More bang for the buck

Get­ting the ba­sics right is Baloyi’s top pri­or­ity

Finweek English Edition - - Letters -

HE OF­FERS A TEDDY BEAR chuckle, laced with a hint of sus­pi­cion, at the ques­tion about whether the ren­o­va­tors’ racket and rub­ble un­set­tling his Cape Town offices are per­haps sym­bolic of what he has in store for the min­istry he cur­rently pre­sides over in Cab­i­net.

“No, no – this is Pub­lic Works do­ing this job, not us,” says Pub­lic Ser­vice & Ad­min­is­tra­tion Min­is­ter Richard Baloyi, ex­plain­ing that this work was not his do­ing but part of Par­lia­ment’s plans to up­grade 90 Plein Street where his min­istry sits in the par­lia­men­tary precinct.

How­ever, when it comes to the pub­lic ser­vice – now un­der pres­sure to give more sub­stance to rul­ing party guar­an­tees of speed­ing up ser­vice de­liv­ery and, ul­ti­mately, giv­ing more bang for the tax­payer’s buck – he adds: “My mis­sion is in­deed to make my cor­ner brighter. If ev­ery pub­lic ser­vant does the same then we’ll go a long way to ac­cel­er­ate de­liv­ery.”

Get­ting that right re­quires get­ting the ba­sics right, such as mak­ing sure per­for­mance man­age­ment is up to scratch. As a full­time mem­ber of Par­lia­ment’s port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion since 1999, and lat­terly as its forth­right chair­man, Baloyi is all too aware the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion comes be­fore the com­mit­tee ev­ery year to make the same points about how se­nior man­agers and min­is­ters aren’t ad­her­ing to crit­i­cal per­for­mance man­age­ment cri­te­ria and how the lack of skills in fi­nan­cial man­age­ment is a time­bomb.

While the ba­sics in a bu­reau­cracy are never sim­ple, Baloyi doesn’t mince his words about what has to be done. What’s he done so far? He’s ap­pointed new Gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the pub­lic ser­vice Seta and is over­haul­ing the way it’s man­aged and mon­i­tored so it starts do­ing what it’s sup­posed to do: build­ing ca­pac­ity for the pub­lic ser­vice. That in­cludes find­ing un­em­ployed grad­u­ates and re­train­ing them for what Gov­ern­ment needs.

He’s also given the team of ex­perts (in busi­ness, law, IT and cor­po­rate gov­er­nance) un­til this week to re­port back to him about what needs to be done to stop the State In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Agency (Sita) from “chas­ing its tail”.

The politi­cian from Lim­popo says he’s un­fazed by the tough de­ci­sions he’s go­ing to have to take to brighten his cor­ner. He has high hopes for the sin­gle pub­lic ser­vice. Even though he with­drew the leg­is­la­tion aimed at cre­at­ing a sin­gle pub­lic ser­vice from Par­lia­ment, Baloyi be­lieves its plan for a corps of pro­fes­sion­als that will guide, ad­vise and co­or­di­nate the en­tire sys­tem has huge po­ten­tial to in­crease ef­fi­ciency. With­drawal of his pre­de­ces­sor’s (Geral­dine Fraser Moleketi’s) Bill was based on com­plaints about in­suf­fi­cient con­sul­ta­tion and the fact the Bill was in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment too late last year. It’s his pri­or­ity for sit­ting of this year.

And what of cor­rup­tion? The for­mer United Demo­cratic Front ac­tivist turned Cab­i­net min­is­ter con­cedes a more con­certed ef­fort needs to be made to im­ple­ment Gov­ern­ment’s zero tol­er­ance pol­icy on graft. But he soft­ens that by ar­gu­ing the pub­lic ser­vice suf­fers from a sig­nif­i­cant per­cep­tion prob­lem. All in it aren’t crooked. That’s some­thing he in­tends work­ing on, es­pe­cially be­cause the kind of pro­fes­sion­als the pub­lic ser­vice needs to at­tract aren’t go­ing to want to work for some­thing con­sid­ered to be a “brand of bad peo­ple”.

But this begs ques­tions about Baloyi’s bro­ker­ing of a deal to re­de­ploy Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Com­mis­sioner Vernie Petersen to the Depart­ment of Sport & Recre­ation af­ter he’d taken a strong stand against cor­rup­tion in pris­ons and es­pe­cially af­ter he’d flagged spe­cific con­cerns about the ca­ter­ing con­tracts is­sued to Bosasa (it has close ties to Min­is­ter of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Ng­conde Bal­four). Doesn’t that re­in­force the very pub­lic per­cep­tion that Baloyi wants to counter? While the min­is­ter is adamant that there was noth­ing sin­is­ter in this, he says it’s a sub­ject he wants a ded­i­cated in­ter­view on.

“Swap­ping the two direc­tors-gen­eral (Petersen to Sport and Xoliswa Sibeko from Sport to Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices) had ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the per­cep­tions cre­ated around it. This is some­thing I started work­ing on the first day I got into of­fice,” in­sists Baloyi. He doesn’t vol­un­teer the rea­sons for the swap. He hopes Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices is looking into the Bosasa al­le­ga­tions.

Why is there a ten­dency by Cab­i­net to pub­licly dis­miss press re­ports de­tail­ing cor­rup­tion? Surely a show of con­cern and a prom­ise of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would go a long way in fos­ter­ing more con­fi­dence in the po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment to clean up Gov­ern­ment?

“We do that (take note and in­ves­ti­gate),” says Baloyi. “We just don’t go around is­su­ing state­ments that would alert the cor­rupt of­fi­cials any­way.”

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