The recruitment and selection process in the public service could easily be manipulated, according to the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the skills and competence of human resources (HR) personnel was a major concern. Reporting to the Committee in a virtual meeting on its studies to evaluate the effectiveness of recruitment and selection, and the impact of competency assessments aimed at appointing competent and capable candidates, the PSC said challenges in the process contributed negatively towards employee performance and strained labour relations in departments, and the management of poor performance was weak.
The Committee was also briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on the recruitment and selection norms and standards applicable in the Public Service; by the National School of Government on the training programmes/courses aimed at ensuring public servants were capable and effective in discharging their administrative responsibilities; and by Statistics South Africa on the African Charter on Statistics.
The purpose of the African Charter on Statistics was to address gaps between the supply and demand of statistical information needed for the development and attainment of African integration agenda, and was considered and adopted by the Committee.
The DPSA explained the regulatory framework that underpinned the norms and standards set for recruitment and selection; described the departmental organisational structure and appointment process; the evaluation of jobs to determine salaries and grading; and the employment equity plan, which was key in terms of the profile of staff that should be recruited. It said there were challenges in the recruitment and selection process through failure to comply with the regulatory framework, which led to investigations and irregular appointments. Insufficient delegation of authority created delays in the filling of posts. The Department was conducting workshops and issuing guidelines to overcome the lack of understanding and interpretation of legislation.
Members were generally dissatisified with the poor HR capacity in departments. They questioned why there were challenges with employment equity plans, if individuals were trained and developed; how did departments still implement temporary appointment regulations incorrectly; whether consequence management took place in departments that failed to comply with the regulatory framework; how certain job requirements were designed to fit individuals already in the workplace; and if posts remained vacant because candidates from the designated group did not qualify.
The PSC said the key findings of its studies indicated that the recruitment and selection system had, to some extent, been effective in ensuring that employment equity was achieved. Race targets had generally been achieved, especially at the senior management service (SMS) level. Decentralisation and the delegation of powers did not necessarily condone fairness and subjectivity in the recruitment and selection process. The lack of standardised job requirements for most jobs, occupations and trades resulted in inconsistent selection requirements.
Clarity was sought on the delegation of powers and the open competition system, and the PSC was asked to submit reports on outstanding investigations, as there were cases involving military veterans with the Public Protector. A Member asked how was it possible that candidates could have firsthand information on what was to be discussed during interviews? Candidates had complained that they had performed well during the interview, and heard they were the best candidate, but had not been appointed.
The NSG gave an update on its flagship programmes, which were designed to provide education, training, development and support to institutions. The effect of COVID-19 had opened the NSG to distance learning. This had removed the barrier of place and time hindering learning and development. However, the NSG had retained face-to-face training, as the majority of public servants did not have data and devices, especially the frontline workers.
Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Minister of Public Service and Administration, said the Department would report on its norms and standards for recruitment and selection, to assist the Committee to interrogate them during discussion. It would also give an indication of the direction in which the Department was heading, and how the National School of Government (NSG) supports and guides it on recruitment and selection. Once candidates were selected, the NSG provides the necessary training and development. The Public Service Commission (PSC) would report on the studies conducted, investigations, grievances and what the Ministry was going to do to ensure enforcement, alignment, and adherence. The PSC helps to ensure the Ministry does not deviate from its roles and responsibilities.
Minister Dlodlo provided an overview on the various pieces of legislation and the programmes from the NSG. Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Public Service Act provide the foundation for appointments in the Public Service and elucidate the need for persons to be fit and proper. Section 12 deals with Heads of Departments (HODs), which was prerogative of the President and the relevant Premier. Posts could also be filled through the process of transfers in terms of Section 14. The approved posts in the structure must be job evaluated, and Regulation 57(2) provides for temporary appointments additional to the establishment within specific conditions. This was sometimes not applied correctly by Departments, and had a negative impact on the filling vacant posts. The DPSA had issued various circulars to remedy this.
