How the DGs were graded

The overriding theme of our first directors general report card is that it is a hard job to do. Why? Most directors general are new; many have been in office for less than a year. The only director general who has spent more than one term in office is Frank Chikane, the head of the Presidency.

These short terms are a problem because each new director general takes at least two years to settle in. The instinct of new bosses is to reinvent the wheel so there is still a lot of re-engineering, strategising and formulating, when the demand for delivery, growth and job creation are paramount.

Ideally, we should be moving to a system of greater stability in the top ranks of the civil service. But a director general’s job is so demanding that burnout is acute and where they get it right, these men and women are ripe for the picking by the private sector where companies have much deeper pockets.

Some directors general made self-assessments that were higher than our team’s final score. This is understandable. We measure by outcome; individuals will measure by input. Is it really fair to grade those who have been in their jobs for less than a year? Often, they are cleaning up and clearing out before implementing. You decide.

And what of departments like transport where the success of the taxi recapitalisation rests on the cooperation of the taxi “industry”, if one can call it that? Part of the art of governing is negotiation and buy-in for policies, but often bargaining partners are so disorganised and blinded by vested interest that progress is impossible. What then? We’d love to hear your views on our assessments.

Also read: Only the tough need apply

What the scores mean

A: Take a bow. You are doing an excellent job.

B: Good, but room for improvement.

C: You’re okay, but that’s all we can say for you.

D: Get your act together.

E: Do yourself and the country a favour—resign.

F: You’re fired.

The Presidency

Frank Chikane

Grade: B

Frank Chikane has been such a behind-the-scenes operator that the only time he’s really made waves was when Adriaan Vlok washed his feet earlier this year.

He is an amiable, efficient administrator who initiated and implemented the integration of the president and deputy president’s offices into the new Presidency office in 1999. Together with the head of the Presidency’s policy coordination unit, Joel Netshitenzhe, the two have made it a nerve centre of policy formulation.

This has served the essential function of ensuring that departments, provinces and municipalities don’t all do their own thing but it has raised concerns of political avarice. Where Chikane has been less effective is in securing an efficient communications system in the Presidency.

The Presidency took about six months to replace former spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, and when it did, it was with the reclusive, incomprehensible Mukoni Ratshitanga.

While it is not strictly his job, Chikane, it can be argued, could have done more to use his moral suasion to get President Thabo Mbeki to take more humanist and rights-based approaches to his Achilles heels—Zimbabwe and Aids.

Agriculture

Masiphula Mbongwa

Grade: C

While the commercial agricultural sector feels that Masiphula Mbongwa has his finger on the pulse, emerging black farmers are hesitant to sing his praises. Mbongwa was on his way to earning a well-deserved B, but the challenges that remain in the emerging agriculture market cannot be ignored.

The extension officers in his department, who are charged with supporting emerging farmers, have not performed.

Emerging farmers have been critical of the difficulty in accessing government programmes, such as the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme and the Micro-Agricultural Finance Institutions of South Africa scheme.

Arts and Culture

Itumeleng Jerry Mosala

Grade: F

Itumeleng Jerry Mosala is on his way out. A major newspaper advertised his job on October 15 and the requirements he was supposed to have fulfilled were spelled out. These include overseeing the work of the various national performing arts bodies and funding institutions, managing the country’s heritage and legacy projects, injecting economic life into the cultural industries, providing a framework for the language policy and international cultural relations.

Mosala became arts and culture Director General when it was separated from the Department of Science and Technology in 2003; he was former vice-chancellor of the Technikon North West and former president of the Azanian People’s Organisation.

The job of director general is a three-year contract appointment and in his tenure Mosala has presided over a sector that is disparate and forever at war with itself. He was at loggerheads with leaders in the film industry over a lack of top-up funding from government last year and, in 2004, was at the centre of a scandal involving appointments at the National Arts Council funding body.

Mosala has on more than one occasion hit out at the arts sector for not doing enough to address racial inequality in its disciplines.

Back home, however, staff at the department says he hardly puts in an appearance at the workplace.

Communications

Lyndall Shope-Mafole

Grade: E

In a sector where success can be measured against two key indicators—affordability and accessibility—the Department of Communications under the stewardship of Lyndall Shope-Mafole is having no real impact. The pledge of more affordable telecommunication and broadband services is a distant promise. We may have new legislation in the form of the Electronic Communications Act and a second national operator in the form of Neotel, but there still remain far too many bottlenecks to creating competition and bringing down prices.

South Africans are still stuck with some of the highest telecommunications prices in the world. There is a need for increased funding and independence for the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). But the Icasa Amendment Act has also been a bone of contention in the sector, with the department standing accused of trying to strong-arm changes, which would allow Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri to select Icasa councillors.

President Thabo Mbeki rejected the Bill as unconstitutional and sent it back to be altered again. The department came up with plan B where two department officials were nominated to stand as Icasa councillors.

