Cape’s R10bn ‘consulting bill’

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IOL pic oct4 Helen Zille blue beret Independent Newspapers DA leader Helen Zille. File photo: Thomas Holder

Cape Town - Sparks are set to fly in the provincial legislature next week as politicians scrutinise the Western Cape’s R10.3 billion spent on consultants over three years, “the highest of all the provinces”, according to the auditor-general.

The DA has blamed the ANC for the spend, a charge the ANC rejected as “just pure nonsense”.

The R10.3bn is outlined in a report by the AG tabled in the legislature last week which details the spend on consultants between April 2008 and March 2011.

Representatives of the AG’s office in Pretoria are expected to fly to Cape Town to address MPLs, the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) in the legislature and provincial departments on February 20 on their findings.

The AG’s report found:

* Officials who appointed consultants through a limited bidding process did not always declare their conflicts of interest.

* Contracts were sometimes open-ended in terms of time and costs.

* Consultants’ work was not always monitored or evaluated.

* Some contracts were regularly extended.

* Financial and administrative controls over payments were sometimes inadequate.

Premier Helen Zille questioned the timing of the AG’s report. She said 29 of the 31 contracts the AG audited were awarded before the DA took control of the provincial government in May 2009.

Her response was included in the AG’s report.

Scopa member Bokkie Geyer, DA MPL, said from the DA’s caucus it was important to note that these contracts were entered into when the ANC was in power in the province.

“The ANC should remember that when they will bring it up in the meeting. The expenditure will be placed in front of their door,” Geyer said.

ANC chief whip in the legislature Pierre Uys said his party had controlled the province until April 2009, when it lost the elections to the DA, and that by trying to finger his party the DA was being mischievous and indulging in dirty politics before the 2014 elections.

“They were in charge for the bulk of the period. It is clear what they are trying to do and it is just pure nonsense. The DA is trying to deflect attention from the problems they have. They are playing politics before the elections and it will not work.

“They must scrutinise themselves properly because it’s pure fabrication for them to now try and blame the ANC. If anything, all this will boomerang on the DA,” Uys said.

Zille also took issue with the AG’s definition of “consultants”. “The audit has combined contractors, consultants and service providers who deliver capital infrastructure on the ground – like construction companies, architects and engineers are defined under the general term ‘consultant’,” Zille said.

“This is open to misinterpretation.”

But Scopa chairman Grant Haskin, ACDP MPL, said Zille had to acceptthe AG’s definition ofconsultants.

“If you suddenly want to come and change the definition of consultants, you are changing the rules of the game,” he said.

Haskin said MPLs from three standing committees including Scopa, health and transport and public works, will be present at the meeting.

“We will question what led to this huge expenditure on consultants and what has happened since. “What did the province do to prevent this from happening again?” Haskin said.

Leader of the Opposition Lynne Brown, ANC MPL, said the party’s caucus will discuss the report at a meeting on Thursday, before next week’s meeting.

Cape Times


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