Centre for Public Service Innovation 2019/20 Annual Report; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure

10 March 2021
Chairperson: Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

Video: SC on Transport, Public Service and Administration, Public Works and Infrastructure, 10 March 2021

Annual Reports 2019/20

The Centre for Public Service and Innovation (CPSI) is mandated to develop innovative, sustainable, and responsive models for improved service delivery. In spite of challenges faced in 2019/20, CPSI achieved a clean audit. CPSI achieved 75% of annual targets for the financial year with two targets in Programme 2 not fully achieved. No new solutions were developed or piloted in 2019/20 due to the longer than anticipated duration of the piloting of the two projects from the previous performance cycle, which demanded the full capacity of the unit. However, CPSI did conclude Phase One of the Home Affairs Real-time Service Delivery Monitoring Project. Once finalised, it will provide business intelligence capabilities for Home Affairs to monitor its front-desk services in real-time.

CPSI had a staff turnover employee of 6% and a filled establishment of 26 posts and two employees additional to the establishment. The vacancy rate increased to 13.5% compared to 10.5% in 2018/19. The Executive Director’s post has been vacant since 1 October 2018 and had been filled by secondments while the Department reviewed whether CPSI should be brought inside the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The Deputy Minister had recommended CPSI should remain external to DPSA. CPSI is hopeful that by 31 March 2021, the Executive Director vacancy will be filled. The 2019/20 expenditure was R29.856 million or 77.68% of the appropriation.

In the discussion there were questions about the Executive Director position being be permanently filled; clarity on the staff turnover percentage; target for employees with disabilities; conflict of interest declarations by Senior Management Service (SMS) members; moratorium on filling of vacancies; establishment of an Ethics Unit in DPSA; the number of files lost in the Department; and what are hackathons.

Meeting report

Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson noted that at the beginning of the previous financial year, the Select Committee met with the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) on progress  on its performance indicators.

Deputy Minister’s comments
Ms Sindisiwe Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, noted that the Centre for Public Service Innovation has been instrumental in entrenching a culture of innovation in government and its national, provincial, and local agencies.

The Centre for Public Service Innovation’s mandate directly supports the National Development Plan in building an efficient, development-oriented public sector. Covid-19 had enabled the CPSI to identify systemic challenges and weaknesses which required innovative solutions to fast track service delivery. Covid-19 compelled CPSI to find new ways of operating whilst giving rise to the need for innovation and technology, particularly in the public service. There have been various innovative solutions that have been replicated throughout provinces because of the work of the CPSI. This highlighted the importance of the growing practice of innovation as a critical part of transformation and reform in the public sector. CPSI works to find new cost-effective ways to add value to existing systems and practices and to replace them if need be.

CPSI would present its Annual Report and performance information to the Select Committee.

She was pleased to report that CPSI achieved a clean audit for 2019/20. It achieved 75% of its annual performance targets with six out of eight targets met. Two of its targets could not be achieved due to challenges which CPSI has been experiencing.

Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) 2019/20 Annual Report
Ms Lydia Sebokedi, CPSI Acting Executive Director, confirmed that this was the third clean audit in the past three years. She noted that CPSI’s eight targets were small in number, as indicated by its budget, however, CPSI managed to achieve 75% of its targets. The two unmet targets dealt with two innovative solutions to address service delivery challenges. The reason they were unachieved was due to the longer than anticipated duration of the piloting of the two projects from the previous performance cycle, which demanded the full capacity of the unit.

The strategic objective of Programme 2 is to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public sector service delivery through innovation. As part of its mandate, CPSI investigates service delivery challenges, develops new solutions to these challenges or replicates innovations unearthed from elsewhere. The following are highlights for 2019/20: Replications Programme, where CPSI successfully replicated the maternal health records project from Prince Mshiyeni Hospital (KZN) to Bertha Gxowa Hospital (GP) and Research and Development Projects, where although no new solutions were developed, CPSI concluded Phase One of the Home Affairs Real-time Service Delivery Monitoring Project. Once finalised, it will provide business intelligence capabilities for Home Affairs to monitor its front-desk services in real-time.

For two consecutive years, CPSI continued to support youth digital skills development through hackathons and partnerships with youth organisations, such as Geekulcha, a youth ICT development organisation, to promote and acknowledge the critical role youth can play in ICT to find innovative solutions for service delivery challenges. These young developers and solution providers are potential public servants of the future, and as such, CPSI is promoting a culture of innovation and problem-solving amongst the youth. However, CPSI continues to face challenges such as supply chain management rules.

CPSI maintained strong relations with international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations (UN) to ensure that the country stays on par with global innovation thinking and practices.

