SPEECHES: Address by Prof H Mkhize, Acting Minister for Public Service and Administration, on the occasion of the Africa Public Service Day, St George Hotel, Irene, Gauteng Province, under the theme: “Entrenching a citizen-centred service delivery culture: partnering with the youth for Africa’s transformation”

Date: 23 Jun 2017

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, Hon Dr Makhosi Khoza;

Representatives of African Missions;

Chairperson of the Public Service Commission and other Commissioners;

DPSA Director-General and other Directors-General

Senior Managers

Colleagues from Business and Academia

Our Young People gracing this occasion, public servants at large

Ladies and gentlemen, Good morning, Sanibonani, Molweni, Dumelang, Goeie more, Lotjhani, Avuxeni, Ndimatsheloni.

I feel highly honoured to address this distinguished audience on the very important event of the Africa Public Service Day under the theme: Entrenching a Citizen-Centred Service Delivery Culture: Partnering with the Youth for Africa’s Transformation.” This theme is based on aspirations of the African Union as stipulated in Agenda 2063 whereby Africans desire to have a continent that puts its “citizens at the centre of all programmes and projects”.

The theme and the celebrations also take place at the time when the AU Heads of States have declared 2017 as the year of ‘’harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth” and thus directed that Citizens should actively participate in the social and economic development.

This day is important, firstly because it serves as a reminder just as it acquaints the public servants with the governance systems and practices that guide their conscience for optimal performances of their responsibilities. Second, it is timely because of the huge expectations from our citizens and communities for public servants to deliver the much needed public service.

An illustrious son of our country, Former ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo, would have turned 100 years old this year, had he lived. OR Tambo said, “Relations with the rest of Africa should be such that any economic integration or cooperation must realise the transformation of Africa.” In realising OR Tambo’s vision, we are extremely humbled at the opportunity provided by the Africa Public Service Day to have an engagement of this nature with some of the critical stakeholders of Public Service, most importantly our African colleagues and youth.

Nationally, the build-up of the Africa Public Service Day which took place since 01 June across the public service and the actual celebrations today are most important as they coincide with 2017 being declared the Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo. It further takes place during the Youth Month where we commemorate the 41st anniversary of the SOWETO uprisings.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The African Public Service Day is a special day for the Public Service as it was endorsed by the African Union Heads of State and Governments. The African Public Service Day is celebrated on 23rd June of every year across the continent by the AU member states. This day is dedicated to mark and appreciate the work of the Public Service, and to recognise the positive contribution of public servants to the socio-economic development of their own country and continent at large.

With the African Ministers for Public Service and Administration having declared the 23rd June of every year as the “Africa Public Service Day” since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly copied our best practices in 2003, nine years later, by adopting 23 June as Public Service Day too.

Ladies and Gentlemen

There is no doubt that the delivery of quality services based on the needs and expectations of the people, whilst reducing costs and ensuring value for money is central to this Administration, and our public servants are equal to that mammoth task.

The citizen-centric service delivery is at the heart of our transformative agenda for socio-economic development and youth empowerment. Central to this is legislation, policies and our Constitution which is regarded as the best and widely admired globally.

The primary policy in this regard, includes the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service and its resultant implementation mechanism, the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery, alias the Batho Pele White Paper.

The Batho Pele White Paper provided a strategy to ensure a more efficient, effective and equitable provision of services by the Public Service. This ground breaking policy is underpinned by eight principles for the transformation of service delivery that are aligned with the Constitutional ideals which seeks to:

    • Promoting and maintaining high standards of professional ethics;

    • Providing service impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias;

    • Utilising resources efficiently and effectively;

    • Responding to people’s needs and encouraging citizens to participate in policy making;

    • Rendering an accountable, transparent and development orientated public administration.

Our citizens expect nothing less than services that are delivered in a Batho Pele way in their entire experiences when interacting with government. They require and expect more transparent, accessible and responsive services at all times.

Other important legal prescripts worth noting in ensuring citizen-centric culture within the public sector include the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (2000) and the Promotion of Access to Information Act (2000). The South African Government is committed to improving access to, and the quality of, services for all recipients, including citizens, business and the youth based on the Batho Pele principles by putting the citizen first.

The vision of this initiative will only be achieved through a paradigm shift of the public servants in their interaction with citizens. The demand for improved service delivery requires that government operate in an entirely different manner, based on a citizen-centric, proactive, and customised governance approach.

The concept of governance is simple. In fact, Sahni (2004) noted that the concept of governance is not new and probably as old as human civilisation. According to him, “the concept of governance relates to the quality of relationship between the government and the citizens who it serves and protects.”

