DPSA, PSC, NSG, CPSI 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan; with Minister

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Meeting Summary

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Public Service and Admin                                                                                             

Centre for public service innovation
National school of government
Public Service Commission

In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee heard presentations by representatives of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the National School of Governance (NSG), the Centre for Public Service and Innovation (CPSI), and the Public Service Commission (PSC) on their annual performance and strategic plans.

The Department was questioned on the upcoming bills to be tabled to Parliament, with Committee Members asking if it was not too late to table them by the fourth quarter, and what the rationale behind that decision had been. They sought assurance on the effectiveness of the Department's competency assessment framework, and wanted to know why the implementation of lifestyle audits was proceeding at a snail's pace.

The NSG was questioned on the quality of its courses, and although it reported that the number of learners had exceeded its targets, the impact was called into question as some learners felt they could not use what they had learned in their work environment. An update on its funding model was requested, because the Committee believed it should develop its own sustainable funding method. It was advised to engage with the National Treasury on that matter. Because of government departments' history of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, Members asked whether training senior management in the public service on consequence management would not be a good idea.

The CPSI was asked if it derived value for money from knowledge platforms like innovation and design thinking workshops. It was also asked if its pilot Online Thusong Centre project in the Northern Cape targeted deep rural areas, where people had to travel long distances to access public services. 

The PSC’s budget and expenditure was described as an anomaly by a Member, as 75% was for employee compensation and 25% was left for the rest. This raised the question as to whether the remaining 25% would be enough for the Commission to carry out its other mandated functions. A question that had been raised before resurfaced -- did the nine forums that it intended to conduct target people in rural areas on a broad scale? These forums had to engage from the top to the bottom of the population so that any ordinary citizen on the street knew what the public service was and what its mandate was, so that they could make use of it.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and reminded the Committee that Minister Dlodlo had been deployed internationally and was no longer the Minister of Public Service and Administration and the President had appointed Minister Nxesi as the Acting Minister. He welcomed Minister Nxesi to the meeting, and invited him to make opening remarks on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) presentation. At the end of the meeting, he would allow the acting Chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC) to give his opening remarks before its presentation.

Minister’s remarks
  

The Minister said he did not have much to say except to indicate that as Acting Minister he was holding the fort, but he was responsible and accountable in the acting period. He was acting until further notice. He had been trying to acquaint himself with the various issues in the public service and the work done by the various entities. He had received the necessary briefing on urgent issues, and where he had to intervene. It was good for Parliament and Portfolio Committee’s in particular, to hold the DPSA accountable. It took the issue of coming to the Committee very seriously. The issues raised were about corrective measures, rather than punitive ones, and no matter how painful, it had to address them.

He thought it was a challenge to say that the public service required qualified public servants with relevant skills and competencies for the jobs they had been employed to do. They should have an ethical disposition. In his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President had been clear when he reaffirmed that government should work for the people. This was the biggest challenge facing the DPSA. With all the entities under it, the priority in its administration was to build a capable, ethical, and developmental state. This spoke to the challenges of the various institutions, PSC, the National School of Government (NSG), and the Department itself.

Now that it was faced with these difficult economic times, Members would remember as the debate continued that before the pandemic, the economy was going down. South Africa was almost at the recession level. The gross domestic product (GDP) had decreased by 7% when the pandemic arrived, losing almost two million jobs in a year. While trying to recover, there had been riots in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Gauteng where many jobs were lost because workplaces were destroyed, and now it was trying to recover again because of the recent floods in KZN. This demanded more of the public servants in the processes of rebuilding. It meant a lot, but it could not be done if it was found wanting in various areas, and did not have a proper public service that was professional in instituting its task.

One of the most challenging issues that had to be discussed was productivity in the public service, given what it spent in the public service. Did it have the right work ethic? The right commitments? If it demanded everybody to be school nurses and be in hospitals, correctional services or police, he asked what was difficult for them as civil servants to also be at work. These were the issues that needed to be discussed. He would leave it there, and whenever there were questions from the various presentations, he would be able to weigh in and work with his colleagues in responding to them.

He noted that most of the Committee’s meetings were scheduled for Wednesdays, and that was a big challenge because the President had told the Cabinet it was a Cabinet day. However, the Deputy Minister and Director-General would always be in attendance.

