In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee was briefed by Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on its achievements in implementing the targets and deliverables contained in the medium-term strategic framework covering the period from 2019 to 2023. Among the key achievements were the establishment of an ethics infrastructure in the public service, governance mechanisms at the ministerial and technical level for wage negotiations and wage bill management, an extensive review of personnel expenditure undertaken in government, and an amendment to the Public Service Regulations.
The Public Service Commission briefed the Committee on the PSC handbook, which was a guide to the acceptance of office by Commissioners, including remuneration and benefits, official travel and accommodation, and other conditions of service such as pension benefits, performance evaluation, and termination of service. The PSC had also developed a code of conduct for Commissioners, which regulated their conduct and behaviour in the workplace, and associated the Commission with high standards of professional ethics and conduct as enshrined in Chapter 10 of the Constitution.
The Committee raised several issues, such as the DPSA’s employment of persons with disabilities, the entitlement of Commissioners to diplomatic passports for international visits, the use of state-owned properties for their accommodation, the professionalisation framework and the use of cloud technologies within the public sector.
DPSA achievement of MTSF targets
The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) reported on its achievements in implementing the targets and deliverables contained in the medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) covering the period from 2019 to 2023. The presentation was introduced by Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, Director-General, DPSA, who was supported by Ms Linda Shange, Deputy Director General (DDG): Administration, and Mr Masilo Makhura, Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Of the 11 targets led by the Minister of Public Service and Administration (MPSA), one had been achieved thus far, and five were on track. The achieved target was the revised Public Service Amendment Bill, which had been tabled in Parliament. The five on track targets were:
- Implementation support of the Business Process Mapping (BPM) programme with partner departments;
- Job competency framework implemented by 2023;
- Departments implementing the lifestyle audits framework by 2022/23. There were 24 compliant national departments, and 71 compliant provincial departments – 66 of the 161 departments were still outstanding;
- Professional code of ethics in public administration institutionalised by 2023. In October 2022, the DPSA, together with the National School of Government (NSG), reviewed the incorporation of professional ethics into the compulsory induction programme of the NSG. A report was shared with the principal of the NSG, which indicated that professional ethics had been effectively and fully incorporated into the NSG’s compulsory induction programmes.
- The Organisational Functionality Assessment (OFA) directive was issued with effect from 1 April 2022. 27 departments had submitted complete OFA reports with implementation plans, two had submitted partial plans and would continue with the assessment process in the 2023/2024 cycle, five had been granted deviations by the MPSA and would submit reports during the 2023/2024 cycle, and16 had been issued with notices on non-compliance in terms of Section 16 (A) of the Public Service Act. These departments were compelled to submit reports during the 2023/2024 Cycle.
Key performance achievements included:
- Ethics infrastructure established in the public service.
- Governance mechanisms (ministerial and technical level) established for wage negotiations and wage bill management.
- Extensive review of personnel expenditure undertaken in government – a process led by the DPSA, in partnership with national and provincial government departments, and other state agencies.
- Amendment to Public Service Regulations (PSR) launched in October.
- Professionalisation framework – MPSA portfolio initiative currently being implemented.
- Legislative amendments consulted and supported by partners, particularly the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC).
- SA review through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) instrument, and country’s second-generation review report presented to the African Union (AU) by President Ramaphosa.
- Leveraged cloud technologies in the public service, with the implementation of the determination and directive on the use of cloud technologies in the public service, fostering a modern and efficient technological infrastructure to enhance service delivery.
- Strengthening the cyber security posture of the public service through implementing the directive on information security management in the public service.
- Implementing the determination and directive on information communication technology (ICT) service continuity aims to create dependable operations and underscore the Department’s dedication to upholding stringent standards in information and communication technology services for public administration.
- Strengthened the governance of ICT in the public service by introducing the determination and directive on corporate governance of ICT, emphasising the promotion of transparency and effective management practices within the realm of information and communication technology.
- Cabinet had approved the framework for the head of department (HOD) performance management system, for implementation in 2024.
- The business process mapping (BPM) programme was developed and approved, with implementation support extended to selected national and provincial departments over the past three years.
- The organisational functionality assessment (OFA) directive was issued with effect from 1 April 2022, and selected departments of the first two cohorts of departments were supported.
