In his Thuma Mina (Send Me) clarion call recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a "social compact" to lift state-owned enterprises (SOEs) out of their financial morass. Everyone wants to see SOEs fulfil their mandates of being strategic national assets for infrastructure development and transformation, operating efficiently and embracing financial accountability to help tackle unemployment, underdevelopment and poverty. But why has it taken government so long to fix this, given that it has always been in direct control of SOEs? One explanation is that government has failed to deploy capable people with good credentials to the right positions. Equally, it has failed to ensure people are held accountable through the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other treasury regulations. It is hoped this will change. A month ago, Ramaphosa picked Pravin Gordhan as public enterprises minister. Gordhan will have his job cut out for him to make the PFMA the cement that holds the bric...

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