International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration (IASIA) Annual Conference 2014
Held in South Africa, Port Elizabeth at
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, 01st July 2014
Prof. Michiel de Vries, President of IASIA;
Prof. Geert Bouckaert, President of IIAS;
Mr Rolet Loretan, Director-General of IIAS;
Members of the Board of Management of IASIA present;
Members of the Council of Administration of IIAS present;
Prof. Derrick Swartz, Vice-Chancellor of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University;
Prof. Velile Notshulwana, Chairperson of the Local Organising Committee and members of the Local Organising Committee;
Leaders and members of academic and other institutions across the public administration spectrum;
Ladies and gentlemen
Allow me, on behalf of the government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, to extend a warm and personal welcome to you to this our Friendly City, Port Elizabeth, also known locally as the Nelson Mandela Bay, albeit the Windy City, on this auspicious occasion of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration annual conference. We are delighted that you have again chosen our beautiful country to bring together the global intellectualism of the administrative sciences, and in particular Public Administration.
Turning back the clock to 1996, when you met in Durban for the annual conference, our democracy was in its embryonic stages, a mere two years old, fledgling at the time when the iconic late President Nelson Mandela was at the helm. Sadly our nation also felt the pain at the loss of the father of our nation, on 5 December 2013, whom this metropolitan city is lovingly named after, Nelson Mandela Bay. However, when you return now in 2014, we are a 20-year old maturing democracy having evolved through our developmental steps with many success stories to tell. This is another opportunity for our government to celebrate the remarkable story of South Africa, joined by yourselves, as well as compatriots of the African continent in your august representation from Schools and Institutes of Administration, globally. Our years of freedom provided us with the imperative to reflect in deep recognition of all that have contributed to the achievements of our democracy in South Africa. Included in these are institutions of learning and development with their respective associations like the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration.
Recently, our nation also mourned the loss of Mrs Epainette Mbeki, a stalwart of the liberation struggle of the African National Congress and a champion of human and socio-economic rights. Even until her death at the ripe age of 98, she remained a humble servant of the community and the people of the Eastern Cape. Her remains lay buried in her village about 400kms away from where we are gathered here today. The legacy she leaves behind personifies what community, and indeed, public service is all about - putting the needs of others before your very own.
Their legacy poses a challenge to institutions like yours on how we infuse their leadership qualities in the context of this year's main theme on "Good Governance: the position of Students, Scholars and Practitioners" and to ensure that the annals of public administration journals and public administration discourse will, in years to come, reflect on the exemplary leadership qualities espoused by these great leaders and many others, the lessons that future generations of public leaders can draw from.
The International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration has indeed played a critical role in the development and evolution of Public Administration discourse and public sector reforms around the globe, from the earlier debates on the Weberian Theories of Public Administration, to New Public Management and Decentralisation, to the emerging debates around Alternative Delivery Models for Public Administration. The 2014 theme focusing on 'Good Governance' in academic settings, comes at an appropriate time for us, given the birth of a number of schools and institutes of Public Administration and Management in our universities around the country. We have to debate the traditional governance arrangements and whether these have progressively worked and served the interest of a developmental state.
However, IASIA continues to play a pivotal role in the influence in theories in teaching as well as in the practices of Public Administration and Management, and we hope that it will contributes to the emerging discourse and trajectory of our recently established National School of Government. The benefits of linking the NSG with IASIA are evidenced in the dissemination of IASIA journals within the Schools of Public Administration and this strengthens the knowledge repository; provides international standardisation in the research realm and connects regional and international knowledge integration in the public service among others.
The international benchmarks and best practices modelled by your association over many years produced academics and scholars of outstanding stewardship. South African academics and practitioners participate in the annual IASIA conferences that take place all over the world and this demonstrates the value recognition and impact derived from what this association is all about and the thought platform it provides to many. By way of illustration, the 2012 IASIA publication "Global Trends in Public Sector Reform" published in Brussels contains case studies contributed by at least three South Africans.
Our Constitution requires that the public service should be professional, transparent, accountable, responsible and developmental, and IASIA debates and discourse could make remarkable contributions in the achievement of these underlying principles and values. These are principles and values that are at best inculcated during the early years of one's preparation to serve the public, be it at a place of learning or by socialisation in the community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our President, the Honourable Mr Jacob Zuma, reminds us that South Africa has a good story to tell. The South Africa of today is the South Africa we have cherished in many respects - and must be the South Africa we improve on and preserve. The preamble of our Constitution implores us to believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity; that we have to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person and that we must build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.
The reality of our South African state is that we have not been able to fulfil all the ideals of our citizens - we are still plagued by the macrocosmic issues of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. Ethical and integrity issues and maladministration continue to be the scourge towards developing a professionalised public sector, thus contributing to poor levels of service delivery.
But we are a nation at work!
Permit me, ladies and gentlemen, to outline some of our government's lessons and approaches towards building the capable and developmental state; in doing this, I simultaneously select areas in government's work that will require to be enriched through a discourse between academia and public service practitioners and make a challenge for innovative solutions to all in this conference.
