Amendments to legislation; Impact of COVID on budget & provision of education, training: NSG briefing; with Minister

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

03 March 2021
Chairperson: Ms M Lesoma (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

In a virtual meeting, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the National School of Government (NSG) briefed the Committee on amendments to legislation, the impact of COVID19 on education, training and development and the adherence to the values and principles governing public administration.

The DPSA defined the concept of a single public administration and the context to the Public Service Act amendments.  Members were taken through the proposed amendments. The Single Public Administration vision was initially conceived as a single legislation to provide for the organisation, management, functioning and personnel related matters in the three spheres of government. The draft Public Administration Management Bill intended to replace the Public Service Act in its entirety as well as sections of the Local Government:  Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act No. 32 of 2000).

Members agreed the legislation was progressive and “a step forward”.  Members said this is an exciting moment in the work of the Committee and the work of this sector in general and the legislation itself contains very good ideas. In particular, devolving administrative powers to heads of department is a very encouraging step. Members were pleased the Committee is engaging in this discussion in a serious manner. Questions were raised around disciplinary measures, strengthening the independence of the public service, especially the PSC, implementation impediments,

There was concern the DPSA did not yet implement the regulations needed for the 2014 Public Administration Management Act – a Member said the DPSA will ever realise its vision of having a single and integrated public service, if it is unable to move with the speed needed to implement the regulations and the framework for norms and standards required by PAMA. There was discussion on finding synergy between a DA Private Member’s Bill (or proposal) and the legislative amendments the Department was proposing. It was emphasised this was about ensuring a public service which lives up to the vision in the NDP - the country is ten years away from 2030, and close to ten years into the NDP, and real changes are yet to be seen around the public service and its administration.

There was widespread recognition of the need for a more effective and professional public service, and to depoliticise it so the public service can function for the purposes it was created. There was a need to improve the efficacy, efficiency, and ultimately the delivery. It was said key to this is separating party and state and the employment of state officials based on merit.

The PSC provided an evaluation of the extent to which the Values and Principles (CVPs) set out in section 195 of the Constitution. It looked at the character and form of the public service and framework for the high standard of professional ethics. The presentation also addressed efficient, economic and effective use of resources, a public administration which is development-oriented, impartial, fair, equitable and unbiased provision of services, public participation, accountability, transparency, representivity and good human resource and career development practices.  

Members appreciated the insightful briefing and asked what measures the PSC proposed to departments to ensure effective accountability and efficient performance by public servants in executing its duties, interventions the Commission proposed to departments or to the DPSA, regarding effective consequence management, ensuring compliance on gender parity and representation of people with disabilities in departments, what consequence management is being implemented by the PSC to the departments who do not honour the 30-day payment period and what contributes to lack of skills. It was said there is a strong need for communities to get involved in the formulations of the programmes because this is the only way public servants will be responsive to citizens needs.

The NSG presented on the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the education, training and development (ETD) on its operations, an update on how the NSG has responded despite the impact of the pandemic and plans until 31 March 2021, i.e. for the current financial year.

Members questioned gender-responsive budgeting, sustainable funding models for the NSG, steps to get more public servants enrolled, cyber security plans and filling of vacancies in the NSG. It was said there is a need for the departments across the public service to adapt and morph to the new norm post-covid. This would include the NSG finding ways to be less dependent on contact training and move to virtual training although there was concern that it out many without internet access at a disadvantage.

Meeting report

Apologies

The Acting Chairperson, Ms R Lesoma (ANC), noted apologies from Ms C Motsepe (EFF) who had to leave the meeting early to attend to another commitment. She recorded the standing apology from the Chairperson, Mr T James (ANC), who will be absent until further notice as agreed the previous week. She noted Ms M Kibi (ANC) will attempt to attend the meeting as she was discharged from hospital the day before, and noted Ms V Malomane (ANC) is not mentally and emotionally ready to attend but promised to log in.

The Chairperson asked Members if there are any other apologies.

Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) said he has pink eye and he might not fully present in the whole meeting.

The Chairperson noted this and wished Mr Cebekhulu a speedy recovery.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) wished Inkosi Cebekhulu to get well soon.

The Chairperson noted the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) briefed the Portfolio Committee on legislative reforms, led by the Minister. Last year and in late 2019, the Committee told the Department to bring legislative reforms in time to avoid time pressure. The Minister updated the Committee on the progress of bringing legislative reforms, particularly moving towards a single public administration service.

2021 is dedicated to Mam Charlotte Maxeke and the multi-party caucus is engaging to come up with a programme Parliament, civil society, and the community at large, will engage on. The month of March is Human Rights month, which is very appropriate, and the Department will indicate at an appropriate time, what it planned for this day in its space of operation. The Committee will only be able to move motions in the House to acknowledge and appreciate the month of Human Rights.

The Chairperson said the Committee is looking forward to a robust engagement with the Department. She invited the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu, to provide opening remarks and to introduce the presenters for the briefing from the PSC and NSG. She welcomed the Department’s team, the NSG Principal, the Acting Director-general (DG) from the PSC, Commissioner from the PSC, Dr Moeletsi Leballo, and the DG of the DPSA.

Opening remarks from the Minister

The Minister thanked the Chairperson for welcoming his team to present before the Committee once again. The team from the DPSA, the NSG, and the PSC will provide ministerial support. The DPSA and the NSG will address the legislative amendments the Committee will engage on.

He said one of the highlights of the amendments is it derives from long discussions, possibly from 2006/7, regarding a single public administration in the Republic of South Africa, and a single public service. This is regarded as a ground-breaking initiative, not only because it was undertaken by the Department, but because of its importance in dealing with the problems of fragmentation in South Africa. It started off badly in the new democracy, with a South Africa which belonged to one racial group where the majority was excluded. This was the first fragmentation for people who lived in the same country. South Africa itself was divided into homelands each with its own administration, and this was another kind of fragmentation. With the onset of democracy, this was not cleaned up to a refined stage where it would keep to the prescripts of the Constitution of South Africa and therefore fragmentation still exists.

People who work in the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in local government, and those in the public service, in line with the Public Service Act nationally and provincially, all have their own administrative dispensation. The Minister said this is causing many problems not only for the Department, but for these people, the country, and the government.

He said it is regarded as a progressive step. In the NSG, this related to how the School was founded and initiated, with the particular thinking at the time which got into PAMA (Public Administration Management Act, 2014).

The Department has come to realise this is not the way forward, and this is the reason for the amendments which will be tabled today.

The Minister said he will deal with the rest after the first presentation which will be led by the Director-General (DG), Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, and the Chief Director, Ms Renisha Naidoo. The PSC will then lead the next presentation. He thanked the Acting Chairperson and handed back to her.

The Acting Chairperson invited the DG, Ms Makhasi, to take the Committee through the presentation.

Briefing by the DPSA on the update intended to amend the Public Service Act 1994 and Public Administration Management Act 2014 and highlight provision requiring amendments

The DG greeted all Members and colleagues from the PSC and the NSG. She took the Committee through the presentation and Ms Naidoo helped with answering questions.

The presentation looked at the context of the legislative amendments, the areas of amendments in the Public Administration Management Act, 2014 (PAMA), and the Public Service Act, 1994 (PSA), as well as the important timelines the Department is working towards.

Regarding context to the rationale for a single public administration (SPA), the broad objective is to improve state capacity and capability in accordance with the National Development Plan (NDP) and the objects of PAMA. Key to improving state capacity is to ensure: people have the requisite know-how regarding attributes, such as the skills and abilities exhibiting the requisite value system to ensure fitness for purpose.

To ensure professionalism of the public service: this is a critical milestone in building a capable, ethical, and developmental state, promoting meritocracy and training. It aims to improve state capability by ensuring: at a macro level, there are requisite enablers/platforms such as systems, structures, processes, governance instruments, technologies, and innovation to assist people to deliver on mandates in driving the machinery of the state.

To ensure the building of state institutions, the specific objectives of the SPA include: to provide a platform for the achievement of a single and integrated public administration system accompanied by a strengthened legislative, governance, and implementation framework. To ensure such a single and integrated public administration system anchors the implementation and sustenance of a District Coordinated Service Delivery Model. To further reinforce the critical role of local government in the building of a capable and developmental state as the model seeks to, among others, strengthen principles of cooperative governance and intergovernmental relations as envisaged in Chapter Three of the Constitution.

The SPA vision was initially conceived as a single legislation to provide for the organisation, management, functioning, and personnel related matters in the three spheres of government which is the national, provincial, and local. The draft Public Administration Management Bill intended to replace the PSA in its entirety, as well as sections of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000. The PAMA of 2014 did not repeal the PSA nor did it repeal the Municipal Systems Act as initially contemplated.

Regarding the approach in taking the SPA vision forward, the Department agreed to leverage on existing legislation and ensure better coordination. Some of the proposals include: the different pieces of legislation must be retained. This means local government will retain its own pieces of legislation and the same applies to national government. Measures to ensure alignment of norms and standards across the public administration must be introduced. The areas in the PAMA posing implementation challenges must be amended. The following critical areas are not catered for in legislation, but are necessary for a SPA contemplated in Chapter Ten of the Constitution, must be introduced:

-Removing unjustifiable disparities across government, including public entities.

-Clearly defined employment practice framework, including remuneration and conditions of service, covering all employees.

-Clearly defined mandating arrangements.

The DG referred to the presentation on slide six, which illustrates the journey travelled with the SPA initiative. The journey began in 2002 when a decision was taken by the ruling party, which gave effect to the SPA initiative. In 2008, there was a draft Public Administration Management (PAM) Bill which dealt extensively with organisation, management, functioning, and personnel matters of the three spheres. This had 56 sections aimed to replace the PSA and the Municipal Systems Act (MSSA). The PAM Act was promulgated in 2014 which significantly reduced the consultation process. Most of the content in the various sections were removed and Section Five and Six, which dealt with transfers and secondments, were promulgated. There were issues around service centres to provide services across three spheres. The DG noted the model service centre currently piloted by the DPSA and said a lot of work is being done around professionalism and public administration. In 2019/20, consultations on regulations to effect PAMA implementation was undertaken, including the draft White Paper on transformation and modernisation of the public service. In 2020/21, there were consultations with Minister of Finance, Minister of COGTA (Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs), and SALGA (South African Local Government Association) on draft regulations. The DG said the Department received concurrence from the Minister of Finance, and Minister of COGTA, but it is awaiting concurrence from SALGA, who committed to send the Department a concurrence letter by end of February. She confirmed she did not check if it received this letter yet. This presentation to the Committee was already presented to Cabinet and these broad areas of amendments were supported at Cabinet level.

On the context to the PSA amendments, the PSA 1994 was last amended in 2007 through the Public Service Amendment Act, to introduce a new dispensation in the public service. The new dispensation is in line with the basic values and principles contained in the Constitution, and other legislative reforms applicable to the public service. The proposed policy reforms initiated within government were necessitated by the National Development Plan 2030 and other policy imperatives. It became necessary to review and also amend the PSA because of various court decisions relating to the field of public administration, and matters identified by the South African Law Commission’s Report on legislation administered by the DPSA.

The policy areas of amendment in the PAMA include:

-Transfers of employees

-The NSG

-Removal of unjustifiable disparities on remuneration and conditions of service in the public service, local government, and public entities.

