Business leadership South Africa CEO Busi Mavuso said a lack of accountability for sub-optimal performance and the ANC’s cadre deployment programme is behind the “abysmal” state of the country’s service delivery problems.
Mavuso made these comments in light of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s public announcement last week wherein he vowed to hold ministers and deputy ministers to account if they had not addressed, met and executed the priority areas set for them.
Rampahosa said he’d meet with these ministers over the next six months and would not “accept any excuses or explanations”.
Mavuso said such a clean-up at the top levels of government goes hand in hand with the work to professionalise the entire public service.
“It is an ambitious but very worthwhile project given the abysmal state of service delivery in large parts of the country,” she said.
The focus on improving leadership at the top levels of government is crucial for developing an efficient and professional public service.
However, replacing underperforming Cabinet ministers and senior leaders is relatively straightforward compared to the longer-term goal of professionalising public service.
“The importance of doing so cannot be overstated as the suboptimal service levels cause tremendous economic damage.”
In addition, she said the recently announced plans for the public and private sectors to work together in tackling the country’s biggest challenges will only be effective if there are competent people and efficient departments along the entire value chain.
“While business is fully behind the reforms and working hard with the government to get them successfully implemented, we can’t lose sight of the longer-term goal of professionalising the public service to develop it into one that is fit for purpose,” said Mavuso.
“But it’s not just the reforms that require competency – I’ve written recently about how flawed the National Health Insurance policy is, but even if it were fit for purpose, it would still fail if standards throughout the state health system are not improved.”
She said the main reasons for the dismal state of public services like public health services, the state education system, and municipal service delivery failures are “the lack of accountability for sub-optimal performance” and “unethical public procurement practices”.
“The key is accountability and to encourage performance-based assessments,” she said. “If leaders at the top are held accountable for not performing the functions and duties they’re supposed to, the galvanising effect at lower levels will be remarkable.”
To achieve this, Mavuso said the government must prioritise the roll-out of the minimum competencies framework. This framework introduces minimum competencies for municipal officials, and according to Mavuso, BLSA is pushing to extend that to all organs of state and to ensure that CFOs are included.
Other areas of focus should include aligning accounting, procurement, and governance systems with international best practices and implementing strong performance management procedures that reward good performance.
“Service delivery is largely abysmal throughout the country, mainly because people appointed to their positions are not suitably qualified – the ANC’s notorious cadre deployment programme has contributed significantly to the state the country is in today,” she said.
“The way to develop an efficient and professional civil service is to appoint people with integrity who are suitably qualified for their roles.”
“This is not a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a constitutional prerequisite that public administration must maintain a high level of professionalism.”