Trim your bloated offices - Ayanda Dlodlo tells cabinet ministers

Public service chief warns cabinet to cut bloat in their offices and shed adviser fat

19 August 2018 - 00:06 By QAANITAH HUNTER and APHIWE DEKLERK

Public service & administration minister Ayanda Dlodlo is on a collision course with her colleagues over their bloated offices.
This comes after only half of the executive responded to a letter she has written to her colleagues warning them to trim the fat as the government sets about cutting R30.2bn from its wage bill.
This week, she also told the Sunday Times that the cabinet would be reduced and the appointment of ministers would come down to "survival of the fittest".
According to the ministerial handbook, ministers are allowed only 10 staff members in their offices, while their deputies may employ up to six. Each minister is permitted two advisers, but it has emerged that some have as many as six.
She said she has approached President Cyril Ramaphosa to take action against errant ministers who continue to have inflated offices, and who appoint too many advisers.
"What inevitably happens, ministers and deputy ministers come with people. When they are redeployed to another department, some of them leave these people and the establishment has to absorb them."That to me is a cause of concern. Which is why I approached my colleagues to say minimise the number of people in your ministries in line with the ministerial handbook," Dlodlo said.
She wrote two letters to ministers, reminding them that they are only allowed two advisers each, and asking for a list of people in their ministries.
The Sunday Times understands that one of the offenders is international relations & co-operation minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
According to high-ranking officials in the department of international relations, Sisulu came with two advisers from her previous role as minister of human settlements - Thami ka Plaatjie and former national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane.
Earlier this year, it was reported that former director-general of social development Zane Dangor was also appointed as an adviser to the minister. And insiders further list Titus Molefe, Mpho Mmutle and Lloyd Mhlanga as Sisulu's advisers.
Sisulu's spokesperson, Ndivhuwo Mabaya, said the minister had only two advisers: Simelane as her legal adviser and Dangor to deal with international relations.
"We can confirm we only have two advisers appointed … as indicated in the ministerial handbook, and the composition of the ministry is in line with the guidance of the ministerial handbook," he said.Officials, however, said the six officials work full-time as advisers, and earn salaries from the government as full-time officials.
Mabaya said Ka Plaatjie, Molefe, Mmutle and Mhlanga are not advisers but are part of a 12-member advisory panel set up to advise the minister on the functioning of her department.
Sisulu is also said to have an inflated office, with officials saying she has more than 30 people in her ministry.
Mabaya would not give the exact number of Sisulu's staff, only saying it was in line with the ministerial handbook.
Dlodlo would not comment on this, saying that only Ramaphosa could take action.
She further denounced ministers who brought in external experts to advise them when directors-general and deputies, as presumed subject-area experts, ought to be advising the ministers.
Dlodlo warned that directors-general should not enforce illegal instructions from ministers for fear that they might lose their jobs, because the courts had clarified that ministers cannot hire and fire directors-general.
"All I can do is write to the president and say, if you want to take action on this, you can. But what I can also do is take action on the directors-general because they know it's illegal to have over and above [the number of staff] … you are expected to have," Dlodlo said.
Dlodlo's own department fell victim to absorbing ministerial staff when former minister Faith Muthambi left. Last year, the Sunday Times reported that Muthambi had 40 people in her office, some of whom were family members. They have now been transferred into the department of public service & administration.While the minister disputed that the public service was bloated, she conceded that the wage bill needed to be slashed.
"It is not a bloated public service but I do believe our wage bill is a runaway wage bill and it has to be contained. We don't have to necessarily deal with head count but rather with efficiencies in government."
The government is looking at ways to save an enormous R30.2bn in wages without retrenching staff, and is encouraging 175,000 public servants who are eligible for early retirement to apply for packages to leave the public service.
This week, government departments were told that positions left vacant through retirement would be frozen.
Dlodlo said the government intends to hire young graduates to fill vacancies in an effort to reduce the wage bill.
"A reconfigured government would mean fewer departments, but not fewer employees of the state," she said.

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