Co-Operative Governance Model

Governance and appropriate financial resourcing of the education system are areas of bedrock importance. This chapter provides an overview of the governance structure for the education system and the system of financing to ensure an equitable system. South Africa has adopted a concurrent mode of governance, with powers divided between the national and provincial departments of education, with the greater part (about 86%) of the budget being distributed through the provincial departments.

The Constitution makes provision for the sharing of power across three levels of Government: national, provincial and municipal in a co-operative governance model through a ministerial council. The national and provincial governments have concurrent legislative competence with each level having specific powers.

This model is not defined by a hierarchy power structure, which means that provincial levels retain the power to govern at provincial level, provided it does not impact on national priorities.

Whilst the national government is responsible for policy formulation, provincial government is responsible for implementation. However, there are concerns about the co-operative governance model, which centres on accountability. The question is raised about how the constitutional sharing of power can best contribute to sound educational policy making and effective implementation, to ensure quality Education For All (EFA). The National Treasury highlights this issue in a report stating that “policy making, budgeting, implementation and accountability for concurrent functions test the robustness of South Africa’s intergovernmental system from time to time... concurrent functions do occasionally present particular challenges”.

Examples of these challenges include misalignment between policy objectives and resource allocation and accountability for non-delivery. At the national level, there are limited powers to hold provincial and municipal authorities accountable for non-delivery on national policy. The mechanism for resolving these challenges rests with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), where the national and provincial ministers meet on a six-weekly basis to discuss policy matters. The Director General of the DoE also meets on a regular basis with the Heads of the Education Departments Committee and organises bilateral meetings with each of the heads of the provincial departments.

According to the OECD report, international experience shows that separating policy and implementation, without ensuring regular and focused feedback “loops”, almost inevitably leads to a divergence between intended policy and delivery. The OECD report suggests that sound policy making and implementation requires a circular, not linear model to ensure accountability.

The “new public management” approach dominant in scientific literature on public services and management, recommends the devolution of certain powers to local and provincial authorities and/or agencies. The OECD report recommends that it is important to “move from controlling input and process to controlling performance, with constructive monitoring and constant co-operation between the ministers and the departments and the agencies”.

“The process of getting things right cannot be entirely driven by the top, but depends on co-operating and learning from both parties”.

The findings of the OECD report confirm that there is a genuine spirit of co-operation and that the ministers are exceptionally competent and motivated to transform education. This is supported by strong co-operation with the National Treasury and a dedicated and open civil service support.

However, the lack of an effective accountability model implies that there is no mechanism to ensure quality provision at the district and school level, particularly with regard to resource allocation and financial management. The national level does not have financial audit authority over provinces and provincial authorities are not obliged to support national priority areas.


A model of constructive oversight is proposed by the OECD, focused on better government and a clean, efficient and open administration to facilitate effective policy and implementation. This model should include a revitalised, professional form of inspectorate to ensure that every learner across the country receives the quality of education to which he/she is entitled.


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