The handing over today of the revised National Development Plan, to the President, by the National Planning Commission (NPC) has to mark the beginning of a new era in South Africa’s development.
There are many important key messages that are included in the plan. The most significant is the one that relates to the need for urgent and thoroughgoing institutional reform.
The fact that more than half of the plan is dedicated to the type of institutional reform that is urgently needed, is significant indeed.
Speaker, if we can all accept, without any reservation, that this is the first and fundamental step we need to take, we can indeed begin on an exciting journey of real development.
We recall that at the handover of the NPC’s draft National Development Plan on 11 November 2011, the President requested the Commission to tap into the collective wisdom of all our citizens to refine the plan. This has now been done.
The plan is the people’s plan. The people are now desirous and eager that it is implemented with vigour and steadfastness.
Lack of capability has consistently constrained government from utilising budget allocations to deliver quality services to the people. In the editorial of 14 August 2012, the Editor of the Times wrote:
“Now, it seems – even with a minister who is regularly praised for his passionate engagement with the health sector – that many of our public hospitals, too, are in a state of disgrace”.
Notwithstanding the herculean efforts of the Minister of Health, the situation at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital has deteriorated to a dangerous level with essential services neglected, doctors left without essential equipment, suppliers left unpaid, and vital vacancies not filled.
Lack of resources has never been as severe a problem in our country as the lack of capability. In other words we are referring here to the lack of ability, within a large segment of the public service, to perform required actions to the level required because of a lack of expertise and capacity.
If the extreme capability challenges within government departments can be successfully overcome expeditiously, the other factors impeding progress can be attended to.
The plan calls for clarity on responsibility. The ongoing saga of failed textbook delivery in Limpopo shows how confused the situation of responsibility is. How will clarity obtain when a National Minister claims that she has no responsibility for a matter under her overall supervision.
At present we have a situation where everyone blames everyone else and no one is willing to take responsibility. Responsibility, we must clearly understand, is an obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete an assigned task or duty. A core component of responsibility is accountability.
Therefore, where the plan provides for “clarity on responsibility” it should likewise provide for clarity on accountability of the executive. This is imperative.
This point brings me to the next key issue in the plan, namely, “focussed leadership over a long period of time”. COPE would have preferred the term performance focussed leadership.
After speaking of reforms to raising capability it follows that we should speak of a capable state. South Africa is, at present, less than a capable state characterised by systemic and rampant corruption, failed service delivery and annual audit shortcomings.
A capable state of necessity requires capability within the civil service. The need to have a professional civil service is a matter of paramount importance.
Speaker, the plan, as it has developed, has considerable merit. Will the plan be received wholeheartedly by the ruling party and its alliance partners so that it can be implemented without the constant criticism witnessed in the past.
South Africa needs a unified plan, such as this, agreed to by all so that we can begin to work to that plan. Everyone needs to know that this is indeed the plan. Of course, it will need refinement from time to time, but the plan is a people’s plan and the people need to be assured that at last government is going to be working to the plan.
COPE has long felt the need for a plan supported by a capable and professional civil service so that South Africa can evolve to a capable and corruption-free state.
COPE asks for the refined plan to be implemented against a tight time frame and against a greater level of accountability.