The Department of Public Service and Administration has adopted a discipline management strategy aimed at strengthening basic discipline management processes in the short term within the public service space.
Responding to the National Assembly’s question about the findings of the independent research expert, funded by the Canadian Government, into the reasons that government departments are battling to finalise disciplinary cases on time, Acting Public Service and Administration Minister, Mr Thulas Nxesi said: “The department adopted a strategy to address discipline management in departments, which in the short term focusses on strengthening basic discipline management processes.”
The Acting Minister further said that the adopted strategy also addresses knowledge gaps; and in the long term addresses challenges posed by the decentralised nature of discipline management and strengthens the basic discipline management processes.
“We will assist departments with long overdue cases to update their records on discipline management, to interrogate the reasons for case backlogs and to provide monthly feedback through the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (PAEIDTAU) on progress made and steps taken.
“An electronic tool was developed to be used by those departments with long overdue backlogs. The PAEIDTAU monitors progress and plans technical assistance based on the submitted progress reports,” he said.
The Minister said the strategy also focuses on addressing the Personnel Salary System (PERSAL) inefficiencies through consolidating and reducing the number of categories for transgressions to improve the capturing of data, the standard of reporting, and to enable PAEIDTAU to download electronic reports that can identify trends.
“This project will make it easier for data capturers to capture relevant data in a sensible way. Non-compliance letters are addressed to those departments not providing reports to the DPSA and failing to keep within the specified timeframes. Feedback reports are monitored on a monthly basis.
“Non-compliance is furthermore, highlighted in quarterly reports and submitted to the Forum of South African Directors-General (FOSAD).”
Addressing knowledge gaps
The Minister said the DPSA will provide guidance to labour relations officials on discipline management, through the adopted Guide on managing discipline in the public service, which was approved on 1 April 2021. This consolidated all relevant discipline management frameworks into one guide.
He said a pilot was conducted in December 2021 and the training course for discipline management will be rolled out in the 2022/2023 financial year.
With regard to adopting a Directive on Discipline Management, Mr Nxesi said this is currently being finalised and will enforce the implementation of the guide. This, he said, will direct the use of PERSAL in recording disciplinary cases, with a designated official(s) in departments to be made responsible for recording and to include this in the job descriptions.
“We are also planning to use an online platform to provide labour relations officials with easy access to discipline management courses and material. We will also focus on maintaining a record of those employees who were trained on discipline management to be consulted when departments request assistance with initiators and chairpersons. We will be providing continuous technical assistance to departments based on identified needs, as identified in quarterly reports,” he said.
The long term interventions
As part of the discipline management strategy, the DPSA will initiate the process to review the disciplinary code, which came as a result of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), Resolution 1 of 2003, to address identified shortcomings contributing to case backlogs, including tabling it for negotiations in the last quarter of the coming financial year (2022-2023).
The PAEIDTAU will continue to provide technical assistance to prioritised departments and provinces (those with the most case backlogs). Scheduled visits will be made to these departments and provinces, and interventions will be planned in collaboration with the Offices of the Premiers. Support will also be provided in terms of sourcing chairpersons and initiators to ensure cases are finalised. These initiatives are done as part of enhancing discipline, institutionalizing ethical conduct, professionalism and fostering labour peace as part of building an ethical, capable and developmental state.