Of all the new measures announced this week by finance minister, Tito Mboweni to reduce municipal spending through the Municipal Cost Containment Regulations (MCCR), the most important rule should be for municipalities to properly regulate and monitor the appointment of consultants hired to perform and or implement specific programmes and duties in municipalities.
In fact, the intention by South African government authorities to ultimately do away with consultants as expressed by Northern Cape Premier, Zamani Saul in his government’s bid to safe on government spending, we believe must be considered as one of the best ways government may reduce excessive spending in its bid to address the country’s limping economy.
Minister Mboweni said in last week’s newly gazetted regulations that the new cost containment measures would apply to all municipal officials and all municipal entities and are extensive covering every area of “non-service delivery expenditure” from hiring of consultants to expenditure on cars, travel and entertainment.
He said municipalities across the country would no longer be allowed spending rate payers’ money on credit cards, alcohol and catering.
Although some service providers in the Northern Cape argued that these measures would have a negative impact on their businesses and add to the already high unemployment figures in that province, Premier Saul said that some of the services would be carried out by government-owned businesses which in the long run would create additional jobs.
Based on the new measures, the use of consultants by municipalities would also be limited to cases where an assessment of the needs and requirements confirms that there are no required skills or resources to perform the functions in the municipality.
We say, that’s why it is important that skilled people are appointed by municipalities. It is those knowledgeable workers who should be placed in positions were consultants usually “make a killing” to keep them away and in turn help municipalities to retain millions of rands.In this regard, we welcome Mboweni’s undertaking that rules of contracting consultants would also be tightened to keep costs down as much as possible.
It would also be crucial that before appointing a consultant, municipalities must negotiate payments, have a cost ceiling and also agree that the consultant would assist to equip municipal staff with some of their needed skills.
In other words, municipalities and consultants must also agree on the transfer of skills by consultants to in-house officials at municipalities.
Stopping of the mayoral gravy trains must also include the buying an consuming of alcohol which certainly play a big role in the wastage of public funds at these local government entities where officials usually boast to their friends about the kind and amount of whiskey they can buy (with municipal funds). Where officials or political office bearers incur expenditures in relation to official municipal activities, such officials must use their personal credit cards or cash. and request reimbursement according to the new measures.
We welcome these steps aimed purely at addressing wasteful expenditure at all municipalities and entities and believe that affected officials will accept them as part of their employment responsibilities.