The Subcommittee met to discuss which candidates would make the shortlist and interviewing stage for the vacancy of Commissioner for the Public Service Commission.
The Committee Secretary briefed the Committee on a late application he received the previous day. The Committee discussed whether the application should be considered. It decided it will not consider the application as it would create a challenge and would be unfair to other applications not considered as they were late.
Members discussed the matter of bridging the gender gap within the Commission. There was only one female Commissioner, in contrast to the three male Commissioners. Members expressed their plea that women be given a chance to take on senior positions – not just in the Public Service Commission, but nationally. It was decided that the Committee should not engage in premature prejudice in the shortlisting stage and should hold off the matter of gender once interviews have commenced in order to avoid bias.
The issue of citizenship by naturalisation was highlighted and Members were advised not to discriminate on the basis of a candidate’s birth country if he/she had been declared a South African citizen.
It was agreed that Members would be briefed on the morning of the interviews on the questionnaire to avoid it potentially landing in the hands of the candidates.
Nine candidates were shortlisted instead of the suggested seven or ten. The interview process would commence on 30 October 2019. .
The Chairperson welcomed everyone present and submitted the agenda of the day’s Committee meeting.
The Chairperson requested the Committee Secretary brief the Committee on the matter of a late application that was received the previous day.
Decision on the acceptance of late applications
The Committee Secretary informed Members he received a CV on the previous day (21 October 2019). According to the receipt from the couriers, the application was submitted on time. However, he was not quite sure why the CV was only received the previous day. He suggested the application be submitted.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said the suggestion may be challenging. The Committee should rather wait until it has finished shortlisting and has concluded the process before dealing with that application. The reason being, there may be another application with a similar challenge and it may be unfair to submit one and not the other. Her fear is that the Committee is controlling the process efficiently as it has already missed the shortlisting deadline set.
Mr C Sibisi (NFP) echoed Ms Ntuli’s suggestion noting that initially, the shortlisting should have been concluded last week Tuesday. This means the application would have been submitted too late either way. The Committee needs to be consistent.
Ms C Motsepe (EFF) contested that the application is still valid as the subcommittee has not concluded anything yet. According to the receipt, it was on time and the delay was on the courier’s side. She suggested the application be considered.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) expressed her concern with considering the application. She believed there is no problem with either of the views however, this situation poses a challenge. The rules and criteria were set up last week and the subcommittee cannot reopen the criteria so that it can accommodate unforeseen challenges. This would mean that the shortlisting will not be done on that day, delaying the process even more. She emphasised the fact that the Committee was behind schedule –this was not only in terms of Parliament’s schedule, but also the Public Service Act as there is a specific time frame for filling the vacancy. Further, as the subcommittee, Members are doing work on behalf of the Committee. There is a programme that the subcommittee has to follow and it cannot conclude anything that falls outside of that programme. Moreover, it cannot undermine its laws. The subcommittee should write to the individuals concerned, explaining that the courier they used delayed. Moving forward, these are unforeseen circumstances that the subcommittee must learn from.
Dr L Shreiber (DA) reminded the Committee that in the previous week, there had been a stack of late applications which the Committee agreed to not consider. It would be unfair to consider this one. In terms of the process and legality, the Committee has to treat this application in the same manner.
Bridging the gender gap
The Committee Content Advisor highlighted the matter of gender. Currently there are three male Commissioners in comparison to only one female.
Dr Schreiber sought clarity on the emphasis on the gender of the applicants. He asked if there was a specific gender composition that the Committee had in mind
Ms Lesoma responded that when it comes to the Public Service Commissioners, it should reflect the unwritten policy of government when it comes to gender. When she drafted her considerations, her bias towards women was guided by that unwritten policy.
Dr Schreiber explained that he was unaware of that unwritten policy which is why when he drafted his considerations, gender was not a determining factor.
Ms Ntuli confessed to having a bias towards women. The reason was that previously, when she had been serving in another Committee, she felt women were not considered in that Commission to the extent that they had to push/fight to have a female Commissioner. Nationally, women are not chosen for leadership positions. While there is no formal policy, it is important to note that the country is trying to balance the scale of gender in both the private sector and Parliament.
Mr Sibisi said the matter of gender has been raised repeatedly and the Committee needs to find a way to implement that change. However, there would be no point in appointing a woman if at the end, she does not express herself. The challenge with having a preferred candidate is that they may not do the job.
Ms Ntuli expressed that women have been and still are suffering under the hands of patriarchy. Her plea is that women be given a chance. This way the gender gap may be balanced in the country. Men have always had the upper hand in the leadership field because they were given the chance. Women have not been given that chance – not just in Public Services, but nationally.
Ms M Kibi (ANC) supported Ms Ntuli’s plea. She believed the reality is that SA needs more women in senior positions. Women have never been given the chance to say or do something. Women should be given a chance to also be on the same level as men. Responding to Mr Sibisi’s comment on women not speaking up, she feels that if given the chance, women will gradually grow into the role. To ensure a balance between genders, this needs to start now.
Dr Schreiber noted that the Committee should not be prejudicing at the shortlisting stage. He is not opposing Members’ pleas on balancing the gender gap however, they should not screen the candidates as of yet because they are still shortlisting and they are not appointing any candidates yet. He suggested the number of shortlisted applicants should be ten, instead of the seven that was initially suggested. This would then give everyone a fair chance.
Ms Lesoma believed it is good that the Committee remain transparent. In terms of government unwritten policy, there is a plea for gender equality and inclusion of people with disabilities. Unfortunately in the Public Service Commission, this is not the reality.
Mrs Motsepe suggested the Committee wait until the engagement and interviews with the candidates have taken place and then make its decision from there.
Dr Schreiber noted the Committee should be careful not to speak on the basis of unspoken policy. It may be that government has that policy however there are Members in the Committee who are not part of the governing party who may share different perspectives and different policies.
Ms Ntuli expressed that this is the outcry of the United Nations itself, not only for women in Africa, but for women all over the world. It is a global matter.
Shortlisting and Interview procedure
The Committee Content Advisor suggested the shortlisting and interview process should also empower the Committee. Members should not hold interviews just for the sake of picking a candidate. They should appoint someone who will help the PSC achieve its core magnate - someone who will be of value to the Commission.
Mr Sibisi noted the dangers of discussing candidates prior to the interview as this may create bias.
The Chairperson echoed Mr Sibisi’s suggestion and asked that Members not compromise the process before it even starts. The Committee should not discuss the candidates too much, prior to the interviews and should keep the debating of candidates at a minimum.
Dr Schreiber emphasised that, by constitution, a naturalised citizen is no different to a citizen that was born in South Africa. Members should not discriminate on the basis of the country a citizen was born in if they had been declared a South African by naturalisation.
The Committee Content Advisor explained the process for the interviews that are to commence next Wednesday (30 October 2019). Currently, he and his colleague are in the process of drafting the interview questionnaire. Prior to the interviews, he will brief the Committee on the guidelines and the questionnaire that morning. This is to ensure that the questionnaire does not circulate around Members and risk it falling into the hands of one of the candidates.
Shortlisting of Candidates
Each of the Members of the Committee presented their preferred candidates for shortlisting. The Committee agreed on nine candidates that made it to the shortlist and interview stage.
Members took a resolution that the interviewing process will commence next week Wednesday.
The meeting was adjourned.
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