SPEECHES: Minister for The Public Service and Administration Mr. Collins Chabane to the Pscbc Strategic Planning Session 5 - 7 August 2014

Date: 7 Aug 2014

Chairperson of the PSCBC

Presidents of the ILC and Cosatu

Deputy Chairpersons of the PSCBC

General Secretary of the PSCBC and Sector Bargaining Councils

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning Colleagues,

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate and interact with you at your strategic planning session. For the purpose of giving you some points for discussion over the next three days I will specifically look at the following issues: changing the way the public service works and the role of the PSCBC; the upcoming salary negotiations; and the benefits of signing multi-year agreements. The concept of reinventing how we work still needs broad consultation and is open to influence by all present today!

Our Constitution requires that the public service should be professional, transparent, accountable, responsible, responsive and developmental. Your debates and discourse at this strategic session could make remarkable contributions in the achievement of these underlying principles and values. 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 while building a united and democratic South Africa.

The reality of our South African state is that we have not been able to fulfil all the ideals of all our citizens. Our country is still plagued by high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality. Ethical and integrity issues, maladministration, fraud and corruption 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!

The National Development Plan asserts that the public service is central to us achieving our objective of improving our people's lives. We have to address and defeat the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. To do this the public service needs to play both a transformative and developmental role. It is for this reason that the public service needs to re-invent itself to pro-actively assume this important responsibility.

For us to succeed we require professional, effectively coordinated and well managed state institutions with highly skilled public servants who are committed to serving our people.

I will therefore embark on a national programme, after consulting with Ministers and Premiers, to speak directly to ordinary civil servants about how we can improve their jobs in order for them to deliver better services to our people.

This process will start next month and conclude in October. It will signal the start of a critical task of reinventing how we work as a department and how we work as public servants.

However, this is will only be achieved if we work as a collective with input from all departments, unions, academic institutions, civil society and the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.

Although the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council was established as a collective bargaining forum within the Public Service your role stretches beyond this. According to various legislative prescripts governing the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, you are an independent organisation whose main objective is to maintain sound labour relations in the Public Service.

For this reason I regard you as a very strategic partner - as I also want to ensure that we achieve high levels of stability within the public service while transforming it into an effective and capable service delivery instrument. However, I will not be able to do this on my own.

The promotion of good governance requires that I partner with you and other institutions like the Public Service Commission, the Presidency, Auditor General of South Africa and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. I therefore regard you as an essential partner in my objective to reinvent how we work as government.

So how do we achieve this?

The Service Charter

As you know the Service Charter is a commitment signed by both the state and unions representing all civil servants whereby we committed ourselves to provide better and more efficient services to all South Africans. The core of this commitment is to provide citizens with better services while respecting them as human beings. At the end, it is about establishing a caring relationship built on trust between civil servants and the citizens we work for.

It is expected of all civil servants to adhere to the principles and objectives as outlined in the Charter. However, of greater importance is to have a knowledgeable public; a public that is fully aware of their rights and ready to report poor service in order to prevent fellow citizens from receiving that same poor service.

I am therefore proposing that we use public service month - which is next month - to launch a campaign to educate all public servants about the significance of the Charter. This task will be coordinated by Department of Public Service and Administration and all human resource units in departments throughout the country.

I also view public service month as an ideal opportunity to energetically promote the Service Charter amongst ordinary South Africans.

The Department of Public Service and Administration will also ask all Unions as signatories to the Service Charter to encourage their members to adhere to the Charter. This I am confident will move us towards improving service delivery, actual performance and entrenching greater levels of professionalism within the Public Service.

It is for this reason Colleagues, that I ask you to strategize and develop mechanisms that will help us to ensure that both ourselves as the employer and our employees become more serious about the promotion and implementation of agreements such as the Service Charter and those reached as part of resolutions via the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.

Let me also use this opportunity to re-assure you of our seriousness towards the implementation of all agreements signed at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.

Improvement on conditions of employment and salary increases

This brings me to the point of salary negotiations. As a country we have witnessed several strikes during the past 8 months. I am confident that both employers and employees have learnt valuable lessons from these strikes. I am therefore positive that we can and will reach an amicable solution when we start our own negotiations.

Colleagues, you would have seen recent media articles about the quality of service delivery versus what is perceived to be a bloated public service and the issue of suspensions within the public service with full pay. These issues did not appear in the media sphere because of investigative journalists.

As a department and Ministry we embarked on a deliberate campaign to deal very publicly with these issues. We will work closely with stakeholders including the Presidency and National Treasury to ensure that all legislative and regulatory frameworks are properly adhered to and implemented. I am confident that this topic can be dealt with at your strategic session.

