In a virtual meeting, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) gave a briefing on the enforcement and implementation of public service regulations across the public service to ensure uniformity and standardisation of government administrative business processes.
The meeting was a response to the challenges the Committee had raised in previous engagements. These challenges referred to the lack of integration and coordination across government, the dissimilar experience of government services, as well as the different conditions of services that existed among public service institutions. The Committee requested a follow-up meeting with the Department that would clarify the areas of challenges and discuss initiatives established to alleviate them within the different spheres of government.
The DPSA's briefing focused on the context of the single public administration initiative, which sought to address the challenges. The Department referred to the features of the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA) that was published in 2014, which gave effect to the single public administration initiative, as well as some reforms and envisaged timelines for the Committee to note as they interacted with these processes.
Members were concerned about the secondment of staff across the various entities within the public service. Their main concern was that without proper regulation, public service officials would go from one department to the next without the proper skill set and capabilities to occupy those new positions. They also wanted more clarity on which pieces of legislation were causing implementation challenges, and thus needed to be amended before their retainment in the Act. In addition, they requested the Committee to expound on the lifestyle audits across the different spheres of government.
The DPSA responded to Committee requests for a statistical breakdown on the nature of corruption in the Department, and highlighted the mandate of its Technical Advisory Unit, which did not investigate corruption. The investigation of corruption remained the responsibility of law enforcement agencies, but the unit did a lot of facilitation and coordination within the public service, focusing on discipline management issues as well. The Department would provide a report on the work of the unit and what some of their successes were concerning their mandate.
Enforcement of the Implementation of the Public Service Regulations across the Public Service to ensure uniformity and standardisation of government administrative business process
Ms Renisha Naidoo, Chief Director: Legal Services, Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), gave a broad overview of the Single Public Administration (SPA) initiative – what they had done thus far and achieved, and what was intended to still be achieved. She spoke about the challenges the Department sought to address by introducing the initiative.
• Improving the state's capacity at the micro level by ensuring that people had the requisite know-how, attributes, skills and abilities to do the work they were employed to do.
• Ensuring the professionalisation of public service was important ,as they wanted to build an ethical and capable developmental state.
• Improving state capacity at the macro level. This referred to systems, structures and processes, governance arrangements, technology and innovation -- everything that helped the state to drive its machinery.
• Achieve a single and integrated public administration system strengthened by legislative governance.
• Ensure that institutions across all spheres of government are strategically harmonised and aligned to complement each other so that they effectively fulfil the needs of the citizens of the country.
• Ensure that a single and integrated public administration anchors the implementation and sustenance of a coordinated district service delivery model.
• Bring government together in terms of delivering services
See presentation for further details
Ms S Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) was pleased with the presentation. She hoped that what was on paper would come to fruition and that the implementation dates would be achieved. She asked about the public administration officials that go from one job to another within the Public Servants Association (PSA) -- was there a flagging system in place to stop them from using what seemed to be a revolving door policy, where employees go from one department to the other?
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) asked if the DPSA's offices were extended to local government. Referring to the draft Public Administration Management Bill which was intended to replace the Public Service Act in its entirety, as well as the Local Government Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000, she asked how far along the draft process was and when it would be brought to Parliament for consideration. She noted that the Department had mentioned that different pieces of legislation would be retained in the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), but they needed to be amended because of implementation problems. She asked the Department which pieces of legislation needed to be retained and which specific areas of the pieces of legislation were causing implementation challenges, and thus needed to be amended before their retainment in the Act.
Shifting focus to slide 4 of the presentation, she wanted clarity on whether the National School of Government (NSG) was involved in developing skills. If the school was not involved, what were the reasons for its lack of involvement? If the school was involved, to what extent was the NSG ensuring that the development of skills across sectors was contributing to the creation of a single group of administration? Also, was the Public Service Commissioner playing any role, and what would that role be?
Slide nine of the presentation referred to the role of the technical assistance unit in ensuring discipline. Ms Moshodi asked the DPSA what the achievements of the technical assistance unit were in controlling corruption. She also asked it to provide a statistical breakdown of the nature of corruption in the Department. Lastly, she wanted to know why the Municipal Structures Act had not been repealed.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) was curious to know who conducted the lifestyle audits, in which sphere of government the audits were conducted, and whether the staff within the Department was large enough to monitor the audits. He asked the DPSA whether the lifestyle audits at local government were done by local government overseers of the project, and whether there was capacity to undertake the lifestyle audits across all spheres of government.
The Chairperson wanted to know whether the secondment of staff was effectively implemented across all the three spheres of government, or whether it could be done only between national and provincial government. Given that there would be different regulations that govern the local sphere of government, he asked whether the regulations in the Municipal Systems Act would apply to the local government , considering the interrelatedness of the three spheres and their distinctiveness.
Deadlocks had been identified as a challenge when curbing corruption in the lifestyle audit process, and the technical unit played a key role in ensuring that those deadlocks were avoided. The Chairperson wanted further clarity on the work the technical unit played when safeguarding against these deadlocks. He stressed the importance of the Department's role in strengthening this aspect of vetting senior managers, which would certainly include coordination and support from both the State Security Agency and the technical unit.
Ms Naidoo replied to the question about regulating employees' movement from one department to another. She said that the principle of employment adopted by the DPSA was that people were allowed to apply for jobs across the administration and if they were successful, then they were entitled to take those jobs. However, what the DPSA did within the public service space was that they created certain prohibitions that justified the limitation of the rights of people moving across different spheres of government. The one instance where there was a prohibition was when somebody had been dismissed for misconduct. There were a certain number of years that were in the regulations, both at the municipal level as well as at the public service level, where one could not re-enter those environments after one had been dismissed for misconduct.
