An Open Letter to Finance Minister
- uSpiked’s editor writes to finance minister Pravin Gordhan seeking urgent solutions to some few, but very important issues derailing South Africa's economic growth. Key among them decisive action on tender cheats and the runaway killings of police officers.
I know your plate has been full in the past few weeks since your return to Treasury, but I hope you can add my three concerns to your 2016 to-do-list.
The first matter, Mr. Minister, concerns your baby born in 2009. I am referring to the Database of Restricted Suppliers, which was implemented during your reign at Treasury. It was a great legacy. But since you left, the baby almost became destitute or what some would call ‘n behoeftige or ukuhleleleka.
Having examined some of the reasons given by accounting officers and authorities for ordering restrictions of various suppliers, it is apparent most are prosecutable crimes. For instance, take ‘Submission of false declaration of interests’, ‘Misrepresentation of facts’, ‘Malperformance and theft’, ‘Supplying counterfeit Hewlett Packard Cartridges’, and ‘Fronting, misrepresentation, prejudice or potential prejudice, unlawfulness and intention’…
You would agree that the culprits in such cases should and must be prosecuted. A simple restriction period is not enough. Besides, some of the restricted suppliers - as we have proven within our pages - have found means of beating your system.
Besides the few that we know, how many other blacklisted individuals have been able to questionably get their names off the database of restricted suppliers? Mr. Minister, please seal the existing loopholes within this database.
I have been informed that most of these criminalities have passed what the law calls ‘prescription period’ and therefore the perpetrators are off the hook. But supposing it could be proven that the deaths of patients were due to the failure of certain suppliers to make good of their contracts with the Department of Health and therefore culpable of manslaughter? Or if an RDP constructor built a sub-standard building that ended up collapsing on occupants! I would like to think the prescription would fall away then, wouldn’t it Mr. Minister?
I raise this issue because we have received hundreds of emails from our readers who have been left wondering why these suppliers were never prosecuted. I would have forwarded some of these emails to you, but unfortunately someone at Treasury’s IT Department appears to have been instructed to block all emails originating from uSpiked. This is how our email ID No: 1aDUZU-000Ehj-OF, 1aDUZ5-000EHc-3v, and 1aDUYk-000Dxd-Qd were treated; blocked and deleted from Treasury.gov.za’s mail servers.
Secondly, I hope you can nurture the Central Suppliers Database, which was launched by your not so-immediate predecessor in September to end corruption in public procurement. This initiative needs some tender, love and care. We trust you will ensure it is successful.
Last but not the least is a matter that wouldn’t require much from yourself – perhaps you could even mention it in passing during the first cabinet meeting of the new year. Could you kindly, Mr. Minister Sir, ask the Cabinet to find ways of curbing the rising death toll of police at work?
That 85 police officers were killed in line of duty in 2015 is not a light matter. As a number cruncher you work with estimates and projections all the times, and so you would know that 85 killed officers mean that eighty-five families unnaturally lost loved ones and likely sole breadwinners.
And since we are in Africa, you would appreciate that one individual is often responsible, socially and economically, for between six to ten family members. Like comedian Trevor Noah once said about his earlier days in the streets of Soweto; many of us are even responsible for our neighbours. If we take the conservative number of six, we are talking of 510 citizens who lost a loved one and a provider. To them, Mr. Minister, 2015 will be the year they will never forget.
Also, these deaths gravely impact taxpaying citizens. What motivation would police officers have to answer our distress calls? What would make them go that extra mile if they are not made to feel that we, members of the public value their lives?
Mr. Minister, I know that police department doesn’t fall under your portfolio, but you could provide funds for more training and for enhancement of their arsenals and other body protective equipment. Most importantly, since cabinet works as a collective, you could raise the need for rethinking or seeking means to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to allow for stiffer penalties for police killers.
It would be reassuring to know that officers at the station in my area can respond promptly if I was in any danger. Like many people of my generation, when I was young I admired police officers and teachers. I reckon very few learners in Grade R see police officers in the same way or aspire to follow in their footsteps. Let us bring back some glory and admiration for the men and women in blue, please. And the next time a candidate for a top position in the Service is being considered, urge your colleagues in the cabinet to motivate for an appointment within the ranks.
Mr. Minister, I sincerely wish you a productive 2016 filled with economic growth for the country.