SPEECHES: Speech by L N Sisulu, Minister for the Public Service and Administration on the occasion of the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration Budget Vote, 22 May 2013, Old Assembly Chamber, Parliament

Date: 22 May 2013


Honourable Members

Invited guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Our work was virtually carved out for us at the adoption of the National Development Plan which prioritised the creation of a strong and capable State. So, this is where we are: at the centre of the first major step this country is required to take for the implementation of all our plans. And, because the pace at which we execute our responsibilities will determine the pace that we all take as a country, there has been an expectation around what we do and how soon it can be done.

It has been for this reason therefore that we have plunged headlong into a most hectic ten months that has had all of us running breathless. The Portfolio Committee has been most supportive and understanding and I am very grateful for that. The Public Service Commission has graciously complied with all the requests made of them, grinning and bearing it all, protesting their independence all the while. The Board of Sita has responded to business unusual with energy, returning confidence to the institution. The staff at Palama and CPSI wait patiently, ever supportive, that at some point they will have their share of attention. And of course, the poor staff of the Department and especially the Ministry - their lives have been in permanent turmoil! Alas, I cannot promise that there will be an end to the turmoil. The only consolation we all have in this frenzied time is that it was necessary and it will all bear fruit.

Upon assumption of office as the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, I announced a number of reforms in the public service. These reforms included:

1. Professionalising the Public Service for higher productivity and value for money;

2. transforming PALAMA into the School of Government, to produce a cadre of government;

3. the finalisation of the constitutional requirements of Chapter 10 in respect of uniform standards, prescripts and values. We hope therefore that soon we will have this a Uniform Seamless Public Service;

4. prohibition of public servants from doing business with government;

5. establishment of an Anti-Corruption Bureau;

6. establishment of an Office of Standards and Compliance in the Public Service to ensure compliance with regulations and rapid reaction to provinces in distress.

These priorities were put out in the public domain, and the mere announcement of them was variously met with relief (phew), disbelief (raised eyebrow) and guarded optimism (sneer). On the whole, the public response was positive and supportive of the proposals. But in some cases we were accused of displaying naive optimism and biting off more than we can chew. This comes from a research document by Derek Powell, who heads the Multi Level Government Initiative of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape and Phindile Ntliziywana, a Doctoral researcher in the Multi Level Government Initiative.

Others could not restrain themselves. They went as far as suggesting that these announcements, especially around anti-corruption were nothing more than sheer grandstanding. This latter response is in itself not surprising. It reflects the sense with which we have resigned ourselves, as a people, to the way things are, as opposed to the way things ought to be. It also reflects the diffidence that comes from dashed hopes, consequent to failed initiatives. Some feel they have been here before and understandably, are intimidated by both the experience, the enormity of the task and the resistance that comes with it. Their diffidence is simply meant to protect themselves from having their hopes dashed once more.

So for those citizens of this country who have watched and listened to us as we laid out our plans, sometimes with a benevolent cynicism, we would like to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw and say: "Some men see things as they are and ask: why? We've dreamt of things as they never were and ask: why not?"

Bernard Shaw sums up my invitation to you to join me - let's pose for ourselves the question "why not?" What stops us from trying to do the best to be the best? Join me in this odyssey that soon we will have established a clean, efficient, capable, emphatic and effective state machinery.

In approaching this task, we have been mindful of its enormity. It is the sheer challenge arising out of this enormity that has spurred us on. As we have said before: this is a challenge we do not accept grudgingly but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

In a letter dated 28 March 2013, Riana Fouche, a member of the public and professional consultant, who listened to a radio interview I was part of, wrote to me and offered me several suggestions and concluded her letter by saying:

"May you and your team find all the resources, equipping and grace to fulfil the great and honourable task to restore the image of South Africans, and may you receive much wisdom in establishing all pertaining to the restoration of public officials to integrity and purity of character. I am looking forward to see the changes coming."

The letter from Ms Fouche confirms that our people expect no less from us. Indeed they should not expect any less from us. These reforms are in keeping with our moral obligation.

In order for all of you to understand the problems that face and will continue to face us, let me sketch out the terrain we have to cover. Our Public Service as provided for in Chapter 10 of our Constitution consists of more than 1.4 million employees, spread across

  • 156 Departments in National and Provincial spheres of Government.

  • 270 Public sector institutions consisting of Government Components, Public Entities & Agencies and State Owned Enterprises.

