Nxesi gears up to revamp Public Works

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cape Town - Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has called on officials in the department to play a crucial role in the turnaround strategy which is set to bring about significant changes in how the department conducts its business.

Addressing hundreds of Public Works staff at a packed hall in the city's Customs House building, Nxesi said officials themselves would be instrumental in driving change in the department.

"I believe a successful change process has to come from within the department," said Nxesi, who pointed out that those in the department had the necessary skills, but that these skills had been suppressed because they had been incorrectly deployed.

Service providers would be used in the turnaround strategy where necessary, but would only be used for short and defined periods, and would be required to train staff to better equip them, he said.

Nxesi stressed that no time could be wasted in turning the department around.

He is garnering buy-in from the regions, and recently addressed Public Works officials in Umtata, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

He is due to address departmental officials in the Free State and the Northern Cape next week.

Nxesi's turnaround strategy has already received backing from Parliament's public works portfolio committee.

Added to this, stabilisation measures had already been put in place to address the asset register, leases and audit.

Nxesi said the centralising of leases by his department - which he had put in place in a bid to clean up the problem - had, however, led to a lot of backlogs in leases being approved.

An interministerial task team and technical team consisting of experienced officials from National Treasury and other departments had also been set up to help turn around Public Works.

A support team -- under Acting Director General Mandisa Fatyela-Lindi at the Department of Public Works -- had been set up to monitor the change processes and appointments drawn from within the department and entities had been made for those who would drive the process.

Nxesi said the turnaround strategy would involve a series of events and would address staffing levels, skills, systems and the leadership style at the department.

A thorough diagnostic would need to be carried out and staff members would be involved in coming up with solutions.

"There must be a vision, a long-term programme for change," he said.

Changes, he stressed, mustn't be made piecemeal so that every time a new minister came along, new transformation programmes were started.

He said managers must listen to what workers had to say and staff must be prepared to learn from others and not make excuses when they didn't perform.

The support team, Nxesi stressed, wasn't there to take over existing staff, but to support them while the turnaround strategy was underway.

Nxesi said a rapid report into the state of the department had been commissioned and Fatyela-Lindi had been appointed as acting director general, while they were moving to address unfilled vacancies in senior management.

Nxesi said he expected a great deal from senior managers, and expected senior managers to expect the same from their staff.

He said staff would be treated equally when it came to tackling problems such as fraud and corruption. He impressed upon officials to maintain professional conduct at all times by adhering to the proper working hours.

Nxesi said staff appraisals would also be more strictly adjudicated and more effective training would be introduced, where staff members would be encouraged to take an active interest in their own career path.

Nxesi welcomed the investigations by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into fraud and corruption in the department, saying these had provided detailed evidence of some of the underlining problems.

He said he had already met with stakeholders in the property and built sector, Public Works, SIU and various ministers.

Five people had been suspended and within two weeks of them being suspended, charges had already been laid against them, he said, adding that investigations into possible further cases were on-going.

The department was also investigating all the leases to determine how many of these were invalid.

Nxesi pointed to the Department of Home Affairs' successful turnaround as an example of what could be done.