The Public Service Commission (PSC), the National School of Government (NSG), the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), briefed the Portfolio Committee on their performance during the second quarter of the 2018/19 financial year.
The Committee was impressed with the work done by PSC, and asked for more information on the roundtable conference on the professionalisation of the public service. The concept of professionalisation required appointments to be based purely on merit, rather than political connections. One member expressed dissatisfaction with the concept, saying cadre deployment had been given a negative connotation, and for professionalism in the administration, one had to be loyal to a political cause.
The NSG said it had trained a total of 22 297 learners against the target of 25 771 in all training streams. Revenue generation from training activities had amounted to R53 532 308. A concern was the delay by departments to commit to their employees to being released for training already paid for, as this meant the NSG had to defer acknowledgment of the number of persons trained.
Members were impressed by the increased revenue generated from training, and asked what the NSG had done to achieve this.
The CPSI said its achievements included hosting the annual Innovation Conference on 29-30 August 2018 under the theme, “ Partnering for an agile and a renewed public sector through innovation.” The CPSI exhibition of the mobile Multi Media Innovation Centre (MMIC) at public sector events had attracted a lot of interest from delegates. The 2018 Public Sector Innovation Awards Programme had been officially launched in East London on 11 May. The CPSI had also co-hosted and participated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN) workshop on 28-29 June in Mauritius.
The Committee was concerned about the entity’s donor-funded posts and the future of the people occupying those positions after the funding stops.
The DPSA reported that as at 30 June, it had received 405 cases of misconduct from national departments, and 1 717 cases from provincial departments. During the first quarter, the total cost of precautionary suspensions for national departments was R4 838 938, with 59 employees placed on precautionary suspension. The total cost for provincial departments was R30 770 580, with 166 employees placed on precautionary suspension.
The Committee was interested in getting more information on the public service productivity measuring tool developed by DPSA. It also wanted to know how long an employee could remain on precautionary suspension.
Public Service Commission: Second quarter performance
Ms Ireen Matenjwa, Acting Director General (DG): Public Service Commission (PSC), said the PSC had a total of 19 annual performance plan (APP) targets, of which eight were quarterly targets and 11 were annual targets. Of the eight quarterly targets, seven were due in the second quarter (Q2), and all of them had been achieved.
The PSC had spent R119 million (45)% of its R264.4 million budget for the six months to September. Of this amount, R97.4 million had been spent on the compensation of employees, and R18.5 million on goods and services. It had received an unqualified audit report for 2017/18. No irregular, fruitless or wasteful expenditure had occurred in the second quarter,
As at 30 September, there were 303 grievances on the database. 218 (72%) of these were concluded, and 85 (28%) remained pending. Of the 218 concluded cases, 172 had been concluded within 30 working days from the date of receipt of relevant information. There had been 46 grievances involving senior management service (SMS) personnel, and 33 (72%) of these were concluded, of which 32 were concluded within 45 working days from the date of receipt of relevant information.
An output not reflected in the APP but achieved during Q2 had been the hosting of a roundtable conference on “Professionalisation of the Public Service” in September.
The Chairperson invited the Deputy Minister to comment on the presentation.
Dr Chana Pilane-Majeke, Deputy Minister: DPSA, said that the entity was doing well ,with some qualified reports, but in the area of administration, it had an unqualified opinion for everything. She commended the payment of service providers within 30 days, and said the monitoring of the risk management report was much appreciated.
Mr D Khosa (ANC) said the Committee appreciated the good work done by the entity.
Mr S Motau (DA) that he was interested in the roundtable on the professionalisation of the public service. He asked if there was anything that the entity had learnt that needed to be done better so that there could be ongoing professionalisation of the service.
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) said it had been indicated that 99% of National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) cases had been referred within seven days, but that did not mean that they had been resolved. The presentation had indicated that 88% were finalised within 45 days – was it 88% of the 99% cases?
Mr Ben Mthembu, Deputy Chairperson: PSC, said one of the key objectives of the roundtable had been to support one of the key strategic objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP),to improve the performance of the public service by professionalizing it. The big question was, what was meant by professionalisation? It was a highly contested concept, and there were various definitions. What had emerged was the fact that now, recruitment and appointment of people in the public service had to be based on nothing else but merit. In other words, there was need to move towards the creation of a public service that was based on meritocracy, and not on the basis of political connections, or any other criteria that had nothing to do with the requirements or the position. The entity now had a better understanding of professionalisation.
