Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the Occasion of the Budget Vote of the Presidency: National Assembly, Cape Town, June 23, 2004

Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

This year we have already spoken twice from this podium to present two States of the Nation Addresses. These covered the short and medium term objectives of the government as well as the programmes intended to achieve these objectives.

It is not necessary that we use the occasion of the consideration of the Budget Vote of the Presidency to repeat what we said in our February and May Addresses and will not do so. Rather, we will try to focus on the critically important matter of the capacity of the state machinery to implement the programmes we have announced.

As on other occasions, the Deputy President, the Hon Jacob Zuma, and the Minister in the Presidency, the Hon Essop Pahad will also address the National Assembly to reflect on the areas of work of the Presidency for which they are responsible.

As we indicated in our Addresses earlier this year, we are determined to focus on the challenge of the implementation of the programmes we have already announced to ensure that we accelerate the achievement of the objectives we have set ourselves.

As part of this, we are in the process of improving the operation of the mechanisms within government that must ensure the proper monitoring and evaluation of work being done to implement the government's programme. This will also help us to improve the quality of the outcomes of government activities, an objective we have sought to pursue for a number of years.

Naturally, our first area of attention will be the programme of action we announced during the May State of the Nation Address.

In this regard, the Presidency has provided all our national ministries and departments with a copy of the tasks they have to carry out, with a clear indication of the timeframes within which they are expected to complete these tasks. These tasks include both those we mentioned during the May State of the Nation Address and others that pre-date this Address.

We will therefore ensure that the Presidency has the necessary capacity to monitor and evaluate the implementation of these comprehensive programmes. Among other things we have to ensure that the government identifies any impediments to the successful implementation of these programmes early, so that we address these quickly before they cause the failure of the agreed programmes.

At the same time, we recognise the keen interest of our people as a whole in the progress and problems we achieve and experience as we pursue these programmes. We are also mindful of the comments made by the Honourable Members last month, that they are also keen to monitor the implementation of the government programme.

Accordingly, consistent with the objective of continuously improving the two-way communication between the government and the people, the Presidency has decided to place before the people a report on progress made in the implementation of the programme of action, which will constantly be updated.

Our people, including the Honourable Members, will therefore also have the possibility to assess the government's progress in implementing the announced programme of action, side by side with the government's own assessment of this progress.

As the Honourable Members are aware, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) has already put on the Internet the Batho Pele Gateway Portal we mentioned during the May State of the Nation Address. The Minister for Public Service and Administration, the Honourable Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi provided further information relating to this Portal during her Budget Vote on Monday.
GCIS has requested comments from the public on the Portal to ensure that by the time it is formally launched within the time period we indicated in May, it is properly designed to address the needs of the people. I trust that the Honourable Members will take the trouble to answer the questionnaire that has been provided on the Government Website to assist the public to make its comments.

We will open a page on the Gateway Portal containing information of the government's programme of action. By checking on this page, the public will be able to follow progress with regard to the implementation of this programme of action. It will also be possible for the public to communicate its views about the programme directly to the government, through the Internet and other, more traditional ways and means.

Further to improve the capacity of the Presidency to discharge its functions of oversight, coordination and evaluation, more work will be done to increase the effectiveness especially of the Policy Coordination and Advisory Service Unit, the PCAS, working together with the Cabinet Secretariat.

To facilitate the work of the PCAS, the Ministries and Departments are working on business plans for each of the tasks they have to carry out. These business plans will include an indication of the resources allocated for the fulfilment of each of the tasks, as well as the necessary implementation timeframes.

The government has also agreed that we should use the system of Cabinet Committees to monitor and coordinate the implementation of the programme of action. This will be done once every two months, bringing together Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Directors General who belong to the various clusters together to consider progress with regard to the tasks relating to each cluster. This will improve coordination to ensure that the programmes of the various Ministries and Departments are consistent with one another.