-Technical amendments. The DG said the regulations currently require consultation, the regulations development must be together with Minister of COGTA and Minister of Finance, and SALGA. The Department proposes a limited timeframe within which these stakeholders must process and revert back to the Department. The timeframe must be very clear.

The policy areas of amendment in the PSA include:

-Appointment and career incidents of Heads of Department.

-Recovery of overpaid salaries and benefits.

-Role of the Public Service Commission to determine grievance procedures.

-Devolution of administrative powers to Heads of Department. This is one of the issues which came out of the NDP document.

-The Head of the Public Administration (HOPA).

The DG said the last two items, and the first item, which is on clarifying powers of the President and Premiers, regarding appointment and career incidents of heads of departments, these three areas are directly the Department’s attempt to implement the provisions within the NDP.

She addressed each area of amendment in the PAMA, which include: transfers, transfers arising from transfer of legislation, the NSG, removal of unjustifiable disparities in remuneration, conditions of service, making regulations, and overlap with provisions in other legislation, as outlined in the presentation. Regarding amendment to the removal of unjustifiable disparities, the DG said there are currently several bargaining councils in the public sector. Coordination must be strengthened so any decision of each of the bargaining councils is processed through a coordinated, mandated, process which involves a committee of Ministers. There is currently a committee of Ministers, but there is more attention on the public service bargaining issues it deals with. She clarified the point regarding amendments to making regulations. The Department proposed a timeline of 30 days for the Ministers of Finance, COGTA, and SALGA, to process and make input into the regulations when approached on concurrence.

The DG addressed each area of amendment in the PSA which includes: court judgements, devolving administrative powers, the role of the DG in the Presidency as Head of the Public Service, role of the Public Service Commission in determining grievance rules, and Section 31, as outlined in the presentation.

The Department is looking at the following targeted dates:

-Obtaining approval for consultation by 31 March 2021.

-Consultations with NEDLAC (The National Economic Development and Labour Council), DCOG (The Department of Cooperative Governance), Public and other stakeholders completed by September 2021.

-Tabling of amendment Bills to Parliament by the end of 2021/2022 financial year.

Discussion

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation and the input from the Minister. She noted the Minister emphasised the SPA is regarded as progressive. In addition to policies stipulating values and principles, she asked if it is also looking at disciplinary measures put in place for anyone breaking such values and principles. She explained the reason for this question is because the Committee always hears an outcry from communities in terms of the services it receives from the public service. For example, people say people go for a service at the Health Department and expect to be in line for an entire day, queuing from pillar to post. There may even be a need to return the next day. Ms Ntuli said if someone lives in Mevamhlophe and attends Ngwelezana hospital, this person will not be able to be seen to in one day and must return to hospital the following day. This means the person must take transport from Ngwelezana back to Empangeni, and again take transport back to home, which will then be repeated the following day. She said Ngwelezana hospital is not to be faulted as this is simply an example. It can also apply to other hospitals providing direct services to the communities.

She agrees with the Minister about this Bill being a step forward.

On the concurrence with COGTA, she asked what will happen to other functions. Integration is a process. She wanted to know what will happen to other functions which seem to overlap, and where other spheres of government have different views.

There will be consultations on effecting transfers, as far as budget is concerned. She asked what is going to happen around this, if functions are transferred from one Department to another, where one Department did not budget for it, or leaves the budget behind.

Ms Ntuli said the DG mentioned the powers of the DGs and the accounting authorities. She asked if there is going to be any conflict around this.

The Acting Chairperson noted Ms Ntuli’s questions and said the Department will ask for clarity if it did not understand her questions. For record purposes, she noted the Deputy Minister, Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, sent her apologies and will join the meeting at a later stage.

She handed over to Members to provide commentary on the presentation.

Dr L Schreiber (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation. He said this is an exciting moment in the work of the Committee and the work of this sector in general. There are a couple of specific minor issues in the Bill, the Committee could focus on in the amendments, but the legislation itself contains very good ideas. In particular, devolving administrative powers to heads of department is a very encouraging step. Dr Schreiber said he is very happy the Committee is engaging in this discussion in a serious manner. He would like to make some commentary and a proposal at the end, and to get the Minister’s sense on this.

The presentation mentions promoting meritocracy. He said the amendments could benefit from making this more explicit, to say the legislation must stipulate appointments be based on merit.

He said he understands the intention to ensure the independence of the public service is strengthened. The President recently wrote a newsletter where he said the public service should not belong to any one political party; it should belong to the people of South Africa. Dr Schreiber said he fully supports the President’s statement and these amendments are an opportunity for the Committee to use its legislative powers to ensure this becomes the reality.

Dr Schreiber called the Committee’s, the Minister’s, and the Department’s attention to the Municipal System’s Act Amendments which was passed at the end of 2020. He said this amendment contained a provision for the municipal sphere of government which stipulated public servants may not hold office in political parties. This provision was passed by the National Assembly and it is currently in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). He believes this is something which could be extended to cover the provincial and national spheres as there is clearly an intention to align these spheres more closely. He said this critical provision will ensure there is uniformity, critically remove the ability for political patronage and for people to be placed in positions as the President indicated, parachuted into positions based on political patronage rather than merit.   

On the issue of disciplinary measures or ensuring stronger compliance incentives, as mentioned by Ms Ntuli, he said, there is a gap and space here to, more significantly strengthen the independence and the powers of the Public Service Commission. The Committee is aware for a long time now, it received numerous complaints and presentations from the PSC about how some of its recommendations are not implemented. These amendments are an opportune moment to ensure the PSC plays an appropriate role, including giving life to Section 196 (4)(d) and Section 197 (3) of the Constitution, which gives the PSC the power to issue directions. In this case, specific directions to ensure appointments are based on merit, and give the PSC more teeth in its ability to undertake remedial actions. There is an opportunity here for the Committee.

Dr Schreiber said he was working with Parliament’s legal advisors on all the proposals he discussed for over a year. There is now a piece of legislation ready to go, and it is currently in the form of a Private Member’s Bill. In the interest of the country and taking this out of the realm of politics, he is happy to propose or to submit this Bill to the Committee, the Department, and to the Minister, to assess it and to work together to finesse any issues. In the spirit of cooperation and exactly what the President said on removing politics from the public service, the Committee should set an example. He noted there are good proposals from the Department and he is keen to submit on these four points he touched on for the Committee’s consideration.

Dr Schreiber asked to get an indication from the Acting Chairperson, if it is be acceptable for him to submit these proposals in the form of the Bill which already exists. He asked if the Committee can agree to take this forward, including the Department, as it further develops the legislation.  

The Acting Chairperson thanked Dr Schreiber. She said she will allow Members, the Department, and the Minister to respond to this request. She moved to the next question.

Dr M Gondwe (DA) welcomed the presentation and the opening remarks by the Minister. Regarding PAMA, she asked the Department to take the Committee into confidence around some of the impediments to the implementation of this Act. PAMA came into effect in 2014, but the DPSA has yet to implement the regulations to this crucial and defining piece of legislation for the public service. She asked why the DPSA has not yet developed the regulations and the framework for the norms and standards for the public service, as required by the PAMA. She asked if the DPSA will ever realise its vision of having a single and integrated public service, if it is unable to move with the speed needed to implement the regulations and the framework for norms and standards required by PAMA.

The presentation mentioned a repeal for some of the conflicting legislation, or in the alternative, the inclusion of a clause allowing for the PAMA to trump other conflicting legislation, where this conflict arises. She said this should be more explicit on the legislation which would have to be repealed in this regard. She asked what the impact of Sections 151(4) and 197(4) of the Constitution is, on this vision to have a single public service which is integrated.

The DPSA said PSA of 1994 was only amended in 2007. This means it effectively took the DPSA more than 14 years to review and amend this legislation which is at the core of the public service and its administration. She asked how often the DPSA undertakes a review of the legislative framework, because it should come as no surprise there was a number of court cases which tried to test the efficacy of the legislation. She would like to get a sense of how often the DPSA reviews its legislation.

Dr Gondwe echoed Dr Schreiber’s comments. She welcomed some of the proposed amendments, especially on the devolution of administrative powers to heads of departments. She said this is very important and appealed to the Committee to consider incorporating the Private Member’s Bill proposed by Dr Schreiber, as part and parcel of the amendments to the PAMA. She said this has nothing to do with politics; it is not politicking, as it went beyond this. It is about ensuring a public service which really lives up to the vision in the NDP. She said the country is ten years away from 2030, and close to ten years into the NDP, and real changes are yet to be seen around the public service and its administration.

She appealed to the Minister, the Department, and to the Committee to take time to have a look at the amendments Dr Schreiber’s Bill proposes, even if he or the DA does not get credit for it. She said it is quite happy as it wants to see a public service living up to the expectations of the people because currently, the people do not view the public service in a positive light.

The Chairperson moved to the next question and noted she would then pose her own comments and question thereafter.

Mr S Malatsi (DA) said the essence of the amendments is uncontested. He noted widespread recognition of the need for a more effective and professional public service, and to depoliticise it so the public service can function for the purposes it was created. He pointed to the need to improve the efficacy, efficiency, and ultimately the delivery. He said the key points necessary in attaining this is to deal with the unhealthy intimacy between senior government officials and ruling parties, where these refer to any party in power, be it at a local government, provincial, or at a national government level. The point is to obtain a civil service which recognises appointments are made on merit, and opportunities to get those appointments are fair.

He said the amendments are in the right direction and any contribution seeking to bolster what is tabled now, should be welcomed. The Committee should interrogate it. This is because the exciting part about being a legislator is the opportunity to engage in debates around legislation on how best to improve and amend it. Members share the common goal of having a professional civil service which will enable the country to realise its ambitions, as articulated in the NDP.

In line with Dr Schreiber’s proposals, he said it would be useful so there is not a separate process to deal with an opportunity linked to the one which exists now. The Committee can assess the areas which can help bolster what the amendments are currently articulating. This is to synergise it and to ensure a stronger and widespread contribution which would represent the Committee’s views in influencing the final outcome of the amendments.

Ms R Komane (EFF) welcomed the presentation. She thanked the Minister and the Department for the work done. On the issue of the transfers without consent raised in the presentation, she asked how the Department would ensure there are no disruptions of family lives when employees do not give consent. She asked what safeguarding it would provide. She said, when a person is transferred without consent, this usually comes with pros and cons. She asked for clarity on this and asked how the Commission does not know the cost of the invoices older than 30 days.

The Acting Chairperson asked Ms Komane to submit her questions in writing as her connectivity was breaking up.

Ms Komane said if the Commission is playing an oversight in instances where the provinces are led by a different political party, will this not cause a political conflict; and asked if this provision is really necessary.  

Ms Ntuli wanted to ask about the Private Member’s Bill raised by Dr Schreiber. She said the Committee should treat the Member’s Bill the way it deserves. In her view it cannot only be Committee Members deliberating on the Private Member’s Bill of a Member. She was previously the Chairperson of the same Committee (PPP) and her understanding is it [the Bill] also goes to another channel, such as various caucuses assessing it and submitting. She said Dr Schreiber’s Private Member’s Bill should go through the necessary channels

The Acting Chairperson thanked Members. She said she assumes the Committee is not formally tabling the Bills now, but rather it is updating the Committee on the work the Department is busy with. She said the Minister will indicate at which point he will formally table the Bill before Parliament, through this Committee. The work in progress is much appreciated and very encouraging.  

