Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications has sent the Department of Communications (DoC) back to the drawing board after the strategic plan for the new financial year it presented at the weekend left more questions than answers.

Eric Kholwane, the chairman of the committee, said although the medium-term strategy created the impression of a department on the mend, it lacked depth and information in certain areas such as the filling of top posts and market analysis. He said the department was expected to re-table its plan next month.

Wracked by in-fighting and a public spat between its former director-general Mamodupi Mohlala and and then-minister Siphiwe Nyanda, including backlogs on critical projects and policies, the department was considered to be teetering on the edge.

A cabinet re-shuffle late last year ushered in a new minister, Roy Padayachie, widely hailed by the local communications industry and considered to be the messiah the sector needed.

The 2011-2014 strategy centred on eight goals supported by 18 objectives to be achieved over three years. The strategy included intentions for creating jobs, fast-tracking of policies such as an information and communications technology (ICT) policy framework, enactment of the SA Post Office Bill and monitoring of the Postbank Act to corporatise Postbank, the digitisation of broadcasting and reviewing the articles of association of state-owned enterprises under its watch – such as the SABC, Sentech and Telkom. A national broadband plan and better partnerships with the private sector, labour and academia are also targeted.

“We want a strategy which will zoom broader into the ICT industry. They must be able to say how much this plan will contribute to gross domestic product (GDP) if implemented. It’s like throwing a stone into the sea,” Kholwane said.

He said missing from Padayachie’s plan was an indication of who would implement the strategy as the director-general post had been vacant since Mohlala, now the consumer commissioner, left last year. Harold Wesso was still acting in the position.

Tiyani Rikhotso, the spokesman for the department, said applications for the post closed on February 11.

There were also several deputy director-general vacancies. The committee also took issue with the lack of a talent retention strategy, a succession plan, market analysis and a risk mitigation strategy.

“This industry is full of risk. There are technology changes. We want to know how they will absorb risk.

“We can see there is work which is going on. When they came last time there was no stability within the department. We are reasonably comfortable that they are trying to pull together the department,” Kholwane said. - Asha Speckman