Although stakeholders agree that Shope-Mafole has a very good relationship with them and has strong links with the international communications world, they point out that the policy vacuum at the department is hampering efforts to slash prices and stimulate competition.

Shope-Mafole says she thinks her department has performed well, as opposed to very well, and would rate her performance as a C.

Correctional Services

Linda Mti

Grade: F

The Correctional Services Director General, National Commissioner Linda Mti, has had another busy year. When he, or his officials, were not denying that he was implicated in getting his company to tender for contracts to build jails, or that he had quit to join the local organising committee of the 2010 World Cup, his department’s lawyers were doing their best to ensure that judges’ injunction that prisoners be given antiretrovirals was ignored, and that the media were prevented from touring prisons, despite being invited by the parliamentary portfolio committee.

Mti was named in a Beeld report as the sole director of a company linked to three other firms that benefited from department tenders worth R800-million. Mti’s Lianorah Investment Consultancy shared the physical and postal address of Pehezulu Fencing, Sondolo IT and Bosasa, which had landed the contracts.

But as busy a year as it was, Mti has little to show for all the attention he has had. In his defence, the department, having reluctantly accepted the wisdom of the Durban High Court, announced that it would test 12 500 inmates and officials to determine the extent of the HIV/Aids and syphilis prevalence in jails.

Beyond that, the department remains in denialist mode. There is still no acknowledgement of the extent of rape inside prison, which makes testing for HIV/Aids a half-measure when the likelihood of vulnerable inmates acquiring the virus is ever present.

Mti and his political bosses’ defence over the years—that prisons are merely the reflection of their society—is half-baked. It is incumbent on a system that calls itself correctional to find measures that are just that.

Defence

January Masilela

Grade: C

January Masilela is one of the longest-serving directors general, having been appointed in late 1999. Although Masilela is the accounting officer for the Department of Defence, his responsibilities are to some extent split with the chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), General Godfrey Ngwenya, who is responsible for operational management.

The perception that the military grew to be a law unto itself under apartheid led constitutional drafters to create the Defence Secretariat as a body under civilian control to help set policy and exercise oversight of the defence force.

But to some extent the separation of powers has had administrative draw-backs. The balance of power has shifted too strongly towards Masilela, a perception sharpened since the departure of former SANDF chief Siphiwe Nyanda, regarded as more assertive than his successor.

And the division of power may also have contributed to Masilela’s failure to get to grips with exercising financial control: for the fifth year in a row the Defence Department received a qualified audit from the Auditor General last month when it presented its 2005/06 annual report.

Masilela and his staff have had a massive ship to steer, dealing with the demands of the SANDF’s continental peace-keeping duties, juggling operating budgets squeezed by the procurement of major new weapons systems, and managing the process of reducing military personnel numbers—left bloated by the integration of Umkhonto weSizwe, Apla and homeland forces. Overall, we think he should keep his job.

Education

Duncan Hindle

Grade: A

Shortly after Duncan Hindle became acting director general of education in January last year, a journalist asked for his help in obtaining the correct matric documentation for a 22-year-old who had written the exam five years before and had received an incomplete certificate. Within weeks, the former pupil was in possession of the prized, and this time correct, document.

The incident provided early signs of qualities that have become defining features of Hindle’s stewardship. No media story was riding on the matter, which therefore provided no PR grist for the departmental mill. But Hindle’s readiness to help suggested a very strong service ethos—an awareness that education policy, management and officialdom exist to serve individuals rather than the other way round. And the incident also displayed his formidable efficiency and attention to detail.

When he was confirmed in the position in May last year, some murmured that he would not set the education landscape aflame with visionary fervour. Even then, however, few had a bad word to say about him—and even fewer do now. After the rhetorical fireworks but often slapdash delivery of former incumbent Thami Mseleku and his political boss Kader Asmal, Hindle’s unflashy toil is a welcome virtue in a field where the slow grind of patient implementation is probably the chief priority.

To this task he brings the undoubted asset of having had experience in the trenches as a schoolteacher himself. An even greater asset is his experience in the 1990s with the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, first as vice-president and in 1995 president of the union. For the latter position he stood against Willie Madisha, and notes wryly that he remains the only person to have beaten Madisha in an election.

Unionists still refer to this history and speak with warmth of Hindle, noting that he is a straight talker who can be trusted. For his part, Hindle acknowledges “a close working relationship with former comrades”.

It is both characteristic of the man and apt for the times that Hindle says a strategic goal is “to build a greater sense of predictability and order in the system, with no sudden shifts in policy”. Two of the challenges he defines are to obtain “better information about the system (including measuring teacher performance and learner achievement)” and to base “policy on evidence rather than ideology”.

