(Subcommittee) Public Service Commission Vacancies: shortlisting of candidates

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

25 January 2022
Chairperson: Mr T James (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

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Draft Criteria for shortlisting candidates for PSC (Confidential document)

The Subcommittee briefed by the Parliament Support Staff on the draft criteria for shortlisting candidates. The Committee had received 146 nominations and applications to serve on the Public Service Commission (PSC). The Committee was guided by Section 196(10) of the Constitution that required a fit and proper candidate to be appointed as a PSC Commissioner. The Committee had to ensure transparency and fairness throughout the entire process. It was critical that the Committee conduct credential verification of shortlisted candidates to ensure that all information supplied was correct and their appointment would not cause any conflict of interest.  The Support Staff would draft structured interview questions, come up with a topic for the candidates to present and memorandum on the questions to enable Members to conduct fair interviews. It was also critically important for the Subcommittee to consider gender representation and persons living with disabilities from the pool of applicants when shortlisting.

The Subcommittee adopted the draft criteria and agreed to shortlist 15 candidates. The Members nominated a number of candidates and the top 16 were selected to be shortlisted. A Democratic Alliance member raised concerns about some of the shortlisted candidates and proposed that Members be given an opportunity to flag particular people who had been shortlisted as there were people nominated who were working for political parties. There were also nominated candidates implicated in State Capture in front of the Zondo Commission. The Chairperson did not want to discuss that matter. The State Capture Inquiry had been completed and there were indications as to how that report was going to be handled. The Committee should allow those processes to take its course. The Committee agreed that the 16 individuals should be vetted by the State Security Agency before interview to ensure they pass that security check. The Committee would use the interviews to find the best candidate. It would be unfair to pass judgement on people before they stated their own side of the story. The Chairperson noted that this Subcommittee was not mandated to pass criminal judgements. The DA objected to the decision made by the Subcommittee.

Meeting report

The Chairperson explained the purpose of the meeting was to go through the list of applicants and shortlist those for interview. The Committee needed to agree on candidates who met the criteria. He requested Members switch on their video cameras when they spoke as the meeting was being broadcast live. The Chairperson requested that before the Committee selected the interviewees that the support staff guide the Committee on how it was to do its work today.

Criteria for shortlisting PSC candidates
Mr Julius Ngoepe, Committee Content Advisor, took the Committee through the draft criteria for shortlisting candidates to contest for the Commissioner posts at the PSC. The Committee had received 146 applicants who responded to the advert to serve as the Commissioner of the Public Service Commission. The Committee was guided by Section 196(10) of the Constitution about a fit and proper candidate to be appointed as a PSC Commissioner. The Committee could still develop criteria to justify, during the shortlisting process, how a candidate deemed to be fit and proper would be identified for shortlisting. The Committee had to ensure transparency and fairness throughout the entire process. It was critical and recommended that the Committee conduct credential verification of shortlisted candidates to ensure that all information supplied was correct and their appointment would not cause any conflict of interest.  The Parliament Support Staff would draft structured interview questions, come up with a topic for the candidates to present and memorandum on the questions revolving around the mandate for the PSC to enable Members to conduct fair interviews.

Criteria as per the mandate of the Public Service Commission Act
A shortlisted candidate needed to be knowledgeable and skilled about the government system as the post required a candidate to conduct oversight responsibility for the public service. The Subcommittee was reminded that the ‘Public Service Commission is a custodian of good governance’. A shortlisted candidate should have appropriate experience at executive or senior management level in either the public or private sector. A shortlisted candidate should demonstrate high levels of integrity and have experience in key performance areas in line with the Commission’s mandate. The candidate could have acquired these capabilities and experience in their previous employment.

It was important for the Subcommittee to consider gender representation and persons living with disabilities from a pool of applicants when shortlisting. The Subcommittee was requested to consider the previous and current Commission organogram as a baseline to guide their shortlisting to ensure fair gender representation and representation of persons living with disabilities.

Discussion
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) said that the criteria presented were in order. She moved for adoption.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) seconded the proposal that the criteria should be adopted.

The Chairperson said that Members now had to deal with the actual shortlisting. All would have an opportunity to indicate their preferred candidates for shortlisting.

Dr L Schreiber (DA) said that as Members proposed individuals for shortlisting that they motivate, very briefly, each of the candidates. It was important to show that Members had applied their minds and why these candidates were being put forward in terms of the criteria. It was important that a short motivation be put on record.

