SPEECHES: Address by Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela during the Government Leadership Summit in Pretoria on Wednesday, 03 April 2013.

Date: 4 Apr 2013

"Challenges facing productivity in the Public Service"

His Excellency, Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe;

Honourable Minister for Public Service and Administration, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu;

Minister Hon Francis Maude - Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General: United Kingdom.

Cabinet Secretary in the Government of the UK;

Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General in the UK;

Other Ministers that have graced this event with their presence;

The Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane;

Chapter 9 and 10 colleagues with us today;

Executive Mayors present;

His Excellency, the UK High Commissioner;

Directors-General and other dignitaries;

It is an honour and privilege for me to address this important gathering.

We would like to applaud Minister Lindiwe Sisulu for the stewardship and the wisdom that went behind calling this summit, bringing together all the key players that have a part to play in ensuring that our public service is exactly what President Nelson Mandela had in mind when he presented his first State of the Nation Address, as the country's first democratically elected President.

President Mandela said the following:

"We are confident that, motivated by the desire to serve the people, the public service will discharge its responsibilities with diligence, sensitivity and enthusiasm, among other things paying attention to the important goal of increasing efficiency and productivity."

Minister Sisulu, it was always understood that the public service and the public sector had to undergo a fundamental transformation to be able to operate at a level envisaged by former President, Mandela and the Constitution.

We always knew that the South Africa that is encapsulated in the Constitution was premised on a new state and new ideas. Key among those would be accountability, integrity, inclusiveness and responsiveness to the people's needs.

The transformation of our state and society is a project that has been unfolding in the last 19 years. How have we faired? We have heard from several key leaders in government thing morning. We have been given an idea of the achievements and challenges, in our quest to realise the state envisaged in the Constitution.

This takes us to the core of our dialogue today, which revolves around leadership, good governance and productivity. We must admit that we still have a long way to go. However, we must not despair as we have a sound policy framework, excellent values and a steady will to succeed.

As a chapter nine institution that is constantly inundated with public service delivery complaints, I must say that it was a breath of fresh air to learn that the Minister planned to introduce, among other things:

  • A new public service charter that sets out the norms and standards for public servants;
  • Compulsory public service courses for public servants, at a government school;
  • Blacklisting of public servants fired for fraud, financial mismanagement and misconduct in terms of employment in any government department or agency;
  • The pursuit of disciplinary proceedings against public servants who resign the moment such proceedings are instituted against them; and
  • A ban on the phenomenon of public servants doing business with the state.

We wish the Minister and government success in the finalization and implementation of these remarkable and visionary plans. On the eve of our commemoration of 20 years of democracy, such an initiative is timely and may well be the answer to many of the governance, leadership and service delivery challenges we face.

As I was preparing for this engagement, I reflected upon some of the service delivery matters that are currently on my dashboard, particularly those matters that relate to areas that we as a country have over the years been investing a lot of money in. These include education, health, social housing and the infrastructure element of these.

Most if not all of you will recall that in the last financial year, my team and I criss-crossed the lengths and breadths of this country, conducting a public hearing linked to out systemic investigation into problems associated with government's social housing. This was part of our annual stakeholder consultation dialogue.

Without going into finer details, some of the observations we made during that process, which appear to have resulted in some members of the communities, including senior citizens, waiting for housing for nearly two decades while recent applicants get houses allocated to them, were the following:

  • Planning challenges;
  • Integrity and governance issues in relations to procurement;
  • Integrity and governance problems in regard to allocation;
  • Poor quality assurance, leading to fruitless and wasteful expenditure;
  • False billing and over billing; and
  • Policy issues.

In health, another area where we are spending a lot of resources, with about R133.6 billion set aside for this, this financial year, my office is currently engaged in three systemic investigations. One is on neo-natal and infant deaths in public hospitals, the other on alleged management and procurement failures at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, and the last one is on systemic deficiencies in the provision of healthcare services as alleged during the Stakeholder Consultations I referred to earlier.

