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 on the occasion of the IASIA 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.
When you met in Durban for the 1996 IASIA annual conference, our democracy was a mere two years old and now when you return in 2014, we are a 20-year old maturing democracy. This is another opportunity for government to celebrate the story of South Africa joined by yourselves, compatriots of the African continent in your large representation from Schools and Institutes of Administration. 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 IASIA.
IASIA has played a critical role in the development of intelligentsia around the globe. The intellectual and practice based orientation of IASIA has given birth to a number of schools and institutes of Public Administration and Management in our universities around the country.
IASIA continues to play a pivotal role in the teaching and practice of Public Administration and Management and it can contribute much in 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 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 IASIA over many years produced academics and scholars of outstanding achievements. 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. The 2012 IASIA publication "Global Trends in Public Sector Reform" published in Brussels for an example. contains chapters contributed by more than 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.
Recently, our nation mourned the loss of Mrs Epainette Mbeki, a stalwart of the liberation struggle of the African National Congress and fierce critic of human and socio-economic rights. Even till her death at the 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. The legacy she leaves behind personifies what community, and indeed, public service is all about - putting the needs of others before your very own. This legacy poses a challenge to institutes like IASIA in questioning how they fuse learning from these socio-politico stalwarts and community development agents with the modern theories to enrich research based knowledge and practice.
I would venture to say that every human being had heard of, and felt our pain at the loss of the father of our nation, our late President Nelson Mandela. The annals of public administration journals will, in years to come, reflect on the leadership qualities espoused by this great leader and many others, the lessons that future generations of leaders can draw from.
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 the ideals of all 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 governments' 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 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.
The NDP 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.
The professionalism of the public sector is at the heart of it all !
Our President has called for the building of a new public sector cadre, as part of creating a developmental state - a cadre who provides service to the people, has a caring attitude in dealing with citizens, listening to people's concerns, truthfully reflecting their wishes, sincerely helping address their hardships, and doing more to speed up effective service to the people.
To this effect, government has 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.
These will be achieved with uniformity in the learning and development approach, mandatory training and compulsory training days (be it face-to-face learning or mentorship programmes), the establishment of a common vision and sense of purpose, maintenance of common norms, enhanced learning and development to large scale public servant wherever they are in the Republic, and a systematic and holistic approach towards building the critical core competencies necessary for the South African Developmental State leading to improved service delivery.
These are some of the benefits from government's investment in its own institute, the National School of Government.
From an international perspective, the National School of Government is a player within the international realm of learning and development, connecting public service learning and development discourse in South Africa with opportunities abound within the African Continent (SADC, AU), other regions (Commonwealth, OECD) and through specific partnerships like with IASIA. Through engagements with international institutions like these, the NSG will be able to utilise and contribute to best practise in public administration.
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.
In his June 2014 State of the Nation Address, our President has committed to expanding the number of internship positions in the public sector, with every government department and public entity being required to take on interns for experiential training. This we believe also supports our vision of determining who our future public servants are and creating opportunities for developing our future public leaders.
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.
I thank you!