Secondly, the entity would also look at the NDP’s five targets towards the realisation of a professionalised public service. The NDP requires that the public service must be headed by someone who was professional. Head of the public service should look into the career performance of the heads of departments. Political responsibility should be detached from administrative responsibility. Everything that was purely administrative should be done by a professional head. That target had not yet been achieved, and the PSC had been tasked with engaging the relevant departments.
Another issue that had been achieved regarding professionalisation, in terms of the NDP targets, was the question of delegations. The current Public Service Act allocated powers for the appointment and many human resource (HR) functions to the political head. In the past, the political head would even approve the appointment of cleaners and more often than not, there were no delegations. However, that was beginning to change with the amendment of the Public Service Regulations of 2016, which made it obligatory for the executive authority (EA) to delegate.
Another target that had been outstanding had been the appointment of the Head of Department (HOD), where the NDP proposed a hybrid approach. The approach tried to strike a balance where, for the appointment of a HOD, the Chairperson of the PSC, together with the head of public service, would advertise the position. Then, with a transparent process, three names would be selected based on the interviews and the names would be sent to the political head who would appoint from among them. That was the model that was suggested by the NDP.
Mr Mthembu said that the entity had been able to identify what professionalisation and its key features was, and had been able to assess the extent to which it was moving forward towards the realisation of a public service which was strictly meritocratic.
Ms Mathenjwa said that through the NACH, the PSC referred cases or complaints that may be related to fraud or corruption happening in the public service or public sector. When cases were received, the entity tried to collect as much information as possible from the complainant, and would make an assessment. Thereafter, within a period of seven days when all information had been obtained, it would refer it to the relevant institutions so that they could do investigations and provide feedback on those cases, and explain what remedial action they would be taking. This would enable the PSC to engage with the complainant and give them feedback.
The PSC also received service delivery complaints, but the investigations were done by officials at PSC itself, and this largely referred to personnel practices. The cases were investigated and the entity made sure that they were finalised in a period of 45 days.
Dr Pilane-Majeke endorsed the comments on the professionalisation, saying that it would help the Department to run an efficient and effective public service that provided quality service to all South Africans. The process also managed the appointment of people who were qualified and skilled in order to provide jobs in a fair manner.
Regarding the delegation of authority, there was need to couple it with accountability measures. However, all in all, the Department was quite happy with the work being done by the PSC, especially when it came to the area of disclosures. The Department had managed to achieve about 99%, which was good because the whole issue of non-disclosure restricted officials or government employees from doing business with government, which had become problematic. It was an area the Department was beginning to look at because in certain cases, one would find supply chain management (SCM) policies that were actually manipulated by suppliers, resulting in the government paying too much money unnecessarily.
Mr M Ntombela (ANC) said that one was only professional to the extent that one was carrying out a particular task within the existing political dispensation. Professionalism should then be linked to the political mandate. Professionalism also had to do with patriotism -- carrying out the objective of a particular political dispensation.
He said that cadre deployment had been given a negative connotation. He had a problem with that. This was because most of the time, when a government changed, the norm was that one got people who were loyal to a particular party. For professionalism in the administration, one had to be loyal to a political cause.
The Chairperson said the government had checks and balances when appointing public officials. Parliament did the appointment of commissioners and public officials. The Public Service Act made provision for appointments by the executive authority. In all these processes, there were checks and balances. The Minister, before he/she appoints staff in his/her office, must submit the names with all the requirements and qualifications to the Minister of Public Service and Administration.
National School of Government: Second quarter performance
Mr Botshabelo Maja, Acting DG: National School of Government (NSG), said the NSG had achieved 87% of its planned training targets in the second quarter. It had trained a total of 22 297 learners against the target of 25 771 in all training streams. Revenue generation from training activities had amounted to R53 532 308.
Performance highlights in the administration programme included implementation of 86% of the management improvement plan based on the 2017/18 AG’s report, the average number of days for debt collection had beenreduced to 32 days by the end of the quarter, all suppliers were paid within 30 days, and the NSG vacancy rate was at 10%.
A concern was the delay by departments to commit to their employees being released for training already paid, as this meant the NSG had to defer acknowledgment of the number of persons trained. NSG managers were visiting national and provincial government departments to address the issue of payment being made without staff being trained. The NSG was writing to these departments to encourage them to fast track outstanding training.
