Governance and Administration (G&A) cluster Post-Lekgotla media briefing by Minister Of Public Service and Administration GJ Fraser-Moleketi, Union Buildings, Pretoria
5 August 2008
The G&A Cluster is responsible for creating an enabling environment for sound governance and efficient, economic and effective service delivery as required by the Constitution. The Cluster implements the Programme of Action and reports on it bimonthly; it also completes various projects on which it reports to the January and July Cabinet Makgotla. In recent Makgotla, the Cluster has focused on the Capacity and Organisation of the State. During the July 2008 Lekgotla, the Cluster reported on –
(1) progress made in the implementation of the Apex projects for which it is responsible:
(a) Project 15: filling of senior posts and signing of performance agreements;
(b) Project 16: harmonisation of planning across the three spheres; and
(c) Project 17: improvement of Home Affairs Civic Services;
(2) Measures to be taken to improve the performance of the public service; and
(3) The Provincial and Local Government Policy Review.
Apex Project 15
Project 15 involves the following two activities: ensuring that all currently vacant positions of Director-General/ Head of Department (DG/HoD), Deputy Director-General (DDG), Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and municipal managers are filled within six months, also taking into account demographic targets; and ensuring that by 31 May of every year all Senior Management Service (SMS) members and Section 57 managers have submitted signed performance agreements (Pas).
By 4 August 2008, 84% had responded to the request for information. 34 out of the 37 national departments had provided their information while 89 out of the 109 provincial departments had provided their information. The 34 national departments which responded reported a total of 2 977 senior managers of whom 1 985 had signed PAs (67% signed). The 89 provincial departments which responded reported a total of 3 570 senior managers. Of these 1 979 had signed PAs (55% signed).
Currently three positions of Directors-General are vacant, two at national level (Labour and Independent Complaints Directorate) and one at the provincial level (Northern Cape). From the 34 national departments that responded, nine posts of CFO are vacant while twelve (12) posts of CFO are vacant in the 89 provincial departments that responded. There is a total of 351 posts of DDG (212 at national level and 139 at provincial level) of which 39 posts are vacant at national level and 24 are vacant at provincial level (18% vacancy rate overall).
The vacancy rate for municipal managers increased from 12% for the period ending March 2008 to 14.1% as at end June 2008. This variance is ascribed to natural attrition and the expiry of fix term contracts. The compliance rate with the finalisation of performance agreements has decreased from 183 to 174 for the period ending June 2008.
Apex Project 16
This project has two parts: options for the development of long-term development planning capacity in government and the harmonisation of planning across government. In terms of the former, government through research is identifying the various elements that are important for effective long-term strategic planning. This will culminate in a discussion document for circulation in 2009.
The harmonisation project flows from the recognition that coordination remains a challenge and hence a more structured and systematic process to facilitate coordinated and integrated planning and action across the various spheres and agencies of government is required. The Project enrols the support of district and metropolitan municipalities and provinces in a collaborative effort, and is implemented in phases: project scoping, analysis, engagement of stakeholders, institutional review and formulation of proposals. Implementation of the project in 10 district municipalities identified in the 2007 Programme of Action is well underway, and is nearing completion in three municipalities. Implementation in the 15 district municipalities identified in the 2008 Programme of Action has commenced. A national project mobilisation meeting was held in July and was well received by local government stakeholders.
Apex Project 17
The Department of Home Affairs has implemented several projects aimed at improving the delivery of civic services. The identity document (ID) turnaround time currently stands at an average of 68 days, down from an initial baseline of 163 days and the February 2008 average of 103 days. ID distribution has been harmonised, as a single service provider now collects documentation from Home Affairs offices and delivers documentation from the central ID processing centre back to local offices, reducing the average ‘postage’ time to three days. The Department is also engaging with the South African Post Office to improve distribution to citizens.
Identity documents have been a source of identification to all South African citizens 16 years and above since 1986. However, ID fraud is rife, and government has decided to replace the existing IDs with ID smart cards. A tender was issued in June. The target date for issuing of pilot cards is December 2008, and the project is on track. A new blank passport manufacturing machine has been procured, as the current system is becoming outdated. Site preparations for implementation of the new system are underway. The project is within its timeline for the production of passports by the end of February 2009.
From 2006, existing fingerprint records of citizens were converted on to the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). The project has been successfully completed. Over 30 million fingerprint records are stored on the AFIS database and remote verification of citizens’ fingerprints that are registered on the AFIS database is now possible. To date, online fingerprint verification has been successfully implemented at 93 Home Affairs Offices and training in revised procedures has been provided to 236 staff.
As part of the Department’s efforts to improve the overall turnaround times for the issuing of identity documents, an ID track and trace system was developed and implemented during 2007. ID track and trace technology was implemented at 260 Home Affairs offices. It is now possible to check the status of an application throughout the ID issuance process. SMS and internet query functionality is also available to assist clients with enquiries. Management information statistics are also available and assist the Department in identifying blockages in the ID issuing process. The project was completed according to the project plan.
The Department’s Customer Contact Centre has been expanded to 102 Contact Centre agents and 22 case resolution officers and now deals with approximately 80 000 calls per month. 80% of calls are answered within 20 seconds. The project was completed according to the project plan.
Measures taken to improve the performance of the public service
At the January 2008 Cabinet Lekgotla a review report on the transformation of the public service was presented, which assessed progress and challenges, and proposed various projects aimed at improving the performance of the public service. The findings of some of these projects were presented at the July 2008 Cabinet Lekgotla. The projects were grouped into three categories: basics of administration; strengthening management and engaging employees.