The Chairperson asked what the thoughts were on what Dr Schreiber had raised.

Ms Mgweba noted what Dr Schreiber said about motivating each candidate. Her understanding was that there was a list of these candidates with all their qualifications. There was also a column that detailed the requirements posted in the advert. She did not know why then Members needed to motivate. The document sent to Members detailed the requirements, experience and knowledge of the candidates. The Committee staff had sent Members all of the CVs. She did not know why Members needed to motivate because the CVs discussed each candidate.

The Chairperson said that as the Committee would make the final choice it would consider everything. No candidate would pass through without the Committee analysing and assessing each and every candidate. He told Dr Schreiber that the Committee should not be too rigid at the beginning of the process. The Committee should agree on who qualifies for shortlisting. Then having shortlisted the agreed number, the Committee could apply everything as it interviewed the candidates. He asked Dr Schreiber if he was persuaded by that proposal?  

Dr Schreiber said that he wanted clarity. Members also needed to apply themselves when it came to the shortlisting. The interview procedure was one where the Committee had to demonstrate that the candidates met the criteria it had adopted. The same thing applied to when the Committee did the shortlisting. The Committee would be filtering the candidates now as some candidates would be shortlisted and other candidates would not be shortlisted. The Committee needed to demonstrate the rationality it applied when shortlisting. There should be a discussion towards the end of the meeting on the merits of candidates. He requested that Members did not just put forward a certain number of candidates and leave the discussion there because then the Committee would have not demonstrated on what basis it was shortlisting. The Committee had to put forward, for the record, the basis on which it was shortlisting each candidate. The Committee could not just say that the candidates were shortlisted because it decided so. The Committee needed to show the rationality it applied in shortlisting – and not only in the interviews.

Ms R Komane (EFF) said that what Dr Schreiber was asking for was fair. However, she agreed with the Chairperson that it should not be very rigid. Where a Member felt very strongly about a certain candidate who had lower qualifications then that Member needed to make a thorough and robust argument supporting that candidate. It should not be the case that every Member, when selecting a candidate, provide reasoning for selecting that person. She agreed with the Chairperson that at the end of the selection process the Committee would have to discuss how it would go forward.

Ms V Malomane (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson that at the end, once a pool of candidates was selected, the Committee would agree on a final list. For now, Members could just put forward names. Firstly, the Committee needed to agree on how many candidates it would shortlist. The guidelines say that the Committee needs to set a criterion on how many it would shortlist. The Committee could shortlist 15, 10 or 12. The Committee could then see how many names it put forward.

The Chairperson said that Ms Malomane was correct. The Committee had to do that.

Mr Ngoepe requested that Members stick to candidate numbers for now then later when the Committee discussed, it could state candidate names. On the list currently there were numbers. Members should put forward and identify candidates by their number on the list. If a particular number was raised several times then that would be noted. The Committee needed to decide on the number of candidates it would shortlist. Members should indicate their preferred candidates by using the numbers on the list. That would be easier for the Committee staff to note. The Committee should not name the candidates for now.

The Chairperson asked Mr Ngoepe if the Committee should agree on how many candidates it should shortlist?

Mr Ngoepe said that would be best and if there was a need to increase the number of shortlisted candidates it was for Members to decide.

The Chairperson suggested that the Committee not have a long list of shortlisted candidates and suggested between 10 to 15.

Ms Komane suggested that the Committee stick to 15. On the previous advertisement, the Committee had 20. She requested that the Committee keep it to a maximum of 15 shortlisted candidates.

Ms Kibi said that the Committee could put forward names. Thereafter, the Committee could look at the names that were nominated the most. Based on that the Committee could agree on the shortlist. She did not disagree with Ms Komane on 15 in total. The Committee should first put forward names and then from the names identified, the Committee could look into getting to the 15. She asked if she was making herself clear.

The Chairperson said that she was clear.  

Mr C Sibisi (NFP) said the number 15 was fine. He seconded the proposal.

The Chairperson did not think there was a Member who would say no to that proposal. He asked Members to indicate their preferences from the list of candidates.

Mr Mlungisi Biyela, Committee Researcher, asked if the 15 shortlisted candidates would come from each Member or was there a minimum or maximum number a Member could suggest.

The Chairperson said that the number 15 was the total candidates that would be shortlisted for the interview. It would not be each Member submitting 15 names. That was his understanding.

Mr Biyela said he understood. His suggestion was that each Member put forward five names. If it was open like this then some might give more, and some may give fewer than others.

