The Presidential Years

Now, where the bigger challenge was, was the culture in the public service. Let me take a step back and go to the question of the adviser-DG relationship. In the first two or three years in government between 1994 and I would argue maybe 1997, 1998, because of the sunset clauses there were a number of public servants and senior managers who, unless they took the package that was provided to them, were guaranteed their positions and salaries for a limited period. But that became protracted. I think that because we found directors general in place and couldn’t immediately remove them, there was a decision to bring in advisers who would work with directors general. The public service prescripts were quite clear, and this was even post-99, that advisers could not play the roles of directors general. We tried to institutionalise that but it wasn’t always easy so there tended to be conflict and tensions between advisers and directors general. One should also bear in mind that you had cabinet ministers come in who were essentially activists and were more hands-on as members of the executive than you would normally have, so that they would also play a role that could be seen in instances as micromanaging in areas that should have been left to directors general. This was also especially where there was not a transition to the new and a new crop of senior civil servants had not been brought in.

The first crop of directors general that were brought in and the change team that came in – and these were lateral entrants--were very much people who were strong in policy development and I don’t think necessarily as strong as managers. I think it is necessary to say that we needed DGs who were strong in policy development because the first five years were essentially about policy development.

Geraldine Fraser Moleketi