Transcript - Media briefing By Director-General (DG)in The Presidency, Vusi Mavimbela, at the Imbizo Media Centre in Cape Town
31 Mar 2010
Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen of the media, I am going to try and make this as informal as possible, in other words I am not going to read word for word what the communications people have drafted and which they are going to distribute to you. I think we need a little bit of a conversation, so forgive me if I don’t follow the statement as it is. In the late 90s after 1994 I was in the Presidency as started as advisor to Deputy President Mbeki and later on President Mbeki. When we got to office that office was very small we had about four people really at the top management n the office. As a political advisor one of my responsibilities was to write speeches and I was the only one in that office with that responsibility. If you cast your minds back you will remember that the office sooner or later started to expand, it expanded largely out of experience, practice and what we have learned, and what we have found necessary and that office expanded until the last Administration.
I am making this point to indicate that to a very large extend with this Administration of President Zuma we are dealing with the same issues but the emphasis being a different approach. And a different approach has necessitated the reconfiguration, realignment and expansion at many levels including the Presidency. You all know that there are many arguments philosophical and otherwise about a small government or a big government, some of those arguments are ideological some of them are just out of practice.
We consider our own State as a development State, now that characterisation of the State has got its own core elements that are attended to it. One of those core elements is intervention, the State intervenes, the State is active so the State needs to give itself capacity to be able to intervene. More actively than in any other different State but in a development State one of the core elements is intervention, so the State must give itself capacity to intervene.
The other core element of this kind of a State is long term planning, the State must create the capacity and create institutions to be able to help it to plan ahead. The third core element is the redistribution because as it is a development State in the majority States that have a very unfortunate past and in the African Continent we know what that unfortunate past is colonialism, in our case its apartheid. So there are a lot of the wrongs of the past that needs to be corrected not only in terms of economic terms, not just redistribution and economic terms, but redistribution of opportunities at all levels.
I am making this point to emphasise that not just about of practise but there is even a philosophical argument why we need a bigger State, a bigger State which also means a bigger Presidency because we have all these elements that I have just mentioned. These are not all the core elements I was just sighting a few. Because of this characterisation and our understanding the need to intervene and the need to create the capacities to do that the Presidency has expanded, the president has been reconfigured.
The issue of a small or big government, small Presidency or big Presidency happily for us not only out of the argument for a developmental State but I think the global recession has put paid to that argument. Because it’s not only the developing countries that are intervening even the established democracies are actually intervening, America is intervening, and Britain is intervening. The taxpayer through the State is beginning to regulate financial institutions and so on. So one of the elements that have arisen out of this as you will see in your notes, is the establishment of the capacity for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. Now the way the Presidency is configured to have this kind of capacity of this magnitude is a new thing so in other words there is a reality that we are also dealing with a new thing. And like all new things you learn as you go ahead, you practice, you change, you develop, you take time, you consult and so forth. And that has been the process that has been happening, consultation within government, other stakeholders even outside government, discussion at Cabinet lekgotla, discussions at Cabinet. Cabinet has had many discussions for instance on this issue of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation and that discussion is going on.
Recently I had the honour to accompany the President on his State visit to the United Kingdom (UK), and one of the things that I did before I left was to contact my counterpart Gus O’Donnell the Cabinet Secretary and ask that I could stay over after the President has left because I wanted to engage him just to see, compare notes and see how they do things. I also had the opportunity to have a separate meeting with Mr Shostak who is the Head of the delivery unit. In many respects the Delivery Unit in the UK is almost something similar to our Performance Monitoring and Evaluation so it was interesting for us to interact at that level and compare notes and we found it very useful. What was interesting is that the delivery unit was established under Tony Blair but it really began to be active in a serious way in Tony Blair’s second term. It is interesting how it developed because it actually started in the Education Department because of the crisis of education in Britain. It was laughable because it was such a déjà vu when they discussed the education problem they have in Britain which is similar to ours.
Questions of illiteracy, innumeracy in as far as pupils are concerned and that actually where the practise of a delivery unit started because they had to deal with the crisis. Then they started to replicate that experience to all the other Departments because it began to bear fruit.
It’s a practise that took place not just over one terms, I am trying to say that it’s a process even in Britain it’s a process. It started in the Education Department; it had to be replicated in the second term of Tony Blair to other departments. It was interesting when I was discussing with Shostak that actually they have not themselves perfected the system, they themselves are learning as they go ahead.
