Nene’s curb­ing of fis­cal in­con­ti­nence rips R60m from toi­let roll bill

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRAIG DODDS

AN IN­STRUC­TION from the Trea­sury for pub­lic ser­vants to save money has had a dra­matic ef­fect on their most pri­vate move­ments. Toi­let pa­per costs have been cut by half, wip­ing R60 mil­lion off the state bill.

It is not clear how these sav­ings have been achieved in the bloated pub­lic ser­vice, though Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nhlanhla Nene did report a re­duc­tion in to­tal head­count of 10 000 staff when he de­liv­ered his medium-term bud­get pol­icy state­ment last month.

It is un­likely, how­ever, that 10 000 in­di­vid­u­als out of 913 000 would ac­count for a R60m sav­ing in toi­let pa­per costs, even if they were among the more reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to the bath­room.

A more likely can­di­date could be other el­e­ments of Nene’s cost-cut­ting mea­sures, no­tably a clam­p­down on cater­ing ex­penses.

It would make sense for a sharp re­duc­tion in in­puts – such as the lav­ish spreads that used to ac­com­pany govern­ment func­tions – to have re­sulted in a com­men­su­rate re­duc­tion in out­puts, that is their calls of na­ture.

Even in Par­lia­ment, pas- tries and cream cheese sand­wiches have no­tice­ably given way to leaner snacks such as fruit and nuts, although also con­tain­ing more roughage.

The serv­ing of al­co­hol at govern­ment func­tions, known to be a fac­tor in the fre­quency of cer­tain urges, has also fallen vic­tim to the min­is­ter’s dry tem­per­a­ment.

So it is pos­si­ble that Nene’s ef­forts to con­tain fis­cal in­con­ti­nence have made an im­pact on the other va­ri­ety.

The in­for­ma­tion is con­tained in a writ­ten re­ply from Nene to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion from the DA’s Malcolm Figg, who clearly gives one when it comes to the pub­lic purse.

He asked for “(a) the to­tal amounts and (b) break­down of such amounts spent (i) by each spec­i­fied de­part­ment and (ii) on each spec­i­fied ser­vice provider in re­spect of the trans­ver­sal sup­ply and de­liv­ery of toi­let pa­per” and other san­i­tary items, in­clud­ing pa­per tow­els, baby and adult di­a­pers, and “in­con­ve­nience pads” since 2010.

Nene was typ­i­cally eco­nom­i­cal in his re­ply.

The to­tal spent on these items since 2010 was R179.7m, he said – R120m of it be­tween that year and 2012, and the rest, R59.6m, be­tween 2013 and this year.

He may have been flushed with the suc­cess of his aus­ter­ity mea­sures, but break­ing it down by de­part­ment would be push­ing it, Nene said, as some de­part­ments had com­pre­hen­sive clean­ing con­tracts that in­cluded the sup­ply of toi­let pa­per.

A fi­nal pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the sud­den clench­ing of the toi­letry bud­get may be that some­one was rip­ping off the state, and the leak has been plugged.

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