The Presidential Years

JUST what does the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) office, officially called the Development Planning branch of the President’s Office, do? Is criticism around its delivery fair? Deputy director general Bernie Fanaroff is clear that the office has three primary functions: l Development planning: This is the mobilisation of resources to match societal goals which are determined by government and its social partners. l The management of the RDP Fund: This fund is by far government’s largest development budget. In a five year programme R2,5-billion was allocated to the RDP in the fiscal year 1994 to 95, R5,6-billion has been granted this fiscal year and this will increase to R7,5-billion, R10-billion and R12-billion over the next three fiscal

Of the R2,5-billion allocated in the first year, R2,8-billion has been approved, R1,9-billion released and R1,1-billion transferred to departments. The main users have been free health care, primary school nutrition, education and constitutional development. Fanaroff explains that the initial objective was to fast-track delivery with a number of high-profile projects, the so-called Presidential Lead Projects. In the second year this was consolidated into fewer programmes and in the year ahead this will be consolidated further into seven major development programmes, the largest being in health and education, followed by housing, developing a common social service delivery, water and criminal justice. l Development Facilitation Process: Fanaroff does not accept criticism that delivery has been slow, citing the main cause of the problem as being a lack of project management experience and a situation where government was structured to provide continuous services rather than be able to work on a one-off basis. `Progress has been slower than we expected. We never realised the extent to which the culture of government had to be changed to think strategically and align policy with growth and development goals. `The RDP Fund has been used as a wedge to get departments to reassess their core businesses and strategies. This is now starting in all departments and the process is now in place to speed up rapidly.’ According to an RDP document, the process of aligning departments has gone sufficiently far to allow government to publish its first National Strategy for Growth and Development this year. This will set the stage that for 1997 to 1998 the budgeting process will be aligned to this strategy. This year’s budget is still the other way round—the process starts with the budget, not the strategy. This national strategy is a five-year rolling programme that sets out a broad strategy. Fanaroff insists this is no monolithic plan that seeks to control the country but rather a synthesis of the strategies of departments, provinces and local authorities. It is in the delivery, rather than the broad well-intentioned strategy, that government will be judged. Indeed, the heat is on for the very survival of the RDP office.

Simon Segal