South Africa

Government spent R40 billion to upskill employees – but it made no difference

The government has spent R40 billion over the past decade to upskill employees, but with little to show for it as these workers are placed back into a toxic work environment plagued by corruption and mismanagement. 

This is feedback from governance expert Dr Harlan Cloete, who told Newzroom Afrika that the government has a serious capacity and capability problem. 

The government simply does not have the capacity to provide basic services after institutions were hollowed out during the decade of state capture, and it simply is incapable of implementing policy.

Cloete explained that the lack of capacity and capability is the root cause of many governance failures in South Africa, but the government has failed to address it. 

The government has spent R40 billion over the past decade to capacitate the state and make its employees more capable. 

Cloete said the problem is that even if government-run institutions and departments are capacitated and employees are upskilled, it is still fundamentally a toxic environment to work in. 

This makes employees less productive and government services less efficient, hobbling economic growth and deteriorating the quality of life for South Africans. 

In some cases, simply the wrong people are employed, and regardless of how much money the government spends to improve service delivery, the employees cannot deliver. 

One example of this deterioration is South Africa’s SOEs, which are bedevilled by governance and leadership problems. 

“Evidence shows that there were deliberate attempts to destabilise SOEs, and their money is siphoned off to the elite,” Cloete said. 

This problem has grown to plague other government-run institutions, particularly local governments, where oversight is not as robust. 

This has resulted in South Africans dumping government services, as shown in the above graph courtesy of PwC. 

PwC revealed this in its South African Economic Outlook 2024, which outlined the major challenges facing businesses in the country. 

One of these issues is the deterioration of public services as the state’s capacity has withered away due to corruption and incompetence. 

PwC said that the country’s public sector is overwhelmed and unable to deliver the quantity and quality of services it previously could. 

The degradation or failure of key state institutions, from hospitals to the police and education, has severe implications for the economy and well-being of South Africans. 

In response, South Africans are turning away from government-run institutions and are simply not engaging with the public sector. 

The latest Governance, Public Safety and Justice Survey published by Stats SA found that the share of adults using public hospitals in the 12 months declined 6.3% from 19.9% in 2019/2020 to 13.6% in 2022/2023. 

This decline can be seen across all public sector services, including relatively well-run public institutions such as SARS.


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