Why Ramaphosa wants to keep ministers’ assessments under wraps
DA application for the results rejected because president ‘does not want to hang people out to dry’
The presidency says performance assessments of cabinet ministers will remain confidential because President Cyril Ramaphosa does not want the information to be used as a “political” tool to make his colleagues look bad.
While addressing the media in Cape Town on Wednesday, presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya was asked when the president planned to make the document public after a DA Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application seeking the release of the information was rejected.
On Tuesday DA MP Zak Mbhele slammed planning, monitoring & evaluation minister Maropene Ramokgopa for declining the DA’s Paia application for the outcomes of the performance reviews conducted on ministers between April and July.
The party said it will submit an appeal as “performance review assessments can never be classified material”.
Magwenya explained that they are not obliged to publicly release the information. “There isn’t necessarily an obligation to make those public. That’s why that Paia application was denied, and the purpose of the exercise is to be as constructive as possible.
“Unfortunately the DA will seek out that information to make a political statement, either against the administration or against a particular minister and that is not the goal of the president. His goal is to ensure that government continues to operate as efficiently as possible and that the priorities he has outlined to the public are implemented as speedily as possible.”
He said Ramaphosa has had two or three rounds of engagements with his ministers in 2023. “There are ongoing performance assessments taking place with respect to how ministers are driving those priority areas and, more importantly, how those are being implemented in departments and addressing capacity shortages where there may be.”
Magwenya said Ramaphosa does not want to “play politics as the opposition parties would prefer to do”. He said ministers account publicly on their performance in a transparent parliamentary process.
“We don’t have an issue of accountability by the executive being absent from the public domain; no it is not. It is out there in full view for everybody to see. Annual reports get published regularly, portfolio committee hearings are held, and you have seen how our parliament is robust in holding ministers to account.
“What you have with these performance assessments are discussions between an employer and his employees in terms of assessing progress on the priorities that have been outlined.”
Magwenya said he understands there is an expectation for the assessments to be made public, but the purpose of the exercise is to be constructive and “not hang a particular individual and say this particular minister has not delivered to this”.
Where the pace of delivery has been slow, the president seeks mitigation steps to see how that delivery will be accelerated, he said.
“The president declared, in public, that this is what he would do. Like any employer, he should hold his employees to account in terms of what they said they would deliver as a scope of delivery in this regard. There is no contradiction there.”
Ramaphosa’s purpose is “not to embarrass anybody or hang people to dry out in public but to immediately intervene where there are gaps”.
The president is not running away from public accountability, he added.
“He is the first one to say, ‘The buck stops with me’. He is the first one to admit where there have been missteps and he will continue to hold his ministers accountable. But I think we should allow him that chance to do that in a constructive manner and in the confines of that employer-employee relationship and the institutions of our democracy to hold the executive accountable.”
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