SPEECHES: Address by LN Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration, during the debate on the Public Administration Management Bill, National Council Of Provinces, 4 March 2014

Date: 7 Mar 2014

Chairperson of the NCOP

Chairperson of the Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs

Honourable Members

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the Chairperson of the NCOP, who allowed us to take this unusual route of bringing this very important piece of legislation first to the NCOP before it goes to the National Assembly. It is in fact a commendable route that we might need to consider using more often, especially with legislation that touches the lives of our people very directly at provincial and local government level. In this case, I am certain the people have had ample time to interact with the legislation we put before you today. This interaction makes it apt for me to say it is indeed a Batho Pele approach.

I would also like to thank Honourable Members of the NCOP and the Provincial Legislatures for sacrificing their December holidays to ensure that we are able to complete this very fundamental piece of legislation. The people of South Africa have been very agitated about service delivery and have been complaining about the discrepancies between the advantaged and the disadvantaged sectors of our society. They will find that we have now finally inserted among our achievements of the past five years, the foundation of the transformation of the public service and the transformation of service delivery.

The legislation before us today, the Public Administration Management Bill, lays the basis of an efficient, effective, capable, ethical public service that we all yearn for. It provides us with the establishment of a capable state defined in the National Development Plan. The bill establishes a uniform system of public administration in all three spheres of government and we believe through this bill we are going to address the challenges raised by the citizens themselves, by Honourable Members of this House, by the Auditor-General and other State entities on the problems and challenges faced by our citizens. We are ensuring that there is a streamlined set of values throughout all three spheres of government.

We have been particularly concerned about the efficiency of government at local government level, where shortages of skills have led to a whole host of problems, where in some cases the line between the political and the administration are blurred and where people's frustrations are most palpable. We have also been very aware of the lack of professionalism in the way that our public servants deal with the public at our services points, police stations, hospitals, schools and at our municipal offices. We have also been made very keenly aware, especially by Members of Parliament of the levels of corruption. Honourable Members will see in the Bill that we have tried, to the extent possible, to cover all those areas that we have identified for an efficient and capable government.

It is important from the outset to emphasise that the PAM Bill in no way seeks to remove the constitutional powers of any sphere of government. What it seeks to do is to ensure that, as the Constitution implores us to do, the resources of the State, in this case person power resources, can be distributed to those areas most in need and to ensure that we create the foundations of an efficient, effective and capable state.

Prior to introducing the bill in the NCOP we embarked on the most extensive consultative process ever undertaken by this government, involving submission of written comments and engagement with organised labour, Salga, Nedlac, government departments, the media, business, legal experts, municipalities, academics, and civil society. My team has tirelessly worked with the Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to brief the nine Provinces and participated in the 14 of the 18 public participation gatherings which were coordinated by the Provinces. The people have spoken and our assessment of what the people have said is that this legislation is long overdue, we cannot delay it any longer.

On a daily basis government is faced with many challenges which on their own or collectively require a multidisciplinary approach to resolve. Some of these challenges are the incidences of corruption at different levels of government; and also incidences of poor ethics and lack of integrity on the part of certain officials and in the systems on which government functions.

The Bill is long overdue, we could not delay it any longer. It is a framework legislation derived from section 195 of the Constitution which defines how Public Administration must be managed.

The Bill provides for the following:

  1. the transfer and secondment of employees in public administration across all three spheres of government;
  2. regulation of use of information and communication technologies in public administration to enhance service delivery;
  3. the establishment of the Ethics, Integrity and Discipline Technical Assistance Unit to strengthen a culture of discipline, integrity and ethical conduct in public administration by all officials;
  4. the prohibition of employees from conducting business with the state in order to prevent and eliminate corruption;
  5. measures to inculcate a culture of compliance with the regulations by institutions within the public administration by providing for the establishment of the Office of Standards and Compliance;
  6. the professionalisation and capacitating of employees through the establishment of the National School of Government.

Number 1. It is common cause that our municipalities are struggling with capacity. Some of this capacity is located in other spheres of government. We seek to follow the injunction of the Constitution, which exhorts us that all should have equal access to equal right, equal services, etc. It is common cause too, that services are skewed towards metropolitan areas, more privileged and this is where more skills reside. For us to right the wrongs of the past, we need to empower those areas closest to our people, so that the services provided in Bashe are no different to the services rendered to someone in Constantia. We have consulted extensively with labour to ensure that the rights, privileges and benefits or the transferred employees are not compromised. The employee will be consulted and would have to consent to the transfer.

