Reduced Cabinet a right step but still not ‘ideal’ – Senzo Mchunu

Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu is pictured at Batho Pele House in Pretoria. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press
Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu is pictured at Batho Pele House in Pretoria. Picture: Rosetta Msimango/City Press

Newly appointed Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu is calling for the urgent adoption of the new Ministerial Handbook, warning that a delay in doing so would contradict the aims of “the new dawn”.

The former KwaZulu-Natal premier believes the handbook should no longer be a “guideline”, but as the rule, so that there is strict compliance.

The handbook outlines ministerial perks and informs the staff compliment of the executive, among other things.

“We must not be seen to be doing contradictory things. I am sure this matter [adoption of the handbook] will be discussed at the upcoming three-day lekgotla and I hope the president will include this in his address to say that a bloated personnel is not proper,” Mchunu said.

“We want people to be employed but we can’t just bloat [the executive] for the sake of bloating it. It is undesirable and not in line in spirit with the new dawn. In terms of a minister, the handbook talks about no more than 10 personnel and no more than six personnel for a deputy minister under normal circumstances. Anything above that there needs to be a case for it,” Mchunu said.

“My personal feeling is we should migrate from referring to this as a guide and call it a rule so that there is strict compliance.”

Speaking to City Press last week from his new office, Mchunu admitted that the reduced Cabinet is still not “ideal”.

“We have consensus in the [tripartite] alliance that the state was bloated. We agree all of us. That is why steps have been taken to reduce the Cabinet. We may not have arrived at an ideal size of our government but certainly we have taken steps towards the right idea. This is a long exercise, that is why it may take some time,” Mchunu said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa reduced the Cabinet from 36 to 28 ministers. Ministries with similar mandates were merged.

Mchunu said the presidency was still working on the configuration of each ministry.

That work, he said, would determine how many directors–general and deputy directors–general each department would require.

Mchunu estimated that the merger of departments would be completed by December.

The reduction of the Cabinet was just the first step in a planned “macro reconfiguration” of the state.

“Below the executive you have to say how many DGs [directors-general] must there be. There will always be contradictions because Cosatu doesn’t want retrenchments. All of us don’t want retrenchments because a retrenchment is not just an English word. It means one person and his or her family are now out of an income so it is not just retrenchment and therefore it is a painful exercise but at the same time you have constraints.”

The department has in recent months put together a severance package of sorts which would allow those in the public service to take early retirement without being penalised by the taxman.

This is one of the ways the department would use in order to reduce the wage bill which now makes up around 35% of the government spending.

“I wouldn’t be able to say how many people we would have to retrench, it is a work in progress. It is not something that we are looking at in terms of retrenchments. There are proposals that have gone out to the public and the civil service but in a very cautious manner and in a way that does not seek to destroy anybody’s life but also at the same time achieving the goal,” Mchunu said

“It is not a political choice; it is an imperative that comes from the realities confronting South Africa today.”

Mchunu is working on the establishment of an ethics, integrity and disciplinary technical assistance unit in order to tackle corruption in the public service.

The work of setting up the unit began under the previous administration led by the new Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo.

“We need to finalise work for such a unit to enforce the kind of ethics code and integrity code of public servants as we are envisaging. This is not a matter to gamble with, it is a matter to send a very straightforward message that it is no longer a question of persuading public servants to be people of integrity and to demonstrate ethical conduct.

“There is a very strong call from people in South Africa that it must happen, not only for the public service but even for the executive.”


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