That approach is amply in evidence when he addresses the targets set in the government’s programme of action for this year. The statistics provide clear evidence that the targets, which amount to a determined rolling back of apartheid damage and deprivation, are being met. For instance, by July, of 27 000 public schools, 2 573 had no running water and 1 971 were without sanitation. At the current rate of provision, it will take two to three years to wipe out this backlog.

On the other hand, there should no longer be any “learners under trees—except where new cases may have arisen due to storms, etc”. Crucially, though, until as recently as this year data on such schools was not available quickly enough for swift departmental action, but now there are monthly reports. Currently, says Hindle, “we record 688 schools with ‘inappropriate structures’ (mud, etc), and a need for 44 713 classrooms”.

However, given Hindle’s (necessary) focus on implementing policy, it remains to be seen how he and his department handle difficulties arising when policy itself leads to problems—for example, the patchy application by schools of the fees-exemption laws.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism

Pam Yako

Grade: B+

Despite her large and robust character, Pam Yako plays a surprisingly low-key role as Director General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Unlike her predecessor, Chippy Olver, her public profile is virtually invisible and she very rarely gets drawn into controversy. But this does not mean she is not doing her job.

If her performance is judged by the increased efficiency of staff in most divisions of the department since her appointment in May last year, Yako deserves a high grade. However, it is dragged down by chaos at the Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) division, which is proving to be her Achilles heel.

Yako and MCM head Monde Mayekiso were hauled over the coals by Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts in mid-August because of mismanagement of the Marine Living Resources Fund. The fund, set up to finance MCM activities, is broke—mainly because of the lack of a financial system and the under-recovery of levies. Other shortcomings include huge budget cuts in strategic areas, high staff turnover and the loss of key scientific personnel.

Other public entities under the department fared better. South African Tourism reported a 10,3% increase in international tourist arrivals in the 2005/06 financial year and domestic tourism has contributed more than R40-million to the economy. The Tourism Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Charter, signed in July last year, is being rolled out.

Close to 80 000ha of land have been added to national parks, the new Camdeboo National Park was proclaimed and four new marine protected areas were declared. Local community benefits from and participation in conservation are being actively promoted through people and parks forums hosted by the department.

The department has also made strides in waste management, expanding transfrontier conservation areas and increasing compliance with environmental laws. It spent 99,6% of its budget in the 2005/06 financial year and 57% of expenditure was on BEE. At least 44% of departmental employees are women, 72% are black, though the 0,9% of employees with disabilities is below the targeted 1,5%. Yako has managed to reduce staff turnover from 25% to 18%.

Foreign Affairs

Ayanda Ntsaluba

Grade: A

South Africa is playing a complicated and risky foreign affairs game. On the one hand we have deep and long-standing ties with the Western powers, who are also our major trading partners. On the other, we have a policy of expanded South-South cooperation and a leadership role in the Non-Aligned Movement, which sometimes entails taking positions that conflict sharply with those of the West, for example on Iran’s nuclear programme.

On the one hand South Africa wants to punch above its weight in international affairs, and insist on the importance of the multilateral, rule-based system; on the other we seem willing to engage with states like Belarus, even North Korea, which show little respect for that system, and cosy up to an increasingly authoritarian Russia.

So, Ayanda Ntsaluba must manage a department that is pulled in numerous directions. He must also mediate between thinly stretched officials, a ministry that is widely seen as a letter-carrying agency for the Presidency, and a foreign diplomatic corps that finds his department very frustrating to deal with. When South Africa takes up its non-permanent United Nations Security Council seat next year that task will only become more difficult.

Despite the complexities, however, he can cite some fairly major achievements in the growing success of the India-Brazil-South Africa relationship, new security cooperation arrangements with foreign powers, and crucially, that Security Council seat. Sometimes it is difficult to know where the Presidency ends and the Foreign Affairs Department begins, but few dispute that Ntsaluba is an able administrator. And, unlike his bosses, he is very good at communicating with the media.

There are things he needs to do better, however. One is to communicate with the diplomatic corps, many of whom are openly critical of the department’s perceived inefficiency. Another is to manage better South Africa’s crucial foreign missions.

Health

Thami Mseleku

Grade: F

Thami Mseleku is fond of saying that he is a linguist who had to be redeployed to the health sector to help sort out its problems. But Mseleku’s lack of health knowledge has been his biggest disadvantage. Many of his senior staff lack respect for him because of it and it may also be the reason he appears to shun health sector stakeholders.

Although Mseleku has been director general since January last year, many key sector players report that they have never met him. As one senior pharmacy boss said recently: “The [Health Department] ship appears to have no captain.”

While Mseleku has shied away from involvement in health policy issues, he has plunged head first into the political controversies involving the department—most notably those involving HIV/Aids.

