Cost-cutting drive has pitted Treasury against government departments

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Ralph_Mathekga_.jpgTreasury’s cost-cutting drive has pitted it against other government departments.

Chief Procurement Officer Kenneth Brown has drawn criticism from politicians who are unhappy with his investigations of procurement, said Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Johannesburg-based research group, the Mapungubwe Institute of Strategic Reflection.

In September the Treasury said it rejected a request from Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba for his staff to fly in business-class seats and it turned down appeals from state power utility Eskom for company credit cards.

"There are a lot of ANC or ANC-aligned politicians who say Kenneth Brown’s office and the whole Treasury has too much power to the point they can frustrate political decisions," said Mathekga.

"It appears their work has become a nuisance to the ANC. It looks like the party is becoming indifferent towards anticorruption," he said.

Former Cabinet spokesman Mzwanele Manyi, who has previously hit out at government critics, alleged in an early October interview with state broadcaster SABC, that he had sent police a dossier he received detailing large sums of money deposited into Brown’s account.

The Treasury quickly responded in an e-mailed statement, saying it hoped the allegations were not part of a smear campaign against it and Brown, "who has a longstanding record of serving the public service with great dedication".

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the ANC backs institutions and officials who are fighting corruption.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan says corrupt practices invariably follow in the wake of the government’s effort to transform the economy to stem the legacy of white-minority rule that ended in 1994 and build black-owned businesses.

"The flip side of this transformation, the rotten product in the gift wrap, is what is called rent-seeking," Gordhan said in a speech in Johannesburg in September. "It means every time I want to do something, I say it is part of transformation. But in the meantime, it means giving contracts to my pals in closets."

Adapted from an article published in BusinessDay

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