This paper deals with the transformation of “institutional culture” in bureaucratic agencies. This is explored in the context of post-Apartheid South African public sector reform, and more particularly that of migration management within the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The paper assesses the effects on staff’s perceptions and practices of a politically driven attempt at inculcating a new sense of “service delivery”. Structural factors are not found to have been prevalent determinants explaining the difficulties in implementing the reform. It is rather the failure of the political leadership to address the lack of a shared sense of mission and the range of unintended, counter-productive effects, elicited by the reform itself which explain the overall incapacity to amend perceptions and behaviours among civil servants.