The enhanced focus on the challenge of implementation will also give us the possibility practically to assess the capacity of government to carry out its developmental functions. Among other things, this relates to matters raised by the Minister of Public Service and Administration during her Budget Vote with regard to competence within the public service.

As the Honourable Minister said, we have to ensure that our public management is firmly rooted on the principles of efficiency and effectiveness, transparency and accountability.

She went on to say that "Administration is about the day-to-day systems and procedures that make governance work so that institutions and resources are effectively utilised...

"The next phase of public service and administration in South Africa will require that skills sets and approaches be valued and applied in all components of the public service. One of the mechanisms that will spearhead this is the compulsory induction programme that we agreed to during the most recent Cabinet Lekgotla. Every serving public servant will be exposed to this as a matter of urgency and every new recruit that joins the public service will go to an appropriate level of induction soon after being employed."

We urgently have to do what the Minister pronounced when she said that:

"Over the coming year we will be specifically investigating the extent to which public service standards are really being set, measured and met. Service users must be advised of these standards by the relevant government office that they are dealing with and at the same time should be informed about recourse mechanisms available to them if standards are not met. We will rely on the assistance of our citizens to give us honest feedback on their exposure to government departments."

To this I must add that this obviously entails an undertaking on our part as government that we will do everything possible to respond to this honest feedback from the people. Our Ministers and Deputy Ministers will have to ensure that the government honours this commitment.

Needless to say, the further improvement in the efficacy of government must include a sustained and heightened offensive against corruption. In this regard, again we would like to refer to the comments made by the Minister for Public Service and Administration, which reflect the approach of government to this important matter. Again in her Budget Vote Address, she said:

"South Africa may be a relatively new democracy with a young public service but in terms of what we have achieved to raise our level of integrity, we rank with the best in the world: the Public Integrity Index released by the Centre for Public Integrity confirms that this Government is serious about fighting corruption. In ten short years we have managed to be ranked in the index amongst far more established democracies...

"The Public Service Anti-corruption Strategy remains the blueprint for anti-corruption work in the public sector and its implementation is part of the core mandate of DPSA's Public Service Anti-corruption Unit.

"The Second National Anti-corruption Summit will take place in November. The event will seek to strengthen inter-sectoral cooperation and assess our progress in addressing corruption measured against global standards and our national requirements.

"The Summit will also define the national anti-corruption programme for the next decade."

Accordingly, as we work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government, we will also continue vigorously to implement the Public Service Anti-Corruption Strategy in all its elements. We also hope that Parliament will proceed to ratify the United Nations Convention against Corruption, whose provisions we will have to respect practically.

Necessarily our success with regard to the implementation of government programmes will require that we further strengthen our intergovernmental system, consistent with the principle of cooperative governance contained in our Constitution.

As we had indicated earlier this year, we have been reviewing our intergovernmental system to improve its functioning. To this end, the three spheres of government will meet in Pretoria in two days' time, Friday 25th, to consider the National Framework and Bill on Inter-Governmental Relations. The meeting will bring together the national government, Premiers and some of their MECs, SALGA, as well as the national and provincial Directors General.

The Minister of Provincial and Local Government will report on the outcome of this review process when it becomes available.

In the meantime, we will continue to pay close attention to the effectiveness of the system of cooperation between national and provincial government effected through the regular and institutionalised meetings between Ministers and MECs, the Min-Mecs.

At the same time, we will work to improve the functioning of the Presidential Coordination Council, which brings together the Presidency and the Premiers. As part of this process, a greater effort will be made to integrate the planning, implementation and monitoring processes relating to the government's programme of action to which we have already referred.

In the past the Minister for Public Service and Administration reported on the intervention made by the national government to assist the government of the Eastern Cape to overcome a number of problems it faced. This work is continuing. Nevertheless we have learnt many lessons through this intervention. We are convinced that many of these lessons would add value to the effort to improve governance in other provinces as well.