He has taken a personal interest in controversial vitamin seller Dr Matthias Rath, exonerating him from any wrongdoing even before a Medicines Control Council investigation into Rath’s activities was completed. He also ordered a consignment of Rath’s pills being held at Cape Town’s port as unlicensed medicines to be released to the Rath Foundation.

He was instrumental in getting the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and Aids Law Project (ALP) excluded from the UN General Assembly Special Session on Aids.

There is still no new five-year strategic plan for HIV/Aids, although the previous one expired last year, and Mseleku has suspended the country’s only HIV/Aids communication campaign, Khomanani, pending an audit of its performance.

Hopes that Mseleku’s previous position as education director general would have enabled him to tackle the poor working conditions of health workers—who, like teachers, are overworked and underpaid—have not materialised.

In addition, the Health Department received a qualified audit for the third time in a row this year.

Morale in the Health Department is dismally low, with almost 40% of top posts vacant despite an extra R30-million having been allocated to beef up the national staff.

However, the one bright spot in Mseleku’s tenure this year is that the government is finally paying serious attention to setting up health information-gathering systems throughout the country.

Home Affairs

Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka

Grade: F

Go to any home affairs office to understand this grade. Home Affairs Director General Mzuvukile Jeff Maqetuka resigned after 18 months as the chief accounting officer in a department that received consistently poor reports from the Auditor General.

The department clawed its way up from a disclaimer from the Auditor General for the 2004/05 financial year (when the Auditor General could not audit R572-million-worth of expenditure because of the lack of supporting documentation) to a qualified report for the 2005/06 period. The report marked the fifth year that the department has received a qualified report or a disclaimer.

After the 2004/05 report, Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula called on the National Treasury to intervene, which led to a project coordinated by the department, Treasury, the Department of Public Service and Administration and the Public Service Commission to improve the department’s performance.

He was the fifth director general to serve in the department in the past decade.

Housing

Itumeleng Kotsoane

Grade: C

Since his appointment in May this year, Itumeleng Kotsoane seems to have quietly taken his time coming to terms with the enormous challenges facing his department.

Apart from this, there is a range of complex policy issues relating to the government’s sustainable human settlements plan, “Breaking New Ground”, that urgently require mechanisms for implementation.

Kotsoane took over from acting director general Mzi Dlabantu, who had kept the seat warm for a year after Ahmedi Vawda, largely credited with playing a key role in the government’s new housing policy, left the department.

In the next five years Kotsoane will have to drive this plan and meet government’s ambitious goal of eradicating informal settlements by 2014.

The problems with housing seem intractable as, despite the provision of 1,8-million subsidised houses between 1994 and 2005, the backlog stands at 2,4-million households as opposed to two million in 1996. “Breaking New Ground” is an attempt to accelerate delivery and shift focus from building houses towards creating holistic human settlements. The government is also fostering partnerships with the private sector, including construction firms, suppliers and banks.

While the government’s new housing policy is acknowledged as visionary, severe staff shortages, a lack of capacity and corruption have delayed proper implementation.

The appointment of Kotsoane—a politician—to such a senior public post has raised some concern, but it may count in his favour as he is more likely than his predecessors to grasp the political imperative of government’s policy shift.

Justice and Constitutional Development

Menzi Simelane

Grade: C-

Menzi Simelane has had a rocky start to his tenure at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, capped this week with a qualified report from the Auditor General, Shauket Fakie, on his 2005/06 financials. It is a bit unfair to blame Simelane for that—it was occasioned by a change in the way the Treasury wants receivable revenue accounted for, a change that came too late for the department to adjust its numbers.

But he should take responsibility for dealing with what Fakie calls “the lack of an effective and efficient financial management system over monies in trust”. This has long been difficult for the department to get right, but for lawyers, management of trusts is a fairly basic competence.

Fakie flags other management problems, with “fiscal dumping” at the top of the list. Fiscal dumping is the practice of quickly working through—or disguising—a backlog of unspent money by improperly making large allocations at the end of the financial year.

Fakie stops short of accusing Simelane of violating the Public Finance Management Act, but he warns that memos dealing with the end-of-year spending spree “may have resulted in pressure being put on agencies to spend additional allocations before the end of the financial year”.

Simelane will argue, with some justification, that things used to be a good deal worse. This is a department that has taken a sustained political battering: over judicial reform, magistrates’ salaries and over the slow progress of legislation such as the Sexual Offences Bill and Children’s Bill.

If the minister wants to take greater control of the administration of courts she will need a director general who can look after matters closer to home. The final verdict is not yet in on Simelane, but a schoolteacher would say: “Could try harder.”

Labour

Vanguard Mkhosana

Grade: E

When Vanguard Mkhosana was appointed Director General of the Department of Labour in 2004, he vowed to turn it into one of the best-performing government institutions. But two years on, very little suggests he is on the right track.

For two years the department received qualified audit statements from the Auditor General. The latest was tabled in Parliament last month.

