Honourable Senzo Mchunu, Premier of KwaZulu- Natal;
Honourable Members of the Executive Committee
present here today
Director –General in the Office of the Premier;
All Heads of Department present here today;
Members of the Senior Management Service,
Ladies and gentlemen
I would like to thank the Premier, Honourable Senzo Mchunu and the KwaZulu-Natal Province, for the opportunity to address this seminar. I am encouraged that the Province of KwaZulu - Natal is hosting this seminar. This platform will promote learning and sharing of knowledge devoted to addressing key priorities and challenges of government which are relevant to the leadership of the Public Service. This is encouraging as I believe it will enhance a mutual understanding of the role of public service’ senior managers on areas such as good governance, financial management, service delivery and promoting professionalism.
This invite is opportune because it comes at a time when we have just entered the fifth Administration; we therefore need to reflect on the capability of the State in meeting its mandate. We need to take stock of how the Public Service can be strengthened; how we can do things better in the critical areas of service delivery, human resource management and development, financial management, and organisational structuring.
The National Development Plan as central to the effective delivery of its developmental objectives. To address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as identified in the National Development Plan, the public service has to re-invent itself in order to free our people from poverty. For us to succeed we require well-run and effectively coordinated state institutions with skilled public servants who are committed to serving our people. The task of re-inventing how we work in KwaZulu Natal starts today!
In the recent past, Departments received Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) reports from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), suggesting poor compliance with regulatory frameworks and controls. This is an indication that most Departments are not functioning optimally, therefore compromising the quality of services delivered to citizens. There is a need to grow or identify senior leaders in the Public Service who will guide the transformation of the state as well as identify and address symptomatic challenges faced by Government for effective functioning and achievement of priorities.
The Management Performance Assessment Tool results are not surprising considering perpetual challenges which span across several areas such as housing, education, health, delivery of infrastructure such as roads and public facilities. In many instances, the key challenges include the delivery of inferior workmanship, payments made on such poor quality work and lack of accountability. All these are linked to poor productivity related to maladministration, governance failure and at times corruption which continue to undermine state legitimacy. We have heard in various reports that there are several challenges which include weak and inefficient decision making, low productivity, overstaffing in non-core areas, inappropriate management practices, low efficiency; and a host of other organisational and institutional problems as well as low-quality administrative skills which compromise the delivery of quality services to citizens. I would like to emphasise that resource wastage cannot be tolerated, where resources are allocated according to policy priorities but efficient spending and value for money are not ensured.
The service delivery protests due to poor services delivered to citizens are not surprising, given the weaknesses in management practices as highlighted in the various reports from the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission, the Public Protector and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. Amongst the root causes of these protests is the shortage of management skills and competencies to deliver on the mandate of Government.
Government has come up with the National Development Plan (NDP), which I expect all Senior Managers to know of by now. The National Development Plan - or NDP as it is widely known - has elevated the task of building a capable and developmental state to a higher priority through the introduction of clear principles which are rooted in the Constitution. These principles highlight the role of the State as a key agent of transformation, acting with and on behalf of the poor and the most marginalised. This will certainly depend on senior officials like you to achieve the vision of effectively improving the lives of South African citizens as espoused in the NDP, which makes proposals for transforming the Public Service. These proposals intend to strengthen accountability chains to ensure that public servants are responsible for their actions instead of shirking their responsibilities. It is only when you commit to clear accountability chains that commitment to service delivery will improve. Improvement in service delivery will lead to the attainment of the strategic vision of government, which is to achieve a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. Such a vision can only be realised by inspired public servants, conscious of their role and commitment to service delivery.
The fact that the dialogue of this Summit revolves around your obligation as leadership to matters of financial management, good governance and productivity which will improve service delivery; this calls for raising professionalism to higher levels. We need to adequately respond to public service delivery complaints, and ensure that all our practices are in fact solid and leave no room to wait for complaints to be presented before we respond to the needs of our people. We need to be proactive in our approach, because this is what is expected of us as custodians of the Constitution. We need to constantly put our professional standards in check, and this can be achieved through:
Compulsory public service courses for public
servants, at a National School of Government and
Blacklisting public servants fired for fraud, financial mismanagement and misconduct in terms of employment in any government department;
Implementing the public service charter which sets out the norms and standards for public servants;
Ensuring that disciplinary processes against public servants are expedited and finalised within the stipulated time frames; and
Prohibiting public servants from doing business with the state.
All these will assist in ensuring that you and you subordinates are held accountable for your actions that compromise delivery of services to citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen;
As can be expected, professional leadership and good governance are critical ingredients to ensure we improve the lives of our people. It also ensures the upholding of the principles of public administration contained in Chapter 10 of the Constitution, which is a requirement for productivity, service excellence and ultimately delivery on the constitutional vision. We should continually recognise and enhance the culture of being servants of citizens as a prerequisite of public service delivery programmes and promises to the people of South Africa. This should be based on upholding professional standards at all times.
Leadership in the Public Service must always be based on professionalism and adherence to the legislative prescripts and frameworks governing Public Administration. It is however true that the quality of leadership found in the Public Service can be significantly enhanced by effective continuous development initiatives. Such efforts focus not only on leadership techniques, but also provide a broader understanding of the critical issues which all governments increasingly have to deal with. Specifically in the South African context, challenges that are faced by communities depend on effective leadership strategies to ensure that services are delivered as expected. Continuous development and training should be used as mechanisms to inculcate common public service values and ethos in order to change mindsets and influence how government does its business and for establishing a common Public Service culture that promotes Service Delivery excellence.
