Department Public Service & Administration 2013/2-14 Annual Performance & Budget: briefing

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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing from the Department of Public Service and Administration on its 2013/14 Annual Performance Plan and budget vote allocation. The Department told the Committee that their overall goals were informed by Outcome 12 of government’s national outcomes which called for an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service and empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship. The activities of the Departments were also in line with the requirements of the National Planning Commission and the National Development Plan.

The Committee was presented with a long list of challenges faced by the Department and the public service in general.  The debt level of the State had doubled from R627 billion to R1.3 trillion. The Public Sector wage bill had also grown to around 45% of the total budget expenditure. The public service was not performing at optimal level and there was no value for money. There was unevenness in state capacity which led to uneven performance in local provincial and national government. There was a shortage of skilled personnel and high turnover rate in the public service. This was stretching the administrative capacity of government at all levels. The Department said that the application of norms and standards across the public service was uneven. The public service was also affected by the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Corruption in all spheres of government had worsened, despite the context of increased citizen expectation of improved service delivery and the experience of violent service delivery protests. The Committee was told that the bureaucratic nature of the state was stifling growth.

The Committee was further presented with the Annual Performance priorities for 2013/14 and the budget allocation for the Department. The Department’s total allocation for 2013/14 was R816.371 million. A breakdown of the budget allocation per programme was given, covering 2013 to 2016. Transfers to its various entities such as Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy and the Public Service Commission were shown. The Department noted that it would require additional funding amounting to R315 million in order to fulfill its mandate. This additional amount was intended to cover compensation of employees, operational budget and additional office space for new appointments. The shortfalls also had recurring costs over the MTEF period.

Members of the Committee asked questions related to the timeframes for the targets of the Department and the reasons behind the closure of the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy. The Committee also investigated the approach of the Department on the fight against corruption, the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Bureau and the training of dedicated staff to enhance the fight against corruption. The Department was asked to outline its efforts in instilling integrity and ethics within the Public Service. In view of shortage of time, the debate would be continued on 28 May.
 

Meeting report

Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed members of the Committee and the delegation from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), and noted that although time was limited by various activities in Parliament, which would mean that he himself must excuse himself early, the matters were to be taken seriously.

Briefing by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA)
Mr Nhlakanipho Nkontwana, Acting Director-General, Department of Public Service and Administration, tendered an apology on behalf of the Minister of Public Service and Administration who was attending a Cabinet Committee meeting.

Mr Nkontwana said that the overall goals of the DPSA were informed by Outcome 12 of the national Government Outcomes, which called for an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service and empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship. The activities of the DPSA were also in line with the requirements of the National Planning Commission and the National Development Plan.

Challenges facing the Public Service
Mr Nkontwana said the public service faced many challenges. The debt level of the State had doubled from R627 billion to R1.3 trillion. The public sector wage bill had also grown to around 45% of the total budget expenditure. The public service was not performing at optimal level and there was no value for money. There was unevenness in state capacity, which led to uneven performance in local provincial and national government. There was a shortage of skilled personnel and high turnover rate in the public service. This was stretching the administrative capacity of government at all levels. He said that the application of norms and standards across the public service was uneven. The public service was also affected by the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Corruption in all spheres of government had worsened, and this took place within a context of increased citizen expectation of improved service delivery and the experience of violent service delivery protests. He said that the bureaucratic nature of the State was stifling growth.

Mr Nkontwana said that government had to make difficult choices of cutting costs whilst trying to improve service delivery. There was also the need to move away from conventional way of service delivery and to professionalise the public service for improved service efficiency and effectiveness.

2013/14 Annual Performance Plan
Mr Nkontwana outlined the legislative and constitutional mandate of the DPSA, which focused on the functions of the Department (see attached presentation for details). He said that the 2013/14 Annual Performance Plan (APP) was drawn from the first year targets of the 2013/2015 Strategic Plan, tabled in Parliament in March 2013.

The APP had several priorities. In terms of legislation, there were plans to place the Public Service Amendment Bill before Parliament in 2013. Discussions on the Public Administration Management Bill were under way at NEDLAC, and were to be presented to the Cabinet Committee on 21 May 2013. The DPSA was also working on the establishment of the Office of Standards and Compliance, and the School of Government, both of which would act within the context of achieving clean government by fighting corruption and seeing to the professionalisation of the public service. A delivery agreement for outcome 12 had been signed which was premised on outputs of service delivery quality and access, human resource management and development, business processes, systems, decision rights and accountability, and the effective tackling of corruption.

Budget Allocation
Mr Nkontwana said that the DPSA total budget allocation for 2013/14 was R816.371 million. He presented a breakdown of the budget allocation, by programme, for the period 2013/14 to 2015/16. The DPSA budget allocation also included transfers to its various entities such as Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) and the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Mr Nkontwana said that the DPSA required funding, to the tune of R315 million, in addition to the current  budget, in order to fulfill its mandate. This additional amount was intended to cover compensation of employees, operational budget and additional office space for new appointments. The shortfalls also had recurring costs over the MTEF period.

Discussion
The Chairperson left the meeting to attend to an invitation from the President and Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) took over as Acting Chairperson

The Acting Chairperson said that many of the issues which were raised in the briefing were not new and had been discussed by the Committee when it received a briefing from PALAMA. He said that the DPSA indeed faced a huge task in the execution of its responsibilities. However, he was disturbed by the fact that although the Department had several lofty targets, there were no specific timeframes. The consequence of the lack of timeframes was not only going to be felt by the DPSA as it would have difficulty in carrying out its duties, but Parliament would also face difficulties in monitoring the DPSA’s progress.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) said that the DPSA was very vocal about the professionalisation of the public service, but he was not sure if the Department was aware of what was happening in local government and the municipalities around the country. He said that there were municipalities that had over 300 employees, but did not have a human resources (HR) plan or structural organogram.

