Accountabilty linked to failures: Madonsela

By Drum Digital
23 October 2013

Lack of accountability and lapses in leadership are some of the causes of governance failure: Madonsela

Lack of accountability and lapses in leadership are some of the causes of governance failure, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said on Wednesday.

"Whether we are talking about an organisation, or the state, it is a situation where the majority hand over power to the few, with the understanding that they are better off with a few managing their affairs," Madonsela told delegates at the Black Management Forum conference in Midrand.

"It is a relationship of trust and it can only succeed if those who are entrusted with power and resources understand that they are stewards --that resources do not belong to them."

She said it often did not work that way.

"At the level of government... we are getting a mentality [from communities] that says if we start a fire they will come," Madonsela said.

"With a trust deficit [with regard to government], some communities are increasingly resorting to violence and are literally starting fires with the view to draw attention to themselves."

She said this was happening in many disadvantaged areas.

"If those who exercise public power don't... [follow the democratic values in the Constitution], the criminal elements have an easier task of promoting a [violent] reaction."

Madonsela said her office was increasingly finding that leaders had problems understanding what it meant to do the right thing.

"Increasingly there is an issue of conflict of interest, where people place themselves in situations where really they have two masters," she said.

"When you find yourself in a situation with two masters, something has to give and often it is your organisation that has to give, and other interests take [precedence]."

Madonsela said a "loss of institutional memory" also led to the failure of governance.

"Even if you get highly competent people, it is difficult for them to know volumes and volumes of internal policies," she said.

"Institutional memory loss leads to governance failures because increasingly people take action without going through the policies --because there are so many of them."

She said the life cycle of directors general was too short, and a significant number did not finish their three-year terms.

"It is musical chairs. The same applies to municipal managers, but increasingly it's applying to ministers, premiers, MECs, mayors and councillors," Madonsela said.

"Increasingly that continuity is lost."

Other causes of governance failure were a lack of skills, inconsistent enforcement, and power struggles, among others.

"Is it possible that good governance is the key that we lost in the transition from the society we inherited to the one we wanted to become when we signed the Constitution?" Madonsela asked.

-by Sapa

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