A 100% achievement could not be achieved at the end of 2022/2023 due to the following challenges:
- Clarity on the legality of conducting lifestyle audits.
- Capacity of departments to conduct lifestyle audits, where there was a lack of ethics officers and investigators and a lack of skills to conduct lifestyle audits through reviews and investigations.
The Department aimed to resolve its challenges through the involvement of the World Bank, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Canadian government, to develop courses for ethics officers and investigators on lifestyle reviews and lifestyle investigations. The plan yielded results -- as at the end of October 2023, only four national departments and nine provincial departments had not conducted lifestyle audits.
See attached for full presentation
Report on handbook of PSC members
Mr Siyasanga Giyose, Chief Director: Executive Support, Stakeholder Relations and Provincial Coordination, PSC, said the Public Service Commission handbook provided a guide to the acceptance of office by Commissioners, including remuneration and benefits, official travel and accommodation, and other conditions of service such as pension benefits, performance evaluation, and termination of service.
The PSC had also developed a code of conduct (CoC) for Commissioners, which regulated their conduct and behaviour in the workplace. It also associated the Commission with high standards of professional ethics and conduct as enshrined in Chapter 10 of the Constitution.
Key points raised from the handbook include:
- Commissioners were appointed for a term of five years, which was renewable for one additional term only.
- Commissioners serving the term of office shall not hold/occupy office in any political party or political organisation.
- Members of the PSC shall take full responsibility for looking for accommodation at the seat of office, whether private or state-owned. The state, as the employer, shall confirm the appointment if required.
- Commissioners travelling abroad on official business shall be entitled to a diplomatic passport, and may be accompanied by not more than two support staff.
- A Commissioner may, for official purposes, occupy a state-owned residence, subject to availability, if recruited from a place that was far from the seat of office.
- An independent commission shall make recommendations concerning salaries, allowances, and benefits of the Commissioners, for approval by the President from time to time.
See attached for full presentation
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked the DPSA about employing persons with disabilities, specifically the extent of its improvement in recruiting individuals with disabilities. She also inquired about the existence of a database within the Department to support women, youth, and persons with disabilities in their future endeavours.
She acknowledged the Committee's consistent inquiries on the matter of lifestyle audits, and questioned the DPSA on potential enhancements to expedite their implementation. Given DPSA's role as an overseer and monitor of other departments in this regard, she sought information on institutionalised disciplinary measures, not only for individuals but also for departments. The focus was on ensuring swift processes within the departments.
Ms Ntuli sought clarity on applying the public service handbook, particularly concerning Commissioners who had relocated and the possibility of subsidies for them. This inquiry would involve a potential connection with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), understanding that charges might be incurred.
She asked for detailed explanations of the procedures for removing an incapacitated Commissioner due to injury or illness. She emphasised the importance of a well-defined code of conduct, and the need for clear guidelines on employees' work ethics to serve as a reference in anticipation of potential litigation processes.
Dr L Schreiber (DA) raised concerns regarding the provisions outlined in the PSC handbook. He specifically questioned the Commissioners' entitlement to diplomatic passports for international visits, as stated in clause 7.4, emphasising that his review of the diplomatic passport policy did not typically extend to the Commission. He sought clarification on the legal basis for granting diplomatic passports to the PSC, given their non-diplomatic status. Was this provision a recent addition or a new mechanism, or had diplomatic passports been issued to Commissioners in the past?
Turning to the accommodation aspect, he had scrutinised Chapter 8 of the handbook, which permits Commissioners to reside in state-owned residences. He pointed out that traditionally, such residences were allocated to members of the executive. His inquiry delved into whether Commissioners had previously occupied state-owned residences, the legal basis of such a provision, and why taxpayers should bear the additional cost for Commissioners' accommodation. He commented that this practice was not common in other public service environments. He argued that relocation costs for work should be a personal responsibility, especially considering the substantial benefits already provided.
Dr Schreiber said there was a perceived conflict of interest within the PSC and suggested an independent body review and assessment of the handbook thoroughly. Such an evaluation would provide a justifiable rationale for the handbook's contents and address potential conflicts, fostering transparency and accountability within the Commission.
Ms M Kibi (ANC) posed questions regarding the professionalisation framework within the public sector. Specifically, she sought clarification on which pillars of the national framework for professionalisation had been incorporated. Which entity was responsible for monitoring the implementation of this national framework?
