Small Business Minister Lindiwe Zulu (pictured here) claims her department has made good progress since its inception in 2014. Its latest annual report however contains a worrying number of interventions yet to get started.
On the face of it the department has had some successes - mostly leveraged off of existing programmes carried out by sister departments, before its launch in 2014.
These include funding to 238 co-operatives, business development costs covered for 620 small businesses and training and equipment to 1,037 informal businesses.
However the department's annual report reveals that at least eight interventions never got off the ground, these include:
In addition the department's Centres of Entrepreneurship, set up to assist students at technical colleges was moved to the Small Enterprise Development Agency this year following a review by the department (see this post). A Business Day report in July last year uncovered that training at the centres had been slow to get going.
Despite the large number of interventions that didn't get going, the Auditor-General was mostly pleased with the department's financial performance.
In a briefing to the Small business development portfolio committee this week, Ahmed Moola, a senior manager at the Auditor-General’s office, said the department did “reasonably well” on its first audit. The department got a qualified audit with findings.
He said however that the department needed to urgently address its high vacancy rate (which was 16% as of March 31, having fallen from 23% at June 30 last year) and the absence of clear and well-defined targets in its annual performance plan.
“Important targets were no specific and important indicators were no well defined,” he explained.
The department told the committee that it is developing a structure to address its under staffing and added that job evaluations are being conducted currently. New posts are also being considered.
DA member Toby Chance questioned when the minister would finalise the appointment of members of the National Small Business Advisory Council. A call for nominations went out in August last year. Moola said he promised to take this up in the department's next audit.
The department should however ensure that the council is properly structured if it is to help the country improve support to the sector (see this earlier post).
What the department needs more urgently however is to ensure that processes are in place to effectively monitor all government programmes that support and fund small businesses. In addition a proper research repository needs to be set up, informed by a regular survey or census on the small business sector.
Without the numbers any interventions amount to only a stab in the dark.
Download the department's annual report here. Timm is a South African who writes on small business. He last visited Malaysia in 2012. Click here to sign up for the monthly Small Business Insight newsletter.
Stephen Timm is a