  • When you add the Local Government Sphere with 275 Municipalities and more than 270 000 municipal workers, the figure becomes 1.6 million employees.

This is the size of the public service, consisting of nothing more and nothing less than men and women engaged daily in the service of the people of South Africa. It is these men and women who daily:

  • Ensure that our children are schooled and equipped with education;

  • care for the patients in our clinics and hospitals;

  • issue identity documents and maintain the integrity of the data of over 52 million people. Furthermore, administer over 1 million births and nearly 560 000 deaths each year!;

  • manage our water resources and infrastructure to bring us clean water for drinking and washing in more than 13 million households;

  • maintain our roads and transport networks for all our mobility needs;

  • administer and pay social grants to over 16 million recipients monthly on time;

  • maintain our borders and points of entry on a 24 hours basis for all travellers and goods;

  • support the regulation and functioning of our R3 trillion economy and industry;

  • are the first line of response to protect us from crime. The people who respond to gut-wrenching and spine chilling natural disasters and other accidents.

I could go on. In summary, our public service is a massive enterprise of gargantuan proportion. Despite our natural and immediate response of negativity toward them, most of these men and women are diligently occupied in the service of our people. In instances where there are problems, we have been honest and open to acknowledge these and are tackling them. To turn this enormous ship around will require all hands on deck, especially yours and mine.

Aand as we tackle these problems, we should take time to honour those of them who work hard to make our lives better. And therefore, in honour of those who toil with dedication to serve our people, we have decided to establish a Public Service Excellence Awards, which will be called the Batho Pele Excellence Awards. The National Batho Pele Excellence Awards will henceforth be held for the entire Public Service in the month of September of each year and members of the public will be invited to nominate public servants deserving of recognition for excellent service.

The main focus of these awards is to recognise excellence in the public service, acknowledge and encourage it and in exceptional cases, ensure that we can urge and mature it to greater heights of delivery.

In this respect I am delighted to announce a very generous offer made to my Ministry by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust for a partnership with us in "Developing, recognising and retaining [world-class] talent in the Southern African public service". This partnership will see ten (10) public servants each being awarded a scholarship every year for opportunities to study abroad and locally to sharpen their competence.

The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, through Minister Trevor Manuel, approached me to say: "how can we help you achieve excellence in the Public Service." An amazing experience! Imagine the feeling of affirmation.

The future of this country is intrinsically linked to whether we succeed or not in repositioning the public service. The National Development Plan has been bold to suggest that unless we fix the public service, all our objectives, hopes and plans would come to naught. It is worth repeating. The public service is the engine of the state. If the engine is dysfunctional, the vehicle would not move.

We would also, within these awards, create a category that caters for eminent, outstanding, long-serving public servants. In the case of Parliament for instance, perhaps Members of Parliament will nominate outstanding public servants like Professor Stan Sangweni, former Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Mr Sindiso Mfenyana, former Secretary of Parliament, Mr Handik, former Secretary of the National Assembly, Mr Kamal Mansura, former Secretary of the National Assembly, Mr Terence Nombembe, current Auditor-General, etc. These are people whose dedication have helped craft and maintain what we have. There are of course many more who will be nominated by yourselves.

It is my intention today to report that we have indeed accomplished those goals we set ourselves for the past ten months and we will entrench them irreversibly in our statute books. The rest will depend on our collective will.

I am happy to report that my term of office was off to a good start the minute I met the representatives of labour. As you would know, I came to office during the wage negotiation process - a day after labour had declared a dispute with the State as employer, to be exact. After intense and often unpleasant exchanges all around, we emerged with a ground breaking multi-term agreement. What was historic about it was not only its multi-term nature, but also because of the agreements themselves and the commitment by labour on a number of fundamental principles.

We have now turned an often very antagonistic relationship between employer and employee into one that can actually work toward the achievement of our goals as a people. For this period we have not only removed the threats of strikes, but the ugly scenes of public servants destroying property are also beginning to recede. The absence of the annual fear of the disruption of essential services has enabled us to plan and have some level of certainty. And I am grateful that labour and ourselves found each other. For too long the relationship has been characterised by ugly exchanges. This could never have been for common good and it is definitely not what our people live and hope for. They don't go to bed hoping - please let there be a strike. The signing of the multi-year agreement has enabled us to focus on those outstanding issues that are necessary in building a capable State, in the creation of an environment where the public service can thrive and deliver better services.

So there, sealed until next year - project 1 completed.

