08/12/09. Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel at the Union Buildings yesterday. Picture: Damaris Helwig


Cape Town - Significant reform of the government's supply chain management is necessary, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said on Tuesday.

“It is the Achilles' heel of government by any measure at the moment,” he told a media briefing at Parliament.

This used to be highly centralised through the state tender board.

However, in the endeavour to modernise the public service, “I think we've actually allowed for all manner of bad tendencies to take root”, he said.

“So, taking hold of that animal by the scruff of its neck, supply chain management, and being able to ensure that we have systems that are uniform and compliant, is going to be a fundamental public sector reform.

“But I think that as we deal with those issues, it's also possible then to focus on how we get better returns for the amount of money we spend.

“You need a framework that would guide quality and quantity and oversight. These kinds of issues are frequently absent. We need to get those in place.”

The provinces were broadly agreed on this, but a way in which best practice could be diffused across the public sector was needed, and doing so without in any way diminishing the constitutional powers of other spheres of government, Manuel said.

He hinted that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would elaborate on supply chain management reform when he presented his 2013/14 budget in Parliament next Thursday.

On further reform in the public service, Manuel said there had to be better alignment between the money allocated in a budget, senior public servants' performance agreements and the details set out in these, and the way in which the money was reported as spent.

Manuel also indicated that Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's reported proposal that civil servants be banned from conducting business with the state would be implemented.

“I think we are pretty convinced, as Cabinet, that the idea that a public servant should be allowed to run businesses at all is a wrongful interpretation of the constitutional provision that people should have the right to have businesses.

“Because legislation can trump that and the legislation that should trump it is in fact the Public Service Act, and if there's any ambiguity, it's our responsibility, with Parliament, to ensure that that ambiguity is erased.”

Thus, in the first instance, no public servant should be able to contract with government at all, “never mind within the department where they work”.

There was a resoluteness about this, he said. If there was a violation, there had to be consequences.

“And that word, consequences, is one that I hope to hear more and more of as we work for implementation,” Manuel said.

It was reported at the weekend that Sisulu said it was time public servants chose between serving the state and being in private business.

“I think that if we cut that umbilical cord, we might succeed in making sure that we are creating a cadre of the public service who is concerned (with) and only concentrating on the job, and not doing the job but at the same time benefiting from the state,” she was quoted as saying.

Sisulu was working on amending the Public Service Act to make this a law. - Sapa