Department of Public Service and Administration 2015/16 Strategic & Annual Performance Plans

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Meeting Summary

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) gave an overview of its strategic plan for the period 2015/2020, the constitutional and legislative mandates, its strategic priorities for 2015/2020, its 2015/16 annual targets as well as budget allocations. The 2015/2020 Strategic Plan and the 2015/16 annual operational plan had been tabled in Parliament on 15 March 2015.

The Department said there continued to be unevenness in the capacity and performance of the public service. This unevenness was attributed to a complex set of factors, which included tensions in the political-administrative interface, instability of the administrative leadership, skills deficits, insufficient attention to the role of the state in reproducing the skills it needed, the erosion of accountability and authority, poor organisational design and low staff morale. The strategic goals of the DPSA aimed to address this unevenness.

The first goal was to establish a stable political-administrative interface. A framework had already been approved by Cabinet, which would include the creation of minimum levels of delegation and the retention of Heads of Departments within the public service. The second strategic goal was to make the public service a career of choice, where young people would be drawn into the public service through the graduate recruitment scheme and the appointment of the youth into learnerships and internships in the Department. The Department would also strive to have sufficient technical and professional skills for efficient and effective management and operations systems. At present, the Department had too many vacancies which had not been filled, and this had resulted in a weak public service. More focus would be placed on information technology (IT), as it was a strategic tool to enhance service delivery. However, government departments were not using it sufficiently.

The Department vowed that it would fill the vacancies, introduce business processes and standard operating procedures as well as operational guidelines, entrench disciplined management as well the e-enablement of five prioritised government services. The DPSA also wanted to increase the responsiveness of public servants and their accountability to citizens, which would epitomize the “Batho Pele” (people first) principles. There would be improved mechanisms to promote ethical behaviour in the public service, as corruption impeded service delivery.

The budget allocation for 2015/16 was R930.9 million, with the total for the 2015/16-2017/18 period amounting to R2.9 billion. The allocation breakdown showed the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Administration getting the biggest portions of the budget (24% each).

Members said they were concerned about the nature of the public service, which had proved at times to be corrupt and inefficient, with unqualified staff. They also cautioned the Department over incurring unnecessary costs, such as the excessive use of consultants and the renting of office space. They complained about the performance evaluation system, particularly as local government officials awarded themselves large bonuses even when services were not delivered. They took issue over the disciplinary measures in departments, which took a long time and were inefficient, and said there had to be a more efficient way to deal with corrupt public officials without wasting valuable and scarce state resources.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson welcomed all members and stated that the Department of Women in the Presidency would not be giving their presentation because it had another commitment. The Department had apologised and would make a follow appointment with the Committee to come and present.

Presentation by Department of Public Service and Administration

Mr Mashwahle Diphhofa, Director General, Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) gave an overview of the Department’s strategic plan for the period 2015/2020, the constitutional and legislative mandates, strategic priorities for 2015/2020, 2015/16 annual targets as well as budget allocations. The 2015/2020 Strategic Plan and the 2015/16 annual Operation Plan had been tabled in Parliament on 15 March 2015. The 2015/2020 strategic plan was informed by Chapter Thirteen of the National Development Plan towards the realisation of an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service. The Department drew its mandate from section 195(1) of the Constitution and the Public Service Act (PSA) of 1994, as amended.

He said there continued to be unevenness in the capacity and performance of the public service. This unevenness was attributed to a complex set of factors, which included tensions in the political-administrative interface, instability of the administrative leadership, skills deficits, insufficient attention to the role of the state in reproducing the skills it needs, the erosion of accountability and authority, poor organizational design and low staff morale. The strategic goals of the DPSA aimed to address this unevenness.

The first goal was to establish a stable political-administrative interface. A framework had already been approved by Cabinet, which would include the creation of minimum levels of delegation and the retention of Heads of Departments within the public service. The second strategic goal was to make the public service a career of choice, where young people would be drawn into the public service through the graduate recruitment scheme and the appointment of the youth into learnerships and internships in the department. The Department would also strive to have sufficient technical and professional skills for efficient and effective management and operations systems. At present, the Department had too many vacancies which had not been filled, and this had resulted in a weak public service. More focus would be placed on information technology (IT), as it was a strategic tool to enhance service delivery. However, government departments were not using it sufficiently.