As part and parcel of our agreement with labour, we agreed we would introduce a compulsory induction programme for all public servants. The training has been implemented at national government since September 2012 and has already been launched in 8 provinces.

With this we have committed ourselves to build a professional public service at all levels. This includes attracting highly skilled people and cultivating a sense of professional common purpose and a commitment to developmental goals. The public service must become a career of choice for graduates who wish to contribute to the development of the country, and ensure that highly competent staff are recruited on the basis of their suitability for the job.

Transforming PALAMA into the School of Government is one such building block. The School of Government will enable us to customise the offerings and programmes in order to respond to real problems we face in real time and to restore confidence in the public sector. We have done the groundwork and I met with academics from Higher Learning Institutions on Monday to canvass a partnership between ourselves. I believe we received positive feedback from those who attended to ensure the success of the School of Government. The School of Government is on course and will be launched on 21 October 2013.

The School of Government will operate as an institution of higher learning with the proper accreditation. It will work in collaboration with other institutions of higher learning that offers specialised skills required, but will design the curriculum and be responsible for creating out of our public servants, a professional class of committed cadres to drive the developmental agenda of the country. We will recruit the best in administration and train them for greater efficiency and train them to succeed. Nothing stops us striving to be the best and when the best of us is driving the administration of the state, imagine the spin offs in everything this country does.

We have provided each one of you with a copy of the proposed crest of the School of Government and would appreciate your comments before 1 June 2013, when we intend tabling it for approval. Project 2 will be done by then and sealed when you have approved the crest.

Our third priority was the creation of an environment which is not conducive to corrupt practice. We are prohibiting public servants from doing business with government. This would enable us to close the loop holes that some unscrupulous officials have used. We have come to a determination that the most effective and efficient way of dealing with a conflict of interest is to remove it altogether. This will take effect as soon as Parliament approves the bill, which will be tabled in June. We will then be able to tick off Project 3.

The same law: the Public Administration Management Bill will assist us with a longstanding problem of inequality of our norms and standards. It will ensure we comply with a common set of standards, values and principles across all levels of government, as envisaged by Chapter 10 of the Constitution. This is to ensure that all spheres of government operate according to the same standards and norms while retaining operational independence. All spheres will share seamlessly the requisite skills pool, competence and standards. This will serve to improve mobility across different spheres of government and diminish the costly barriers to such seamless and rational mobility, while balancing the capacity across the State. But it will not in any way interfere with the spheres of governments of local or provincial tiers. Those are entrenched in the Constitution.

The bill was accepted by Cabinet Committee and we hope that Parliament will prioritise it for June this year. When that is done, we would have concluded the longest journey of any laws that I know of. And we will tick of Project 4 as done.

A cursory reading of the reports of the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission paints a dim picture of non-compliance. To remedy and to respond to this challenge in a focused way, we have established an Office of Standards and Compliance. Currently this office is led by the Director-General of the Department of Public Service and Administration, Mr Mashwahle Diphofa, who is supported by seasoned senior public servants. This collective is alive to the challenges faced by public servants and should be able to provide pre-emptive and preventive approaches that would ensure stringent compliance with rules and regulations in the public service.

In addition to analysing existing public service norms and standards to prepare for their improved enforcement, the Office of Standards and Compliance has spent considerable time supporting the implementation of the Section 100 Intervention in Limpopo. In the six weeks they have been there, the development of functional structures has been completed in five departments in Limpopo.

PERSAL clean up has been finalised in the Provincial Treasury where 222 unfunded posts were abolished, the Department of Public Works where 4 447 unfunded posts were abolished, the Department of Education where 8 754 unfunded posts were abolished, the Department of Health where 3 868 unfunded posts were abolished and the Department of Roads and Transport where 3 279 unfunded posts were abolished.

Project 5 well and truly established.

The processing of Disciplinary Cases had been moving very slowly, but the challenge is being addressed by the Diphofa team and the Office of the Premier. Of the 301 cases that were handed over to the SIU for investigation, only 41 had been completed and handed over to the DPSA. Of these, thirty (30) cases were set down for hearing and 13 have already been finalised. We hope that soon the Office of Standards and Compliance will move to the Eastern Cape.

In line with the decisions of the ruling party and government, I promised to deal decisively with corruption in the public service. We must be clear on this. Corruption has become a common stick to beat any government, especially third world governments. But in our case we have deliberately taken this stand against corruption because it is essentially anti-ethical to the struggle that brought us here. This has been raised as a clarion call, both by government and the ruling party, to ensure that where it raises its head, we can deal with it and not allow it to strangle our growth and our image. We have beaten all odds as we struggled - this one is but a small struggle.

