More efficient govt the aim: Manuel

25 June 2009

The Presidency is expected to release two green papers inviting input on how South Africa’s new Planning Ministry and National Planning Commission should function.

Addressing the National Assembly during the Presidency’s Budget Vote debate this week, National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said the processes would contribute towards refining the way in which the centre of government works.

The green papers will be presented to Parliament as a discussion document in the next month or so.

“The purpose of these green papers is to provide all stakeholders with a sense of government’s thinking in this regard and provide them with an opportunity to input into the process of deciding how these functions will be performed,” he said.

National strategic plan

Manuel explained that the document would outline the precise role and function of the two ministries, as well as the importance of a national strategic plan and vision that has the support and backing of the wider society, and called for patience while the government refined its systems, defined its roles and allocated responsibilities.

“In several cases, ministers have to sit down together to work out who does what, what the relationships are, and how we account for what is delivered. In doing this, I want to assure this House that we will be guided by a spirit of cooperation and collective accountability.”

Coordinating long-term plans

The two major functions of the Planning Ministry are to coordinate the process in which the government develops its long-term vision and plan, as well as direct the process in which the Cabinet collectively agrees to the Medium Term Strategic Framework, which sets out the government’s priorities and informs resources.

“The Planning Ministry has a key role to play in building the organisational and technical capability of the state to ensure government delivers on its policy commitments,” Manuel said.

He said the government envisaged the creation of a nerve centre in the Presidency which would develop links with organisations such as the Development Bank of South Africa, Human Science and Research Council, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and other science councils and universities to engage them on long-term developmental issues.

Avoiding replication

In this way, the Presidency would avoid replicating the expertise which already existed in the country. However, he said there was still the need for capacity to commission research, synthesise the evidence, and be able to feed these into policy processes in government.

Manuel added that there was also a need in the government to encourage a more systematic approach to long-term planning and in state-owned enterprises.

“This is particularly true in sectors such as spatial planning, energy, transport and water security, where long-term perspectives are important. This is critical for private sector investment too.

“Investments in the mining sector require policy certainty and energy security in the energy sector. Land use planning and agricultural investment are intertwined,” he said.

Ensuring quality

He said the ministry would not take over existing planning responsibilities from national, provincial and local departments and state-owned enterprises, or act as a “gatekeeper” from which other government institutions would have to seek clearance for their plans, explaining that this would only result in massive delays in implementation.

“Rather, the Planning Ministry will seek to encourage, support and harness sectoral and sub-national strategic plan-making and initiatives and mainstream these within the national planning process,” he said.

“The task of the Presidency would be to ensure that the quality of planning by government departments, state-owned enterprises and provincial and local governments achieve a high standard, and that the quality of planning in these institutions continues to improve.”

Source: BuaNews