Se­nior va­can­cies at Trea­sury ‘a prob­lem’

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Linda En­sor /With Carol Pa­ton

The Trea­sury has not reached the stan­dard of ex­cel­lence ex­pected of it in the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year, with the high num­ber of va­can­cies at se­nior level pre­sent­ing a chal­lenge to the de­part­ment, deputy fi­nance min­is­ter David Ma­sondo says.

The Trea­sury has not reached the stan­dard of ex­cel­lence ex­pected of it in the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year, with the high level of va­can­cies at se­nior lev­els pre­sent­ing a chal­lenge to the de­part­ment, says deputy fi­nance min­is­ter David Ma­sondo.

The Trea­sury is in the process of ne­go­ti­at­ing a spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion to ex­pe­dite the ap­point­ment of se­nior of­fi­cials.

In terms of per­for­mance, the Trea­sury had achieved a mark of 84.8% when ide­ally, as the cus­to­dian of sound fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, it should have achieved 100%, Ma­sondo told par­lia­ment’s fi­nance com­mit­tee dur­ing the Trea­sury’s brief­ing on its an­nual re­port on Wed­nes­day.

The Trea­sury should be the best and should be set­ting the ex­am­ple in fi­nan­cial man­age­ment for all gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions, he said.

Ma­sondo was frank about the set­backs suf­fered by the de­part­ment, in­clud­ing it notch­ing up ir­reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture of R588m, as well as waste­ful ex­pen­di­ture.

Busi­ness Day has pre­vi­ously re­ported that half of the most se­nior posts at the Trea­sury have been filled by of­fi­cials only in an act­ing ca­pac­ity, with some of the of­fi­cials hav­ing been act­ing for as long as two years.

The de­part­ment re­cently lost one of its vet­er­ans in deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral for as­set and li­a­bil­ity man­age­ment An­thony Julies. His de­par­ture brought the num­ber of act­ing ap­point­ments at deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral (DDG) level who head up the Trea­sury’s 10 di­vi­sions to five. A Trea­sury of­fi­cial clar­i­fied on Wed­nes­day that in fact six DDGs were in act­ing roles.

The high level of va­can­cies is viewed as ex­tremely se­ri­ous by a num­ber of econ­o­mists and an­a­lysts, par­tic­u­larly at a time when the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial po­si­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated sig­nif­i­cantly due to poor eco­nomic growth, lower-thanex­pected rev­enue and ad­di­tional bailouts for paras­tatals.

Ac­cord­ing to the Trea­sury, the ini­tial process of fill­ing va­cant deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral po­si­tions was in­ter­rupted by the de­par­ture of former fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene.

It was also af­fected by the re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of na­tional gov­ern­ment an­nounced by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

Ma­sondo said on Wed­nes­day the re­spon­si­bil­ity for ap­point­ing se­nior of­fi­cials lay with the min­istry, which had ex­pe­ri­enced high turnover in the re­cent past.

This had af­fected the speed at which the ap­point­ments could be made. He made a com­mit­ment to fi­nal­is­ing the ap­point­ment of se­nior of­fi­cials as soon as pos­si­ble.

Trea­sury di­rec­tor-gen­eral Dondo Mo­ga­jane told MPs the de­part­ment could not con­tinue with the sit­u­a­tion as is and that he had been in con­tact with the cabi­net sec­re­tar­iat to re­quest a spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion to al­low these se­nior po­si­tions at the Trea­sury to be filled.

What is now re­quired is for fi­nance min­is­ter Tito Mboweni to write to pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion min­is­ter Senzo Mchunu to re­quest ap­proval for this. He noted that the in­ter­views for most of the se­nior po­si­tions had al­ready taken place and rec­om­men­da­tions had been made

it was just a ques­tion of mak­ing the ap­point­ments,

Mo­ga­jane gave the as­sur­ance that the act­ing deputy di­rec­tors­gen­eral were com­mit­ted in­di­vid­u­als who were not con­strained by be­ing in an act­ing ca­pac­ity. They were tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for their work. He also raised the prob­lem of skills re­ten­tion when faced with com­pe­ti­tion by the high-pay­ing pri­vate sec­tor for skilled per­son­nel.

Dikeledi Mahlangu, the chair of par­lia­ment’s se­lect com­mit­tee on ap­pro­pri­a­tions, told Trea­sury of­fi­cials on Wed­nes­day to con­vey the mes­sage to their po­lit­i­cal prin­ci­ples and de­part­ment that the num­ber of act­ing po­si­tions “was desta­bil­is­ing” and that “the Hol­ly­wood sit­u­a­tion must end”.

“It is very destab­lis­ing to have so many act­ing po­si­tions. I hope this mes­sage will reach the rel­e­vant peo­ple . We want to re­quest that all the act­ing po­si­tions be filled so that peo­ple have all the pow­ers to take rel­e­vant de­ci­sions and ac­tions.”

On Tues­day Liezl Kestlmeier, se­nior man­ager at the of­fice of the au­di­tor-gen­eral, told the fi­nance com­mit­tee that over­all au­dit out­comes of the Trea­sury port­fo­lio had re­gressed over the past five years from 44% clean au­dit opin­ions in 2014/2015 to 25% in 2018/2019.

The port­fo­lio has a to­tal of 16 en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing the Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Con­duct Author­ity (FSCA), the In­de­pen­dent Reg­u­la­tory Board for Au­di­tors (Irba), the De­vel­op­ment Bank of South­ern Africa (DBSA), the Land Bank and the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Cen­tre, among oth­ers.

“Putting in very ro­bust sys­tems for fi­nan­cial man­age­ment through­out the coun­try and also for Na­tional Trea­sury is one of the key is­sues that has pre­oc­cu­pied our at­ten­tion and fo­cus,” Ma­sondo said on Wed­nes­day.

“We are pre­pared to deal with our in­ter­nal chal­lenges and po­si­tion our­selves in a man­ner that con­tin­ues to pro­vide our coun­try with sound fi­nan­cial man­age­ment,” he added.

Mo­ga­jane said an au­dit plan had been adopted by the Trea­sury to deal with the is­sues raised by the au­di­tor-gen­eral to strengthen fi­nan­cial man­age­ment.

IT IS VERY DESTA­BIL­IS­ING TO HAVE SO MANY ACT­ING PO­SI­TIONS. I HOPE THIS MES­SAGE WILL REACH THE REL­E­VANT PEO­PLE

WE WANT ALL THE ACT­ING PO­SI­TIONS TO BE FILLED SO THAT PEO­PLE HAVE ALL THE POW­ERS TO TAKE REL­E­VANT DE­CI­SIONS AND AC­TIONS

David Ma­sondo

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