‘Government will not tolerate excess’

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Johannesburg - Concerns that the minister of finance might have been subjected to a “push-back” from MPs and government employees who were unhappy about restrictions being placed on their perks were not in evidence in the 2014/15 Budget.

Pravin Gordhan continued to make it absolutely clear in his speech to Parliament yesterday that the government would not tolerate excess, waste or corruption. The minister was intent on stressing that nothing should prevent taxpayers and the government from getting maximum “bang for their buck”.

Gordhan’s tough stance also extended to individuals and companies that indulged in “harmful tax practices”.

The proposed procurement reforms that will be implemented by the government’s recently established chief procurement officer will include the enhanced processing of tax clearance certificates of individuals keen to do business with the government.

In his speech Gordhan said: “If you’re not paying tax in South Africa, you should not be doing business with the South African government.”

The chief procurement office is also undertaking an analysis of the business interests of government employees.

Gordhan told the National Assembly that large number of government employees still had interests in companies that were doing business with the government.

“That has to stop,” the finance minister declared.

The chief procurement office is also creating an inspectorate that will monitor procurement plans and audit tender documents. “This inspectorate will go out to visit government departments and provinces,” Gordhan said.

A centralised procurement system for the purchase of health-care equipment, drugs and medicines was being established by the chief procurement office with a view to effecting savings in these areas.

Infrastructure procurement processes and documentation would be standardised in order to reduce the scope for abuse in the government’s massive and ongoing infrastructure build programme.

Gordhan told the media in a briefing before the Budget that it was essential that the government avoided a repeat of the “2010 story”, when many of the major construction firms colluded in their tenders for World Cup facilities.

A standard lease agreement was also being developed in order to address defects in government property transactions.

Problems with government property leases and the potential they provide for corrupt activities by government employees and property owners received much attention in yesterday’s Budget.

A 2012 review of government property leases exposed several weaknesses, which Gordhan referred to in his speech. These included accommodation that was unoccupied but being paid for; accommodation occupied by non-governmental entities; discrepancies between the size of accommodation occupied and what was paid for; marked divergences from market rates per square metre; procurement through inappropriate non-competitive procedures; and missing or invalid lease agreements and unsubstantiated payments to landlords.

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