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Cape Town - The African National Congress (ANC) government's ability to manage the South African public sector is in "terminal decay", the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Sunday.

"The South African state is facing a collapse, measured by its inability to pay service providers, manage appointments, carry out disciplinary action, combat wasteful expenditure, and prevent corruption," DA shadow minister of public service and administration Leon Schreiber said.

"The government’s responses to a series of parliamentary questions over the past few weeks reveal terminal decay in the ANC’s ability to manage the South African public sector," he said.

The ANC’s mismanagement of the public service was directly undermining any hope of economy recovering from recession. Combined, national and provincial government departments currently owed South African businesses – the engine of economic growth – over R7.1 billion in unpaid invoices older than 30 days.

National government owed businesses R634 million. The department of water and sanitation was the single biggest offender, owing businesses R492 million, followed by agriculture owing R99 million, and the police owing R24 million.

Provincial governments owed businesses an additional, staggering, R6.5 billion. Gauteng and the Eastern Cape, "both provinces run into the ground by the ANC", had failed to pay for services to the tune of R2.6 billion and R2.1 billion, respectively, Schreiber said.

While the ANC could not pay service providers in a timeous fashion, "they seem to have no problem paying billions to public servants illegally doing business with the state". National Treasury’s 2018 Public Procurement Review found that 2704 state employees conducted business with national and provincial departments between April 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018.

The ANC spent R8.1 billion of public funds to pay these public servants who illegally conducted business with the state. Despite this being in direct contravention of the 2014 Public Administration Management Act, the minister of public service and administration revealed in response to a parliamentary question that not a single public service employee had been held accountable or fired for doing business with the state.

"The ANC also seems to have no problem paying millions to cadres implicated in misconduct to sit at home. By 30 June 2019, the government had already spent at least R26 million on the salaries of public servants placed on 'precautionary suspension',” he said.

At the same time, the government had no system in place to conduct lifestyle audits to proactively identify politicians and public servants living beyond their means. The minister for public service and administration simply stated that his department “is not mandated to conduct lifestyle audits on members of the executive”.

"In other words, the ANC has no intention to combat corruption among its ministers. The minister’s reply also revealed that the long-promised technical unit tasked with conducting lifestyle audits on public servants is still not operational and will not do any work until at least next year.

"The ANC is crippling South African businesses through its failure to pay for services on time, paying billions to public servants illegally doing business with the state or placed on 'precautionary suspension', and completely failing to act against corruption in the public sector.

"The DA reiterates our call for a comprehensive public spending review. We will also continue fighting for fundamental reforms that creates a lean, efficient,  and capable state that creates opportunities for South Africans to prosper," Schreiber said.

African News Agency (ANA)