Implementation of Framework for Evaluation of Heads of Departments: briefing by Public Service Commission

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PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
19 March 2003
IMPLEMENTATION OF FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATION OF HEADS OF DEPARTMENT: BRIEFING BY PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Chairperson:
Mr R Mohlala (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation on Implementation of the Framework for the Evaluation of HODs
Report on the Implementation of the Framework for the evaluation of HODs
Executive Summary of Report

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on the Report on the Implementation of the Framework for the Evaluation of Heads of Department. Evaluation of National Departments went well, but there were problems with Provincial Department evaluations. This was mainly because it was not compulsory for Provincial Departments to participate in these evaluations. Another problem was that some Heads of Department had not entered into service agreements with their respective Departments. Evaluations will be compulsory for all Departments, National and Provincial, for the current evaluation period.

MINUTES
Public Service Commission Presentation
Ms V Nhlapho (Acting Deputy Director-General, PSC) conducted the presentation. She outlined the use of a 360-degree evaluation approach, which would sometimes be substituted by the use of a panel. The Executing Authorities in the respective Departments approved the evaluation panels used for the process. One problem was that the evaluation period exceeded the time frame of one year. The proposals they had published in the report were submitted to Cabinet. Cabinet approved the proposals on 1 December 2002, except for the proposal that the 360-degree evaluation method be compulsory. The reason given for not accepting this proposal was that more flexibility was needed in the evaluation process for the interim.

Discussion
Mr Sikakane (ANC) eluded to the finding from the PSC Report that two provinces did not comply with their framework for evaluation. He asked what steps the Public Service Commission was taking against these provincial administrations.

Ms Nhlapho said they had indicated that the evaluation framework was optional for Provinces. She could understand Mr Sikakane's concern, and that this was why they had proposed that the evaluation be obligatory.

Mr Sikakane eluded to the recommendations by the PSC Report that the South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI) be employed in the training of HODs to overcome shortcomings revealed by the evaluation process. He said that he would like to hear whether the PSC had done interviews with the people and provinces concerned to justify the need for training by SAMDI.

Ms Nhlapho replied that one of the objectives of the Framework was to identify development areas for the Heads of Department (HODs). The PSC had identified these areas and therefore needed to discuss them with SAMDI.

Mr J H Ernstzen (Deputy-Chairperson, PSC) said it should be noted that training by SAMDI would be relevant to those who did comply with the Framework for Evaluation.

Mr Sikakane expressed concern over the fact that no reasons were given by people who did not comply with the framework. He asked whether the PSC was 'toothless' when it came to questioning the responsible people about why they did not comply.

Mr Ernstzen noted that the powers of the Public Service Commission were limited in acting against those who did not comply. He reiterated the fact that non-compliance was solely on a provincial level, mainly owing to the fact that they had not made the Framework for Evaluation compulsory for Provincial Departments.

Mr Sikakane referred to the fact that the PSC were considering performing evaluations after every two years instead of annually. He asked whether it was possible to come up with substantive and valid evaluations after a two-year period.

Mr Ernstzen stated that Mr Sikakane had a point, and highlighted that they were already doing away with the two-year evaluation period.

Mr Sikakane asked how they could hope to accurately measure the performance of HODs if the Framework for Evaluation did not have detailed criteria on which to base the evaluations?

Mr Ernstzen agreed that there was definitely a need for clearly defined performance criteria for effective evaluations. With respect to Mr Sikakane's question, this issue would also be part of their recommendations. They would also be playing an active part in the formulation of service agreements, even if it might be solely for the function of 'screening' them, to make the process interactive and therefore more efficient.

Mr Mthembu (ANC) commended the PSC on the Report. He noted a number of some critical points and proceeded to list them: (i) Not all Department heads had entered into their respective service agreements (ii) 11% of evaluated heads did not achieve expected levels of performance and (iii) some government Departments had not participated in the Evaluation. Points (I) and (iii) were the most disturbing. He asked whether the PSC was able to provide the Committee with exact details of the Departments and the heads responsible so that they could hold them accountable.

Ms Nhlapho stated that this would not be necessary as the responsibility for dealing with these issues lay with the Executing Authorities. She agreed, however, that these were serious issues because it is a must for HODs to enter into service agreements with the departments. She said that the question would thus be how to monitor the departments' and the HODs' compliance to this. She stated that the inclusion of such issues in quarterly reviews provided to the PSC by the departments could help in combating these problems, but the responsibility still lay with the Executing Authorities.

