Cape Town - Treasury is reluctant to throw good money after bad by over-committing funds to recover state money lost to corruption, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Thursday.
"I'm not too sure whether as a country we should be focusing on building capacity on collecting money that we lose as a result of corruption, or we should be closing the leakage as a result of corruption," Nene told the standing and joint committees on finance and appropriations.
"It is like when there are issues with security, where security becomes lucrative business. Is it going to be lucrative business also for us to invest money in how we recover the money that we lost as a result of corruption?"
Nene said he agreed with pleas from the opposition that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) should be adequately resourced, but added that recovery processes could become costly in themselves.
"Indeed, these structures like the SIU need to be given the capacity, but I don't think we can afford putting in all our resources because we want to recover."
Illustrating the point, he recalled recent media reports that the State Information and Technology Agency spent R10m to recover three laptops stolen from its premises in Centurion, Pretoria.
"As we have seen... some of these processes don't take as short a route as we think they are going to, and I don't think there would ever be adequate resources."
Nene was responding to broad criticism from opposition parties that plans to cut back on expenditure growth, announced in his medium-term budget tabled on Wednesday, were woefully inadequate given SIU estimates that the state lost an average R30bn annually through graft and wasteful expenditure.
READ all the reaction to Nene' mini budget.
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