In June 2011, we undertook a Diagnostic Overview in pursuit of a Social Vision, to identify the main challenges confronting South Africa, and provide a basis for a National Development Plan. The diagnostic overview identified a number of key continuing challenges, including widespread poverty and extreme inequality that persists even though South Africa is considered an upper middle-income country; that poverty depths and constraints on human development and economic progress are hampered by a very slow economic growth; that too few South Africans are employed and this high level of unemployment is the key contributor to the extreme levels of poverty; the performance of the public service is uneven; and corruption undermines state legitimacy and service delivery.
The National Development Plan (Vision 2030) was adopted by Cabinet and forms the basis for our five-year medium term strategic framework. It sets out a vision for our future, it is not a government plan or a political party plan - it is our plan, for all citizens to make their contributions towards the envisaged State. It notes that there is uneven performance at national, provincial and local government, which results from the interplay between a complex set of factors including tensions in the political-administrative interface, instability of the administrative leadership, skills deficits, the erosion of accountability and authority, poor organisational design, inappropriate staffing and low staff morale.
Therefore, in order for us to build a capable and developmental state, we have to correct these inefficiencies by building an efficient, effective and development- oriented public service is at the heart of it all!
Our Constitution envisages a public service that is professional, accountable and development-oriented. The NDP identifies specific steps that need to be taken to promote the values and principles of public administration contained in the Constitution and build an efficient, effective and development oriented public service as part of a capable and developmental state. The NDP also highlights the need for well-run and effectively coordinated state institutions with skilled public servants who are committed to the public good and capable of delivering consistently high-quality services, while prioritizing the nation's developmental objectives.
To achieve this goal, the following sub-outcomes which have been incorporated into our Medium Term Strategic Framework (MSTF), have been identified as critical priorities based on chapters 13 and 14 of the NDP namely:
To this effect, the Ministry for Public Service and Administration is leading in the attainment of these outcomes and has embarked on a number of initiatives some of which are highlighted below.
The critical success factors for the NDP are all largely premised on the continual availability of solid research in all the NDP priority areas. Government in particular is required inter alia to partner with the private sector to raise the level of research and development, with resources targeted towards building the research infrastructure required by a modern economy. To this effect, a new Research and Analysis unit has been established and its main function is to ensure that the Department of Public Service Administration (DPSA) becomes a new hub for public administration research methodology within the public service, act as platform for emerging discourse and ensure that such crucial case studies and best practice is disseminated to the relevant departments and other interested stakeholders. This would ensure, inter alia, improved decision making and an efficient and effective public administration which is informed by national and international best practices.
In this regard DPSA has, on 27 June 2014, convened a consultation workshop with academia and the South Africa Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) with a view to soliciting their input on how best the DPSA could collaborate and partner with the selected institutions on research and public administration discourse issues in the context of building a capable and developmental state as envisaged in chapter 13 of the NDP and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).
As a result, it has been agreed that a Forum be formed between the DPSA and Academia/ research oriented Institutes where, inter alia, matters of common interest would be discussed and information shared in the context of contributing to an academic journal, policy briefs and occasional papers from the public service.
Government has also established a National School of Government launched in October 2013. The National School of Government has to play a significant role in overseeing the professional common purpose in addressing the systemic challenges of public service delivery, through the learning and development of public officials. In doing so, the NSG also has a triangular approach of integrating the past, with the present, to the future.
What this means is learning from past experiences (good and bad practices) and using past expertise such as retired public servants to develop the current; focusing on improving the current (systems, processes) and empowering the current generation of public servants; and determining a conduit for producing future public servants with a vastness of competitive opportunities and abilities to innovate.
Government has also introduced a Public Administration Management Bill, which seeks to give effect to our constitutional values and principles on public administration by the setting of common norms and standards for public administration across the spheres of government. We are certain that this piece of legislation is going to support integrated service delivery.
These are some of the initiatives that the government is currently embarking upon and I sincerely hope that the deliberations of this conference as guided by the main theme: "Good Governance: the position of students, scholars and practitioners" will go a long way in contributing to the achievement of our goal of achieving a capable and developmental state as envisaged in chapter 13 of the NDP.
I look forward to receiving a summary report of your deliberations as the DPSA, through its research and public administration discourse initiatives, will be interested in taking forward some of the emerging discourse issues.
As the newly appointed Minister for Public Service and Administration in our fifth administration, I have the privileged task of guiding our public service to new heights of professionalised service delivery. A good foundation has been laid by my predecessors; hence I am certain that over the next five years we would have seen significant public sector reforms. We are a proud nation and we will succeed!
Distinguished guests, I am certain that the Local Organising Committee will take care of you in the Proudly South African way. Whether you are a first time visitor to our country or a regular, I hope you will find time to take in the sights of the beautiful and majestic Eastern Cape. I wish you well in your deliberations over the next few days and I am looking forward to receiving the conference report and papers.
In conclusion, may I pass my heartfelt condolences to the family of Professor Russell Botman late rector of Stellenbosch University on his untimely passing over the weekend. May his academic legacy and contribution to public administration discourse be remembered.
I thank you!