Public Administration Management Bill: Department of Public Service & Administration briefing

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Meeting Summary

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) briefed the Committee on the  Public Administration Management Bill, which was initially tagged as a section 75 bill, but had later been withdrawn from the National Assembly and re-introduced as a section 76 Bill, to the National Council of Provinces. It was intended to bring about comprehensive and cohesive changes to the functioning of public administration in the country. The Committee was assured that the Bill did not undermine the Constitutional mandate of local government, and that this point had been confirmed with the South African Local Government Association. There was also no interference with the powers of the provincial governments. The Bill sought to ensure that there would be an equitable distribution of resources across all spheres of government. The Bill also aimed to build a framework legislation to create a seamless public administration.

The Bill encompassed a number of principles governing public administration, and would affect administration in all spheres of government, the organs of state, and public enterprises. A key area of the Bill was the mobility of staff within public administration. The Bill provided for greater mobility of staff and for the transfer of functions from one sphere to another. This allowed services to be delivered at the most appropriate sphere and for the deployment of staff where they were most needed. Employees could also be transferred with their consent, which eliminated forced transfers, and the unions were very happy with this step.

Based on the advice of the Auditor-General, the Bill required employees to disclose any financial interests in order to ensure that the sector remained professional. The Auditor-General had been concerned that many state employees were benefiting from the procurement process, and the new regulations ensured that no employee could do business with the state. The Bill further sought to deal with capacity development and training. It provided for the establishment of the National School of Government through the conversion of the facilities of the former Public Administration and Leadership Management Academy (PALAMA). The new School would promote progressive realisation of values and principles in public administration.

Overall, the DPSA aimed to build a public administration that was guided by discipline, ethics and integrity. The Bill required the Minister to report to Parliament twice a year on these issues. A Public Administration Ethics, Integrity, and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit was created. The Bill addressed many key issues, in a very concise way, to ensure that a professional and accountable public administration emerged.

Members raised concern over sections which called for the disclosure of personal interests by employees in dealings, wondering how this would be enforced and if it could be done effectively. The Committee also sought clarity on the role of the newly established National School of Government in public administration. One Member expressed his concern on whether the Bill was an effective solution to the problems being faced in public administration and felt that there were many more steps that needed to be taken in order to fix administration, especially in the local government sphere.
 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed all Members to the meeting and stated that the purpose of the meeting was to allow the Committee to be briefed on the Public Administration Management Bill (the Bill). This had initially been tagged as a section 75 Bill and presented to the National Assembly, but was later withdrawn by the Minister, re-tagged as a section 76 bill, and re-introduced to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA or the Department) had been requested to briefly introduce that Bill to the Committee and questions of clarity could be asked.

Public Administration Management Bill: Department of Public Service and Administration Briefing
Mr Alvin Rapea, Head of Policy, Department of Public Service and Administration, stated that he would give a broad over-view of the Public Administration Management Bill (the Bill) and clarify any concerns of Members. The Minister of Public Service and Administration believed that the implementation of the Bill was the ideal precursor to the full implementation of the National Development Plan. It provided a framework for public administration and addressed a number of the challenges raised by the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA). He believed that the Bill was long overdue and should ideally have come into effect when the Constitution was established.

He stated that the Bill did not undermine the Constitutional mandate of local government and the Department had met with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) to confirm this. There was similarly no interference with the powers of the provincial governments. The Bill sought to ensure that there was an equitable distribution of resources across all spheres of government. It aimed to build a framework legislation to create a seamless public administration. The Bill used Chapter 10, section 195 of the Constitution as the point of departure, which dealt with the management of public administration.

Mr Rapea explained that the process of drafting the Bill commenced with a consultation, before the adoption by Cabinet. The Bill was initially introduced in Parliament in 2008, and was subsequently withdrawn for further consultation in November of the same year. When the new Minister came on board the Bill was resuscitated and the Bill was then re-published on 31 May 2013 for public comment. There had been numerous requests to extend the comment period, including a request from the Premier of the Western Cape. The Department had received 27 submissions by 31 August and had consultation with many government departments, municipalities and organised labour. The Department wanted to ensure that all relevant bodies were consulted in order to ensure that the Bill had no constitutional flaws.