Number two. We are regulating the use of information technology in the public service so that we can take government to the 21st century and deliver services to the most remote areas with the same efficiency as you would find in Parktown. In this way we are availing the support and services of Sita to all three spheres of government.

Number three. We are establishing an Ethics, Integrity and Discipline Technical Assistance Unit to deal with a whole variety of disciplinary, and ethical conduct cases, because we have found that departments and spheres of government do not have the expertise to deal with most of these cases and we are unable to apply corrective measures immediately while officials sit on paid suspensions for years at taxpayers expense.

Number four. It is common cause and it has come as a serious concern, both from the public and Members of this House that we need to do something about the permissive environment that allows corruption in government.

Over the years the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission and the Public Protector have reported on their respective investigations in which allegations have been made regarding corruption and unethical conduct, amongst others. Corruption, unethical conduct and lack of integrity produce outcomes that not only harm human society but undermine the very same progressive realisation of rights we seek to achieve.

As a consequence of this permissive environment, many officials in government have conspired with each other and in many cases with some in the private sector to secure business with government through corruption, fraud and misuse of legitimate government processes.

At the first level, there is a co-ordinated and systemic criminal attack on the processes and systems of delivery of government by this activity. This can be seen clearly in how supply chain management processes are designed and executed with an illegitimate outcome already determined for personal gain. At the second level, there are officials who legitimately participate in procurement processes for their own private ventures. It is the proximity to those processes and the intimate knowledge of the systems applicable that tilts the scales in their favour. This is corrupt practice and the public confidence and trust in government has eventually and steadily been eroded.

The Public Administration Management Bill (PAM Bill) therefore comes at the time when government takes further its interventions in order to enhance governance. In this regard, there are specific policy changes that are being given effect to. Firstly, officials involved in public administration are going to be prohibited from conducting business with the State. Secondly, officials in public administration are going to be required to declare the financial and business interests of their immediate family members.

In the case where we require the declaration of business activities of the immediate family of officials, this is done to enable government to assess potential conflict of interest, thus allowing appropriate interventions to be implemented to eliminate that conflict.

If indeed a government believes, the challenges faced stem from this permissive environment, reversing this policy position should take away most of these challenges. In the 'clean up', government is starting with itself and its own processes. By prohibiting officials from conducting business with the State, government is eliminating incentives and opportunities for corruption and unethical conduct. This will drive officials to focus more on strengthening the processes from which outcomes beneficial to the public are realised. The 'personal interest factor' is thereby being removed. Therefore the officials in public administration must only be in the business of designing and implementing responsive government programmes for the benefit of the public, using all their skills and knowledge for which they are remunerated from the public purse, for the public good. It is not their business to be employed by government and at the same time, sell to government the services and products that government needs for service delivery.

Number five. By establishing an Office of Standards and Compliance we want to ensure that all the laws and regulations passed by this House and the National Assembly are complied with fully. Laws and Regulations are passed for a particular purpose and our responsibility within the administration is to ensure that they are complied with. In most cases, departments are so engrossed in their daily work, that we only discover when the Auditor-General reports on this huge problem of non-compliance with regulations, that perhaps we need to create an overall compliance unit to monitor that which regulations and laws are passed for, are adhered to.

Finally and most excitedly, we agreed with labour that all public servants need to be retrained so that they offer a professional, efficient service. Our education needs to be fit for employment purposes in the public sector. Qualifications and good values should be inextricably linked in order to bring about well-rounded and disciplined public servants. Experiential training for new recruits will result in a public service ethos, based on respect for others, humility, honesty, trustworthiness, diligence and commitment to the State. A National School of Government has been established and its modules and curricula are compulsory for all public servants.

With the approach adopted government is sending a clear and unequivocal message that there will be change in the way government serves its people. The change starts in-house and this will inform the change externally. A clean government is not a choice or a good to do. It is a must do for a moral people such as ourselves. Everyone is enjoined to ensure that in order for our society to be normalised, the material conditions of living for everyone must reflect our values and who the people of South Africa are, ie a caring society with a deep sense of commitment to the country and the democracy we enjoy. Corruption and unethical conduct have no place in such a society.

I thank you.

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