Also last month, the Public Service Commission criticised the department for inadequate performance management. The commission said in its report that some senior employees have received performance bonuses without performance agreements.

Senior officials within the department who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity said the findings of the Auditor General and the commission were long overdue. They described Mkhosana “as an incompetent administrator” who got the director general’s job because of his closeness to Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana.

Mkhosana has also failed to address a long-standing problem of vacancies within the department.

According to its recent annual report, more than 500 posts, including key positions in areas such as statistics, research, programme management, finance management and human resource management, remain unfilled.

Land Affairs

Glen Thomas

Grade: D-

Glen Thomas is a Director General under fire. Both his bosses and interest groups consider him to be inefficient and out of touch with his portfolio. No doubt the director general knows the seriousness of the situation—land reform is one of the critical elements in South Africa’s political future.

To realise the 30% redistribution target set by Mbeki, about 1,75-million hectares needed to be redistributed every year from 2000. To date, 3,3-million hectares have been redistributed and therefore 21,3-million hectares must still be delivered.

This means about 2,3-million hectares a year must be delivered between 2006 and 2014. In its policy paper the department says it plans to deliver 3,1-million hectares a year for the next three years to enable government to meet this 30% target. At present there does not seem to be a coherent plan of how this will be achieved.

Thomas’s critics say instead of doing his job, he tries to reinvent the wheel when a crisis arises, which wastes more time and energy. Even Mbeki has told him to stop trying to formulate polices and stick to his task, namely complying with policies.

It is virtually impossible to get an appointment with the director general. In light of the many criticisms, the M&G tried to interview him and, when that failed, sent e-mailed questions about his performance to his office. No response was received.

His inaccessibility is one of the points that frustrates commercial farmers most. Emerging farmers are equally frustrated by the slow service delivery.

The long-awaited paper on the government’s willing-buyer, willing-seller policy is described as being out of touch with reality. It reinforces Thomas’s reputation as a theocrat, with long academic and theoretic motivations, and many stakeholders say it is not practical.

Under Thomas the settlement rate of restitution cases has increased.

Minerals and Energy

Sandile Nogxina

Grade: E

The Minerals and Energy Department operates at the heart of the economy and, at the moment, stakeholders are begging for a bypass.

Crucial applications for new order mining rights are jammed up in Sandile Ngoxina’s bureaucracy, and potential legal challenges to the implementation of the new regime are piling up faster than the department can clear them. Meanwhile signs of political meddling in what should be a transparent, technocratic process are all too evident.

The 10-year-old attempt to reform the electricity distribution, or reticulation, network, is going nowhere fast. The Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill is meant to take electricity distribution away from municipalities and put into the hands of Reds (regional electricity developers), but it has run into constitutional circuit breakers, and intense opposition from just about everyone involved.

Plans to remove responsibility for energy efficiency from Eskom and hand it to the Central Energy Fund are also stalled in the face of intransigence from the power giant.

The liquid-fuels sector is a little better managed, with progress in relation to cleaner petrol and diesel despite anxiety from refiners over the costs of the change. But the department has been remarkably limp-wristed in dealing with last year’s fuel shortage in the Western Cape, and has made no real progress in breaking Sasol’s stranglehold on highveld fuel supply.

A lot more work is needed to drive this engine clean.

National Intelligence Agency

Manala Manzini

Grade: C

Manala Manzini, who was appointed acting director general after the suspension of Billy Masetlha last year, has had a baptism of fire in taking over a spying agency in turmoil following allegations and counter-allegations that the organisation had involved itself in ANC faction fighting.

His formal appointment was confirmed this year when Masetlha’s contract was terminated in the wake of the so-called hoax e-mail saga.

Prior to his appointment Manzini headed the agency’s technical interception division.

Despite lacking operational experience, Manzini does have administrative experience and has brought in some respected operatives to back him up. These include former National Intelligence Agency Western Cape director Arthur Fraser, recalled from home affairs to replace Gibson Njenje as head of operations.

Njenje resigned in the middle of the e-mail affair, but his departure, unlike Masetlha’s, appears to have been amicable.

Another is Pete Richer, recalled from the South African Revenue Service in June this year to serve as NIA deputy director general responsible for systems development.

Both are respected in the intelligence community and the appointments have at least partially restored morale and stability within the agency.

Manzini has also enjoyed much closer involvement from his line minister, Ronnie Kasrils. The minister’s close cooperation sets up an unwelcome possibility of political interference but, until there is clarity about just who was playing politics with the agency, Kasrils’s supervision is understandable.

Thus far, to the degree that any outsider can assess, he seems to be doing the right thing.

National Treasury

Lesetja Kganyago

Grade: A-

The bureaucrats at the National Treasury have a reputation as the mandarin elite of government: pointy-headed, tough and incorruptible.

