Performance anxiety

2009-09-08 08:05

THE government might change the manner in which directors-general

(DGs) and heads of departments are appointed.

The move, if it is eventually approved, comes as President Jacob

Zuma seeks to overhaul the entire public service in a bid to make it more

effective and ensure that top government officials are accountable for the work

they do.

In a 22-page document titled “Improving Government Performance: Our

Approach”, the Presidency has stated that a performance management system works

only if there is a mechanism to hold the people ­responsible accountable.

But the current “misalignment” in which DGs account to the

president – not ministers, to whom they report – and the heads of departments in

provinces to the premier – not the MECs – requires reform.

The Public Finance Management Act makes the DG or head of

department the accounting officer, while the Public Service Act and the

political process hold the minister or MEC accountable.

“This is further compromised by the process through which DGs or

HODs are appointed, making them accountable to the president. We need to align

the system so that the president who appoints the minister holds him or her

accountable, while the minister holds the DG ­accountable. At a provincial level

the same should hold true for ­premiers, MECs and HODs,” reads the


The move will go some way towards ending tension in departments

that comes about as a result of a DG being “imposed” on a minister even if that

minister does not want him or her. It will also end the bitter squabble between

ministers and DGs when it comes to who has the authority to suspend or fire a DG

or head of department.

A famous squabble took place in 1999 when then president Thabo

Mbeki “imposed” Billy Masetlha, who was at the time his special adviser, as home

affairs director-general; a move that created much tension between Masetlha and

the then minister, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the president of the Inkatha Freedom


Most recently, suspended Gauteng transport head Sibusiso Buthelezi

said he would ask Premier Nomvula Mokonyane to lift his suspension, saying it

was “arbitrary, irregular and therefore unlawful” because Mokonyane, who as

premier appoints heads of department, should have been the one suspending him,

not Gauteng transport MEC Bheki Nkosi.

The document, released at a media conference at the Union Buildings

on Friday together with one ­titled “Green Paper: National Strategic Planning”,

will be tabled at a plenary session in the National ­Assembly on Tuesday.

Speaking at Friday’s news conference, Minister in the Presidency

Collins Chabane said the creation of the National Planning Commission and the

ministry for performance monitoring and evaluation was intended neither to

centralise power nor to “police” ministers.

“We have explained a number of times that the main reason for

performance monitoring and evaluation is to assist in ensuring that government

performs better than it is doing now. We are not looking at hunting people down

or trying to persecute people. We are not in a policing function. We are in a

function of assisting government to perform better,” Chabane, who is responsible

for performance monitoring and evaluation, said.

The SACP, which claims to have been at the forefront of the call

for a strategic and coherent planning, monitoring and evaluation mechanism at

national government level, welcomed the release of the two ­documents.

“The SACP will study the proposals and make recommendations to both

government and our alliance partners,” SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka


“The documents could not have come out at a better time as we are

preparing for our special national congress. As part of preparations for the

special national congress our structures will discuss the documents to conclude

an SACP input at the congress,” he said.

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