Parliamentary Media Briefing, by the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Professor Stan S Sangweni
16 February 2005
The Constitution mandates the Public Service Commission to, among other things, promote sound values and principles of public administration, and to propose measures to ensure effective and efficient performance in the public service. Notwithstanding its independence, the PSC seeks to play a developmental role by ensuring that its programmes support government initiatives to strengthen service delivery. To this end, the PSC sees its strategic obligation as the generation of evidence to enable Parliament to exercise its oversight role, and to advise the Executive on good administrative practice.
This briefing, firstly, provides an overview of progress as we sought to translate this broad mandate into a practical programme of implementation for the medium term; secondly, it shares some of the significant findings from our State of the Public Service Report (2005); finally, it highlights some of the broad priorities that are on the work trajectory of the PSC for the new year and beyond. For ease of reference, we have structured the briefing according to key themes that best capture the strategic objectives of the Commission.
2. Facilitating institution building
The PSC has been in operation for approximately six years. In this period we have sought to position the organisation to be able to deliver on its mandate. A number of strategies adopted by the PSC to this end include:
* Forming strategic partnerships with institutions with more or less similar mandates such as the Auditor-General and the Public Protector through Memoranda of Understanding.
* Collaborating (and sharing resources) in pursuing common programmes, with institutions and bodies such as the Department of Public Service and Administration, the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Chamber and security agencies.
* Developing our capacity for forensic investigations.
The scope of our mandate and increasing demands for our services are significant challenges facing the PSC and requires continuous evaluation of the manner in which the PSC operates. This includes the functionality of its organisational arrangements and the adequacy of its human and financial resources.
3. Promoting a high standard of professional ethics in the public service
As we enter the second decade of democracy, we can confidently say that the public service has made progress in ensuring that there is a basic ethics infrastructure to promote and maintain sound professional ethics. However, more attention is still required at the level of implementation to ensure that a culture of professional ethics is entrenched in the public service and that it finds expression in the daily conduct of each and every public servant. The Commission has undertaken valuable research looking at the application of such frameworks as the Code of Conduct for Public Servants, Remunerated Work Outside the Public Service as well as Financial Disclosure by public servants.
These instruments are important in promoting exemplary conduct among public servants and in helping inspire confidence in the public service. For this reason it is important that their implementation is improved. In 2004, as part of its ongoing initiatives to combat corruption in the public service, the PSC established a national Public Service hot-line facility where fraud and corruption can be reported. This followed a review that we conducted on the effectiveness of whistle blowing hotlines used by various departments. A key finding of the review was that some of these were actually ineffective. Although these are still early days in terms of the existence of the facility the Commission has established, indications of its use to date show high levels of public interest.
To support public sector managers promote accountability and implement the Protected Disclosures Act of 2000, an easy to read whistle-blowing guide has been compiled. Recent media reports show a lack of understanding by the public and officials of the legal framework for whistle blowing. This gives rise to an urgent need for formal guidelines, education and awareness-raising of the legal framework for whistle blowing. The Minister of Justice is attending to the matter of the guidelines.
It is vital for a strong developmental state to be underpinned by a corruption resistant public service with a sophisticated ethics infrastructure that protects the public interest from abuse by private and sectional interests.
There is a strong need for a clearer link between the National Anti Corruption Strategy and departmental strategies, and departments are required to create a minimum anti-corruption capacity by appointing Ethics Officers for instance. There is still need for training on integrated Ethics Management that should be given to all managers.
There is a need also for continued research and information on ethics management. The widespread tendency to sensationalise aspects of the problem still exists and would be best addressed through the provision of accurate and reliable information.
4. Management and Service Delivery Improvement
The PSC continued to roll out its transversal Monitoring and Evaluation system for the public service which also forms part of the undertakings contained in the work programme announced by the President last year. The system assesses departments according to a limited number of performance indicators drawn from the principles and values of public administration enshrined in the Constitution. The application of the system has provided insightful information which, together with the outputs of all the other programmes of the Commission, creates an informed base for the compilation of our annual State of the Public Service Report.