Maria Ramos, who headed “team finance” through the hostilities of the belt-tightening late 1990s and early 2000s was widely seen as the embodiment of “how things are done at Treasury”. She worked famously punishing hours, and expected her staff to show similarly unstinting commitment; it might have exhausted them, but they seem to have loved her for it.

Lesetja Kganyago has a very different personal style. He is affable and relaxed in public and with the media, but he is also capable of flaying an opponent with a few crisp, carefully chosen put-downs.

His team of officials may no longer radiate the sense that they are a chosen few fighting the good fight for fiscal rectitude and good governance, but they are quietly getting on with job anyway. Maybe too quietly.

Kganyago is an expert in the tricky art of debt finance, and of keeping lenders sweet; he seems a little less interested in broader, and fuzzier, macro-economic management.

He is also less political than Ramos—which is largely a good thing, and a sign of increasing maturity within the department. But Trevor Manuel is trying his best to avoid doing anything that could be interpreted as a move in the ANC succession battle, and there is a slightly disquieting quiet from the Treasury on crucial economic policy questions.

Instead, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Presidency are making all the running on the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, Alec Erwin is pushing his infrastructure spending plans, and the people who have the most detailed understanding of the economy are giving very little signal of their attitude to some curious recent decisions.

In the worst cases, they have endorsed spending projects like the Gautrain that have very little connection with our real economic development needs. Just how much room for manoeuvre Kganyago has will be evident in next week’s mini-budget.

We are happy to note that the National Treasury continues to do a very solid job, but it would be nice to see it back in the front lines. Crusading zeal may alienate people, but it also helps retain talent, and frankly we could use a little crusading right now.

Grade: A-—because the criticism is at the margins and the overall performance of the department is excellent.

Provincial and Local Government

Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela

Grade: B

The Department of Provincial and Local Government has a broad mandate and is sometimes assessed on performance by local government, which it has no direct control over. Its mandate ranges from ensuring intergovernmental relations to local economic planning and development.

Director General Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela has consistently reviewed and reorganised the department to address problems. Notable this year were new standards that the department has set for the categories of municipalities. These outlined the minimum employment requirements for senior municipal officers so that the hiring of incompetent political cronies could be eliminated. The department substantially increased the remuneration of councillors from July this year.

It has also been adept at providing the legislative framework to help local government. By introducing the Inter-Governmental Relations Act it tried to overcome the concern that local government had performed poorly because it had been isolated from the provincial and national spheres.

Project Consolidate remains a key strategy to perk up performance in struggling municipalities, but it is too early to assess it as some municipalities improved immediately while others remain in the doldrums.

But the department caused great embarrassment to government as community protests erupted around the country because of the hasty implementation of demarcation proposals, which changed the provincial location of about 16 municipalities.

Public Enterprises

Portia Molefe

Grade: B-

When Alec Erwin took over the Department of Public Enterprises in 2004 he wanted to overhaul the culture and the image of the department.

He may since have presided over a step back from the privatisation process that Jeff Radebe had driven before him, but he wants the department to look, sound and act slick and technocratic. It may not have the flash new premises he left behind at trade and industry, but it has trendy Earth-tone colours, uses crisp sans serif fonts and has a bigger budget for the kind of staff who can manage complex financing arrangements.

Portia Molefe, previously operations chief at the Department of Trade and Industry, was clearly hand-picked by Erwin.

Molefe is strikingly young for such a senior bureaucrat with the complex job of turning the department into a coordinating agency for massive investment in public companies, and a more aggressive overseer of their performance, but there is little indication that she is finding it difficult.

Most of the really heavy lifting, it must be said, seems to be done by Erwin. It is difficult to imagine Molefe stepping in to resolve the dispute between South African Airways boss Khaya Nqakula and Transnet CEO Maria Ramos, or to crack the whip over Thulani Gcabashe’s head at Eskom. The heads of the major parastatals have political access and backing that vastly exceed hers.

What Molefe can do is tighten up the department’s key programmes in analysis and risk management, corporate finance, governance and corporate structures.

She is hiring new staff, but she still relies heavily on consultants, something that may be difficult to avoid given the gap between salaries in banking and salaries in the government. Even so, without beefed-up internal capacity, squeezing value out of massive and risky investments in nuclear power and defence will be tricky.

There has been progress in some of the mechanisms Molefe’s team is developing to achieve this, but not quite as much as was initially promised. A draft risk management framework for state-owned enterprises still awaits approval, and a new financing strategy is nearly a year late. Perhaps the biggest project is a “shareholder management model” to strengthen the department’s oversight of its charges.

In a department with such a powerful political principal and such a major change in strategy it can be difficult to assess the performance of the director general, but in Molefe’s case, most of the indicators point in the right direction.

