Tag Archive | Safcol

The big SA cabinet crunch

Editorial….

Cabinet hopes are Brown, Ramaphosa, Gordhan…..

Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, reports that she is to introduce as a cabinet draft, the Lynne BrownShareholder Management Bill as part of a plan to introduce leadership ability and some form of continuity for the state owned enterprises (SOCs) under her control.   This includes Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SA Express, Alexkor and Safcol.

We hope this is the start of something big.

The last few weeks have been an exercise in disaster, so let’s try and take a positive spin on things from a parliamentary viewpoint. Whilst troubled SAA is now an independent, falling under National Treasury and if President Zuma minds his own business, Minister Pravin Gordhan is to sort out National Treasury itself and also the troubled SARS, which he re-designed in the first place and which became such a success working with Trevor Manuel.

More problem children

Meanwhile, PetroSA is in real deep water falling, the entity falling under Central Energy Fund (CEF) reporting to Department and Energy (DOE). With Minister Joemat-Pettersson not back from COP21 or wherever, the country still faces some serious energy issues. But at least the PetroSA problem is now all in the open, with somebody obviously having to take over the reins and the mess, probably CEF itself.
Oddly enough there are people in CEF who know exactly what the problem is but once again politicians pushed experts in the wrong direction, it appears.

In addition, the Passenger Rail Association (PRASA) is very much on the slippery slope and, together with SANRAL, both present highly contentious transport issues which are now in the hands of Minister Cyril Ramaphosa to untangle. Troubling times indeed.

Public Enterprises comes to the party

lyne brown 2Now Minister Lynne Brown appears to be getting the senior management of her portfolio under control and whilst we could still have shutdowns at Eskom she says, because “machines can break down unexpectedly”, the leadership is there she says, as is the case with her Denel.
Lynne Brown recently reported that there are around 700 SOCs, an extraordinary fact, but bearing in mind the fact that South Africa is reputed to have the largest head count in public service per population count, this would appear quite possible.

On the road again

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa chairing an Integrated Marketing Committee, which will hopefullyramaphosa designate which entities should remain SOCs and those which should be absorbed back into their relevant departments, there appears some hope with regard to containing the ballooning public service machine which has characterised President Zuma’s presidency.

Hands off appointments

An essential element of Minister Lynne Brown’s plan is to remove the appointment to the boards of the entities under her domain away from cabinet and Ministers, including herself, to a shareholder management team that creates a leadership operational plan for all SOCs and appoints, through due process, a tightly run appointment book.

A brave proposition indeed but it does indicate that Minister Brown is her own person.

Whilst the proposals might look like state control, in fact it is a clear signal that government may have heard the message that the current system of Ministers appointing board members is not working, is open to abuse and what is worse, the consequent “jobs for the boys” system results in taxpayer’s money being thrown away through bad management, corruption and what the auditor general calls “useless and wasteful expenditure”.

On the drawing board

The Shareholder Management Bill, Minister Brown said in Johannesburg, will first need a concept paper (perhaps she means a White Paper) and such could be released after the February Cabinet Lekgotla in February, with an intention of introducing such as system by the end of 2016.

Whilst it is pretty obvious who should not be on such an appointment team, the plan begs the question of will be chosen to occupy such critical posts but it is far too early to cogitate on this one. With Ministers changing their portfolios as if it was a game of musical chairs, there is reason to congratulate Minister Brown on the statement that she herself as a Minister would be excluded from making appointments in her own SOCs.

Leadership needed

During the same address, she added that Eskom was “not out of the woods” yet and there was still not sufficient electricity to facilitate economic growth, but the leadership issue was being addressed satisfactorily with the right people being appointed. Brown said none of the entities under her control “would be approaching the National Treasury with begging bowls”.

Perhaps this is the principle being adopted behind the scenes with the SABC, which whilst not affecting business and industry other than travel costs, unlike trade and investment hurdles and industrial strategic changes, SABC is threatened by the possibility of being returned to its parent government department which at first glance appeared to be a move by President Zuma to gain control of state financed media, Mugabe style.

However, in a broad sense it seems to be Minister Brown’s idea that appointments to the top echelons running the country should be as a result of finding those qualified to do so rather than being handled by totally unqualified persons, some with solicitous intent, and others trying to retain power with dubious appointments such as having friends, in the case of the SABC, to broadcast “the truth” to specific rural audiences.

Unprincipled governance remains the one of the biggest problems facing South Africa, intrinsically coupled to (and in some cases causing} lack of growth and lack of jobs.

Croneyism

Bad appointments by Ministers and of Ministers has been the cornerstone of control by patronage, the route for corruption and the reason for sheer bad management, a practice now openly exposed but not yet controlled by any means. From a parliamentary viewpoint, let us leave it there. The rest is being said by the media but most MPs when they return to Parliament in late January 2016 will have realized that sheer stupidity can ruin their own futures and their pensions.

But if Minister Lynne Brown, in her practical and down to earth manner, can come up with the remarkable idea of Cabinet Ministers, hopefully including the Presidency as well, not interfering in who does what as far as expertise is concerned, then perhaps this can be applied to all 47 government departments and agencies.

One small step

No doubt as far as confirmation of an appointment, the Minister involved may still have to “approve” such a decision but it is worth watching the outcome of the debate on the shortly-to-be tabled Broadcasting Bill, if only to see if the appointment of inept senior appointments can be halted or reversed.

What has come out of the Eskom, PRASA and PetroSA issues is that a bad leader with no qualification or right to be in a position of leadership, or worse led by one who has supplied fraudulent qualifications, leads to frustration and anger by those with genuine skills and high academic qualifications lower down the ladder at the coalface. This is in the space of government service where technical skills are located and badly needed.

We hope Minister Lynne Brown has more of these “eureka” moments.