Our national blue print and vision, the NDP also calls for a capable developmental state to partner with an active citizenry to achieve growth and development objectives. This requires an agile state that is able to embed itself in the networks that bind state and society together to harness the innovative and transformative energies of all South Africans.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

One of the key question to drive today’s discourse remain “What are our citizens experiences when interfacing with our frontline service delivery institutions; these include; issues raised by frontline service delivery officials; optimising decision making processes; promotion of change management engagement programs?

To practically and honestly respond to this question, South Africa needs a public service that is ethical, value-driven. The Constitution outlines the values that should be embraced by our public service, which include a high standard of professional ethics, development orientation, responsiveness and fairness, and encouraging public participation. Public servants are expected to use public resources effectively and economically, and services rendered to citizens should be without discrimination.

Delegates, Public Service across the Continent needs public servants who are ethical, value-driven and who do not engage in corruption. Corruption is cancer, it steals from the poor, undermines service delivery and stifles economic growth, which promotes employment and distribution of wealth.

These values are the steering mechanisms for the achievement of a professional and effective public service that is transparent and accountable, as also envisaged by the African Charter. The increasing expressions of dissatisfaction by citizens in the form of petitions and service-delivery protests are not only about service delivery – they are also about the failure of public servants to remain accountable and responsive to the needs of the very people that they are meant to serve.

It is also about the failure to include the poor and voiceless in development programmes meant to improve their wellbeing. In response, the Public Service Charter was introduced in 2013 and called for the setting up of service standards by departments for the services they render to the population. It is aimed at ensuring that citizens are able to hold the public service accountable and to encourage citizens to participate in their own development.

Public servants are expected to be innovative and use public resources effectively and economically, and services rendered to citizens should be without discrimination. Innovation should be at the centre of service delivery for to positively impact on the lives of all South Africans. It should be allowed to thrive within the public sector and that civil servants can no longer treat it as an “optional extra”, but must institutionalise it in order to deliver services better, faster and more efficiently.

The leadership in the public service is increasingly under scrutiny from a restive and impatient citizenry. South Africa’s National Development Plan is unequivocal in its commitment to an efficient and effective public sector that is capable of delivering quality services to the country’s people. To achieve excellence, public servants must embrace a culture of continuous learning and deepen their professionalism.

Building a capable developmental state requires public servants who are able to master the basics of public service and administration. It also requires a contract between the state and the people — one that guarantees the uninhibited pursuit of the public good and optimal participation by an active citizenry in people-led growth and development initiatives.

Ladies and Gentleman

Allow me to share with you briefly the harsh reality about the status of Youth within the Public Service. The 2011 Survey Report by the DPSA highlight serious challenges for Youth Development in the Public Service. The 2012/2013 Annual Employment Equity Report revealed a year-on-year trend of a decrease in the intake of youth in the Public Service since 2011.

Furthermore, the 2014 report shows the declining trends of youth intake in the Public Service; 397 451, declined to 392 982 between 2011 and 2012, (a decline by 4 469) and substantially by 14 315 to 378 667 in 2013.

The above statistics counter the main objective and priority of making the Public Service the employer of choice. We are therefore challenging you today, to have a frank conversation with the youth in the Public Service and youth workers about the causal factors for this worrying trend and how could it be addressed.

It is for this reason that, there was careful consideration in inviting our youth in the Public Service, “Our Future,” to this gathering today. Urgent and sustainable solutions are required NOW. The future is doom without due consideration and nurturing of our young people across the board.

As you engage in your discussions today, we hope that you conversations will pay special attention to topical issues such as how we can partner with the youth to build a responsive and sustainable Public Service; leveraging on Information and Communication Technology skills for quality service delivery; and also look on how to nurture a culture of professionalism and ethical values in Africa’s Public Service.

We therefore urge our youth to actively participate in shaping their future Public Service to position the “Public Service as the best employer of choice for real as well in Moving South Africa Forward.”

In conclusion let me recognise all the public service talent and innovation shared with us through the exhibitions outside. Please make time to go and learn one or two things whilst exchanging your lessons too to ensure contentious improvement. Allow me to also recognise talent in the public service, our very own choir and band, individuals with talents with the Limpopo Province leading in this regard. The talent include poets, playing of different instruments, and so on, affirming the public service as the employer of choice.

We also wish you well and share our gratitude in knowing that you will indeed have fruitful and rich discussions to enable us to Move the South African Public Service Forward. Join us in proudly saying our Public Service Value Statement, “We Belong, We Care, We Serve”.

I Thank You!

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