We deal with a lot of investigations in relation to the delivery of infrastructure such as roads, public facilities and housing. The key challenges here are the delivery of shoddy workmanship, with impunity and false billing. Procurement processes associated with public infrastructure delivery remain a cause for concern.

We have also been approached to look into education-related problems such the much publicized textbook delivery problem and the funding of private schools, a matter that we have since referred to fellow chapter nine institution, the South African Human Rights Commission.

This brings me to the issue of productivity. I only wish to speak to productivity issues related to governance failure, maladministration and corruption, and some of the issue we deal with as part of my office's remit.

Most definitions describe "productivity" as:

  • the relationship between inputs and outputs
  • not equal to production
  • concerned with how effectively outputs are produced and the value created by the production process
  • creating high-value products and services in terms of quality, cost, pricing and timelines
  • concerned with productive capacity building of people
  • working smarter not harder
  • making the greatest use of available resources.

A third quarter Labour Market Navigator survey, released in August 2012 by research firm Prophet Analytics and using data produced by the South African Reserve Bank and Statistics SA states that SA's labour productivity [is]at a 40-year low . They indicate that labour productivity has been falling over the past four decades: in the 1980s, a 1% increase in labour input resulted in a 0,7% increase in output; whereas in the 2000s, a 1% increase in labour input resulted in a 0,1% decline in output - a decrease of 111%. This is a staggering result: in the 2000s, adding workers to the input mix actually reduced output rather than increased it. In other words, South African workers, on the whole, are destroying value...

The Survey furthermore, showed that the country's private sector labour productivity is 450% higher than public sector labour productivity. While labour productivity in South Africa has been consistently declining over time, public sector labour productivity has declined by more (-52,2%) than private sector labour productivity (-49,3%).

What I found remarkable was the fact that the factors identified as undermining productivity tallied with my office's observations when we investigate maladministration, corruption and ethical lapses.

The problems identified include inappropriate management practices, weak and inefficient decision making, low efficiency, poor investment planning, low productivity and overstaffing, and a host of other organizational and institutional problems, ranging from a history of ineffectual bureaucratic methods and low-quality administrative skills to political patronage and government interference.

There is however, an emerging understanding that public sector productivity focuses on thinking about how much value people place on the services that are delivered through the use of public funds.

From the Public Protector's perspective, the primary indicator for the level of productivity in the public sector would be more relevant to the impact that the availability or unavailability of efficient and effective public service delivery would have on the lives of the ordinary South African.

The White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service (WPTPS), published on 24 November 1995, sets out eight transformation priorities, amongst which Transforming Service Delivery is the key. This is because a transformed South African public service will be judged by one criterion above all: its effectiveness in delivering services which meet the basic needs of all South African citizens.

Public sector leadership and good governance yield the upholding of the principles of public administration in Chapter 10 of the Constitution. This is a precedent from productivity, service excellence and ultimately delivery on the constitutional dream. Section 195 of the Constitution provides that the public administration must fulfill the following:

  • a high standard of professional ethics be promoted and maintained;
  • services be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias;
  • resources be utilised efficiently, economically and effectively;
  • peoples' needs be responded to; * the public be encouraged to participate in policy-making; and
  • it be accountable, transparent and development-oriented.

Institutions Supporting Democracy, such the Public Protector, exist to ensure that the people of South Africa enjoy the better life promised by the country's Constitution. The ability of "ordinary people ... to involve themselves in the process of holding the powerful to account" accentuate the very essence of constitutional democracy as supported by the Institutions created in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution.

Its constitutional mandate to strengthen democracy means that the Public Protector has an added responsibility to constantly and continuously strive to contribute to the transformation of government, in terms of its accountability and sensitivity to individual rights and administrative justice. Yet the significance and effectiveness of this transformation does not lie in legal and academic discussions, but in the difference made to the lives of ordinary South Africans who experience the adverse consequences of a government agency's mistake or poor administrative practice on a daily basis.

