/ 20 December 2022

Government owes its suppliers more than R3-billion, public service quarterly report reveals

Commission head Anele Gxoyiya attributed non-payments to various reasons, including systemic challenges, “a lack of an IT system to track invoices; a lack of financial delegations; and unrecorded invoices”.

The government owes its suppliers more than R3-billion, the latest public service quarterly report shows, with the Eastern Cape provincial government alone owing more than R2-billion, exceeding the national health department’s outstanding payments of more than R73-million by the end of September. 

Releasing the Public Service Commission (PSC)’s quarterly report covering July to the end of September, commission head Anele Gxoyiya said the number of invoices that were unpaid by the national government had spiralled from 959 at the end of June to 3 454 as at 30 September, amounting to more than R91.9-million.

Gxoyiya told journalists he could not confirm to what extent the departments’ outstanding payments had been settled by the end of November. 

The department of health, for one, was going “deeper and deeper into [a] crisis” and owed nearly R73.8-million to 2 929 suppliers, Gxoyiya said.

“The late or non-payment by departments demonstrates little care for the plight of small businesses and their struggles,” he said.

The quarterly report shows that departments in the Eastern Cape province owed 9 909 suppliers while the Gauteng provincial government owed 7 791 by the end of September, contributing to the majority of 27 068 outstanding payments. 

By contrast, the Western Cape had no outstanding payments at the end of September, the report shows. 

Gxoyiya attributed non-payments to various reasons, including systemic challenges, “a lack of an IT system to track invoices; a lack of financial delegations; and unrecorded invoices”.

“Of great concern is the poor financial planning by government departments, particularly the lack of alignment between the budget and procurement plans. Also prevalent were poorly drafted contracts where some of the clauses had different interpretations, which indicate inadequate capacity in contract management,” he said.

Professionalising the PSC

The commissioner said corruption had become endemic across the three spheres of the  government and “undermines democracy and public trust in government and negatively impacts state services and thus community and social development”.

Gxoyiya highlighted the significance of the National Implementation Framework on the Professionalisation of the Public Sector, which was revised by cabinet last month and envisages the appointment of qualified and competent people into positions of authority “in pursuit of a transformed, professional, ethical, capable and developmental public administration”. 

“The urgency of building a capable, ethical and developmental state has created a shift in discourse and renewed vigour for change in the public service towards capability, professionalism and public servant leadership,” he said.

He outlined the role of the PSC in the recruitment process of directors-general, heads of departments and municipal managers to create a database consisting of a “pool of experts” from which the executive authorities and municipal councils can source “appropriate experts”. 

In an opinion piece last month on the revised framework, Mcebisi Ndletyana, a professor of political science at the University of Johannesburg, noted that politicians would still be involved in advertising and shortlisting candidates.

“The PSC will recommend experts to be part of the selection panel, which includes politicians. This means the calibre and range of applicants will be picked by politicians and the panel will select from the predetermined choices,” Ndletyana wrote.

On Tuesday 20 December, Gxoyiya maintained that the new framework strengthened the powers of the PSC to play a decisive role in promoting a “culture based on the cornerstone values of the Constitution” in the public service and administration.