CPSI continued to coordinate robust innovation knowledge platforms as part of its efforts to inculcate the culture and practice of innovation in the public sector. Through these platforms, innovation solutions and models are shared across all spheres of government to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

The 13th Annual Public Sector Innovation Conference was hosted by the Minister for Public Service and Administration in Gauteng on the 28-29 November 2019. This served as a platform for innovators in the public sector to share best practices and to form cross-sectoral partnerships for replication of solutions to service delivery challenges. The theme of the 2019 conference was “Public Sector Innovation, Design Thinking and Foresight to Accelerate the achievement of the Government’s Seven Priorities'. Through this conference, public servants were exposed to design thinking and foresight skills through mini sessions held as part of the conference.

In 2019/20 CPSI had a staff turnover employee of 6%, which represents one appointment and one transfer out of the department, and five contracts and one secondment that ended.  The organisation had a filled establishment of 26 posts on the approved establishment and two employees additional to the establishment. The vacancy rate increased to 13.5% compared to 10.5% in 2018/19. This is the result of four vacant posts at the end of the reporting period, compared to two vacant posts at the end of 2018/19. CPSI put a moratorium on filling of positions to allow the finalisation of an investigation on the repositioning of the organisation requested by the Ministry.  This resulted in the four funded vacant posts not being filled. 

The Executive Director’s post has been vacant since 1 October 2018. A Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) employee was seconded to the post from October 2018 to June 2019 with another secondment from the Presidency from September 2019 to February 2020. Internal capacity was assigned the post from June 2019 to September 2019 and February 2020 to date. Ms Lydia Sebokedi has been serving as Acting Executive Director, and CPSI is hopeful that by 31 March 2021, the vacancy will be filled.

ICT capacity remains a challenge. The challenge will be addressed through entering into a revised Memorandum of Understanding on Shared Services between DPSA and CPSI.

The 2019/20 expenditure was R29.856 million or 77.68% of the appropriation with R9.31 million spent on Goods and Services. R9.31 million was spent on Goods and Services (55.96%) which was lower than projected. CPSI’s relocation to the DPSA Batho Pele House resulted in underspending.  Funds projected for lease accommodation were to be redirected to tenant installation, upgrading long-overdue infrastructure and maintenance of the building as per the MoU with DPSA. This could not be invested in due to the pending CPSI organisational review. 

The Chairperson commended CPSI for three successive years of clean audits.

Ms B Mathevula (EFF, Limpopo) asked what is CPSI’s plan to lead in innovation and development in South Africa that will lead to large-scale industrialization or change the way in which the state delivers service? What is CPSI’s plan to implement the construction of higher technological institutes to teach technology innovation and research with the aim of innovating technology, instruments and gadgets in South Africa?

Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said that the Committee needs assurance from the Deputy Minister that the CPSI Executive Director vacancy must be filled by the end of this financial year. He asked if staff turnover was 6% as presented or 13% as indicated in the Annual Report. He advocated for targets on administration being broken down into performance indicators. For example, what is the target of women in senior management positions and what targets does CPSI have on ICT? What ICT challenges is the Acting Executive Director referring to? What is the target for employees with disabilities? Are service providers paid within the 30-day period mandated by government? Are there disclosures of conflict-of-interest amongst SMS members? On the R6000 damage to a hired car, why did CPSI not insure this hired car? What was the claim paid to a previous employee? Why was there a moratorium on filling vacancies? Is there a full time chairperson for the Audit and Risk Committee?

Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) noted that there are still challenges with officials conducting business with the state. Since the implementation of the Public Administration Act 11 of 2014, only one person has been prosecuted. He asked about the establishment of an Ethics Unit and what role DPSA is playing in getting this Unit up and running to implement ethics from the ground up?

Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) commended CPSI for its third successive clean audit. She asked the Deputy Minister to give a timeframe for when the CPSI Executive Director will be filled? How many files were lost in the Department? How many women, youth and those with disabilities were part of the 26 posts filled by CPSI? The vacancy rate is a concern.

The Chairperson asked what are hackathons and what do they entail. What is CPSI’s broader approach to bringing on board the Local Government sphere to innovation to improve the public sector? Has there been interaction between CPSI and SALGA and municipalities? How far is the implementation of the MoU? The MoU between CPSI and DPSA will be used as a platform to bridge the gap of capacity challenges.

Mr Brauteseth said if one wants to enter the civil service one needs a minimum level of academic qualification. Does CPSI foresee a future where a young person must study to become a civil servant?

The Chairperson asked CPSI how will the Home Affairs innovative programme assist with some of the challenges faced by Home Affairs, such as long queues? What is CPSI’s plan on provinces dealing with innovation?

Deputy Minister response
Deputy Minister Chikunga explained that in August 2020, CPSI received a presentation from DPSA that suggested that CPSI should be absorbed into the Department. This process was referred to as the repositioning of CPSI and CPSI is now undertaking a review its organisational structure. Some positions would not have been necessary such as executive director. A decision has now been taken by DPSA that CPSI is needed as an entity outside and not within DPSA. CPSI is in the process of submitting a reviewed organisational structure which investigates its mandate.