The Acting Chairperson asked if the amendments take into account the project the Department presented. She asked if the Department was committed, through the President, to reconfigure the public service to ensure it talks to what the NDP and the current material conditions suggest the public service must be structured as. She said it will talk to the wage bill, but the Bill does cover this in a major way. She is satisfied about this.

She said Members will agree with Ms Ntuli’s comments to afford the Member’s Bill in the way it deserves, notwithstanding the fact Dr Schreiber was very decent and polite to raise it with the Committee, to see how to jointly navigate through this.

The Chairperson said if there are any constitutional contradictions with the Bills before the Committee, nothing stops the Committee from sending or referring those matters to the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), to review those sections in the Constitution.

Dr Schreiber said Ms Ntuli raised a critical point, but he would like to clarify something for the Committee and the Department. The legislation he discussed has been thoroughly drawn up and vetted, but it has not been submitted or gazetted as a Private Member’s Bill. He said it currently does not exist as a Private Member’s Bill in his name or some party’s name. It is a thoroughly scrutinised proposal.

He proposed the Committee take it up to discuss it. He does not mean it should be submitted or gazetted as a Private Member’s Bill, but rather it is a submission to this process to ensure the Committee make it as broad and thorough as possible. It is not a Private Member’s Bill yet, and it has not been gazetted. It is an opportunity for the Committee and the Department to take it up and incorporate it where there are proposals, as this Committee has long been discussing.

In the spirit of the President’s statement, this is not something of the public service belonging to a political party; it is something belonging to the people. This Committee has a powerful opportunity to demonstrate this by working together and finding the synergies.

Dr Schreiber proposed to submit this Bill in its draft form to the Committee. It was not gazetted and therefore the Committee has an opportunity to interrogate it and take it forward along with the Minister and the Department.  

The Acting Chairperson noted Ms Komane’s questions posted in the chat. She asked Members and the Minister to allow her to read the questions for record purposes. Ms Komane asked how the Department will ensure there are no disruptions of family lives when employees do not consent, and what the safeguards to this effect are. She asked how the Commission does not know the cost of invoices older than 30 days.

She asked if it will not cause conflict having the provinces play oversight in instances where the province is led by a different political party. She asked how this provision is necessary.

She said Members can reflect on Dr Schreiber’s comments so the intention of today’s meeting is not overpopulated. However, the Minister can decide how to respond to this. She handed over to the Minister.

The Minister requested the DG and Ms Renisha Naidoo to address Members questions. He said he would take the remaining questions. He already noted some questions and concerns which require his attention. He handed over to the DG.

Responses from the Department

The DG said she would start, and Ms Naidoo will follow in terms of addressing the questions.

The DG said the first set of questions she will address is in response to Ms Ntuli. She highlighted the issue of the constitutional values. There is a process with the PSC on values and principles to identify gaps. There are currently codes of conduct and other mechanisms, including disciplinary processes for non-compliance. If those codes of conduct are not done, it could be because of challenges within the different departments where these values are not implemented at a departmental level. This is because currently, in most of these values, the expression on implementation is through the codes, the principles, and other work done on the ground. The DG said the PSC is making a call to look at how it, as the public service, encourages the focus on values over compliance. The Department is working on this issue.   

On the issue of the transfer of functions, she said the human and financial resources usually follow transfer of functions. The DG said when a function is transferred, both finances and human resources must be provided for. With the earmark, there are many transfers done within different government departments: from one government department to another, because of the rearrangement of the state in the earmark project, and the resources will always follow the particular function when it is transferred. She said this is already established. The issue is around individual transfers. Currently, it requires an available post, to which an employee can be transferred to.

In response to Dr Schreiber, she said the Department welcomes the comments and feedback it is receiving. The Department received this proposed legislation and it was referred by the Presidency. The Department will be working with the Presidency on providing comment or advisory feedback on this proposed legislation. The Department received this and it is working towards providing feedback to the Presidency.

The DG requested Ms Naidoo to respond to Dr Gondwe’s questions.

In response to Mr Malatsi’s concern on the unhealthy intimacy between senior government officials and ruling parties, the DG said this is an issue which must be monitored. She said this links to Dr Schreiber’s recommendation for the Department to consider adding a provision prohibiting public officials from holding party positions.  

In response to Ms Komane’s question on transfers without consent, the DG asked Ms Naidoo to address this question.

The DG said she did not understand Ms Komane’s question about provinces led by a different political party, not possibly causing a political conflict. The point around a SPA is to professionalise. Part of the work is around professionalising the public service. The public service and public administration must operate as machinery, irrespective of the political party running government at a particular time. The system to support machinery becomes the public administration.

The DG replied to the Acting Chairperson’s question regarding amendments, specifically, on the Department taking account of the project of reconfiguring the public service to align to the NDP. The DG said these amendments are part of the bigger work the Department is doing around optimising the public service. This is only one small component, but there is a project the Minister approved in terms of work the Department is doing around optimising the public service. She said at the right time, the Department will report on this project to the Committee, but this is only one portion of the project. She said the Department is currently dealing with the following issues: productivity of the public service, issues in relation to managing the wage bill, the professionalising the public service, the interventions it must undertake around skills audit, and the strategic human resources management in the public service. This is only one component of a bigger project the Department is working on, and it should be able to come back to the Committee at the right time to provide a briefing on this project.

In response to the question on the timeframes by which the Minister is planning to bring this to the Committee, the DG referred to the targeted dates in the presentation. She noted the Department indicated commencing consultations as soon as possible. These are the broad issues which must be worked into an amendment legislation, and must still go to Cabinet. Once Cabinet approves, the Department will start the process to engage with NEDLAC and the other structures it must engage with. She clarified the Department intends to complete this process by September 2021. It is planning the tabling of the amendments to Parliament by end of 2021/22 financial year, which is around March 2022. She said the Minister indicated this time is too far and this process must be sped up. The Department is consistently looking at how it can review the timelines to be able to accommodate the urgency required, and the processes to be followed before it presents a document which is ready to go to Cabinet.  

The DG invited Ms Naidoo to reply to the questions she asked her to address.    

Ms Naidoo said there are a few questions left from the DG which she will attempt to summarise. In response to Dr Gondwe’s concern on the amendment in 2007, she said this was quite a substantial amendment the Department did to the PSA in 2007. Since then, the Department has been implementing this Act in its amended form. She said, in 2016, the Department did a complete overhaul of the Public Service Regulations. It needed time to allow departments to process these regulations and amendments to identify the areas needing further amendment. In 2021, the Department is in a better place to deal with the amendment, considering the issues which arose since the amendments. This is why it is bringing the legislation in 2021.  

In response to Ms Komane, she said, the Department dealt with transfers in the public service without consent. Some of the measures it put in place is to ensure there is an opportunity for employees who are considered for transfer, to be consulted. These employees must make representations before any administrative action takes place in this regard. She said these processes will continue to be in place and there must be representations. There are various court cases which evolved over the last couple of years requiring specific processes to be followed to effect transfers properly. The Department’s intention is to ensure these processes are adhered to.

On the issue of the implementation of PAMA, Ms Naidoo said, it is important to mention, since 2014, the Department implemented 13 sections of PAMA. There are the remaining few sections which posed challenges, where it either requires regulations for its implementation, or it needs the amendment. Both these processes are the processes the Minister is currently undertaking. Regarding the regulations, the Department processed two sets of regulations: it has done the full public participation processes, and it is at the point where according to PAMA, it is required to get the concurrence of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of COGTA, and SALGA. These are quite onerous obligations. As noted by the DG, Ms Naidoo said the Department has since received the concurrence from the Minister of Finance and Minister of COGTA, but it is still struggling with the concurrence from SALGA. SALGA has undertaken it is holding its next Bill on the 10 March 2021, and it will revert to the Department soon thereafter. The Department is hoping to receive a yes from SALGA in this regard. She said part of the challenges with PAMA is this onerous consultation process with regulations. One of the amendments the Department is processing is to make this consultation process a bit less onerous, so it can get regulations out faster.

Responses from the Minister

The Minister said a fair amount of work was done by the departmental officials in addressing the questions. He noted that his response will refine the overall response and synergise it.

Replying to Ms Ntuli’s question on the code of conduct, he said all Members would ideally wish each and every breach of ethics and integrity had a particular specific code and way of monitoring and consequence, similar to the criminal code in South Africa. This is in the context of what the Department is trying to change in the space of public service in the country. He said it is a matter the Department must remain with going forward. At the moment, if someone is regarded as lazy in the public service, there is no specific code this person breached, except if this laziness leads to omissions regarding submissions of performance of duty. This comes in an indirect way, but there are cases when it becomes apparent, if in a school or hospital/clinic set-up, or wherever there is a public service to be rendered, when certain employees are lazy. At the moment employees are not charged for laziness unless it leads to a breach in terms of deadlines and other related matters. This is not something the Department is ignorant of or which it cares less about. It regularly calls on public servants, and particularly supervisors, not to tolerate laziness and employees not performing duties. The Minister said the Department recognises the impact of these kinds of deviant behaviours in public services.

He noted Dr Schreiber’s comments and thanked him for the feedback. He agreed this is what the Department is working towards. He said in general, public administration in the country, and public service in this context, should work for South Africa across the board.

In this context, the Department outlined and put emphasis on four components in the public service space. The first component, not in any order of priority, but rather in a kind of chronology of equal importance, is the people in the public space are clients of the public service across the board. These people are important but are often ignored and not spoken about as much as the issue of public servants. Public servants have the advantage of unions and organisations to articulate demands. Public servants are dominant in public space, and often occupy newspaper space because of work. The first component is the people, and the Department is seeking to elevate the importance of people equally into the public space, the citizens of the country, so people can get the recognition deserved. He said the people are the first on the line because immediately after elections and even before the results are announced there is an open space before the new government is installed. It is a grey area in the space of government. Therefore, people are regarded as coming first into the public space.

The second component which comes into the fold shortly after elections is the government as the choice of the people after voting. Government is a component in the sense it summarises and assumes responsibility of the aspirations of the people. Up to taking up office, the government will indicate it is here at the behest of the people because of the outcome of elections.

The third component is the service itself which many people do not talk about. It is regarded as very important because it is the substance of the contract between the people and government. The substance itself is often talked about in passing such as when people are angry about the lack of service delivery. The Minister said the Department has been a bit slow in highlighting the service itself to the level where it is equally important as a component. Not in passing terms, but recognising the impact of this service provided by the Department on the lives of ordinary people who it claims to serve all over in the four corners of the country. The service itself, the quality thereof, and the impact in terms of the potential for changing people, especially those whose socio-economic conditions made the person vulnerable. The point is to recognise how services are impacting on this so the Department can measure it accordingly.

The fourth component is the public servants who are hired to render the service. This is the substance of the contract between the people and government.

The Minister said very often both Parliament and the Executive in the Department must check regarding how it is able to make an impact in its deliberations on the four components, without one at the expense of the other. He said Dr Schreiber’s comments are appreciated.

