'Mr Turnaround' exits Home Affairs

Audra Mahlong
By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 01 Mar 2010

Mavuso Msimang will vacate his seat as director-general of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) in April, but questions still remain whether the ambitious turnaround strategy he oversaw proved effective.

DHA spokesperson Cleo Mosana confirms that Msimang's contract is set to expire soon and that Msimang has indicated that he will not renew his contract with the department, which ends in April 2010.

Msimang assumed the role of DG in May 2007, after leaving the troubled State IT Agency (SITA). When he moved to the DHA, former Home Affairs minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula hailed Msimang's appointment as a sign of progress for the DHA and noted she was hoping for a turnaround comparable to the one he had implemented at SITA.

However, Msimang's tenure was marked by the controversial multibillion-rand “Who Am I online” project, which was delayed several times and subjected to a forensic audit.

In 2007, the DHA had embarked on a turnaround programme, which aimed to address issues of service delivery, ICT, human resources, and financial administration, which have been problematic within the department for some time, as well as addressing effective management and leadership.

The previous turnaround programme, in 2003, had been unsuccessful, and the former minister publicly declared that the second initiative would be a success with Msimang at the helm.

However, two years after the implementation of the ambitious turnaround strategy, newly appointed Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma criticised the levels of corruption in the department and the slow pace of transformation.

Dlamini-Zuma also noted that the department was still faced with poor infrastructure, corruption by officials in conjunction with syndicates, poor service delivery, low skills levels and technology challenges.

Real turnaround?

The 2007 turnaround strategy was implemented following a damning investigation by a government task team into problems at the DHA. The investigation found a lack of strategic leadership, management capacity, a poor transformation agenda and a general crisis response to problems due to a lack of adequate management plans.

The first phase of the turnaround programme, a six-month phase, dealt with the vision and design of the DHA towards a newly-designed programme, which was to be implemented by 2012.

The second phase had recently been completed, with work streams focusing on the five turnaround issues.

The final phase involved the process of embedding the changes of the previous two phases into the culture of the DHA. The programme was expected to end in December 2009.

Mosana says the department is currently dealing with the recruitment processes and the vacancy will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is available.