Dr Roopnarain said that it was not acceptable that fourteen HODs could not be evaluated because of a lack of response. She asked if the PSC had tried to elicit a second response from the respective Departments.

Ms Nhlapho responded that they did do follow-ups with the Departments, yet still there was no response. This problem could be countered by sticking to the one-year evaluation period rather than the two-year option.

Dr Roopnarain asked how the PSC could ensure objectivity in this process.

Ms Nhlapho answered that they could never guarantee 100% objectivity, but they aimed to ensure that the weaknesses in their evaluation system were as much as possible counterbalanced by its strengths. The 360-degree evaluation mechanism aided in this purpose.

Dr Roopnarain expressed concern that this report may not truly reflect the state of the HODs in the country because of the short period in which it was carried out. She suggested that the evaluation should be a constant process.

Ms Nhlapho agreed, but added that the onus still lay with the Executing Authorities. Sometimes they find problems with them not doing the quarterly reviews as they ought to. They are looking into reducing the frequency of these reviews to twice a year.

Mr Van der Merwe (NNP) asked what happened to those HODs who did not enter into service agreements with their Departments.

Mr Ernstzen stated that the service agreements were a critical part of the evaluation process and that they would follow up on the HODs who did not enter into service agreements with their Departments to ensure that this was done.

Mr Van Der Merwe asked why some Departments did not do the quarterly reviews.

Mr Ernstzen firstly reiterated the importance of quarterly reviews. They had regular meetings with some Departments so that areas which would have been dealt with in the quarterly review, were covered. He explained that it was these 'open session' meetings that would constitute a quarterly review in some Departments, but in some Departments it was more formal.

Mr Van der Merwe referred to absenteeism from the meeting by some Committee Members, and asked whether the PSC could do anything about Ministers not being available for a meeting as important as this one.

Mr Ernstzen said that this issue could be open for discussion.

Ms Seeco (UCDP) asked how many women, physically disabled and previously-disadvantaged-race-group-HODs were evaluated by the PSC.

Ms Nhlapho said that they did not see the need to specify this information in this particular report, but that their annual report gave all the relevant statistical information.

Mr Mthembu asked whether it was possible, by using a single instrument, to gather summative and developmental information at the same time.

Ms Nhlapho said that with regards to the performance agreement, the instrument itself provides for developmental issues. She stated that the Framework for Evaluation is complementary to the Performance Management System, and thus summative and developmental information could be gathered at the same time.

Mr Mohlala (Chairman-ANC) expressed concern at how the report is written. He stated that with the use of an all-inclusive indirect pronoun such as 'they' instead of a less harsh 'some' when speaking about the evaluated departments, one is presented with the bleak picture that the public service is in such bad shape that it is in need of an overhaul.

Mr Mohlala also expressed concern about the issue of HODs not signing service agreements. He said that he could not understand how, three moths into the job, a person could even get paid without signing a performance agreement. A HOD could not even be held accountable because of this.

Mr Ernstzen admitted that a shortcoming in the Report was the fact that they clouded issues by the way the way they expressed their findings, especially by not separating the shortcomings of Provincial and National Departments. He explained that on a National Department level, there were no unsigned performance agreements. He admitted that they should also have specified which provinces did not comply with their Framework for Evaluation. Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape did not comply. He explained that the Western Cape government informed the PSC that they had their own framework for evaluation and made use of that instead. After Cabinet's decision to pass their amendments to the Evaluation Framework, it would be compulsory for all the Provinces to participate.

Mr Mohlala asked whether, in their evaluation process, the PSC had a 'one-size-fits-all' evaluation technique or they performed their evaluation after considering the nature of the Department.

Ms Nhlapho answered that there were key performance areas, which they used as a guideline to direct the panel on what information the evaluation process aimed at getting.

Mr Mohlala asked when the second report would be ready since the PSC had done more work since this report was published,.

Mr Ernstzen answered that they would be providing a report after the completion of the second HOD evaluation period.

Mr Mohlala concluded by noting that at National Level, no evaluated HODs were rated below 'satisfactory'. He commended this. He said that he would like to see evaluation being obligatory at all levels of governance. He also mentioned that he would like to see a system in place curbing Managers and HODs from awarding themselves ridiculous bonuses.

The meeting was adjourned.

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