There are many questions that arise, why is there a delay with delivery agreements, with the Ministers and so forth, it’s because it’s a process, and I am just trying to contextualise this. This thing is being replicated in other governments around the world, many more of the governments are beginning to have this performance monitoring and they are all grappling. Everybody agrees that the system is the one to go; the system is just the way to go because you need to hold everybody accountable. But the process of doing that is taking a little bit of time. Perhaps for your information you might want to take some time and read a book called Instruction to deliver by a certain Baber. He is talking about these challenges for the black administration of delivery and so on, so it might help you to understand that this thing actually is a long process. You will have the opportunity to ask questions in as far as performance and monitoring but I just wanted to contextualise that; the notes are there for you to read.
The other core element is the establishment of the National Planning Commission; I have said at the beginning that the planning is one of the core elements of a developmental State. If you go to India you will find that they have a Planning Institution, it was interesting because I asked Gus O’Donnell about this and he said they have no entity that deals with long term planning. I jokingly said to him you have a maturated democracy. I am sure you have but as a developing country we are establishing this and we are learning from the other developing countries. As you can see in your notes we have completed the preliminary work of actually submitting a list of possible commissioners to the president so that list is now with the president. The president might be able to announce those names very soon, he is still consulting on some of the names, he is still exercising his mind on the others, so that process is well ahead. You shall know that another element of that is the creation of the secretariat for the planning commission and that process itself is well ahead some of the people in the Presidency have been moved from what was called the Policy and Coordination Advisory Unit that was headed by Joel Netshitenzhe, they have been moved to the Planning, others have gone to Monitoring and Evaluation.
So that process of establishing a Secretariat is already underway but also the secretariat did advertise for posts and they are in the process of interviews because they need much more capacity for the secretariat then it ever existed before. That also speaks to what has happened to what we call PCASPCAS, the Policy Coordination and Advisory Services. You know when I joined this office and I was taken to around to different branches, and I was briefed about what each branch was doing, one of the briefings I had was from PCAS we had it by Joel Netshitenzhe. And when finished their briefing to me I said to them it’s interesting that the capacity that we’re creating in the National Planning, the capacity that we’re creating in Performance Monitoring and Evaluation that capacity at a rudimentary level actually existed in PCASPCAS, those were the key elements actually of PCAS apart from policy coordination.
So you had Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and PCAS, we had Planning and picas and we had policy coordination. So I said to him its interesting we are actually creating a bigger capacity of what is here at the rudimentary level and as a result of that because of the creation of the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and the creation of the Planning capacity that meant that something had to happen to PCAS, it had to change, Because then PCAS was only remaining with Policy Coordination which was just one element of what was there before.
What we have decided to do is that we are going to restructure and expand the Cabinet office to a very large extend the Cabinet office has been dealing with coordination of Cabinet work, to a very large extend it has been at administrative task because there was PCAS. What it means that policy coordination now doesn’t have a home because with PCAS disintegrating into all this elements the policy coordination has to move to the Cabinet office. The Cabinet office if you study Cabinet offices around the world, a Cabinet office is really dictated upon by the administration that is in place, the philosophy of that government, the structure of that government and so on. So we have decided to take that policy coordination capacity to the Cabinet office and we are in the process of creating that capacity in the Cabinet office so there is another restructuring that is taking place that is in the Cabinet office.
Another branch that is undergoing restructuring, I know you ladies and gentleman of the media have been writing about this, is in communications headed by Mr Mona here and basically what has happened and as I say some of these things is out of practice, the power of practise that make you arrive at different decisions. There are three elements of communications in government, we know about the GCIS those communes for government as a whole. In the Presidency we have two levels of communication, one there is communication by the Institution that is what Mr Mona is responsible for, communication by the Presidency, community on behalf of the institution. But there is another level that is communication by the principals, the President, the Deputy President, the Ministers and there is a level at which we must make a difference between the two because they are not exactly the same. If you want to pay special attention to the principal it helps to specialise that function, it helps brings closer to the principal those people that are supposed to communicate on behalf of the principal. Whether it’s in terms of speech writing, whether it’s in terms of speaking on behalf of the principal, it always helps to bring that capacity closer to the principal rather than have it in the broad sense of the Presidency communicating. Because that broad element of communication as an institution itself it needs specialisation and particular attention.
