Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says his department is on a mission to recapture state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in a bid to save them.

Speaking at a media briefing ahead of his departmental budget vote debate, Gordhan said it was important for Public Enterprises to acknowledge its role in the state capture phenomenon and to recognise that is was dealing with powerful institutions that have a huge impact on the lives of South Africans.

Addressing governance issues

“Our endeavour is to ensure that we recapture the six intuitions we are responsible for. This means getting governance right, reviewing all boards and their track records as well as their diligence in tackling misdemeanours and malfeasance within these institutions,” Gordhan explained.

He noted that once the new boards were in place a similar process of reviewing senior management would be necessary.

Cultivating a culture of accountability

Another area of interest for the department according to Gordhan is accountability. “Everyone at board, management and employee level must understand that these institutions are in the first instance at this point in time public institutions.

“They are required to work in the public interest and therefore they require an extraordinary level of accountability to the public and institutions like parliament and a culture of accountability needs to be created,” he highlighted.

To cultivate a culture of accountability Gordhan said the boards and management at SOEs would have to take a closer look at the controls to ensure that they were adequate enough to expose faulty decision making or stop them in their tracks.

Financial stability and sustainability

Turning to financial stability and sustainability Gordhan said the Department of Public Enterprises needs to engage with SOEs and their lenders to restore their confidence in these institutions by reassuring them that these SOEs will be well managed going forward.

“Our short if not medium-term aim is to show that we can get them out of the financial difficulties they might have and show that sustainability will have a positive impact on the fiscal so the word bailout starts disappearing from the South African vocabulary which will in turn ease the burden on the sovereign viscous and improve the prospects of better credit ratings for the country as a whole,” he said.