Ms Mgweba thought that the Committee would take the route proposed by Ms Kibi. Members should put forward names. She heard Mr Biyela’s proposal that Members should put forward five names. After Members had put forward names then it would go the route proposed by Dr Schreiber of motivating for each and every candidate. Then Members would stream the list down to 15 according to the common names put forward by Members.  

Ms Komane clarified what Members had agreed to which was seconded by Ms Kibi. It was not necessary for the Committee to say how many individuals a Member may put forward. The staff should help Members identify the most named individuals and come up with the top 15 candidates. The top 15 would then be the ones who were interviewed. She provided an example that she might suggest one name and Ms Malomane might suggest seven names. All those names should be put into a basket. The top 15 would then be the ones who went for interviews.

Ms Malomane said that she was covered by what Ms Komane had said. Members should just put forward names and then at the end the staff would calculate the 15 individuals nominated the most.

Mr Ngoepe said that Ms Komane and Ms Malomane had touched on what he wanted to say. Each and every Member would nominate no matter the number. At a later stage the support staff would inform the Committee of the numbers that were nominated the most. Those numbers would be put into the shortlist. The Committee would then motivate per candidate as suggested by Ms Mgweba. The Committee should conduct the shortlisting in that way because it was easier and would help.

Shortlisting of candidates
The Chairperson said that Members were now allowed to put names forward. He suggested applicant 11 and 40.

Ms Kibi suggested number 16, 61, 73 and 83.

Ms Malomane suggested number 11, 83, 105, 61, 73, 88, 145, 134 and 116.  

Mr Sibisi suggested number 136, 92, 98, 89, 101, 56 and 11.

The Chairperson said that the Committee Secretariat was making a note of the numbers.

Dr Schreiber suggested number 136, 115, 52, 94 and 104.

Ms Mgweba suggested number 94, 116, 88, 11, 40 and 61.

Ms Komane suggested number 44, 50, 56, 11, 48 and 52.

Ms Kibi said that she only put forward some of the numbers she wanted to nominate but not all of them. She suggested number 11, 16, 40, 61, 73, 83, 86, 88, 94, 105, 116, 111, 127, 134 and 145.  

Ms Mgweba suggested number 94, 116, 88, 11, 40, 61, 83, 105, 127, 73, 111, 145 and 134.

The Chairperson asked the Secretariat if all the numbers had been captured.

The Secretary replied that all the numbers were captured. He requested that the Secretariat be given time to reconcile the numbers and then provide the results.

The Committee agreed to give the Secretariat time to compile the numbers.

The Committee Secretariat reported how many times a particular candidate number had been nominated. Number 11 was nominated six times. There were nine candidate numbers that were nominated thrice: 40; 73; 83; 88; 94; 105; 116; 134; 145. There were six candidate numbers that were nominated twice: 61; 111; 127; 136; 56; 52. That came to 16 candidates. There were 16 candidates that were nominated by at least two or more Members.

Discussion
Ms Komane suggested that the Committee take the list of 16 candidates as they were. It did not make a big difference. It was only one extra. She suggested that the Committee take all 16 and put it in the pool of candidates to be interviewed. That would make sense.

Dr Schreiber said that the Committee should not just jump forward with the process. He had serious concerns about some of the people that were nominated. Members needed to discuss the merits of the candidates. He wanted to briefly go through some of those concerns with the Committee. He asked the Chairperson if he wanted to have that discussion now. He had serious concerns that he wanted to put on record. He requested that he be given that opportunity.

The Chairperson said not now. The Committee should first decide on a way forward.

Dr Schreiber said that his proposal on the way forward was that Members be given an opportunity to flag particular people who had been shortlisted. There were people nominated who were implicated in State Capture in front of the Zondo Commission. The Committee needed to apply its mind to that fact.

The Chairperson said that he did not want to discuss that matter as other Members might have different views on that. The State Capture inquiry was done and there were indications as to how that report was to be handled. The Committee should allow those processes to take its course. He noted that in law there was a golden rule of ‘audi alteram partem’. That rule said that it did not matter how an accused person may seem guilty, but that person had a right to be heard and had a right to be represented. That person had a right to challenge whatever was put against him or her. If the Committee stuck to that rule it would never go wrong.

Dr Schreiber said that he was asking for a brief opportunity to put on the record his concerns with some of the candidates. If the Chairperson proceeded by ignoring his inputs then that was fine. That could be a decision of the Committee. He wanted to flag with the Committee certain issues. Candidate 40 was implicated before the State Capture Commission.

