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‘State using consultants instead of staff’

Johannesburg - The Gauteng government's use of consultants is increasing despite some departments able to do the work themselves, the Auditor General's office said in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“The expenditure on consultants is increasing and not decreasing,” the AG's Corné Pretorius told the Gauteng standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

File image. Credit: Reuters

“In other areas, departments have skilled staff but are utilising consultants.”

Pretorius and his team discussed the AG's report on spending on consultants in the province with Scopa in the legislature. The report was initially presented to Parliament by former AG Terence Nombembe.

The Gauteng health department was the biggest spender on consultants of all provincial departments, at R4.6 billion between 2008 and 2011.

The national government spent R102bn on consultants over that period.

“Regarding vacancies, a lot of consultants are employed to fill up the vacancies, which often is a very expensive exercise compared to utilising in-house staff,” he said.

There was no skills transfer between departments and hired consultants, resulting in reliance on the work of consultants.

“With the skills crisis impacting on performance, the public sector can benefit extensively, if consultants are used correctly.”

Bilkish Khan, a senior manager at the AG's office, said the Gauteng online project, intended to provide every school with a computer laboratory, had not benefited from using consultants.

“In some of the schools we found that the computer laboratories are not used because the teachers did not receive any training.”

There was no policy or strategy in place to govern the use of consultants, she said.

Mbongeni Radebe, Gauteng Scopa chairman, said most of the contracts were prepared by service providers themselves.

“Some of them do not indicate the duration of the contracts and when we question that, they turn to the courts. Extension of consultants' contracts does not allow other players from the markets to come in,” he said.

Sapa

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