The Minister said he would like to address one issue around local government. He questioned if anyone really raised this issue regarding SPA in public service in South Africa going forward and becoming reality. In local government, even if the Council is five or six months before the expiry of its term, when it hired an MM (Municipal Manager), it would give it a term of six months. In other words, it is the duration of the Council. He said he is not aware of the reasons for this being done throughout the Republic. This is a typical example of merging administration and political office. In his opinion it is not necessarily required. This must be delinked, similarly to what the Department is doing with a host of other measures, including what the Committee has been commenting on around delegations of responsibilities to Accounting Officers (AO) in relation to national and provincial government. He said the Department must do the same at a local level and also delink these terms of office, because it is a typical example of one not required. The Minister said for example, a MM who is an excellent employee is hired for a year, but just because the term of office of Council is expiring, the MM’s term of office must also expire, regardless of performance. This is an issue the Department must address.

On the issue of PSC regarding independence of powers, the Department is gradually trying to ensure PSC is not only a platform to table grievances and for the PSC to respond to these grievances. The Department wants the PSC to be proactive as well, which requires an enabling environment wherein it can be proactive to monitor things and processes in public service. Monitoring must be right from the beginning up to the end, without it being compromised. It is playing its oversight role with prescripts and compliance. It has intervals to check and intervene.

In response to the question on the impediments, the Minister said Ms Naidoo has done justice in addressing this. He noted the Department is in a different set-up now and it is moving forward.

He said Ms Naidoo has also done justice in addressing the question on the reviews.

He referred to Dr Schreiber’s input on the Department liking to have access to the submission, and see how it can be incorporated in some of the work, particularly in SPA in the public service in South Africa. He said this will be welcomed until things become clearer. The Department is managing to see when it can come back to the Committee with the Bill. He said it is very keen to do this as was indicated in this financial year, and it is hoping to overcome any difficulties.

The Minister noted the Department wants to make a specific request to come back to the Committee, even if it means on a special sitting basis. He said it will come back to present the issues on optimisation, which is often referred to new dispensation in the public service. Regarding agreements between government and labour in the public service space, from 2018 to now, the Department is almost at the end of what is normally called a cycle. It is now poised to start a new phase, which could be called a cycle, phase, or dispensation. It is called a new dispensation for a number of reasons. He alerted Members to unions making demands. The Department has an issue about this, but it is not familiar with the normal language used.

The Minister told Acting Chairperson he was made aware of the Committee’s last meeting approaching around the 17/18 March 2021. He said on 16 and 17 March 2021, the Department will be engaging with Labour at the PSCPC. It would have appreciated if it goes to the first week of April, unless there is a special Committee meeting where it can afford the Department a longer period at the end of March, perhaps for four hours. He said the Department would prefer towards the end of the month rather than the beginning of April, to sit with the Committee and take it into confidence on a number of initiatives undertaken, regarding the new dispensation in the public service. This is regarding government and labour, including the current demands, and what the Department is introducing into the public service space. The Department requires the Committee’s support in this because it is not something it considers the Executive to undertake on its own. He said it is something which requires the whole of the Republic, not only in reference to the wage bill, because it is quite significant changes it wants to bring about. It will have an impact on dealing with the wage bill, and also some of the required changes in the public service space at this particular moment.  

The Minister asked the Acting Chairperson to consider giving the Department space after 20 March 2021, then Members can look at diaries, for no less than, but not longer than four hours, to address the Committee. He thanked Members and handed back to the Acting Chairperson.

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and his team. She said the Committee is encouraged, excited, and looking forward to the Bill when it is tabled before Parliament. If need arises for constitutional amendment, the Committee will direct it accordingly so Parliament can look at the possibility of it. Whatever the Committee does at this level must pass scrutiny.

She said the Committee accepts the progress thus far and it encourages Dr Schreiber to formally forward his intended amendments to the administration so it can be forwarded to the Department and the Minister. She said Dr Schreiber formally introduced this indirectly and it will probably enrich the noted Bills by the Department.   

The Chairperson said the Committee would accommodate the Minister and his team. She alerted Members to the programme which might be slightly amended to accommodate the Minister and his team soon.

She requested the PSC and the NSG to present to the Committee, and asked Members to note questions for engagements after the last presentation by the NSG. She asked Members to be clear on if questions are addressed to the PSC or the NSG, since the Committee will only engage after both presentations.

The Chairperson said half the meeting time has already been taken up but this was a critical engagement with the Department. She invited the PSC to take the Committee through the presentation.

Briefing by the PSC on the monitoring of the implementation of the constitutional values and principles of the public administration

Dr Moeletsi Leballo, PSC Commissioner, greeted all Members, the Department, and the Minister. He said the PSC consists of 14 Commissioners.

The Chairperson interjected to inform Dr Leballo not to deal with housekeeping matters as this organisation has been to this administration more than 20 times. She asked him to speak to the actual substance of the presentation to save time.

Mr Leballo noted the Chairperson’s request. He said he would make a few remarks before handing over to the acting DG.

On the vacant post of the DG, in the office of the PSC, this has been handled by the Presidency and is a legislative requirement. He said the institutional practice review of the PSC, which is an internal process, has embarked on a process of amending the Public Service Commission Act. The Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament and the PSC appreciates it is a process and will take time.

The PSC Act Amendment Bill is, among others, about strengthening the independence and powers of the PSC, as stipulated in the Constitution.

On the public service rules, he said there is rules driven, and value driven, public service. Dr Leballo said the public service roles and the constitutional values and principles are equally important for the efficiency and the effectiveness of the public service. It must be complied with and equally must be adhered to throughout the public service. He noted this will be covered in the presentation by the acting DG and handed over to her.

Ms Irene Mathenjwa, the acting DG, greeted all Members, colleagues, and the Minister. She said Section 196(4)(e) of the Constitution gives the PSC the mandate to promote these values and to provide an evaluation of the extent to which the Values and Principles (CVPs) are complied with.

For the PSC, the main concern is around why the Constitution has been so clear regarding the things the public service and public administration should be complying with, yet the PSC is still seeing many things which are concerning. For example, it sees Commissions of enquiries are taking place daily, it looks internationally and on reflection of itself it finds the country is experiencing downgrading of its SOEs. On closer inspection, it finds Moody and Fitch will indicate Eskom’s problems are just around accountability and transparency. In SAA (South African Airways), it will indicate the problem is about efficient, effective, and economic use of resources. This highlights the basics of what the Constitution wants.

Similarly to the things happening in the public service, it finds children dying in pit latrines, and there is the issue of the manner in which citizens are being treated. Ms Mathenjwa said on reflection, it found the answer is in the very simple things, such as how the PSC offers human dignity, equality, and human rights, as the public service and public administration around how the PSC does its work. She said it is important to note these slides highlight the importance of understanding, for the PSC to reach the ultimate goal of the NDP; it must take these issues very seriously if it is serious about issues of unemployment, inequality, and dealing with poverty.

Ms Mathenjwa noted the PSC is indicating, perhaps there is a need for a systematic programme to change the form and character of the public service, to change the public administration paradigm. This would require a collective effort from those in government as well as from citizens to assist the PSC in achieving this, but most importantly, the central policy departments must play a key role. She said she is happy to indicate the PSC is working with the NSG, and the Department, and it had separate engagements with both around some of the matters on the CVPs.

The PSC is indicating, perhaps democracy has invested in institutions of governance by promulgating laws and regulations which are good, because these laws and regulations are required to maintain order. However, it has made less of an investment in the internalisation of values at the level of human consciousness, yet it often suffers from issues of how it treats citizens with human dignity, equality, and so on. The PSC therefore argues, it tends to lean more towards a mechanistic, rules-driven, compliance and regulatory approach to public administration, to the extent, the intent of the CVPs, especially the service part of service delivery, lacks care and responsiveness.

The right balance needs to be struck between compliance and value-driven performance. The PSC recognises some of those in the private sector have fallen into this trap and could not prevent major corporate failure. It is not only the PSC. Issues of political patronage, as mentioned by the Minister, and interference, led to instability in the administration and even fear of reprisal, resulting in retreat to the safety of compliance with rules. This has stifled innovation.

Ms Mathenjwa said slide six demonstrates what the PSC is referring to when it speaks about a rules-driven rather than a values-driven public service, as well as the need for a transition from the rules-driven. She noted this is still very important, but it must ensure the rules are assisting the PSC to achieve a particular outcome. For example, colleagues who are in supply management are often bogged down until a specification has been prepared, and a tender is properly published and evaluated by a properly-constituted Bill. She said these things are very important and it must happen. The PSC does not entertain what is the best product to really address the problem facing the public service. The questions to be asked are: what are the ruling prices; who are the suppliers; and what are the market conditions. This is to ensure the PSC bought the right product to address the right problem it is facing. The same applies in the human resources space.

When it goes through the recruitment process, it looks at the job description, if the job has been evaluated and properly advertised, and if the selection committee was properly constituted. She said all these things are important and it must be done. But at the end of the day, the PSC tends to pay less attention to the recruitment strategy or if it has made a good appointment. Ms Mathenjwa noted if it pays more attention to the job description and so forth, it will find continuously after three or four months, despite everything it did according to the book, it has appointed the wrong person into the position. This is an example that while the other things are very important, it must ensure it must assist the PSC in achieving the bigger objectives particularly towards the NDP.

The PSC said perhaps there has been limited scope to think outside of pre-conceived planning frameworks. It noticed a huge disjuncture between institutional compliance/ due diligence and citizen satisfaction. She said while it is complying and submitting all required reports, it is the very same citizens it is serving at the end of the day, who would indicate being unhappy with the Department’s performance. The communities remain largely faceless with participation projects to legitimise institutions.

The PSC’s discourse is developmental, but the public administration remains stiff. Ms Mathenjwa posed the question if public administration is rules-driven or values driven. She said one does not take precedence over the other but the emphasis should be on a values-driven public service which takes cognisance of regulatory framework existing to enable service delivery and an impact on society. She noted she is happy to have this discussion at the time when the Department has also made proposals about some of the things the PSC is putting forward to Parliament to highlight the things it must change. This is because it is an acknowledgement that the rules, as it currently exists, are not helping the PSC to achieve the things it really needs to achieve. This is the stance the PSC is coming from, and to avoid a situation where public servants are very comfortable to hide behind the rules even when the PSC realises it is not assisting it at the time and it must therefore be reviewed to better address the challenges it faces.  

Ms Mathenjwa noted she will explain each principle but the message is quite similar.

On the high standard of professional ethics on slide eight, the PSC is indicating ethics is largely reduced to institutional issues such as disclosure of conflict of interest, appointment of an ethics officer, RWOPS (Remunerative Work Outside of the Public Service), and anti-corruption strategies.

She said this is part of the PSC’s work and it will continue to do this important work. However, citizens will indicate officials in the Department are very unprofessional, yet on the other hand, there are things the PSC is doing as government, and in its course of ensuring it achieves a high standard of professional ethics. There seems to be little feedback on behaviour and conduct of officials and the impact thereof on service delivery and the citizens. This is largely to those interacting with citizens on daily basis. She said the PSC does service delivery inspections: it goes to hospitals, schools, SASSA (The South African Social Security Agency) offices, and some of its observations is the behaviour of some officials. This makes her question if there is any staff within the Department picking up on these individuals, addressing citizens. The PSC tends to fall short on this and on the issue of the Code of Conduct which is a very good tool for the PSC to ensure a high standard of professional ethics.

