Tersia van der Walt and de Wit Coetsee
It took the South African Public Service a long and winding road to develop a policy framework on the corporate governance of information and communication technology (ICT) on a Public Service-wide level. Since 1998, the South African Public Service was aware of a lack of political and strategic leadership in the usage of ICT to enable service delivery. This was confirmed by the Auditor General of South Africa who found that corporate governance of ICT (CGICT) is not sustainable unless driven from top management (strategic and executive). Based on international best practices, the South African Public Service, in 2011/2012, developed a Corporate Governance of ICT Policy Framework (the framework), which was approved by Cabinet in November 2012.
The framework allocates the accountability for CGICT at the political and strategic leadership levels. According to the framework, political leadership resides with the Executive Authority (inter alia Ministers and Provincial Premiers), whilst the Head of the Department provides the strategic leadership. Departmental executive management ensures implementation and management. Thus, complete accountability and responsibility for CGICT are allocated at the governing-body level.
CGICT can only be executed in an environment where corporate governance is institutionalised. A lack of officiated corporate governance in the department will undermine the successful implementation of CGICT.
The adoption of the framework has a huge cultural impact on departments and the Public Service as a whole. Those most profoundly affected by the framework are often times the most difficult to convince of the benefits that ICT can bring to their business and that they should own CGICT. Furthermore, departments are not accustomed to function in such an open, structured and standardised fashion. Implementation of the framework, thus, requires buy-in, support, and strong political, strategic and executive management leadership to overcome silo interests of business units for the betterment of the wider interest of the department and its stakeholders.
Other critical success factors are effective change management, applicable skills, sufficient capacity and appropriate competency on Public Service-wide and all departmental levels.
Read T. van der Walt, A. D. Coetsee and S. H. von Solms’ recent Journal article:
“Influence of International Best Practices on the South African Public Service’s Corporate Governance of ICT,” ISACA Journal, volume 1, 2013