The Minister of Public Service and Administration outlined five priorities when the Department presented its strategic plan and annual performance plan for the 2019/20 financial year to the Committee. These were to implement the eight principles of ‘Batho Pele’, implement the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), restore stability in public administration, eradicate the culture of corruption, and implement its planned undertakings and targets.
The Committee was told that the Department was responsible for supporting the implementation and regulation of human resource management within national and provincial government departments, and that the total number of public service employees was over 1.2 million. With the introduction of the PAMA, it would now also be focusing on local governments – the municipalities. It would give attention to limiting the unnecessary functional duplications that existed between public entities and certain departments which contributed to an increased wage bill. Along with this undertaking was a very comprehensive on-line financial disclosure system which enabled the Director-General’s office to track how accurately and honestly senior management were in disclosing expenditure.
There was unanimous concern among the Members about corruption. They felt that dealing with it must be the Department’s top priority. They also highlighted the need to shut down the ‘revolving door policy,’ stressing that public servants and officials who were dismissed through disciplinary measures should not be allowed to work for the state in a different government structure.
Some Members felt that retrenchment was not an appropriate solution for reducing the wage bill because it would trigger tension between the Department and the trade unions that represented the public servants. It also contradicted the aim of reducing unemployment. They were also unhappy about the public sector and black public servants being mostly blamed for the existence of corruption, pointing out that it had to be eradicated even in the white-dominated private sector – which was the main external force that influenced the public sector.
The Department acknowledged that money that was lost through corruption was money that was meant to pay for public services. Some departments spent as much as 73% of their budget on remuneration, and were left with only 27% for funding services. It held similar views to the Committee on the question of a bloated wage bill, and there were numerous cost-reduction measures that it was planning to implement, beyond just the aspect of salaries.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson apprised the Members of the Committee of their responsibility for the next years of their term during the Sixth Parliament. He acknowledged and appreciated the presence of both the Minister and Deputy Minister. He said the Committee of the role that the Department was playing in ensuring that its vision was achieved. Central to that was the professionalisation of the public service. The Committee was also mindful of the various entities that were being overseen by the Department.
Part of the mandate of the Committee was to ensure that local and provincial interests were taken into account within the work of the Department. A key focus would be the extent to which it would assist the different provinces in reconfiguring other Departments, as there was a moderate likelihood of changes, due to the sixth administration being fairly new. Another focus would be on ensuring the upholding of the foundational values that are enshrined in Section 1 and 2 of the Constitution – such as integrity, rationality and accountability. A few of the major court cases that characterised the previous administration had a common denominator -- the access to, and the exercise of, public power outside of constitutional imperatives, and officials taking irrational and illegal decisions.
Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA): Minister’s overview
Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Public Service and Administration, said it was a privilege to meet the Committee and to have the engagement about the plans for the new term. The presentation would cover the annual performance plan (APP) that had already been reviewed by the Committee under the previous administration. The aim was to integrate some of the imperatives of this new Select Committee into the remainder of the APP term, which would continue until the end of March 2020.
The mandates of the Department were derived from the legislative framework -- Section 195 and197 of the Constitution, and the two Acts that govern its activities, the Public Administration Act (PAA) and the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA). The Department had also extracted the relevant sections of the National Development Plan (NDP) as well as sections of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that were prescriptive to the Department. The Department had identified its key challenges in fulfilling its mandate, and the resolutions had been summarised into five priorities.
The first priority was the implementation of the eight principles of ‘Batho Pele’, continuously assessing and evaluating the challenges posed by each of them and also coming up with solutions.
The second was the implementation of PAMA – 13 of its subsections were already in progress, and eight were outstanding. The Minister had already met with the Executive Committee of the Department to express his support and also to give it a full outline of its mandate, such as the values and principles, norms and standards set by the government throughout the public service. The Minister’s office took full responsibility for the oversight required thereof. He had also already arranged to meet with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) as well as other relevant stakeholders in different areas, with the aim of implementing the PAMA.