Approved posts in the structure must be job evaluated to determine salaries and grading, as well as the inherent requirements of the job. This was supplemented by the directive on compulsory capacity development, mandatory training days and the minimum entry requirements for senior management service (SMS) level posts, which sets stipulated standards. For the appointment of SMS members, there was a requirement to have undergone the Nyukela programme. This was the pre-entry certificate obtained from the NSG, and was required for all SMS applicants.
There were challenges and failures to comply, especially with appointments in terms of employment equity. Government had had longstanding challenges over the years to comply with the 3% target on the appointment of people with disabilities. The DPSA had tried to remedy the situation through continuous advocacy with departments and the distribution of circulars. Workshops were conducted to ensure departments were supported and circulars were interpreted correctly.
The NSG provides education, training, development and support to institutions. The programmes must have an impact, and the COVID-19 pandemic had opened the NSG to open distance learning. This had removed the barrier of place and time for learning and development.
African Charter on Statistics
Mr Risenga Maluleka, Statistician-General, provided context to the background and purpose on the African Charter on Statistics. The purpose of the charter was to address gaps between the supply and demand of statistical information needed for development and attainment of the African integration agenda. It was important that statistics should be based on empirical evidence, and the brief would be a process brief.
He reported on the ratification process, legal opinions, and tabling in Parliament. He indicated that no financial implications were associated with the signing and ratifying of the African Charter on Statistics. The next step was for the President to sign it, Parliament to ratify it, and to deposit the signed Charter with the African Union.
[See attached presentation for details]
The Chairperson thanked the Statistician-General, and requested that the report on the African Charter on Statistics be adopted.
The report was adopted.
DPSA: Recruitment and selection norms and standards
Ms Renel Singh Dastaghir, Director: Employment Management, DPSA, said the regulatory framework underpins the norms and standards set for recruitment and selection. Considering all pieces of legislation, the conditions underpinning recruitment and selection were determined by the Department’s understanding of the policy mandate, which translates into the strategic mandate and plans in line with Regulation 25 of the Public Service Regulation, 2016. The Human Resources (HR) Plan was developed to understand what capacity was required to fulfil the mandate of the Department, and this plan was regulated in terms of Regulation 26 and the Directive for HR Planning which departments must keep up to date. Organisational structures were developed, based on the plans to respond to the mandate, and thereafter posts were determined and designed through job evaluation. An employment equity plan was key in terms of the profile of staff that should be recruited.
She reported on the process or recruitment and selection, which includes the advertising, applications, management of applications, committee appointment and short-listing, interviews, personnel suitability checks, recommendations, and appointment. There were challenges in the recruitment and selection process when there was a failure to comply with the regulatory framework. This created investigations and irregular appointments. Insufficient delegation of authority created delays in the filling of posts. Continuous restricting of departments hampered the creation and filling of posts. Line managers did not see recruitment and selection as their core function, with delays in turnaround times affecting the time to initiate the selection process promptly.
There was poor capacity in the understanding and interpretation of legislation. The DPSA provides assistance and there is continuous advocacy with departments. Various circulars are sent to departments on the regulatory framework. Workshops had been conducted and guides had been issued to Department. The Z83 form, as gazetted in terms of Regulation 10, would be incorporated into an electronic system for recruitment. The DPSA would continue to engage departments on the application of norms and standards.
[See attached presentation for details]
Ms M Kibi (ANC) asked how would DPSA ensure compliance to the regulations, other than by the distribution of circulars. The report presented reflected poor human resources (HR) capacity. Why were there poor HR capacities in departments? This indicated that there were gaps and capacity challenges. Why were there challenges with employment equity plans if individuals were trained and developed?
Ms C Motsepe (EFF) said regulation 57(2) provided for temporary appointments additional to the establishment within specified conditions. How did departments still implement this section incorrectly?
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) wanted to know if consequence management took place in the departments that failed to comply with the regulatory framework. What happened to the irregular appointments? The DPSA provided guides to remedy situations at departments, but how did it ensure these were properly understood and implemented? The norms and standards were in place, so why was there a lack of standard job requirements? This was linked to poor service delivery.
