Are we seeing a public sector turnaround? Positive government engagement is on the up


It is widely reported that the South African government faces ongoing challenges in regards to meeting the needs of its people through quality public infrastructure. Considering our mounting socioeconomic and environmental concerns, it has become the norm to be critical of our government’s progress – or lack thereof, as many may say. However, with our challenges comes a great opportunity for change and I would argue that the change is coming. It is now time for us to be supportive and engaging, rather than giving in to today’s negative knee-jerk reaction. Government-bashing is not constructive.

Many of our public sector issues are not new – for years our national development agenda has been hampered by poor technical capacity, a lack of collaboration and coordination, and conflicting priorities. But there is progress: government is looking at improved recruitment processes and a professionalising of the public sector, currently being driven through the Department of Public Service Administration through the National School of Government.

At CESA, we have witnessed the state taking a new approach to historical challenges, and a renewed commitment by government departments to address their internal issues in order to better address the needs of the South African people. Over the last two years, CESA’s interactions with critical spheres of government have seen greater engagement and more constructive interaction.

For example, having raised concerns over a poor public infrastructure procurement process, we are seeing government take our advice on important aspects such as scope of work and bidding documentation. Where previously bidders could scarcely understand a project’s requirements due to poor specifications, today we are working with government to ensure a smoother process supported by clear communication and technical specifications.

Concerns over corruption are also, of course, an easy shot to take when criticising government. However, we are seeing a concerted effort to curb corruption in infrastructure projects – the most recent of which is the launch of the new Infrastructure Built Anti-Corruption Forum (IBACF) in May this year. This Forum is an initiative by the Anti-Corruption Task Team, government, civil society together and the built environment sector to monitor infrastructure projects more effectively and put systems in place to detect and prevent corruption. It is important that we support this initiative and recognise the state’s effort to safeguard South Africa’s economic recovery plan, of which infrastructure development is a cornerstone. Active citizenship is important here, where everyone has a role to play in facilitating a transparent and accountable procurement process.

On an individual front, CESA has experienced fruitful engagements with the Department of Water and Sanitation, the Auditor General, National Treasury, and Infrastructure SA amongst others. There is a clear positive trend developing, as we are confident that this will continue as the state puts more support behind sustainable infrastructure development.

As we progress, we must stand together to support our government and continue to breakdown the institutional barriers which have historically hindered our development. Criticism serves only to disintegrate our efforts. Let us rather acknowledge the progress made, and seek ways to participate in finding solutions to our national challenges.

Chris Campbell
































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