The Chairperson said it grappled with that challenge because it was aware that Wednesdays were for Cabinet meetings, and the Deputy Minister had always been available to the Portfolio Committee, so there would not be a problem, given that someone responsible from the Department joined the meetings.

He said the last presentation would be from the PSC, because it was an independent entity.

DPSA's Annual Performance Plan
 

The DPSA presented its strategic overview comprising its vision, values and mission, and its strategic plan outcomes. These were:

Improved implementation of Batho Pele;
Complete implementation of the Public Administration Management Act;
A stabilised public service;
Fight against corruption intensified;
Improved implementation of administrative policies.

In 2019, the Department undertook an organisational review process, which sought to ensure the full alignment of the structure to the mandate of the Department in line with the Constitution, the Public Service Act and the Public Administration Management Act.The revised organisational structure, which was approved by the Minister in October 2020, had introduced new functions and re-aligned functions to remove duplications and functional splits as a result the programmes/branches having been reduced from six to five. The revised structure had also operationalised the Office of Standards and Compliance (OSC) and the Public Administration Ethics, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (TAU). The 2020-2025 strategic plan had been revised to reflect these changes to the DPSA’s  programme structure.

The annual performance plan had four programmes -- administration; human resource management and development; negotiations, labour relations and remuneration management; and e-government service and information management.

(See attached DPSA document for details).


NSG's Annual Performance Plan

The National School of Governance (NSG) said its plan was based on the priorities of the Sixth Administration of delivering a capable, ethical and developmental state. Its mandate was to foster collaboration, support institutional development, provide individual education and training, conduct training, examinations, or tests for those involved in the three spheres of government, the legislative sector and organs of state, and to offer qualifications.

It reported that in the first year of implementing its strategy (2020/21), 43 411 learners were trained against an annual projected target of 26 040 (166% achievement), and revenue of R27.8 million was generated. In the second year (2021/22), 44 498 learners were trained against an annual projected target of 38 270 (116% achievement).

The NSG had a total of 229 posts in its organisational structure, of which 204 posts filled and 25 were vacant, resulting in a vacancy rate of 10.9%. Of the 25 vacant posts, six were at the senior management service (SMS) level, whilst 19 were non-SMS posts. The vacant posts were due to the repositioning of the NSG and the budget ceiling on the compensation of employees (COE).

(See attached NSG document for details of courses and budgets).


CPSI's Annual Performance Plan

The Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) said its mission was to entrench an innovative culture and practice in the public sector. Programme 1 (Administration) aimed to provide strategic leadership, overall management of and support to the organisation, while Programme 2 (Public Sector Innovation) was focused on driving service delivery innovation in the public sector in line with government priorities.

Its five-year strategy for the period 2020 to 2025 was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the public service and its service delivery to the public through innovation. The achievement of this outcome would ensure, amongst others, accountability for the efficient, effective, and economic use of allocated resources towards fulfilling the mandate of the organisation.

Its development initiatives included in-house electronic solutions (2020/21); establishment of the Northern Cape Online Thusong Centre (2021-23); and support for Gauteng Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to improve the efficiency of their planned patient transfer through the use of mobile technology.

(See attached CPSI document for details)


PSC's Annual Performance Plan
 

The Public Service Commission (PSC) said that to remain on track in contributing towards the achievement of the MTSF priority of “a capable, ethical and developmental state,” it had realigned some of its five-year strategic targets for the remainder of the MTSF period. This was because of the need to ensure that there was alignment between the strategic plan, the APP, and the available budgetary resources.

The South African population was estimated to have grown to over 60 million, and the continuous growth in population would result in a greater demand for government services and resources. The work of the public service would undoubtedly be impacted by both population growth and migration patterns, and such pressure would necessitate a capable public service that was more agile, adaptive, professional and development oriented. The PSC would continue to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to implement various programmes with the purpose of building an ethical and professional public service that could respond to the needs of the growing population and continually changing environment, and provide service with the highest degree of integrity. Now more than ever, the PSC was being called upon to address the myriad of critical issues exposed or exacerbated by COVID-19.

(See attached PSC document for details).


Discussion

Ms M Kibi (ANC) asked if the development of an NSG qualification meant that the school would be commencing with awarding certificates or degrees on its own, without collaborating with other tertiary institutions. If the current vacancy rate was because of the budget ceiling on employee compensation, how would the school fill the vacancies it presently had? Did the school derive value for money by hosting thought leadership platforms or seminars? If so, what was the value? 

