Presidency to release Green Papers on functioning of new ministries

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cape Town - The Presidency is expected to release two green papers to allow stakeholders an opportunity to give input on how the Planning Ministry and National Planning Commission should function.

Addressing the National Assembly during the Presidency's Budget Vote debate on Wednesday, Minister in the Presidency: National Planning, Trevor Manuel, said the processes would contribute towards refining the way in which the centre of government works.

The green papers will be presented to Parliament as a discussion document in the next month or so.

"The purpose of these green papers is to provide all stakeholders with a sense of government's thinking in this regard and provide them with an opportunity to input into the process of deciding how these functions will be performed," said the minister.

He said the document would also outline the precise role and function of the two ministries as well as the importance of a national strategic plan and vision that has the support and backing of the wider society.

The minister called for patience while government was refining its systems and defining roles and to allocating responsibilities.

"In several cases, ministers have to sit down together to work out who does what, what the relationships are and how we account for what is delivered. In doing this, I want to assure this house that we will be guided by a spirit of cooperation and collective accountability."

The two major functions of the Planning Ministry are to coordinate the process whereby government develops its long term vision and plan as well as direct the process whereby Cabinet collectively agrees to the Medium Term Strategic Framework, which sets out governments priorities and informs resources.

"The Planning Ministry has a key role to play in building the organisational and technical capability of the state to ensure government delivers on its policy commitments," said the minister.

He said government envisaged the creation of a nerve centre in the Presidency which would develop links with organisations such as the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA), Human Science and Research Council (HSRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and other science councils, universities to engage them on long term developmental issues.

In this way, the Presidency would avoid replicating the expertise which already existed in the country. However, he said there was still the need for capacity to commission research, synthesise the evidence and to be able to feed these into the policy processes in government.

Mr Manuel said there was also a need in government to encourage a more systematic approach to long term planning and in state-owned enterprises.

"This is particularly true in sectors such as spatial planning, energy, transport and water security where long term perspectives are important. This is critical for private sector investment too.

"Investments in the mining sector require policy certainty and energy security in the energy sector. Land use planning and agricultural investment are intertwined," he said.

He said the ministry would not, however, take over existing planning responsibilities from national, provincial and local departments and state-owned enterprises. "Rather the Planning Ministry will seek to encourage, support and harness sectoral and sub-national strategic plan-making and initiatives and mainstream these within the national planning process."

The ministry will not be a "gatekeeper" for plans and that all government institutions would not be required to get clearance from The Presidency before a plan is adopted. This, said Mr Manuel, would only result in massive delays in implementation.

"On the contrary, the task of The Presidency would be to ensure that the quality of planning by government departments, state owned enterprises and provincial and local governments achieve a high standard, and that the quality of planning in these institutions continues to improve."