exposed several deficiencies. These include unoccupied accommodation that has been paid for; non-governmental institutions occupying government properties; discrepancies between the size of properties and what is paid for, and marked divergences from market rates per square metre.

It was also found that procurement at times followed inappropriate non-competitive procedures and that leases went missing or had been invalid, and that unsubstantiated payments had been made to landlords.

A Chief Procurement Office has been established to address defects in these transactions, standardise them and create an inspectorate to monitor procurement plans. Vendors’ tax clearance certificates are also to be sped up to ensure compliance.

At the same time — to ensure savings — the purchasing of health equipment, drugs and medicines will be centralised and the business interests of all government employees will be scrutinised.

Government will also establish a data base of South African products and black-owned businesses to foster economic empowerment. Tough measures will be taken to ensure that small businesses in particular are paid within 30 days.

In the past five years, the tax register of individuals grew from 5,5 million to over 15 million to include all known economically active people. The figure for companies stands at 2,3 million and employers registered for pay-as-you-earn at nearly 404 000.

SARS is continuing to work with other agencies to reduce identity fraud, lower administration costs and enhance compliance.

Under the Voluntary Disclosure Programme, almost R5 billion, which previously had not been declared, has been received.

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