The Acting Chairperson said that it was important for Mr Gunda to note that the DPSA was not directly responsible for local government and municipalities.

Mr Gunda asked what the DPSA was doing about the improvement of work ethics in government departments. He said that he knew public offices where, at 10:00 on working days, public servants were out of office, and instead eating in the neighbouring shops. He said that what particularly concerned him was that this happened on a daily basis, that it could be easily tracked and the culprits sanctioned, yet nothing was done. He said that there was a general trend of vacancies in the public service with many officials acting and not fully employed, citing the example that there was an Acting Director-General presenting today. He asked if the Department was aware of the fact that, in the Northern Cape, more than 33% of public employees were in acting positions, not permanent ones.

Mr D Bloem (COPE, Free State) said that the overall plans of the DPSA were good. He asked why PALAMA was being closed. He asked where the DPSA was going to get the employees for the new institutions such as the School of Government and the Anti-Corruption Bureau. He also wanted to know the timeframe for the Public Service Amendment Bill.

Mr J Bekker (DA, Western Cape) said that the plans of the DPSA were good but he was concerned about the implementation strategy and capacity of the Department.

Mr B Nesi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that he was concerned that there was no continuity and consistency in the plans of the DPSA over the years. Every new Minister came in with his or her own plans and ambitions, and most of these plans were inconsistent with each other, or at times the same plans might be presented, under different names. He asked what the difference was between PALAMA and the new School of Government. He said that he agreed with the Acting Chairperson and Mr Bloem on the need to provide timeframes on the DPSA’s targets.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) said that he had been following up the progress of the DPSA over the years, and it was encouraging to note that the current plans of the Department were more practical and achievable than before. However, he asked what the DPSA planned to do about the serious issue of the use of consultants in the public service.

The Acting Chairperson asked how the DPSA was approaching the training of the investigators for the new Anti-Corruption Bureau. He asked if the investigators were going to be appointed from internal staff of the DPSA or were going to be employees of other government institutions, such as the Special Investing Unit or the Asset Forfeiture Unit. He also asked what was being done about the issue of corruption in the public service.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Committee and Members had very little time left to receive full answers, as they had many other pressing engagements. He asked that brief answers be given in the remaining ten minutes, but noted that the DPSA would be asked to attend another meeting, on Tuesday 28 May 2013, for further discussions. The Committee would be adopting its report on the APP and budget allocation so that it could be debated in the House.

Mr Nkontwana spoke in general to some of the issues raised. In relation to his own appearance before this Committee in his capacity as Acting Director General, he noted that he had been asked by the Minister to act for a temporary time frame, since the Minister had assigned the permanent Director General to lead a team which was establishing the Office of Standards and Compliance and dealing with other specific tasks.

On the issue of timeframes and targets, Mr Nkontwana said that Outcome 12 ran from 2009 to the end of the 2013/14 financial year. This meant that all the targets presented were for this period.

Mr Nkontwana noted that PALAMA, under its current status, was only allowed to facilitate training. PALAMA did not offer training itself, but it ensured that some other institution offered the training to civil servants. The objective was to ensure that the DPSA institutions provided training themselves. The School for Government was going to offer relevant courses to the public sector. The existing staff included many experienced and qualified civil servants who were going to be accredited to provide training in the School of Government. These included the former Director General and other senior officials. There had been an engagement between DPSA and institutions of higher learning to reach a common understanding on curriculum development. The DPSA had to champion the process of public sector development. The intention was make it the School into one designed to create capacity in the public service and that had to be done by public servants themselves.

He said that the reason why PALAMA was being replaced was simply because the DPSA wanted to have a solid institution, which could sustainably provide training and induction to new civil servants. He reiterated that PALAMA had only facilitated, but had not actually provided training. Therefore, although PALAMA in its current form would cease to exist, it would be part of the School of Government. There was a serious need for academic staff.

In relation to questions and comments on local government, Mr Nkontwana said that the Acting Chairperson was correct to say that municipalities were not the direct competence of the DPSA. However, the Department was working on the Public Administration Management Bill, which was going to set the norms and standards throughout the public service and at every level of government.

In relation to the ethics of public servants, Mr Nkontwana noted that Cabinet had just passed the Ethics and Integrity Framework, which dealt with ,issues related to the conduct of public servants, and that was going to be rolled out. Meantime, however, DPSA was operating within the Batho Pele principles, and there was a code of conduct that guided public servants. This code had been in existence for some time, but was not taken seriously in the work place. This was one of the issues which the DPSA was taking up to ensure compliance.

The DPSA was seriously considering blacklisting employees who were found guilty of serious misconduct. There was a trend of re-employment of officials who were fired from one department and simply moved to another department within government. The DPSA wanted to stop the “recycling” of sanctioned employees within the public service.

Mr Nkontwana said that there were ongoing attempts to fighting corruption, but this “combat” had to be formalised. There was an urgent need for the creation of capacity, and the current strategy was derived from a discussion between the President of South Africa and the President of Tanzania, where the need for an Anti-Corruption Bureau was highlighted. The unit was going to have dedicated personnel, who were going to be trained to properly address corruption. The office needed funding, and it was intended that bureau should be up and running by the end of 2013.

Mr Nkontwana commented on the time frame for the Bills, indicating that the DPSA was assisted by the State Law Advisers to put together the legislation, and the processes were almost completed. The Public Administration Management Bill was being presented to Cabinet today. Other Bills still had to be taken to the clusters but this particular Bill had been prioritised.

The Acting Chairperson reiterated that the DPSA would be invited back for further discussions, before the debate in the House.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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