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‘We must build a capable state’

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“A capable state starts with the people who work in it. Officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise”

THE RECENT visit to Kimberley and the Northern Cape by President Cyril Ramaphosa has driven home the point that “the state often lacks the necessary capacity to adequately meet the people’s needs”.

In his letter “From the Desk of the President”, Ramaphosa said one of the challenges facing the country was the need to build a capable state.

“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 improve their lives,” he said in his letter.

“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 went on to say that, “as public representatives and civil servants we derive our legitimacy from our ability to act professionally as we serve the public and manage state resources to the benefit of the public. We also need to ensure that we embody the Batho Pele principles. Putting people first. It is through such an approach that we can have a state that places people and their needs at the centre”.

He added that the achievement of such a state, however, was undermined by weak implementation.

“Poor co-ordination 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.”

According to Ramaphosa, that is why his administration had prioritised the task of building a capable state.

“Much of this work happens behind the scenes, ensuring that policies are aligned, processes are streamlined, technology is effectively deployed, budgets are adhered to and programmes are properly monitored and evaluated.

“A capable state starts with the people who work in it. 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.

“A capable state also means that state-owned enterprises need to fulfil their mandates effectively and add value to the economy. 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.

“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. By pooling resources, by focusing on projects that directly respond to community needs, and by setting delivery targets on a district-by-district basis, we will be able to better meet our people’s needs.”