The idea of a highly productive public service to meet the basic needs of the South African people, as well as contribute towards the development of our economy is critical as the backbone of the state. As Senior Managers in the Public Service, you play a critical role in shaping the direction, structure, systems and culture, influencing the development of human capital and achievement of outcomes of government. You need to foster the confidence that citizens have in the institutions of government in terms of service delivery.
In the changing and evolving Public Service, what is needed is dynamic leadership acumen that can transform departments into institutions of effective service delivery within a developmental state. The ability to analyse and think strategically about the present and develop a direction that is productive and progressive requires visionary leadership. This is what is required of the Senior Management Service.
We have noted that the primary problem of performance concerns the availability of capacity (skills, human capital, resources and systems), attraction of the right capacity, its location, and the ethos of service. There is therefore a need to significantly improve the state’s capability by primarily focusing on:
Strengthening public accountability;
The ethos and orientation of public servants;
Human resource development;
Locating the capacity where it matters;
Identifying the minimum capacity required to deliver
Attracting, remunerating and retaining scarce skills;
The appropriate organisation of departments and
Monitoring and evaluating performance; and
Strengthening management of poor
The transformation of our human resources profile for a responsive Public Service requires the process of overhauling, re-inventing, and replenishing current and future human capital through leadership development in order to achieve sustainable growth and development. Implementation of managerial and supervisory systems, especially in the areas of Human Resources and Financial Management is of serious concern. This is due to ineffective institutional arrangements and capacity issues which impact on government's ability to achieve its objectives. Such challenges can be addressed through compliance with procedural requirements that guide processes and actions as well as creativity and innovation.
This brings me to the issue of how we manage discipline within the Public service. I am sure you have seen recent reports of national and provincial public servants who have been placed on precautionary suspension with full financial benefits. The figures are highly unacceptable as it has implications for both the state and the people we serve. I am sure some of the managers present here today have some subordinates on suspension. During the 2013 - 2014 financial years 84 suspensions were recorded in KwaZulu Natal. Although some of these have been resolved, and in some instances officials have been dismissed, more than 50 people are still on suspension with pay. I am calling on you to ensure that this process is expedited in order to bring stability to your management units. I am of the view that the proper legislative and regulatory frameworks do exist to deal speedily with disciplinary process within the public service. For example, if someone is suspended with full pay the suspension must be reviewed within 30 days as outlined in the Public Service Commission’s guidelines on the management of suspensions within the public service. However, if the process is not completed and the suspension with full pay not lifted then the relevant human resources unit must review the suspension weekly! Your leadership in this process is critical!
Let me also use this opportunity to confirm that the Department of Public Service and Administration will begin to strengthen relationships and increase our interaction with Provinces. For this reason we will visit all Provinces with the support and approval of Premiers
– and if possible – all provincial departments during the months of September and October. Our interaction will not be focussed on senior managers but on front-line public servants. We will ask them how we can improve their work conditions in order for them to improve service delivery to our people.
The Department of Public Service and Administration will also look at establishing an intergovernmental structure best suited to identify issues before they become major crisis. It is important to note that this effort will be based on establishing an effective and collaborative partnership between ourselves, the Presidency, the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, National Treasury, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Auditor General and the Public Service Commission.
I firmly believe that we need to create a uniform mandatory model for the development of senior managers in the Public Service. We also need to ensure standardisation in all departments in respect to training; professionalise the SMS through targeted job specification training; improve the quality of leadership by regularizing the quality of individuals who enter the SMS through the introduction of stricter entry requirements; improve the skills profile of SMS in the Public Service by advocating for continuous professional development in both generic and technical skills; and enforce mechanisms like competency based assessments in order to inform personal development.
This is what the NDP advocates; the focus is on building a capable and developmental state.
Honourable Premier, international experience informs us that we cannot change our systems, structures and processes and have our public servants thinking and acting the same – as if nothing has changed. We therefore have to begin to change how we view things.
This change of mind-set knows no racial or ideological boundaries. It is about changing how we deal with citizens. It is about producing civil servants who understand their primary role is to serve our people unconditionally! I am hoping that this Summit will provide an opportunity for your Senior Managers to understand the expectations of Government driven by the expectations of our people. I further hope that deliberations during this Summit will contribute to an improved understanding of what is expected from Senior Managers in terms of accountability, innovation, mindset and the quality of service to be delivered to our people.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I conclude, I would like to emphasise that enhanced service delivery requires a reinvented Public Service led by a transformed cadre of senior managers. This requires bold action in the delivery of services based on strong leadership, skills development and integrated planning as elements of the public service transformation agenda of our developmental state. This should be based on capacitating Senior Managers with the necessary skills in order to professionalise the Public Service. It must also be based on instilling a new mindset that we are here to serve the people and as senior managers we must ensure that all levels, in particular those that are front-line staff, within your respective institutions are supported, treated with respect and given optimum guidance to perform at their best.
The Public Service must be dedicated in its obligation to ensure that mechanisms are in place for continuous improvement and responding to the people’s needs. Communities expect better service and that is what the Public Service must be committed to deliver on while ensuring that governance is maintained at the highest level.
I can confirm that the Department of Public Service and Administration will begin to strengthen relationships and increase our interaction with Provinces. I look forward to receiving a summary report of your deliberations; I am hoping that your learning points during this Summit can be shared with other Provinces and the entire Public Service in order to consistently respond to the needs of our people in taking South Africa forward.
I wish you all of the very best for the rest of the seminar.
I thank you!