Sacrificing Permanent Public Sector Jobs for Short-Term Programmes Undermines State Capacity, Argues Mpumelelo Mkahabela

Prominent commentator warns against sacrificing permanent public sector jobs for short-term job creation programs, highlighting the need to balance temporary relief with long-term institutional capacity.

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Israel Ojoko
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Sacrificing Permanent Public Sector Jobs for Short-Term Programmes Undermines State Capacity, Argues Mpumelelo Mkahabela

Sacrificing Permanent Public Sector Jobs for Short-Term Programmes Undermines State Capacity, Argues Mpumelelo Mkahabela

Mpumelelo Mkahabela, a prominent commentator on South African public policy, has cautioned against sacrificing permanent public sector jobs in favor of short-term job creation programmes like the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Launched 20 years ago by the Thabo Mbeki administration, the EPWP was designed as a short- to medium-term intervention to provide job opportunities for unskilled young people who would otherwise remain jobless without work experience.

However, Mkahabela argues that relying too heavily on such temporary initiatives can undermine the state's capacity to deliver essential services. "Permanent public sector jobs and services must not be sacrificed for these short-term popular programmes, as it can weaken the state's ability to function effectively," he emphasizes.

Why this matters: The debate over balancing short-term job creation with long-term institutional capacity has significant implications for South Africa's economic development and the government's ability to address pressing social issues. As the country confronts high unemployment rates, particularly among the youth, finding sustainable solutions that strengthen the public sector is vital.

Mkahabela's argument highlights the importance of maintaining a strong and capable public sector, rather than relying solely on temporary job creation initiatives. While programmes like the EPWP can provide valuable work experience and temporary relief, they should not come at the expense of permanent positions that are essential for the effective functioning of government institutions.

The concerns raised by Mkahabela come amid recent irregularities in the Presidential Employment Programme (PEP) in the eThekwini Municipality. According to the Auditor-General's report, over R471,000 was paid irregularly to individuals who were already employed in other government departments or were deceased. The report revealed that 12 beneficiaries were employed in other government departments, while 8 were deceased, with one person receiving R147,000 from the programme while employed by the Department of Public Works.

These findings have raised serious concerns about the abuse of the presidential programme and the lack of expenditure controls within the municipality. The municipal public accounts committee has demanded clarity on the classification of payments to ward committee members as 'out of pocket' expenses, further highlighting the need for improved oversight and accountability in the implementation of job creation initiatives.

As South Africa continues to face economic challenges and high unemployment rates, striking the right balance between short-term job creation and long-term institutional capacity building will be crucial. Mkahabela's argument serves as a reminder that sacrificing permanent public sector positions for temporary programmes can have unintended consequences and undermine the state's ability to deliver essential services to its citizens. Addressing these concerns and ensuring the effective implementation of job creation initiatives will be key to South Africa's economic recovery and development in the years ahead.

Key Takeaways

  • Commentator warns against sacrificing permanent public sector jobs for short-term programs
  • Temporary initiatives like EPWP can undermine state's capacity to deliver essential services
  • Irregularities found in Presidential Employment Programme in eThekwini Municipality
  • Concerns raised about abuse and lack of expenditure controls in job creation initiatives
  • Balancing short-term job creation and long-term institutional capacity is crucial for development