State of departments
The unsexy slog
EDUCATION (NALEDI PANDOR)
Mbeki says: “Pace of improvement slow. Fluctuating matric pass rate needs to be stabilised and improved. The number of matrics passing maths and science is only slightly better than in 1995.”
PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI didn’t mince words in his State of the Nation address concerning where Government is failing and how this contributes to poverty, crime and “all that’s ugly and repulsive in our country”.
Up against? Minister Pandor has no authority over provincial education departments, which are self-directed and not all coming to the party, especially not when it comes to making sure all schools have textbooks and stationery when they open.
While ANC MPs have expressed frustration that “the laws and policies they pass are not being implemented,” Sadtu warns that “unless we give the national department power to implement policies, we’ll continue to lose teachers”.
Pandor is expected to unveil details of a national evaluation and development unit that will monitor individual schools to ensure they receive the required attention and support. Plans to “license” all teachers to guarantee set standards is still on the cards.
Vacancy rate: 20%
HEALTH (MANTO TSHABALALA-MSIMANG)
Mbeki says: “Government commits itself to intensify the fight against HIV and Aids. Our improved national comprehensive strategy against Aids and sexually transmitted infections is finalised as soon as possible.” Up against? Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has to lead Government’s new approach with zero credibility. That was complicated by her deputy entrenching Government’s shift on HIV and Aids while Tshabalala-Msimang was on sick leave.
Staff morale is low, with close to 40% of top posts vacant. Financial mismanagement – highlighted by the last three consecutive Auditor General reports – remains a problem.
Overall vacancy rate: 22%
HOME AFFAIRS (NOSIVIWE MAPISA-NQAKULA)
Mbeki says: “Bring the operations of the Department of Home Affairs to full capacity by filling vacant posts, improving systems and implementing recommendations of the task team that has been working with the Minister to improve this vital institution. Improve immigration and documentation services.” Up against? Financial mismanagement and corruption, as outlined in the Auditor General’s report for five years. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula also has to deal with a high staff
Financially, the country is in the best shape it’s ever been in, with Government coffers boasting a surplus. Mbeki says the “organisation and capacity” of the State to put the money to better use is “high on the agenda”.
turnover – five directors-general in 10 years. An ID audit needs to be conducted as soon as possible – R40bn in white-collar crime was committed from mid-2005 to end-2006 using false IDs.
Immigration and asylum systems are overloaded and dysfunctional. The high-level team that went into the department last year to turn it around has submitted its proposals to Cabinet.
JUSTICE & CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT (BRIGITTE MABANDLA)
Up against? A congested bureaucracy. Some lower courts are only coping with 24% of all their cases, and the total criminal court case backlog is around 200 000. Minister Mabandla’s department is unable to attract or retain good prosecutors. Transforming the bench means judges don’t all have enough skills or experience. Civil cases – often deliberately dragged out – clog the system further.
Mabandla will probably make announcements concerning rolling out a new e-case management Mbeki says: “ Put more effort into improving the functioning of the courts… reduction in case backlogs.” system and legislation allowing for complaints against incompetent judges.
Vacancy rate: 20%
COMMUNICATIONS (IVY MATSEPE-CASABURRI)
Mbeki says: “We’ll finalise plans to address call termination rates this year. Telkom will apply for a special low rate for international bandwidth to 10 development call centres… as part of the effort to expand the BPO sector. We will also take a variety of steps to… develop high-speed national and international broadband capacity.” Up against? Inadequate policy and staff retention issues are hampering political commitment to making telecommunications and broadband services accessible and affordable.
Minister Matsepe-Casaburri is under pressure to revise/relax her “managed liberalisation” strategy and anything else that impedes competition and reducing prices.
Icasa needs attention, as staff shortages and turnovers make it difficult for the regulator to do its job. Sentech, the troubled Stateowned signal distribution company, needs to be brought up to speed and given more money if, as it complains, that’s the obstacle to expanding access.
Vacancy rate: 36%
MINERALS & ENERGY (BUYELWA SONJICA)
Up against? A cumbersome bureaucracy working against moves to modernise and align SA with other countries, such as Australia, that are experiencing a growth in commodity prices. Applications for new mining rights are logjammed. Administrative confusion is slowing up investment.
Allegations of irregular benefits to an ANC funding organ, Chancellor House, point to potential scandal.