Mr Diphhofa vowed that the Department would fill the vacancies, introduce business processes and standard operating procedures as well as operational guidelines, entrench disciplined management as well the e-enablement of five prioritised government services. The DPSA also wanted to increase the responsiveness of public servants and their accountability to citizens, which would epitomize the “Batho Pele” (people first) principles. They would achieve this by revitalizing the Batho Pele programme. There would be improved mechanisms to promote ethical behaviour in the public service, as corruption impeded service delivery.

Policy initiatives adopted by the Department included the amendment of the Public Service regulations which had been revised and were envisaged to replace the existing regulations. The overall achievement of the 2015/16 annual operation plan would be reported in the 2015/16 annual report of the Department.

With regard to administration, the Department reported that the Auditor General (AG) had congratulated them on submitting annual financial statements that were free from material misstatements, which they viewed in a very high light, as it reflected a compliant, effective and efficient department. In terms of policy, research and analysis, the objective was to provide appropriate legislative and policy frameworks for a uniform system of public administration which was equitable. The AG had raised concerns about the high vacancy rates across the public service, and it was something the DPSA was working on. The AG had also raised concerns about IT security in the public service, and the Department had developed a framework, approved by Cabinet, to address this.

The budget allocation for 2015/16 was R930.9 million, with the total for the 2015/16-2017/18 period amounting to R2.9 billion. The allocation break down showed the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Administration getting the biggest portions of the budget (24% each), the National School of Government (NSG) receiving 15%, and the Public Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) receiving 10%. Budget cuts amounted to R 34.6m for 2015/16, although the PSC’s allocation remained intact.

Discussion

Ms G Manopole (ANC, Limpopo) said that the amount of money spent on consultants was worrying and unjustifiable. The Department should reconsider spending so much money on them.

Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo) agreed that the use of consultants was excessive and unnecessary. He said that the Department should consider using in-house specialists rather than outsourcing their expertise, as it proved costly.

The Chairperson asked for the Department to explain why they used consultants excessively instead of having in-house expertise. It seemed as if it was wasteful expenditure which could be avoided.

Mr Masilo Makhura, Chief Financial Officer: DPSA, said they had accounted for the use of consultants on page 149 of the report. At the moment, it was necessary to use consultants for the short term results they needed, without over-burdening their own staff and detracting them from doing their jobs. Treasury had also requested a plan to reduce the use of consultants and he foresaw that consultants would be used less in future. The use of consultants did not mean that the Department did not have in-house expertise, but at times they needed to use outside expertise for quality assurance and for short term projects.

The Chairperson said that the Department should try by all means to cut down on unnecessary expenditure and that they should be wary of using consultants, even if they could justify it.

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that she was opposed to the performance evaluation which related to bonuses because at local government level, officials gave themselves bonuses even when work was not done. This aspect was costing the state a lot of money, and it was unnecessary. The Department should look into performance evaluation properly.

Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister, DPSA, said she felt that the public service needed to be more accountable to South Africans. At present, they were not as accountable as they should be. Their work as a Department had to speak directly to the needs of the people, and they had more to do in this regard. Performance evaluations were necessary, but an abuse of the system was uncalled for. Even though the Department did not have a jurisdiction over local government, they were against the fact that officials in local government gave themselves undue benefits, and that they would address this matter with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The overall evaluation of performance was necessary so as to maintain high standards in the public service. The ruling party had declared this as a year of the Freedom Charter, and in doing their work they had to bear this in mind and make sure that the public service spoke directly to the needs of people, especially the poor and those who had never benefited in the past.

Ms Wana said that the only reason he was against performance evaluations was because of the fact that people abused the system by giving themselves undue bonuses while they were not performing, but she fully understood the rationale behind it.

The Chairperson said that he agreed with Ms Wana. The matter needed to be looked into with great urgency, because it was a cost burden on the state. He said he appreciated the Deputy Minister’s presence, as it was sometimes difficult for them to attend meetings in Parliament. He appreciated the approach of the Department to issues pertaining to the transformation of the public service, and it should continue improving in this regard. The poor of the country needed to benefit from the Department, and the public service needed to be properly trained in order to deliver services efficiently to all South Africans.

The meeting was adjourned.

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