The Office of the Public Service Commissioner briefed the Standing Committee on Premier and Constitutional Matters on its 2019/20 strategic plan, and said the strategic focus of the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the 2019/2020 financial year rested on four pillars -- routine outputs, research, reporting and ad hoc activities. Its baseline budget allocation was R278.2 million, of which R212.9 million (78%) would be for compensation of employees. Since the PSC was primarily a knowledge–based institution and did not outsource its functions, the relatively high percentage was justified. The balance of the budget (R60 million) was for goods and services.
The Commission said 70% of public administration integrity and anti-corruption investigations would be finalised within three months of receipt of all relevant information. Fact sheets on financial misconduct would be produced during the third quarter. 90% of National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) cases referred within seven days of receipt of case reports would be finalised quarterly. The report on the financial disclosure framework would be produced during the fourth quarter.
All personnel at the Senior Management Service (SMS) level were required to disclose the particulars of all their registrable interests (e.g. companies and properties) to their respective executive authorities by not later than 30 April each year. Executive authorities were expected to submit copies to the PSC by no later than 31 May of each year. The amended provisions of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), read with the Treasury Regulations, compelled all departments to report on finalised financial misconduct cases to the PSC. Three reports on the management of grievances in the public service had been produced.
Regarding monitoring and evaluation, 12 reports on the quantitative evaluation of departments against Constitutional Values and Principles (CVPs) would be produced by the fourth quarter. The Western Cape would have one overall CVP report by the third quarter, which would also include the reports for the seven individual departments -- Health, Education, Local Government, the Premier, Treasury, Human Settlements, and Transport and Public Works.
Members wanted to establish if the Commission had a mandate to institute civil claims against officials charged with financial misconduct, and whether it would be part of its mandate to conduct lifestyle audits of the Members of the Executive Council (MECs) and Premiers, instead of allowing that to be done by a private company. They asked how the Commission was promoting what it was doing so that public servants could support it, and enquired if there had been interventions by the Commission to curb misconduct or stealing. Had it ever conducted inspections in the Western Cape police stations, and was it was aware of language barriers that existed between the police and the communities the police were serving? Was the PSC aware of the plight of previously disadvantaged pensioners who had up to now not received their pensions, and that some of them had died without receiving their pensions?
Public Service Commission 2019/20 Strategic Plan
Mr Leonardo Goosen, Commissioner: Public Service Commission (PSC), informed the Committee the strategic focus of the PSC for the 2019/2020 financial year rested on four pillars: routine outputs; research; reporting; and ad hoc activities. Routine outputs looked at the management of the national anti-corruption hotline, grievance management, complaints / investigations, financial misconduct, and management of the financial disclosure framework. Research’s focus was on constitutional values and principles, professional ethics, a strategy to build capacity to deal with the consequences of the reorganisation of the state after the elections in 2019, preparations for the induction of new executive authorities, leadership stability, and performance of selected departments. Reporting concentrated on accounting to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, while the spotlight of ad hoc activities was on unplanned activities not reflected in the annual performance plan.
In his overview of the budget and expenditure estimates, he reported that the baseline allocation for the PSC for the 2019/20 financial year was R278.2 million. Out of this budget, R212.9 million (78%) had been allocated to compensation of employees. Since the PSC was primarily a knowledge–based institution and did not outsource its functions, the relatively high percentage of the budget applied to compensation of employees was believed to be justified. The goods and services budget was R60.0 million (22% of the overall budget). Of this, 97% (R58.2 million) was for mandatory and operational costs, while 3% (R1.8 million) was for the implementation of the mandate of the PSC over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period. The budget for operational costs was high, as it provided for national, Parliamentary and nine provincial offices -- a total of 11 offices. The nine provincial offices were supporting the provincially-based Commissioners, appointed in terms of section 196(7) (b) of the Constitution, 1996, with an average staff complement of nine employees each. The Office of the PSC had 274 posts in its establishment, of which 256 were filled at national and provincial level as at 28 June, representing a 6.5% vacancy rate.
