The Presidency: briefing on Annual Report 2007/8


02 Oct 2008

Presenters: Frank Chikane and Mr Trevor Fowler

The Presidency: Briefing on the Annual Report 2007/8
Rev Frank Chikane, Director-General: Presidency and Mr Trevor Fowler, Chief Operations Officer: Presidency released the Annual Report of the Presidency 2007/8 at a press briefing. They touched on the points of their strategic plans and institutional development. Recent developments included the development of the policy unit, a comparative study on how to strengthen planning capacity and a focus on monitoring and evaluation. There were also updates on the moral regeneration initiative, the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa, and Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). There had been an improvement in financial management. Rev Chikane also briefed the media on the details of the transitional management in place to keep the Presidency and government functioning with a view to the elections. Rev Chikane was asked if he could confirm that he was leaving the Presidency and if he had been persuaded to stay. Pertaining to the annual report, journalists asked what Rev Chikane was specifically proud of and what challenges were still faced. Recent developments in Project Consolidate were queried and the presenters were asked what changes were needed in the Presidency, to expand capacity and where Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga fitted into the current scenario of changes in government.


Q: A journalist referred to the transition arrangements discussed by Rev Chikane and asked if he could confirm that he was leaving the Presidency or if he had been persuaded to stay.

A: Rev Chikane responded that he would prefer to deal with that toward the end of the briefing. The annual report questions should be asked first.

Q: A journalist referred to Rev Chikane’s remark that he was pleased that they had started doing their transition planning so early. She asked if he was pleased that they had begun the planning for the institutionalisation or pleased that it had been put into practice so early.

A: Rev Chikane responded that he was brought into the Presidency to develop, institutionalise and perfect the system. This had been an approach of advanced planning rather than one where they would have to deal with a crisis. Plans were in place across government and it now ran like a military operation. It was institutionalisation rather than an ad hoc process and when it was tested they could see whether it worked.

Q: A journalist referred to the comment that Rev Chikane was proud of creating an institution that worked and asked what his thoughts were on some of the criticism of the Presidency. Among others, these were about the size of the Presidency and the top-down approach. She asked what Rev Chikane was specifically proud of.

A: Rev Chikane responded that he was looking forward to being released from his office so that he might write with freedom concerning criticism. He stated that there had been false theories regarding the Presidency. Words like control, centralisation and huge had been used as criticism of the Presidency and reported as fact. It was an unfortunate culture where facts filtered through the media in this way, without being properly tested or without being supported by evidence.

Q: A journalist remarked that the report covered government functions and achievement. The presenters were asked what challenges were still faced.

A: Rev Chikane referred to the Policy Unit and pointed out that there had been no such a unit before. They assisted government in dealing with policy issues, planning, implementation and integration in government.  This was not about centralisation. There was no single person who dictated what would happen in government. Government needed skills in order to deliver, not control or centralisation. He referred to the changes in the Cabinet Lekgotla which now included deputy ministers, directors-general, premiers, and the members of the South African Local Government Association. They had ensured that every sphere of government was represented.

Q: A journalist referred to Project Consolidate and asked if this programme had produced the desired fruit. According to the Annual Report, there had been protest marches on service delivery. He asked if it was not time to revise Project Consolidate, if people were not satisfied.

A: Rev Chikane responded that Project Consolidate was being dealt with at the Izimbizo and was based on consultation with municipalities. He was of the view that people expressing themselves through protest was a good thing for democracy. The greatest challenge here was capacity. There was no debate about what they had to do but they had to have the people to implement it. When there was a failure, the issue was no longer money. There was no capacity to carry out functions and in some cases the problem was straight corruption. He reiterated that they had the money but no capacity.

Mr Fowler responded that there was an integration plan with municipalities. The law stated that they must consult with communities. There was a plan for alignment between municipalities, provinces and the national planning objectives. Project Consolidate’s biggest achievement had been delivery of basic services and houses. The challenges were that there was not enough time spent on maintenance in order to continue the progress through the growth period and the huge gaps that still remained in the country.

Q: A journalist asked if the Presidency could elaborate - in concrete terms - on needs delivery. What changes were needed in the Presidency to expand capacity to meet the perceived need, with a view to the 15 year review. 

A: Rev Chikane responded that by the time such matters came to the national level, they had already been done through the Integrated Development Plan (IDP). There were problems of quality with the IDP, because of the lack of skills on the ground and one could not develop skills without training. The skills problem was central for local government. It was also important to relieve staff and improve working conditions.

Q: Rev Chikane was asked if there was concern about staff, relating to the recent changes in government.

A: Rev Chikane stated that it was incorrect to see his exit as a transition. This was an old story. He had had a five-year contract at Director General level. At the end of that term he had asked to be released. His contract had then been extended by three years. The process had continued in a similar way and he was still there. His last contract expired at the end of 2007 but had been extended by one year and he was now concentrating on the new administration. This was a transition for the Presidency. His office now worked very efficiently - like a machine. He was confident that whether he was there or not, the Presidency would continue to function. He has indicated that he would be available. He remarked that the press should not expect an announcement soon as the Presidency would make an announcement after October. It was not their intention to destabilise government at the last minute. Furthermore, contracts had nothing to do with the change of government. Professional public servants would serve in any government that came into being out of the election process.

Q: A journalist asked where Mr Mukoni Ratshitanga fitted into the scenario.

A: Mr Fowler responded that there were certain individuals who were directly linked to their principals. Mr Ratshitanga’s contract was linked to Mr Mbeki’s term. When the term of the principal ended, the linked contract ended a month after. Those contracts had been given three months extra to give people time to change over. Mr Ratshitanga was assisting in closing things up and winding down for the hand over.

Tshwane - “We have created an institution that works!” These are the words of a proud Director General (DG) in The Presidency, at the institution’s launch of the Annual Report 2007/2008 in Tshwane today.
The DG Rev Frank Chikane and The Presidency Chief Operations Officer (COO), Mr Trevor Fowler addressed a gathering of media to officially release the Annual Report, which has only just been tabled in parliament, as a public document.
The annual report is a comprehensive document that accounts and reflects on the priorities and activities of the Presidency as an apex of government, during the 2007 – 2008 financial year.
The report focuses on progress made on the targets set out in The Presidency’s Strategic Plan 2007/08 – 2009/10 stressing performance against measurable objectives rather that an exhaustive review activities.
One of the achievements, which formed the focus of discussions, related to The Presidency’s role in planning and institutionalizing systems in preparation for a transition of government.
The DG stressed the importance of instituting transitional systems early on during the period under review as being pivotal in ensuring stability in change – especially so, given the unexpected resignation of the former President, Deputy President and Minister in The Presidency.
The annual report noted a number of achievements with regards to economic growth and development, building a safer society, improving the quality of live, improving service delivery through better governance and capacity building and ensuring the attainment of a better Africa and the world.
Although achievements are worth noting in the annual report, the Director-General indicated that “as government we should not underplay the many difficulties that still confront government”.


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