She asked the Department if it was not too late to table the upcoming bills in Parliament by the fourth quarter of 2022/23 to ensure they were operational by the end of 2023. What was the rationale behind this decision? What challenges had led to the need to revise the human resource management and development strategy? Was a buy-in sought with organised labour, and what had been their response? What would happen to employees who occupied positions where they failed the job competency framework? Would the guidelines on lifestyle audits be watertight and thorough in identifying employees living above their pay structure, so as not to embarrass employees who, for example, might have benefited from a financial or property inheritance?

She asked if the CPSI derived value for money from knowledge platforms like the annual Public Sector Innovation Conference, webinars, and innovation and design thinking workshops. After the successful introduction of a prototype service monitoring system in the Northern Cape, would this innovation target deep rural areas where people travelled long distances to access public services?

Ms S Maneli (ANC) asked if the information communications technology (ICT) business solutions enabling the implementation of NSG operations making the entity comfortable with the digitisation of learning platforms, if they would be the only ones available to execute the school’s mandate. She asked what its brand and marketing strategy entailed.

Had the research study on the state of public service delivery focused on identified departments or the entire public service? Had one year been enough to conduct such a massive study?
 
Dr M Gondwe (DA) said she was encouraged to see in the NSG's mission that it was empowering public servants to be responsive to citizen's needs and government priorities. She wondered if it contemplated coming up with a course that would specifically attempt to capacitate and empower public servants when it came to disaster management. There had been floods in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), with catastrophic consequences for those who were affected, some of whom were still trying to rebuild their lives. She wondered if the NSG had considered coming up with a course that would specifically speak to disaster management. The reality was that climate change was upon them, and the government needed to gear up so the needs that came with its impact would be met.

It was indicated in its presentation that it had trained 43 411 learners against an annual projected target of 26 040, which denoted a 166% achievement. It also trained 44 498 learners the following year against an annual projected target of 38 270, which denoted a 116% achievement. A better indicator would not be how many people had enrolled for their courses, although this was important, but the impact of those courses on the public service, and how it would gauge whether the courses it offered had a significant impact on the face of the public service. Her concern was that the courses offered were not really being seen to have an impact on the ground and changing the state of the public service and its public servants.

She requested an update on what was happening with the funding model of the NSG, because the Committee had always felt that it needed to develop its own sustainable funding model. It had to engage Treasury on that issue, and asked for an update on the latest status.

With the training of senior management in the public service, she wondered if it would not be important for the NSG to consider training them to be able to deal specifically with consequence management, because the worry was that not a lot of consequence management was seen in the public service. There had been fruitless and wasteful expenditure, public servants were receiving grants and there had been no consequences for such misdemeanors. She wondered what the NSG thought its role was in helping address the lack of consequence management.

Under the discussion of the budget and expenditure estimates for the 2022/23 financial year, the PSC had indicated in its presentation that 75% of the allocated budget went towards employee compensation. This effectively meant the remaining 25% was left for other things. This presented somewhat of an anomaly, acknowledging that it was primarily a knowledge-based institution and did not outsource its functions, so it made sense for it to spend the majority of its budget on employee compensation. However, was the remaining 25% enough for it to be able to carry out the other functions of its mandate?

It had also indicated under programme three that it intended to conduct nine citizens' forums. She asked if these forums could effectively target people in rural areas on a broad scale. She had asked this question before, as the concern then was whether people knew what the public service was, what it did, and if they could utilise it. The citizens' forums had to be far reaching and drill down right to the bottom so that the ordinary person knew what public service was and what its mandate was and could make use of it.

The PSC intended to produce four articles on the promotion of professional ethics in the 2022/23 financial year. Who was the audience for those articles? The concern was that sometimes when these articles were spoken about, it sounded high level, and a pattern in public service had been identified that sometimes these misdemeanors were carried out by lower-level employees and not necessarily those in senior management. Her concern was that sometimes when there were articles that aimed to entrench a culture of professional ethics in public service, did the way they were written and the audience they aimed to reach include all public servants? How did the PSC ensure that communication filtered down to low-level employees, not including just senior management, but drivers and others, so that everybody was on the same page when it came to the issues of professionalism and ethics within the public service?