On the performance management system for HoDs, she raised concerns about whether the approved HoD performance system had taken into account the Auditor-General's (AG's) concerns. She specifically questioned whether these systems address the AG's recommendation regarding officials, acting in accounting officer roles for more than six months, signing performance agreements.
Inquiring about the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS), she sought information on the duration since its introduction, and the reasons behind any delays in its implementation. The focus was on understanding the timeline and potential challenges hindering the successful rollout of this financial management system.
Dr J Nothnagel (ANC) directed her inquiry to the DPSA, focusing on the utilisation of cloud technologies, and seeking information on the achievements related to the digitalisation of administration services within the public sector.
She wanted insights into whether the incorporation of professional ethics into the compulsory induction programme had had an impact on the attitudes of participants post-enrolment.
Shifting her attention to the PSC handbook, Dr Nothnagel raised questions regarding the remuneration of Commissioners. She sought clarification on whether the Committee would be involved in appraising Commissioners, and if it would recommend to the independent Commission to consider and endorse progression beyond the determined increase recommended to the President.
Ms R Komane (EFF) questioned why the DPSA was not meeting its targets, and whether these targets would be achieved by the end of the term. She also asked about the Department's awareness of the employment status of people with disabilities. She inquired if there had been engagement with the Department of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) to obtain a database of unemployed individuals with disabilities.
She expressed concern about departments that had not yet conducted lifestyle audits, seeking information on the time frame given for completing them. She wanted to know the salary level of the ethics officers, and if they had sufficient capacity to investigate senior managers.
She echoed Dr Schreiber's concerns about diplomatic passports for Commissioners and the use of state-owned accommodation. She suggested further deliberations by the Committee on the PSC handbook. Questioning the need for car rentals when Commissioners were expected to own cars, she sought justification for this practice. Lastly, she asked about the policy on removing Commissioners due to incapacity, and whether it was distinct from the policy applying to public servants.
Ms S Maneli (ANC) sought clarification on the Commission's perspective on the handbook process, particularly how it aligned with salary increases recommended to the President by an independent commission. She inquired about the Commission's expectation of a notch progression from Parliament through a performance evaluation by the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Maneli questioned the impact of interventions introduced in the public sector to instil a culture of ethical practices. She sought information on the level of compliance or non-compliance recorded by the DPSA, and the causes of low compliance among employees below senior management.
The Chairperson proposed taking the PSC handbook to the Parliamentary Legal Services for legal advice to resolve differing views, especially concerning section 2195, to determine the legality of diplomatic passports and state-owned accommodation for Commissioners. The findings would be presented upon completion of this process.
Ms Shange confirmed that there was no database on unemployment from the DWYPD, as departments were mandated under the Employment Equity Act to implement affirmative action measures. These measures aimed to enhance the appointment of persons with disabilities and women. As part of affirmative action, departments were required to identify strategies to attract these groups. One approach was to distribute job advertisements to institutions collaborating with persons with disabilities.
Dr Salomon Hoogenraad-Vermaak, Chief Director: Public Administration Ethics, Integrity, and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit (TAU), said that the lifestyle audit was a recent development in the public service, requiring the establishment of infrastructure and systems for financial disclosures. The lifestyle audit system needed ongoing training for various audit steps, including lifestyle reviews and investigations. The Department had received support from the Canadian government, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes, and this assistance needed to continue.
Legislation addressing the stabilisation of code of ethics offices had clarified that although the appointment of an ethics officer was not mandatory, it was permissible. In response, some departments had reinstated ethics departments, designating new employees as ethics officers to address delays in conducting lifestyle audits. However, a challenge had emerged, as these officers lacked training in previous years, hindering their ability to conduct thorough lifestyle audits. To address the delay, another effective solution had been reporting non-compliant departments to the Committee, compelling the reported departments to eventually comply and seek assistance in conducting the audit. Top of Form
The disciplinary measures for non-compliance with lifestyle audits align with the measures outlined in regulation 22 of the public service policy for code of conduct breaches. Disciplinary actions for staff non-compliance fell within the jurisdiction of the respective department, as the DPSA had limitations in disciplining employees outside its purview. The DPSA's approach involved following up with other departments, inquiring about actions taken, and requesting the Minister draft non-compliance letters to the executive authorities (EAs), which proved an effective strategy.