I mention this because the process of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our system of government with regard to the task of implementation must extend beyond the national sphere, to include provincial government as well. We will therefore work with the provincial governments to achieve this objective. In this regard, we will also draw on outstanding examples of good practice evolved by a number of our provincial governments.

With regard to the experience we have accumulated as a result of the Eastern Cape, we would also like to draw the attention of the Honourable Members to the observation made by the Honourable Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi during her Department's Budget Vote on Monday that:

"Our experience in the Eastern Cape has helped to define an operating model for integrated institutional support that is being refined for use elsewhere. As part of this the Department of Public Service and Administration is preparing to implement an early warning system and a structured system for providing institutional support."
To achieve the objective of effective implementation of our policies and programmes, we will have to pay even greater attention to the strengthening of our system of local government. In this regard, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to SALGA for convening the 5th Session of the Local Government Consultative Assembly, so soon after we spoke of the challenges of local government in the May State of the Nation Address.

In his Address during his Budget Vote earlier this week, Minister Sydney Mufamadi said:

"Critical to sustaining the delivery of services to the masses of the population is the new system of local government that was established in December 2000. With the ensemble of 284 municipalities, over 3,700 ward committees and about 9,000 councillors, the local government sphere should indeed become the provider-of-choice with regard to the delivery of basic services. However, the limited capacity and resources of some municipalities are clearly an obstacle to action, whether in the areas of planning, budgeting, and implementation. Some of our municipalities rest on a deficient human capital base. Thus they fail to implement new strategies of delivery and cost recovery.

"The Department of Provincial and Local Government has undertaken a thorough going capacity-survey in order to determine the constraints faced by local government in policy design and implementation...

"We have identified a number of municipalities that are experiencing a short-term need for intense, hands-on support. We are assembling a high-calibre team, which will be deployed to work with municipalities to tackle the identified tasks. Since this support is meant to fade out over time, provinces will immediately replicate this process in order to position themselves in such a way that they can continue to support municipalities in their own areas of jurisdiction.

"We seek to make local government more dependable as an enabler for provincial and national departments to realise their development and delivery targets."

Undoubtedly, the June 25 Workshop on Inter-Governmental Relations to which we have referred, will once more, draw attention to the enhanced importance of the sphere of local government. Hopefully, it will go further to spell out how we should respond to this reality, indicating the improvements that must necessarily be made to the functioning of our system of cooperative governance.

In this context, on Monday, Minister Mufamadi said that:

"Given the steady maturation of local government, the geography of development and underdevelopment, and the variable municipal capacity to address development challenges, we are undertaking a revision of the intra-sphere equitable share formula.

This revision will be finalised in the current financial year so as to ensure that we start the 2005/06 financial year with an allocative pattern, which speaks to conditions as they actually obtain on the ground."

While this work is going on, we will have to concentrate on the task mentioned by Minister Mufamadi of providing "intense, hands-on support" for those of our municipalities that require such support. Fortunately both the Department of Provincial and Local Government and SALGA already have enough information to point us to the municipalities that require this assistance.

The strengthening of the capacity of our system of local government will require the closest possible cooperation between especially the Departments of Provincial and Local Government and Public Service and Administration, as well as the Provincial MECs for Local Government and SALGA.

In the context of what we are discussing, the effective implementation of government programmes to accelerate the process of creating jobs and fighting poverty, we must also reiterate our commitment to speed up the deployment of Community Development Workers as well as the empowerment of the structures of traditional government to contribute to the common development effort.

From the very first day of our democracy, we have insisted on both a people-centred and a people-driven process of change. Our focus on improving the effectiveness of the system of governance must accordingly and necessarily go together with an intensification of our campaign to draw the masses of our people into the accelerated process of change that will be represented by the effective implementation of our government's programme of action.

This makes it imperative that we strengthen all processes intended to intensify the interaction between the government and the people, to activate the people to play a meaningful role in the struggle for a better life for all, and to increase the transparency and accountability of government.

