Former minister of public service and administration Faith Muthambi accused finance minister Tito Mboweni of wrongly blaming her for ruinous wage hikes for civil servants.
Mboweni criticised Faith Muthambi and another former Public Service and Administration minister Richard Baloyi, for having put a strain on the fiscus by signing off wage agreements without mandates during their time as ministers, City Press reported on Wednesday.
“I know I was told not to say this but Richard Baloyi and Faith Muthambi put us in this mess. They signed agreements without mandates and one of them has been made an ambassador. You must call a spade a spade and not a big spoon,” Mboweni told journalists at a media briefing before delivering his medium term budget policy statement.
Mboweni painted a stark picture about the impact of civil servant wage hikes on government’s finances. The average wage increase across government was 6.8% in 2018/19, he said, or 2.2% above inflation.
"And after adjusting for inflation, the average government wage has risen by 66% in the last 10 years," said Mboweni.
The wage bill, at almost R600bn, represents more than a third of government's annual spending.
But Muthambi, an ANC MP, denied that she signed off on the wage agreement, blaming Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo, who was Minister of Public Service and Administration last year, instead.
“In a cheap populism twist, the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has taken a swipe at me as the former Minister of Public Administration for having put a strain on the fiscus by signing off wage agreements without mandates during my tenure as the Minister.
“Had the minister taken time off his busy social schedule to read the agreement on the salary adjustments and improvements on conditions of service in the public service, he would have not only found out who the signatories were at the time to blame, but also discharged his duties with integrity and do justice to the office he occupies.
“Mboweni must stop his verbal diarrhoea and being hellbent on playing the blame games and start applying his mind on how he can better contribute positively to South Africa than boosting his pompous ego any further.”
In 2017, Muthambi was found to flout several public service regulations by making irregular appointments and ordering salary hikes for officials, among other transgressions while she was minister of public service and administration, according to a report by the Public Service Commission.
Parliament's ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board also found that Muthambi was "incompetent" as communications minister. Parliament's legal services found her testimony before the committee "could be seen as an attempt to mislead the inquiry".
Compiled by Helena Wasserman, with additional reporting by Jan Gerber