Our approach to evaluation has also made provision for participation by citizens. In this regard, we previously reported that the PSC, in partnership with Statistics South Africa, had developed and piloted a Citizen Satisfaction Survey instrument. We have continued to apply this instrument to selected sets of government services. In the last cycle our focus was on the services provided by the departments of Correctional Services, Safety and Security, Home Affairs and Justice. The current cycle is focusing on services provided by Agriculture, Land Affairs, and Water Affairs.
In addition to the surveys, the PSC evolved a unique concept of consultative evaluation called Citizens’ Forums. Through the Forums, institutions independent of the executive engage in discussions with citizens on practical measures to improve service delivery. Following a pilot of this concept in the E Cape and Mpumalanga, we are now finalising a guide as well as accompanying material to support its roll out to other areas. In this way, we see the application of the concept being sustained through own local initiative rather than being completely reliant on the Commission.
The PSC conducted a study to evaluate the performance of national and provincial departments in implementing service standards in accordance with the Batho Pele White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery (1997). The results point to critical challenges in the implementation of the Batho Pele programme in both the national and provincial spheres of government that requires urgent attention.
During the course of 2004, the PSC also partnered with the Department of Public Service and Administration to provide support to KwaZulu-Natal. This involved a high-level review focusing on a number of issues such as the readiness of departments to deliver quality services, structural configuration of selected departments and dealing with the implications of employees affected by restructuring. This work was completed, with a report presented to the Premier as well as the provincial Cabinet. The year ahead will focus on implementation.
Investigations undertaken by the PSC included the institutional and system related risks in the procurement and distribution of state medicines and, systems for provisioning, warehousing and distribution of learner support material in the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provincial Departments of Education.
A fundamental shift in workplace cultures would also need to take place so that citizens are treated as valuable stakeholders. The public service still faces the challenge of fully integrating the spirit of Batho Pele in its work ethic, work culture and operations. In the forthcoming year the PSC will carry out inspections to determine compliance with the Batho Pele principles at the level of service delivery by State Departments.
5. Combating corruption through selected investigations
This area is undoubtedly one of the most delicate, highly sensitive and resource intensive responsibilities of the Commission. In line with section 196 (4)(f) of the Constitution our work in this area involves investigations and evaluations following complaints on such matters as adherence to applicable procedures of the public service and general personnel practices such as recruitment, appointment, transfer and discharge of public servants.
We believe that our work in these areas is increasingly being facilitated by the protocols that we have put in place – which ensure that we have consistent methodologies of conducting investigations, by partnerships that we have developed with bodies such as the Public Protector and the Auditor-General – which ensure the creation of valuable synergies where appropriate, and by the sound guidelines that have been generated for use by departments – which ensure that a lot of issues can now be handled at departmental level rather than being escalated to the level of the PSC.
The introduction of the national anti corruption hotline, which promotes whistle-blowing, has opened an avenue for the public and public servants to submit complaints and allegations of corruption. The capacity of the PSC to deal with cases emanating from the hotline should be assessed.
6. Labour Relations
The major focus of the PSC has been on dealing with and resolving employee grievances in the public service. To this end it has been involved in various activities aimed at putting in place mechanisms and processes to facilitate the effective and efficient management of grievances. Investigations into various issues affecting employee/employer relationships have also been conducted with a view to recommend improvements and various guidelines have been developed to assist departments. The following is indicative of the PSC’s achievements in this regard:
* The PSC handles numerous grievances of individual employees on an annual basis. Since the introduction of the new grievance rules, which the PSC was instrumental in promoting, there has been a considerable increase in the number of grievances handled by the PSC. A total of 29 cases were dealt with in 2003/2004 whilst 392 cases have been received to date in 2004/2005.
* Rules for dealing with complaints were published and brochures to inform the public and employees of their right to lodge complaints were printed in all eleven languages.
* Guidelines were developed on handling of appeals and on the management of suspensions.
The following reports produced deserve mentioning:
* Disciplinary proceedings in cases of financial misconduct in the public service.
