Public servants have been urged to embrace and uphold constitutional values and principles while serving the people of South Africa.
The call was made during a webinar hosted as part of the Integrated Public Service Month (IPSM) by the Public Service Commission in conjunction with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA).
Mr Cameron Jacobs, Chief Director at the Office of the Public Service Commission (OPSC), highlighted the current challenges faced by the public service, including maladministration, corruption, infrastructure collapse, service delivery failures, a demoralised workforce, inequality, poverty, and unemployment. He emphasised that these issues, including things such as potholes, water supply problems, and the country’s high level of inequality, need to be addressed.
Mr Jacobs acknowledged the historical confusion between party and state over the past 30 years and recognised that political involvement is inherent in any political system but highlighted that the mixed approach to public management and public sector reform after the democratic dispensation in 1994 created problems.
He mentioned that new public management, with its focus on contextualisation of service delivery, weakened centralised control over administrative processes.
Mr Jacobs expressed concern over cadre deployment, which he stated has led to factionalism, patronage appointments, and rent-seeking across various constitutional sites within the public service and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
“This has had a negative impact on efforts to establish professional norms and build capacity in the public service,” he said.
Ms Moroko Mabowa, representing the Public Service Commission (PSC), also emphasized the importance of public servants complying with constitutional values and principles.
She highlighted that these values should guide how public servants treat their colleagues, members of the public, and other government departments.
Ms Mabowa stressed that public servants must prioritise serving wholeheartedly, placing the interests of the public above personal gains.
She underscored that constitutional values are non-negotiable and should consistently be upheld by public servants.
The webinar aimed to focus on the professionalization of the public service as part of the IPSM commemoration.
Ms Mamello Mahomed from the DPSA explained that the event was part of a series of activities scheduled throughout the month, addressing the relationship between constitutional values and professional conduct in the public service.
The focus this year is on contextualising the professionalisation of the public service and exploring different approaches and institutions’ efforts in line with this mandate.
The IPSM, observed in September, is an initiative resulting from a 2019 Joint Cabinet directive to integrate government efforts in promoting continuous improvement in public service delivery.
The theme for the 2023 IPSM is “Building a Professional Public Service for Inclusive Quality Service Delivery,” aligning with the goal of building a capable, ethical, and developmental state as outlined in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2019-2024.
During this month, public servants are encouraged to reflect on and uphold constitutional values, which serve as guiding principles for their work and contribute to a brighter future for South Africa.