THE provincial treasury has called for bids from service providers to help manage its staff’s obesity.

When finance MEC Phumulo Masualle last year urged departments to “trim the fat”, tendering out an obesity management programme may not be what he had in mind.

But the terms of reference for the programme point out 40% of treasury employees are obese and 25% overweight. The successful bidder should “lower obesity associated health risks by helping employees lose excess body weight and maintain a new healthier body weight”.

The programme should focus on “gradual and sustained weight loss through a multidisciplinary approach of diet modification, exercise and behavioural therapy.”

Commentators yesterday acknowledged obesity was a major health issue but said outsourcing a solution was a bridge too far.

Head of monitoring and advocacy at watchdog organisation Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) Jay Kruuse said the treasury should be setting an example for prudent spending.

“Provincial treasury has greater areas of priority.”

In their budget speeches, both national finance minister Pravin Gordhan and Masualle this year urged departments to redirect spending to priority programmes.

Masualle emphasised in his budget speech that the province needed to use its “remaining fiscal space with the utmost care”.

“Uncertainty affects everyone and requires prudence in the allocation and spending of our limited resources.”

DA legislature leader Bobby Stevenson said the treasury was trying to “buy the wrong solution” to the problem”.

“We already have wellness officers and they must assist in drawing up a programme. Every treasury staff member also has access to a medical aid that makes provision for assistance for obesity problems.”

He said for the Eastern Cape to have spent R8.5-billion on consultants in three years meant a “parallel civil service” was developing.

“We spend too much money on personnel and too little on service delivery.”

No comment was received from treasury spokeswoman Nosisa Sogayisa at the time of going to press, so it is not clear whether the tender has been awarded or how much it will cost taxpayers.

It is also not known how treasury will measure deliverables as per financial reporting requirements.