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When opposition MPs don’t do their homework and Treasury speaks bean-counter jargon, snafus follow

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Pam Saxby played a key support role in the National Peace Convention, Codesa and related political transition processes. Working for what recently became the Minerals Council SA, Saxby ran the minerals policy negotiation process, represented the industry in Nedlac’s development chamber, and reported on economic and labour policy discussions in what is now Business Unity SA. More recently, she monitored and reported on public policy for Legalbrief Today.

It’s disappointing when opposition parties in Parliament drop the ball on matters as serious as fruitless, wasteful, irregular and unauthorised public sector spending. But when they try to cover up, it’s downright infuriating.

Just two days before Christmas 2022, National Treasury issued an instruction to the “head officials of provincial treasuries” and the “accounting authorities of public entities listed in schedules 2 and 3 to the Public Finance Management Act”.

Known as Instruction Note 4 of 2022/23 and effective from 3 January 2023, according to Financial Mail editor Rob Rose the instruction “allows” state-owned entities “to do much the same thing” as an irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure reporting exemption which was granted to Eskom on 31 March 2023 but withdrawn nearly three months later.

The exemption was rescinded following a public outcry, hasty consultations with various key stakeholders and, on 5 April 2023, a joint meeting of several National Assembly committees.

Understandably, the meeting focused on Eskom’s controversial exemption. But a National Treasury presentation underpinning its proceedings included two contextual references to Instruction Note 4 of 2022/23 – as well as a slide outlining its purpose.

Did this escape the notice of participating opposition party representatives, including the DA’s Dion George and Ghaleb Cachalia?

A DA statement apparently prompted by the Financial Mail article tends to suggest that neither was paying attention. Had George and Cachalia understood the context in which the instruction was mentioned on 5 April, they would have known that it didn’t “follow” the withdrawn Eskom exemption but, in fact, preceded it.

Which makes the statement’s use of the term “dishonest development” unfortunate, to say the very least.

The presentation document also called for suggestions on any “further reporting or governance arrangements” with the potential to “reduce the scope for corruption in state-owned entities (SOEs)”. This was an ideal opportunity for opposition parties to contribute proactively. Yet George and Cachalia seem to have ignored it. Why?

With South Africa facing myriad daunting challenges on many different fronts, this is hardly the time for ill-informed, petty political point scoring.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Godongwana permanently sinks Eskom’s controversial exemption

Simply put, neither George nor Cachalia did their homework, which is unforgiveable given that they, too, are public servants paid from the public purse.

As for National Treasury: Please do us the courtesy of issuing a statement of your own explaining Instruction Note 4 of 2022/23 in plain English.

Those of us with a limited understanding of bean-counter jargon can hardly be expected to become meaningfully involved in holding errant SOEs to account if we don’t understand what’s already being done. DM

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  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Instruction Note 4 of 2022/23 is pretty clear, I’m afraid. There is no “bean-counter jargon” that a person of average intellect should not be able to understand.

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