President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the most pressing challenge for government, is the need to build a capable state.
Ramaphosa on Monday (20 January), penned his weekly open letter to the public titled ‘From the desk of the President’. The letter is aimed at discussing some of the issues that interest and concern South Africans, and talking about the work government is doing to tackle these issues.
“Walking through the streets of Kimberley and other towns in the Northern Cape a fortnight ago drove home the point that if we are to better the lives of South Africans, especially the poor, we need to significantly improve the capacity of the government that is meant to as improve their lives.
“It was disheartening to see that, despite progress in many areas, there were several glaring instances of service delivery failures. Many of the places we visited struggle to provide social infrastructure and services simply because they have such a small revenue base.
“But, in some cases, elected officials and public servants have neglected their responsibilities. A common feature in most of these towns, which is evident throughout all spheres of government, is that the state often lacks the necessary capacity to adequately meet people’s needs,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said that the achievement of a state that serves the people is undermined by weak implementation. “Poor coordination and alignment between departments and lack of effective oversight has meant that policies and programmes have not had the necessary impact on people’s lives.
“That is why this administration has prioritised the task of building a capable state,” the president said.
He said that a capable state starts with the people who work in it. He said that officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise. “We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work.”
Ramaphosa said that through the ongoing and focused training of civil servants, the National School of Government will be playing a greater role in providing guidance for career development.
The president said that state companies that cannot deliver services – such as Eskom during load-shedding – or that require continual bailouts – such as SAA – diminish the capacity of the state.
“That is why a major focus of our work this year is to restore our SOEs to health. We will do this by appointing experienced and qualified boards and managers. We will be clarifying their mandates, and give them scope to execute those mandates.”
District-based delivery model
Ramaphosa said that one of the most important innovations of this administration is the introduction of the district-based delivery model.
“This way of working is a departure from the top-down approach to the provision of services and will ensure that no district in our country is left behind. It is a break from the ‘silo’ approach, where different parts of government operate separately from each other.”
This aims to produce a single, integrated district plan in line with the vision of: ‘One District, One Plan, One Budget, One Approach’.
“It will give us a clearer line of sight of what needs to be done, where, how and with what resources,” the president said.
He said that through the proper execution of the district development model, the government will be able to know which police station needs vehicles, which rural clinic has run out of medicine, which businesses are struggling to obtain water use licenses, and respond in a targeted manner.
“District-based development is the basis for growing and sustaining a competitive economy,” he said.
“Although we face great challenges, we do not have a dysfunctional state,” the president stressed.
He said that as the government continues to improve, people will notice less interruption of services, more roads are being built, infrastructure is better maintained, more businesses are opening up and more jobs are being created. “Those who follow such things, will notice that government audit outcomes are improving, money is being better used and properly accounted for,” he said.