Public Service and Administration

Richard Levin

Grade: B

This is a mammoth department to try to manage and Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi stays in her job not only because she is good at it but because nobody else would want it. With cross-cutting authority, it needs a persuasive helmsman and has that in Levin. He knows his stuff and will spend the next few years unifying the civil service.

The department’s success often depends on getting staff who owe allegiance to different ministers to do the bidding of citizens: Batho Pele is one example; there are others. It is also a watch-dog department that regularly carries out assessments of different departments. This does not increase its popularity but it’s worth taking a look at the assessments of the senior management service.

Levin can count the completion of the peer review self-assessment as a major achievement this year; it also has a hard-working anti-graft directorate.

Safety and Security

Jackie Selebi

Grade: F

To read through the annual report of the South African Police Service is to know that police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi does work. But to what end? South Africans feel no safer and we are in the middle of a crime spike. It seems he achieved success at reducing contact crimes and hijacking and then took his foot off the pedal.

He does not pay sufficient attention to the vital work of detective skill and forensic investigation, crucial areas if we are to beat crime in a sustainable way. And we never hear from Selebi unless there is a crisis and then it’s usually only to deny said crisis. He has an uneasy relationship with his Minister, Charles Nqakula, which make the two a less than an inspiring team on a beat where engendering confidence is crucial.

In addition, it’s of no small concern that Selebi is friends with Glen Agliotti, the man at the centre of a massive Scorpions investigation into organised crime. This year’s annual report shows Selebi has been successful at attracting new bobbies to his beat but our assessment is that it’s time for a change of guard.

Science and Technology

Phil Mjwara

Grade: B

Phil Mjwara, like his boss Mosibudi Mangena, is low-key and has the scientific credentials that make him a suitable candidate for the job. He joined the department in April this year, replacing Rob Adam, and had spent many years working for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other scientific institutes beforehand.

The department’s aim is to increase investment in research and development. According to the medium-term expenditure framework, funding for research and development will increase by R1,2-billion.

Mjwara says the funds will be earmarked for expenditure on core science and technology infrastructure. These include the Centre for High Performance Computing in Cape Town and nanotechnology characterisation centres.

International investment in science and technology development has seen a 6% growth between 1994 and 2001/02.

This year the department is spearheading further astronomy endeavours with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), after South Africa was short-listed as a possible site to host the SKA.

Although Mjwara boasts little expertise in governance, his calm approach and expansive scientific knowledge will likely see him through his term.

Social Development

Vusi Madonsela

Grade: D+

An integrated approach to social service delivery has been one of the main challenges facing the Department of Social Development this year—and its resolution has yet to be achieved.

While it may be a little early to judge the agency’s effectiveness in the provinces, those still not incorporated into the structure appear to suffer from the traditional diseases of maladministration, procedural backlogs and bottlenecks. The fissures between national, provincial and local spheres remain, as do embarrassing headlines. The court rolls in poor provinces such as the Eastern Cape are equally bogged down by those seeking social welfare compensation.

Long queues at pay-out points, arbitrarily cancelled grants and protracted delays in accessing grants persist. As does fraud and corruption. The special investigating unit announced in June that 21 588 civil servants had been fingered for fraudulently claiming social grants, and the department’s lack of compulsion to follow through with prosecutions has been severely criticised: only 650 people have been charged, while 3 000 have agreed to repay the department—at no interest and some with repayment schedules of up to 31 years.

With 23 453 (42,7%) of all reported rapes in the country committed on children, the implementation of the new child protection register must be commended. The lack of swift responses to new challenges, like the emergence of perverse trends such as people suffering from HIV/Aids choosing to stay off treatment to claim disability grants, must be addressed. The formulation of a grant strategy to deal with chronic illness is a priority.

However, NGOs have expressed optimism at the recent wave of recruits to his department, saying he is starting to surround himself with competent people.

Sport

Joe Phaahla

Grade: B+

The acting director general of sports and recreation, Joe Phaahla, has only one sport on his mind at the moment: soccer. As the director general of the local organising committee (LOC) for the 2010 World Cup, Phaahla is effectively the government’s most senior official involved in the planning and organising of the Fifa showpiece.

The former president of the Azanian Students Organisation during the June 16 protests completed his studies to be a doctor before becoming Natal provincial secretary of the United Democratic front in the 1980s. After the transition to democracy, he was ANC provincial deputy chairperson of Northern Province (now Limpopo) before moving to the sports field as CEO of South African Sports Commission (SASC).

It is a measure of the high regard government and sports officials have for Phaahla that his move to the LOC was welcomed by all sides. During his transition from student radical to sports administrator, the doctor has developed an excellent bedside manner and a substantial understanding of the issues surrounding sport. Several often fractious sporting codes, from rugby to soccer and athletics, praise his administrative and marketing skills.

However, Phaahla has remained invisible in the face of numerous crisis in two of the country’s biggest sports, rugby and cricket, both of whom are facing transformation challenges.

