SPEECHES

Address by the Minister for Public Service and Administration, Hon. Collins Chabane, MP, Gauteng Senior Management Conference, Birchwood Conference Centre - 8th August 2014

Date: 18 Aug 2014

Programme Director;

Honourable David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng;

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 greet you all at this special occasion of the Gauteng Senior Managers' conference. Let me at the outset salute all the managers present for your important contribution towards managing this magnificent province: South Africa's business and political capital. I would like to thank the Premier, Honourable David Makhura and the Gauteng Provincial government, for the opportunity to address this conference. Only two weeks ago I addressed a similar forum in KwaZulu-Natal!

I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you, particularly for ensuring that this government continues to serve as a central pillar that promotes social dialogue and stability within the public service and our country.

The transformation of the State over the last 20 years has benefitted immensely from your contributions.

This platform - is being promoted as a learning network of executive and senior managers through which the province seeks to build and strengthen an activist driven government towards Transformation, Modernization and Re-industrialization.

You are gathered here to address the key priorities and challenges 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 senior managers on areas such as good governance, financial management, service delivery and the promotion of professionalism.

This conference also comes at a time when we have just entered the fifth Administration; we therefore need to reflect on the capability of the State to meet our 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.

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. For us to succeed in freeing our people from poverty 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 is upon us!

Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) reports produced by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), suggests poor compliance with regulatory frameworks and controls. According to these reports most Departments are not functioning optimally, therefore compromising the quality of services delivered to our citizens.

There is a need to develop 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.

If we want government to succeed we must find solutions to these challenges.

In many instances, the key challenges include the delivery of inferior workmanship, payments made for 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 the legitimacy of the state.

However, Colleagues, we need to ask ourselves where does the buck stop? Does it stop with junior staff members? Or do we take full responsibility as senior administrative and political leadership for what happens below? As senior managers we must have our fingers on the pulse at all times.

The services which we are entrusted to deliver to our people must never be compromised by low quality administrative or frontline service output. I would also like to emphasise that human and financial resource wastage cannot be tolerated! Where resources are allocated according to policy priorities, efficient spending and value for money must be ensured. We cannot outsource services that are meant to be delivered by senior managers.

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 we need to act decisively. The National Development Plan has elevated the task of building a capable state to a higher priority through the introduction of clear Constitutional principles.

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. Achieving the vision of effectively improving the lives of South Africans depends on senior officials - like yourselves - and how you manage the resources you have!

To this end, the National Development Plan makes proposals for transforming the Public Service. These proposals intend to strengthen accountability chains to ensure that public servants are responsible for their decisions and actions. It is only when you commit to clear accountability chains - that commitment to service delivery will improve. An 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 South Africa.

Such a vision can only be realised by inspired public servants, conscious of their role and commitment to serve our people.

  • Compulsory public service courses at the National School of Government and Provincial Academies;
  • These courses must not only focus on leadership and management development but on how we improve the frontline services we offer our people.
  • 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 your subordinates are held accountable for any action that compromises effective and efficient service delivery.

Therefore professional leadership and good governance are critical ingredients to ensure we improve how we work, ultimately improving the lives of our people. It also ensures the upholding of the principles of public administration as contained in Chapter 10 of the Constitution.

Leadership in the Public Service must always be based on professionalism and adherence to the legislative prescripts and policy 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 will not only focus on leadership techniques, but also provide a broader understanding of the critical issues which government has to deal with. Continuous development and training should therefore be used as mechanisms to inculcate common public service values and ethos in order to change mindsets and influence how government does its business. Through this process we will also ensure that we establish a common Public Service culture that promotes Service Delivery excellence.

As Senior Managers, you play a critical role in shaping the direction, structure, systems and culture, influencing the development of human capital and achievement of government's objectives. You therefore need to nurture the confidence that citizens have in the institutions of government in terms of service delivery.

To reinvent our public service we need a 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 skills, human capital resources and systems, attraction of the right capacity, its location within departments, and the ethos of service which places our people first.

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 negatively impacts on government's ability to achieve its objectives. In some cases it is also due to Senior Managers not following the proper regulatory and policy guidelines.

Simply put, these challenges can be addressed through proper compliance with procedural guidelines.

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.

As we speak: thirty-seven (37) officials in Gauteng are currently on suspension with full benefits. Together their salaries amount to just over Nine million rand. I therefore call on you to ensure that disciplinary processes are expedited in order to bring stability to your management units, your department and government.

I am of the view that the proper legislative and regulatory frameworks exist for you 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.

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!

Despite these guidelines we still witness people on suspension for more than 12 months in this province. The guidelines on suspension also provide you with an alternative to transfer the official to another unit instead of suspension. Your leadership and management of this process is critical!

To further assist you the Department of Public Service and Administration, together with the Public Service Commission, will review and develop decisive guidelines on precautionary suspensions.

Conclusion

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 plan and view things.

This change of mind-set is about changing how we deal with citizens. It is about producing civil servants who understand that their primary role is to serve our people unconditionally!

I hope this Summit will contribute to an improved understanding of what is expected from Senior Managers in terms of accountability, innovation, mind-set and improving the quality of service delivered to our people. Part of reinventing how we work is to identify whether our human resources are properly utilised throughout the public service.

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 and public servants. A cadre that places our people first!

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. It must also be based on instilling a new mind-set: that we are here to serve the people. As senior managers you 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.

Honourable Premier, I can confirm that the Department of Public Service and Administration has started to strengthen our relationship with Provinces. With your support we will return to Gauteng within the next two months to meet with front line civil servants. We will ask them only one question:

What must we do to improve their output in order to make them 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!

I commit that we will go back to basics - to doing things simply and smartly. We will do so by proactively and directly engaging and staying in touch with our people. This, colleagues, will drive our project of re-inventing how we work as public servants.

I wish you all of the very best for the rest of the seminar.

I thank you!


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