The third priority was the stability of public administration, addressing the pertinent concerns about the high wage bill, mainly by developing and prescribing a policy that would govern the remuneration model used to allocate salary packages and also guide bargaining councils. This would in turn lower the labour costs of the public service. One of the high costs that had been identified was litigation expenses – disciplinary action taken against public servants. Another remedy could be to allow senior workers to have an earlier retirement while receiving their full retirement benefit packages. This would not only reduce the wage bill, but would also allow for the employment of younger and more energetic workers.
The fourth priority was to eradicate the culture of corruption. There were already a few established initiatives aimed at promoting ethics, integrity and containing disciplinary procedures within prescribed periods. This included public servants who were illegally doing business with the state.
The last priority was the implementation of the planned undertakings and targets – for the Department to actually do what it says it would do, which was actively reaching out to communities.
Annual Performance Plan
Prof Richard Levin, Director-General (DG), DPSA, said the Department was responsible for the implementation, support and regulation of human resource management within other national and provincial government departments, with the total number of public service employees being over 1.2 million people. With the introduction of the PAMA, which formed the majority of the DPSA’s scope, the Department would now also be focusing on local governments (municipalities). It was required to implement the priorities listed in the 2019-2024 Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and prescribed by the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA). Along with these priorities were the seven strategic goals set out by Chapter 13 of the National Development Plan (NDP). These had all been translated into targets in the 2019/2020 APP.
For the 2019/20 financial year, the DPSA had a total of 35 annual targets, which were further broken down into quarterly targets. Of the 35 targets, 22 (63%) of them were from the 2014-2019 and 2019-2024 MTSF; the other 13 (37%) were in line with the Department’s mandate and policy priorities. The implementation of the quarterly targets would be monitored by the executive authority, the accounting officer, the portfolio and audit committees, National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) on a monthly basis, to track progress towards the achievement of the annual targets. The overall achievement against the 2019/2020 annual targets would be reported in the Department’s 2019/2020 annual performance report (APR).
The APP was segmented into six different programmes, each having a purpose and multiple core functions. These were:
- Policy development, research and analysis;
- Public service employment and conditions of service;
- Government Chief Information Officer;
- Service delivery support; and
- Governance of public administration.
The Department would report on the progress of the implementation of the core functions of these programmes.
Prof Levin emphasised that tools had been developed and tested to measure organisational productivity within the public service, mostly in the critical sectors of health, education and policing. The Department would also focus on limiting the unnecessary functional duplications that existed between public entities and certain departments, which also contributed to an increased wage bill. Along with this undertaking was a very comprehensive on-line financial disclosure system which enabled the DG’s office to track how accurately and honestly senior management were in disclosing expenditure. It also allowed for the detection of officials that were illegally doing business with the state. There were, however, a set of strict guidelines that did allow public servants to obtain permission from executive authorities to do remunerative work with the state, without any conflicts of interest. Adherence to these guidelines was also monitored on the same on-line platform.
The DPSA budget allocation for 2019/2020 was a little over R1 billion, with the total over the three years through 2021/22 amounting to R3.245 billion. For 2019/20, the majority of the allocation was for the Public Service Commission (27.75%), with 24.55% going towards Administration, 18.76% to the National School of Government, as well as 8.42% for public service employment and conditions of service. This translated into 50.57% of the budget being used for transfers and subsidies, 31.13% for compensation of employees, 17.73% for goods and services, and the remaining 0.57% for machinery and equipment. This came with strict compliance measures imposed by the National Treasury.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) commented that this meeting was the first interaction since the start of the sixth administration, and that before he joined the Committee his perception of the DPSA was that it seemed to be a “super department” which oversaw all the other departments, ensuring that norms and standards were being upheld. He then inquired about the exact role of the DPSA, asserting that the existence of the various Public Service Commissions appeared to functionally duplicate the duties of the DPSA. He asked if there were any engagements with municipalities through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). What was the role of the DPSA in addressing the audit outcome shortfalls of the municipalities and general consequence management within them? What role had the Department played in the Steinhoff saga? He also asked for clarity about PAMA and its implementation, because even though the Act had been introduced back in December 2014, its proclamation had only been done in April 2019. This gave the impression that there nothing had been done about the implementation of PAMA during the five-year period. Immediately after a bill is passed into law, the Minister usually issues regulation after consulting with those who are affected, but in this case it seemed as though there were still some outstanding policies and regulations for PAMA.
