Brown con­fi­dent Trea­sury will not fall

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

Ken­neth Brown says he leaves the of­fice of chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer in the Trea­sury at the end of this month with­out any fear that the va­cancy would open the door to a form of cap­ture.

He says this is be­cause he has con­fi­dence in Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han to man­age the up­com­ing changes with ma­tu­rity.

Brown (54) told City Press in an in­ter­view on Thurs­day that the lead­ers in the Trea­sury were highly skilled peo­ple with in­tegrity, who were “not eas­ily swayed”.

“So I am re­ally con­fi­dent that who­ever will suc­ceed me on a per­ma­nent ba­sis will be prop­erly screened and will not have the lee­way to cre­ate prob­lems.”

Brown’s exit came dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time for the Trea­sury, as un­cer­tainty loomed over Gord­han’s fu­ture, who was not seen to be Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s first choice for the post.

Gord­han, trusted by busi­ness, was also the sub­ject of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Hawks re­lated to the al­leged “rogue” unit at the rev­enue ser­vices dur­ing his ten­ure as com­mis­sioner.

The Trea­sury was also un­der pres­sure from those who claimed to be pro­po­nents of trans­for­ma­tion based on al­le­ga­tions that the poli­cies it cham­pi­oned, like the Pref­er­en­tial Pro­cure­ment Pol­icy Frame­work Act and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre amend­ment, choked black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment. Brown – also seen to have been Gord­han’s right-hand man – said the Trea­sury was a very ro­bust in­sti­tu­tion.

“I do not think my de­par­ture cre­ates tur­bu­lence. What is im­por­tant is not to per­son­alise things ac­cord­ing to the in­di­vid­ual.

“There are peo­ple all over govern­ment who ac­tu­ally want to do the right thing.” He said Trea­sury had cre­ated an av­enue for civil so­ci­ety “to get in­volved in our work”.

“So we want South Africans to have a greater voice in what hap­pens in the coun­try and how their tax monies get spent. Civil so­ci­ety needs to take re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause you can­not leave it to an in­di­vid­ual or a small group of in­di­vid­u­als”.

He said that what has helped Trea­sury over the years have been the ef­forts to be apo­lit­i­cal, as far as pos­si­ble. “Our job is not to be in the political space. We need to be con­scious of the political en­vi­ron­ment in which we op­er­ate, but we never play”. He said Trea­sury’s job was “purely tech­ni­cal”. “Mea­sures that we put in place are tech­ni­cal stuff. If it so hap­pens that a cer­tain group of politi­cians or peo­ple do not ben­e­fit, that is un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity. The in­ten­tion is not to tar­get politi­cians and pol­i­tics. It is to make sure that the sys­tem func­tions prop­erly.”

He also cred­ited the political lead­er­ship of Trea­sury for al­low­ing it to func­tion in­de­pen­dently.

He said he had worked with all min­is­ters ex­cept Des van Rooyen, be­cause “he was on hol­i­day last De­cem­ber”, when Zuma had ap­pointed Van Rooyen for four days.

He said the rea­son pro­cure­ment in govern­ment had come to be seen as a cash cow was due to govern­ment’s fail­ure to mod­ernise the sys­tem when it in­tro­duced both the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act and the Mu­nic­i­pal Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act – partly with a view to de­cen­tralise au­thor­ity. “Had we done that, the pic­ture cer­tainly would have been dif­fer­ent”.

Also, he said, govern­ment never saw sup­ply chain as a strate­gic func­tion.

“If you think about it, bud­gets get ap­proved and you get strate­gic plans, and de­liv­ery must hap­pen. What is it that makes de­liv­ery hap­pen? It is sup­ply chain. If wa­ter is not de­liv­ered on time, it is a sup­ply chain fail­ure.”

Brown said it was “im­por­tant to change the cul­ture of SA to re­alise that there are tax­pay­ers who work hard for their money.

“The least that they ex­pect is that their money must be spent prop­erly.”

Brown joined Trea­sury as a for­mer teacher in 1997 and leaves at the end of this month with a Mas­ter of Science de­gree in pub­lic pol­icy, af­ter Trea­sury ar­ranged funds through the Nelson Man­dela schol­ar­ship for him to study at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois in the US.

In the 19 years Brown spent at the Trea­sury he has been deputy di­rec­tor, then di­rec­tor, then chief di­rec­tor, then deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral and re­cently the chief pro­cure­ment of­fi­cer.

Ken­neth Brown

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