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Professionalising public administration key for building state capacity

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Public Service and Administrative Acting Minister, Mr Thulas Nxesi says professionalising public administration is one of the key imperatives for building state capacity.

Delivering his Budget Vote Speech in Parliament on Thursday, Minister Nxesi said: “professionalising public administration is one of the key imperatives for building state capacity, I wish to assure you that the Framework has now been finalised for consideration by Cabinet.”

According to the Minister, the Framework proposes radical public sector reforms which will include:

  • More decisive action on consequence management, especially in dealing with mediocrity, unethical behaviour, corrupt and criminal acts committed.
  • Instruments to undertake integrity testing before any individual joins the public sector.
  • Stabilising the political-administrative interface across the public sector. With regard to the tenure of HoDs, we shall consider increasing the period of tenure to ten years, subject to performance.
  • Repurposing the role of the Public Service Commission for insulation of recruitment and selection practices from partisan influence and manipulation for appointment of Directors-General and their deputies.
  • Review and strengthen recognition of prior learning for use in the public sector.

The Public Service Commission (PSC)

Mr Nxesi who is also the Minister of Employment and Labour said that the PSC remains a critical entity of the Department–committed to establishing sound and good governance in the public service-based on principles of accountability, participation, transparency and the rule of law as well as responsiveness to the needs of the people

“In relation to the goal of “development orientation”, the PSC has found that the South African planning system tends to be geared towards reporting and auditing rather than resolution of development problems – necessary to combat poverty, unemployment, and inequality,” he said.

The PSC’s 2021 State of the Public Service Report reveals a lot of variability in capacity and performance across the public service with major deficiencies in many departments existing side-by-side with pockets of strength and excellence. The report makes further proposals on the need to build institutional capability. 

The PSCannually conducts announced and unannounced inspections of service delivery sites to evaluate service delivery from the perspective of citizens and identify service delivery challenges that can be addressed immediately.

The PSC participated in the Mission to Waterberg District Municipality in 2021, as part of the partnership between the United Nations and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs initiative to support the implementation of the District Development Model (DDM) – a critical programme in building state capacity and ensuring improved responsiveness to community needs.

The PSC’s Citizens Forum is a distinctly South African method of engaging citizens and focuses on the delivery of a particular programme at a given point. It involves the government working with citizens to propose practical measures to improve service delivery.

The PSC continued to monitor the performance of departments in terms of payment of invoices of suppliers within the 30-day timeframe stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act.  Further to this, the PSC in its quest to be responsive to the needs of the citizens and ensure accountability continued to intervene in matters of unresponsiveness by public institutions to provide required services.

During the 2021/2022 financial year, the PSC has contributed towards the improvement of sound labour relations in the public service through investigating grievances that could not be resolved between departments and their employees.

The National Anti-Corruption Hotline which assists members of the public to report corruption and fraud occurring in the public service space has witnessed an increase in the level of utilisation of the hotline – from 872 to 1,563in the 2021/2022 financial year.

This according to the Minister resulted in recovering of monies fraudulently obtained and punishing of wrong-doers. The PSC conducted an assessment of the effectiveness of the complaints management system in the public service, which found that there is no consistency in the management of complaints in the public service.

It also discovered that monitoring and evaluation of complaints lacks vigour, however, the Commission has since made recommendations aimed at assisting departments in this area of work.

In supporting Parliament to exercise its oversight role and hold the Executive accountable, Minister Nxesi announced that the PSC will conduct inspections in partnership with Parliament.

He said that the PSC will contribute towards the professionalisation of the public service, continue to conduct investigations into public administration malpractices and address the underlying causes of ineffective discipline management in the public service.