PARLIAMENTARY MEDIA BRIEFING BY THE MINISTER OF PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION, GERALDINE FRASER-MOLEKETI: GOVERNANCE AND ADMINISTRATION CLUSTER, 19 February 2003
Members of the media and honoured guests,
President Thabo Mbeki, in his State of the Nation Address on 14 February, thanked all those who had rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand in the national effort to build a better life for all South Africans. He said that voluntary work emphasises "the partnership that should exist between the various levels of government to ensure that life changes for the better, especially among the poor. It underlines the importance of the contact we must maintain with the people of our country who elected us." A number of initiatives of the Governance and Administration (G&A) Cluster that I will present to you today promote partnerships between the various levels of government to improve service delivery, and improved interaction between government and citizen.
Firstly, I would like to highlight the points raised by President Mbeki in his address in relation to the importance of mainstreaming gender issues. Steps will be taken this year to ensure that the performance agreements of the heads of public service institutions include the attainment of gender representation targets. I will be approaching Cabinet soon with new targets for the representation of women, black people and people with disabilities in the public service. During 2003 we will also be rolling out special programmes aimed at the advancement of women in the public service.
A major initiative of the G&A Cluster for 2003 is the intervention to assist the Eastern Cape Provincial Government on governance and service delivery issues. The Interim Management Team, headed by the DG of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the DG of the Office of the Public Service Commission, the DG of the Provincial Administration of the Eastern Cape and the Head of the Finance Department in the Eastern Cape, is currently developing turnaround plans for five provincial departments. These plans will be implemented from April for the rest of the year. In the interim, a number of quick wins have been identified and implemented.
The restructuring of the public service is taking place in terms of Resolution 7 of 2002 of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council. Public service departments have been asked to identify vacancies and employees in excess, so that a process of matching posts to employees in excess can take place at departmental and then public service-wide level. Only those public servants who cannot be accommodated in the matching process will be made redundant. In terms of the agreement, the process must be completed by June 2003.
President Mbeki also referred to the establishment of a national social security agency. There is an urgent need to improve the service delivery and cost effectiveness of the disbursement of R30 billion in grants to about 5,5 million citizens. A transitional committee has been established to set up the national agency. The Minister of Social Development will introduce legislation before the end of the year. It is anticipated that the agency will be fully functional by the end of 2006.
The G&A Cluster will also conduct research into the effectiveness of government's procurement processes in relation to the promotion of black economic empowerment (BEE). The study will identify the key obstacles to the promotion of BEE in government procurement, and will formulate proposals to fast-track BEE in the public service. The results of the study will be available within six months.
In his address President Mbeki also stressed the strengthening of the capacity of the local sphere of governance, especially to improve its managerial, technical and administrative capacity. An important initiative in this regard is the community development worker, announced by President Mbeki, which will help to increase the effectiveness of our system of local government by placing responsive individuals on the ground at local level. The community development worker will have a general understanding of government services, and be able to act as a facilitator with communities, in particular to promote local access to government services.
The framework for the employment of community development workers will be finalised during March. The South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI) will establish a training course for community development workers. Community development workers will receive training in the services of various departments, including Home Affairs, Social Development, and the small business start-up and related services of the Department of Trade and Industry, amongst other services of government. As President Mbeki has said, these workers must embody the letter and the spirit of Batho Pele in bringing government closer to the people.
A major project for the Governance and Administration Cluster this year is the e-government gateway. This project will set up an Internet portal that will enable 24-hour access to government services. The services of government will be listed according to the 'life events' of the service users rather than reflecting the complexity of the machinery of government. Gateway will allow access to services through the portal itself or through a number of intermediaries. The intermediaries include mobile services, urban malls and the Multi-Purpose Community Centres, amongst others.
The first phase of the e-government gateway will see the portal launched and branded to the general public. A call centre with 24-hour access will be established. As part of phase 2 of the project, the capacity to conduct two-way transactions online will be developed, so that citizens may make applications for documentation for ID books, birth and death certificates and social grants online, and make payment for violations such as speeding offences.
The Corruption Country Assessment Report, undertaken with support from the United Nations, will be published soon. This report is factual rather than based on perception, and gives a fair reflection of the state of our anti-corruption work in this country. The Public Service Anti-Corruption Strategy is under implementation by DPSA, and an anti-corruption strategy for local government is being developed in cooperation with the Department of Provincial and Local Government. The National Anti-Corruption Forum has been revitalised and will be making a presentation on its work to the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on 26 February. Officials from DPSA are engaged in negotiations on the UN Convention on Corruption.
Finally, the Africa programme of the G&A Cluster focuses on provide support to NEPAD on public administration issues. The 4th Pan-African Meeting of Ministers of Public Service will take place in Cape Town in May, which will showcase some of the work that has been done to date. Completed projects and case studies will be tabled for discussion. Ministers will be asked to consider and adopt a wide-ranging medium-term programme of work for the period 2003 to 2005. A preparatory officials meeting will be held in March in Windhoek.
The work of the G&A Cluster promotes partnerships, both within government to improve service delivery, and between government and communities, in order to bring government services closer to the people. The intervention in the Eastern Cape, the e-government gateway and the Social Security Agency are examples of efforts aimed at improving the efficiency of government, while the new cadre of community development workers will help build the kind of partnerships President Mbeki referred to in his address.
Issued by Ministry of Public Service and Administration
19 February 2003