The Deputy Minister has recommended to the Minister that CPSI admit a permanent Executive Director. CPSI is in talks with the Treasury for an increased budget, if it is to perform its work and mandate as expected. DPSA agrees that it cannot do away with an innovation centre. Some of these vacancies have taken long to be filled. DPSA would like to shorten the process for vacancies to be filled. As decisions are taken, critical posts must be filled as soon as possible.

She acknowledged the questions by Mr Brauteseth and asked that these questions be directed to the Department and not CPSI. She was not prepared to answer those questions. She asked for clarity if those questions asked what DPSA is doing about officials doing business with the state. DPSA has responded to this question and explained that DPSA receives this information from the centre that keeps records of people that own companies, and Treasury as well. DPSA has met with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Those officials confirmed to be doing business with the state, must be charged with a criminal offence. DPSA has informed sub-departments that those officials confirmed to be doing business with the state, is also misconduct and a disciplinary process must be followed.

On training of officials and minimum academic qualifications, DPSA has minimum academic qualifications, where if one applies to become a Director-General or Deputy Director-General one must have an Honours Degree. She noted that some questions posed by Members must be directed to DPSA and not CPSI for more specific information and answers.

CPSI response
Ms Lydia Sebokedi, CPSI Acting Executive Director, responded that CPSI aims to improve service delivery, by working with the Department of Science and Innovation. CPSI agrees that performance indicators must be broken down to be more specific. In its next presentation to the Select Committee, all areas of concern will be covered. CPSI currently has only five SMS members and there has been no conflict of interests. CPSI receives complaints in a process similar to that of the Presidential Hotline. CPSI receives complaints on innovation matters; however, CPSI hardly receives complaints. The contract for the permanent Audit and Risk chairperson ended before the end of 2019. A permanent chairperson has now been appointed. On the health records, the Project Manager at CPSI had indicated that up to 50 files were lost per day.

Ms Annette Snyman, CPSI Chief Financial Officer, replied that the CPSI vacancy rate of 13% in the Annual Report was correct and included three posts in addition to those in the presentation. On 30-day payments, CPSI has a very proud record of processing all payments within four days of receiving the invoices. The payment made to a previous employee was for an arbitration award that was granted to the employee in 2019/20. CPSI have two employees with disabilities which makes it 7% of the CPSI organisational structure. Currently 60% of the filled posts are represented by women. Treasury regulations do not allow departments to take out insurance on hired vehicles.

Mr Pierre Schoonraad, CPSI Head of Research and Development, explained that hackathons are coding marathons where students work together, over a period of 48-hours, on a specific challenge and are supported by mentors. Hackathons are used to develop practical coding skills to solving challenges. CPSI works with various departments to host hackathons for public sector related challenges. CPSI has involved the youth and innovators to address challenges faced in government, so this work does not need to be outsourced. This means that sometimes this process does take long.

Mr Schoonraad spoke about Home Affairs which at the moment does not know what the service delivery status is in each office. CPSI has attempted to develop a real-time monitoring of service delivery status at Home Affairs offices. CPSI has currently done this with two Home Affairs Offices in Bronkhortspruit and Pretoria CBD looking into compliance with their own set standards, value-added service and service delivery. This project contains human elements. Home Affairs can see what their level of service is. This Compliance Overview will breakdown service into components such as the queue management system, operational efficiency, and other smaller items.

CPSI only has one individual that has the necessary IT qualifications in the organization. The CIO is responsible for both internal and service delivery matters. There is a need for CPSI to build much stronger development and ICT capacity. CPSI works with several developers within government. In 2019/20, eThekwini Municipality won the Innovation Award for their WhatsApp solution that its engineering department put in place. CPSI works with the Offices of the Premier, and institutions such as hospitals and clinics. CPSI works with the Public Service Education and Training Authority (PSETA) on what skills the public service will need. The public service needs data-management skills which are not necessarily taught at university. CPSI has invested in foresight capacity to deal with anticipated crises in the future.

Mr Rayi noted that the problem of litigation that faces many hospitals. He was worried that for the whole of 2019/20, only one hospital has been involved in the replication programme. What plans does CPSI have to ensure that all other hospitals receive replication programmes?

Ms Sebokedi replied that CPSI must replicate more than one site. In the next financial year, CPSI will work in a District Development Model.

Deputy Minister Chikunga took note of the issues raised by the Select Committee. These will be investigated and a response will be made on replication to only one hospital and not other hospitals too. This will be addressed.  

The Chairperson appreciated the good work CPSI is doing under the Deputy Minister’s leadership. The Committee looks forward to CPSI expanding to other districts under the District Development model.

The Committee adopted the minutes of 17 and 24 February 2021.

Mr Brauteseth noted in the 17 February minutes that the Committee had requested the manual authorisations statistics up to February 2020 from the Rail Safety Regulator. This should be followed up.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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