BID TO MAKE STATE MORE ACCESSIBLE

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma launched an ambitious plan to change how government at a municipal, provincial and national level responds to citizens and their needs.

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma launched an ambitious plan to change how government at a municipal, provincial and national level responds to citizens and their needs.

He told a media briefing at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria yesterday that there was a need to change how government in South Africa works.

Zuma, who last Tuesday caught the mayor of Balfour out of office during a surprise visit, said his government was determined to ensure that it was accessible to the people, more responsive to their needs and more accountable.

"The urgent need for change in the approach of government institutions has been highlighted by the recent local protests," he said.

"While the reasons for the protests differ from place to place, they all point to shortcomings in the way government relates to the people at local, provincial or national level.

"We have agreed that this forum (President's Coordinating Council) should be a place where we look at how to address this gap."

He kick-started the process by reviewing the form and functioning of the President's Coordinating Council, which is normally made up of the presidency and premiers, to now include mayors of the metropolitan municipalities.

"National government cannot plan without the active participation of the other two spheres.

"Similarly, it cannot undertake effective monitoring and evaluation without looking at the functioning and impact of provincial and local government."

The president also announced the establishment of a national hotline to improve public participation in the work of government.

Zuma said that within the next month the presidency would set up a hotline as part of its enhanced public liaison capacity.

"We have established a public liaison forum consisting of public representatives from all 34 national departments and each of the nine premiers offices.

"These are the people who will have to make sure that queries and complaints from the public are effectively addressed."

Zuma said the meeting discussed the state of local government.

"We have no doubt that if we continue in this spirit we will be able to effectively close the gaps in inter-governmental coordination that we spoke of in the presidency budget vote.

"We have observed that the experience of the last 15 years had exposed gaps in the inter-government coordination," Zuma explained.

He said that government has piloted two new bills to be brought before Parliament outlining how public servants will be held to account, how their performance would be monitored and how the national planning commission will impact on the role of other government departments.

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