The PSC is arguing departments must look at the Code of Conduct and adapt it for its particular departments. People must look into the mandates of the Department, the ethical dilemmas facing the particular department, the things unacceptable, and how it is beginning to engage officials in those departments. If it is a citizen-facing department such as Department of Health, the professional ethics should also investigate how health professionals and support staff treat patients. This applies to everyone from the main entrance of the hospital to all health professionals. An important aspect in this issue is, public service should concentrate on selection criteria for entry into the public service and socialisation into a public service value system and culture. There is a need for the PSC to begin to define who the real public servant in the South African context is. One would understand the socio-economic injustices of the people of this country, and where the Constitution and the NDP envision taking this society to.

Slide nine provides an illustrative overview. Ms Mathenjwa said on the one hand, the PSC is doing very well as it achieved 98 percent of financial disclosures of its senior management services. However, the real issues are out there when officials interact with citizens who claim, by and large, senior managers are unprofessional, and the question is why these employees are appearing and testifying in Commissions of Inquiries.  

On the issues of financial misconduct in relation to the monies involved and the monies recovered, Ms Mathenjwa noted the PSC did not have the audit outcomes from the Auditor-general at the time when Slide Ten was created. She said on inspection of the number of financial misconduct figures, the monies involved, and the amount not recovered, when this is compared to the figures shared by the AG, it becomes apparent there is a lot of money the PSC really failed to account for along the way.

The second principle the PSC deals with in the Constitution is the efficient, economic, and effective use of resources as indicated on Slide 11, which shows departments are allocated budgets meant to facilitate service delivery. She said the PSC looked at all the national departments. Departments set its own targets for the financial year, and the PSC looks at this process. Departments such as Military Veterans, Health, Energy, Social Development, and Justice & Constitutional Development, have all achieved less than its intended targets for the financial year. The expenditure of its budgets is hovering around 95 to 99 percent, for example, Social Development spent 108 percent of its budget and only achieved 52 percent of its planned target. This is really concerning for the PSC, particularly around the efficient, economic, and effective use of resources.

The graph provides an illustration of the performance across all the outcomes for the MTSF (Medium Term Strategic Framework). It deals with certain areas where the PSC could not provide data on performance, yet every project put into the APP (Annual Performance Plan) is budgeted for, and is required in terms of the PSC’s planning framework which these projects must be budgeted for.

On the issue of payment of invoices on Slide 14, Ms Mathenjwa noted Ms Komane’s comment about there being no information on the cost of invoices. Ms Mathenjwa said she asked the parliamentary officer to provide full details of performance of all the national departments. She confirmed this information was sent through and said it will be coming through if it was not received. This Slide indicates payment of invoices is an indicator of the efficiency of budget commitment, procurement, and payment processes, yet it is an area the PSC still experiences difficulty regarding departments paying. It is not only efficiency with budget commitment, but procurement remains a lever for economic development in the country, particularly for those participating in this sector, as well as talking to issues of unemployment and job creation in this space.

The third principle is public administration must be development-oriented. For the purposes of the presentation, the PSC looked into two issues around this principle: the first is for a State to be developmental. In this regard, it must have the requisite capacity to implement the programmes of government. The second issue is coordination.

On the issue of capacity, the PSC claims most departments struggle to build a complement of leading experts/ specialised skills in its functional areas, who can plan and implement key policy and administrative changes which will drive development. Departments often have the skills for routine operations. The PSC is working with the NSG and the DPSA. There is a programme around professionalising the public service. The PSC is also making contributions to address this area of work.

Leadership turnover and policy uncertainty militates against development. These issues are important, and it must be addressed as the PSC aims to be development-oriented.

The issue of coordination is a critical issue. The system has three spheres of government: national, provincial, and local. This is very important in certain instances, given the concurrent roles for coordination to take place, and for government to work in an intergovernmental manner to achieve the programmes of government.

Coordination for post settlement should happen at the district level. On the one hand, there is a very good programme intended to address the important issues of economic development on the ground, and upgrading the lives of people in the agricultural sector. However, the way in which the coordination, administration, and the organisation of government is set up, it makes it difficult for the PSC to coordinate better and to provide these kinds of services. These things do not augur well for a State looking to be development-oriented. Local officials, such as the extension officer, do not have the authority and agency to work with farming communities and to be a change agent in the local setting. The PSC therefore recommends district level coordination should be used to build on issues which require coordination for a developmental-oriented public administration.

Service must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably, and without bias. This is the next principle. The PSC made inroads with principles, such as high standard of professionalism, and setting the infrastructure for ethics and so on. However, there are certain principles, when it engages with departments and asks much deeper and harder questions for departments to prove it is impartial, fair, equitable, and without bias, in providing services, there are still difficulties. As the PSC, one of the things it is doing is to go back to unpack what it means to be impartial, fair, and equitable, in the provision of the services, and across different setups of society.

Ms Mathenjwa said COVID-19 changed the way in which the PSC is going to look at participation with communities, given the setup it is currently working on. The traditional platforms used in the past will need to be reviewed to consider how the PSC engages with members of society to participate in the programmes. The PSC is arguing it must move away from the answer claiming, for example, there is a housing programme to respond to the needs of the people. It must provide a direct answer on how it is responding to the needs of people, given the different setups which exist in the country. The manner in which one programme is setup may not necessarily work for an area in the Eastern Cape for example, or for KwaZulu-Natal, or in the deep rural areas, but it may work for some people in urban areas. To have a programmatic response is good but it must be improved.

On the principle of an accountable public administration in slide 21, the PSC says despite the NDP having done the diagnosis on accountability which was eroded, it discovered it holds all the setup and the instruments, but it remains unaccountable. The problem here is 80 percent of the PSC’s reporting on its accountability are more around producing auditable evidence, and only 20 percent of the time is used for reflection on the quality and effectiveness of the service it provides to citizens. The PSC maintains the view that a large part of accountability is the human value of taking personal responsibility for the quality of one’s work. The PSC issued a circular around unlawful instruction and it argues, a public servant should never say he or she was instructed, but should always apply his/her mind and take reasonable and lawful administrative action. Similarly, a Minister should never say he or she was advised, because it became evident how, for example in the case of Esidimeni, officials are held accountable in modern times.

The next principle on slide 23 is transparency must be fostered. Ms Mathenjwa said, to be transparent is not only to give information. Information must be provided upfront without members of society requesting this information. This is what transparency entails. Departments provide information on its websites, but there are still certain pieces of information people must request for the information to be provided. Departments must go back and identify its stakeholders, how it engages with it, and how it can provide it with the information upfront.

On the principle of good human resources management and career development practices, the PSC is lamenting issues on the inability to maintain a healthy relationship between employer and employee. This frequently contributed to poor productivity in the public service and low staff morale, litigation and related costs, as well as time commitments of managers in attending to conflict management. On the issue of vacancy rates and departments claiming it is within the norm, the PSC alerted the Committee, when it investigates this matter, it should not only take the word of departments on its vacancy rates. The PSC discovered, when these percentages are scrutinised, there are categories of professionals where the PSC has a challenge. It made an example on slide 25 where it looked into the Department of Justice with the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority). For example, within the category of prosecutors, there may be enough criminal prosecutors, but huge shortages of prosecutors for commercial crime and corruption. Yet at face value the Department will claim, regarding vacancy rate, it is within the norm. It is therefore important to scrutinise the vacancies which are not available.

The last principle is public administration must be broadly representative. The PSC is doing well on employing Africans, women, and persons with disability. It must ensure those appointed in positions, such as women and people with disability, are also given a platform to reflect on the role of the public service emancipating women in the society. It must also contribute to ensure the issues of those who are disabled within and outside of the public service are considered in policy-making and implementation.

The Acting Chairperson thanked Ms Mathenjwa and welcomed the presence of all other Commissioners at the national level. She recognised Prof Busani Ngcaweni, Principal of the NSG, and Ms Phumelele Nzimande, PSC Commissioner. She invited Prof Ngcaweni to proceed with the final presentation from the NSG.

Briefing by the National School of Government on the Impact of Covid-19 on the Provision of Education, Training, and Development and on its Budget

Prof Ngcaweni, Principal, NSG, thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to present.

NSG was affected by COVID-19. He referred to the image shared on the screen of a bridge in the Honduras and captioned, from built to last built to adapt, which he noted represents the NSG pre and post COVID. He said he would explain this later in the presentation and the Committee will be able to see what this image means regarding numbers.

2020 ushered in a new type of organisation, which was forced by circumstance to move into digital and virtual delivery of learning, whereas in the past, over 95 percent of the programmes were delivered physically. This is the reality of the NSG. As presented to the Committee in May 2020, the NSG was forced to rethink its strategies and organisation and to reflect on if it is building a department built to last or is it built to last and to adapt. COVID compelled it to go back to the drawing board and to rebuild, with a limited timeframe, an organisation which will last and adapt. If it does not adapt, it will end up like the bridge in the Honduras. This bridge was built for years, there was a celebration connecting these communities, and it became a corridor of trade. When the river changed course, the bridge became redundant. He said this happens in any public institution such as the NSG, and unless it builds something to last and to adapt, the NSG could easily end up like this bridge.

More than 90 percent of its programmes were delivered face-to face or through contact. With the lockdown, auditoriums, halls, and even boardrooms in departments where training was conducted became unavailable. Departments were limiting the number of people accessing these training rooms.

Prof Ngcaweni said consequently, as indicated to the Committee last year, the NSG is losing more than R10 million rand a month because of all the cancellations experienced.

The global pandemic created even further challenges for the NSG because as it was shifting its work to be more in line with technology, to deliver its services, it ended up becoming a victim of ransomware. The NSG was required to pay about R2 million which was unbudgeted for, because it faced a crisis of losing its ability to use its system. When the system was lost for about two months, the NSG could not generate some of the quotations for people who wanted to train virtually. COVID therefore had a major impact on its operations.

Prof Ngcaweni said the Minister and Deputy Minister challenged NSG to provide feedback on developing a recovery plan. This recovery plan involved two things: the NSG had to reimagine itself as a Department driven by innovation. This means it must understand the needs of its clients and programmes must give it a competitive edge. It had to design bespoke programmes responsive to ensure sustainability and to attract a high calibre of people coming into the NSG.

The second aspect is, NSG had to adapt very quickly. The NSG survived as a Department, besides being able to raise money, it adapted very quickly, using a partnership strategy. This proved to be a fruitful decision the NSG undertook. This recovery plan meant it had to shift most of the work it did face-to-face, because it was unable to train between levels five and three, in 2020. Where it commenced training, the classes were very small and only allowed 15 people, or less than 20 people, and only 10 people in a boardroom if it is training within a department. In some instances, this is not viable because the NSG is unable to recover the cost of the work done. The NSG shifted to use virtual and online platforms and it had to invest in licenses it previously did not have, which is virtual and online technology, to reach the numbers. The NSG increased the use of partnerships because through these virtual learning platforms, it means the NSG can have a class in real time in South Africa which is delivered by an institution in the UK (United Kingdom) in real time, and the only difference is the time difference. This means public South African servants can be in a classroom, at times in the same class, as public servants from other countries.