Mr J McGluwa (DA) said the biggest challenge was the implementation of the regulations. The job requirements, qualifications and regulations were a challenge. Certain job requirements were designed to fit individuals already in the workplace. How was this managed? Currently departments were sitting with unqualified incumbents. The DPSA must deal with these checks and balances and on the qualification assessments. The HOD in the North West province was not qualified -- this matter was with the Public Protector. How were these issues being dealt with?
Dr L Schreiber (DA) said he was concerned with the competency assessment. What if the candidates lacked the necessary skills? The competency assessment must be conducted first. It was a concern that posts remained vacant because candidates from the designated group did not qualify.
Minister Dlodlo said there were other attributes that contribute to appointments, and a qualification was one requirement. Competency assessments were done during recruitment, and not after an appointment. There had been various discussions regarding qualifications and attributes. There were still ongoing discussions on the recognition of prior learning (RPL), which was not accommodated in the public service. This should be looked at in terms of years of experience and certificates obtained.
Employment equity was part of affirmative action and was not negotiable and not an indicator for non-performance. The statement that posts remained vacant because candidates from the designated group did not qualify, was not necessarily true. Posts were not vacant because there were no suitable affirmative action candidates. There were many factors that had to be looked at. This would be reported on in a working document on why posts were not speedily filled.
Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, Deputy Minister, said there were enough policies in the public service to ensure the inclusivity of all South Africans. There were challenges and ongoing work to achieve the set goals and targets. Evaluation must continue with the policies and processes to respond effectively and efficiently. The Department was currently looking at measures to ensure lower-level posts were filled. Contract positions brought their own challenges, and this was being worked on. The protection of the rights of South Africans was vital to create a South Africa that was inclusive.
PSC on recruitment and selection processes
Mr Anele Gxoyiya, Commissioner, Public Service Commission (PSC), said the PSC would provide a briefing on the monitoring of personnel practices relating to the recruitment and selection processes in the public service, and the impact of competency assessment aimed at appointing competent and capable candidates. Giving an overview of the report to be presented, he said it would focus on studies conducted in line with personnel practices. It would also reflect on grievances, complaints and recommendations made.
Ms Kholofelo Sedibe, Deputy Director General (DDG): Leadership and Management Practices, PSC, said the PSC had conducted an evaluation on the effectiveness of recruitment and selection. The evaluation was based on:
- whether the recruitment and selection system contributed towards the achievement of a broadly representative public service in South Africa;
- if the decentralised recruitment and selection processes and methods utilised were sufficient to ensure objectivity, fairness, consistency and quality; and
- if the application of the open competition principle was effective in ensuring the appointment of people with the requisite potential ability to impact positively on the performance of a developmental public service
The key findings indicated that the recruitment and selection system had been, to some extent, effective in ensuring that employment equity was achieved. Race targets had generally been achieved, especially at the SMS level. Decentralisation and the delegation of powers did not necessarily condone fairness and subjectivity in the recruitment and selection process. The lack of standardised job requirements for most jobs, occupations, and trades resulted in inconsistent selection requirements. The open competition system remained relevant and enabled departments to recruit suitable candidates from a wider pool of talent. The open competition principle needed to be limited to entry level positions for all jobs, occupations and trades while being properly managed at middle and senior management.
The Ministry of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) directive on minimum entry requirements for the SMS level enhances uniformity of the recruitment and selection practices, career advancement and sustainable capacity. However, a weakness is that it recognises the number of years in a position and possession of higher qualifications levels to determine competence, but underplays the importance of acquired knowledge skills and experience linked to the inherent requirements of the job.
The second study conducted was on recruitment, retention, career pathing and utilisation of SMS members' expertise and skills in the public service. This study was conducted to determine the level of awareness and extent of the implementation of policies, and to explore the factors that influence the retention, career pathing and utilisation of SMS members' expertise and skills. Key findings indicated that there was a comprehensive framework and procedures to guide recruitment and selection of SMS members in the public service.
