Written by Allison Cooper, for Public Sector Manager Magazine: July 2019

Government is restructuring to ensure that its departments are fit for purpose and sensitive to the austerity measures driving the sixth administration’s programmes.

Government’s size and structure is being reconfigured to optimally meet the people’s needs and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is making good on the promise he made in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 16 February 2018, to review the configuration, number and size of national government departments.

Following the recently held general elections, President Ramaphosa announced the appointment of a reconfigured national executive on 29 May, and committed to a process of further reforms to promote coherence, better co-ordination and the improved efficiency of government.

As part of these measures, the President is putting performance agreements in place for ministers and deputy ministers and, to strengthen accountability, has said deputy ministers’ areas of responsibility must be clearly defined.

“A capable and developmental state not only provides the institutions and infrastructure that enable the economy and society to operate, it also has the means to drive transformation,” said President Ramaphosa in his 2019 SONA in June.

“Earlier this month we announced the reconfiguration of a number of government departments to enable them to deliver on their mandates. Our decision was premised on efficiency, cost-containment, co-operative governance and strategic alignment.

“This is the start of a wider process of arresting the decline in state capacity and restructuring our model of service delivery so it best serves our citizens.

“We will be adopting a district-based approach – focusing on the 44 districts and eight metros – to speed up service delivery, ensuring that municipalities are properly supported and adequately resourced,” the President explained.

National Macro Organisation of the Government governance structures have been set up and the Department of Public Service and Administration has set up a project steering committee to ensure a smooth transition to government’s new structure by the end of the 2019/2020 financial year.

The committee has established various work streams to deal with the specialised areas of work involved in a project of this size. The Communication Work Stream, for example, will ensure that all affected departments and the public are kept abreast of progress and changes.

What has changed?

The President has announced the reconfiguration of old departments or the establishment of new departments to align them with the ministries. The following 10 departments have merged into five:

The Department of Agriculture has merged with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (the forestry and fisheries portfolios now fall under environment affairs), to form the new Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.

The Department of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services have merged to form the new Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

The Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Energy have merged to form the new Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

The Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of Arts and Culture have merged to form the new Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

The Economic Development Department has merged into the Department of Trade and Industry to form the new Department of Trade, Industry and Competition.

All state-owned entities, development finance institutions and national regulatory institutions attached to fifth administration ministries and departments will move to the relevant sixth administration ministries and departments, in line with the reconfiguration.

Jobs are safe

Government is committed to ensuring that public servants are not negatively affected by the changes and has said that their jobs are safe.

In addition, consultation and ongoing communications will be undertaken with affected departments, clients and organised labour.

It explained in a statement that the redesign of government’s organisational structures is limited to the realignment of macro organisational structures and excludes restructuring. As such, employees will transfer to new departments with their existing conditions of service.

The reconfiguration will respect the Public Service Act, 1994, and the collective agreement, which will be concluded with unions admitted in the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), to ensure workers’ rights are respected.

In areas where there is a duplication of functions, due to the mergers, affected officials will be cared for in accordance with the PSCBC collective agreement which, once concluded, will be communicated to the public service.

The President has stressed that the reconfiguring of government and the state is an ongoing process and that there will be continuing review and monitoring of the new departments’ work.

Putting the people first

Government remains committed to spending public money prudently and in the best interests of the nation and its people.

As such, it is taking decisive steps to cut any wasteful expenditure and to ensure greater savings through better efficiencies, economies of scale and appropriate technology.