SPEECHES: Address by Minister for Public Service and Administration Ms AF. Muthambi MP, during the occasion of the 15th CPSI Public Service Innovation Awards (2017)

Date: 27 Oct 2017

Member of Parliament, Honourable Regina Lesoma;

MMC for Corporate Services in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality Cllr Makhosazana Mabaso (if she already here);

Director General of the Office Public Service Commission, Dr Dovhani Mamphiswana;

Acting Director General of the Department for Public Service and Administration - Mr Willie Vukela;

Principal Officer of GEMS, Dr Guni Goolab;v

Commissioner Rory Voller of the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission;

Executive Director of the Centre for Public Service Innovation, Ms Thuli Radebe;

Executive of the NRF, Dr Andrew Kaniki

Acting Chair of the Adjudication Panel and CEO of the Innovation Hub, Mr Mclean Sibanda, and all the members of the Panel;

Executive Committee of the CPSI;

Heads of government departments and Executives from the private sector;

Leaders from the three spheres of our government;

Our valued sponsors;

Esteemed guests and dignitaries;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Good evening to you all.

I feel honoured to address you on this very special occasion of the 15th Annual CPSI public sector innovation awards. When the CPSI briefed me on this ceremony, there was no hesitation whatsoever on my part to host an event as rare and extraordinary as this one.

Today we celebrate with pride and joy, the immense capacity and prowess to innovate amongst public servants, demonstrated by the finalist projects being showcased here. Through its outstanding work, the CPSI continues to reassure us of the existence of untapped capacity for innovation and innovative thinking in the public service.

We know that there is a myth out there that public officials are averse to innovation. Tonight’s event proves that public servants are innovative, and through this CPSI programme we encourage them to continue thinking creatively in order to improve the manner in which our public service functions.

Tonight is not only about celebrating with the nominees and winners, but it is also about encouraging those who have not yet started to move out of their comfort zone and participate by bringing to the fore any innovation that can lead to an improved public service.

We gather here tonight, most of us as public officials and representatives, quite aware of the challenges that our people go through on a daily basis, which include unemployment, particularly amongst the youth, grinding poverty, poor educational facilities, lack of proper health care, hygienically clean water and sanitation, shelter and the high rate of crime.

The truth is that citizens put the blame fairly and squarely at our doorstep because, as public officials, it is our primary responsibility to ensure that they access government services as a right, and not as a privilege. Our role to this effect is clearly and unambiguously spelled out in the Public Service Act, the Public service Charter and Batho Pele Principles, amongst others.

But on a more positive note, it makes me really proud that our country is turning the corner. Our government is hard at work putting into effect interventions and measures that are paying off. Our public officials are gradually responding to the call by the CPSI to infuse innovation into the culture and work ethic of the public service as part of the transformational drive to improve its performance and productivity capacity.

The work of the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) to unearth the wealth of innovation, and lay the groundwork for entrenching innovative thinking in the public sector is of fundamental importance to public sector capacity building and growth. This is highly commendable in that it liberates the pioneering spirit in public officials to share their expertise and make a difference in peoples’ lives. The CPSI’s mandate directly supports the National Development Plan in building an effective, efficient and development oriented public sector and an empowered and inclusive citizenship.

Tonight is a clear indication of how our public officials, moved by the plight of their fellow citizens, have decided to embrace innovation as a key enabler and a game-changer in exploring better and more improved ways of delivering services to citizens. Our public officials are increasingly, boldly pushing boundaries to move beyond ordinariness to find new, extra-ordinary ways of delivering services.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hallmark of a public sector of the future that is able to intervene responsively, relevantly and timeously to the needs of the citizens. This is a kind of public sector that possesses the right qualities to help in the pursuit of the developmental agenda, to improve the lives of citizens in line with Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan.

This year, as in other years past, there has been a wealth of excellent, highly innovative projects unearthed from public officials at the coal face as they challenge outdated ways of doing things that are no longer meeting the needs of our connected, sophisticated and informed citizens. The CPSI Annual public sector innovation awards programme is proving to be an initiative of high impact and relevance in terms of increasing impact in critical areas of need in our society, such as education, healthcare, social security, crime prevention, etc.

The CPSI public sector innovation awards have redirected our focus onto the youth as a rich source of progressive and untethered passion for new ideas. Over the years, we have seen an impressive pattern of young people emerging as recipients of the special Ministerial awards for innovation. Who can forget the Iyeza Express Medicine on Wheels project by Sizwe Nzima, a young social entrepreneur from Cape Town, the Re-purposed Bags project from the Rethaka Pty Ltd, a company that is proudly led by Reabetswe Ngwane and Thato Kgatlhanye who are themselves young and vivacious female entrepreneurs, just to name but a few.

Reabetswe went ahead to set up another company called KF Brands – which features Atyre- proudly made from recycled tyres! The recognition that Sizwe Nzima got from the CPSI served as a launching pad for this young man. Needless to say that Nzima also featured as one of five South Africans in Forbes’s 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs of 2013. I am happy to be informed that the youth is also well represented in this year’s awards finalist list. This is very encouraging. It also signals government’s intention to intensify its effort to attract youth into the public service. This underlies the need to transform the public sector through the creation of a working environment that is more conducive and ideal for the youth with their enquiring minds and their insatiable curiosity and untethered passion to try new and better ideas.

With these qualities naturally engendered in their makeup, young people are able to see opportunities in challenges and, driven by fiery passion and compassion, they engage their creative minds to look for innovative and radically different ways of solving challenges. They will provide our public sector with an urge to be competent, efficient, effective, accountable and responsive, and I say this not necessarily to suggest that old and matured people do not possess this capability or add no value. There is indeed great value in the combination of young and old.

In conclusion,

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate all those who entered the 15th public sector innovation awards and in particular, our finalists and winners. Those public servants whose projects have made it up to the stage of being finalists today are a true testimony of the enabling and catalytic value of innovation in improving the way in which government can deliver services to the citizens.

I acknowledge the critical, highly indispensable transformative role that the CPSI plays in the public service to encourage innovation and innovative thinking. Innovation has the potential to bring about a modernised enabling environment for improved service delivery.

I would also like to take a moment to recognise the CPSI team for their endless effort to grow this programme for the benefit of all South Africans. I have already made a challenge to the leadership of this institution that they must ensure that the CPSI is known by all public servants. In this way more and more public servants will come forward with the innovations, which will lead to an improvement in the public sector.

To all the nominees; congratulations for your efforts. Your innovative ideas are indeed contributing positively to service delivery. All of you qualify to be called winners. To those who are walking away with the awards here tonight; continue to be innovative and never take your feet off the pedal.

I think tonight must not be about long speeches, but about celebrating the successful projects that are being presented here.

Enjoy yourselves.

I thank you

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