However, the existing frameworks had gaps, and its effectiveness was influenced and impacted by various factors and challenges during implementation. The human resource management (HRM) framework did not address critical issues related to SMS career pathing, utilisation of expertise and skills. This resulted in a loss of expertise, inconsistent practices, organisational instability and uneven performance. The open recruitment system could lead to employee dissatisfaction and poor employee and organisational performance. There was general support for contract appointments at the HOD level, but the method used to determine the suitability of candidates should be strengthened, and renewals should be subject to performance. The current method of appointing HODs, which makes provision for the involvement of executive authorities during the recruitment and selection process, was not supported. The recruitment and selection of HODs should be managed through a hybrid approach, with minimum involvement of political principals.
The third study conducted was on the impact of recruitment and selection on the functionality of selected national and provincial departments. This was to determine the level of awareness of recruitment and selection policies in departments, and the perceived levels of compliance, and also to establish and understand recruitment and selection practices that contribute to various HRM challenges, and how they impact on the functionality of selected departments.
Some employees were not aware of the recruitment and selection policies, and some departments did not provide a job analysis outline before a post was advertised. Sometimes posts were filled without being advertised. In some instances, inexperienced and under-qualified individuals were appointed due to non-compliance with recruitment and selection policies. The recruitment and selection process in the public service could easily be manipulated. The skills and competence of HR personnel was a major concern. Recruitment and selection contribute negatively towards employee performance and strained labour relations in Departments. The management of poor performance was weak.
The MPSA had issued directives on the implementation of competency-based assessments in the public service. Service providers had been appointed to administer the SMS competency assessment battery, which consisted of inter-related exercises based on the SMS competency framework. Since the implementation of the framework, the DPSA had produced two analytical reports at the end of the term for the appointed service providers. The report highlighted that financial management and people management competencies were generally weak. The transition between operational work and more strategic work seemed to be problematic, because not enough was done to encourage learning at a higher level of work from levels 12 to entry level 13. Individuals who were at level 12 needed to be capacitated to improve their competencies, as measured for entry into SMS level 13.
The 2016 directive on compulsory capacity development, mandatory training days and minimum entry requirements for SMS members, and the Nyukela programme, were introduced to address poor levels of performance. The purpose of the SMS pre-entry programne was to strengthen the recruitment process at the SMS level and to ensure that senior managers were competent in their job roles. There had been other studies that reflected on the public service SMS competency framework, which indicated weaknesses within the framework.
Ms Sedibe also reported on the monitoring of grievances and complaints in the recruitment and selection process, and complaints relating to appointments. An adequate comprehensive regulatory framework that addressed important principles regarding recruitment and selection processes had been put in place. However, the implementation of the existing frameworks required improvement. The limitations of the existing competency assessment framework for senior managers should be addressed.
The PSC would continue to monitor and evaluate important HRM practices to identify areas for improvement and to use the findings and recommendations as a basis to engage with the MPSA, the DPSA, executive authorities (EAs), HODs and other stakeholders.
NSG update on flagship programmes
Mr Busani Ngcaweni, Principal, NSG, said the NSG had to provide education, training, development and support to institutions. He provided an overview of the programmes, and said they must have impact. The effect of COVID-19 had opened the NSG to distance learning. This removed the barrier of place and time hindering learning and development. However, the NSG had retained face-to-face training, as the majority of public servants did not have data and devices, especially the frontline workers.
The public service reorientation programme (ROP) enables serving public servants to revive their understanding of the constitution and their mandate. The ROP provides an opportunity for participants to ignite their thinking, energise their approach to work, and reconnect with colleagues to innovate and problem solve with passion and commitment. Other flagship programmes include the "Know and Live our Constitution" training programme, the Nyukela pre-entry into senior management programme, the ethical leadership and executive oversight programme, the induction programme for boards of public entities, the executive education programme for SA government officials, and high level training for senior managers.
In December 2020, the MPSA had released the implementation framework towards the professionalisation of the public service for public comments. Cabinet had approved the publication of the draft framework in November, and the NSG was leading the projects on behalf of the MPSA. Key stakeholders had been consulted, and a two-week public consultation process had started on 15 February 2021. The report further elaborates on delivery modalities, the distribution per delivery mode per functional area, local higher education partners, leadership development in local government, functional and specialist training, and provides a summary of participants per department on gender mainstreaming programmes.