I know this thing in my many years in government as a speech writer under Mr Mbeki that speeches are written until five o clock in the morning, sometimes sitting with the principal and they are still making changes, that’s the kind of intimacy that you need, that you fly with the principal in the plane and you are busy typing and changing the speech that he is going to deliver when he lands somewhere abroad, it’s that kind of intimacy. You begin to learn the language of the principal and because you are closer with the principal you travel with him all the time you listen to him when he fuels questions, that helps. So that restructuring was really to try and specialise these functions so that there can be particular attention to those functions, the notes are there indicating what has happened. So the deputy president himself will be appointing his own spokesperson because again we want to specialise that function around the deputy president. The ministers in the Presidency are doing the same again because we want to specialise that function around the principals.
There is something else that is here in your notes which has been in the media also for good or wrong reasons, is the fact that we are going to migrate the presidential hotline for it to be located under Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, again this is out of practice and experience. When the president decided to establish the presidential hotline he was primarily concerned, his concern was there is too much of a gap between the government and the people and the communication was not effective, it was an attempt to try and breach that gap. But it soon became very evident that the presidential hotline was doing many other functions and very important functions it was also a capacity for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation because the kind of feedback that you would get from the citizens is a feedback that tells what government is doing and what government is not doing, who is performing and who is not performing.
It also became very evident that actually this was a very important survey as I called it at the time when the President launched it I said this is the mother of all surveys, because it’s a survey that takes place for 365 days a year and with all the communities in all the languages. And that it is also an early warning system where you are likely to have upheavals, where we are likely to have problems, so it actually fore warns the government in terms of bottlenecks that are there and what is likely to happen, so it is moving to Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation. But there is another discussion which we have in government; it is a discussion about the fact that there is actually a multiplicity of call centres in government. Many of the departments have got their own call centres and the reality is that they are not functioning optimally so the government actually spends a lot of money on a multiplicity of call centres in government. As we move this thing to the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation we should also thing about should we perhaps in future think about the consolidation of all these hotlines in government.
In other governments you have only one call number to the government and all the calls are directed from one call number to all the people, all the departments that are supposed to do something. I am saying this is just a discussion but we have recognised the fact that there is a multiplicity of call centres, we have recognised the fact they are not necessarily functioning optimally. So this is part of the rationalization that we might have to look at.
The other element in the Presidency that I thought I should talk about is not there in your notes is the Advisory Services in the Presidency, the advisors of the principals. Now the advisors of the principals are accountable directly to the principal I think I should state that upfront. They report to the principal and the principal gives them instructions, they advise the principal. But we have within the Presidency what we call that Advisors Forum, not as all the advisors and top management in the Presidency meets ones in two weeks to look at the entirety of the issues that the president needs to look at, the principle needs to be advised on and I chair that forum. So there is that interaction so we interact with the advisors, when we see gaps in what they are doing we also point those things out to them. They also point things out if they see there are gaps in what we are doing but in terms of their individual performances there is a direct line to the principal, in other words they don’t report to me, they are not accountable to me, I don’t sign a performance contract with them. I thought I just needed to clarify that. Mr Mona I don’t know if I have covered all the aspects.
Questions and answers
Journalist: You speak a lot about intervention and I just wondered whether there was a serious recognition in the interveners that we have a federal State in which we have separate spheres of government, local, provincial and national and it is actually unconstitutional for the national government to intervene in either local or provincial government.
Journalist: I thought that the establishment of the National Planning Commission meant that policy coordination would happen there which is why a lot of the staff from PCAS went to National Planning. (Interference in audio)
Vusi Mavimbela: I am sure the gentleman who asked the question will know that there are competencies in government that reside only with the provinces and there are competencies that are national. Now this government will obviously whenever it needs intervention be alive to the fact that there is a constitution, to the fact that it shouldn’t violate the constitution. There are areas where at the beginning the competencies might have been located at the province but practise is beginning to show that we need national coordination and we might even need intervention from the national level. But whenever that is done due regard will be taken of the fact that we cannot violate the constitution, but I can indicate to you for instance when you talk about the Western Cape even the Western Cape itself has raised with the President a number of issues that they think might have to change in the regulations in order to facilitate delivery at a provincial and local level. So all I am saying is that we are quiet alive to the point we are raising, whenever that national intervention takes place it will have to take place within the constitution.
The second question as policy coordination is in the Planning Commission again here let’s make a difference between two things the Planning Commission is responsible for a broad long term strategy and plan of government and the state and us will plan for the next 20 to 25 years to tell us how where we should go how we should go there, but policy origination and policy development takes place on a daily basis from different departments and you need the capacity to be able to say if one department originates policy does it violate anything else that the government has in place, does it negate anything that the government has already in place, does the right hand know what the left hand is doing, so you need that capacity for that kind of coordination because as soon as policy is originated in a kept memo, discussion, white paper you need someone to say no ,no, no but you know if you do this department of so and so is planning this and this things are going to clash and there will be no coordination so it is that kind of a thing policy coordination is a daily thing. Cabinet deals with policy coordination every two weeks so that is the difference between the two.