The Bill essentially was concerned with the principles governing public administration and would affect administration in all spheres of government, the organs of state, and public enterprises. One key area of the Bill was the mobility of staff within public administration. The Bill provided for greater mobility of staff and for the transfer of functions from one sphere to another. This allowed services to be delivered at the most appropriate sphere and for the deployment of staff where they were most needed. Employees could also be transferred with their consent, which eliminated forced transfers, and the unions were very happy with this step.

The AGSA had been particularly concerned that employees were benefiting from the procurement process. The Bill would now require all state employees to disclose any financial interests, in order to ensure that the sector remained professional. The new regulations would ensure that no employee could do business with the state.

The Bill further sought to deal with capacity development and training. The Bill provided for the establishment of the National School of Government, through the conversion of the former Public Administration and Leadership Management Academy (PALAMA) facilities. The new School would promote progressive realisation of values and principles as they related to public administration and would become a central place where skills could be developed.

The Department wished to build a public administration that was guided by discipline, ethics and integrity. The Bill required the Minister to report to Parliament twice a year on these issues. A Public Administration Ethics, Integrity, and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit was created to provide for this.

The Bill would repeal sections 4, 14 and 15 of the Public Service Act of 1994 and the Transfer of Staff to Municipalities Act of 1998. Having been initially drafted as a 150-page document, it had now been cut down to only 17 pages. It now set out framework legislation that would directly tackle the problematic issues identified over many years. There had been extensive consultation at all levels. This was a very important Bill, and the DPSA hoped that it could be passed during the current Parliament, as it was important that it begin to be implemented as soon as possible. The implementation, however, would take place in line with a well thought-out plan, and in a phased manner.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the Department for this presentation and noted the request that the Bill be passed before Parliament rose. He noted that the Committee would ensure that all Parliamentary procedures were followed, but assured the Department that the Members were serious about ensuring that legislation was successfully passed.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) began by asking if full disclosure of interests by employees would be possible in public administration. He asked how the National School of Government would benefit the people who attended.

Mr A Matila (ANC, Gauteng) asked if the implementation plan would be presented to Parliament. He then stated that he hoped SALGA would invite the Committee to any future meetings with the Department on the Bill, which would only assist Members’ understanding of it.

Mr J Bekker (DA, Western Cape) felt that the Bill was not a solution to the problems being experienced in public administration. He felt that there were many other things that would need to be implemented in order to fix administration, especially in the local government sphere.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the implementation plan, as the Minister had stated that the plan was drawn across a 12 month period. He noted also that slide 19 outlined the Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Unit but asked how this would differ from other anti-corruption units, and how it would distinguish itself.

Mr Rapea thanked the Members for their questions. Addressing Mr Gunda’s question first, he stated that the DPSA believed that it was possible to have all employees disclose their interests in full. There was no law, currently, which stated that a public servant could not do business with the state. The Bill, however, made it a requirement that all public servants must disclose their interests, and ensured that there would be consequences for those who did not. This was also change from previous legislation that provided little incentive for public servants to disclose their interests.

The National School of Government would provide individuals with the necessary training to be an effective public servant and would create a steady stream of professionals. This education also would be consistent with the Bill, and would help to ensure that there would be full compliance with the Bill. The departments required knowledgeable individuals, and the training provided by the National School of Government ensured that they would have the appropriately trained employees immediately.

The entities and stakeholders consulted had been supportive of the establishment of the Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Unit and the goals it had. Some organisations, such as National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) felt that it did not go far enough in its mandate. They wanted an independent unit that would report directly to Parliament.

Mr Rapea concluded that although the Department knew that the Bill would not be able to solve all the problems of public administration, it was still a major step in the right direction, and would fill the gaps in the previous legislative framework.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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