Public Service Commission Strategic Plan: Briefing

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Ms NGW Botha (Deputy Minister For Provincial and Local government) said that one of the biggest challenges facing the country is in the area of municipal finance

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SELECT COMMITTEE
27 May 2004
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION STRATEGIC PLAN: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Shiceka (ANC)

Documents:
Public Service Commission presentation
Public Service Commission Budget Vote
PSC Workplan 2004/2005


SUMMARY
The Public Service Commission stated that it had achieved most of its goals with regard to governance monitoring, leadership improvement and labour relations. There are still challenges in promoting compliance with Batho Pele principles, promoting compliance with public service HIV/AIDS policy, staff retention and succession planning, whistle blowing and filing of performance agreements.

Members expressed concerns on the inadequate protection given to whistle-blowers, the issue of excess employees in most provinces and the inability to attract and retain personnel. The Director-General maintained that there had never been a policy of downsizing the public service but that this problem had been created by the media who think the public service is bloated. Also discussed was the fact that departments have not put in place the mechanisms, policies and capacities to adequately deal with discipline.

MINUTES
Professor S Sangweni thanked the opportunity to make a presentation before the Committee. He invited Mr M Sikhosana, Director General of the Office of the Public Service Commission, to start the presentation. (See presentation document).

Mr Sikhosana noted that there would not be a briefing on the PSC's financial statement because it had not yet been audited. By a way of a summary he said that the Commission had under spent its budget by 19% in 1999 and by 2002 this had been reduced to 1%.

The Director-General said that a national whistle-blowing hotline would be established. The Commission has not been able to do some of the things it intended to do because of financial constraints. The Commission spent R4 million in assisting the Eastern Cape government to become effective. So far the Provincial government has managed to repay R1 million.

Dr R Levin (Deputy Director-General: Monitoring and Evaluation) dealt with issues around governance monitoring, leadership and performance improvement, service delivery and quality assurance. The Commission succeeded in creating an integrated Public Service Monitoring and Evaluation system. It was also able to develop a framework for evaluating Heads of Departments. The Commission established a new Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC)

-approved grievance procedure. However, the Commission still faces challenges in consolidating the Public Service Monitoring and Evaluation Sytem. It has to promote the implementation of various monitoring and evaluation recommendations.

Ms Odette Ramsingh (Deputy Director-General: Investigations and HR Reviews) briefed the Committee on human resources, professional ethics and labour relations. The Commission had managed to verify qualifications of senior managers in government departments. It had found only two cases of falsified qualifications. A code of conduct for the public service has been developed. It is faced with challenges of promoting and monitoring compliance with public service HIV/AIDS policy. There is also a need to improve staff retention and succession planning. The promotion of systems and procedures for the protection and integrity of whistle blowing remains a major challenge.

Discussion
Mr C Ntuli (Kwazulu-Natal)(ANC) asked if the Commission works closely with the South African Management Development Institute. He said that in Kwazulu-Natal there is a problem of integrating employees who were formerly under the homeland government with those who are under the local government. He asked the Commission to indicate how far they have gone with solving this problem.

Mr J Ernstzen (Deputy Chairperson, PSC) said that the issue of integrating the workforce is receiving political attention. There is a need for all tiers of government to be placed in one public service. There are difficulties in that one finds local government employees being paid far greater than provincial government employees. This created dissatisfaction and tension. However, if one looked at the advances that have been made through the national negotiating forum for local government, it becomes clear that some progress is being made in creating uniformity in employment conditions.

The Director-General added that there are still some problems in certain provinces. Temporary workers who were employed by the homeland governments before 1994 were absorbed into provinces. Most of them are unskilled and were employed in public works programmes. They are mostly in provincial departments of public works. Public Works departments are outsourcing some of their functions and hence the problem of excess employees.

Mr Shiceka said that members are generally interested in detailed specifics for their provinces. He asked the Commission to provide such specifics where necessary.

Mr K Mokoena (Limpopo)(ANC) felt that the Commission takes too long to finalise cases. He asked if there are mechanisms or plans to improve the resolution of grievances. For instance, the Commission had only finalised 269 cases.

Ms O Ramsingh (Deputy Director-General: Human Resource Management and Labour Relations) responded that the 269 cases refer to grievances and not discipline cases. They concern issues such as the dissatisfaction of public servants that is on the decline. Perhaps this suggests that Departments is dealing much better with labour relations. The issue of management of discipline is where the real problems are. The problems are compounded by lack of infrastructure and staff with the necessary skills. Sometimes one finds there is no Chairperson to preside over the proceeding or that witnesses do not want to come forward due to fear of victimisation.