She said the pace at which the DPSA’s lifestyle audits were being rolled out was concerning. The process was moving at a snail’s pace, and the worry was that there was no uniformity with its implementation. The last time it reported, it had indicated that the Western Cape was probably the only province that had moved out of the implementations stage to trying to deal with some of the outcomes of these lifestyle audits. Why were there no timeframes given to departments when they had to make sure the lifestyle audits were concluded? Could the timeframes not be phrased in a similar manner to the financial disclosure framework? This framework required that reports were completed once a year. It was important to pin down timeframes so there was not poor implementation of the lifestyle audit.

The Department had made mention of a Constitutional Court judgment which stated that direct transactions from employee pensions and alike were unconstitutional. How would it deal with the court judgment and make up for any power taken away from the Department to make these deductions?

She welcomed the technical assistance unit (TAU), but there was uncertainty on whether it had started working and if it had started having an impact in the public service. Its independence was a concern. She said it was very important for a unit such as the TAU to be removed from the executive. She wondered if it was rightly placed within the DPSA, and if it was assisting where it needed to. It was known that it had helped with the issue of public servants not receiving their social relief of distress (SRD) grants. It was desirable for more noise to be made on its work and where it had been successful since its establishment.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) commended the DPSA on strengthening its bargaining council in the hope that it would reduce strikes which jeopardised the economic state of the country. If everything it thought it had done was in line with organised labour, was it still working together with labour and not thinking that it had moved past square one, only to find out that it was not convinced? With the lifestyle audit and ethical officers paired with government officials doing business with the government, was there any review of policies which would assist the ethical officers when dealing with these cases, or would it continue following suit with what had been previously happening, which had been prolonging the cases?

After all the good work that the PSC had done, when would it be hands-on instead of waiting for the Department’s actions? It did a lot of good work, but this would be shelved by the departments. She asked if there were any attempts for the Commission to have teeth.

She commended the NSG for the programmes that it had developed, and asked how e-learning was working in the rural areas. It was clear that there were still places where IT remained an issue. Secondly, with the level of vacancies, how was the work balanced with these vacancies? These vacancies impacted badly on the good work it had done.

DPSA's response
 

Ms Linda Dludla, Acting Director-General: DPSA responded to the question that asked if it was not too late to table the amendments to the bill by the fourth quarter of 2023. It had been reported to the Committee as part of its quarterly reporting that it had experienced some challenges during the consultations, especially with the labour council. One of the challenges was that it had given labour an opportunity to give its input, but it required more time. During that period, the DPSA had also tabled the bills to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) process. This targeting was to ensure it was on the safe side, even though by its own assessment it might be able to conclude all the consultations, including re-visiting the NEDLAC process before the end of the fourth quarter. This was based on its experiences in the previous year, where it had said it would conclude the consultations. It realised it could not predict how long the consultations would take. The matter had been brought to the attention to both the previous and current ministers. It had since engaged labour to ask it to stick to certain timelines so that it could go back to NEDLAC on the substantive inputs that would be made by labour. In its view, the DPSA believed it would table the bills sooner than the fourth quarter. It had done so in case the same issues arose.

On employees failing job competency assessments, she indicated that DPSA was still in the process of doing research and developing the framework. However, if it looked at the current competency assessments for senior managers, she would not use the word ‘fail’, because intention was that when the DPSA was appointing a senior manager, the approval authority should give due consideration to the recommendations or the assessment. However, these assessments were used only for training the people it was appointing as part of their initial training, to close those gaps when they got to the Department. It was important to consider the appointment. For example, if one wanted to appoint a chief financial officer (CFO), one of the things tested would be financial management. If that individual failed the assessment on financial management, the appointing authority should really apply their minds and ask themselves if they could really appoint someone who had failed in the core competence that they were being appointed for.

Once the job competency framework had been developed, the DPSA would look at its implications for implementation -- whether it would be implemented for training and development or used in decision-making for employing. There was a keen interest on how this would work. She requested the Committee call the Department back to give a detailed presentation on its intentions, and how it would be implemented.

