R5bn down the drain on consultants

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Department of Health and the Gauteng Shared Services Centres (GSSC) have collectively wasted more than R5 billion on consultants - yet still failed to get value for their money.

This was the findings of the performance audit by the auditor-general’s office between 2008 and 2011. Now the Gauteng standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) says heads are going to roll.

Scopa wants the political bosses concerned - Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Finance MEC Barbara Creecy - to be held to account.

The auditor-general’s office tabled the report before Scopa, which is headed by Mbongeni Radebe, in the provincial legislature on Thursday.

The auditor-general’s office also found that, in total, the national and provincial government departments spent R102bn on consultants during the same period.

 

During the periods of the audit, Gauteng health received R4.6bn and the now defunct GSSC R1.1bn.

The auditor-general’s office painted a bleak picture about the nature of appointments and performance of some of the consultants who were awarded government contracts without following proper procurement processes.

The Gauteng auditor-general’s delegation head, Corrie Pretorius, told Scopa their audit focused on areas crucial to ensuring the economical, efficient and effective use of consultants by government departments. The delegation found that in the two departments:

* There were no comprehensive strategy and policy governing the use of consultants.

* Comprehensive needs assessments were not done.

* Competitive procurement processes were sometimes not followed.

Pretorius and his team told the committee that while these consultants were selected due to lack of skills in departments, they failed to transfer those skills in need.

“Controls were not in place to monitor consultants’ performance. There was also lack of proper project management and monitoring. There were also inadequate controls over payment.”

The auditor-general’s office also found that in most cases these contracts were extended without any valid reasons. They also expressed concern that these departments failed to document the performance data of these individual consultants for future references.

Detailing the contract-specific challenges in health, the auditor-general’s office said the department awarded a contract of R35.9 million to a consultant for the implementation of a health smartcard between April 2008 and 2009.

The card was supposed to contain a medical history of each Gauteng patient visiting any public health institution in the province.

At the time, the MEC for health was Brian Hlongwa, who had introduced the project to the Gauteng legislature.

On Thursday, the auditor-general found the project was a flop. It found the government paid R36m to the contractor, but no formal contract was signed and the terms of reference were not followed.

The project also stopped during the pilot phase

“(The) training plan was not met and work performed was not verified before payments were made,” the report said.

 

The auditor-general also found the government spent more than R2.5bn on Gauteng Online (GoL), but the consultant failed to meet the contract requirements.

“Management information compiled by the consultant on schools was inaccurate.”

The auditor-general also found the GoL programme was extended for an additional amount of R37.9m between May 2007 and March 2009, but such an extension was not put out to tender.

Radebe has pledged to summons Mahlangu and Creecy to appear before Scopa for answers.

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