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 30 May 2013, National Council of Provinces, Parliament

Date: 30 May 2013

Chairperson

Members of the NCOP

Our story, as a people, reads like a fairy tale. For, it would begin: A long time ago, when tyranny and apartheid roamed the land, when people were subjected to all forms of oppression, deprivation and all kinds of violence imaginable. When freedom appeared to be but a fleeting delusion; then, a young Nelson Mandela led the forces of rebellion to bring about change so that the poor and landless and disenfranchised could enjoy freedom. Alas, he was captured in 1961 and finally brought to trial in 1963 and sentenced. He said then:

œI hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom ... This is what has motivated me in all that I have done ...

This statement reflected the spirit that Nelson Mandela and his comrades embodied. That spirit of no surrender to challenges, bequeathed to us the gift of freedom that we enjoy today. May we be imbued with the same spirit in resolving our challenges! For, every phase will throw up its own challenges.

Our challenges are different, certainly less hazardous, but no less important for our people. Here we are now with the rare privilege of the opportunity to serve our people to carry through the history and gift of freedom and democracy. We will not fail this opportunity no matter how small our part, every effort on this march of hope is a significant step.

The fairy tale does not need to end. We can carry it through. You and I, the beneficiaries of the proud heritage of this hero, all of us together can overcome the challenges of the present. The challenges I refer to, specifically refer to our role in good governance and they range from an unresponsive, inefficient, ineffective system of the public service, with dire long term consequences of poor service. Unless we fix the public service, all our developmental objectives, hopes and plans would come to naught. For the public service is the engine of the state. If the engine is dysfunctional, the vehicle would not move. This developed economy will not grow any faster.

To address the raging storms of discontent that has manifested itself regularly and the diagnosis arrived at by the National Planning Commission, would require of us nothing short of the following:

  • dealing decisively with corruption in the public service, whatever form it might raise its head
    • professionalising the Public Service for higher productivity and value for money and thus reducing the unacceptably high wage bill;
    • creation of the environment to produce a cadre of government;
    • finalisation of the constitutional requirements of Chapter 10 of the Constitution in respect of a Uniform Seamless Public Service, thus reducing duplication, inefficiencies and waste;
    • prohibition of public servants from doing business with government.
    • establishment of an Office of Standards and Compliance in the Public Service to ensure compliance with norms and standards and rapid reaction to provinces in distress.

We have spent the ten months of our time in office dealing with all of this and I am happy to indicate that we have successfully completed all of these and established a firm basis in law for continued enforcement of these objectives.

The National Development Plan has placed at its forefront the task to build a capable and developmental State. The NDP argues that the future of our country is linked to our success in repositioning the public service. The National Development Plan asserts that unless we fix the public service, all our developmental objectives, hopes and plans would come to naught. The public service is the engine of the State. If the engine is dysfunctional, the vehicle would not move. This developed economy will not grow any faster.

You are all familiar with the problems of service delivery, especially at local government. You switch on to any radio station and you hear complaints on a daily basis.

Let me briefly sketch out the terrain we have to cover. Our Public Service, as provided for by Chapter 10 of our Constitution, consists of over 1.4 million employees, plus a further 200000 employees at local government level. In all we have a massive 1.6 million employees, which is greater in numbers than the population of Swaziland, and our immediate response to them is negative.

The Public Service has a human face to it that is very often lost in our discourse. These 1.6 million men and women are daily engaged in the service of the people of South Africa to:

    • Ensure that our approximately 7 million children of school-going age are schooled and equipped with education
    • Care for over 19 million patients in our clinics and hospitals every year
    • Issue identity documents and maintain the integrity of over 52 million documents and 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 over 13 million households every day
    • Maintain our roads and transport networks for the more than 19 million daily trips
    • Administer and pay social grants to over 16 million recipients monthly on time
    • Maintain our borders and points of entry for approximately 18 million travellers and goods annually.
    • Support the regulation and functioning of our R3 trillion economy and industry
    • These are the men and women who are at your service to make your life what it is.

Our public service is a massive enterprise. We honour the men and women who 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 tackle them. To turn this enormous ship around will require all our hands on deck.

In honour of those who toil with dedication to serve our people, we have decided to establish the Public Service Excellence Awards programme, which will be called the Batho Pele Excellence Awards. This will supplement those that Premiers administer in Provinces. While we set higher standards and expectations for public service, we also must encourage, recognise and reward excellent performance. As such the National Batho Pele Excellence Awards will henceforth be held for the entire Public Service in September of each year and members of the public will be invited to nominate public servants deserving of recognition for excellent service.

Yesterday Cabinet approved the Public Administration Management Bill. This is a major breakthrough for a bill that has been 8 years in the making. This will assist us with a longstanding problem of inequality of our norms and standards in the management and delivery of public services across and between spheres of government. It will ensure we comply with a common set of standards, values and principles across all spheres of government, as envisaged by Chapter 10 of the Constitution. Simply stated, the Bill aims 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.

The PAM Bill also aims to make it possible to improve inter-governmental planning, delivery and governance across the three spheres of government. But it will not in any way interfere with the rights, powers and status of the spheres of government. That is firmly entrenched in the Constitution.

Through the legislative reform program, we also seek to create an environment which is not conducive to corrupt practice. We are prohibiting public servants from doing business with government. 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.

We hope that Parliament will prioritise the processing of the Bill. When that is done, we would have concluded the longest journey of any imminent legislation that I know of.

There must be a public mandate and a single rationale that all of us respond to, that these services are being provided for, and on behalf of, the people of South Africa. This is what Chapter 10 of the Constitution requires of us and this is what we are providing through the bill.

In addition, the bill seeks to achieve the kind of administration that we deserve, where there is zero tolerance on corruption . It allows for the establishment of the Anti-corruption Bureau to work together with law enforcement agencies to provide us with an ethical, clean government.

