The Minister for the Public Service and Administration (MPSA) in terms of the Public Service Act, 1994, is responsible for issuing norms and standards for the performance management and development system (PMDS) in the public service. The directives on the PMDS for Heads of Department (HoDs), members of the Senior Management Service (SMS) and employees, other than members of the SMS elucidates Regulations 71, 72 and 88 of the Public Service Regulations, 2016.
It is important to outline the regulatory framework for the performance management and development system (PMDS) in the public service and to specifically emphasise the importance of annually entering into and sign a performance agreement by all public servants.
For the members of the SMS, including HoDs, there is a national performance management system in place. In the case of employees below SMS, departments are required to develop their own performance management systems. The current PMDS policies have been introduced for all levels of employees with effect from 1 April 2018.
The revised PMDS policies ensure a linkage between organizational and individual performance. It also seeks to address the challenges and shortcomings of the previous system. Based on the dynamic nature of performance management, the intent is always to improve practices continuously, hence shortcomings experienced with the current performance management system, are expected to be addressed by the process underway to review and improve the PMDS of the public service.
The performance management for members of the SMS at the levels of Directors, Chief Directors and Deputy Directors-General is centered on three main elements:
- Employee Performance (Key Result Areas),
- Organisational Performance based on the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and
- The Auditor-General’s Opinion and Findings.
All employees are expected to enter into a performance agreement (PA) and submit it by 31 May annually. HoDs must sign and submit their PAs to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) on or before 31 April. Newly appointed members of the SMS must enter into and sign their PA with the supervisor three months after their appointment. SMS members who are appointed on a fixed-term contract for a period of six (6) months or longer must enter into a PA with their respective supervisors. It is the responsibility of the member of the SMS and the supervisor to ensure that they both sign the PA within the prescribed due date.
The PMDS policy framework for members of the SMS provides for the following elements:
- Mandatory assessment of Key Result Areas and demonstrated managerial competence of SMS members against Core Management Competencies
- A standardised 4-point scale to rate performance. The rating score of “3” (fully effective) translates to 100%.
- Workplans and Personal Development Plans are mandatory
- Moderation of performance assessments is compulsory.
- It must be noted that the PMDS for employees other than members of the SMS is linked to the PMDS for SMS in terms of approach and terminology used.
The performance agreements are aimed to link the main deliverables in relation to the department’s strategy and annual performance plan (APP) and/or operational plan to that of the employees. It details the work that will be performed by the members of the SMS and must reflect the main areas of focus for the member of the SMS from the different departmental programmes.
In order to inform the drafting of performance agreements, it is essential to ensure that the performance indicators and targets from the APP are aligned across the department’s programmes. Members of the SMS will be assessed against the planned goals/objectives that fall within their specific areas of responsibility (i.e. within the Branch, Chief Directorate and Directorate performance as captured in the annual report/operational plan). SMS members have a responsibility to cascade and translate the objectives as crafted in their PA to the teams they are expected to lead below the level of SMS.
The Batho Pele Principles and Core Management Competencies (CMCs) are an integral part of the employee performance element (Key Result Areas) that must be incorporated in the drafting of the performance agreements. While the Batho Pele Principles and CMCs will not be assessed separately, they should be considered in the holistic assessment of the employee performance element.
Regular performance reviews must be conducted. Two formal reviews/assessments are prescribed by the PMDS policies and are compulsory, namely mid-year reviews (for period 1 April to 30 September) and annual performance assessments (for period 1 April to 31 March). The annual performance assessment must be subjected to a moderation process.
Further prescripts that must be noted for the PMDS for members of the SMS:
- All members of the SMS must be assessed at the end of the performance cycle, irrespective of whether they have completed the full 12 months in the post, or not.
- The annual performance score must be subjected to a moderation process.
- The PA, mid-year review, the annual assessment and supporting documents must be forwarded to the Moderation Committee.
- The overall assessment outcome obtained will reflect the level of achievement attained by the SMS member and may be used to inform decisions on developmental requirements and performance rewards.
A duly agreed upon and signed performance agreement is the bedrock of performance management. Performance agreements are also an integral part of the planning process on an annual basis. Therefore, it is important that employees and supervisors give careful thought and prepare accordingly with respect to the drafting of performance agreements. Correctly crafted performance agreements will assist in the improvement of performance and the delivery of services as well as facilitate proper performance assessments. Continuous management of performance enables a culture of identifying targeted development to build the capacity of the State and deliver on the mandate of the respective department.
Mr Edward Harris is the the Director Performance Management at the Department of Public Service and Administration, he writes in his official capacity.