The Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent Chapter 10 body that promotes constitutional values and principles governing public administration throughout the public service. In spite of capacity challenges, the PSC managed to achieve all its targets in 2018/19. The PSC continued to strike a balance in conducting its oversight work while also trying to meet ever-increasing demands for its services by stakeholders, which required PSC to re-prioritise its targets. To ensure improvement in public service performance, the PSC continually engaged with members of the executive and departments. PSC strengthened its partnerships with key stakeholders through MoUs to augment its capacity to deliver more with less.
In the discussion, there were remarks and questions about monitoring of vacancies and staff shortages; officials doing business with the state; protection of whistleblowers; pit toilets at rural schools; PSC accountability to the NCOP, local government and SOEs; job creation; outsourcing of investigations; recruitment; investigative cooperation between PSC and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA); PSC's in professionalising the public service; effectiveness of PSC recommendations; HOD retention strategies; and challenges at the political / administrative interface.
Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson noted it was the first meeting in the Sixth Parliament with the PSC. He explained that the Select Committee was biased towards the provinces as its Members were from the provincial legislatures, and also local government. It was important that the public service be professionalised, with capable management teams and adequate monitoring and evaluation. Apologies were received from the Minister and Deputy Minister. After the absence of the political leadership the previous week, a letter was written to the NCOP Chairperson.
Public Service Commission 2018/19 Annual Report
Adv Richard Sizani, PSC Chairperson, and Ms Fienie Viviers, Chief Operations Officer presented on the oversight areas of the PSC and went through each of its programmes, explaining its work and its outputs within and outside of its Annual Performance Plan. The Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent Chapter 10 body that promotes constitutional values and principles governing public administration throughout the public service. In spite of capacity challenges, the PSC managed to achieve all its targets in 2018/19. The PSC continued to strike a balance in conducting its oversight work while also trying to meet ever-increasing demands for its services by stakeholders, which required PSC to re-prioritise its targets. To ensure improvement in public service performance, the PSC continually engaged with members of the executive and departments. PSC strengthened its partnerships with key stakeholders through MoUs to augment its capacity to deliver more with less.
Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) asked if the PSC monitored government vacancies and shortages of staff in key positions, and the doing of business with the state. Was protection given to whistleblowers, especially if there were political implications, so that they did not lose their jobs. She pleaded for an investigation into rural school toilets, that were dangerous.
Mr E Landsman (ANC, North West) referred to slide 5 which stated that the PSC was accountable to the National Assembly. What about accountability to the NCOP? Ideally the PSC had to account about effective technical oversight to both the NA and the NCOP. He commended the achievement of all Annual Performance Plan targets. He asked about government assistance towards job creation. Could the PSC provide guidance on the filling of government vacancies?
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) noted that there were references to reports on slides 6, 12, 17 and 19. The Committee had not yet viewed the Section 196(4)(e) report. It was essential that Members get to view the report, so that it could be known which departments had not cooperated. The PSC referred to underfunding, but had to explain why it needed more money when it was achieving all its targets. Could departments be called about PSC reports? When he was part of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) he saw it as a post-mortem committee as SCOPA dealt with the Annual Reports 18 months after the relevant time period. The Committee wanted to know what the current challenges were so that it could intervene proactively. Was the PSC vacancy problem sorted out? How much was spent on outsourced investigations? Was this resorted to because the PSC lacked internal investigative capacity? He asked about recruitment.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said there had to be clarity about PSC accountability to the NCOP. It might be possible that the PSC could in future insist that it was only accountable to the NA. What were the similarities and differences between the PSC and the DPSA and their investigations? Was information shared or kept separate? Was there a PSC focus on officials doing business with the state? What was its vacancy rate. PSC stated it received an unqualified audit – was it a clean audit or were there matters of emphasis? Monies indicated as surplus by PSC could also be classified as underspending. Its target for percentage of BBBEE suppliers was 10% and the actual achievement was 58%. It seemed that the PSC was deliberately setting low targets that could be exceeded. Each PSC programme should comment on achievements outside of the APP.
Mr Rayi said the PSC had to play an active role in professionalisation of the public service. Round table discussions had to be part of performance management. It was a matter of concern that the PSC mandate does not allow it to play a role in local government and state-owned entities. Why was 45 days given to deal with Senior Management Service (SMS) grievances but 30 days for the rest? What was the PSC’s own assessment regarding the effectiveness of its recommendations? The PSC could do with more power to issue remedies. It was recently reported in the press that a Director-General had appointed a relative as director of ethics. What was the outcome of that investigation? DPSA had referred to a retention strategy for HODs. It was reported that on average Directors-General occupied this position for only three years. Was the PSC investigating the matter?
