Waiting game

Is consistent and driven leadership the missing ingredient in government-led IT initiatives?

Read time 3min 50sec

Picture this: a scenario where our government-related IT initiatives are led by decisive, driven leaders with at least a few years at the helm of their organisations.

This includes a State Information Technology Agency (SITA) with a long-serving CEO driving its mandate.

Imagine a government CIO who could oversee the implementation of the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) and the release of a security framework.

Or perhaps a permanent CEO for the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which could promote innovation for economic growth.

This is not to impugn the work done by Freeman Nomvalo (SITA CEO), since starting his tenure last year.

Nor is it a swipe at the acting CIO at the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the TIA's current leadership.

This is more a longing for what could be. A long, deep sigh when I sit and think about the possibilities for our government-led IT bodies.

Merry-go-round

SITA has had more CEOs than birthdays.

The 15-year-old organisation is now led by Nomvalo, who assumed the role in May last year following Blake Mosley-Lefatola's departure just eight months into his contract.

Nomvalo is the 17th CEO since SITA's inception in 1999.

While I certainly wish Nomvalo well in his quest to tackle the organisation's challenges, institutional knowledge would perhaps go a long way in making sure some of SITA's difficulties don't keep rearing their heads every now and then.

In its mandate, the organisation notes it is "committed to leveraging IT as a strategic resource for government, managing the IT procurement and delivery process to ensure that the government gets value for money, and using IT to support the delivery of e-government services to all citizens".

That's quite a task and - given the musical chairs at the very highest leadership level, institutional knowledge would go a long way in dealing with unhappy clients and a probe by the Special Investigating Unit into every tender issued by SITA over the past nine years.

Here's hoping the team surrounding Nomvalo can prove to be a handy compass of institutional memory in his leadership role.

No telling

When ITWeb asked the DPSA about progress in appointing a government CIO last August, the response was it would be done "soonest".

Early this year when the same question was posed, we were told an announcement would be made in due course.

SITA has had more CEOs than birthdays.

Those questions persist because it is almost three years since the government has had a permanent CIO at the helm.

Granted, Walter Mudau, chief director of operations within the office of the government CIO, has been acting CIO for a while but what about the state's long-term planning and initiatives?

The last permanent CIO, Michelle Williams, left in April 2011 and we have yet to see decisive action on implementing both an IFMS and the security framework.

Is this being considered by Mudau, or will those projects be laid at the desk of the new CIO? Does that desk even exist yet?

The lack of progress and information from the DPSA suggests little has changed regarding this appointment, possibly leading to even further delays on that front.

Anticipation

The suspense at the TIA is killing us.

OK, maybe that was a cheesy attempt at a play on words about the agency's CEO situation, but my point is this is yet another entity which could do with stability in one of its senior leadership positions.

Simphiwe Duma was suspended in October last year, following a forensic probe into allegations of maladministration, and the agency says it will soon update us on what the probe means for the organisation.

An interim CEO has been in place since Duma's suspension.

All our mentioned entities have one thing in common: a distinct lack of continuity at the very top of the organisations.

Perhaps true and sustained progress will be seen once they all act swiftly and decisively in the face of leadership conundrums. All of that would have a knock-on effect on the many projects which have yet to be implemented.

One can only hope.

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