Addressing Dr Nothnagel's query on incorporating professional ethics, He said it was noteworthy that this was the first course where public servants voluntarily enrolled at their own cost, with approximately 100000 participants. Developed by the NSG, this course assessed behavioural changes in public servants, emphasising its practicality. The course aimed to guide enrolled officers on a reflective journey of their current behaviours and provide corrective measures as needed. While there was no direct assessment to track changes, an evaluation through the public service ethics survey indicated a general improvement in the ethical aspects of public servants.
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Several factors contributed to the delay or non-compliance with the lifestyle audit. An assessment of departments yet to conduct the audit revealed that the absence of ethics officers was a significant factor, along with a lack of knowledge and skills for conducting the audit. Continuous training for ethics officers was deemed necessary to address this skills gap. Another factor contributing to the delay was fear, evident in a 2% drop in the submission rate this year, with a historical 98% submission rate within the last five years, indicating reluctance among senior managers to participate in the audit.
The DPSA planned to follow up with those not complying, aiming to complete the audit across the public service by the end of the financial year. Circulars had been distributed to departments, mandating the submission of lifestyle audit statuses to the DPSA by January 2024. The remuneration of ethics officers was not prescribed, and was based instead on organisational or departmental considerations of risks and mitigations. Ethics officers were not authorised to conduct investigations, as it fell outside their job responsibilities. Their role was to ensure due process in the audit and refer anomalies for further investigation.
To provide additional insights into the ethics infrastructure, Dr Hoogenraad-Vermaak said that he would share the results of the independent public service survey conducted in May 2022 by the Ethics Institute. The survey reviewed and analysed DPSA programme areas, highlighting progress toward enhancing knowledge of rules and regulations and applying data within the public service. The survey also drew comparisons between good governance, the presence of ethics officers, and tracking clean audits.
Mr Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director: e-Government, DPSA, emphasised the Department's supporting role in collaboration with the National Treasury for IFMS implementation. The IFMS project has undergone two phases. Initially, a hybrid or bespoke development method was chosen, involving in-house construction of some components, and external procurement of others. The partial implementation of externally procured components had proved problematic for integration, prompting a rerun of IFMS with international bodies reviewing the approach. This change in approach resulted in the launch of IFMS version two, which was currently out to tender. The tendering approach had negatively impacted the project's status.
Mr Aboobaker said that the complexities inherent in centralised financial systems, combined with the pressures from departments to accelerate digitalisation, necessitated internal skills to expedite certain developments. In response to this, Treasury had eased some restrictions to facilitate progress.
The notable achievement attributed to cloud technology was the transformation of public service operations, enabling departments to conduct business from diverse locations. This capability facilitated remote work, leading to a reduction in associated costs. Even before the DPSA directive, 70 departments had reported using additional cloud technologies, exemplifying early adoption. For example, the Eastern Cape had successfully addressed challenges related to email distribution by migrating to the cloud, showcasing tangible improvements in digitalisation. Recognising the significance of these advancements, the DPSA was actively working towards assessing the progress of individual departments, aiming to compile a comprehensive report on the overall digitalisation status by the end of the financial year.
Looking ahead, the Department contemplated the establishment of digitalisation indicators to gauge progress across provinces and departments, providing a standardised measure for the digitalisation journey. These indicators would not offer insights only into the current state, but would also serve as a foundation for setting digitalisation targets in the future.
Mr Nyiko Mabunda, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Human Resources Management and Development, DPSA, affirmed the Department's collaborative efforts with the DWYPD on various initiatives. Notably, they participated in the United Nations Development Programme's Gender Equality Seal programme, addressing challenges in achieving gender parity and equality in public service institutions. Ongoing partnerships involved jointly monitoring compliance reports for designated women, youth, and people with disabilities throughout the public service.
Regarding alignment with Regulation 65, subsection 6, the DPSA emphasised that job advertisements should not unfairly discriminate, and must allow all suitably qualified individuals to apply. To support affirmative action measures, a monitoring system had been established in collaboration with the DWYPD and disability rights organisations. This system evaluated how visibility of designated groups could be enhanced, ensuring their increased representation in positions across the public service. Furthermore, the DPSA assisted departments in responding to the needs of these designated groups, fostering economic opportunities.
