Brown confident Treasury will not fall

2016-12-18 06:04
Government Chief Procurement Officer Kenneth Brown. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Government Chief Procurement Officer Kenneth Brown. (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town - Kenneth Brown says he leaves the office of chief procurement officer in the Treasury at the end of this month without any fear that the vacancy would open the door to a form of capture.

He says this is because he has confidence in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to manage the upcoming changes with maturity.

Brown (54) told City Press in an interview on Thursday that the leaders in the Treasury were highly skilled people with integrity, who were “not easily swayed.

“So I am really confident that whoever will succeed me on a permanent basis will be properly screened and will not have the leeway to create problems.”

Brown’s exit came during a difficult time for the Treasury, as uncertainty loomed over Gordhan’s future, who was not seen to be President Jacob Zuma’s first choice for the post.

Gordhan, trusted by business, was also the subject of an investigation by the Hawks related to the alleged “rogue” unit at the revenue services during his tenure as commissioner.

The Treasury was also under pressure from those who claimed to be proponents of transformation based on allegations that the policies it championed, like the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act and the Financial Intelligence Centre amendment, choked black economic empowerment.

Brown – also seen to have been Gordhan’s right-hand man – said the Treasury was a very robust institution.

“I do not think my departure creates turbulence. What is important is not to personalise things according to the individual.

“There are people all over government who actually want to do the right thing.”

He said Treasury had created an avenue for civil society “to get involved in our work.

“So we want South Africans to have a greater voice in what happens in the country and how their tax monies get spent. Civil society needs to take responsibility because you cannot leave it to an individual or a small group of individuals”.

He said that what has helped Treasury over the years have been the efforts to be apolitical, as far as possible. “Our job is not to be in the political space. We need to be conscious of the political environment in which we operate, but we never play”.

He said Treasury’s job was “purely technical.

“Measures that we put in place are technical stuff. If it so happens that a certain group of politicians or people do not benefit, that is unfortunate reality. The intention is not to target politicians and politics. It is to make sure that the system functions properly.”

He also credited the political leadership of Treasury for allowing it to function independently.

He said he had worked with all ministers except Des van Rooyen, because “he was on holiday last December”, when Zuma had appointed Van Rooyen for four days.

He said the reason procurement in government had come to be seen as a cash cow was due to government’s failure to modernise the system when it introduced both the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act – partly with a view to decentralise authority. “Had we done that, the picture certainly would have been different”.

Also, he said, government never saw supply chain as a strategic function.

“If you think about it, budgets get approved and you get strategic plans and delivery must happen. What is it that makes delivery happen? It is supply chain. If water is not delivered on time, it is a supply chain failure.”

Brown said it was “important to change the culture of SA to realise that there are taxpayers who work hard for their money.

“The least that they expect is that their money must be spent properly.”

Brown joined Treasury as a former teacher in 1997 and leaves with a Master of Science degree in public policy, after Treasury arranged funds through the Nelson Mandela scholarship for him to study at the University of Illinois in the US.

In the 19 years Brown spent at the Treasury he has been deputy director, then director, then chief director, then deputy director-general and recently the chief procurement officer.

Key milestones Kenneth Brown leaves behind 

Treasury chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown leaves the office at the end of December. These are some of the key milestones he leaves behind: 

1. Strategic procurement unit – the unit focuses on exploring different aspects of procurement outside of going on tender, including negotiations. Backed by research work to come up with best procurement model. Currently looking at health equipment and how it is spread across government, as well as linen and cloth. 

2. Central supplier database and e-tender portal – the initiative seeks to move procurement away from a paper-based system to modern technology. Modelled on and Already saving government up to R600 million per year on advertisement and printing costs. 

3. Stakeholder management unit – when relations with suppliers improve by more than 20% because you are talking directly to suppliers and getting a better understanding of the changing environment. The approach allows for future review of existing contracts, thus saving billions. 

4. Transversal contracts unit – when the stakeholder management unit concludes research, the transversal contract unit indicates which contract should be done at central level. Only 40 tenders, such as motor vehicles and oil and diesel, are currently done at central office. One contract is put together for all departments that need the service. 

5. Property management – this looks at the renegotiation of state property leases. Government is already getting discounts of 10% to 22%. Once government uses its space properly, even the number of floors currently used in respective buildings could be reduced, saving government money. 

6. Enterprise licensing arrangement with Microsoft on software licences – government spends R2.2 billion per year on licences for 500 000 units. But it pays for the whole suite while users only use Word or Excel or PowerPoint. Small municipalities and big departments pay the same for the price of a licence. Centralised purchasing and discounts of up to 30% would help small municipalities and save up to R600 million. 

7. IT software companies – government spends R30 billion on IT software. Notice of pending negotiations issued to IT software companies, which could cut expenses by half.

Read more on:    treasury  |  jacob zuma  |  kenneth brown  |  pravin gordhan

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