Mr A Moseki (North West)(ANC) asked if the Commission is doing anything with the problem of under staffing in provinces. He also asked if Heads of Departments are co-operating with the Commission in its endeavour to evaluate them.

Dr Levin replied that at national level there was excellent co-operation across the board. However, the way the framework works, with individual panels for each Director-General or Head of Department (HoD) has given a lot of logistical challenges which made it difficult to cover all HoDs within the timeframe the Commssion set for itself. For each panel there has to be a number of Ministers sitting on the panel. Sometimes there are last minute cancellations, as Ministers have to attend to other business. At the provincial level, cooperation has largely been good except in Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. The Commission expects some changes given the political changes. Most problems relate to filing of performance agreements. There have been cases where HoDs and MECs have not formally signed performance agreements and this undermines the process. The major issue is compliance with the specific requirements for the framework to work as opposed to co-operation.

On the problem of understaffing, Mr J Ernstzen (Deputy Chairperson, PSC) replied that the problem dates back to 1996-7 with the unbundling of the Public Service Commission and the creation of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The organizational and whole Commission structure of the Commission changed radically. There used to be 9 regional Commissions and the 5 persons national Commission. This was replaced by new PSC with nine individuals nominated by legislatures and premiers and the other five by the national assembly. With the staff situation at that time the Commission's proposals were regard as far more radical as far as the fiscus was allowed to permit. The Minister of Finance, on mandate from cabinet, restricted the components per province to a maximum of five. That five had to be supported by the head office in Pretoria. If one looks at the requirement per province it becomes clear that it is a total inadequate situation into feed the provincial needs effective.

Mr K Mokoena asked if the Commission is still vigorously implementing its downsizing or right-sizing policy. This is important to know given the fact that the Department of Education has in the past not been replacing dead or retired teachers. He also asked if the Commission has mechanism of protecting whistle blowers given the fact that in some cases the identities of whistle blowers are often divulged.

The Director-General replied that there had never been a policy of downsizing the public service. The problem is created by the media who think the public service is bloated. The DPSA, after comparing the citizen-public servant ratio in South Africa and other developing countries found there was no question of the public service being bloated as alleged by the media. The service delivery demands and the capacity made available do not match. One still finds a department that needs staff but for financial reasons is unable to attract them. The same department would have a large number of unskilled workers. Resolutions 7 tried to address this issue but whether it was successful remains to be seen as the process was only completed last year. There is a programme where unions and the state are engaged in a process to ensure that those employees who are declared excess in one department could find opportunities in other departments. The problem is once a person is on the redeployment database, no matter how good that person is, it becomes difficult to get another job. There is a perception that if a person is on the database it means that such a person's performance was not good. This is not always true.

The Director-General continued to say that if one looks at the former Model C schools one finds that they have cleaners and security guards. With regard to the former Department of Education and Training schools one finds that pupils clean their own schools. The question that arises is why the employees who are declared excess are not transferred to those schools. One need not allocate more resources since the people are already on the government payroll.

With regard to whistle blowing, Dr Levin replied that, like legislation, the legislation on this is a challenge to implement. It is not enough to say that legislation protects whistle blowing. One needs to ask what happens when someone blows a whistle. Are there clear procedures and mechanisms for whistle blowing and individuals who will deal with whistle blowers. There is a lot of awareness of whistle blowing and a will to make it work. However, one can not always assume that the bona fides of the whistle blower is coming from the right angle. Sometimes there are people involved in petty relationship issues and then they come with major allegations.

Mr Moseki complained of lack of detail in the Commission's report on the state of affairs in provinces. He said that one of the Commission's reports reflected unethical behavior of civil servants. He asked if the situation had improved.

Mr M Mzizi (Gauteng)(IFP) noted the fact that the government is struggling to retain it staff. He asked if the Commission adequately pays its employees. Employees leave if they are not happy. He also asked how quickly the Commission resolves disputes if it is running short of staff.

On the payment of public servants, the Director-General replied that a survey had been done recently and it shows that the public service compares very well or surpasses the private sector. He was quick to add that one should note that the private sector is not homogenous. The problem is in attracting and retaining people at the middle level. At the lower level the public services pays better than the private sector. There is a need to improve working conditions to improve the morale of employees.

