Promoting the values and principles of public servants
South Africa will host this year's Africa Public Service Day's (APSD) main event where Ministers for Public Service and Administration from various African Union affiliate governments will participate in a Round Table Discussion on the Charter in Cape Town on 22 June 2012.
When governments and all public service practitioners in many parts of the African Continent celebrate the now-traditional gathering on June 22, they will be doing so in collective promotion of the values and principles contained in the African Charter on Values and Principles of the Public Service and Administration.
A clear appreciation of the objective behind African Union-affiliated governments and their public service fraternity celebrating the service they render to their respective societies begins with understanding what the African Charter is all about.
It all dates back to 1994 with the inaugural Pan-African Conference of Ministers of Public / Civil Service in Morocco declaring every 23rd of June an Africa Public Service Day to "recognize the value and virtue of service to the community".
The African Charter can thus be described as having been borne out of the AU's commitment not only to strengthen professionalism and ethics in public service in Africa but to also promote the values and principles of democracy, good governance, human rights and the right to development.
Accordingly the Charter is an authoritative embodiment of these values and ethics, and is binding to everyone involved in the sector.
Besides promoting the principles and values of the public service, the Charter ensures quality and innovative service delivery that meets the requirements of all stakeholders.
Citizens and users of public services are, through the Charter, encouraged to actively and effectively participate in public administration processes.
The Charter provides for the improvement of public service agents' working conditions and ensures the protection of their rights.
Gender equality and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination on any basis, including place of origin, race, gender, disability, religion, ethnicity, political opinion, lawful organizational affiliation are held in high esteem by the Charter.
It emphasises respect for human rights, dignity and integrity for all as well as fairness and due processes in the delivery of public services.
Although member states represent divergent societies from autonomous nations, the collective respect for and conformity to national laws, regulations and policies is prominent in the Charter.
This is made clear by directives to state parties to entrench into their national laws and regulations the principles of equal access and non-discrimination to ensure and facilitate easy access to adequate services.
Transparency and collective participatory governance are seen as the most effective way of speedily and constantly taking services directly to where the people are, while continuous monitoring and evaluation of such service delivery will ensure efficiency and eliminate corruption in all its forms.
Ethical behaviour by all public service practitioners is ensured by a strict code of conduct which prohibits any soliciting, acceptance, or receiving directly or indirectly of any payment, gift, donation, or reward in kind or cash, for public services rendered.
Respect for confidentiality is regarded as the key element towards preventing and combating corruption.
In pursuit of this goal, governments are required to enact laws and adopt strategies to fight corruption through establishing independent anti-corruption institutions.
The Charter propagates formation of national accountability and integrity systems to promote value-based societal behaviour and attitude to prevent corruption, and advocates exemplary leadership in creating value-based and corruption-free societies.
However, public service agents, as members of the societies themselves, do have rights like everyone else, and the Charter requires of Public Service and Administration to promote equality among its agents and desist from encouraging or perpetuating discrimination based on origin, race, gender, disability, religion, ethnicity, political opinion or any other consideration.
Freedom of expression and association is the right of everyone, including public servants to who the Charter guarantees the right to create or belong to associations, trade unions or any other group to promote and protect their rights in accordance with national laws.
Without prejudice to national laws, membership or non-membership in a political party is in no way allowed to affect the career of a public servant.
Public servants are guaranteed the right to engage in collective bargaining, or take industrial action having due regard to national laws and regulations.
Trade union representatives are protected against discriminatory practices and any form of punishment on account of their trade union activities, but are equally required to promote an enabling environment which enhances dialogue and consultation.
Public Service and Administrations are required to provide a working environment that guarantees the safety of its employees and must protect them against all forms of threats, insults, harassment, aggression and sexual harassment in the performance of their duties.