Minister Sonjica is under pressure to revisit legislation on mineral development and formulate policy that will secure energy and fuel supply. Plans to build another nuclear power station could be followed by announcements about a new oil refinery.
Vacancy rate: 16% Mbeki says: “Our Government has committed itself to… raise the rate of investment in the first economy. To reduce the cost of doing business in our country. To promote the growth of the small and medium business sector. To improve export performance, Mbeki says: “We will set up a State Diamond Trader that will purchase 10% of diamonds from local producers and sell them to local cutters and producers.” This, he says, is part of a determined drive to increase SA’s capacity to produce capital goods.
“We will also expedite our work to ensure greater reliance on nuclear power generation, natural gas and various renewable sources of energy.”
TRADE & INDUSTRY (MANDISI MPAHLWA)
focusing on services and manufactured goods.
“One of the critical things that we shall pursue in this regard is the speedy resumption of the Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations. We are convinced the solutions to logjams… can be found.” Up against? The bureaucracy is bottlenecked and without enough professional/managerial skills. The clumsy handling of the proposed quotas on Chinese textiles highlighted a lack of consistency in trade policy. There’s increasing frustration concerning how the department works, including from Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.
Minister Mpahlwa is under pressure to streamline his systems and take decisive leadership in improving exports and industrialisation strategy in order to move the economy away from its reliance on minerals and commodities.
Vacancy rate: 30%
LABOUR (MEMBATHISA MDLADLANA)
Up against? A Seta system – core to SA’s education and retraining efforts – that needs attention, if not an overhaul. Department officialdom is notorious. For example, when the Steel & Engineering Industries Federation of SA Mbeki says: “The South African Government will continue to prioritise job creation and employment, in line with its aim to halve unemployment by 2014.”
Mbeki emphasised training and skills as key several times, especially in relation to Government’s R370BN Asgisa and skills acquisition projects – all aimed at realising 6% growth by 2014. (Seifsa) devised a plan to train an additional 500 artisans in critical areas, excessive red tape saw the organisation turned down by the National Skills Fund.
Still no sign of the Jipsa critical skills list. The National Qualifications Framework – key to create benchmarked qualifications for learnerships – has yet to be revised.
Aside from two consecutive qualified audits highlighting weak internal controls and flawed financial reporting, the Public Service Commission red flagged the department for giving performance bonuses without reviews.
Overall vacancy rate: 12%
PROVINCIAL & LOCAL GOVERNMENT (SYDNEY MUFAMADI)
Mbeki says: “Programmes to improve our local government system continue apace. What is of concern, though, in many of these municipalities is the many vacancies… in senior management and the professions. In September last year, 27% of all municipalities did not have a municipal manager. In the North West Province the vacancy rate at senior management level was 50%.
“We are on course to eliminate this dehumanising system (bucket system) by the end of this year.” Up against? The consequences of understaffing, poorly managed administrations, uncompetitive salaries and working conditions. For example, last year R1,2bn of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant wasn’t spent due to a lack of engineers.
Project Consolidate – announced in 2004 as a plan to help 138 of SA’s poorest municipalities into financial and administrative health – is proving a slower, more complex process than anticipated.
Municipal debt collection is a problem. According to the Auditor General, municipalities are owed R32bn and that’s growing at R3bn/year.
Vacancy rate: 23%
SAFETY & SECURITY (CHARLES NQAKULA)
Up against? The consequences of the “unattractive employer” syndrome apply. It’s one reason it battles to hold on to detective and forensic specialists.
Destructive tensions between the Scorpions and the SA Police Service need to be resolved by implementing last year’s Kamphephe Commission recommendations.
Rethinking how the police are trained and how they do their job is paramount, especially as security experts stress that the police service is more of a social service force than a law enforcement agency.
Vacancy rate: 0,3% Mbeki says: “We have surpassed that targeted figure of 152 000 police officers employed… and while we have improved the training programme, we recognise that the impact of this is not yet high enough. While we have reduced the incidence of most contact crimes, the annual reduction rate… is still below the 7% to 10% we had targeted. The abuse of women and children continues at an unacceptable level.
“Government will this year: Improve the working conditions and remuneration of police and… bring their total numbers to 180 000 within three years. Bring to full capacity the forensic laboratories, which have been equipped with the latest technology.”