Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SADC secretariat fails to play ‘think tank’ role – report

A report by Ernst and Young consultants has found that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat in Gaborone has not been able to fully play its role as a ‘think tank.’

According to the core functions of the Secretariat as listed in the “SADC capacity Development Framework 2008”, one of its roles is to act as a ‘think tank’ with the capacity to strategically advise and guide Member States on the implementation of the SADC common agenda. 

Minutes of the recent meeting of the Council of Ministers that was held in Swaziland show that consultants at Ernst and Young who were engaged by the secretariat found that it does not account to Member States of the regional bloc.

“There is a weak accountability of staff in the Secretariat as they are not fully held accountable for their actions,” state the minutes. 

The report by Ernst and Young reportedly recommended that there is a need for an improved planning culture within the secretariat. 

“Although there exists appropriate documentation with regard to planning, there is a lack of real expertise in the planning space,” reads the minutes.

The minutes also state that Secretariat does not operate as a coordinated organisation, but instead as fragmented system of separate Directorates and Units mapped on the pillars of Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

The Secretariat suffers from a lack of role clarity and focus in its activities, the report by the consultants stated.

The consultants also highlighted that the root causes of the Secretariat’s performance are not structural but are more related to systems and work culture.

The report by Ernst and Young also found that there are skills and capacity constraints within the secretariat and staff doing non-core activities.

It found that the main challenges facing the secretariat are an ineffective Performance Management System (PMS), a poorly designed and executed recruitment and selection process.

It also noted that there are various positions remaining vacant/frozen for long periods due to funding issues and a lengthy recruitment process; disproportionate staffing compared to the scope and depth of responsibilities; and staff being diverted from their core functions to several unrelated and/or non-core duties.

The minutes also show that the Council of ministers in March 2014 rejected positions such as Officer ‘Politics and Diplomacy’ and Officer ‘Socio Economic’ under the Office of the Executive Secretary. 

“There is no need for additional posts in the office of the Executive Secretary as the Executive Secretary can effectively be served by the technical directorates,” read the minutes adding that “The position of Private Sector/Non State Actor Liaison Officer” under the Office of the Executive Secretary is not essential.”

The minutes state that Member States could consider changing the Job Title of the Executive Secretary in order to reflect the mandate of the office and be in line with current trends in similar organisations.

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