SPEECHES: Address by L N Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration on the Occasion of the Launch of the National School of Government Tshwane, 21 October 2013

Date: 21 Oct 2013

Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Premiers of Provinces
Your Worships Executive Mayors and Mayors
Directors-General, Deputy Directors-General & Chief Executive Officers
Leaders of Organised Labour in the country and in the Public Service
Vice-Chancellors of Universities
Out-going and Incoming Auditors-General
Members of the Minster's Advisory Task Team on the establishment of the National School of Government
Staff members within the public service
Esteemed Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Our struggle for freedom against the apartheid state, was underpinned by the express intent, not only to remove an illegitimate government, but also to completely transform the state and its institutions. It was fundamentally important to ensure that firstly the state enjoys the legitimacy of having been elected by the people, and secondly, to ensure that those who run that legitimate State, are committed, patriotic citizens, driven by a desire to serve the people. We were always very certain that our longterm success depended on the creation of a particular type of public servant, who would be imbued with these qualities of dedication, commitment, efficiency, professionalism. With every attempt we strove for this and now, in our 19 years of Government, we are certain we have the solution. Today we launch the National School of Government. Its establishment is a crystallisation and practical expression of a confluence of factors and developments that have independently conspired to get us here today.

The School of Government derives its genesis directly from the Constitution. The Constitution is unambiguous in its expectations - it enjoins us to establish a competent, efficient, effective, accountable and responsive public service. We have understood that this efficient, effective and responsive public service that we seek, cannot will itself into existence. It would need to be a product of insight, effort, investment and intervention. Put more directly, the School of Government is an idea whose time has finally come on the back of our own experiential reality and concretely on the work of the National Planning Commission (NPC).

The National Planning Commission (NPC) has generated enough information on the challenges we face and highlighted the unevenness in state capacity, which leads to uneven performance in local, provincial and national government. And it sets out in the NDP the requirements for building a capable developmental state demonstrating how the uneven performance of the public service stems from the interplay between a complex set of factors. These include serious skills deficit, instability of the administrative leadership, the erosion of accountability and authority, poor organisational design, inappropriate staffing and low staff morale. The NPC indicates that unless we, and to use their favourite jargon "fix the engines", we will be nowhere near the requirements of the Constitution, the expectations of our people, nor would it be possible for us to execute the Plan that will drive us to greater productivity and a more effective State.

Having had regard to what the NPC has diagnosed, having remained alive to the commitment of the Ruling Party, the ANC, having understood the transformation expectations of the masses of our people, I set up a Task Team to help me conceptualise and establish this School of Government so that we can respond to the challenges that are clear and present. The Task Team consisted of eminent scholars, education practitioners, ETD specialists and academics with experience in managing higher education entities, over a period of nine months. This Task Team diligently interacted extensively with the Director-General and Executive of Palama, with national, provincial and local government departments, with Higher Education stakeholders and private suppliers of training and development, private sector players and senior leadership of the government. The Task Team did extensive and comprehensive research, international benchmarking, and finally presented the outcome of their work to the HRD Council, chaired by the Deputy President and also to Cabinet last month.

On 14 October 2013, the President approved President's Minute 291, proclaiming that Schedule 1 of the Public Service Act, 1994 has been amended and that the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy has now been changed to "National School of Government". In terms of Government procedures, the Proclamation comes into effect on the date of its publication in the Government Gazette. That day is today, 21 October 2013. Palama no longer exists. Long live the National School of Government.

Government has been through a number of trials of various forms of institutions to provide training to the public service. What we have today, I am convinced, will stand the test of time, because we have learned from our past mistakes, learned from international best practice, seen ourselves through the mirror through the diagnosis produced by the National Planning Commission. We have put together some of the best minds in the country and to ensure the product will be different, because it will have been custom made to serve a purpose, even though we recognise that the country has an abundance of institutions that can provide certain skills. Fundamentally, we have come to the realisation that establishing a functioning state machinery, the creation of a public service ethos and the creation of a cadre of government is a responsibility that cannot and should not be outsourced.