I invited South Africa at large to be part of this campaign against this scourge that has the potential to corrode our society. When the response has not been outrightly cynical, it has been overwhelmingly positive. To the cynics we urge them to "watch this space".

We assessed our current capacity and arrived at the conclusion that it is to inadequate and poorly resourced to effectively fight this battle against corruption. We intend to set up an Anti-Corruption Bureau that will have legislative authority to investigate, intervene, and where necessary to assist departments, provinces and local governments in dealing with cases of corruption related misconduct. This Bureau, working hand in hand with the other anti-corruption arms of the state, will be both proactive and pre-emptive. Pre-emptively the Bureau will deal with cases where processes and procedures have not been followed. Where criminal conduct is detected the bureau will solicit the help of the anti corruption agencies of the state to investigate and prosecute where necessary.

This initiative is also meant to protect the vast majority of public servants, those men and women who do an honest job and squirm at being painted with a common brush that says "public servants are corrupt". We will tighten the instruments through which people report in order to give more protection to those who report.

Chairperson, we are building a database that will be a nerve-centre and assist us in monitoring all public servants in relation to financial misconduct, disciplinary cases, business interests, unaccounted lifestyle and income changes. In this regard, technological advances are proving to be the welcome wind in our sails. We must clamp down on the corruption rot where it exists.

Corruption, elsewhere and in the public service, involves a corrupter and corruptee. We are aware that some public servants are manipulated by elements out there in the private sector. These have mastered the procurement system of government and have positioned themselves the better to manipulate it from outside. We intend to deal with both very decisively. We want to ensure that there are minimum sentences for public servants found guilty of corruption. For the private sector, once we secure a conviction for corruption, a company will be blacklisted and barred from trading with Government. I have already instructed my legal team to find ways to strengthen our fight against corruption in this way. They will adopt such measures as a "Watch List" to track those companies with suspect practices. To these I want to sound a warning.

So much has been done in the short space of time that we could not cover everything in our report back of today. We have therefore packaged all of the information detailing the work done, so that you can have a comprehensive understanding.

We still remain, however with serious challenges - these we are grappling with and these form the basis of our priorities for the year ahead.

The management of disciplinary cases is a matter I know is of concern to Honourable Members. This remains a challenge we are grappling with. Discipline management in the public service is decentralised to departments. This has led to inconsistencies with regard to the application of disciplinary processes and imposed sanctions. We are aware that many departments fail to finalise disciplinary proceedings within the prescribed period of 60 days. The reasons are multi-fold and range from incapacity to incompetence. We have decided to establish a case management system to enable us to address these weaknesses.

Another critical failure in our system, is the response time from government and general efficiency of our systems. Having learnt from the remarkable improvements at the Department of Home Affairs, it is clear that sector specific minimum norms and standards are required for each work sector. With known standards, it will be possible for the public to know what service and quality to expect. It should be possible to know the minimum waiting period at the hospital and/or response times for police when an incident is reported. We will in this current year be working on a minimum waiting period for hospitals and our pilots will be in Gauteng and Mpumalanga Provinces.

I invite all South Africans, from all walks of life to work with us and give us feedback on their experiences and expectations of the public service. In addition to surveys and conventional feedback tools, we must take advantage of enabling technology. We need to know what works.

To improve the quality of life of our public servants, we have been grappling with the concept of a Housing Scheme. We will fast-track the design and implementation of the Government Employees Housing Scheme. In the same way that the Government Employees Medical Scheme is an admirable benchmark, we would want a housing scheme that sets a benchmark in meeting employee housing needs.

Yet another concern, which was raised by the Public Service Commission, is the late submission of financial disclosures by senior managers. After the successful piloting of the e-disclosure system in three provinces, we are now in a position to roll-out e-disclosure to cover all designated public servants by June 2014. This will enable public servants to declare their interests electronically and activate a system-wide multiple checking against other systems. The system is secure and protected. Its advantages from a disclosure perspective are enormous, as it will link the members' details to the entire data base available to government and make the scrutiny process so much easier. For its full effect we would need to amend the law. We expect that by next year declarations of sms members will be fully online and that all users will have been trained.

The matter of the high turnover of Heads of Department, I know is of serious concern to you. I want to assure you that it is of serious concern to us as well and has been identified in the National Development Plan as such. We are working on this and when we have perfected our system, we will bring the matter to Parliament.