He told the Committee that on the morning of the meeting, a trade unionist had been interviewed on the Morning Live show, and had talked about the government having to address the wage bill problem because there were several state funds being wasted through fruitless expenditure and corruption. He added that the government must communicate with the public and also address the problems that were causing maladministration within the departments.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) said that one of his governance lecturers had taught him a formula for corruption -- that corruption = discretion + power – ethics. This formula was very much applicable to the DPSA. Ethics were taught at home, churches and schools, and it was very difficult to change people from being unethical to being ethical. Limiting the room for discretion and power in the daily functioning of the Department would reduce the room for corruption. A classic example would be a traffic officer who pulls a driver over to the side of the road, using his discretion. He has the discretion to decide whether to issue a fine to the driver and the power to demand a bribe. A solution to this would be to implement a tracking system that would monitor the officer. He would have to account for engaging the driver for longer than a certain period of time without issuing an official fine and also account for the fines he does issue. If there were no consequences, corruption would never end. He pleaded with the Minister and the Deputy Minister that consequence management must to be the top priority for the DPSA.
Mr Brauteseth said that the information technology (IT) department had to be cautious about outsourcing IT services to under-qualified suppliers who overcharged the state for their services. He also highlighted the need to shut down the ‘revolving door policy,’ stressing that public servants and officials who were dismissed through disciplinary measures should not be allowed to work for the state in a different government structure. There should be an IT system designed to flag previous delinquents. He asked why PAMA regulations were still being developed and anticipated to be operationalised on 1 April 2020, when the Act had been passed in 2014 and was proposed to come into effect on 1 February 2017. He also cautioned the Department to be careful to not just build a new bureaucracy for integrity and discipline management, as this was work that the respective departments could do internally. Lastly, he asked the Minister if he had had any engagement with Ministers who oversaw other Departments, to try to work collaboratively with them.
Ms H Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) pointed out that the Minister of Finance had given details of reducing the wage bill in his budget speech, and had also indicated that there would be no performance bonus issues and that the DPSA was now going to allow early retirement of public servants. Considering these announcements, how many of the eligible 30 000 employees had indicated that they would be taking early retirement? What would be the pay-out for medical aid, pensions and other benefits? What would the financial saving for the DPSA be as a result of these retirements? Had the DPSA communicated the implications of the early retirement to the potential retirees? Had the Minister had communicated with his predecessor, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, about what she had planned for dealing with the matter of early retirement?
Mr T Apleni (EFF, Eastern Cape) commended the Department for an impressive presentation. He disagreed with the notion that the public service sphere was bloated, and felt that retrenchment would trigger tension between the DPSA and trade unions. He expressed concern about the public sector and black public servants being mostly blamed for the existence of corruption. He emphasised that this also has to be eradicated, even in the white-dominated private sector, which was the external force that influenced the public sector. Therefore corruption should not be attributed to race. He also appreciated that the Minister was conducting interventions within the local government sphere, where the services were rolled out.
Mr E Landsman (ANC, North West) appreciated the vision of the Ministry. He supported Mr Apleni’s view about corruption not being a racial issue, and that it also partially stemmed from the private sector. The Ministry had to deal with corruption in all areas, without fear or favour. He questioned the parameters used in determining how high the wage bill was, given that there were still several education and health vacancies in provinces like the Eastern Cape that were still available. He suggested that the vacancy audits should be corresponded with the Department of Higher Education databases. This would facilitate the placement of graduates into the work environment and fast-track the filling of these vacancies.