On lifestyle audits and whether people would be penalised because of their inheritance, she said where there was a concept of unexplained wealth, all officials had to do was explain where their wealth was coming from. The challenge was when people could not explain, meaning further investigations would have to be conducted. Regarding the implementation and slow pace of the lifestyle audits, departments had been requested to begin implementing from April 2021, and she had been advised that the TAU unit had given a presentation this April on the progress of implementation. When it first issued the request for implementation, the DPSA could not have given a deadline, because the financial disclosures and the lifestyle audits were going to work together. If financial disclosures increased, or if someone was red flagged, then the Department needed to implement the lifestyle audit. They would work together to ensure that if there were red flags, then the audit should be implemented, where one would be required to produce evidence of one's wealth. It was part of the entire package of ethics and financial disclosure which would trigger the audit. Lifestyle audits would not be implemented for everybody -- there had to be a trigger. One of the triggers would be the financial disclosures that she had mentioned. The implementation had started last year.

The review of the Public Service Act and its regulations had been carried out using similar judgments. The problem with how Section 38 had been implemented before, as articulated by the courts, was that departments did not necessarily seek permission, concurrence or agreement with employees, for example, if they overpaid them. On the review, especially with the court judgments, there needed to be an agreement with an employee. Sometimes departments would see that they had paid an extra R50 000 and in the next salary they would take that R50 000 back without entering into an agreement with the employee and making sure that it was agreed that the money would be paid back, but in a way that did not negatively impact the employee. That was how the DPSA had dealt with the court judgment in respect of revising section 38.

The TAU, in accordance with the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), reported directly to the Minister but remained independent of the DPSA. It was not mandated to conduct investigations; its mandate was about providing technical support and advice on issues of ethics and discipline, but it did not have the mandate to conduct investigations. That responsibility was still delegated to the heads of departments (HODs), and to the President when it came to HODs. It was not taking away the investigative responsibilities of departments when dealing with discipline, hence the issue of its independence in this context was not relevant. If the TAU was in the DPSA either structurally or for budget purposes, could it also investigate officials? The issue of independence did not apply, because its mandate was not to do investigations. It was more technical, which was why it was called a technical support institution.

With the Human Resources Management and Development (HRM&D) strategy, the first strategy for the public service was developed in 2002 and another one was done in 2016, so that was part of the normal review of the DPSA's policies and frameworks. That was why it had to review the strategy and present it Cabinet. That time around Cabinet did not want to focus only on HRM&D and wanted to look at the entire value chain of the strategy.

Acting Minister Nxesi weighed in on the issue with the Acting Director-General who had spoken about the lifestyle audit to indicate that these were just tests that were performed to determine whether the lifestyle of a particular employee was commensurate with their known income. This was very important. There were a variety of databases that collected this information and gave a snapshot into the life of that employee. This included public representatives. These sources included credit information, issues of bad debt, all the businesses that should be declared, what the employee had inherited and if they consisted of properties, vehicles, assets or and investments, some of which might be offshore because people could hide these things. It also investigated their associates. The intention was not malicious -- it was to curb corruption and unethical conduct and was part of the risk management strategy. All an employee had, including what they inherited, had to be declared. That was the intention. He had inherited a homestead with a lot of sheep, but now they were gone because he was on the border of Lesotho and the old Transkei, and nothing was left there because of theft. He found it important that this should not be seen as negative or an attempt at being punitive. It was to ensure that people were open and transparent about what they were owning.

The Chairperson asked if he could go to the NSG if all the DPSA questions had been answered.

Ms Ntuli asked if the strengthening of the bargaining council had been in line with organised labour.

Acting Minister Nxesi replied that with what had happened, the Department had realized that the bargaining processes were not aligned with the budget processes. This had led to it bargaining after the fact. When the budget had been presented in Parliament and adopted and sealed, it had begun with the bargaining. Minister Dlodlo had gone to a public service summit where there had been an assessment and analysis of the previous strengths, and the issues which tended cause conflict. Out of that analysis there was an understanding, including what was outstanding, and what had led to the three-year agreement. Now, with Minister Godongwana, it had been agreed that the bargaining process was going to be realigned to the budgetary processes. It had started negotiations for 2022 focusing on the salary increases. The intention was, if it worked well by the end of June, it should have completed the salary negotiations for 2022/23. Then it would begin the real negotiations for 2023/24, which would feed into the budgetary processes. It planned to start those in July. It should go parallel to the budgetary process so that as the Minister of Finance presented his medium term and the final budget at the beginning of the year, it would also be informed by some of the agreements they might have reached. It was thought that it would be possible to have discussions and talk about the various problems and mistakes which had been made before.