This bill fulfils our Constitution because it seeks to establish a public administration underpinned by uniform values and principles and extend the mandate of the Public Service Commission to include the Local Sphere of Government. In short the Bill provides:

    • Prohibition of public servants from doing business with the government;
    • Establishment of the Office of Standards and Compliance to promote and monitor compliance with regulatory prescripts and minimum norms and standards determined by the Minister.

In order to professionalise the Public Service, we have resolved to create a School of Government. The School of Government will be the equivalent of a Corporate University for the Public Service, where public servants will be trained and equipped to be cadres of Government. This is a necessary and unavoidable intervention in ensuring that all our public servants serve with a common and identifiable command of ethos, values and discipline befitting South African Public Service outlook. It is a massive task re-training 1.6 million people. But no challenge is too big when, Chairperson, you have received such overwhelming and humbling support from the NCOP, reflected in the motion passed on Wednesday 22 May 2013.

We also launched and piloted the Compulsory Induction Programme in September 2012. There are approximately 7739 officials appointed since 01 July 2012 that should be trained in order to meet our prescripts for Compulsory Induction. Projections show that for the 20000 new entrants expected in each financial year, the Compulsory induction into Public Service remains a key intervention.

Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS)

It is our intention to improve the quality of life of our public servants and in this regard we have resolved to establish a housing scheme that will ensure that more than 540 000 of our public servants can be assisted to access better living conditions. 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 industry benchmark covering over 620 000 public servants, we would want a housing scheme that sets a benchmark in meeting employee housing needs. This is very important for me all public servants must have a decent home. We must look at all options possible.

Chairperson, as you know we are responsible for state technology and Information Technology.

In November 2012, Cabinet appointed the current six-member board. The Board now has a clear plan of action to address all immediate challenges facing the institution. We are doing everything we can to make sure that SITA responds to its mandate and responsibility.

The Board of SITA has come to a mutual separation agreement with the CEO of SITA, Mr Blake Mosley-Lefatola who left the organisation on 20 May 2013. Upon recommendation by the Board, Cabinet has approved an interim CEO for a period of one year. I am glad to announce that the former Accountant-General, Mr Freeman Nomvalo is now the new CEO of SITA. Under his leadership, SITA can only grow in stature, efficiency, accountability and efficient business processes. We would like to thank the former CEO for his work and dedication.

Chairperson,

While SITA may be experiencing numerous challenges, allow me to remind the house that SITA is indeed central in our drive to build an efficient service delivery and governance system. Some of the work undertaken by SITA include:

  • Using Technology to improve the Fight against Crime. SITA has completed the phase 2 of theIntegrated Case Docket Management System, popularly known as thee-Docket system for the South African Police Service. The e-Docket was rolled out to 20 police stations with additional police stations to be added going forward and starting with full integration of the E-Docket into the Justice and Crime Prevention systems by July 2014.
  • 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 urbanbased health facilities. This takes away the need for patients to travel far to see doctors.
  • Over the last two (2) years, SITA has worked with the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) to improve the integrity of the SASSA systems to curb abuse and corruption in the dispensing of social benefits to beneficiaries by automating the social services business processes
  • It has maintained and supported the Movement Control System of Home Affairs that is responsible for the management of 13,5 million foreign visitors through our the ports of entry
  • It has connected more than 7000 government institutions, including:
    • SAPS offices and police stations = 2762
    • Prisons & Community Correctional Centres =340
    • Magistrate Courts =317
    • Home Affairs Service Centres =347
    • SASSA Service Centres =421
    • Social Welfare offices =220
    • Hospitals = 320
    • Health services centres) = 232 and
      • Clinics = 155

SITA continues to be an integral part of our service delivery, management and governance capability. Instead of opting out of the SITA platform, all arms of the public service must bear with us as we arrest and overcome the corporate and strategic difficulties that beset SITA. The current problems are really dwarfed by the importance of the SITA mandate.

Establishment of the Office of Compliance and Standards

The reports of the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission paint a dim picture of non-compliance. Just last year the Auditor-General found that only 117 out of a total of 536 audited government entities received a clean audit, including only 3 out of 38 national departments and 3 out of 95 provincial departments. It was also found that national departments spent R33, 5 billion and provincial departments spent R68.5 billion on consultants over three years.

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 team has first hand understanding 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.

With the Office of Compliance and Standards we seek to build a public service based on quality service and standards.

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, they have cleaned up the PERSAL and in total 20570 unfunded posts were abolished.

CONCLUSION

We've come to a confluence where we as a country have matured after 20 years in a democratically elected government, a confluence where we do have a plan, a confluence where we do have the necessary experience, and we've built the necessary capacity to do what we have to do.

Chairperson, What we need to do now is to ensure that we can transform the Public Service so that, to begin with, we are proud to serve in the Public Service and make those people who account to us equally proud of serving in the Public Service. I therefore invite delegates from all provinces to join hands with us and champion the achievement of reforms outlined above.

Chairperson, allow me an opportunity to acknowledge all the hard work done by the staff of the Department for Public Service and Administration and entities that form part of the Public Service family. These are the Office of the Public Service Commission, Government Employee Medical Scheme, State Information Technology Agency, Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy and especially the Centre for Public Service Innovation. The CPSI is tasked with the responsibility of unlocking and entrenching innovation in the public sector to improve service delivery and have won a number of international awards for the work that they have done.

When we have done all that needs to be done to build a capable and developmental State and its highly efficient public service, we can all be satisfied in the knowledge that South Africans know and feel that this government of the people, by the people, is indeed working for them and it and employs Public Servants that are dedicated, diligent, efficient and caring.

Thank you.


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