Ms Kibi asked about the intake of participants into budgeting and gender mainstreaming programmes. She also asked if the economic governance Spring school was compulsory for members? The lack of standardised job requirements for most jobs resulted in inconsistencies. Why was this the case, if regulations, norms, and standards were in place? Did the situation on open competition mean that middle and senior manager posts were advertised internally only?
Mr McGluwa said the Committee had had to listen to more than 63 slides from presentations, of which 37 were from the PSC. The late submission of reports was unacceptable. The PSC had been labeled a “toothless dog”, but Parliament had given more powers to it. The appointment of candidates without the relevant qualifications was unacceptable. The PSC played a major role in the oversight of public administration, and there should be no political involvement in any appointments.
What had happened with the HOD in the North West, as the case was currently with the Public Protector? It was time the PSC stepped up with the important values and principles. The report did not reflect any progress on cases of recruitment and selection, or how issues were addressed. He sought clarity on the delegation of powers and the open competition system. The PSC must submit reports on outstanding investigations, as there were cases of the military veterans with the Public Protector.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said candidates must be skilled and able to perform the jobs. How was it possible that candidates could have firsthand information on what was to be discussed during interviews? Candidates complained that they performed well during the interview, and heard they were the best candidate. How did this happen, and how were these situations being dealt with? She commended the Nyukela programme. She asked if the NSG had professional development programmes, and said the executive oversight and performance management courses should be strengthened.
Ms Sedibe said some complaints received involved gossip, when candidates say they “heard they were number one, but were not appointed." Investigations indicate that some information came from the HR sections, especially when it was internal posts. Information was leaked at times, and recommendations had been made to deal with these officials. HR officials were also targeted by senior staff members, but disciplinary action did follow. It was prohibited for HR officials to leak information, and this was dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It important to utilise diverse instruments during the recruitment and selection process, and not only depend on the outcomes of competency assessments.
A department with the huge number of complaints and cases was the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), with ongoing cases and staff that resign during the disciplinary process. Majority of complaints do not have validity; these had been dealt with, and feedback given. Appointments should never take place without the relevant qualifications, but the way posts are advertised should be looked at so as not to discriminate. Over time, the names of courses and qualifications change, and it was about how qualifications were stated in the advertisements.
The open competition system should be for entry levels posts, and restricted for middle management and senior management posts. It was not fair to advertise an entry level position and not open it up to anyone to apply. Middle management and senior management posts must be managed to ensure promotion and career mobility. The lack of standardised job requirements was a challenge, especially with specific technical posts. Generic job requirements were not always possible, as some posts required responses to different departments and their environments.
Adv Dinkie Dube, Director-General (DG), PSC, said the legislative review would attend to the question of the effectiveness of the PSC, particularly when recommendations were not implemented. The PSC hoped to get support to ensure recommendations were enforced. One could not just point fingers at the PSC and say it was a “toothless dog,” as this was the result of the way in which the organisation was currently structured. One should identify the gaps and make useful recommendations to ensure the PSC was able to enforce recommendations. There was an overlap of services, and public servants were free to choose their approach. There was referral protocol in place, whether it was through the PSC or the Public Protector.
She apologised for the late submission of the report.
Commissioner Gxoyiya said he agreed with Adv Dube on the comments regarding the effectiveness of the PSC. In terms of the Constitution and the Public Service Commission Act, the recommendations were not enforceable. There were instances when the PSC did not receive feedback on recommendations made, and this would be reflected in the reports submitted to Parliament. The PSC was of the view that the process of standardisation job requirements still had a long way to go in underpinning the professionalisation of the public service.
Mr Ngcaweni showed a slide on the participants of different departments per gender in the gender mainstreaming programmes. The economic governance programme was not compulsory. There were interventions with professional programmes, which was part of the professionalisation of the public sector. Professionals had to take advantage of the professional development programmes. The NSG would attend to strengthening and emphasising the executive courses on oversight and performance management.
The meeting was adjourned.
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