There was one thing that the acting Deputy Director-General could explain. There was a narrative that it was the DPSA that had gone to court, but if the papers were reviewed, it had been the respondent. It had been taken to court by some of the unions, and had to respond. The narrative that it rushed into court was not true. It had political engagements with the leadership of the public sector unions to be open and highlight where it was, to provide the economic outlook and invite them to do their own analysis and state what could be affordable. He said it was well and good for them to say the Department was not giving -- the challenge in the country now was the employment of more than 13 million people. He asked if more salaries should be given to those who were employed and forget about the unemployed, or if it was a balancing act. That was a question that everybody had to deal with in bargaining, and what the compromises would be. Hence, the idea of a social compact was about where everybody could make compromises. He was not sure if he had answered the question, and maybe the acting Director-General could also weigh in.

Ms Dludla thought the Minister had answered the question. She confirmed that he was correct that it was the unions, specifically the Public Service Association (PSA) that had taken the government to court. She also confirmed in all the negotiations that it had done to date, it had been working with organised labour. However, the outcome of government not paying part of the 2018 agreement had led to the PSA taking it to court. This had resulted in a broken relationship. Part of what it intended to do with the public service summit that the Minister had referred to was to look at trying to restore that relationship. Most importantly, it wanted to ensure that it had clear frameworks for how it engaged in collective bargaining. Therefore some of the targets were about the coordination of bargaining councils, but also having a developing negotiations or bargaining framework or policy that would guide all the stakeholders. The issue on negotiations was very sensitive, depending on what had been agreed with labour, and whether it could implement everything. The relationship could change at any point, maybe because of a single clause that had not been implemented. It was a very fluid relationship, and it took constant engagement between both parties to try and find common ground. This year it was looking to have an agreed framework with labour which would set the parameters for how it engaged in collective bargaining. This included aligning the bargaining process to the government's financial processes and cycles.


NSG's response

The NSG started by referring to its brand and marketing strategy, and said it was not spending money on marketing as currently it relied on a few interventions that were helping it build its brand and market its services. This was based on the quality offerings, which was why it wanted people to trust it -- because of the quality of what it offered. The quality it offered had to be responsive, relevant, and have a high impact. It was highlighted in the presentation that it would be launching new executive education programmes later this month. It was part and parcel of being responsive.

Responding to the question asked by Ms Gondwe on the disaster management causes, the NSG said it was still at the early stage of conceptualising a disaster management course. It had had enquiries from the premier’s office in KZN, and several other officials were asking whether it could put together a course on disaster management. What it had done in its past, working with its international partners, was to run a programme that compared how other countries responded to emergencies like pandemics on a Zoom platform. Given the requirements now, it would be designing its own programme, and would rely on experts inside and outside of the public sector. It had various fields of expertise it could use to give input for such a course, so it would be meeting with disaster management centres in all the provinces. The national meeting would involve engineers in the public and private sectors, and others in the higher education space. These would take place in a matter of months. In June this year it would host another two-day seminar, working with local and international experts. It wanted to know how officials in disaster management centres were trained in other countries. The reason why countries such as the United States of America (USA) and China and others in Asia responded much more quickly was because there was a command-and-control arrangement in place. When a disaster had been declared, or when the weather service gave a notification of floods, the command-and-control arrangement kicked in and everybody was ordered to evacuate. If an individual did not know what was happening, then it became their own problem. South Africa used a very civilian method of notifying people where not to be and how to move out of places where there would be an emergency. Consequently, a lot of people became trapped.

It was using the loss of revenue from master classes as part of building the brand. Recently, one of the top scholars in economics in the world had come and spoken on the master class of the NSG without charging a fee. At the end of May, the director of the London School of Economics (LSE) who was a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, would be talking to it on a webinar on a master class on building a social contract. In some instances, these people were paid top dollar to come and speak, and they were coming to the NSG without charging anything. These were part and parcel of its brand and marketing strategies.

It was designing its own qualifications, and did not need to be declared as a higher education institution (HEI) to offer a qualification. The three qualifications they were working on meant that the NSG would be able to offer and award qualifications to public servants. It would continue to work with HEIs, because it gave it depth and reach because of the capabilities they had. Offering its own qualifications did not mean it would stop working with others -- it would continue to do so. The problem at hand was bigger than any institution, more so the NSG on its own.

