/ 13 August 2009

Zuma presses govt on service delivery

Gaps in service delivery, which resulted in recent countrywide protests, needed to be tackled by all three spheres of government, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.

Briefing the media after meeting all nine provincial premiers and six executive mayors of metropolitan councils, he said there was ”no doubt” the gaps in delivery were indicative of the government’s shortcomings.

”The urgent need for change in the approach of government institutions has been highlighted by local protest,” he said.

”While the reasons for the protests differ from place to place, they all point to shortcomings in the way government has related to the people, whether at local, provincial or national level.”

Zuma said the presidential hotline, to be launched next month, was one way in which citizens’ concerns could better be dealt with.

In addition, a public liaison forum had been established, comprising public representatives from all national departments and each of the premiers’ offices.

The meeting with all the premiers and executive mayors is the first since Zuma took office.

”We are encouraged by the deliberations today [Thursday]. We have no doubt that if we continue in this spirit we will be able to effectively close the gaps in inter-governmental coordination,” he said.

Two green papers on planning and evaluation were also expected to be presented to the Cabinet later in August. Minister in the Presidency in charge of planning and monitoring Trevor Manuel said they would hopefully be finalised by August 26.

He said the first paper would deal with the planning and evaluation of essential services like healthcare and education, while the second would focus on institutional arrangements.

When asked if Western Cape Premier and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille had engaged positively in the discussion, he said she had interacted jointly.

”She doesn’t have a problem. She was part of the meeting and she made valuable contributions,” he said.

Last month, Zille said she had approached Zuma directly over concerns that the nine provinces be scrapped.

She said the scrapping or merging of provinces would turn them into mere administrative units of central government.

A belief among the public that removing the provincial sphere would streamline government, reduce costs and improve efficiency was unfounded, she said.

”There are ministries, departments, projects and parastatals under central government control that are more corrupt and inefficient than almost anything governed under concurrent provincial powers,” said Zille at the time.

Zille was not present at the press briefing as she left earlier with a number of government officials. — Sapa