The Chairperson stopped Dr Schreiber. He reminded Dr Schreiber that once the Committee agreed that these were the candidates to be shortlisted that before they go for interviews their names would be sent to the State Security Agency to cross check. The Committee should not flag people criminally before the State Security Agency did that. That was his opinion.

Dr Schreiber said that he wanted to be given the opportunity to state his concerns. It dealt with certain elements of the criteria, for example, experience in public service. There were other elements of the criteria that he wanted to put on the record. He agreed with the Chairperson that the individuals would be vetted. He wanted to put his concerns on the table so that the Committee was informed that candidate 40 was someone who had to resign from the State Capture Commission because certain allegations were made.

The Chairperson told Dr Schreiber to wait. The Committee needed to do the shortlisting professionally. The Committee needed to submit all the names that it had agreed on to be vetted. The vetting was the fairest process.

Dr Schreiber responded that there were candidates who were working for political parties. There were three candidates who had indicated employment at political parties.

The Chairperson said that he would not agree with Dr Schreiber. He wanted to put his views up front. He did not agree with what Dr Schreiber had raised. The Chairperson noted that he had ruled against what Dr Schreiber had raised.

Ms Kibi requested that for the way forward the staff take the Committee through the CVs of each and every candidate that had been identified or shortlisted. That way the Committee would know who the people were and what was on their CV.

Ms Malomane said that the 16 individuals should be vetted before they became the candidates of the interviews. After that the Committee could decide on how many it would interview. She supported the list of 16 and that the Committee was taking all of them. She noted that as Members were shortlisting the candidates they had gone through their qualifications according to the requirements. If six members had nominated number 11 it showed that all Members were in agreement with that individual. She noted that the Committee was not here for the issue of State Capture. The Committee was here for shortlisting the applicants. The Committee should follow procedure.

Mr Sibisi said that when Members were sent CVs the purpose was to go through them and thoroughly check who deserved to be shortlisted. Members had put forward the numbers they preferred to be interviewed. He disagreed with the support staff going back and analysing each and every CV. Did Members doubt themselves? He believed that the process was fair. The Committee had been able to identify common numbers coming from different areas. Going through the CVs again would be a waste of the Committee’s precious time.

Ms Mgweba supported the Chairperson’s statement on the issue raised by Dr Schreiber. The Committee needed to agree that it was taking the 16 names for a security check. If all the 16 individuals were cleared then it should be noted by this Committee that those 16 applicants be taken for interviews. The Committee should allow the support staff to present the numbers of the 16 applicants. If Members felt that they should interrogate the CVs then the Committee should do that. The Committee should not discuss further security check matters and especially the issue Dr Schreiber raised about State Capture. The only process that would help the Committee in scrutinising individual candidates was the security check. The Committee should just look at the 16 CVs in terms of the Committee’s requirements. The requirements were clear that the Committee was looking for candidates that were knowledgeable with skills and experience in the public service. Other than that it was not part of the Committee’s responsibility because the Committee could not deal with State Capture issues here. The Committee needed to look at its requirements in terms of the process. She supported Members who proposed taking the 16 names as they were, scrutinise them and take them for interviews.

Ms Komane said that Members were sent CVs of all the applicants by email and Members were given hard copies. Members then had to extensively look at those CVs. Members then selected candidates it thought should make it to the interviews. There was no need for the Committee to go through all the CVs. What did Members want to achieve by going through the CVs? There was nothing the Committee was going to achieve by doing that. If that issue was to arise it should have arisen earlier. The Committee needed to be fair. It was not within the Committee’s constraints to say who was involved in State Capture or not. The Committee should take all 16 names as agreed today in the meeting. The Committee agreed it would shortlist those individuals who were nominated most. The Committee initially agreed to 15 but then it saw that there were 16 and it would be difficult to eliminate one. The Committee said it would take the 16. It was neither here nor there for the Committee now to go into the CVs. All 16 names should be taken for security scrutiny. Then the Committee should take them for interviews.