Of particular importance in this regard will be the need for us to ensure that the local government Ward Committees meet regularly and function as they were intended. We have to ensure that they are involved in the implementation at local level of the various initiatives that constitute the government's programme of action.

The national and provincial government imbizo programmes will also have to be reviewed to improve their ability to ensure meaningful interaction between these spheres of government and the people. The Presidency has started this review process. I am convinced that it will result in future izimbizo enhancing our contact with the people and therefore enhancing the quality of government's service to the people.

And because of the importance of these outcomes, the imbizo programmes will also be assessed under our system of monitoring and evaluation to improve the impact of the views expressed by the people on the overall functioning of government. This will provide an effective addition to the process of translating the concept that the people shall govern into practice.

In the February State of the Nation Address, we said:

"The advances we must record demand that we ensure that the public sector discharges its responsibilities to our people as a critical player in the process of the growth, reconstruction and development of our country. In particular this will require that we further strengthen our system of local government and ensure that the system of traditional government plays the role ascribed to it in our Constitution and legislation.

"We must achieve greater progress with regard to the integration of our system of governance, achieving seamless cooperation both within and among all spheres of government. At the same time, we must further consolidate the practice of creating public-private partnerships and building government-civil society cooperation, to ensure that we utilise our collective capacities to give further impetus to the overall development and transformation of our country."

In the May State of the Nation Address, we indicated some of the tasks government would carry out to achieve these objectives. Today's Address has sought to build on this, focusing on the necessary additional interventions we have to make to build a system of governance capable of serving the people, within the context of the letter and spirit of our Constitution.

In his 2002 book "The World We're In", the columnist and former editor-in-chief of the British newspaper "The Observer", Will Hutton, has drawn attention to the global struggle to defend the public sector against an ideological onslaught that seeks, as he puts it, "to celebrate individualism and denigrate the state".

Given that we are a young democracy, I believe that we should debate the issues raised by Will Hutton to help us define what kind of South Africa we seek to build. I will therefore take the liberty to quote somewhat extensively some of the critical points that Hutton raises.

I also do this because there are some in our country who propagate the views that Will Hutton contests, seeking to persuade our people to adopt a particular stance towards the issue of the state, which, if accepted and implemented, would shatter the dreams of the millions of our people for a better life.

Writing of his own country, the UK, he says:

"There are no great political movements or inspirational causes. Voter apathy is widespread. Our political leaders are well-intentioned, but they are at a loss as to how to revive a belief in politics and public purpose...The public realm is in eclipse. It is almost as though citizenship has gone into abeyance.

"And yet there remain great issues. The terms of society's social contract remain as vexed and contentious as ever. The rich grow richer while disadvantage remains acute. Equality of opportunity, let alone income and wealth, remain elusive. Public services are inadequate."

Arguing his case further, he writes:

"The idea of the public realm is in eclipse, and with it a conception of civilisation. Increasingly, we British are rarely citizens who make common cause and share common destinies. The scope for public initiative and endeavour through which our common values are expressed is contracting with giddy speed. Inequality of income and opportunity is increasing, despite well-intentioned efforts to reverse it.

"Wealth and stratospheric incomes are portrayed as the just reward of individual enterprise, badges of individual worth. The poor and disadvantaged, unless they declare their readiness to work, are increasingly felt to deserve their status. Government and its associated tools of regulation, legislation and taxation are a currency whose very legitimacy has to be fought for...

"As the new conservatism has honed its rhetoric and political programmes in the US to celebrate individualism and denigrate the state, so that same philosophy has become seamlessly part of the new international 'common sense'...We are all becoming American conservatives now.

"So it is that the syllogism that the rights of the propertied and the freedom of business come before any assertion of the public interest or social concerns has become the consensus orthodoxy. These are deemed to be the only circumstances in which wealth generation and employment can be assured, and thus the citizen would stand to lose more by putting these at risk than he or she might gain from public action asserting common interests. The law of private property rules supreme.