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Public Enterprises reports on rocky and controversial year

Minister  Malusi Gigaba, introducing the debate on the department of public enterprises (DPE) 2011/12 annual report, said. “We have a dual role as government departments and utilities because we have to build an understanding of why our state public enterprise components do certain things operationally and why they do certain things as a result of government policy.”

He thus indicated that at times the two may be at variance and underlined DPE’s role in harmonising the two.

He said that one of the biggest issues currently was to monitor the oil and gas companies in order to bring together a common strategic picture and obtain a better picture with data of the situation. This was the last time oil and associated products and gas were mentioned in the entire presentation, matters relating to Eskom and SOEs being of main focus.

Minister Gigaba said “Another issue is that we have had to ask certain utilities to go beyond their own plans in order to meet certain national obligations, especially bearing in mind the infrastructure programmes being embarked upon throughout South Africa.”

Minister Gigaba said that human resources issues have been at the forefront especially bearing in mind the lack of skills acknowledged generally as a national issue and in many cases obstructing SOEs from reaching the objectives set.

On objectives and targets, he was referring the measurement processes set out in the DPE annual report now assessed by the department of performance, monitoring and evaluation (DPME).

He commented that the environment on which SOEs are now operating had changed completely and were continuing to evolve almost daily. He also referred to the challenge of cost increases and marketing conditions that accompanied this.

“DPE has worked closely with all SOE’s to ensure accountability and oversight meetings are held at least twice a month”, he assured parliamentarians. “This is a robust programme in terms of meeting DPME requirements and is geared to see how all SOEs are responding to current conditions”.

But he asked that treasury in future consider an enlarged budget for DPE due to its expanded mandate as “change managers”. The total staff complement of DPE is 189 persons.

DG Tshediso Matona placed each of the DPE portfolios activity in the context of the current economic picture, which he said was important to reflect upon before one considered both the delivery service picture, an internal issue, and also matters of concern which were national issues.

Real fixed capital expenditure by the public corporations gathered great momentum during the period under review as Eskom and Transnet accelerated their spending, he said, and which was “further crowding-in private sector investment”.  He was not asked to explain this by MPs.

Capital investment went up to 560bn; most of the increase of 9% over the previous year of R520bn occurring in the fourth quarter.

During the last year DPE focused on oversight practices;  the business of stabilising the SOEs in terms of the changing economic picture;  and looking at funding options – all the time constantly reminding the SOEs that by driving fixed investment they were unlocking economic growth.

Joint project facilities between all SOEs, particularly in the area of common procurement, had been a focus of DPE during the year, and also the issues of skills training and development. Transnet provided some 3,500 engineering-related learners and enrolled 854 new artisan learners. Eskom trained some 5,400 learners, of which 4,200 had an engineering leaning and 1,066 new artisans. SAA enrolled 254 learners, Denel 229 learners, and Infraco, Safcol and SAX had together added 191 learners.

In terms of delivery service agreements and targets, Tshediso Matona said that DPE had “largely delivered on all shareholder management functions, including signing of shareholder compacts, delivery of strategic intents and quarterly reviews as called for under the PMFA.”

Exceptions where delivery did not take place were that a shareholder contract for Infraco was not signed, since the new board stated it required more time to assess the situation and this was agreed to, and a review of South African Express was not completed on time because of a necessary restatement of financials.

In the area of energy and broadband enterprises, Matona said that achievements were the approval of Eskom’s medium term maintenance plan and implementation of the “keep the lights on” programme.  An R350bn government guarantee was confirmed for Eskom and 76% of the funding for the New Build programme is now in hand. At this stage Eskom had added 535Mw of generation capacity for 2011/12 and 631km of transmission lines.

Transnet for 2011/2012 had upped iron ore transits to 1.22m tons and coal to 1.6m.  Overall efficiency was claimed by DG Matona as being up 17% on the previous year. Procurement of rolling stock had started and a consignment of 95 locomotives.

SAA, which came under considerable questioning by MPs, had worsened insofar as the financial position, although five additional African routes to Ndola, Kigali, Bujumbura, Pointe Noire and Cotonou had been launched and SAA saw such Africa routes as a future area of expansion. Additional African services to Zambia, Zimbabwe and the DRC were working out of King Shaka.

Major problems in an overall sense mainly boiled down to rising fuel costs, increased international airport docking facilities and strong competition, parliamentarians were told.

Both Minister Gigaba and DG Matona responded to a barrage of questions on staffing issues at SAA and loss of market share to other airline competitors but such questions were continued out of parliamentary time and are adequately covered in the media. The minister admitted to MPs that he had been caught short by all the resignations on the SAA board and was “flabbergasted” to hear of some of the reasons.

He said the guarantee which was being obtained for SAA for future funding should, in his opinion, come attached with a requirement for a new strategic plan and a plan for a complete overhaul of the airline. A diagnostic overview of SAA is now being obtained, he said. “A consultant’s report, given to us in September, is being incorporated.”

Minister Gigaba added on the subject of SAA,”We need to work around the clock to achieve a better situation and we are addressing the staff to allay their fears. The long term vision and strategy to be produced must include a procurement plan and a network design incorporating more of Africa.

An experienced task team has to be assembled to facilitate a strategy, not try to do it themselves”, he told parliamentarians in conclusion.  He admitted that there had to be a clearer distinction between the SAA board and its management team.

On general DPE issues, key areas where targets were not achieved by the department, said DG Matona, mainly lay in the area of Denel where the defence plan had not been finalised therefore stultifying any progress; Safcol, although the balance sheet had improved; and Transnet where its branch line roll out programme (on freight issues) had been held back.

The Ngqura container terminal position had not developed, neither had a national freight network plan been concluded.  Also, a major issue was the future of Eskom and the IRP2 plan.

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