Mr Motau said that he was impressed with the revenue generated for training. It seemed to be much better than it had ever been, and he asked what it was that the entity was doing right.
Mr Maja responded that the NSG had introduced pre-payment. It had been encouraging departments to pre-pay, and it was beginning to bear fruit. More and more departments were able to pay in advance. The area that the entity was having to deal with in relation to pre-payment was to commit to the training once they paid so that they showed up for training.
The second intervention that had been put in place, and would be improved on, was that a calendar had been introduced. The calendar allows the NSG to communicate to departments in advance as to which course would be ready and available by what day. This allowed the departments to pre-register and plan way ahead of time. The hope was that this would not only help with revenue generation, but also with the training numbers, because there had been an improvement in the training numbers. Also, an increasing number of departments were beginning to engage more meaningfully the entity.
Centre for Public Service Innovation: Second quarter performance
Ms Qinisile Delwa, Acting Chief Director (CD): Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI), said that during the second quarter, the organisation had achieved six of its seven targets by the end of September.
Achievements included hosting the annual Innovation Conference on 29-30 August 2018 under the theme, “ Partnering for an agile and a renewed public sector through innovation.” The conference had also featured two-panel discussions. 110 more public sector officials and other partners had been capacitated. The CPSI exhibition of the mobile Multi Media Innovation Centre (MMIC) at public sector events had attracted a lot of interest from the delegates, hence the increased number. The 2018 Public Sector Innovation Awards Programme had been officially launched in East London on 11 May. The CPSI had also co-hosted and participated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) United Nations Public Administration Network (UNPAN) workshop on 28-29 June in Mauritius. In the area of employment equity, the CPSI exceeded the minimum targets of 50 % women at the SMS level (67.7 %) and 2% for employees with disability (5.9%). During the period April 2018 to September 2018 the CPSI had processed 206 payments, none of which was recorded as having exceeded 30 days. The overall average payment days for the financial year to date was 5.15 days. Discussion
Ms Newhoudt-Druchem asked how many of the staff were funded from the donor fund. Given that March was in four months’ time, she asked what efforts were being made to keep those staff members. She asked if one could reapply for the donor funding, or if there was another way to keep the staff that were funded.
Mr Khosa requested that the entity should double its efforts when it came to people living with disabilities.
Ms Delwa responded on the posts that were funded by donor funding. March 2019 was close, and it was a matter of great concern. Attempts had been made to secure additional donor funding. At the moment, the Department had not been successful. The Department was trying to make plans to see where costs could be saved, and use the savings to fund some of the posts. The hope was that the plans would be finalised as soon as possible. These were very critical posts for the work of the CPSI, so the Department was doing everything in its power to ensure that additional funding was secured to retain the people in those posts.
The comment on persons with disability was noted. The editor of CPSI’s journal happened to be blind, and he was very good at what he did. It would be a very good experience for him to come to Parliament at some point.
Dr Pilane-Majeke appreciated the progress that had been made by the CPSI. They were helping to modernise public service. One of the goals of the Department was to be in a position to come up with a public service that was solution-oriented, and managed to provide quality services for South Africans.
In future, the CPSI needed to become a bigger entity if the government was serious about coming up with a public service which was efficient. Moving forward, there should be a desk within every government department that did the CPSI’s work.
One thing that was worrying about donor funding was when some of the conditions were not properly aligned to the Department’s annual performance plan (APP). One could take the money, but then find that the money did very little in terms of solving the problems. It was important to avoid additional funds that were just based on donor funding.
The funding that had been given to the NSG was a lot of money. However, what the entity itself had access to in regard to using the money was only 30%. The other 70% was actually run by the donors. There was a need to negotiate when the government entered into bilateral agreements, in order for donor funding to actually bring about development.
Department of Public Service and Administration: Second quarter report
Ms Linda Dludla, Acting DG: Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and Mr Masilo Makhura, CFO, briefed the Committee on the second quarter report on the performance plan.
As at 30 June, R88 065 million (18%) of the Department’s total 2018/19 allocation of R956 656 had been spent. During the first quarter, the Department had had a total of 29 targets, of which 25 (86%) had been achieved.
