BHISHO OFFICIALS’ FEEDING FRENZY: THE HERALD

Provincial government splurges R87m on catering, says report

THE Eastern Cape government forked out R87million on catering in the last financial year, with the Education Department guilty of taking the biggest slice. The department, which is cutting more than 5 000 teaching posts next year, spent R39-million in the 2012-13 financial year.

This was revealed after an analysis of the latest annual reports of the province’s 14 government departments.

The reports were tabled recently in the Eastern Cape legislature.

They showed the provincial authorities spent an average of R238 356 a day on catering.

Opposition parties and an Eastern Cape public service watchdog called on the provincial government to tighten up spending to ensure better service delivery.

Some of the departments spent more money on catering than staff development, according to a DA analysis.

In total, R107-million was spent on staff development by the 14 departments.

“We should be developing minds, not stomachs,” DA MPL Bobby Stevenson said.

The Social Development Department, Office of the Premier, the legislature, Safety and Liaison Department, and the Local Government Department spent more on catering than staff development.

Stevenson said the figures illustrated the departments had their priorities wrong.

“This province requires a highly capacitated civil service that can deliver quality services. This is the only way we will create the right environment,” he said.

According to the reports, the premier’s office gorged itself on R4.9-million worth of catering. That is an average of R13 400 a day and is up by R750 000 compared to 2011-12.

The other four big offenders include the legislature (R6.8-million), Social Development Department (R7-million), Roads and Public Works Department (R7.1-million) and the Agriculture Department (R7.3-million).

Education Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said: “Over the past five years, we have worked very hard to bring down the costs of catering and we will continue to do so.” The department reduced its catering bill by R2.5-million compared to the 2011-12 financial year.

“There will be inevitable instances where the department accepts the responsibility to feed people.

“But we do agree our core business is learning and teaching. The bulk of our resources should be targeted towards that.”

Provincial government spokesman Mxolisi Spondo said they had been trying to curb catering costs for the past five years.

In 2011-12, the government departments spent R96-million on catering, R9million more than this year.

“Catering for internal meetings has already been rescinded and they have been significantly minimised.”

He said catering budgets in all departments were reduced.

“The reason why catering costs remain so high is because of conferences and public meetings.”

Spondo said that during the 2013-14 period new basic standards for catering would be established.

“The government is also being overcharged by service providers which contributes to an escalation of catering prices.”

The remaining departments’ fiscal reports showed catering cost:

Health – R2.7-million; LOCAL Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane tore into municipal officials for giving top jobs to friends and family who were not qualified, saying they were the reason for the decay in Eastern Cape municipalities.

He said corruption perpetrated by a “parasitic black bourgeois” was to blame for the government failures.

At a dinner after the Black Management Forum (BMF) provincial conference in Queenstown on Wednesday, Qoboshiyane said corrupt leaders and government officials were sucking the state dry.

Towns in the Eastern Cape were deteriorating because people got key positions and were awarded government contracts because they were connected, even though they were not qualified for the job at hand, he said.

“You advertise a local economic development post and wait for South Africans to send you their CVs.

“The human resources practitioner looks at the CVs according to the criteria and requirements. They are told ‘change those requirements because my connection is not going to make the grade’. They instruct municipal managers to redraft the requirements to suit the stomach.

“This has led to unqualified people occupying key positions, causing the state to spend millions more for consultants,” he said.

“We are paying millions because capacity internally is not there and that can be traced back to our compromises . . . because we have alliances of convenience.”

He said municipalities continued to deteriorate as leaders fought over the loot, and called on municipal managers to “take the bullet” and not be compromised. “People fight to the bitter end and municipal managers bow to pressure. I’m saying to municipal managers … you must refuse to take the government to ashes with your own signature.”

Qoboshiyane challenged Black Management Forum members to offer their professional skills to municipalities to deal with issues of governance.

“When towns and cities are deteriorating in this fashion, BMF can partner to say that this is not acceptable.

“The challenge I present is for you to carve your own niche on issues besetting our municipalities,” he said.

In a thinly veiled attack on Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, Qoboshiyane also took a swipe at those who expected to be accepted as political leaders after squandering state resources.

“There is a new rise, a rapid class formation of a . . . parasitic black bourgeois, people who suck the blood of the state as if there is no tomorrow,” he said.

“That requires a leader to say you can’t be so popular while you are squandering the resources of the state.

“Today, you stand in front of us without fear to the extent that you want to lead us, while you know that yesterday you were rich with flashy cars, but today all has been taken away.”

After falling out of favour with President Jacob Zuma, Malema’s assets – including a mansion in Sandton and a farm in Limpopo – were auctioned to settle his R16-million debt with SARS.

He also came in for criticism when his company could not deliver on a multimillion-rand road construction contract in Limpopo.