Published on June 21st, 2016 | by admin0
This month will show whether the administratin’s push for implementation under the new development plan has yielded any results, writes MAX WEYLANDT
The best part of the Harambee Prosperity Plan is an inconspicuous table contained on the last few pages of the document. Here, government lays out specific targets and the dates on which they should be met. Don’t let the apparent simplicity fool you, this is a departure from previous plans where very few milestones were set, and there was no method of checking progress as we went along and had to assume all was chugging along nicely until the grim post-mortem a few years down the line unveiled just how much had not been done. Now we can check progress almost in real-time. The New Era reported on some of these targets at the beginning of June, but missed out a crucial detail: The June milestones are not the “first major targets” of the plan as they reported. In fact, some were already due in April 2016. And progress so far is not looking too encouraging. Only three targets were set for April, while for June government has set itself at least 12 goals. This means that by the end of June, we will know how government has performed on 15 out of the 40 specifically articulated milestones for this year – surely a good indication of whether we’re on the right track. In measuring our progress, two issues deserve flagging from the start: performance agreements and the implementation of the new procurement act. The ministerial performance agreements serve a dual purpose: firstly, they are a crucial step in ensuring that the HPP goals filter down to ministerial staff and project execution actually occurs. But they are also a expression of the current administration’s push for implementation. There’s a reason the President made them such a prominent part of his plan from the moment of his inauguration; the agreements are supposed to signal a new era of accountability and tightened, improved implementation. So it’s troubling that after the agreements were signed several months late the first time around, the new ones also still have not materialised. According to the plan, they were supposed to have been signed and posted online for everyone to see a month after the end of the financial year – a deadline that has long passed. Teething problems in the first year can be excused, but missing the dead
line twice in a row – missing the first target of the Harambee period – on such a public and crucial part of the agenda is more than unfortunate. At this point it is unclear whether the agreements have even been signed, let alone when they will be available online. Repeated queries to the relevant authorities yielded little response except that the Secretary to Cabinet “has to get consent from authorities” to respond to insight’s questions. If the Secretary to Cabinet does not know when the agreements will be done, it stands to reason that nobody in the administration does.
Focus on procurement
And then there is the most curious milestone of April, an objective that Offices, Ministries and Agencies should be compliant with the new procurement act. This seems impossible, as the HPP itself says regulations will be drafted and the Central Procurement Body staffed in June. One suspects it would be impossible for even the most well-intentioned ministry to procure goods following the new act without regulations or a functioning board. It appears that the sequencing of milestones has made it impossible for government to meet this particular target. If they still hit the June targets, the new procurement system could be in place relatively soon, but considering that they have not advertised for positions yet, we have to be sceptical. Of course, procurement is going to be a key in determining HPP’s success. The massive infrastructure projects outlined in the plan can only be realised within a framework that protects us from the waste and under-delivery of the past. The rails, roads, and airports planned under HPP can unleash economic growth, but none of that potential will be realised unless the new procurement system – which will be a immense improvement on the old one, once implemented – is in place.
How are we doing on the other targets? When it comes to mass housing, it is hard to know what is happening. Do the news stories that houses were handed out at Swakop mund in late March mean that government has met its target of resuming the Mass Housing programme by April? It is hard to verify, because the automated phone system at the responsible Ministry (“dial 1 for Mass Housing, dial 9 for public relations”) kicked insight back to the menu of choices 26 times until we found a direct number and were again hung up on several times. We feel it safe to say, though, that this target has not been met. The food bank clearly will not be done by June seeing as there still is no building for it. Other goals are more feasible – a recent increase in public consultations suggests the checklist for creating new legislation is done and reports of a 200MW – not 300MW as articulated in the HPP – electricity supply agreement with Eskom give some hope that the infrastructure side of things is on the right track. At the end of the month, we may well face a mixed bag of results. This is concerning, but also an opportunity. It is concerning because even if a bunch of targets are met, crucial milestones on performance agreements and procurement could be behind schedule. As key indicators of how well implementation filters down in ministries, and how efficient implementation will be, they arguably matter more than other targets. At the same time, three months into a four-year period is not too late to right the ship – and make no mistake, government is a massive tanker that will require time to turn around. This is why these milestones are such a great tool – this early into the Harambee period, we can already see where work is progressing and where extra effort is needed.
This month is a key bellweather of the Harambee period. At the end of June, we will see how far we have come and crucially, how those tasked with implementing the plan react to missteps. Both will be key for the future.
1. Adherence to the New Procurement Act by all Offices, Ministries and Agencies;
2. Resumption of the Mass Housing Initiative;
3. Ministerial Performance Agreements released via ministerial websites
1. Availability of guidelines and regulation of the New Procurement Act;
2. Appointment of key personnel to operationalise the Central Procurement Body;
3. Availability of guidelines on dissemination of public information to the public;
4. Policy Advisory Unit will be operational;
5. Opening of Windhoek based Food Bank;
6. Increase of Old Age Social Grant to N$1,100;
7. Finalization of National Integrated Resource Plan;
8. Finalization of a modified single buyer model;
9. Secure 300MW standby arrangement with South Africa, signed off and agreed by June 2016;
10. Checklist for the policy making process created;
11. Home Affairs will adopt a new streamlined system for approving work permits for scarce skills;
12. Availability of proposals of how to better leverage the assets of SOEs to reduce the financial burden on the National Budget.