* The extent to which dispute resolution mechanisms are utilised in the public service.
* Dismissals as a result of misconduct.
* Survey on the management of appeals.
* Dispute resolution mechanisms in the Public Service.
In executing its mandate in terms of promoting sound labour relations the PSC has to deal with various challenges. The most significant of these is the lack of capacity within public service departments to manage labour relations.
Employees in the public service are further not all informed of their rights as far as the lodging of grievances is concerned. Educating all employees in this regard remains a challenge.
Given the introduction of the new grievance rules and the influx of grievances there are also capacity constraints that should be addressed within the PSC.
7. Human Resource Management and Development
The PSC has continuously strived to promote affirmative action, equity and representation in the public service. It has also placed emphasis on ensuring that human resources are managed in compliance with constitutional values and principles and the transformation policies of government. Its activities in respect of human resource management and development has focused on research projects aimed at assessing management practices, monitoring transformation targets and recommending best practice. The following key reports and guidelines were produced:
* Verification of qualifications of senior managers in the public service.
* The state of performance management systems in the public service.
* A toolkit on recruitment and selection.
* The management of discipline in the public service.
* The management of probationary appointments.
* State of representativeness in the public service.
* Disability equity in the public service.
* Career management in the public service.
Undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing the public service in the area of human resource management is its ability to deal with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Programmes put in place will have to be evaluated to determine their effectiveness if the impact of HIV/AIDS is to be managed effectively.
A lack of skills in crucial areas of service delivery remains a stumbling block in establishing an effective public service. Human resource development and retention are areas that remain problematic and should be addressed. Despite the progress made in reaching employment equity targets in terms of race there is still a lot to be done in terms of achieving gender equity and disability equity.
8. Senior management and conditions of service
On an annual basis the PSC facilitates the evaluation of the performance of heads of department (HoDs). The framework used for the evaluations was approved by Cabinet and regulated by the Minister for Public Service and Administration and its implementation commenced in the 2000/2001 financial year.
The evaluation process has succeeded in providing comprehensive feedback to executing authorities on the performance of their HoDs through the use of a panel system incorporating peers, other executing authorities, clients and members of portfolio committees of the legislatures. Participants in the process have consistently commended the manner in which it not only addresses individual performance but also highlights critical issues for consideration by the executing authority, HoD and even the panel members involved. During 2004, 61 evaluations of HoDs at national and provincial level were conducted.
In supplementing the HoD evaluation process, Cabinet has also directed that the performance agreements of HoDs be filed with the PSC for quality control purposes. A total of 80 performance agreements were filed with the PSC during 2003/2004.
Reports have also been produced on areas affecting leadership in the public service. This includes:
* A study on the implementation of the framework for the evaluation of HoDs.
* A report on the causes and effects of mobility among senior management and professional staff in the public service.
In the area of employment conditions the PSC has zoomed in on the effectiveness of management practices in view of the associated financial implications.
Reports produced include:
* The management of leave.
* The management of overtime.
* Sick leave trends in the public service.
* The management of the subsidised motor vehicle scheme.
* The management of State Housing.
The major challenge in respect of HoD evaluations has been to simplify and fast-track the evaluation process. It has to some degree been hamstrung by the congested diaries of key role players such as Ministers and MECs. The documentation used during the evaluation process has also been criticised in view of its bulkiness and the time associated in assimilating the information contained therein.
A further challenge is to facilitate feedback on organisational performance in addition to individual performance. The existing system does not allow an assessment of organisational performance and therefore does not fully address the needs of the Executive.
9. Monitoring and Evaluation
The PSC undertakes M & E using various instruments/approaches to generate information that will ultimately be used to improve the quality of management and services delivered. As part of its overall strategy to communicate the research findings on the state of the public service, the PSC on an annual basis compiles its Annual State of the Public Service Report. The fourth annual edition of the State of the Public Service Report is being released today to the public under the theme: “Bracing the Public Service for sustained effective delivery based on Batho Pele.”
