Bungling ministers’ days ‘are numbered’

Ministers in the post-election government may have to sign annually renewable performance contracts with the ANC, a senior party member said this week.

ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Enoch Godongwana said government ministers in Jacob Zuma’s incoming administration should be made to sign performance contracts with the ANC to ensure service delivery and “secure the ANC’s future”.

Godongwana said the ANC should also consider introducing independent assessments of the skills of candidates proposed by ANC leaders in the provinces as provincial premiers.

Currently, government deployments are overseen by a deployment committee chaired by President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Godongwana, a member of the party’s powerful economic transformation committee, said the ANC needs to improve its cadres to ensure it continues winning elections.

At the next NEC meeting he will propose more rigorous supervision of government ministers who, he said, should be held directly accountable for their department’s performance.

“The biggest criticism the ANC got under [former president Thabo] Mbeki is that we didn’t fire people. We must show that people will not be kept on if they can’t do the job.”

He proposes that targets should be set for ministers at the start of their terms, agreed between them and the ANC.

“You must tell us what you think you can achieve. For an education minister, we’ll look at things like the matric pass rate. With criminal justice the minister must set [crime reduction] targets.

“These must be reviewed annually and if the ministers haven’t reached them, they must be replaced.”

Premier candidates should be assessed by an independent management consultancy, Godongwana added, and “based on its recommendations we must decide who’s best suited for the job”.

The ANC’s Polokwane conference decided that the provincial executive of each province can submit three premier candidates, from which national leaders would appoint one.

Godongwana said candidates should be put through rigorous testing to ensure they have the necessary skills. The tests would focus on management skills rather than specialised accounting or technical capabilities.

Meanwhile ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte said this week that the ANC was not considering changing the treasury’s functions. Suggestions that the treasury should be reined in reflected the views of individuals, not the ANC’s official position.

The left has criticised the powers exercised by the finance minister, who can unilaterally decide the funding of programmes.

Under the new government, it is envisaged that the finance minister will decide on allocations in conjunction with other representatives of a planning commission, yet to be established.

The commission will be responsible for the overarching coordination of government projects. The finance and the foreign affairs ministries will remain stand-alone units while it is suggested that environment, water, land affairs and agriculture should be grouped.

Duarte said the ANC had not decided whether the commission should be located within the presidency or be a ministry in its own right. However, it would work with the office of the president and Parliament and incorporate all deputy ministers.

One of the commission’s functions will be to scrutinise government departments which fail to spend money on state projects, Duarte said.

“We need constant evaluation [of government departments]. The issue in this year’s budget is poverty reduction. We need an instrument to monitor the efficacy of departments.”

A new structure for the Cabinet is also being fine-tuned by the ANC’s legislative and governance sub-committee, chaired by local government minister Sicelo Shiceka, and the economic transformation sub-committee under Max Sisulu.

The structure is intended to replace the existing cluster system, ensuring that certain portfolios are grouped and coordinated under a “super minister”.

A criminal justice minister will oversee the police, prisons and justice ministries, while the economic development ministry will be responsible for trade and industry.

Social grants will be managed by a minister of social services, but some in the ANC argue that health should remain a separate ministry because it is central to the ANC’s election promises.

The restructuring of ministries is the product of research conducted by policy head in the presidency Joel Netshitenzhe and the final proposals must be endorsed by the ANC’s NEC.

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