The important thing to note is NSG approached the Minister and made a request to make greater use of media, with the Minister issuing statements and inviting public servants to take up NSG courses while at home, especially during lockdown levels five and three. The numbers will indicate public servants replied positively to the Minister’s call during this period.

For the NSG to deliver the numbers using a virtual and online platform, it requires a greater bandwidth. To do this the NSG cannot rely on the current SITA (State Information Technology Agency) line. He said while he was in the current meeting, he has two computers running as backup. He said one of the computers is using wifi and if it fails, he will quickly shift to the other because of bandwidth issues. The NSG had to approach SITA in July 2020, but it is yet to respond to the request for a second data line which will enable the NSG to deliver a fast and uninterrupted service. This data line will exclude the Transversal Systems which must run on a SITA as stipulated in the rules. The NSG continues to engage with it because it will not accept anything uncompetitive, in an environment where it can get data lines which may be cheaper on the market, and enable it to deliver the programmes.

As part of the recovery, the NSG had to identify some of the training programmes previously designed for face-to-face and repackage it for virtual training programmes. In face-to-face, people can attend a class for five hours with an hour break in between but with virtual, the NSG must be sensitive to the fact people cannot sit on a virtual platform and learn effectively for more than this time. It means lessons must be split in between. This meant the design of the whole delivery model had to be adapted.  

Prof Ngcaweni referred to some of the training programmes launched in response to the situation the NSG was facing at the time. Some of these programmes are very significant as the NSG had to go to Cabinet to seek its support on this. When the Minister took these programmes to Cabinet, such as the one on Economic Governance Spring School and on the Executive Education Programme (called Etella), and it was endorsed, public servants realised these have the backing of the Executive, and therefore public servants reacted positively to these. The late Minister Jackson Mthembu was the first Minister to attend the Economic Governance Spring School, which is delivered with Wits University.

When he asked Minister Mthembu why he wanted to be the first Minister to join, he said because he was the Minister responsible for the NSG at the time, he wanted to show as the Minister in the Presidency, he lends his support to the programmes approved by Cabinet. This is when NSG started delivering these programmes, including an important course on gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting, started in August 2020. Many people are attending. The NSG is encouraged by the gender dynamics in the course because it is not exclusively women who are attending. DG’s are sending men into the course because of the issue of gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting, and dealing with discrimination. It is a collective responsibility and the NSG is monitoring all of these numbers.

During the national lockdown, the NSG decided to have more involvement in the thought leadership space. It undertook this though webinars and master classes. It managed to get very senior people to engage with public servants. These master classes are tracked between 1 000 and 2 000 people attending virtually, including on the NSG’s virtual platform. This is a sign public servants are ready to engage on very critical matters because it is through engaging such eminent people, public servants can learn and grow from the experience. It is important for the NSG to do this because it is building its brand. For example, when it brings Prof Stan Sangweni, Chairperson, PSC, more public servants are interested to understand from an eminent former public servant such as Prof Sangweni how to deal with some of the pandemics and endemics of corruption and governance within the public service. This is assisting the NSG to raise awareness on the work it is doing, but it also offers public servants an opportunity to hear critical perspectives, and at times to hear about books which are critical, which the individual may or may not have been able to read for a variety of reasons.

Because of COVID, the NSG lost out on some of the numbers, including the numbers regarding performance. Since 1 April 2020, the compulsory pre-entry certificate called Nyukela. It began last year and DPSA monitors the numbers closely. NSG almost has a 95 percent compliance rate with this because DPSA monitors it. This means the pre-entry exam course, which is done by the NSG, over 95 percent of national and provincial government departments demand the certificate before it makes an appointment. A person will not be appointed as a Head of Department, or a DG, or Deputy DG, nationally or provincially, unless the person can produce this pre-entry examination. More than 10 000 public servants enrolled for the course, with 4 115 successfully completing so far.

Prof Ngcaweni said he received a call from a senior public servant this morning who he advised to do Nyukela last year, and who refused. Today, this senior public servant was going to an interview and was informed he must make a presentation of his Nyukela project, but he did not do it even after Prof Ngcaweni advised him to do it.

Since April 2020, the total enrolments for online learning exceeds 40 000, which means the number is now shifting from what historically was face-to-face, and now moving to online.

Slide 15 is an example of a poster NSG uses to invite people to join its courses or classes. It shows attendees must have Zoom to join the courses of the NSG.

On the numbers in slide 16, Members can note the NSG trained over 41 000 public servants. The numbers are being reconciled regularly, but most importantly, Members must note what appears in the first and second line.

The second line says the Minister will issue a statement encouraging public servants to enrol for the Ethics in the Public Service course. Given all the stories told about public servants and based on what Ms Mathenjwa was indicating, it is interesting to note Ethics in the Public Service, which is a free self-learning online course is one of the courses which has the greatest demand with the highest enrolment, of over 13 000 within a short space of time.

Prof Ngcaweni said this course is not new as it predates himself, and the DG. This week will be the first anniversary of being part of this system for both, because both joined last year around this time. The numbers are increasing because the national conversation around anti-corruption, ethics, and some of the statements made by the Minister, increased the interest of public servants. While the course appears to be short, it is extremely rigorous as everyone who did the course noted after completing the first model, the course made the individual feel like a criminal. For example, one might have taken a stapler home from an office or even from one’s own office in Parliament to use it for a child’s homework and returned it the following day. The course questions if the person had the moral authority to take the stapler away and what if it was not returned. It looks at where in the rules it says it must be used at home and so forth. Therefore, public servants are responding positively.

The Nyukela compulsory examination is written by public servants and those outside the public service who wish to apply for a senior management post. If anyone in the Committee would like to apply for any senior position in the public service tomorrow, that person will not be appointed even if a Whip, or the chairperson of a committee, or holding any other position. Applicants will not be appointed in a senior executive position nationally or provincially, unless the applicant has done Nyukela. The South Africans are responding positively.

There is a difference in these courses. Regarding online learning, there is self-learning where participants must register and familiarise themselves. There is also facilitated eLearning which is important because participants are online and there is a person behind the screen assisting the person to do the work.

Some of these courses are free but once it is free, it costs the NSG money. He said he will invite the CFO to speak to the financial impact of COVID on the NSG. It costs the NSG money to do these courses when it is free because it must invest in a system and there are people facilitating some of the courses.

The NSG moved into the virtual space as part of its performance. He referred to the faces on Slide 18 which assists in diversifying participation in the NSG courses. It could attract Ministers, Mayors, Directors, and others to the NSG’s offerings. This image illustrates the people attending the NSG courses which are now aided by technology. This specific image is a group of Members of the Legislature in Gauteng who attended an Economic Governance course delivered by the NSG. The important thing about this image is it was a multi-party group from the ruling party in Gauteng in the ruling benches, as well as the opposition benches. The response was positive. There were three MECs who were also part of this group. Just recently, the NSG was training Members of the Legislature in the Western Cape who are doing the Finance for the Financial Manager’s course, and by using Zoom, NSG can reach out to people.

These are the arrangements as the NSG was adapting to COVID. The NSG’s auditorium can accommodate up to 100 people but because of the required learning which must take place, it can only take up to a maximum of 30 people. Beyond this, it is a major impact on the NSG.

2020 was an important year for the NSG because for the first time in its history, it witnessed several ministers coming into the NSG, respecting the learning programme which was taking place, and successfully completing the programmes with the NSG’s partners at Wits.

Even the former President and Deputy President are members of faculty who teach in this type of programme. NSG is finding most ministers who are coming to the NSG, including its head of departments, tend to send a lot more colleagues and employees into the NSG because of buying into the brand.

The NSG launched a Fellowship Programme which enabled it to retain the services of senior and former DGs. The NSG does not pay these officials. These officials volunteer based on knowledge and expertise, and are part of the faculty at the NSG. It is bringing people from the North and the South to ensure public servants receive the opportunity to obtain perspectives from the global North and South.

Prof Ngcaweni confirmed the NSG will be sending Members of the Committee an invitation to attend a master class delivered by economist, Prof Mariana Mazzucato on 25 April 2021. This is an important master class for two and a half hours, and the NSG hopes members will be able to attend.

The NSG formed partnerships with Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in France, which is an important governance school in Europe. Applicants cannot get a job in key European institutions unless the applicant completed a course at the School. This partnership is assisting the NSG to deliver training programmes using institutions with vast experience and who have done this work after World War II. This is when the Institution was designed. NSG has partnerships with the University in London and it is currently delivering an important programme. It also has a partnership with China’s Chinese National Academy of Governance, and the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which is bringing the best of its scholars to provide training to South African public servants. The incorporation of global partners adds more weight to the work of the NSG, it diversifies the quality of the product delivered, and more people become interested in joining the NSG.  

Prof Ngcaweni referred to Slide 26. It has a sense of how the NSG is concluding the financial year. It will be reporting on some of these when the NSG comes to present on quarter four in particular. The virtual training noted on Slide 26 was historically face-to-face courses, but public servants are returning in bigger numbers to do virtual training. The NSG has face-to-face courses which it will be delivering since the country moved to level one. The numbers have grown, and it is now beginning to bring more people. He said 110 delegates for the Basic Project Management One course will not be in one room, but will be in separate venues. There are other major programmes commencing in March and invitations will be sent through the Secretariat for Members to consider joining some of these master classes and webinars, or even the classes itself because it is now available. Some are at a cost. Some of the courses and classes are not included in this list because the list is quite long. The DG DPSA will be joining a class on Digital Transformation. Colleagues from the PSC are becoming students at the NSG, but are also becoming members of faculty, which is very significant because these are then practitioners and have experience.

Referring to slide 28, the NSG is now ready with the new Socio-Economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS) course designed with the Policy Unit in The Presidency and it will be starting to recruit people. The gender course was in partnership with the Department of Women, and so was the course on Managing the Economy post-COVID. The NSG is strengthening its partnerships with government departments as well.

In conclusion, despite all the challenges of COVID, the NSG tested its resilience as an organisation, and it was able to adapt. The 41 000 numbers it received is a sign NSG is adapting as an organisation. It recognises it has serious challenges regarding money, because it lost revenue. In half of the programmes illustrated to the Committee, the money either comes late or some of it is free but the NSG still spends money delivering these courses.

If NSG courses are moved to virtual and online, this excludes almost 60 percent of public servants who do not own computers or data. The NSG approached the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to apply for a zero-rating as a learning institution. NSG is currently piloting zero-rating with one network provider which is MTN. This means for example, a frontline worker in Kuruman could, on a Saturday, be doing an NSG course at home on his/her mobile phone without worrying about data. This could be a cleaner or a driver who does not have the luxury of a laptop as well as a sim card. This idea of online NSG courses becoming zero-rated will have a major impact. For example, in police stations police officers could go through smartphones during a break and could register and studying the Ethics course without worrying about data which is the most prohibitive thing for the most junior of the public service. In many instances, junior public servants do not have access to such instruments.

