Communications minister gets an E

Communications Minister Dina Pule performed very poorly over the last twelve months according to the DA’s 2012 Cabinet Report Card

December 6, 2012
Dina Pule

The DA released its 2012 Cabinet Report Card today (6 December 2012), giving Communications Minister Dina Pule an E. This poor score was due to Pule’s involvement in the ICT Indaba and the Telkom mess.

The DA’s 2012 Cabinet Report Card allocates scores to each Minister, the President and the Deputy President based on qualitative broad criteria including:

  • Policy Direction: Does the Minister have a clearly articulated vision for his/ her department and has he/ she been effective in implementing this vision?
  • Attitude towards Accountability & Attendance in Parliament: What is the Minister’s conduct in office, particularly regarding his/ her approach to accountability and his/ her attitude to parliament?
  • Finance and Administration: Does the Minister keep a tight hand on the purse strings of his/ her department and how has the Department or office performed under his/ her watch?

Each Member of Cabinet, on the basis of this analysis, was given a score between an A and an F.

In an effort to make this Report Card more constructive and to indicate where the DA believes that Members of the Executive can and must improve delivery, the DA’s report card also includes a section on “Challenges for 2013”.

For the sake of accuracy the full DA report card for Communications Minister Dina Pule is provided below.

Dina Pule and Stella Ndabeni

Dina Pule and Stella Ndabeni

Minister Pule’s involvement in the ICT Indaba scandal and her hand in the year of missed opportunities at Telkom have earned her an E.

POLICY DIRECTION

Minister Dina Pule is South Africa’s third Communications Minister in as many years. For the past year, she has been in charge of a department that has failed South Africa’s information and communications technology (ICT) community for almost two decades. The Minister has not achieved any turnaround in South Africa’s slide down the scale of ICT empowered nations.

Minister Pule’s two biggest blunders this year were her management of government’s shareholding in the ailing Telkom and her involvement in the scandal around the ICT Indaba.

As Cabinet’s blunt instrument, she has managed government’s shareholding in Telkom like an amateur and torpedoed a financially and strategically beneficial deal with the South Korean telecommunications giant, KT Corporation.

She also disrupted Telkom’s Annual General Meeting by demanding to change her votes for the Telkom board, previously submitted by proxy. As a result, competent members of the board were voted out and the parastatal was temporarily left without the requisite number of board members and no audit and risk committee in place.

Telkom has halved in value under her tenure and is heading for a financial crisis.

The Minister fared no better at stabilising the national broadcaster, with the SABC continuing to be marred by corruption scandals and management upsets.

This year, Minister Pule will be remembered for expensive shoes and the involvement of her romantic partner in her Department’s outsourcing of the costly and ineffective ICT Indaba. The Indaba is now subject to investigations by the Public Protector, the Auditor General and Parliament’s ethics and members’ interests committee.

The Minister seems unperturbed by the true state of affairs in the entities that report to her or the impact the inability and inertia of her Department has on tackling the complex and critical issues in her portfolio. Her department seems to spend most of its time in talkshops or workshops.

The ICT Infrastructure programme is the worst performing of the Communications Department’s programmes as it spent only 26.2% of its budget in the previous financial year. The department’s failure to finalise a business plan for the broadband rollout in time for the current budget meant that this rollout was largely absent from Treasury’s budgeted infrastructure projects for 2012/13.

Her public pronouncements skim the surface of the issues and she seems to believe that all is well and on target despite the crisis at the SABC, the Telkom crisis, missed deadlines on broadband rollout and the fraught migration to digital broadcasting.

PARLIAMENTARY ATTENDANCE AND ATTITUDE TOWARDS ACCOUNTABILITY

Answers to parliamentary questions – when they do arrive – are superficial and frequently duck the core issue. In terms of attendance, she only briefly attended the presentation of the Department’s strategic report to the Portfolio Committee.

ADMINISTRATION AND FINANCE

Minister Pule has committed her Department to having clean audits by 2014, but this will be a tough target to meet for a Department that has been dithering for two decades and has inadequate internal skills. She procrastinates about many important decisions, hampering the work of some of the entities that report to her.

The Department has been hauled before the Standing Committee on Appropriations for under-performing, increased use of consultants, wasteful and irregular expenditure, under-spending for most of the year, and then fiscal dumping before year end.

THE BOTTOM LINE

South Africa’s ICT industry is champing at the bit to fulfil its potential to make this a great e-powered nation, but it is being hobbled by unimaginative, inadequately skilled bureaucrats with a penchant for centralised control and no sense of urgency. She must loosen her grip on the reins and give the industry its head so we can all be winners.

CHALLENGES FOR 2013

Minister Pule’s five main challenges for 2013 are:

  • To boost the calibre of telecommunications knowledge and skilled personnel in her department;
  • To put urgency and rigour into the migration to digital broadcasting;
  • To finalise and energise the development and implementation of a national broadband infrastructure;
  • To stop micro-managing Telkom and set it free to become a productive partner in the delivery of fast and affordable communications country-wide; and
  • To stop micro-managing the SABC and allow the board and executive management to root out nepotism and political interference so they can turn the corporation around.

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