The Chairperson clarified that the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) imposed a total prohibition on officials doing work with government, in the local government sphere. However, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) imposed a rule for disclosure – officials could do work as long as there was no conflict of interest. He also pointed out that there was a misconception that Ministers did not have any role to play in procurement (supply chain management), and that this needed to be addressed.
Minister Mchunu explained that the role of the Department and the Ministry was to promote and enforce the regulations, standards and norms that departments needed to adhere to. Due to limitations that came with this responsibility, the DPSA also planned to form partnerships with law enforcement agencies within the local government sphere. He indicated that although there were still some outstanding sub-sections of PAMA, a total of 13 of them had already been implemented. He also noted the concern about the Department’s lack of communication with the public and other local governments.
He said the DPSA was considering the establishment of consequence management unit which would strongly enforce disciplinary measures. The current problem was where the unit would be located. There was no place for corrupt former officials in the public sector. Upbringing did have a lot to do with an individual’s ethics, and there had to be ways to improve how children were effectively taught from the early development stage.
Steps had already been taken to assemble a Cabinet Committee of Ministers, and he was awaiting approval from the Presidency for the meetings to commence. This committee would be smaller than that of the previous administration in order to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. Indeed, corruption needed to be addressed sternly, regardless of age, gender and race.
He responded to the question of early retirement by suggesting that retirees could retire early, but claim their benefits only by the time they reached the age of 65, suggesting that this would be a way to ensure that their early retirement did not decrease their benefits.
The Minister also confirmed that there had been an official handover from his predecessors. There were a number of initiatives that he had inherited and which he was planning to build upon, while also conscious of the prescriptions of the current administration. He said that the Department had similar views on the question of the bloated wage bill. There were numerous cost-reduction measures that it was planning to implement, beyond just the aspect of salaries. The Department would also evaluate the ratio of public servants to the number of members of the public. The current ratio was 1:33, and this needed to be improved.
In the case of public schools, there were still far more pupils than the appropriate number of educators, and the pupils were not always getting the individual attention they required to facilitate their learning process. In private schools, parents paid high school fees for their children to receive not only enriched delivery of the curriculum, but also in a conducive, uncrowded environment. Public hospitals and clinics also usually faced a large volume of patients, and the service delivery was not always efficient because the public servants would often be short-staffed in relation to the community populations they served.
Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, Deputy Minister: Public Service and Administration, said she valued the meetings with portfolio and select committees, and the contributions from the different Members who represented different parties. She felt that the money that was lost through corruption was money that was meant to pay for public services – facilities, salaries, etc. Some departments spent as much as 73% of their budget on remuneration, and were left with only 27% for funding services. She also agreed with the notion that corruption had become a racialised matter, but in the public sector it was the general public that was impacted most by the corruption, as they were being indirectly deprived of public services. The fight against corruption extended to the private sector, but started in the public sector.
Prof Levin said that the instability of the Department was partly due to the fact that there had been eight different Ministers of the DPSA between 2008 and 2018. Former President Zuma had approved the PAMA legislation in 2014, subject to the promulgation of regulations. He added that when he came into office in 2018, the majority of the work towards implementing the Act had already been done, and only a few regulations needed to be finalised.
He responded to the question about conflict of interest in the case of public servants and their spouses doing business with the state, saying that there were constitutional imperatives that would enable them to challenge the prohibition. This was because the Constitution included the right to freedom of trade. According to the PAMA bill that was drafted in 2008, people who had been previously dismissed from public service due to illegal activity could only be prevented from being involved in similar contracts, instead of being prevented from participating in general economic activity.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the Department’s officials for their presentation and their responses to the questions from the Members. He was looking forward to working with the Department in striving to professionalise public service.
Minister Mchunu responded that the vision of the Department and the Ministry was a developmental state which required a civil service that was cost-effective but professional, and had integrity. This would demand unity, transparent communication and hard work.
Second Term Committee Programme
Mr Brauteseth proposed the adoption of the second term Committee programme.
Members jointly seconded the motion.
The Chairperson declared the programme adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.