On grievance management, 80% of all grievances received would be concluded within 30 days for levels 2 to12, and within 45 days for senior management service (SMS) levels on receipt of all documentation. The target was to finalise everything by the fourth quarter. Three reports on the management of grievances in the public service had been produced. Regarding monitoring and evaluation, twelve reports on quantitative evaluation of departments against Constitutional Values and Principles (CVPs) would be produced by the fourth quarter. The Western Cape would have one overall CVP report by the third quarter. This would also include the reports for the seven individual departments -- Health, Education, Local Government, Premier, Treasury, Human Settlements, and Transport and Public Works.
Mr Goosen said that 70% of public administration investigations involving integrity and anti-corruption would be finalised within three months upon receipt of all relevant information. The target was to finalise everything by quarter four. Fact sheets on financial misconduct would be produced during quarter three. 90% of National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) cases referred within seven days of receipt of case reports would be finalised quarterly. The report on the financial disclosure framework would be produced during quarter four.
He further reported that all SMS members were required to disclose the particulars of all their registrable interests (e.g. companies and properties) to their respective executive authorities by not later than 30 April each year. Executive authorities were expected to submit copies to the PSC by not later than 31 May of each year. The amended provisions of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), read with the Treasury Regulations, were compelling all departments to report on finalised financial misconduct cases to the PSC.
He said the PSC was a resource in terms of its reports and analysis on governance matters pertaining to departments and was open to being approached to conduct research on issues prioritised by the legislature. The Provincial Commissioner could be engaged on such a request. The PSC wished to have a vibrant and robust relationship with the legislature. Thought must be given to including the Commission in the annual report oversight exercise conducted by the legislature.
(Tables and graphs were shown to illustrate budget allocation and expenditure, financial misconduct, and the financial disclosure framework)
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) wanted to know the staff component of the Commission. Referring to the Commission’s areas of oversight in respect of personnel procedures and practices, he said he had received a complaint from a staffer of a certain provincial department who had been charged by the department and later resigned. The Personnel Administration System (Persal) number of the staffer had been blocked by the department he worked for for 18 years, and now he could not be employed by other state departments because of the Persal issue. He asked if the Commission would consider looking at these matters. He further wanted to find out if it would be the mandate of the Commission to conduct lifestyle audits of the Members of the Executive Council (MECs) and Premiers, instead of allowing that to be done by a private company, because it had been stated this audit would not be done by a state entity. Lastly, he wanted to establish if it was the mandate of the Commission to institute civil claims against officials charged for financial misconduct, because the total amount of money involved in respect of financial misconduct cases reported by the departments was a staggering R983 569.11 for the 2018/19 financial year.
Mr Paul Rockman, Provincial Director: Office of the Public Service Commission, said the Commission had ten members of staff. Regarding the Persal matter, he said the Commission did not deal with such cases, because the employee had resigned, and would investigate only when it was a disciplinary case. It was not within the Commission’s mandate to institute civil claims when it came to financial misconduct. Lifestyle audits also did not fall within its mandate. If there was a request to do an audit, the Commission would need to consider its capacity, extra funding, and get clarity in terms of its jurisdiction, because there were political members and public officials involved.
Mr Dugmore requested the Committee be furnished with the financial misconduct breakdown, so that it was familiar with the names of those implicated, their levels in their respective departments, the nature of the crimes, and advice given to the departments by the Commission. He wondered if it would be possible for the Commission to find out if it would be a good idea for the Public Protector to look at lifestyle audits of the Premiers and MECs.
Mr R Allen (DA) wanted to find out about the type of research the Commission had done and from where it could be sourced, and asked that it be made available to the Committee. How was the PSC promoting what it was doing so that public servants could support it? Had there been interventions by the Commission to curb misconduct or stealing?