The entity was growing the e-learning part of its business. It was buying new solutions that were enabling its e-business solution. As indicated by a Committee Member, it was proceeding with caution on the e-learning matter because many senior people, including Members of Parliament (MPs) and councillors had the benefit of attending a Zoom class at the NSG over a two-week period, which meant they had access to a computer and data, whether they studied at home or their offices. Entry-level employees did not have access to this -- even those who worked with computers in the frontline service space -- because those computers were locked for security purposes. Public servants at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) who were in the front line could not be trained through a Zoom platform because they could not use those computers, and had no access to computers. The NSG was using a blended method of training, which meant they could be brought into a training centre or common training room with full ICT functionality and web links. The training could then be provided to them wherever they were. This way it could have 20 people in a class across ten different classes and provinces. The person providing the training could be at the NSG. That was how it was expanding access and providing similar training to people in various spaces. It did have zero rating for its e-learning courses, but only through MTN, which had responded positively to its application for zero rating. Other network providers had declined its applications. Zero rating really mattered, because if its courses were zero rated, it meant a police officer, nurse, or teacher, for example, could do an ethics course on a Saturday or Sunday, or in the evening, without worrying about buying their own data. It was pursuing this matter with the telecoms industry as it had a strong and compelling case to make, and once it received zero rating it would get a lot more public servants doing these courses. A majority of these course were free so when zero rating was included, it eliminated barriers to access. That was how it was proceeding on the issue of digitising its work as the NSG.

On the vacancy rates, he reasserted what his colleague had previously said. It had come to the last leg of its transformation cycle, as it was repositioning itself. It had worked very collaboratively with all employees and stakeholders in the NSG, including organised labour. It was therefore now in the position to advertise the vacant positions. It had held a staff meeting last week where had it acknowledged that NSG employees, despite the vacancy rates, could work beyond the call of duty and were not complaining that they could not perform because of the vacancies. It was now advertising a lot of posts, and was filling them. Within the next four months it would have gone a long way, and it appreciated that its employees did not complain or protest that they were being overworked.

It had been an important question to ask about the impact of what the NSG did, because it captured indicators on its enrolment, how many people were registered, how many had completed, and then raised the issue of impact. For each of the courses it did, especially those online, there was a survey that had to be completed. If a course was done online, it would not issue a certificate unless the survey was completed, where the course and its impact were rated. The common response it received from many of its employees was that they appreciated the course and thought it was of high quality. However, some thought they could not apply what they had learned in the workplace. This meant empowering public servants to do things better and differently, even when trained to be the best in working in the supply chain management (SCM) system, if there was no proper leadership and the ecosystem did not encourage prudence and working within the framework of the law, those skills would mean nothing. One could have someone qualifying as the best project manager ever, and trained anywhere in the world, but if a department did not appreciate project management as a methodology of leading, if there was no leadership and accountability and the system was negative, it became difficult for people to perform. That was part of the feedback it received. For those who were learning to enhance their knowledge, the impact was good, and they could apply what they learned. However, sometimes people said the environment was very difficult for them to carry out what they had learnt on the course.

Dr Botshabelo Maja, Deputy Director-General: Professional Support Services, NSG, referred to the funding model, and said it had tabled proposals with the Committee before, and intended to make a proposal to Cabinet on a sustainable funding model for the NSG. It hoped to have its proposals ready by the end of this month, having had conversations on this at a cluster level.

Regarding consequence management, the NSG did have training interventions that dealt with discipline management. It proposed that as part of the professionalisation framework, that it should add a layer that helped it deal with consequence management so that it was not limited to the employer and the employee. With the introduction of professional bodies, it could provide a way to mediate issues of consequence management that went beyond training.


CPSI's response

Ms Lydia Sebokedi, Acting Executive Director: CPSI) replied to Ms Kibi’s question on value for money, and said the CPSI was using these knowledge platforms to enhance the knowledge economy where it had to produce and use knowledge as a critical strategy. She had said in her presentation that innovation and knowledge management could not be separated -- they needed to be viewed together. The running of the design thinking workshops started with where public servants would be informed of the tools. From late last year, it had started having sessions where public servants used the tools to solve service delivery problems. That was being done with the Northern Cape Online Thusong Centre. It was not just a meeting, where it asked how these problems were solved -- it used design thinking tools to come up with a better solution. In its conference, it shared case studies, thought leadership on public sector innovation. After the conference there would be correctional services that would express interest in implementing e-learning in prisons for inmates. This would lead to a project. In the Department of Health or a hospital, there would be interest in a project that saved blood and blood products. After the conference it would end up with projects and partnerships.

