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Safeguarding our developmental agenda: Here is the Gauteng provincial government’s action plan

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Lebogang Maile MPL is the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council for Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

We have clearly seen how corruption erodes public trust and irreversibly damages the reputation of government, destroying public confidence in the state and its institutions to the detriment of our progressive, developmental agenda. The fight against corruption is about safeguarding our developmental agenda.

If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it is that contrary to the neoliberal narrative, government and governance do matter – and when government functions optimally, it is society and people at large that benefit the most. When it doesn’t, the converse applies.

Across the globe, Covid-19 was the high point of government necessity, competence, performance and accuracy – being able to make a difference and save lives. Covid-19 is a period when we need government to work like we’ve never needed it to before, amidst limited and often diminished resources and growing, increased need in society. 

We have seen the need for proactive, responsive, efficient and effective governance and the importance of government functioning seamlessly in an integrated and coherent manner.

We have seen the importance of evidence-based, rational decision-making in governance, with some of the regulations that we put in place being challenged in the courts on the basis of irrationality or just not being properly explained to the public. 

This leads us to another important point about governance: the importance of staying on message, of consistency in communication, of not sending mixed messages to the public, but communicating clearly, effectively and without confusion.

Added on to everything already stated, we also saw quite clearly how corruption erodes public trust and irreversibly damages the reputation of government, destroying public confidence in the state and its institutions to the detriment of our progressive, developmental agenda. 

The fight against corruption is therefore, not about a witch-hunt or settling political scores, but rather about safeguarding our developmental agenda.

With this in mind, we have to crack the whip where there has been a regression on the clean governance track record achieved by the ANC-led government in Gauteng over the past five years. We must enhance our capacity to drive economic recovery, growth and social transformation through the state.

We have to invest in increased and improved technocratic proficiency to drive an infrastructure-led economic recovery and growth programme. 

Government must create a new social compact for inclusive economic recovery and growth. We must build the capacity of our municipalities to enhance revenue collection and financial management, amidst the reality of Covid-19 induced revenue losses by municipalities, which negatively affected service delivery and threatened their financial viability. 

Capex projects were delayed and creditors could not be paid on time – we must build capacity and systems within municipalities to turn this around. 

We must improve financial management, audit outcomes and revenue generation capacity of government, and embrace innovative, entrepreneurial governance to draw resources for state programmes towards development.

We are going to pilot an e-voucher and food distribution system, and improve the ICT broadband footprint across the Gauteng city region.

While we must enforce and prioritise compliance as non-negotiable, we must view compliance and clean audits not as an end in itself, but within the broader perspective of our developmental trajectory. In other words, compliance must not be our primary focus, but rather it must be a facilitator and enabler for us to achieve our developmental objectives.

We must adopt agile governance structures and systems that will proactively resolve and address complex societal problems. These structures and systems must also help us anticipate and pre-empt issues, as opposed to perpetually being on the back foot and reactive.

In this regard, Covid-19 structures such as command councils and ward-based war rooms must be adopted and institutionalised in order to improve cooperative governance and enhance service delivery within our communities. 

Governance is, after all, in its essence, all about solving and resolving societal problems in the most effective, efficient, expeditious and humane manner possible. We must promote the increased use of technology-enabled quick, effective decision-making in government.

Through technology, we must ensure that government services are easily accessible and available to communities. Technology should bring government closer to the people. We must use technology to enhance accountability and public participation and improve our systems for the public benefit. 

The province of Gauteng has significantly improved on clean governance, as demonstrated by the audit outcomes of the last five years. However, there is some regression on clean governance in some departments and municipalities which must be addressed. We are going to fully implement the open tender system, with a roll-out in municipalities as well.

We will put in place public monitoring mechanisms to enhance accountability to voters and society. We will fully implement the Gauteng City Region Integrity Management Policy and Framework, along with its Ethics Advisory Council. The advisory council will include communities on the findings as part of civic education.

On the presentation of the annual report of the Ethics Advisory Council, the findings will be shared with executive mayors and all MECs will be required to go through it. Action plans which address corruption, as per the report’s findings, will be developed and the implementation thereof publicly monitored.

We are introducing new e-services across all Gauteng city region spheres of government. We are also automating finance systems for faster access to services and payment of suppliers. Our focus is also on enhancing and strengthening our cybersecurity systems, a critical element in disaster prevention and management. 

We are going to pilot an e-voucher and food distribution system, and improve the ICT broadband footprint across the Gauteng city region.

We want to see greater legislative oversight over all departments, improving coordination and cooperation between committees to oversee cross-cutting issues. There must be greater rigour in legislative oversight through the implementation of a committee inquiries process and oversight visits to service delivery sites.

Finally, we are strengthening accountability and oversight over state-owned entities with management and boards that adhere to good corporate governance principles, but also understand that entities and agencies of the provincial government are not independent, but are primary implementing agents of provincial government for greater service delivery impact, which implement the electoral manifesto and programmes of the governing party and hence themselves must be held accountable for how effective they are in achieving that. DM

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