The State-Owned Entities Communicators Association (SOECA) has called on the ANC to carefully look into the issue of communication by state-owned entities, as the ruling party meets for its lekgotla over the next few days.
“There are more than 700 state-owned entities in the country delivering a range of services. These range from Commercial state-owned companies responsible for infrastructure, Non-Commercial, which are Developmental Finance Institutions (DFI’s), to constitutional structures which are Chapter 9 institutions, Regulators, as well as Agencies, and each have defined contributions to deepen our democracy and service delivery. Collectively, these entities have a huge impact upon society but are sometimes the least understood by citizens. The problem lies with communication,” says SOECA President Congress Mahlangu.
Mahlangu bemoaned the characterization and portrayal of state-owned entities as not working for the people.
“Often, some of these entities are portrayed as enemies of the people when they are in fact public assets. They are, in essence, owned by ordinary citizens. They need societal support. However, the entities themselves must understand that they are not ivory towers but should seek to entrench themselves among the people impacted upon by their services,” he says. The lack of coordination between government communication and SOE’s communication is another problem that needs to be addressed, says Mahlangu. “There is a National Communication Strategy Framework (NCSF) that is supposed to guide how the three spheres of government, including their agencies, communicate. But I would bet my last penny that some SOE’s have never even seen the NCSF. One wonders what guides and informs their communication strategies.”
Though communication budgets across the sector vary, Mahlangu says collectively SOE’s command or preside over about R500billion in budgets per annum, which contributes 27% towards the GDP, but whose impact on effective government communication and transformation of the communications sector is not felt. “This speaks to the issue of monitoring and evaluation, an orientation of the current administration. Government, maybe through GCIS, needs to get closer to SOE communications and ensure alignment with the NCSF and other government communication programmes.”
Mahlangu says SOECA hopes that the above issues will find space for discussion at the ANC lekgotla.