The Chairperson asked if investigation into the Department of Public Works (DPW) was completed. It was of concern to the Committee as DPW was one of the departments that reported to this Committee. He commended the MoU between the PSC, Sol Plaatjie University and other entities that could assist with enhancing PSC capacity. The Committee was interested in work done by the PSC in the Departments of Health, and Rural Development and Land Reform, across the provinces. Slide 18 referred to a paper on the political-administrative interface in the public service. The line of demarcation between director-general and political office bearer had to be clearly defined.
Adv Sizani answered about vacancies, that there was an internal monitoring process in departments. The PSC could provide a report on vacancies. The PSC enquired after the reasons for vacancies on a cluster basis. National Treasury had put a cap on monies for Compensation of Employees (CoE). Departments were advised to reduce or cut out posts, so that the wage bill and the size of the public service could be reduced. It had to be asked if a post was really necessary. The DPSA and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) were monitoring officials doing business with the state. The Department of Basic Education had to be talked to about pit latrines.
On accountability, Adv Sizani replied that the Constitution prescribed accountability to the NA, but there was legislation that pointed to accountability to the NCOP as well. The PSC Director-General wanted a secretariat appointed by the PSC itself. Tensions between the director-general and the executive authority was dealt with by the President. Concerning job creation, the PSC monitored internships, and kept track of the ability of departments to absorb recruits. Filling of vacancies was monitored. He agreed with Mr Landsman that job creation was a national priority. He responded to Mr Brauteseth that not all PSC reports were tabled. Some went to the Public Service and Administration Portfolio Committee. PSC reports were cross-cutting.
Adv Sizani said that the PSC was driven by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), and too much compliance was required. Flexibility was needed, and the power to move on matters like pit latrines. The PSC did not have a budget for independent investigation. The PSC aspired to being a true commission, that could study current issues of its own accord.
Adv Sizani replied that the previous Minister of Public Works had requested an investigation into irregular appointments, and the PSC had requested R1.4 million from Treasury and the DPSA. The PSC had at first been an appointments commission, but was re-engineered into its current form. It oversaw implementation of norms and standards set by the DPSA, and could recommend to the Department. The PSC did not produce policy, but made recommendations. On the professionalisation of the public service, the PSC had recommended entrance examinations. It was also recommended that applicants at the level of director had to have five years service in the department behind them, and eight years at DDG level. Appointees had to have suitable qualifications, and appointments had to enhance capacity. The PSC vacancy rate was 5.5%.
Ms Viviers responded that there were two sets of rules pertaining to grievances at the SMS level, and other levels. SMS levels were not subject to collective agreements, hence 45 days were needed to resolve grievances, instead of the 30 days for other levels.
Adv Sizani responded about effectiveness of PSC recommendations, that the PSC was a technical advisory body that checked appointments procedures, among others, with recommendations taken to Parliament. The PSC desired more strength about recommendations. The recommendation could not be rejected without reasons given. Challenges at the political-administrative interface occurred because Ministers wanted a director-general of their own choosing, whereas the executive authority for directors-general was the President. The DPW had provided offices to departments at above market rates, and the PSC became involved. The new Public Works Minister insisted on financial effectiveness. The PSC had round table discussions with Sol Plaatjie University. It had to be asked whether the CEOs of Health had to be doctors or administrators. The doctors won. A shift occurred since the closing of the third party claims gap. The Department of Health had been fraudulently sued for maladministration by lawyers and doctors. The PSC supported the building of a capable and ethical state.
Mr Brauteseth said that he hoped that people were not being employed merely for the sake of filling vacancies. Was PSC monitoring to see where appointments were needed? He asked if the report on the political-administrative interface was sent to the President, and if the report could be made available to the Committee, as well as the Section 196(4)(e) report, and the factsheet on financial misconduct (slide 24).
Mr Rayi remarked that there was an outcry on pit latrines, and advised that PSC deal with the matter immediately. He advised that the PSC play a proactive role at local government level, and with entities like Eskom, SAA and Denel. The PSC could study Auditor-General reports to identify findings such as on fraud and wasteful expenditure. He agreed that the PSC had to be an independent entity.
Mr Brauteseth referred to creation of posts for the sake of creating posts. Was it part of the PSC mandate to monitor that? It was clear that an entity like Eskom was overstaffed.
Adv Sizani responded that the PSC monitored challenges and achievements related to public service organs, and questioned achievement of targets. The PSC and the SAPS provided protection to whistleblowers, but there could not be guarantees against possible adverse consequences. Still people were encouraged to be courageous and to report on misconduct. People suspected of whistleblowing were sometimes victimised.
He response to Mr Rayi that the PSC was not as effective as it desired to be. It could not be everywhere at once. The PSC was committed to monitoring departments that performed poorly, but it was not as impactful as it had to be. There were departments that were getting away with murder. The report on the political-administrative interface would be made available to the Committee.
The Chairperson said that the Committee expected the PSC reports and the PSC agreed to make available within seven working days.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes of 5 February were adopted without amendment.
Committee study tour update
Mr Rayi told the Committee that three weeks in June would be utilised for a study tour to Canada.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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