With regard to ability to resolve cases, Dr Levin replied that the presentation refers to cases being handled by the Departments. Human resource management and labour relations framework and the implementation of discipline have been decentralized to provinces. Backlogs exist because departments have not put in place the mechanisms, policies and capacities to adequately deal with discipline. This has been a major problem when the Commission did its human resource and anti-corruption reviews.

Mr Mokoena commented that there are officials in government departments who are untrainable. He asked the Commission for an opinion on how to deal with such people. He also asked if one could safely say that the Eastern Cape government has finally got its house in order.

Mr Maharaj replied that managers should not be scared to do what they are allowed to do in terms of the Labour Relations Act. Such people could be dismissed for incapacity.

With regard to the Eastern Cape the Director-General replied that the province is not unique. For political considerations, there had not been any intervention in Kwazulu-Natal. With the new government in place, one is more likely to see some changes. Some provinces do not want to accept that they have a problem. It also takes times to turn a province around. Cabinet took a decision that the Commission would play a monitoring role in the province.

Mr Mzizi asked if the Commission's staff composition is representative of all South Africans.

Professor Sangweni replied that the Commission is not responsible for appointing Commissioners. The legislature has taken good care of representivity of the Commission. Of the 14 commissioners, three are women and two are white.

The Director General added that the last count reflect that 29% of the staff was composed of women and 0.01% is made up of disabled people. The problem is that some people do not want to be classified as disabled. There is also not a universally accepted definition of disability.

Mr F Adams (Western Cape)(NNP) asked why the Western Cape government is doing badly in employing women and people with disabilities. He asked if the province is attending to this problem.

Mr Maharaj (PSC) said that one should be able to differentiate between statistics and lies. In the Western Cape over 63% of the staff are women. The 25% quoted by Ms Ramsingh related to senior management cadres. The question of transformation in the province has been identified as a challenge.

The Chairperson asked if there is any possibility of devising a mechanism to measure the satisfaction of the end users of government services. He also asked for a comment on the use of consultants and international trends on this matter. He asked if it is possible to limit or decrease such use

Dr Levin responded that it is possible to develop such mechanism. Although service delivery is part of the governance framework, the Commission's monitoring mechanism does not deal with this. It deals with governance. Through the Governance and Administration cluster the Commission is looking at a national strategic framework for monitoring evaluations. There is a need to have a mechanism to look at results. The Commission has already tabled a report on citizens' satisfaction.

On the use of consultants Dr Levin replied that South Africa is not an exception. One of the big issues in the UK has been the marked increase in the use of consultants. There is a declining trust between politicians and administration. Hence consultants were brought in to formulate policies. Of course South Africa's situation is different. On scaling down such use the questions is how one uses them. If managers know what they want to do and bring consultants to do it whilst also building capacity within their components then there is no problem. Very often managers do not know what they want to do and bring consultants to look for solution. This is the level in which one has an unsustainable relationship. The problem is compounded by the fact that there is no adequate monitoring of skills, training and capacity building.

The Chairperson asked the Commission to comment on the extent to which senior managers are declaring their interests. This was important to ensure that there is no conflict of interests.

Dr Levin replied that the financial disclosure framework needs to be improved and strengthened. There has not been 100 % compliance.

Mr Ntuli asked if the employment of teachers is the competency of the DPSA or the Department of Education. He wondered if the teacher-pupil ratio is the same throughout the country. In Kwazulu-Natal there is always a problem of teachers being declared in excess because of Post Provisioning Norms (PPN). He asked the Commission to comment on this.

Mr Sikhosana replied that in the Department of Education there are people who are employed in terms of the Educators Act and those who are employed in terms of the Public Services Act. In terms of the Educators Act every year a declaration must be made on the number of pupils. Then the Department decides on the number of educators that are required. The formula used is still contested by the unions. In some provinces it is very difficult to say with certainty how many teachers are in the employ of the Department. Districts are not entirely under the control of head office. They issue bulletins to employ teachers without the knowledge of head office or money to pay them. Hence there are cases of overspending.

Mr B Mkhaliphi (Mpumalanga)(ANC) thanked the Commission for the wonderful relationship they have maintained with the Committee. He commended the Commission for keeping members of the public informed through their citizens' forum and other initiatives.

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.

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