Public Service Commission on irregular appointments in the public service

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

16 November 2016
Chairperson: Ms R Lesoma (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee invited the Public Service Commission (PSC) to brief the Committee on irregular appointments in the public service, which reported that the number of substantiated irregular appointment cases (IACs) at the national department level had risen from two in 2014, to 32 in 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (six) and the Department of Home Affairs (six) had the highest number of substantiated IAC’s, but most Departments had at least one substantiated IAC. The same trend of an increase in IACs was also been observed in the provincial departments in 2015, with the highest numbers in Gauteng (eight) and Limpopo (26).

The major factors that had led to irregular appointment cases were non-compliance with departmental recruitment and selection policies and procedures, and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) directives; disregard for minimum requirements as specified in the advert when the selection committee conducted the short-listing exercise; poor record-keeping throughout the recruitment and selection process; failure to register applications in the applicants’ master list; no comments on why applicant were not short-listed; job evaluations not being conducted by departments before filling the post; non-compliance with selection processes when head hunting; and not certifying competency assessment outcomes before they were used by departments to make a decision.

The Committee asked the PSC to confirm whether teacher unions influenced teacher and principal appointments in municipalities; to explain the increased trend of IACs in 2015; who would enforce disciplinary action on any head of department (HOD) that did not comply with policies and procedures during the recruitment and selection process; and what the components of a selection committee were.

It advised the PSC to ensure that executive authorities took action against any HOD who did not comply with policies and procesdures. 

Meeting report

Because of some confusion over whether the meeting had been cancelled -- the sub-committee dealing with the interviews of candidates for positions on the Public Service Commission (PSC) had been extended into a second day -- there was a delay while Members were advised that the meeting would proceed, but at a different venue.

The Chairperson said that the only agenda item would be the briefing by the Public Service Administration/Performance Monitoring and Evaluation on the fact sheet dealing with irregular appointments by the Public Service Commission (PSC). The second briefing on the implementation report for the Frontline Service Delivery and Citizen-Based Monitoring programmes would be postponed because the delegations could not get a flight from Pretoria to Cape Town in time for the meeting.

The Chairperson apologized to Mr E Marais (DA) and Mr S. Motau (DA) for the changes in the meeting venue and time. Messages had been sent to Members, but there had been a difference in the way each one had understood the message. She also apologised to the Committee and expressed here appreciation to them for attending the meeting, despite the mix-up. The Committee had saved Government resources by making sacrifices to hold the meeting, despite the challenges faced from the previous day. Subsequently, the Acting Chairperson invited the dignitaries from PSC to brief the Committee.

Report on irregular appointments by PSC

Mr Ben Mthembu, Deputy Chairperson (DC): PSC introduced Dr Dovhani Mamphiswana, Director General (DG): Office of the Public Service Commission (PSC). He said that the Committee would be briefed on the report of the fact sheet on irregular appointments in the public service, which focused on non-compliance to prescripts after a study which had been carried out in 2015. The report would also address the extent of such non-compliance. The fact sheet had been used to address grievances and complaints in anti-corruption cases.

Dr Mamphiswana said the mandates, roles and responsibilities of PSC were contained in section 196 (4) (b), in conjunction with sections 9 and 10, of the PSC Act, 1997. He recounted why the irregular appointments had been investigated and the objectives of the study (see document attached). The method used included collecting secondary data from PSC’s grievances and public administration investigation reports, published articles, reports and books. In addition, to put the issues of irregular appointments into context, relevant legislative prescripts were reviewed and emphasis had been placed on cases that had been investigated and appointments found to be irregular.

The mechanisms used to report the alleged irregular appointment cases in the PSC were through the National Anti-Corruption Hotline and the Grievance Compliant Forum, based on criteria stipulated in the constitution. An analysis of the findings from 2011-2015 of cases reported in the PSC, indicated that in 2011, 11 grievances had been lodged, three were substantiated (evidence), three were not substantiated (no evidence) and five cases were not investigated. The common complaints noted were that the jobs had not been advertised, evaluated or assessed.

Between 2011 and 2015, the PSC had investigated 48 cases of irregular appointments from national departments (NDs), and 60 cases from provincial departments (PDs). In NDs, only two cases of irregular appointments had been recorded in 2011, with an increase to four in 2012. The number had increased to eight in 2013, declined to two in 2014, only to increase to 32 in 2015. In 2015, the number of irregular appointment cases (IACs) recorded in PDs was 35.

During the period 2010-2015, the Department of Justice and Correctional Services (six) and the Department of Home Affairs (six) had the highest number of substantiated IACs. However, most departments had at least one substantiated IAC. The same trend was also observed in the provincial departments, but the highest substantiated IACs recorded in PDs in 2015 were observed in Gauteng (eight) and Limpopo (26). It had been observed that some officers changed the criteria at the selection level, and this had placed applicants that did had not applied at a disadvantage, because the criteria in the advertisement had excluded them. Therefore PSC had recommended that officials must adhere to set criteria in the recruitment processes at all levels.