Trade and Industry

Tshediso Matona

Grade: C-

Tshediso Matona, rather like his Minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa, is a nice guy struggling with his job.

His department’s ham-fisted handling of proposed quotas on Chinese textile imports has grabbed all the most recent headlines, and it has pointed up deep contradictions in trade policy.

Is South Africa opening up to trade, and becoming a more flexible, dynamic, player in the world economy, or is it retreating behind protective walls in the hope that producers can get their houses in order before some future debut in the open market? At the moment, the pull of economic populism, and the better instincts of some departmental officials seem to be in collision, and the result is a damaging muddle.

Bilateral talks with the United States are all but dead, negotiations with Mercosur are dragging on interminably, and as for India, a meaningful deal is years away.

Meanwhile the department, which is supposed to be developing industrial strategy positions that will underpin Asgisa, can do nothing about Mittal Steel’s ruinous import parity pricing regime.

On the empowerment front, the country is still waiting for the BEE Codes of Good Practice, which are still not gazetted and questions persist about how they will harmonise with the existing charter regime.

As for the development finance institutions, with the possible exception of the Industrial Development Corporation they continue to limp along unspectacularly.

Some of the problems can be blamed on a high vacancy rate, and an appallingly overtaxed staff, but mostly it looks like weak bureaucratic and political management.

Transport

Mpumi Mpofu

Grade: B-

Mpumi Mpofu stepped into the hot seat when she was appointed Director General of the Department of Transport just over a year ago. Stakeholders maintain that transport was always a neglected issue in the past.

Firstly taxi recapitalisation. This has dragged on for almost 10 years. Stakeholders have described the department’s handling of the matter as “clumsy” and “amateurish” but to be fair the department is not the only one at fault and the taxi industry also needs to take some of the blame.

Stakeholders point out that there has been some success in improving the country’s freight transport problems and maintain that the department’s most successful area is that it has positioned itself with the correct policy pillars but they say the implementation of these policies leaves a lot to be desired.

Mpofu maintains that things are on track with R3,7-billion allocated for public transport infrastructure development. Of this, R700-million will be spent on new bus and taxi infrastructure. She says R3,1-billion has been allocated to overhaul the rail passenger system, including new coaches, safety and security systems and signaling systems.

Stakeholders say Mpofu needs to engage better with stakeholders in the sector. She admits that her engagement with stakeholders is always related to specific outcomes and is not of a general nature. Mpofu says the long-lead times of the infrastructure programmes the department is implementing, means there is a time lapse between her department’s actions and the direct benefits to the commuters of South Africa. She insists that the department is on track and is taking the right decisions for the country, which is why she rates her department’s performance as an A-. For now, she is graded on her predecessor’s work.

Water Affairs and Forestry

Jabu Sindane

Grade: C+

Jabu Sindane must often feel that he is working for the Department of Provincial and Local Government. Although his department is spearheading the drive to give every South African access to water and sanitation, most of the actual service delivery has been given to local government and this means regularly phone calls to the different municipalities around the country.

Water affairs and forestry is redefining itself as a regulator, supporter and leader of the water, sanitation and forestry sectors, instead of an implementing organisation. This means that the department has to become very strong on monitoring and assessment.

It aims to eradicate the bucket system by the end of next year, to give all South Africans water by 2008, and basic sanitation by 2010. But it still has a mountain to climb. Currently, 14-million South Africans still have no access to sanitation and 231 000 households are reliant on the bucket system. About 16-million people still live without running water.

But even though Sindane is adamant that these targets will be met, his department’s briefings to the water affairs and forestry portfolio committee reveals that there is still a lot of confusion about what constitutes a bucket system and if the department’s figures are indeed accurate.

Sindane has driven a campaign to improve the capacity of local governments. The department has sent its engineers and technicians to municipalities to provide hands-on support.

While municipalities are focusing on meeting targets, less attention is being paid to maintaining the existing infrastructure. If Sindane does not address this problem, South Africans who already have water and sanitation services might once again be left behind when the old infrastructure breaks down.

But with the department’s shrinking budgets to finance service delivery, the DG will have to very frugal and enforce strict regulations on the leaky municipalities.

Finances have been an albatross around Sindane’s neck: the department has received qualified audit reports for the past five years.

In forestry, the long-awaited forestry and forest charter is expected to be published at the end of the year. But transformation in the sector is generally hampered by unresolved land claims.

DG reports compiled by Julia Beffon, Kerry Cullinan, Nic Dawes, Monako Dibetle, Lloyd Gedye, Yolandi Groenewald, Ferial Haffajee, Matthew Krouse, Matuma Letsoalo, David Macfarlane, Fiona Macleod, Tumi Makgetla, Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya, Jocelyn Newmarch, Sam Sole, Rapule Tabane, Marianne Thamm and Niren Tolsi

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