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Fail for Bathabile Dlamini in DA report card

Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) yesterday released its 2017 Government Report Card, with the majority of the Cabinet ministers, including those in ICT-led portfolios, scoring dismal results for the their performance over the past year.

In its report, the DA flagged the social grants crisis, increasing youth unemployment, state capture, Cabinet reshuffles and the downgrade of SA's economy as some of the issues that have led to the "grim picture" of the nation's future.

According to the opposition party, 2017 will go down in history as one of the most disconcerting years in the country's young democracy, as the ANC-led national government stooped to new lows in its abuse of power, excessive looting, and shameless execution of state capture without a hint of restraint.

The DA's Government Report Card is an annual appraisal of the National Executive, including the president, deputy president, and all ministers and their respective departments. The criteria used to compile the report card focus on the mandate of the ministry or department, its performance over the past 12 months, and the DA's response to its performance.

On the basis of this assessment, the president, deputy president, and each Cabinet minister is scored on a scale of "A" to "F". An "A" is the highest score achievable, with an "F" being the lowest.

SASSA-gate

Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini, who has been blamed for the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) grants crisis, was given an F, the lowest possible grade.

While Dlamini survived two Cabinet reshuffles this year, she received criticism for failing to be in control of the core function within her portfolio, which was to usher in a new social grants distributor when the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract ended on 31 March.

It took the intervention of the Constitutional Court, which permitted the extension of the contract with CPS for another 12 months, to provide a way forward concerning the payment of millions of beneficiaries on 1 April.

Although government has been pushing for the South African Post Office (SAPO) to take over social grant payments, Dlamini has said, on record, that the national postal service is "incapacitated" to issue SASSA grants.

The DA says Dlamini appears to be deliberately sti?ing progress in acquiring a new service provider, and this resulted in the department losing a director-general and SASSA losing a CEO.

It states: "The department needs to review social grants in line with the poverty levels, as children need to have proper nutrition at as early an age as possible. In order to prevent stunting due to malnutrition, every e?ort must be made to ensure proper nutrition by strengthening the social security system.

"We maintain that a hybrid system of delivery is not only viable, but in the best interests of all stakeholders. Only the minister and her associates stand to gain from the ongoing chaos."

Dlamini's role in the social grants crisis will be determined by a commission of inquiry, which is set to begin on 22 January.

Leadership challenges

Also subject to DA scrutiny was the communications portfolio, which includes six entities that report to the ministry: the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), the SABC, Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS), Films and Publications Board (FPB), Brand SA, and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA).

It faced major uncertainty, with leadership changes that resulted in three different ministers taking the helm through the course of the year, says the DA.

Following Faith Muthambi's reign of terror, it was hoped matters would improve, but this was not to be, according to the DA's report card.

While the SABC inquiry indicated change for the better, the public broadcaster remains compromised and unprincipled, it says. "The SABC revealed this year that R597 million is still owed to creditors and that a R74.4 million loss had been recorded in the first quarter. A R3 billion bailout had been requested from Treasury in light of this shocking mismanagement."

The MDDA incurred a loss of R12.9 million, from R7 million profit in 2016. There are various allegations of corruption, victimisation and intimidation at this embattled entity, adds the report.

The DA notes: "We would recommend to the president the immediate suspension of the MDDA chairperson, and we would appoint permanent top management at the [agency], FPB and the GCIS. Finally, we would investigate the suspension, withdrawing of charges and full pay-outs to the former CEOs of the FPB and ICASA and recover illicit payments where appropriate."

Lukewarm performances

According to the DA, 2017 was another underwhelming year from telecoms and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele. The minister was given the same rating as the previous two years: an E.

The opposition party says Cwele has continued to stand in the way of SA's telecoms sector.

"A near obsession with the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill is likely to yield endless court challenges and uncertainty in an industry where we are quickly being left behind. The long-term sustainability of established structures, such as the SAPO, is not being taken care of and South Africa Connect is no closer to fruition," it explains.

Meanwhile, science and technology minister Naledi Pandor scored a C, one of only two best performances by Cabinet ministers, as indicated by the DA report card.

"In a year of ANC flavoured chaos and corruption, minister Pandor has remained relatively calm and committed to her portfolio. Perhaps due to the manageable size of her department's budget, there does not appear to be any widespread performance issues. Unfortunately, the minister does not frequently attend committee meetings, yielding few opportunities to cross-examine her performance."

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