The Service Charter between Government, as the employer, and Public Sector Unions represents another milestone in re-fashioning the relationship between the State and public servants. It represents a social contract between ourselves, public sector unions and citizens - the main beneficiaries of services delivered by the State. A copy of the Service Charter will be distributed to you.

This lays the basis of our insisting on the application of the Code of Conduct for public servants. We will require Public servants to be sober at all times while on duty, to dress appropriately for the work they do and to be on time, courteous and professional at all times. Public servants who interact with the public will be identifiable by a name tag.

The SITA Act is the founding basis of all that SITA does and how it relates to government and the private sector.

Some of the key information systems provided and maintained by SITA include PERSAL, which pays salaries of public servants, BAS which pays all suppliers and LOGIS which manages assets of Government. Over 7 000 Government services are powered by SITA, making SITA the backbone of service delivery. These include hospitals, clinics, police stations and traffic departments. More recently, through the Telemedicine Network project, doctors in rural and semi urban areas are now able to consult with fellow practitioners in larger and better equipped urban - based health facilities. This offers benefits of less travelling, cost saving and a faster intervention by qualified medical professionals.

Through its centralised procurement model, SITA is required to reduce ICT costs for Government. We have now begun to do that. In 2012/13, we managed to track savings of R263 million due to agreements negotiated with key suppliers mainly on software licences. We welcome these partnerships with industry and hope to achieve more this year as more suppliers come to the party.

In November 2012, Cabinet appointed the current six member board led by Mr Jerry Vilakazi. The Board has a clear plan of action to address all immediate challenges facing the institution. This will include a review of the supply chain management structures and to reposition SITA as the continent's premier Government ICT service provider. We are doing everything we can to make sure that SITA responds to its mandate and responsibility. We want to send a message to the private sector doing business with SITA - help us get it right by doing the right thing. At all times, just do the right thing. I know I am speaking from a different perspective, but it cannot be difficult to do the right thing.

Budget Allocation

Chairperson, we have accepted that there will always be pressure on the resources availed to us to undertake the work before us. This propels us to seek greater efficiency and prudence in the use of allocated resources. It also points to the glaring disproportion between the task at hand and the resources availed to do this work.

For the financial year 2013/14, the total budget available for the Public Service and Administration Portfolio is R816 371 000 (R816,371 million). Of this,

  • R437,135 is directed towards initiatives within the Department;

  • R131, 9 million has already been earmarked for PALAMA and will be transferred to the School of Government.

  • R22, 866 million is availed for the CPSI;

  • R23, 3 million is set aside for transfer to the PSETA;

  • The Public Service Commission will receive R201,1 million.

I am certain that Honourable members can appreciate that the budget availed pales in comparison to the scale of the reforms we seek to achieve. We are not deterred nor overwhelmed. Instead, our resolve is toughened. We will do all the necessary work to ensure a proportionate fiscal allocation going into the future

To all Public Servants I call you to embrace

  • Discipline in implementation

  • Compliance with norms, standards and statutes

  • Compassion for the all employees and the public we serve

  • Efficiency in performance

To the people of South Africa I invite you to lift your gaze and see that

  • The Public Service is working for you

  • South Africa deserves an efficient Public Service

  • Work with us to improve Public Service

Honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, a highly productive, efficient and disciplined Public Service is NOT a luxury nor is it a matter of intellectual and political pontification; it is a primary ingredient towards the achieving sustainable growth and development of our Country.

What I request from you - where the public servants do good, please affirm them. A great deal that we take for granted is done by some hardworking, dedicated people. Where they fall short of their responsibility, do not hesitate to complain and insist on proper treatment. Do not tolerate mediocrity, because we are not a people who celebrate mediocrity.

The reforms we have embarked upon ensure that we build a public service capable and orientated towards meeting the developmental aspirations of our people and our country. It is a constitutional imperative we dare not fail in realising.

We strive continuously, seeking to answer: "why not?"

Imagine a world where every teacher felt appreciated, respected and supported; where every teacher is dedicated, committed and gives seven hours of every day to teaching productively. Imagine a world where every child was taught in an environment that's conducive for learning, where every child feels cared for and where every child will give the best of his childhood, learning in the full knowledge that his efforts are the most important investment this country needs; imagine a country where every parent and adult takes their responsibility for the education of their children; imagine what a foundation we build for this country.

I thank you

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