Because departments are responsible for the management of their staff, it is essential that they comply with the basic minimum requirements determined in the regulatory framework. A good example of this is the signing of performance agreements by senior managers: a signed performance agreement does not guarantee good service delivery, but without it there is no way of measuring an individual’s performance. The low compliance levels in relation to performance agreements discussed above are a cause for concern.
One of the minimum requirements for effective administration is that vacancies are filled efficiently. A study conducted by the Cluster found that only 38% of the posts vacant on 1 July 2007 had been filled by 31 January 2008. Although this is of concern, it is likely that the poor quality of human resource (HR) information on the PERSAL payroll system is distorting these findings. The Cabinet Lekgotla approved that the Cluster implement a strategy to improvement the quality of HR information. As to the vacancy rate, the PERSAL system showed 13% of funded posts were vacant, while departments reported a 14% vacancy rate. Because of the numbers involved, 77% of these vacancies are at levels 1-8 (below management), while only 3% are Senior Management Service. In practice, however, vacancies in the professionals and managers category, impact more severely on the performance of the public service.
Another basic administration requirement is that departments consult the Minister for the Public Service and Administration for advice when restructuring their departments. Compliance levels are good, with 94% of departments submitting their organisational structures to the Minister, although the quality of organisational structures is not in all instances good. A study conducted by the Cluster showed that departments followed the advice of the Minister in 81% of cases. This has led to a noticeable improvement in the quality of organisational structures, although challenges persist.
Only 23 departments responded to a request for information on skills audits. Of these 87% had conducted a skills audit since 2000; half of them had used an external service provider. The result has been a multiplicity of data models and proliferation of data types. A Cluster study found that is a serious shortage of (human resource management) capacity in departments to engage in strategic HR planning and development, and conduct skills audits and implement performance management. The Department of Public Service and Administration (dpsa) has implemented a public service-wide skills database that will allow for comparing and sharing of information. Hands-on support is being provided to departments in HR planning. A public service-wide programme aimed at strengthening HR management capacity in the public service is underway.
Last year good results were achieved in the development of service delivery improvements plans, thanks to pressure and support from the dpsa. This financial year so far only 20% have complied. The quality of the plans is not in all instances satisfactory; in particular there is a need to implement the plans at the level of service delivery points (police stations, schools, hospitals etc) rather than in the head offices only. These findings point to the need for sustained hands-on support to departments coupled with the systematic enforcement of the regulations to ensure that the basic minimum requirements of sound administration are met.
The Cluster also conducted a study into the management of the career incidents of heads of department (procedures for recruitment, deployment, performance management etc) and proposed models for consideration. Sixty-one percent (61%) of HODs were evaluated in 2004/05, 55% in 2005/06 and only 14% to date for 2006/07. The importance of linking the HOD’s performance to the performance of the department was emphasised and a framework for organisational performance management was proposed. This would provide for annual citizen and employee satisfaction surveys as part of the assessment.
A study into the delegations made by Executive Authorities (EAs: political heads of department) to administrative heads (HODs) found that very few EAs made extensive delegations (10%) while a third (33%) made no or limited delegations and their departments may be considered highly centralised. Delegations in 72% of Departments did not fully cover the responsibilities contained in the Public Service Act and Regulations. A positive relationship was found between extensive delegations and ratings in the Public Management Watch, a dpsa system which assesses departments’ management performance.
The need for the employer to engage with public service unions on matters that extend beyond conditions of service was supported by the Cabinet Lekgotla, and a roadmap to a Public Sector Summit, planned for later this year, was presented. A recent study also found that public servants feel they need more recognition and support for the work they do, as the majority of public servants want to take pride in being a public servant, but are not always provided with the tools to perform effectively. A communication campaign was proposed targeting public service supervisors, public servants and the public, aimed at strengthening the ethos and culture of the public service and making the public aware of the contribution that public servants make.
A comprehensive report was also prepared on improving the work environment in public service delivery points for the benefit of both public servants and the public. Service delivery improvement and facilitation techniques such as e-government, facilities design, and occupational health and safety issues were discussed. Following the introduction of Occupation Specific Dispensations for professionals in the public service, an investigation was launched into career pathing and grade progression for other public servants. A move away from the current 16-notch salary structure to one which allows for salary and grade progression for non-professionals was proposed. Communication to ensure that public servants are aware of their conditions of service (such as fully subsidised medical aid for the lowest-earning public servants) is being undertaken.
The Cabinet Lekgotla was fully supportive of the work done to improve compliance with the basic requirements of sound administration, strengthen management and engage employees. Cabinet endorsed:
* Compulsory capacity building programmes for HR professionals;
* Implementation of the PERSAL “clean-up” strategy;
* Approaching the Auditor-General to assist in monitoring compliance regarding organisational structure and HR information;
* A rapid assessment of the implementation of service delivery improvement plans in courts, prisons and police stations;
* The establishment of a formalised organisational assessment process;
* The introduction of citizen and employee satisfaction surveys as part of organisational performance management;
* The development of a delegation model and template to assist Executive Authorities in determining HR delegations to their HODs;
* The development of a detailed plan for a communication campaign targeting public servants and the public;
* The finalisation of a revised salary structure, benchmark dispensations for non-professionals and a grade progression system for employees based on performance.
Provincial and local government policy review
A progress report on the policy review process on provincial and local government was tabled to and discussed by the July 2008 Cabinet Lekgotla.
The review submitted to the Lekgotla presented findings emerging from submissions and research on provincial government, local government and cooperative governance (including national government where relevant).
The July 2008 Cabinet Lekgotla noted the report on the policy review process as work in progress and requested departments and provinces to make further submissions to the Department of Porvincial and Local Government (dplg), for Cabinet’s further consideration.
In terms of the mandate, the process will be finalised in January 2009 when the dplg will submit a final set of proposals to Cabinet.
Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)
5 August 2008