SPEECHES: Address by LN Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration on the occasion of the SABC 2/ TNA business breakfast, Sandton Convention Centre, 12 July 2013

Date: 12 Jul 2013

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Senior Mangers of my administration and my parastatals

Our viewers at home,

The kind of society and the kind of government that we dreamt of is poignantly and exceptionally well documented in the Freedom Charter. The same ideals and dreams encapsulated in the Freedom Charter led to the heroism and sacrifice and ultimately the watershed Rivonia arrests, whose 50th anniversary we commemorated yesterday. These were the dreams of our fathers. These are the dreams that have kept Nelson Mandela so resilient and so phenomenally strong. The dreams of a democratic, efficient, capable, caring state, driven by committed cadres of government. Cadres who burn with even a fraction of the passion of what our founding fathers have left us, in order to carry on this dream of a world where we have redressed all our past injustices and can strive to create a better life for our people. A dream that one day we will be able to create this for all our people and the society we fought for.

Public Administration, which is my responsibility, is the administration infrastructure of the state and the public servants are the people who deliver the services that the state provides. Its job is very well described in chapter 10 of the Constitution. And now, almost 20 years into our democracy, we are still trying to consolidate this infrastructure, because, unless we get it right, none of our plans for this country will be deliverable. This is what drives the State.

And what is the capacity of the State? Just to mention a few, this is what the state does:

  • support the regulation and functioning of our R3 trillion economy and industry;
  • ensure that our children are schooled and equipped with education;
  • 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;
  • Care for the patients in our clinics and hospitals;

It is a massive machine with massive potential. But its inefficiencies still hobble it - and these are very well documented. 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. In 2012 alone we suffered from 585 service delivery protests across the country. Over the past decade cases that the Public Service Commission investigated led to the dismissal of 1 545 public servants.

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. At local government level, only 4 out of 28 municipalities in North West, 17 out of 55 municipalities in the Eastern Cape and 2 out of 30 municipalities in Limpopo received unqualified audits. It was also found that national departments spent R33, 5 billion and provincial departments spent R68.5 billion on consultants over three years.

All these are indicative of serious governance problems that need to be solved urgently. We have grand plans for this country and it is for this reason that we are putting so much emphasis on ensuring that we put our efforts into getting things right.

To lay a solid foundation going forward, we have identified the following priority areas:

Firstly, our relationship with labour is on a good course. For too long, for too many years, a great deal of energy has been absorbed, time lost and money lost in pursuing matters that could easily have been achieved differently. We have now, by a 75% endorsement by labour adopted a Service Charter we have been working on for the last 6 months. It is a significant step, which commits us to common purpose, where both of us, representing the employer and the employee will speak the same language of ensuring that public servants work a full day, diligently and conscientiously and deliver services to the public, on time. Because that is what they are employed to do. We have a responsibility to our people. That is why our ethos is underpinned by Batho Pele - our people first.

The foundation of this mutual respect is recognition of the boundaries for both of us. The unions are very sensitive about their responsibilities to protect the rights of workers. Equally, government jealously guards its terrain to deliver. There can only be one government and its job is to govern. (The Service Charter will be launched very soon and we are extremely proud of the work that we covered and clearly the three year agreement was a masterstroke, even if we have to say it ourself.)

Secondly is the Constitutional responsibility that is laid down about what kind of public service we should have. These fundamental principles apply to all three spheres of government and we have found in our experience that, while some of these principles are adhered to by two spheres of government, they do not sufficiently apply at local government level. This is a very important sphere of government for us, because that is the sphere that is the closest to our people and the closest to service delivery. We believe there is an essential obligation on government that aligns all spheres of government and makes for an efficient, single set of norms, standards and values, but operating at three spheres. We are convinced that when we get this right, the shortage of skills at the lowest level will be managed.

The third matter we are seized with and very vehemently determined to break its back is corruption. This government is built on the lives of heroes who gave so much, because they believed in the principles and values driven by morality. There is no place in any part of our government for any tolerance of corruption, whatever its nature. The Ruling Party has been very emphatic on this matter and government and itself and its various entities have responded to the clarion call to ensure that this is eradicated.

Government has put in place a number of strategies to deal with corruption at various levels. We are putting in place an Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to deal with corruption in the public service. Once established, the Anti-Corruption Bureau will deal with corruption at all levels of government. Of particular interest and what I want to emphasise, is, that the ACB will put paid to the mobile corrupt employee who will be charged with corruption in one province, resign before the case is heard, move to another province or local government to find employment and carry on with corrupt activity. The message that this corrupt official conveys with him is "I can do it and I can get away with it". We have identified this important loophole and have put a stop to it, because we will now have one central data base that will help us contain this abuse of an existing loophole. In line with our anti-corruption drive we have taken a decision that no public servant will be allowed to do business with government, so that we create an environment where the possibility of corrupt practice does not even exist.