A few salient points from the report
* On the first of these principles - The Promotion and Maintenance of a High Standard of Professional Ethics:
The Commission notes that while a basic infrastructure for ethics has been established, its implementation requires attention in order for it to become fully entrenched and integrated within the organisational culture of the public service and ingrained into the ethos of every public servant. Cases of professional misconduct still take too long to be addressed, thus giving the impression that no action is being taken. The ideal is that of a public service that is corruption-resistant with a sophisticated ethics infrastructure that protects the public interest from abuse by private and sectional interest.
* On the second principle – The Promotion of Efficient, Economic and Effective use of Resources:
While the public service is starting to overcome its difficulties in spending its funds, many departments are not achieving some of their strategic objectives. There is a continuing difficulty by departments to relate their annual reports to their budgets and information management systems need strengthening. Performance indicators for officials and departments need to be better defined. To assist all officials in executing their responsibilities successfully and effectively, the PSC calls for the public service to provide a series of useful practical and accessible guidelines that are aligned to strategic tools such as governmental priorities; departmental strategic objectives; and programme plans and individual job descriptions. Furthermore Human Resource Development Strategies to focus on providing training and other support so that officials are well placed to achieve efficiency, economy and effectiveness in their daily work are necessary.
* On the third principle - The Development Orientation of Public Administration:
The PSC contends that many poverty-oriented programmes are not well managed and do not involve sufficient beneficiary participation. In too many instances poverty alleviation projects are unsuccessful and also usually represent an insignificant proportion of departmental budgets. In some instances departments choose the wrong strategies for development projects.
The PSC calls for every public service department to seek to address poverty through separate and distinct interventions that are managed according to internationally accepted best practices, and also by integrating the issue of poverty into their core business. The PSC further proposes that over time, the projects that were initially reliant on government’s support should successfully evolve into sustainable community-owned enterprises that build on the provision of publicly provided training and support.
* On the fourth principle - Services that must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias:
The key challenge here is inculcating Batho Pele as a guiding ethos both at national and provincial levels of government to ensure Just Service Delivery while taking into account the need to redress historical imbalances. Key to mastering this is the implementation by departments of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act of 2002 (PAJA). Most departments show a limited understanding of the PAJA and how to work with it. There is a need by departments to entrench public participation and consultation and service standards that define the levels of services and standards that are truly responsive to the needs of the citizens of the country.
The PSC calls for the public service that has fully integrated the spirit of Batho Pele in its work ethic, work culture and operations. As a matter of principle, citizens should be forewarned and provided with reasons and opportunities to challenge official decisions in cases where service standards are not met or decisions that are likely to have negative manifestations on existing rights enjoyed by the citizens.
* On the fifth principle - Public Participation:
The PSC notes that very few departments have clear, formal policies addressing public participation, even in those institutions that generally make efforts to involve stakeholders in their policy formulation processes. Although, systems for managing public participation tend to be informal and ad hoc, genuine efforts appear to be made to incorporate public inputs where these are sought. The PSC also notes that there are some isolated pockets of excellence in participation, such as the Gauteng Department of Health, wherein innovative and systematic efforts are made to consult service users.
The PSC calls for the public service to internalise the importance of public participation and consultation and make these integral to its workings. Furthermore, it calls for the findings of consultative and participatory processes to guide and lead government’s strategic and operational planning and its programmes.
* On the sixth principle - Accountability in the Public Service,
The PSC notes that public service performance continues to be characterised by under-spending, although the extent of the problem has been reduced significantly. Departments continue to set over-ambitious targets, with too many objectives and often fail to achieve their intended outcomes.
The PSC calls for clear and easily measured evaluation criteria for assessing the performance of all public service departments in terms of the quality of their service delivery and financial management. The PSC also calls for the provision of regular and accurate reports on progress in achieving targets, in the public domain, to enable key stakeholders to hold government accountable for performance and the use made of public funds.
* On the seventh principle - Fostering Transparency by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information,
The PSC notes that generally, the quality of Annual Reports has improved in recent years, although there are still a number of areas of weakness. Many departments, national and provincial, do not systematically report on their results in achieving strategic objectives. They also often fail to use the Expenditure Statements (which should serve as a blueprint) as the basis for their reporting.
