SPEECHES: Address by Minister Dlodlo at the Public Affairs Research Institute roundtable, Wits University

Date: 9 Jul 2018

Executive Director, Prof Ivor Chipkin

Governance and Accountability Expert, Dr. Trish Hanekom

Board Members of PARI

Professor Levin DG of the NSG

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to extend a word of thanks to the organizers who invited me to be a part of this important debate especially at this time in the journey of the professionalisation and transformation of the Public Service.

You will agree with me that a great deal of work has been done to transform this sector since the advent of democracy in 1994. The efforts of our pioneers such as Dr. Zola Skweyiya must be commended for the solid foundation they laid in the advent of the single Public Service we have today.

As the first Minister for the then completely new Ministry for Public Service and Administration, Dr. Skweyiya oversaw the institutionalization of a single Public Service from the muddle of fifteen (15) administrations that technically became redundant with the ascent of the first democratically elected administration and government.

As you aware, these were made up of the petty-bureaucracies of the Bantustans of the Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei (TBVC) states, along with those of the self-governing homelands and “White South Africa”. The pre-1994 Public Service was not only philosophically inspired by apartheid; it was also mirrored by an institutional and service geography that was biased towards serving the interests of white communities.

Under the leadership of Dr. Skweyiya, the groundwork was set for the transformation of the Public Service machinery, as it currently exists today and the kind that serves all South Africans, irrespective of kinship, colour or creed. Most importantly, through the introduction of the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery, or the “Batho Pele White Paper” in October 1997 under Dr. Skweyiya’s leadership, the post-1994 government sought to infuse a culture of belonging, caring and serving. Today we can stand here proudly and boast of a stable and functional Public Service whose impact is notably felt by the majority of South Africans in critical areas such as education, health and social security.

But Ladies and Gentlemen

Despite the overall achievements over the past 23 years, there are some concerns over lapses in the Batho Pele and service delivery ethos that leaders such as the late Dr. Skweyiya painstakingly instituted and advocated throughout their entire life in the public service.

One such lapse, for example, has been the tragic outcome of what has become known as the Life Esidimeni debacle, in which the worst manifestation of the public service resulted in the inhumane treatment and death of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

We are also concerned about the other recent examples of service delivery lapses in provinces such as North West, Free State, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Both in his annual January 8 Statement of the ANC as well as the State of the Nation Address (2018), President Cyril Ramaphosa lamented the increasingly eroding spirit of Batho Pele in the Public Service and committed the current administration to its revival. Do all these lapses have to do with the calibre of recruits that the public Service recruits or is this the net effect of lapses in our monitoring and evaluation systems and accountability systems. Is this an indication of lapses in. our training and development programmes. The panel will have to dissect this as I will also be participating

Our participation in this roundtable and other public engagements of a similar nature is inspired by our desire to galvanise every sector in society to join us in rekindling the spirit of service delivery and more importantly selfless service to our people and to encourage every stakeholder and public servant to commit to this noble of objective.

Building a Capable State – The National Development Plan Vision 2030

The National Development Plan Vision 2030, which is a blue print for the future of our country, prescribes a number of critical interventions with regard to the future of the Public Service.

Among others, the NDP requires well-run and effectively coordinated state institutions, the development of skilled public servants who are committed to the public good and capable of delivering high quality services for all our people. The subject of this dialogue is centred exactly on this fundamental principle. How do we attract and retain the type of public servant that will fulfil the achievement of this vision for our country. We need ethical leaders in the public service who will understand the values and principles of Public Administration as illustrated aptly in Chapter 10 of our constitution. This include the basic compliance values and principles related to a high standard of professional ethics, accountability, transparency, efficiency, effectiveness and fairness. They must also understand the link s between these constitutional values and the bill of rights in order to progressively realise the socio-economic rights of all South Africans. This would include meeting peoples need, citizen participation and developmental public administration.

In my budget speech in parliament, I reflected on the resolutions taken at the 54th national conference of the African National Congress, which, in particular to this portfolio, resolved that the transformation and modernisation of public administration should deal comprehensively with human resource development, capacity building and professionalization of the public administration and establishment of necessary systems and processes.

The conference resolved that the National School of Government, which is under my portfolio must play a central coordinating role in capacitating employees in all spheres of government, provide support for talent management and provide guidance for appointments, succession planning and career development.

This will require specific interventions such as the establishment of a national competency assessment center, implementation of a public service skills database, and policy proposals for the setting of compulsory competence requirements for certain occupational categories for entry or mobility within the public service. The DPSA will begin the process of setting up the office of standards to, among others, ensure adherence to and refinement and alignment of talent search, management and evaluation norms and standards

In addition to this, the Public Service Commission will conduct an evaluation of the recruitment and selection system in the Public Service, as well as the Performance Management Development System (PMDS).

This study is aimed at ensuring that appointments are based on the principles of meritocracy as envisaged in Outcome 12 of the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) (2014-2019) with the key tenet of professionalizing and making the Public Service an employer of choice.

Through the successful implementation of these programs, we believe we will succeed in rebuilding and developing a new cadre of public servants who will be change agents, enablers and facilitators of integrated good governance and public administration towards the achievement of the country’s social Vision 2030.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The focus of your discussion is very important especially with regard to the critical issue of the peculiarity of the public service in relation to its size and mandate. I would like to argue that the inefficiencies we experience are not so much about state capture but the very nature of the design of the system as well. The wellbeing of our employees, their aptitude and attitude, the enabling nature of the environment and the administrative-political interface

Our Legislation and policy processes have given rise to a decentralized Human Resource function, which aims at giving autonomy to the relevant Executive Authority to execute these Human Resource functions. This comes with its own set of advantages as well as disadvantages.

This legislative and policy framework has also prescribed measures of standardisation, which are aimed at introducing a certain level of consistency and uniformity. We welcome all of that in as far as these models ensure consistency and stability in the system.

We also have to face the difficult dilemma of whether such models are suited for a sizeable and diverse animal such as the Public Service. We must confront the reality that a level of flexibility is needed especially given the dynamism of this environment.

I have argued elsewhere, as I do tonight that in the process of skills recruitment in the public service, especially in the higher echelons of management and leadership, we cannot use a one size fits all criteria.

There are many professionals and other experienced individuals in the market who may not meet the criteria prescribed in our advertisements but are competent enough due to their prior learning experience to execute the tasks required at that level. We need a recruitment system that recognises such talent and expertise and not be fixated to standardisation models unnecessarily.

Ladies and Gentlemen

As I conclude, I would also like to raise a very important issue as we discuss the transformation of the state machinery and skills development and recruitment in the sector. You will recall that one of the issues I raised in my budget speech was the critical involvement of the youth in shaping the future of the Public Service.

I believe that our revamped Human Resource drive and recruitment processes should take into account the pivotal role that the youth can play in the achievement of our objectives as prescribed in the National Development Plan.

I am glad to inform you that in view of this, I have already started a process of galvanising the youth to offer their creative and innovative ideas into the transformation of the public service and to gear it up for an improved state of service delivery.

In September of this year, I am organizing a Hackathon, which will bring the youth from across the length and breadth of South Africa to experiment on various technological ways and means of improving service delivery in the public service. Going forward, we will build on this foundation and legacy to ensure that we recruit and retain a coterie of fresh and energetic skills in the public service.

I would to thank you once again for inviting us to this important event and I hope that this conversation will continue to inspire our efforts towards attracting the needed skills in the public service.

Thank You

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