By Mphutlane wa Bofelo

You can’t tell me that the political officials and administrators in South Africa — from ministers and director-generals to CEOs and finance managers — are so ignorant of the prices of goods and services, and the costs of construction of buildings and installation of appliances and devices that they would not have been able to detect anomalies in prices that SEEM to have been inflated more than ten times the normal price/cost..

In a country in which workers and communities are always cautioned to moderate their expectations and demands with regard to salaries and social services because of the financial constraints within which the government operates, and in which corruption and maladministration within the private and public sector is a cause for alarm, you will expect political officials and public servants, from the presidency up to the ministers and their administrators and managers, to go out of their way to ascertain to the best of their abilities that every single cent that the government pays for services rendered is at the value of the services rendered, or rather that the services rendered are worth the money paid.

Ethical leadership behooves that the president and all the ministers and heads of the relevant departments should make it their business to know if public money and government resources are used appropriately in government projects; for indeed it is their BUSINESS!!! A plead of ignorance about the discrepancy between the amounts of money used on the security upgrades on the president’s residence and the quality of the work done does not exonerate the relevant political officials and administrators, from the president to the relevant ministers and managers.

Not only is it a reasonable expectation from the public that they should have known better, it is a reasonable expectation that they should make it their business to know what is going on and to ascertain that no wrongdoing is going on. If the prices have been inflated, it means that people who ultimately endorse the payment and their superiors are either incompetent or were party to the inflation. In either case, they have to account to the public.

The public has a relationship and social contract with the government and not the service providers. In any organisation, it is the duty of the leadership and administrators to ensure that the money is used appropriately; they are the ones who ultimately should account if moneys have been used inappropriately; they can’t pass the buck to the service providers.

How the government deals with the service providers for inflating the prices is one issue, but it does not exonerate the relevant political leaders and administrators for failing to ensure that public money and government resources are used appropriately.

Mphutlane wa Bofelo is a South African poet and essayist, cultural worker and social critic based in Durban


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