This is the latest undoing at the treasury. There’s a growing chasm between the finance minister and his team — meanwhile, the economy is in dire straits.
On Tuesday morning Schalk Human, the deposed acting chief procurement officer at National Treasury, told Talk Radio 702’s Bruce Whitfield that he wouldn’t categorise the relationship between the ministry and Treasury’s bureaucracy as being “in tatters”.
Treasury stands in the middle of the crosswinds between economy and politics. It needs to be able to take advantage of the trade winds generated by a recovering world economy while navigating the poisonous environment of local politics.
That it has historically been able to do, resisting assaults after the introduction of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macro-economic programme in the 1990s by Trevor Manuel and deflecting snipes when it started to cut on government spending under Gordhan.
But President Jacob Zuma’s decision to axe Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas in March has led to a great deal of anxiety among staff and the fallout continues to be felt. When Gigaba initially marched into Treasury with 28 staff and advisor in tow, according to Business Day, some staff were worried he would politicise their jobs. Inevitably, Director-General Lungisa Fuzile resigned and last week three more highly respected staff linked to Gordhan packed their desk, although Gigaba’s spokesperson insisted this was a decision of the director-general.
Gigaba’s end goal
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba is an ambitious politician whose eyes seem to be firmly fixed on the ultimate prize of the presidency. He has over the years succeeded in keeping his nose largely clean, effortlessly transferring his loyalty from Thabo Mbeki to Zuma and avoiding putting his head above the political parapet.
But he has always been close to the rent-seeking action, as tracked by the :Betrayal of the promise” report into the shadow state of state capture. According to the report, Gigaba became a key player in the reconfiguration of the boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that became so amenable to the Guptas’ interests and their sycophants when he served as minister of public enterprises.
Everything he does at Treasury, some insiders believe, is done with an eventual presidential bid in mind. It is believed this could be the motive behind the recent spate of leaks from the once impregnable Treasury, which has sought to portray the institution negatively. Some are convinced the leaks emanate directly from the ministry, where a ministerial adviser has been known to openly declare: “I am looking for corruption.
” The stick that is being used to beat Treasury with is the 12-year old IFMS project to amalgamate and integrate financial management systems across government. It has cost millions of rands, but is yet to come to fruition. While a joint project management team has been trying to implement a solution, the creaking, old system needed to be maintained, which meant more money spent on outdated technology. But Treasury officials argue the amount spent on such a vast project isn’t out of the ordinary when designing architecture of this nature. However, the minister has been reluctant to defend his new department, telling Parliament he will ensure accountability for any wrongdoing.