"In this climate taxation is depicted as the confiscation of what is properly our own - an intolerable burden that should be reduced. The social, the collective and the public realm are portrayed as the enemies of prosperity and individual autonomy, and, worse, are opposed to the moral basis of society, grounded as it should be in the absolute responsibility of individuals to shoulder their burdens and exercise their rights alone."

He goes on to say:

"Civility is under siege as a market society makes strangers of us all. While our public horizons shrink, we search for satisfaction and contentment in our inner, private lives - but we turn in on ourselves thus not out of choice; rather, we recognise that engagement with the world on any other terms than those that enthrone the primacy of market values and diminish those of public citizenship is increasingly without purpose...

"The conservative creed we have been asked to accept barely needs rehearsing. The Americans live with increasingly unequal distribution of income and wealth - indeed, many argue it is the necessary stick and carrot upon which a successful capitalism depends - so others should follow. The message is merciless...Welfare is portrayed as disabling the poor from taking proper responsibility for themselves...The poor and disadvantaged should expect no more than minimal, time-limited and means-tested assistance...

"The conservative American presumption is that the federal government...should exercise its authority as minimally as possible...Individual states in the union should be given the responsibility for doing as little as they can, and the federal government should confine itself to the provision of national security. Governance in the rest of the world should follow suit...

"If there are malevolent social consequences, then react with a tough welfare system and repress crime. Do not wring your hands over the causes of crime; stamp it out with a repressive criminal justice system, extending even to endorsing the death penalty."

Will Hutton argues that:

"Western democracies have been characterised by one broad family of ideas that might be called left - a belief in the social, reduction in inequality, the provision of public services, the principle that workers should be treated as assets rather than commodities, regulation of enterprise, rehabilitation of criminals, tolerance and respect for minorities - and another broad family of ideas that might be called right: an honouring of our inherited institutional fabric, a respect for order, a belief that private property rights and profit are essential to the operation of the market economy, a suspicion of worker rights, faith in the remedial value of punitive justice and distrust of the new."

There can be no doubt about where we stand with regard to this great divide. It is to pursue the goals contained in what Hutton calls the "broad family of ideas that might be called left" that we seek to build the system of governance we indicated today and in previous Addresses.

The obligations of the democratic state to the masses of our people do not allow that we should join those who "celebrate individualism and denigrate the state."

We would never succeed to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid if we joined the campaign to portray "the social, the collective and the public the enemies of prosperity and individual autonomy...opposed to the moral basis of society, grounded as it should be, (in terms of right wing ideology,) in the absolute responsibility of individuals to shoulder their burdens and exercise their rights alone."

This is precisely what we meant when we said in the May State of the Nation Address that: "The advances we must record demand that we ensure that the public sector discharges its responsibilities to our people as a critical player in the process of the growth, reconstruction and development of our country."

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Deputy President, the Minister in the Presidency, Directors General Frank Chikane and Joel Netshitenzhe, my Advisers, and other workers in the Presidency who are working hard to ensure that the Presidency contributes what it must to the building of a public sector that truly discharges its responsibilities to the people within the context of available resources.

I would also like to acknowledge with appreciation the cooperation extended to the Presidency by all the spheres of government as well the private sector, the trade unions, civil society, and the masses of our people as a whole, which has helped us to avoid the gloomy outcome described by Will Hutton, whereby the British "are rarely citizens who make common cause and share common destinies."

Sadly, Director General Frank Chikane could not be with us today as he and the rest of the Chikane family prepare for the burial on Saturday of his mother, Sophania Erenia Chikane. Once more, we extend our sincere condolences to him and the rest of the Chikane family.

I am honoured to commend the Budget of the Presidency to the Honourable Members.

Thank you.

Enquiries: Bheki Khumalo on 083 256 9133 or 012 300 5436



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