DA calls on Minister Patel to address governance crisis in Trade and Industry institutions

Issued by Darren Bergman MP – DA Shadow Deputy of Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition
14 Mar 2024 in News

On January 2, 2024, I submitted a written question to the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC), Ebrahim Patel, seeking clarification on critical governance issues within Standards, Quality Assurance, Accreditation, and Metrology institutions under his jurisdiction.

The questions raised pertained to the status of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), the presence of acting CEOs, the advertising of vacant CEO positions, and the production of CEO shortlists within these institutions. Minister Patel’s response failed to adequately address these concerns. Instead, he vaguely mentioned consultations with the National Treasury to explore cost reduction measures and potential mergers, offering no concrete timelines or public processes. See the question and reply here.

Regrettably, Minister Patel’s inaction has precipitated a governance crisis within these institutions. As disclosed in yesterday’s Standing Committee on Trade, Industry, and Competition, two vacancies on the Board of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) remain unfilled. This negligence has left these entities operating without full-time accounting officers and board members, imperiling their effectiveness and integrity.

It was only after persistent pressure from the DA that Minister Patel took steps to appoint board members to the SABS, lifting it out of administration. However, the presentation provided by the SABS in Parliament highlighted concerning staff vacancies and unfilled positions, indicative of an incomplete organisational review.

Of particular concern was the presentation of a net profit of R47 million for Quarter One, primarily attributed to savings on staff costs (i.e., staff vacancies), significant reductions in expenditure, and fortuitous gains in financial income. This raises questions about the sustainability and transparency of the institutions under Minister Patel’s oversight.

The DA seeks clarity from Minister Patel on his plans to address this governance crisis. He must take immediate action to fill vacant CEO positions, appoint board members, and ensure the effective functioning of these vital institutions. Failure to do so risks further erosion of public trust and undermines the integrity of South Africa’s standards and quality assurance mechanisms.

We await Minister Patel’s response and urge him to prioritise the stability and accountability of these institutions for the betterment of all South Africans