As part of the bills the DPSA was processing for Parliament, the Department was also considering provisions to prohibit public servants from entering into employment arrangements with service providers where those service providers had been given tenders and those employees had participated in those processes. Those were the kinds of prohibitions the DPSA was looking at, but not necessarily to prohibit generally the movement of people across the spheres of government.
On the issue of the approach the Department had taken to retain some of the pieces of legislation, she said that currently, there was value contained in the Public Service Act and the Municipal Systems Act, so the intention of the process was not to undermine those pieces of legislation. Initially, when the single public administration initiative was started, the idea was that the Department would have one administration regulated by one piece of legislation, but it subsequently realised that it was not necessary to have one piece of legislation to achieve a single public administration. What was required was better coordination within government. So, whilst there were matters regulated by different Acts, it was important that as a government collective, there was collaboration and inter-governmental regulations, and those were the matters the Department was leveraging on. Currently, there was legislation in place, and it just required the Department to coordinate. It had already started these processes with the Department of Cooperative Governance to achieve such alignments.
One of the key fundamentals of the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), which applies to both the public service and the municipalities, was for the National School of Government to play a role in the development and training of employees throughout the administration. It was therefore envisaged that the NSG would be the institution that would provide training across the spheres of government. It was also envisaged that the NSG would extend its mandate to provide training and development to those public entities requiring such training and development.
The Public Service Commission's role was reserved for specific matters, such as grievances in the public service. The Committee must also note that the PSC was processing a bill through the legislative processes that would further enhance the powers of the Commission and help it with its public administration. That process would give more credence to what the PSC could do.
On the transfers and secondments across the spheres, the PAMA -- which was passed in 2014 -- already had provisions five and six, which enable the secondment of employees across the spheres of government, so it allowed a municipal employee to move to the public service, for a public service employee to move to municipalities, and for employees to move between municipalities, which was currently unavailable for employees at the moment. The DPSA had not brought those provisions into operation as yet because one of the unintended consequences was the repeal of certain sections in the Public Service Act, which then would create a vacuum if that repeal was done. There were parts of the amendments that the Department was bringing back to Parliament to be amended before the provisions could be brought into operation. That process would be explained through the legislative processes.
Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, Director-General (DG), DPSA, suggested to the Committee that the Department could do a specific briefing on lifestyle audits at the next meeting. On the topic of lifestyle audits, she said that the DPSA had a guideline it had provided to the departments on the review process. How the review process went was that firstly, the department started by conducting lifestyle reviews and if something required attention, they would flag it and the matter would then go to the next level, which was the actual audit. Departments may bring in external auditors to support them, depending on the severity of the issue. They may also report the issue to law enforcement if there are areas that require investigation by law enforcement. The DPSA was implementing lifestyle audits at the national and provincial government levels.
In terms of its mandate, the technical advisory unit had a responsibility that extended over to local government. The way the unit was structured currently was that it did not have the capacity to engage local government, so there were discussions between the DPSA, the technical advisory unit, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Department of Local Government, to see how each of these institutions could collaborate and ensure that the lifestyle audits were extended to local government institutions.
There was an electronic system of declaration of interest which helped the Department flag employees who required further attention in terms of the lifestyle audit approach. The DPSA was currently operating in the national and provincial sphere, but it had not yet rolled this out to local government. They were in conversation with local government, and there were regulations that would be issued on this matter. There had been endorsement by relevant ministers regarding regulations and lifestyle audits that were part of the prioritised areas for further roll-out.
The issue of direct delegation of administrative powers to accounting officers was an issue that had been benchmarked against the PFMA, because the Act was very clear in terms of delegations of financial responsibility to accounting officers. The argument against the amendments to the Public Service Act was that there must be a direct delegation of administrative powers to accounting officers. These powers focused mainly on human resources (HR) related matters, recruitment etc. It was a matter included in the Public Service Bill, and the DPSA could not go into the matter in detail until it went to Parliament formally through the bill processes.
At the recruitment stage, in terms of the regulations, the DPSA ensures the AG audits appointments to see compliance with the regulations. There must be personnel suitability checks, including an employee's security checks before they are appointed. There would be a typical search with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and a confirmation that the employee did not have a criminal record. The State Security Agency (SSA) was expected to do further vetting on selected groups of employees, like the DGs etc. SSA had been struggling for years with a backlog, which was made worse by the Covid pandemic, but they seemed involved in a serious drive to deal with it. They would build their capacity, and t was trying to move on the issue of vetting employees in senior positions in government.
Achievements of Technical Advisory Unit
Ms Makhasi said the Department would provide information on the achievements of the Technical Advisory Unit in writing. She highlighted the mandate of the unit, stressing that it did not investigate corruption. The investigation of corruption remained the responsibility of law enforcement agencies, but the unit did a lot of facilitation and coordination within the public service, focusing on discipline management issues as well. They would provide a report on the work of the unit and what some of their successes were concerning their mandate.
Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, expressed how hopeful she was that in moving forward, the DPSA would soon be able to refine its process. She cautioned the Committee not to confuse what was meant by delegated authority to officials with the authority of elected representatives. She commented that this confusion had emerged in the professionalisation of the public service framework before Cabinet, and the matter was continuing to be reviewed.
The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and her team for the engagement and the work that they were doing within the Department across all three spheres of government.
Committee minutes dated 24 August 2022 were considered and adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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