Dr Schreiber said to answer the question what the purpose of scrutinising the CVs and the candidates was, it was to be transparent about the basis on which the Committee was recommending these candidates. This meeting was being broadcast to the public and the public deserved to know why it was these 16 candidates that had been selected even though some of them clearly did not fill the criteria that the Committee adopted at the beginning of the meeting. It was in the interest of transparency for this Committee to interrogate each of the 16 people and have Members say why they recommended a specific person. The Committee then needed to have a discussion as to whether that was a fit and proper person that the Constitution demanded. It was in that context that he brought up certain issues, people being members of political parties, certain testimonies, and certain people who lacked experience and qualification. Those were things the Committee needed to interrogate before it shortlisted candidates because the Committee might be excluding people who were better qualified and actually shortlist people who should not go through. The people of South Africa, who would be following the work of this Committee, deserved to know what the Committee’s thought process was when it said that a particular person should be shortlisted above another person. This was especially the case when there were people who were members of political parties and did not have the requisite qualifications. Members needed to justify the nominations and be transparent.

Mr Sibisi said Dr Schreiber might be correct but the problem the Committee had was that it had already identified the names. It would be unfair and unprocedural to now scrutinise each and every one. The Committee was supposed to do that prior to putting forward the names. The Committee had the names of the candidates and identified them so the Committee could not now label and shame the individuals. The Committee was supposed to scrutinise before the process. He accepted what Dr Schreiber had said about the criteria, but the damage had already been done.

The Chairperson said that he did not want the meeting to derail or degenerate. He agreed with those Members who said that the Committee should take all of the 16 names for a security check. If there was any applicant who would not pass through the eye of the needle such an applicant would not be invited for an interview. The interview was another mechanism to sift the best out of all those who had applied. The Committee would use the interviews to find the best candidate. That was how he wanted to sum up this meeting. It would be unfair to pass judgement on people before they stated their own side of the story. He agreed with all Members who were in favour of taking the 16 individuals for a security check. If all 16 passed through that security check then the Committee would interview them. The Committee would then use the interviews to see who the best was out of the 16.  

Dr Schreiber said that he would like to formally record his objection. The Chairperson was incorrect to say that the Committee was not there to pass judgement. That was exactly the Committee’s job. The Committee had just passed judgement on every person who had not been shortlisted. The Committee had also passed judgement on the 16 people who had been identified. He believed Members had to justify and explain why they chose a specific candidate.

The Chairperson said that Dr Schreiber was misquoting him. He meant that the Committee should not pass criminal judgements on people.

Dr Schreiber responded that the Committee had to judge whether individuals were fit and proper.

The Chairperson said that the Committee was not qualified to pass criminal judgements. It was only the State Security Agency who could do that.

Dr Schreiber responded that judging the candidates went far wider than that. He understood that the Chairperson was not going to allow the Committee to have this discussion. He said he would be putting some of the extracts on the chat group. These were the things extremely concerning in some of the CVs that had been shortlisted. He wanted the Chairperson to note his objection.

The Chairperson said that Dr Schreiber’s objection would be noted but that he should also learn to go with the majority.

Dr Schreiber responded that that was not what democracy was about. Democracy was about everyone having a voice, not going with the majority.

The Chairperson said that at the end democracy was about the majority will rule.

Dr Schreiber said that he disagreed. In a constitutional democracy the constitution ruled and each individual had freedom of speech. Each Member of the Committee had to apply their minds and be transparent. It was not about majority rules. That was not democracy.

The Chairperson said that the Committee noted what he was saying but unfortunately as the Subcommittee they did not agree with his view. Dr Schreiber needed to accept that because that was also a tenet of democracy.

The Chairperson thanked all Members for their contributions. He welcomed back Members to Parliament and wished them well for the new year. The Committee Secretariat would compile the list and send it for a security check.

Ms Mgweba said that before the meeting closed the support staff could give the names of the candidates shortlisted for record purposes.

The Chairperson said that he agreed with Ms Mgweba. The Chairperson handed over to the Secretariat to provide that information.

The Committee Secretariat said that he would go through the names. Members had the list in front of them as well.

Ms Kibi said she was not sure whether the Committee should allow the staff to take the Committee through the names in this meeting. The applicants would be notified by the office later on. The staff could send the names to Members at a later stage because the meeting was being broadcast live and everyone would know who were in the 16 before the actual applicants would know if they were shortlisted or not.

The Chairperson said that Ms Kibi was right. The Committee should follow Ms Kibi’s proposal.

The Committee Secretary said that before the end of business today he would communicate with all of the candidates. After that he would formulate a list that he would send to the media and to Nembers. Tomorrow’s meeting at 09h30 would be about the renewal of the contract of the Commissioner, Dr Luthuli. He would send the agenda and the meeting link to Members later today.

The meeting was adjourned.

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