PARI is a research institute that promotes informed and realistic solutions to the challenges of government and governance in South Africa. It was established in May, 2010, at a time when there was a malaise in the state of South African politics despite the idealism, intelligence and commitment of many political actors, public servants and citizens. Very little was known about what was driving the poor performance of government departments and agencies.

There have been and continue to be major errors of policy and practice in the public sector. The continued politicisation of the public service is taking its toll. There are other less obvious causes of the poor performance of the public sector. Public sector reform from the late 1990’s, for example, was driven, not by Marxist-Leninist dogma, but by the new managerial dogma coming out of Britain and the US in the 1980’s. It was informed, in other words, by the idea that government should be less bureaucratic, and more businesses-like. Hence demographic transformation occurred in a context of major structural change as well. There are also longer histories at work. If one considers the relative performance of provincial and local governments it is evident that the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West are faring worse than the Western Cape and Gauteng. What do they have in common that Gauteng and the Western Cape do not? Former Bantustans is one answer.

In addressing these issues PARI underlines the importance of institutions and institution-building. With years of experience, PARI’s ability to get inside government departments and agencies, at all three levels (national, provincial and local), has provided unique insights into the constraints on government performance.