Further consultations on the refined draft Strategic Framework for the Public Administration Norms and Standards had been held with departments that fall within the Governance and Administration cluster in July 2018. The Strategic Framework would inform the structure, governance and functioning of the Office of Standards in terms of the Public Administration Management Act. A draft business case, which would inform the establishment of the Office of Standards, had been developed in September 2018. A national advocacy workshop to validate public service performance information to be included in data collection and measurement tools -- proposed amendments to the Annual Report performance information – had been held with national and provincial government departments in September 2018. The inputs from the workshop would be used for producing the compliance report on the monitoring of selected Public Service Norms and Standards by line departments.
The report on the average percentage of funded vacant posts on the Personnel Administration System (PERSAL) against the targeted 10% or less, was submitted to the Director-General in September 2018. As at 30 June 2018, the average vacancy rate in the Public Service was 9.61%, as compared to 10.27% during the 2017/18 financial year. During the 1st quarter, the medium period for filling of vacant posts in the Public Service was five months as compared to eight months during the 2017/18 financial year. The validation of data on the appointment of persons into developmental programmes within the Public Service was conducted in September. During the 2016/17 - 2017/18 financial years, 68 072 individuals were recruited into developmental programmes. The trend over these financial years indicated that most of the beneficiaries participated in internship programmes as graduate interns and student interns, then followed by learnership programmes, apprenticeship programmes and other programmes.
As at 30 June, the Department had received 405 cases of misconduct from national departments and 1 717 cases from provincial departments. During the 1st quarter, the total cost of precautionary suspensions for national departments was R4 838 938, with 59 employees placed on precautionary suspension. The total cost for provincial departments was R30 770 580, with 166 employees placed on precautionary suspension.
Mr Khosa said he had a challenge with regard to people dealing with disciplinary issues. In most instances, those who were taken on disciplinary action, won if they appealed the decision. He was worried about the entity’s engagement with Community Development Workers (CDWs). There was a need the make more use of them, because they had a great deal of information.
Ms D van der Walt (DA) was concerned about the misconduct cases. The presentation had mentioned that the number of days taken to resolve disciplinary cases in the first quarter had been submitted to the DG, but had not been mentioned again. It would be nice to know whether the figures were for the quarter only, and not cumulative, how long one could remain on precautionary suspension.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said the DPSA had mentioned that the public service productivity measurement tool had been presented in one province. She asked for the date when the productivity management tool had been launched, and whether it would be presented to other national departments as well. She also requested the Department to submit a copy of the Community Development Framework to the Committee.
Ms Dludla responded that the numbers shown for disciplinary cases had been cumulative. The reports had been obtained from PERSAL. PERSAL gives the numbers as they accumulate over the period, so the numbers were not specific to the first quarter.
The time prescribed for precautionary suspension was that within 60 days of being placed on suspension, one should have already gone through the disciplinary process. What happened was that one would find that some people had been on precautionary suspension for a year, two years or four years. It might be linked to the overall challenge around the resolution of all disciplinary-related cases in the public service. It was very difficult to say that it was because of a lack of capacity in Departments. There were a number of reasons why the Department was not able to meet its target. One of these was that the case might be finalised within the prescribed time, but the employee would appeal. For example, for employees on level one to twelve, if the outcome of the disciplinary process was that they should be dismissed or suspended, they could appeal to the executive authority and the executive authority might overturn the decision.
Ms Dludla noted the request to submit the Community Development Framework. There would be an assessment on how far the work was and whether it was at a point where it could be submitted to the Committee.
Ms Colette Clark, Deputy Director General: Research and Policy Analysis, DPSA, responded that the productivity tool had not yet been launched. It had been piloted. There had first been a process to design it. The designing over the past three years had been in the different sectors, and had been in different services. At the end of the previous financial year, the Minister had signed off the findings of the various sectors with a case study. An earlier input was that they were working on the operationalisation of the officer standards. If one looked at the Public Administration Management Act, it indicated that there needed to be early warning systems to measure efficiency and effectiveness. The productivity measurement tool was the measure of efficiency. By its very nature, productivity was dealing with historical data over the three-year period to come to a conclusion that a department was either productive or non-productive, which was different from functionality, which measured in real time whether that department was effective or not.
She said that once the Department had operationalised the officer standards, both the organisational productivity assessment tool as well as the organisational functionality tool would be the two tools that would measure efficiency and effectiveness towards an early warning system. The Department was also in the process of trying to get it on to a digital system. It does not make sense to have a measurement tool that was manual.
The meeting was adjourned.