21 January 2013

South Africa: Doc DG?s ?special Leave? No Surprise

press release

It has been confirmed that Communications Director-General (DG), Ms Rosey Sekese has been placed on "special leave" by Communications Minister Dina Pule, apparently after having misled the Portfolio Committee about her performance contract on two separate occasions last year.

While there has been no official statement on the reasons for Ms Sekese's leave and this action comes as no surprise, it is puzzling that as the meetings took place in October and November 2012, it has taken the Minister so long to act.

It became clear, during the two portfolio committee meetings last year, that Ms Sekese had misled the Committee about the status of her performance contract which needed to be signed by both the Minister and the DG.

There was much confusion as to which version of the contract had been signed by which party, but it was clear that there had been no common contract signed by both parties. Misleading Parliament is a criminal offence and the committee recommended that the Minister consider the options to deal conclusively with this matter of the unsigned contract.

It was clear from the way Ms Sekese handled the discussion during the portfolio committee meetings on the issue, that there was a serious breakdown of communication between her and the Minister, so much so that it appeared irreconcilable.

The legal advice Ms Sekese offered also indicated a fairly basic misunderstanding of what constitutes a legal contract and therefore cast serious doubt on her abilities to carry out her responsibilities as DG.

Ms Sekese also initially failed to appear, when called, before the Standing Committee on Appropriations to explain serious under-spending on the Department's budget. This indicated an unwillingness to be held accountable. She did later appear, but with a lame excuse.

The unfortunate thing about another potential change of guard at the Department of Communications (DoC) is that this department has been dysfunctional for decades and the forever changing leadership perpetually hampers a department that battles to focus on key communications issues, deliver on its targets and appropriately spend its budget.

South Africa's economic growth depends, to a large degree, on an affordable, widespread, technologically advanced communications system. And the DoC is just not capable of delivering this because of its lack of focus on core issues, appropriately skilled and experienced management. This latest turmoil just exacerbates that.

Ms Sekese has not been that effective as DG. The strategic plans for the department showed a lack of focus with, initially, far too many programmes and unachievable targets. There was little understanding of the resources and skills needed to deliver on so much activity. In response to the committee's concern on this, the plan was, last year, pruned of much superfluous activity but, by year end, the DoC was behind on targets.

I will reiterate the call to Minister Pule to consider her options in dealing not only with Ms Sekese's undersigned contract, but to ensure that all the proper steps and processes are followed in dealing with future performance contracts.

Marian Shinn, Shadow Minister of Communications

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