Journalist: I just want to clarify on the spokesperson issue, I know that there has been little bit of clarity but I’m really just asking for the record, I don’t get many opportunities to speak to the DG. The official spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma now is? I’m presuming it is Zizi Kodwa, is it also Vincent? Sorry to ask while you in the room I just want to ask is there one or is there two? Another question if I may just, Jesse Duarte, there was this story in the Sunday Times, what is her status at this moment: is she working, is she on leave, is she leaving, is she working out her notice period, just for the record if we could have an answer to that?
Journalist: You made the point in your notes that is almost a year that this administration has been in place but we see from the notes also and from other reports that neither of the two department in the presidency is are yet fully staffed, the National Planning Commission is not yet appointed and so and so . Why has it taken so long?
Vusi Mavimbela: The President has got one spokesperson and that is Vincent Magwenya. Mr Kodwa has been seconded to the Presidency in order to learn his own skills of advisory to the communications around the President but also you know that there is Luthuli House and the Union Buildings and we recognise that there is need for coordination between the two because sometimes it is very difficult to draw the line between the President speaking as president of the ANC and the President speaking as government or the President doing things as president of the ANC when he goes on his walk about in the community and so on. Is he doing that as a president of the ANC as he doing that as the president of the government and the people down there don’t actually make the difference so there was a need for bring Zizi Kodwa closer so that there is that kind of necessary coordination but also we recognise Zizi Kodwa's skills around the area, he could help us see some of the things that we might not have seen or are not seeing. It helps to have more heads thinking [on] what needs to be done but Zizi Kodwa is here on an advisory service seconded, Vincent Magwenya is the spokesperson of the president.
Second question, the CEO Miss Jesse Duarte is in the Presidency, I have discussion with her almost every other day on the issues that pertain to the Presidency, so Jesse Duarte is here in the Presidency.
The two departments - why has it taken so long to established them - I don’t know. I thought I'd try to outline. I talked about experience in other governments particular the UK, my interactions with the cabinet secretary in the UK, with the head of the delivery unit in the UK and they talked about the process that they have gone through themselves, how long it has taken them, where it started in one department the experience was worthwhile they replicated it and the challenges that they are still facing.
Consultation with the stakeholders - you know that there were white papers that need to be debated, to be taken to Parliament, the different stakeholders and so forth; that is a process that papers had to be changed and so on and so forth. I thought I gave adequate explanations why the process has taken this long; it’s not only the South African government that has got an experience of this processes taking this long.
Journalist: Minister Chabane promised us copies of the delivery letters agreed to between the President and the ministers in regards to the key performance areas, can we get that?
Journalist: You mention there are proof outcomes in the letters of delivery that was sent out by the President to the ministers can we just get clarity, is that to all the government departments and also since I think this is government programmes, can we perhaps see what these letters are about?
Vusi Mavimbela: I think there are two questions dealing with the same issue. Let me just explain the process, I am not sure whether in your notes if it’s clear enough or it’s not clear. The letters between the President and the ministers are negotiated, are discussed, the President has not just drafted the letter and say here is the letter, this is what you shall do. The President had to consult with ministers to say here are the letters, do you agree, you must agree this is what you are going to deliver by this time and so forth so that I can hold you accountable to that. So it was not so much as an imposition, the president said I want this done but the real terms here, lets discuss them and you must agree to that so that we can hold you accountable to that. The letters are delivered to the ministers that chair the different clusters. In other words if you talk about a delivery mechanism in government, these are different departments that will be responsible for a particular outcome.
So all the department that are responsible for a particular outcome have to come together and discus that letter and agree on that letter because each of those departments must say yes I can deliver this by this time, yes I agree to that. So it is in that process where the ministers among themselves in their own cluster are discussing because each one must say this is my responsibility and I agree to it and then it will come back to the president. That’s when the president then will sign a performance contract with those ministers, I don’t want to speak on behalf of Mr Chabane but the way I understand the process it will be premature to give you those letters when the ministers in the different clusters are still discussing it. And until that discussion something might change about it, they might say no perhaps we cannot deliver this by this time and so on or we need to change this and that, so it’s a process.
Chairman: Thank you DG. We are hoping to have more of these briefings going forward and we hope to see you in the future.
Source: The Presidency
Issued by: The Presidency
31 Mar 2010
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