At this point I would like to deal with two central issues that need to be emphasised at this breakfast. Within the public service, corruption exists at two levels. The first one is at the level of direct bribery of officials and the second is the corruption of the procurement processes. Bribery of officials normally involves all of us, all of society and invariably it involves the frontline public servants and especially law enforcement public servants. Here it involves a public servant with the power over services that government provides or over the execution of the might of the law, on the one hand, and the relatively intimidated citizen who would do anything to get his or her rights or to get away from sanction. Here, the citizen is ever so willing to offer a bribe to a corrupt official. Our message to our citizens is very clear that offering and paying a bribe is corrupt practice and it is illegal and it carries a heavy penalty. Do not bribe a policeman, a traffic officer or a public servant, because if you do, you are not only encouraging corrupt activity, you are committing a crime.

Every frontline public servant is obliged to wear a badge identifying himself/ herself. Your responsibility as a responsible citizen is to report an officer or public servant who requests or demands a bribe. We'll spend the next three months explaining to the public the "how" to report this form of corruption. For now the message is, "don't bribe our officials". When we catch them, we'll deal with them. We now have the means.

The second part of corrupt practice happens within the state procurement processes and this is where the state bleeds millions of rands annually. This again involves two categories, the corrupt official and the corruptor, usually from the private sector. The corruptor from the private sector has gotten away with this for too long. We are now putting in place mechanisms to ensure that we enclose the circle around the private sector corruptor. He is the most lethal poison in this corrupting game. On the other hand it involves a vulnerable, greedy, corrupt state official. As I have said, we already have systems in place to deal with the vulnerable, greedy, corrupt state official. But my message at this breakfast is to the private sector. Think very carefully before you ever consider bribing my officials, because we are going to find you, we have the means and the consequences are going to be dire for the rest of your working life.

At this point I would like to commend the Government of Mpumalanga which has already blacklisted 238 companies in line with our attempts to stop the private sector corrupting our officials. I want to urge all other provinces to follow suit. We have grabbed the nettle of corruption.

National Treasury is in the process of putting in place a more efficient and transparent process of procurement and therefore each tender process will be an open process. As the Secretary-General of the ANC is wont to say - our government is not a tender state. It is normally at this point that I get asked the question, "what about the corrupt politician?" There are laws in this country and this falls squarely within the mandate of the criminal justice sector and the definition of corruption in our laws covers all persons. Furthermore, the ANC has established an Ethics Committee to investigate allegations of corruption against ANC politicians. All these avenues exist, use them.

The fourth of our priorities is something that has bedevilled our efficiency over a period of time and that is the professionalisation of the public service. For us to have an efficient, capable state we need to have a professional public service. To this effect we are establishing an already well articulated School of Government, which every public servant is expected to attend and pass a number of courses in order to progress in his work. Extensive work has been done to put this in place and discussions have taken place with the academia. We'll continue to engage with them until we launch the School of Government.

Powering all our systems for greater efficiency is a new strategy we worked on with SITA. SITA has a competent Board, with vast experience in corporate governance, it has a new dynamic, very competent and widely respected Chief Executive Officer. I am very optimistic about its future and its task is to ensure compliance with the SITA Act.

Having said all of this, I hope the question you will not be asking is "so what is new?" But even if you did, I'll tell you what is new. What is new is our own understanding of the urgency of doing this and to repeat myself, unless we get government administration sorted out, our plans will remain in jeopardy. What is new is that we now all agree on this matter, which is prioritised and well documented in the National Development Plan. What is new is the experience that we bring to this environment. What is new is our determination. What is new is that we are going to use every platform to call on all of you to help us to get this right.

The Perpetual Achievement of the Impossible is what we are continuously striving for. There is no gainsaying the fact that the future does not explode into our lives - it is being created and recreated by actions we take on a daily basis. It follows therefore that the best way of predicting the future is by continuously creating it.

We are called on to imagine a different future - away from the past that was both ugly and repulsive, and the present that threatens to mortgage the future of our children and country.

The future envisaged by the National Development Plan and our Constitution is full of promise, hope and unbridled possibilities. You as citizens of this country play an important role in ensuring we succeed.

I thank you

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