The major factors that had led to irregular appointment cases were non-compliance with departmental recruitment and selection policies and procedures, and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) directives; disregard for minimum requirements as specified in the advert when the selection committee conducted the short-listing exercise; poor record-keeping throughout the recruitment and selection process; failure to register applications in the applicants’ master list; no comments on why applicant were not short-listed; job evaluations not being conducted by departments before filling the post; non-compliance with selection processes when head hunting; and not certifying competency assessment outcomes before they were used by departments to make a decision.

Serious challenges occurred in the appointment of teachers. There was little engagement of the PSC with teachers, who did not lodge complaints with the PSC because their bargaining council was different from that of PSC. In addition, Section 5 (7) (a) of the Public Service Act (PSA), which empowered the PSC to issue directives only to the executive authorities (EAs), allowed officers with IACs to challenge action taken against them in court. For instance, when the EAs took time to act, the court struck out the action the EAs were supposed to have taken in the case of Khumalo versus a member of the executive council in the education department. However, issues of non-compliance could be eliminated when administrative officers applied the PSC toolkit, which covered the standard criteria from recruitment to selection. The PSC toolkit was pro-active because when followed, it could address all non-compliance issues that could occur during the recruitment and selection process.

The recommendations of the fact sheet included:

  • The PSC should engage with EAs when substantiated IACs occurred -- even after communicating the findings and recommendations in writing -- to reduce future transgressions;
  • The PSC should sensitize EAs about the extent of IACs reported and substantiated, to encourage EAs to monitor trends and ensure that disciplinary measures were implemented where cases of non-compliance were established; and
  • The PSC should encourage departments to conduct internal workshops on recruitment and selection processes.

He concluded by stating that failure by officials to comply with policies and processes were the major causes of IACs, not the lack of recruitment and selection policies or processes. Consequently, it was incumbent on departments to ensure that officials had the capacity and commitment to adhere to relevant legislative and regulatory prescripts to avoid low staff morale, grievances, complaints and possible litigation, because delays on such IACs consumed time, financial resources and delayed service delivery.

Discussion

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) asked the PSC to substantiate reports from the municipalities that teacher unions influenced teacher and principal appointments.

Mr S Motau (DA) asked the PSC to explain the trend of an increase in IACs in both the provincial and national departments in 2015.

Mr S Mncwabe (NFP) asked the PSC to state how they would enforce disciplinary action on executive authorities that did not comply with policies and processes during a recruitment and selection exercise.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) asked the PSC to describe the components of a selection committee. Who would give permission to replace a sick member of a selection committee who was absent? What was the role of the PSC before advertisements were posted?

The Chairperson asked the PSC to give more information on IACs in the provinces. She also wanted to know how much the provinces wasted by failing to comply with appointment processes. What had been the level of effectiveness of panels established by the DPSA to address IACs?

Mr Mthembu acknowledged it was true that there were serious challenges in the appointment of teachers. However, the PSC had not yet been engaged in disciplinary measures on teachers’ appointments. There were different processes for dealing with teachers, and presently teachers did not lodge their grievances with the PSC, as a different bargaining institution was responsible for administration issues related to teachers.

The role of the PSC in terms of advertisements for the appointment and selection of officers in the department could be found in the PSC toolkit, which covered all issues on appointment and selection. Furthermore, if the PSC toolkit was followed, there would not be any issues of IACs or non-compliance in the appointment and selection of officers in the departments, as it was pro-active. The PSC was involved in advocacy to advise the department on the application of the toolkit.

Dr Mamphiswana said that information on IACs in the provinces would be reported in a later briefing. The cost of the waste of government resources by PDs and NDs which failed to comply with appointment processes would be considered as a project.

He said that all posts had approving authorities, so the issue of changes in the panel members was approved by the approving authority, who was the EA. For instance, the approving authority when members were absent, were the Ministers, and for officers above level ten, the DG was the approving authority. However, for officers below level ten, the Deputy DG made the approval. Challenges occurred when the EA failed to take the necessary action. Consequently, the importance of following due process could not be overemphasised in posting advertisements for the appointment and selection of officers in the departments.

On the trend of increases in IACs in 2015, Dr Mamphiswana reported that the trend had been discovered only during the analysis after the study had been completed, so the team had not returned to the departments involved.

Mr Mncwabe advised the PSC to ensure that EAs took action against any head of department (HOD) who did not comply with policies and processes on recruitment and selection. The EA must withdraw delegation from the HOD when issues of non-compliance occurred.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen requested Dr Mamphiswana to inform the Committee in writing about where teachers’ complaints were lodged.

Mr Marais  asked Dr Mamphiswana to clarify what happened when two panelists from a panel of five did not interview two of the candidates. Could these two panelists vote on all the candidates that had participated in the interviews?

Dr Mamphiswana replied that good practice stipulated that all panelists should be present during the interview of all candidates. However, a response to this question would be put in writing and submitted to the Committee. He also reported that some complaints had been received about teachers, but teachers did not lodge their complaints through the PSC.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen (wanted the department to clarify if complaints about teachers could be lodged through the PSC.

Mr Mthembu said that teachers were free to lodge complaints about service delivery to the PSC.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had received some correspondence from the PSC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) that needed responses. The Committee resolved to consider the correspondence and respond at a later date.

The meeting was adjourned.

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