Essentially, the National School of Government seeks to build and to locate the strategic and operational capabilities of public service education and training provision within the State. Collaboration with other institutions including universities is envisaged, especially where capabilities within the State are found to be inadequate.

This School of Government would require nothing short of the mobilization of thought, best practice and optimal use of resources to ensure demonstrable return on investment. In the first instance, the School is expected to be both corrective and proactive. The School will be the central pillar in professionalising the public service for higher productivity. It is expected to be an engine of innovation in public service. As an engaged public entity, the benchmark of its achievement would be its social impact.

There are no short cuts to delivering operational excellence. Requiring public servants to undergo high-quality education, training and development that provide values, skills and knowledge for entry, in service and career progression purposes is arguably the most realistic and viable option.

The National School of Government must respond to the "urgency of now" in righting the wrongs that have so far hobbled the public service. Reports of the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission paint a gloomy picture of the public service. These range from; high rates of unauthorized, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, increases in cases of financial misconduct to general non-compliance with legislation and regulations. These are all matters well known to all of us.

To ensure responsiveness, provisions and academic programmes will be needs-driven. They are expected to take into account not only the developmental needs of individual employees but will balance these against the broader needs of the public service, the sector, and specific departments. Put sharply, curricula and programmes will be designed on the basis of a sound understanding of the challenges and realities of the public service environment. It is about unleashing the best in our students to enable reform and performance oriented public service.

This is a shift from the current model that focuses largely on building the generic knowledge and skills of individuals. This approach has proved inadequate to turning the public service into an effective machinery envisioned by the constitution.

To ensure that there is return on investment, certain measures will be undertaken. Instead of relying primarily on external providers with limited experience and/or appreciation of the challenges of the public service, the School will also make use of expertise and experience of current and past public servants, academics and subject-matter specialists to design and deliver courses.

Courses would be tailored to respond directly to real and not imagined problems that have been identified by various monitoring and evaluation state agencies referred to earlier.

It is envisaged that courses offered in the various programmes will be practice oriented. Integrating knowledge, technical and behavioural skills will assist in ensuring that principles, tools and concepts learned are immediately applied in the workplace. To this end, case studies would be used to help students to identify and to resolve problems they are likely to encounter in the real managerial and business environment. Thus, instead of expecting students to regurgitate what they have learnt, students would be required to present solutions to real problems and challenges they have identified in their working environment.

Delivery of education, training and development will take place at or nearer the employees' workplaces. The idea is to facilitate immediate application of learning and the translation of theory into practice. This is one of the effective ways of ensuring that every workplace is transformed into a learning space.

Unlike the current model which comprises largely of a central location, the model envisaged is that of a single national school made of multiple delivery sites. These sites will include provincial academies and new centres of learning that resides within departments. Education, training and development initiatives that represent the best of education, training and development are expected to be retained.

Aside from improving service delivery and turning the public service into an efficient and effective machinery, the National School of Government and its hands-on and brains-on approach will enable us to apply common norms and standards in the public service. This should result in better horizontal and vertical articulation and greater mobility within the public service. In doing so, the School will help to address the unevenness and the poor quality that characterize most of the learning and development offerings in the public service.

The School will allow us to take a different trajectory, to make real the visions of public service that the President refers to as cadres of government. History has kindly provided us with this opportunity to make real this dream of an efficient, effective, committed and accountable public service. The future is upon us to create. If we do not focus on addressing the capabilities of people and that of the State, the dream of creating a Vision 2013 would continue to elude us.

The National School of Government will usher in a new South African Government approach to education, training and professional development in the public service and public administration management. That is why the curricula and syllabi will conform to the new national norms and standards for the public service to be developed by the Council of the National School of Government in consultation with the centre of government (CoG) departments, human resource management teams of departments at all levels, and the appropriate structures within the South African Qualification Authority. These norms and standards will be approved by the Minster responsible for public service and administration, with the appropriate consultation with the Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Moreover, the education, training and continuing professional development will reflect concretely on richness of Government's and our constitutional entities diagnostic reports on the state and specifically the public service. It will therefore and more specifically draw on:

  • Reports from Government on the Performance Management Assessment Tool and Frontline Service Delivery Reports from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation; financial management reports of the National Treasury such as the Annual Fiscal Revenue and Expenditure Reviews and Performance Reports from the Accountant-General; the DPSA Human Resource Review; and the diagnostic and planning reports from the National Planning Commission.