It had invited Bangladesh to come and share its innovation journey with public servants in South Africa, and it was taking the partnership forward through the South-South network of public sector innovation. When someone left the organisation, it would not know what they had been doing, and things would fall through the cracks and the new people who came in would have to start from the beginning. Once it started capturing this knowledge, it would become an asset to the state. The design thinking workshops were part of reskilling how employees or public servants should solve service delivery challenges. It gave them those skills, which were an eternal investment.

The CPSI was happy the Northern Cape Online Thusong Centre had started in the Northern Cape, which was a big province with only five Thusong centres. It could be imagined what this meant for an ordinary person on a farm in the Springbok area trying to access government services. The province was driven by the challenge it had as a rural department. As indicated, the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) attended the workshops, so it was a multi-party initiative where they were supporting the Northern Cape to test this new way of delivering services. It hoped other provinces would go the virtual way. The physical facilities would still be there, but it wanted a multi-channel for delivering services, so that if someone wanted to use their cellphone they could. It hoped that once it had tested and piloted fully in the Northern Cape, it could move forward.

The research study that was spoken about it had started in the previous financial year. A literature review and qualitative sections had been done. It was now getting to the third phase of the quantitative part of the study, and it could not be done in one year. This had been realised last year, which was why it was overlapping into this financial year. The outcomes of that study would be shared with the Committee.

Mr Pierre Schoonraad, Head of Research and Development: CPSI, said the CPSI was working closely on the survey to align it with all spheres of government. It had been asked if it would be involve the entire public service, and the answer was that it would. It was also trying to align it with the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI) that was driven by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and aligning it with international studies like the Oslo Manual. It was also working closely with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) so it could benchmark against other countries on the state of its innovation in the country.


PSC's response

The PSC responded to the question as to whether the Commission had the "teeth" to ensure its recommendations were implemented, and said it depended on working together with Parliament on issues that it raised whilst legislative reforms were taking place. It had also begun to work with other institutions supporting democracy, to which it had referred certain cases, and certain cases had been referred in return. Having meetings with the responsible ministers and executive authorities in general helped a great deal when it explained some of the frustrations it experienced in dealing with some of the public servants.

On the PSC's profile and its penetration of rural areas, over the last year it had steadily raised its profile. It had analysed public participation, and people were beginning to understand what it stood for and the work it was doing, which was quite encouraging. Its outreach programmes were held in deep rural areas.

Ms Dludla responded to the question on the target market for the articles on professional ethics. She said public servants were its immediate target because they were the ones who had to uphold the standards of professional ethics. Ultimately, they did the work to ensure the ordinary citizen and members of the public experienced a high quality standard of government services. The PSC took note of the concerns, but the way the articles were written made them accessible to all. They were not targeted at a niche market, and there should not be a concern of it being at too high a level.

With the budget, it was important to note the COE budget included the compensation of commissioners. The PSC had a total of 14 commissioners, nine in the provinces and five at the national office.  The remainder of the budget was for employees who worked in the Office of the PSC, which was the secretariat for the Commission.

As to whether the operational budget for goods and services was inadequate, she said that based on the expenditure trends for the last three years, there were indications that the budget that was allocated to the PSC was enough to cover the goods and services. This would have been noted by the Committee in the reports it received in the previous financial years. Because of COVID-19, the goods and services budget had been slightly underspent because there were some overheads that had not needed to be paid, as staff members were mostly working from home.

Mr Zwelinjani Momeka, CFO, PSC, added that with 75% of its budget being for COE, historically it had been experiencing some level of underspending, but this was basically linked to Covid because employees had been working remotely. Therefore, they had not really travelled, and had spent less on consumables. However, under normal circumstances the budget was insufficient for the COE and goods and services. It had a budget of R68 million that was all linked to mandatory spending items. This included its office leases across the country, and the payment to SITA for its transversal systems. It was left with less than R10 million that it could use to fund projects that Commission needed to fund. It understood the fiscal situation the country continued to face, and knew it was forced to do more with less, so it tried to cut down where it could, but it did not have sufficient budget to cover everything.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for their attendance and contributions.

The meeting was adjourned



 

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