Prof Ngcaweni concluded his briefing and asked the CFO to take the Committee through the numbers.

Ms Phindile Mkwanazi, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), NSG, said she will first speak to the impact of COVID on Programme One. There were two budget cuts within the financial year in Programme One. The first was when it had to fund the COVID programme where the budget was reduced by R16 million. This affected goods and services. This meant in Programme One, where the NSG normally had things at fixed costs, it was severely affected by this budget cut. The second budget cut happened for SAA when the budget was reduced by R6.2 million and part of it reduced the compensation of employees. The rest was for goods and services.

The effects of the budget cuts reduced the NSG’s fixed programme issues and by the end of December, there were insufficient resources to pay for rentals, leases, and so on. The NSG had to go back to Treasury to review and inform it on the budget cuts, which proposed what it should do. Treasury then looked into the NSG’s surplus. It requested to retain the Trading Account, which it earmarked to use for the purchase of Information Technology (IT) systems, as the NSG’s Training Management system was internally developed years ago. It is currently failing and unstable. This affects the way the NSG runs its audit as it is not integrated with the rest of its financial systems. Therefore, the NSG wanted to invest in this, but the approval to retain was received very late and the NSG was informed to use the same funds to support Programme One, which is currently what was done. The NSG is covered for the rest of the year using the surplus funds it had from the previous year. This also means, when some of the people left within the year, such as the case of the Legal Director, and the Deputy Director for Risk, leaving the organisation, some of these posts became unfunded because of the reduction in the compensation of employees.

Ms Mkwanazi said some of the critical posts became vacant and were not funded because of the budget cuts.

The worst impact was on the trading account as face-to-face training could not continue which was traditionally the NSG’s main method of training. It had to review its budget and reduce it, to achieve. This was reduced to about R70 million. The NSG then highlighted this problem to Treasury. It informed Treasury the NSG was unable to generate revenue and it was using its own revenue to pay for compensation of employees and part of the leases. Through National Treasury, the NSG negotiated with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to provide some of its savings. The DPWI gave the NSG R44.3 million which meant the trading account would be able to meet its obligations. National Treasury reduced the budget for compensation of employees by R1.5 million. These budget cuts and the NSG’s inability to generate sufficient revenue hampered its efforts to improve on its Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure and solutions. It had plans to improve this so it can get to where everything is integrated, and it is able to go through audits in an easy manner. Ms Mkwanazi said when clients registered, clients could do this electronically through the self-service registration instead of the NSG using many people to support it.

Slide 34 shows the original budget, what the NSG reduced in the course fees and the money it received through the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure (AENE), from the DPWI.

Slide 35 provides an overview of where the NSG was at as at the end of January 2021. The revenues are still very low because most of the NSG’s training people enrolled for, are the No-Fee courses, which people can do without requesting permission within their departments. Many people have also enrolled in very low-priced courses which meant the NSG only managed to raise about R12 million in revenue. The transfer came through so the NSG was able to meet its obligations, but it is watching and pushing some of the face-to-face programmes and some of the virtual programmes. Some of these virtual programmes are charged at the same rate as the face-to-face because it is still a full day with the only difference being the move from a venue to a screen.

Comments from the Minister

The Minister said he is Minister for the PSC as well. It is working together to realise the overall objective of an ethical, capable, and developmental state. This is a goal it set itself and it hopes by the end of each financial year, it should have made a margin towards achieving this with all the portfolio institutions ministered by the DPSA.

On the NSG, he said the Committee should note COVID has not done the School of Government a favour. In addition to this, Treasury also had to cut budgets at the School itself at its own discretion, which was allowed by Cabinet. This brought quite a strain, but since the Department undertook to reposition the School, and while it cannot commend itself, it believes there is a lot turning around and positioning the School to the centre of improvements in government, through a number of initiatives it took.

Discussion

Ms B Maluleke (ANC) welcomed both presentations. She noted three issues: the first is on the presentation by the PSC. She said this presentation is an insightful observation of the public service administration. She said the PSC is vested to promote the values and principles governing public administration, and the need of developing a public servant cadre which is of useful value to the needs of the people through service delivery. She asked what measures the PSC proposed to departments to ensure effective accountability and efficient performance by public servants in executing its duties.

She noted the need for efficient and effective consequence management in public service which prohibits future acts of maladministration and corruption by public servants. She asked what interventions the Commission proposed to departments or to the DPSA, regarding effective consequence management.

On the issue of gender parity and the representation of women and persons with disabilities, particularly with departments which do not comply in its representation with vulnerable groups, she asked if the PSC can clarify which action, in this regard, it recommended or proposed to those departments to ensure it adheres and complies with the regulations for this vulnerable group to be represented.

Dr Gondwe welcomed the presentations by the PSC and the NSG. She noted she will start with questions to the NSG. She said she is happy to note, in August 2020, the NSG launched a gender mainstreaming course which includes gender sensitive planning and budgeting. She asked if the course will be offered to members of the Executive. She said she believes when it comes to issues of gender mainstreaming and budgeting, these work very well if the Executive is also invested in ensuring budgeting and planning around gender takes place. For example, in Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden, which did very well in this area, Members of the Executive are always at the forefront of driving gender mainstreaming, planning, and budgeting. She asked if Members of the Executive will also be taking this course.

The NSG mentioned, because of the pandemic, it experienced considerable budget cuts. She notes it mentioned progress has been made around the development of funding models for the NSG and there is engagement with Treasury around this. She asked where exactly it is at with the development of this funding model which would make the NSG more sustainable.

She asked the NSG to elaborate on what it meant by saying there is need for further interventions, as mentioned in the presentation. The fact of the matter is the pandemic is here to stay as there is even talk of a third and fourth wave. There is a need for the departments across the public service to adapt and morph to the new norm. This would include the NSG finding ways to be less dependent on contact training and move to virtual training. Virtual training disadvantages 60 percent of the public service who do not have resources to these online platforms. She made this point the last time the NSG presented on its quarterly performance report. It should look into having hybrid venues as opposed to doing away with contact training completely, and have a bit of both. At level three of lockdown, this allows room for hybrid venues so the NSG should find ways as the country moves between the different alert levels, as this is likely to happen again.

The NSG mentioned online enrolments continued to grow at the commencement of the lockdown and the Minister issued media statements encouraging public servants to enrol. She asked what steps the NSG took to get more public servants on board. People are now able to do these courses using mobile phones. Regarding marketing and the enrolment at an online level, she asked what happened in this context.

She also asked how much the NSG spends on securing its Zoom and Microsoft Teams licenses, and in beefing up its cyber security capability. NSG suffered a ransomware attack in 2020, and she wanted to know how much was spent beefing up cyber security capabilities. She said the last time the NSG made a presentation to the Committee she told the NSG should look at seeking advice from Defence Intelligence (DI). She is unsure if departments are aware DI has a solid cyber security capability and it has helped banking institutions fend off some of these attacks. The reality is, with the pandemic, people are forced to work online, and this comes with increased cyber criminal activities.

Dr Gondwe noted her next set of questions are addressed to the PSC. She thanked the PSC for the presentation. She said this is highlight appreciated because it provides an overview of where the Committee or Department should be as a public service. She noted the PSC mentioned the lack of innovation in the public service, which has to a large extent rendered the public service out of touch with some of the citizens, especially the more vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens. She said this has come across very clearly at the start of the lockdown when government departments were unable to function and were paralysed at the beginning of the pandemic. It speaks to the need for more innovation in the public service and the need to get to grips with moving with the times, as far as being able to function goes, even if the country is at alert level five of the lockdown.  The CPSI (Centre for Public Service Innovation) has limitations when it comes to its budget and so forth. She said it has budgetary constraints but she wants to see it playing a more pivotal role when it comes to capacitating the public service regarding innovation to bridge the gap in critical communication.

She agrees that the public service is out of touch with citizens, especially the more vulnerable and disadvantaged pockets of citizenry. She also agrees with the pragmatic responses given by departments. The danger with this approach is it assumes communities are homogenous, and needs are homogenous. As a result, this renders the public service unresponsive to citizens needs because it is always adopting this programmatic approach to issues. She said there is a strong need for communities to get involved in the formulations of the programmes because this is the only way public servants will be responsive to citizens needs, otherwise it becomes an exercise in futility.

The targets related to women and persons with disabilities are worrying, especially the targets relating to people with disabilities. This country prides itself on diversity and this is something which must be looked into.

Dr Gondwe encouraged the PSC to put forward a recommendation, so it can assist the Committee to help others with being able to get the public service to where it should be. She appreciates the PSC’s advice on interrogating and drilling down on vacancy rates and determining if vacancy rates are related to a critical skill within a particular department. She welcomed this and implored the PSC to come up with a recommendation when it brings such a presentation again.

Ms Komane asked a question earlier, posed to the PSC. This was then posed to the Department. She said a part of this question was what consequence management is being implemented by the PSC to the departments who do not honour the 30-day payment period.

She asked what contributes to lack of skills because this should be clearly outlined in the advertisements. She said when an advert is posted, it should clearly state the requirements regarding the skills, qualifications, and the capacity required. Ms Komane asked if this is perhaps because of political deployments to positions or if people are being placed without proper skills and qualifications. She asked for clarity on this because at this juncture, the Committee cannot be expected to accept a skills challenge, because the positions are being advertised and the proper person for the position should be placed.

She asked how PSC will reconcile its statement saying coordination should happen at a district level, and the post settlement support process ignores the provincial departments. She said this does not have synergy. She asked the PSC to clarify what it means in this regard because this indicates two different statements.

Regarding the R10 million per month during the hard lockdown, Ms Komane asked NSG what the Rand value is to recovery. She said most departments could not guarantee participants would have access to data or ICT infrastructure.

Given the budget cuts, she asked if the School will be able to deliver on filling some of the technical vacancies. She said the NSG spoke of departments which would pride itself on its low vacancy rates while there are challenges in critical posts.  

She asked what will be done to improve the online solution as well as the self-service functions. Most people would want to go through the online process, but the same people would not have the self-service functions and capabilities, such as self-registrations and so on.

inkosi Cebekhulu welcomed the presentations. The behaviour of officials in the offices is a well-known challenge, as stated by the PSC. He said it is very worrying this trend did not start during the challenge of the lockdown. At the offices, the employees are not concerned with providing the necessary services to citizens, but are concerned about close relatives, or friends, and people the employees know. There is a noted behaviour of picking on certain citizens in queues, to get a service in the department. He said this is evident for example at Home Affairs and Social Development. Inkosi Cebekhulu said the PSC is aware of who is responsible. Public servants should be made to feel employees are in the offices to serve the citizens of the country. His main question was around this issue. He asked who is responsible to take up these matters. The PSC reports to the Department, but in the Department, who are those responsible to make follow-ups on the reports submitted by the PSC, so people will experience the best service in government departments.

Ms Ntuli welcomed the presentations and said some of her concerns were covered. On the PSC, she noted it mentioned the rules-driven vis-à-vis the values-driven. She said the PSC should find a way to make these two concepts parallel, as the rules must be obeyed and respected, as also the values.

On citizen satisfaction mentioned by PSC, Ms Ntuli asked a question around its interaction with ordinary citizens in the country or its marketing strategy.