If I may borrow from the WHITE PAPER ONTRANSFORMING PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY improved productivitycannot only be achieved by the issuing of circulars, directives or instructions because it is not simply an 'administrative' activity. It is a dynamic process out of which a completely new relationship is developed between the public service and its individual clients … a fundamental shift of culture whereby public servants see themselves first and foremost as servants of the citizens of South Africa, and where the Public Service is managed with service to the public as its primary goal.

Elsewhere I have referred to the ideal culture as an attitude of stewardship. We need a public service with a commitment to a higher purpose in making a difference in the lives of other people that one would not ordinarily find in the private sector. For many civil servants the occupation is not just a way to earn a living and to make ends meet. The way in which some officials make great sacrifices to perform their duties with diligence cannot be procured by money.

We need to recognise and enhance this culture to being a servant of citizens and not a servant of government, as a prerequisite of the public service delivery programmes and promises to the people of South Africa and therefore, as the foundation of any initiatives that hope to bring a turn-around in bridging the gap between public sector productivity and private sector productivity.

Where public institutions do not live up to the principles and values contained in section 195 of the Constitution and people are unfairly or unreasonably affected by decisions, the underlying constitutional principles for public sector agencies, as well as standards such as the Batho Pele Principles, are consistent with a framework which provides that the institutions are compelled to take all fair and reasonable steps to "make good" and give visible meaning to constitutional democracy.

The principle aim of the Public Protector is to protect the rights and interests of the public against injustices caused by maladministration. In addition, the Public Protector strives to bring about, in the course of the investigation and resolving of complaints, "a reform in the administrative process of government that will affect the manner in which similar matters are entertained in the future."

This is accomplished, firstly by undertaking an impartial investigation of complaints submitted to the Public Protector, honest and good faith attempts at resolving disputes and rectifying improper acts and omissions, and the issuing findings to the administration and demanding compliance with the remedial action that is required to remedy the actions and the consequences thereof. These powers and functions of the Public Protector are regulated by the Constitution and various Act including the Public Protector Act, 1994, the Executive Members Ethics Act, Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, the Protected Disclosures Act, and others.

What can State Institutions do in response to reports of institutions such as the Public Protector, particularly where efforts geared at enhancing productivity are concerned? I would like to put forward the following suggestions:

  1. There is a need to show willingness to take responsibility for findings of maladministration and to reverse the consequences as indicated in the remedial action;
  2. There is a need to try not to provide justification, using information and resources to find support from experts and legal advisors, to avoid compliance with the findings and remedial action of institutions such as the Public Protector.
  3. There is a need to make an effort to understand the constitutional imperative of institutions such as the Public Protector, which in terms section 182 of the Constitution, is required to provide remedial action for prejudice resulting from improper administrative action.
  4. There is a need to try not to confuse lawfulness and fairness. Fairness involves considering both legal and non-legal issues. Appropriate weight should be given to broad questions of reasonableness, the effect of decisions and the ethical obligations of fairness and accountability.

I am glad that in our midst are high-level public service decision makers such as Directors-General, Heads of Departments, Senior Management Service at large, Executive Mayors, Mayors and Municipal Managers. It is of paramount importance that they here these.

Citizens are shareholders and not customers. They have a right to complain. They deserve more from those they have entrusted with the power to manage their affairs and resources. Where promises have been made in the Constitution or directly to the citizens, it is wrong to brand the people as a complaining public when they exact accountability in the face non or poor delivery.

Public servants need to let the Constitution, particularly Section 237 which stipulates that all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay, to guide their decisions and actions. Citizens want a state that cares, listens and is ethical.

We all have a role to play with a view to ensuring that ours is a state that is accountable, operates with integrity and is responsive to the needs of all its people.

Thank you.

Adv. Thuli Madonsela

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