For example you have resolution 2 of 1999 which deals with the Adoption of a Disciplinary Code and Procedures for the public service. Section 7.2 (a) states very clearly that "the employer may suspend an employee on full pay or transfer the employee".

Although the agreement offers an alternative I only see people being suspended for serious offences within the Public Service. In some cases the suspension runs into years. We need to find a solution to stop this practice as it not only impacts negatively on the employer and employee but also the people we serve. I hope as you look at this matter you will find solutions to d

During your discussions it is important to ask if we need to amend this resolution in order to ensure that managers begin to manage properly! However, as indicated I am confident that the correct regulatory frameworks are in place for us to manage.

Part of transforming how we work is to identify whether our human resources are properly utilised throughout the public service. I look forward to receiving some pointers from the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council on how we can best manage this situation.

When discussing this point it is also important to note that the National Development Plan has recorded uneven performance at national, provincial and local government levels.

This according to the National Development Plan results from the interplay between a complex set of factors including:

  • tensions in the political-administrative interface which leads to instability within the administration;
  • skills deficits;
  • the erosion of accountability and authority;
  • poor organisational design and inappropriate staffing;
  • management failures; and
  • low staff morale.
  • In order for us to succeed in building a capable and developmental state, we have to correct these inefficiencies sooner rather than later.

At the heart of all these factors is the professionalization of the public sector!

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 while truthfully reflecting their wishes, sincerely helping to address their hardships, and doing more to speed up effective service to the people.

It is therefore important that we link the issues raised above to my final point on the importance of signing a Multi-Year salary Agreement

On 31 July 2012 all parties to the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council signed a three year wage agreement on salaries and conditions of service for the public service. The time afforded to parties by this multi-term agreement has given all of us an opportunity to conclude the majority of the matters contained therein.

Key amongst these are:

  • an above inflation cost of living adjustment for salary levels 1-12 - this cushioned the salaries of public servants from the effects of inflation and increased the value of their jobs;
  • the changes to the qualifying periods for pay progression for all new entrants;
  • and an introduction of recognition of improved qualifications to enhance development and professionalism in the public service;
  • an enhanced night shift allowance and long service recognition dispensations;
  • the comprehensive amendments to the leave dispensation which includes the introduction of pre-natal leave, an improvement to shop stewards leave and family responsibility leave; and
  • the review of the exit management system.

As government we have also improved the processing of pension claims.

The outstanding items require joint processing at the level of the PSCBC and will be processed in terms determined by the institution. Most importantly, parties are in discussions at the PSCBC regarding the introduction of a major new benefit for public servants in the form of the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS). The discussions on the housing scheme are at an advanced stage and I am confident that it will benefit the state, public servants who are currently unable to own their own houses and off course our economy.

Once these discussions are finalized the parties will commence with a new round of salary negotiations later this year. Once more, I wish to commend the parties for the mature level of engagement that resulted in the conclusion of the current agreement. You have proven - that handled correctly, collective bargaining can be an important vehicle to realize the ideals of transforming public service into and effective and capable mechanism.

I am confident that signing a multi-year agreement benefits all parties involved. This will also provide the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council with sufficient time to monitor the implementation of agreements, ultimately avoiding and minimizing disputes on failure to implement these collective agreements.

Colleagues, it is my view that any person who joins the civil service does so with an intention to do good - to serve our people. The legislative and regulatory frameworks exist to help them to do so! Proper implementation of these regulations and policies can detect and prevent fraud and corruption. As indicated we also need to deal with disciplinary issues speedily and effectively. The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council is the right place for us to remedy these issues.

In conclusion, I commit that we will go back to basics - to do things simply, smartly and effectively. We will do so in order to stay in touch with our people. If we do this we will know what is happening on the ground and this will empower us to proactively and directly engage with our citizens. Through doing this we will also find practical solutions to problems before they escalate. This, colleagues, will drive our project to reinvent the public service.

Last Thursday I addressed senior managers in the KwaZulu Natal province. We will also meet with senior managers in other provinces. More importantly I will embark on a campaign to meet ordinary front line civil servants throughout the country. We want to know what it is that we can do to make their work output more productive. We want constructive criticism - criticism that will serve to build and improve how we deliver services to our people. The advice we seek will not come from consultants - it will come from public servants themselves!

By listening and interacting with our employees we will ensure that mechanisms are in place for continuous improvement in how we respond to the needs of our people.

The Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council might not be a government structure; but you are able to influence how we work as government.

It is because of this opportunity that I call on you to hold us accountable in our attempts to improve the lives of all South Africans and to partner with us as we move towards building a new and prosperous South Africa.

I look forward to receiving a report with recommendations from your strategic planning session, and wish you well in your deliberations.

I thank you!

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