Regarding gender mainstreaming, she asked if the PSC has scrutinised the percentages per department, spearheaded for gender mainstreaming. She asked because gender issues in most instances are theorised and some departments will not even bother to attend to gender mainstreaming.

Regarding ethics and the example of SASSA, Ms Ntuli noted she is happy the PSC mentioned this example. She wanted to know where PSC features in such instances. She said this is the reason she asked about its interaction or its marketing strategy, for the citizens to know where to find and contact the PSC.

On the NSG, Ms Ntuli said she applauds the NSG for the Nyukela Programme as a compulsory and guiding programme. She asked if there is anything adding an element of patriotism to these programmes. She said the PSC spoke about the real public servant and in her view, these programmes should help to develop a proper public servant.

On the two critical posts mentioned by the NSG which are now unfunded, Ms Ntuli wanted to know how, moving forward, the NSG will be able to fill these posts. These posts are not easy to function without.  

The Acting Chairperson invited the PSC and NSG to respond to Members. She said it should note some questions require written responses because it is more detailed and specific in terms of its posture.

She asked the Legacy Report to be re-circulated from time to time, as well as the Resolution Tracking System. It will advise any Member who would have joined the Committee to know how far and when the Committee debates are. She is not asking both these entities not to respond, but rather it might be advisable as a back-office support from Parliament to do this for newly deployed Members in this Committee. This will greatly assist.

She handed over to the PSC to respond, followed by the NSG.

Responses from the PSC

Dr Leballo noted Members comments and welcomed the questions. He invited his team to respond to the questions.

Ms Mathenjwa noted the presence of Commissioner Nzimande and Commissioner Fikeni. She asked the Committee to give the Commissioners an opportunity before she addresses the questions.

The Acting Chairperson said she assumes this request is because some of the questions are within these Commissioners mandate. She handed over to Commissioner Nzimande.

Ms Phumelele Nzimande, Commissioner, thanked the Committee, the Minister, and officials for the opportunity. She noted she will follow the Acting Chairperson’s suggestion around the responses in writing, particularly in relation to Ms Maluleke’s question on the nature of interventions the PSC has proposed in a number of areas, including consequence management and representation. She said this falls squarely within a report the PSC is mandated to put together to Parliament every year which outlines in all the three areas of its mandate for each year: what recommendations it has made, the directions it has given, the matters it has picked up in the areas of its mandate and oversight, and what has been done about those.

She addressed Ms Maluleke and the Committee by saying this is coming in the form of what is called a Section 196(4) report, and it will come in detail. This report will form a very important oversight tool for the Portfolio Committee. This will all be documented so if the Committee interacts with government departments, it will also be able to follow-up because it will be clearly outlined.

In response to Ms Komane’s question on the payment of service providers within 30 days, Ms Nzimande said the Commission has been hard at work on this area, starting way back about three/four years ago. It realised this matter was making it just about in every State of the Nation Address. The PSC held hearings and put together ideas on what needed to be done, right up to where it is now, where almost all the proposals it made after it undertook this project was the highest focal point of governance. As with the Presidency through the DPME, it should create a dashboard which actually checks who is doing what across the levels. This was accepted but the problem persists. The PSC has now gone as far as to propose this should form part of the performance contracting between heads of departments (HoDs), DGs, and the Executive Authorities (EAs), so this becomes a monitoring tool the AOs can take cognisance of. She said it also becomes something which will be formed part of the measure of performance for each HoD or AO. This is the journey the PSC has traversed in this area, and it is still continuing to monitor case-by-case at an institutional level, and highlight where it believes things are not being done.

On the latest intervention some time last year, where the PSC believed there were persistent offenders, she said the PSC used the powers in the Constitution to summon the AOs to appear before the Commission to explain what is happening in the departments. Any AO will confirm the one thing it does not wish for is to be summoned by the PSC. The PSC is therefore developing as it goes along and using its mandate and legislative powers to continue to shed light on this persistent practice of non-payment of service providers. There was some significant improvement but there is still stubbornness in some areas.

In response to Inkosi Cebekhulu’s question on who is responsible in the end to ensure public servants lead by these values, she said, all members in the public administration hold different levels of responsibility. There are day-to-day responsibilities at the call phase of management on a daily basis, and policy and regulatory responsibilities are held by DPSA to sharpening its tools to ensure alignment and understanding across the public service. This is in relation to what is expected at the call phase of public service. There are also responsibilities of the PSC’s mandate regarding monitoring, evaluation, and bringing evidence-based reports to the Legislature and the National Assembly, for this information to be used to continue to crack the whip. This is put quite generatively because it is not possible to say there is only one focal point with responsibility, as there are varying levels of responsibility.

On Ms Ntuli’s question of how the PSC ensures Ma Gumede in a particular locality across Mfolozi or some other Limpopo river is respected, and how this person would get to know a PSC exists, Ms Nzimande replied, PSC is self-critical regarding how it has not managed to attain the level it would be satisfied with to be able to go out there and explain the work it does. Through this work it is presenting before Parliament today, the work of highlighting the respect of Ma Gumede is not a nice-to-do, it is a constitutional imperative. Chapter Two of the Constitution expects Ma Gumede to be treated with respect. The PSC used this in a number of ways: through radio stations, through webinars it hosted, and through various forms of communication. The PSC is partnering with the DPSA to ensure the chart of the values is in different languages, as the Acting DG illustrated. The expectation is, when citizens walk into any government department, citizens should expect to be treated with respect. It will be rolling this out in every frontline so twhen Ma Gumede walks into any government department, this will be visible on the wall, stipulating how public servants should conduct themselves and treat citizens so citizens can demand these expectations when not treated with this way.

The PSC has cascaded it to this level so ordinary citizens can understand this is a constitutional imperative, to be treated with respect.

In response to Dr Gondwe’s comment on innovation, Ms Nzimande said this was an apt comment and she fully agrees with it. In her view, all public servants have been caught off guard regarding realising the creative juices it possesses as a country, as well as individual public servants, or public representatives to adopt innovation. COVID-19 catapulted departments to realise it could do things differently, and innovation is not only about technology. It is about thinking outside of the box and doing more with less in the manner for example, the NSG has just articulate. The challenge is going to be how public servants ensure, post-COVID, it does not go back to the corners of being less innovative prior to COVID.

Ms Nzimande said Commissioner Fikeni will pick up on the areas she did not highlight. She thanked the Chairperson and handed over to Commissioner Fikeni.     

Dr Somadoda Fikeni, Commissioner, PSC, thanked the Chairperson. He noted Commissioner Nzimande covered most of the questions and he will zoom into one issue raised by Inkosi Cebekhulu about the parallel. He said the point of the presentation on the promotion of values and principles is not to say the rules should be abandoned and the values and principles must be embraced. The PSC argues for a healthy balance between the two. This is very important because currently, people over time have tilted in a mechanical way towards some mechanical rules. One such is example relates to forms, competing a course, or to write an annual report to look good. These are not associated with the values and principles as stipulated in the Constitution, when these rules are applied and departments are created, this is the mandate which is ultimately supposed to follow. He said the approach is to ask how PSC highlights the principles and values and ensures people internalise it. Ethics is one of this, as well as all the values outlined in Chapter Ten, regarding what the constitutional democracy ought to be doing in the service provision. If it came across as the values and principles which must be embraced, and the rules must be abandoned, this was not the view of the PSC.

In response to Dr Gondwe, he agreed it is the PSC’s preoccupation to evaluate how best it can assist in the improvement of public service and assist Parliament in its oversight role. He said the PSC notes these comments. This is perhaps the best moment in its focus on building the capacity of the State and the capacity of the public service. This is because of the momentum directed towards this particular crucial subject from the presidential State of the Nation Address, from the Minister in trying to amplify the notion of professionalising the public service, the NSG, the PSC, as well as Parliament. There used to be a focus on departments which had huge portfolios and billions, where these billions would always flow in irregular directions if the State capacity is not built. This is at the core. Corruption will always exist in service delivery programmes, as well as policies which are never implemented. This will be so until the issue of building this capacity is addressed, by using all the complimentary entities which exist in a manner focused on this single aspect of building the capacity, to give real meaning to the promises of the Constitution.

The Chairperson thanked the Commissioners for responses. She asked Ms Mathenjwa to respond to Members questions in writing by no later than the coming Friday, through the administration. She invited the Minister and the DM to make concluding remarks and said NSG falls under the DPSA in terms of its EAs.

She noted the DM has joined the meeting and invited her to provide commentary. Since the DM did not respond, the Chairperson moved to the Minister to respond.

Responses from the Minister

The Minister said the issue of skills, at the level required in the public service, is not necessarily a lack of skills. A lack of skills is not necessarily dominant. It does not necessarily override an overwhelming characterisation of the public service. There are however areas of concern which indicate the Department has not consistently been alert to ensure requisite skills are not always overtaken by the need on the ground for such skills, when appointments are made. This means adapting the requisite skills of public service and the system, through which these skills are obtained, to the actual needs on the ground. He noted this challenge on the lack of skills and proposed it should not be understood to be an overriding and overwhelming characteristic of the public service.

There is an element of an impact of instances where people appointed to positions are not necessarily at the level required, and even now, these instances exist where the legacy or practice of the past still lingers on into new appointments in the public service. The Department is dealing with this matter hands-on and it is not allowing anything to pass. In a number of instances, this is causing tension at the level of the Department and some other departments, including some departments at a provincial level, when such things are identified and it gets blocked.

The Minister said regarding his own experience at the DPSA, when he was appointed, the organogram of the Department was changed to suit the challenge. By example, the Human Resource Development and Labour Relations were combined, and were then separated. It was a complex situation given the challenges. When the Department advertised for labour, its emphasis was on the job description and advert. It was for someone who has a labour law degree and experience and so on. He said every other thing was fine, but he is mentioning this example because as soon as the Department started on with the appointed person, it realised it should have added an additional element: for the requisite DDG to have Economics. Coincidentally, this DDG had to leave because unbeknown to the Department, he had applied for another post. The DDG served for one month and the second month was notice. The Minister said the Department made this addition: knowledge of economics, a prerequisite even above labour law. This is because it did not recognise labour in the public service is in a way, by and large, an economic issue and it needs to be calculated from a number of points of view. It must be related to economics to quite a bigger extent than the Department realised. The Department had to source outside information for instance, in preparation of some of the encounters with labour, so it does not become lapdogs when labour articulates its matters and so on. On the other hand, the Department does not depend on Treasury as it needed to stand on its own. He clarified that lack of skills does not only come to forefront via one factor, and it could also be via a factor unintentionally until the EA realises the issue. This is why the Department is saying at NSG, appointments are needed at a high level to be linked to professional bodies outside, and even the incumbent, as it has done in Infrastructure South Africa. The Department indicated it needed an engineer in this terrain because it would not be useful to take someone who has majored in Religious Studies for example.

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Minister, the Department, and all officials for attendance. She concluded the meeting and noted this is a work in progress. She said it is moving forward and it will engage with the Department which will forward some of the questions which are more detailed, through the administration, to the Committee. Members are welcome to send through follow-up questions to the respective department or entities.

She noted the engagements were encouraging as far as progress with implementing the NDP went, as the entity was walking the talk.  

The meeting was adjourned.

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