Province in plan to slim down fatties

THE Eastern Cape treasury has called for bids from service providers to help manage its burgeoning staff obesity problem.

When finance MEC Phumulo Masualle last year urged departments to "trim the fat", tendering out an obesity management programme for his department was probably not what he had in mind.

But, in the terms of references for the outsourcing of the management of an "obesity management programme" for the treasury, it is pointed out that 40% of treasury employees are obese and 25% are overweight.

It wants the successful bidder to be able to "lower obesity associated health risks by helping employees lose their excess body weight and maintain a new healthier body weight".

It says the programme must focus on "gradual and sustained weight loss achieved through a multidisciplinary approach, consisting of diet modification, exercise and behavioural therapy".

While commentators yesterday acknowledged that obesity was a major risk factor for chronic disease, including diabetes, hypertension and stroke, they slammed outsourcing a solution to this problem.

Head of monitoring and advocacy watchdog organisation, Public Service Accountability Monitor, Jay Kruuse, said the treasury should set the example for prudent spending.

"While employee wellness programmes are commendable, treasury has far greater areas of priority that require improved performance and funding to ensure that frontline departments - such as education and health - drastically improve the quality of the service they are required to progressively render in accordance with the Constitution."

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Masualle have urged departments to redirect spending from non-core to priority programmes.

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