Mr Goosen explained that the Commission was doing evidence-based research. Everything was based on research that was available on the entity’s website. Members were free to contact the Commission for reports on the work it had done. There was a vacuum with regard to the work the Commission was doing, both provincially and nationally, due to budget constraints. The work involved traveling to do inspections at the points of service delivery. The challenge in curbing stealing was on managing the national anti-corruption hotline and complaints from the public servants, because there was an element of anonymity, but they scrutinized the inputs and information they were getting from the heads of departments (HODs), personnel and the national anti-corruption hotline.
Mr P Marais (FF+) read the Committee functions of the Commission, as stipulated in Act 46 of 1997, and said the Commission was a very important oversight body. He asked if the Commission had ever conducted inspections at the Western Cape police stations and if it was aware of language barriers that existed between the police and the communities they were serving. He wanted to understand if the Commission was aware of complaints regarding promotions at the South African Revenue Service (SARS), because there was a labour dispute involving Coloureds not being promoted in the Western Cape SARS. Coloureds were not happy with the way things were happening, and their language – Afrikaans – was not given recognition in the civil service.
Mr Rockman said a report had been submitted to the provincial Department of Labour and SARS regarding the labour dispute at SARS. On other matters raised by Mr Marais, he said interventions had been done provincially, but not at the national level.
The Chairperson suggested Mr Marais should wait for a follow-up on the status of the report which the Committee had in its possession, and once everything had been finalised, he should raise his concerns with the Standing Committee on Community Safety.
Mr Goosen said he had not been aware of the SARS case, but had become aware when the investigation was already under way and had picked up some information from the media. The Commission had not received complaints about the lack of promotion for Coloureds in the Western Cape. He commented that he was always in discussions with the SARS Commissioner.
Mr M Xego (EFF) suggested the Committee be given a breakdown of the staff complement of the Commission in order to ensure compliance before the entity monitored compliance by other departments. He wanted to know the rationale behind the zero on level 4 employees regarding those charged with financial misconduct.
Mr Goosen said a document with a staff breakdown of the Commission would be sent to the Committee. He explained that the zero on level 4 employees meant there were no cases of financial misconduct reported.
Ms W Philander (DA) asked if the Commission was aware of the plight of previously disadvantaged pensioners who had up to now not received their pensions, and that some of them had died having not received their pensions.
Mr Goosen replied he was not aware of some of the matters the Members were raising because it was not possible for the Commission to be involved in everything people were complaining about. The Commission was looking only at trends, and would make recommendations to the affected departments.
The Chairperson wanted to establish what the outreach programme of the Commission was for the year so that people started to get to know about its services. He also wanted to find out the point at which the Commission started to interact with HODs in solving the anti-corruption cases. Was the Western Cape at the top or bottom of the list when compared to other provinces on financial disclosures?
Mr Rockman said the Commission was targeting departments in order to interact with staff and HODs for awareness about what the Commission was doing. Pamphlets were being dropped at designated areas. They were mindful that they had to look at outlying areas to promote the work of the entity.
He explained that interaction would usually start when a complaint was launched. The Commission would first interact with the forensic services of the province to see if the matter could be undertaken by the department. In fact, it was the responsibility of the HODs to do the investigation, because they had to work closely with the provincial forensic services. The Commission had made the provincial Cabinet aware that sometimes the HODs delegated this investigative work to their subordinates.
He indicated that for the past ten years, the success rate on financial disclosure had been 100%. Rigorous verification had been done to ensure there were no civil servants who were directors of service providers dealing with the government. Generally, provinces were better managed than national in terms of financial disclosures. The Western Cape was still performing better than other provinces, even though it still had challenges.
Mr Marais read the Committee a paragraph from a newspaper article about the lack of promotion for Coloureds at SARS. He suggested the Commission should approach SARS first, instead of waiting to be approached by it. He wanted to understand if the Commission could undertake its own investigation while the court case was continuing.
Mr Goosen responded that the Commission had no mandate to interfere in a labour dispute that was before the court, nor the right to carry out an investigation while the matter was still in the hands of the court.
Consideration and adoption of minutes
The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of 31 July page by page.
Mr Allen moved their adoption, and Ms Philander seconded.
The minutes were adopted with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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