Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brace yourself for the mother of all tenders


Brace yourself for the mother of all tenders


Sunday Times Editorial | 26 February, 2012 01:57


Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan speaks during a news conference before his 2012 Budget Speech at Parliament in Cape Town February 22, 2012.
Image by: STRINGER / REUTERS


Sunday Times Editorial: DID the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, really think that a decision to spend R300-billion over the next 17 years on nuclear power stations did not merit a mention in his budget speech?


The figure was contained in the detailed budget documentation - page 95 of the National Treasury 2012 Budget Review, to be exact.

Bearing in mind the decade-long fiasco that resulted from greed, fraud, corruption and cover-ups surrounding the R45-billion arms deal, the contracts surrounding this "mother of all tenders" must be placed under scrutiny from day one.

South Africa's growing reputation for corruption derives in no small part from the singular failure of the state to mete out justice to those who had their snouts in the trough during the arms deal feeding frenzy.

The two prominent cases in which action was taken - the prosecution of Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik - have been less than convincing.

Yengeni has returned to a high-profile role in the ANC's party machinery and Shaik has been released from prison on spurious grounds to play golf and whine about his unfair treatment.

The R300-billion to be spent on nuclear power must be treated very differently from the outset.

In the first instance, the decision to spend such a vast sum ought to be interrogated publicly. Do we really need to spend so much? Is nuclear the right option?

What are the environmental consequences of placing these power stations "on the coastline"?

In the event that we conclude that this spending is unavoidable, the entire process must take place with transparency and accountability.

Bidders for contracts, sub-contracts and tenders must be made public along with the identities of their local business partners.

Conflicts of interest involving those in a position to influence the nature and scope of tenders must be eliminated.

No person in the cabinet or relatives of a minister should be a beneficiary of any contract related to this project. And members of the government bureaucracy must resist the temptation to make a quick fortune.

The government is about to legally restrict the media's ability to report on matters of state security, which will no doubt include contracts related to nuclear energy.

With the secrecy legislation in place, the door will open for those who make a living by stealing from the public purse to dip their noses into a R300-billion trough.

Now is the time for all those who cherish a free and open society in which power is checked by accountability and citizens are fully informed to take a stand. Don't let your R300-billion be stolen from the public purse.

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