  • Reports from constitutional institutions such as the series of annualised Auditor-General Reports, reports from the Public Protector and Public Service Commission and reports from the other Chapter Nine institutions.

  • Reports from the Parliamentary Committees such as from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and various Portfolio and Standing Committees.

The first programme of the NSG will be a Government Leadership Programme, taking the form of a Seasonal School (such a Summer School) leadership from all three spheres of government. The purpose of the programme will be to reach agreement, based on rigorous analysis, on the overarching strategy and plan for learning and development in the public sector, and start the change that will achieve the "capable, developmental, professional and responsive state" envisaged in the NDP.

The programme will mark a decisive and urgent shift from the past, and build collective responsibility and momentum for improved performance and service delivery. It will draw on the combined knowledge and experience of government leadership, as well as local and international experts based on highly skilled facilitation. The programme will conclude with a declaration of intent, shaping the future of learning and development in the public sector.

Thereafter, the first programme to be rolled out by the NSG on a significant scale will be compulsory induction for all new employees. This will ensure that new employees are thoroughly oriented to the public sector, the specific institution and their specific job responsibilities.

The NSG will ensure that institutions, public representatives and public servants routinely have access to effective, high quality learning and development, making an impact on public sector performance and service delivery that is monitored and evaluated. Appointments and career progression will require demonstration of competency and relevant qualifications. Learning and development programmes will be driven by the overarching learning and development strategy, balancing, on the demand side, the needs of institutions and individuals, with supply side delivery of job relevant programmes.

Now is the time that our executive and senior management public servants, together with the National School of Government develop a public service career stream in society that will attract the best of our school-leavers and graduates and establish the public service as a career of choice and envy. This is part of our transformative path to changing the entry capabilities of recruits into the public service.

We have arranged today that the Head of the School will provide you with a snapshot insight into what will be offered at the School.

The National School of Government will be strengthened by a multidisciplinary team of lecturers, facilitators, trainers and organisational development experts. It is through this highly trained and experienced staff, comprising committed and competent retired public servants, current committed, ethical professionals in government and new recruits that understand and have knowledge - based on both the academic and world of work within the public service. It is through a multidisciplinary team within the public service, that the National School of Government will deliver a South African theoretical and practical approach to public administration management. Our new academic approach to professionalising and making the public service efficient and effective ought to set the new public administration management frontiers to the year 2030.

The National School of Government will be governed by a Council that is reporting and accountable to the Minister of Public Service and Administration. This Council will have functions, among others, of governance and determination of policy, norms and standards on education, training and professional development within the public service.

A Principal will be appointed for the School who will be supported by a number of deputy Principals and a Registrar, to deliver on the overall functions and responsibilities of the National School of Government.

And so ladies and gentlemen, I would like to insist that today history is being made as we have assembled here to launch into reality an idea whose time has long come.

I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Advisory Task Team on the National School of Government, my advisers and the Director-General and Executives of the former Palama for helping and advising me to this point of the Launch. They have done sterling work and I am certain they will be proud of their project.

In my capacity as Minister responsible for this institution, I have decided to make the following appointments:

    • Professor Job Mokgoro will be the acting Head of the Institution, until such time as a Head of the National School of Government is appointed after due process.

    • The following persons will constitute the Council of the School:

      • Professor Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo

      • Prof Nomathemba Magi

      • Prof Itumeleng Mosala

      • Dr Trish Hanekom

      • Ms Gemma Paine-Cronin

      • Mr Barry Gilder

    • Prof L Mollo will be the Registrar of the School

The National School of Government will be formally opened by the President on 9 December 2013, at which point we will be running our first Leadership course and our target will be compulsory training for all Directors-General of national and provincial departments, and possibly also Municipal Managers.

I thank you

For inquiries: Mr Ndivhuwo Mabaya (083 645 7838)

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