The PSC calls for improved accuracy, timeliness, accessibility, and careful structuring of Annual Reports to better provide citizens with useful information on performance. It also calls for the Government Wide Monitoring & Evaluation System to be fully operational presenting useful customised reports.
* On the eighth principle- Cultivation of good human resource management and career development practices:
The PSC notes that public service professionals (such as Doctors and Nurses) are paid markedly less than in the private sector while environmental factors and working conditions are not conducive to the retention of such personnel in the public service. The Report also notes that the ability of departments to deliver may be hampered by an HIV/AIDS infection that is estimated to be affecting 10% of the public service.
The PSC calls for the alignment of human resource management practices to government’s vision for a developmental state and success in dealing with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. It further calls for the creation of an environment where skilled personnel will enjoy long and prosperous careers in the public service, enjoying the benefits of career paths that retain and grow them, professionally as well as personally.
* On the ninth principle - Public Administration Broadly representing the people of South Africa with regard to employment and personnel management practices:
The PSC contends that whilst progress has been made in achieving numeric targets, areas of concern remain, low representivity of women in management and persons with disabilities. The PSC calls for the public service to demonstrate diversity and representivity as valued elements of improving its legitimacy. It further calls for the creation of a clear link between human resource planning and affirmative action as well as the continuation of Parliament and other oversight bodies in engaging with these issues in order to achieve this ideal.
10. Highlights of the PSC’s Programme of Action (POA)
The PSC’s POA is informed by the challenges and concerns of government, as articulated by the President in his SON address, and findings from the PSC’s SOP report. Specifically, the PSC’s POA seeks to respond to the challenges of: (i) enhancing the capacity of the state to deliver services, and (ii) deepening accountability of public servants and the state in general.
* The PSC recognises that the building of institutional capacity in the public service requires concerted effort and an investment of resources by key partners in the system of governance. Against this background, the Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of the turn-around proposals in the E Cape, as well as provide support to KwaZulu-Natal on the improvement of management and administration of selected departments.
* While the Commission has over the years managed to build a system of monitoring and evaluation to generate valuable information for decision-making and service delivery improvement, the challenge now is to have a government wide system that can provide a more comprehensive picture of the performance of the public administration system. In this regard, the Commission will complete an audit of departmental Monitoring and Evaluation systems as part of a bigger initiative led by the Presidency on the development of a government wide system.
* An evaluation of selected government programmes (such as poverty relief programmes) will also be undertaken to better understand their impact and challenges, and to provide recommendations on strengthening their implementation.
* The Commission’s monitoring activities will continue to have a strong dimension of citizens’ participation to ensure that the public plays a role in government’s efforts of improving its capacity to implement and its accountability for performance. The Commission will thus continue with work on the Citizens’ Satisfaction Surveys as well as Citizens’ Forums. A tool kit on Citizens’ Forums will be finalised to support implementation on a wider scale
* The system of evaluating HOD’s will be strengthened by embarking on targeted organisational assessments. These evaluations are important in that not only are they a tool for accounting for performance, but they also facilitate the identification of areas for improvement and thus create an informed basis for supporting capacity development.
* As part of contributing towards building a professional public service, the Commission will continue to undertake investigations and reviews in response to requests from the Executive and whistleblowers. Grievances from public service employees will also be investigated to ensure the promotion of sound labour relations and human resource practices.
* The Commission will also engage in inspections of selected service delivery sites as part of a defined programme of intensifying Batho Pele.
* The programme of promoting Anti Corruption will be continued, including organising the Second National Anti-Corruption Summit in March 2005, and management of the anti-corruption hot-line. In this regard, efforts will be intensified to ensure that the public is familiar with the whistle blowing guidelines to ensure that they make the best use of the mechanisms that have been put in place.
For enquiries: Mr Humphrey Ramafoko
Cell: 082 782 1730
Issued by: Public Service Commission
16 February 2005