The Department did not classify delays in implementing the revisions to the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) as actual "delays," due to its adherence to a three-year cycle. Presently, there was a connection between the changes in acting appointments and the challenges highlighted by the AG for the DPSA. The Department had effectively implemented PMDS provisions, requiring individuals acting for more than three months to revise their PDAs or performance agreements to incorporate new responsibilities. Additionally, the PMDS for HoDs has been revised, currently undergoing the piloting phase, in which the DG of DPSA participated last Friday. Notably, changes from the pilot would be introduced only at the end of the three-year cycle, scheduled for implementation from 1 April of the following year.
The Minister and the AG had instructed the DPSA to evaluate the impact of current policies, directives, and regulations on the functionality of government service delivery and the public's perception of the services provided. Accordingly, the Department was developing a capacitors' model, outlining an early warning system to monitor and assess the impact, along with strategies to enhance compliance enforcement across the public service. This encompassed monitoring acting appointments, additional structure expenditure, overtime, and adherence to PMDS prescripts to gauge the productivity of public servants. The Department was adopting an integrated approach to comprehensively address the concerns raised by the AG. It was also formulating a new human capital strategy encompassing the entire value chain of human resources across the public service, from strategic planning for human resources to operational considerations shaping the environment, recruitment, onboarding of employees, and approaches to reward and incentivisation.
The Department's professionalisation framework was structured around five pillars. The first pillar focused on enhancing recruitment and selection processes, as reflected in the forthcoming proposals of the professionalisation frame directive. The second pillar was centred on induction and onboarding, providing opportunities for reorienting existing public servants and ensuring effective staff induction. The third framework emphasised planning and performance management, aiming to assess public servants' performance and link individual performance to the overall institutional goals. The fourth framework, continuous learning, and professional development, outlined how the first three pillars contribute to human resource development plans in the public service. This pillar addressed challenges related to scarce skills, facilitating the transition from additional appointments to structured roles and supporting the development of skills. The final framework focused on career progression for HoDs and career incidents within the public service.
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Ms Makhasi said that all the Department's targets were on track for achievement, with various dependencies influencing each target. For instance, the target related to legislative amendments depended on the parliamentary process, and Parliament had indicated that the legislation would be completed by the end of March. The Department had implemented mechanisms to ensure these targets were met within the current term of the MTSF.
Monthly performance reviews were conducted to prevent the loss of focus on performance issues. However, the Department faced capacity challenges due to broad expectations and delivery constraints with a limited budget. The roles and responsibilities of the DPSA involved coordination expected to deliver on tasks assigned to other departments. Additionally, the DPSA encountered challenges related to a lack of special skills due to funding constraints in the MTEF, leading to the internal reprioritisation of limited funds. The Department had a limited number of remuneration specialists, and even with a small number of researchers, the DPSA addresses research-related issues. While the DPSA processes data, it lacks data analysts, and the current structure is constrained in accommodating the organisation's requirements.
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In addressing vacancies within the senior management service (SMS) level, the Department had the flexibility to relocate vacancies and introduce new rules to address existing gaps. However, this relocation was not feasible at the non-SMS level due to established labour relations protocols for staff below SMS, and the resolutions and rules of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.
Regarding Ms Ntuli's inquiry on lifestyle audits, the DG explained that the DPSA had limited power or authority to enforce the implementation of directives in other departments. The DG's jurisdiction concerning the failure of other departments to conduct lifestyle audits or adhere to other policies, was to report to the Minister. The Minister would then report to the ministers of those respective departments. Only the ministers of these departments had the authority to discipline their own HoDs or DGs. The DPSA relied on writing compliance letters to departments, escalating the matter to the Portfolio Committee by providing reports, and indicating the departments that were not complying, with the hope that the Committee could intervene and summon these departments to explain themselves.
Despite these challenges, Ms Makhasi acknowledged that the Department would continually strive to deliver excellent services. However, it would like to schedule a briefing with the Committee to provide ample explanations about the challenges experienced and some of the interventions that have been innovatively established by managing limited resources. These issues required allocating more resources to enable the development of systems that were efficient and sustainable.
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Prof Somadoda Fikeni, Chairperson, PSC, suggested that viewing accountability and oversight as an equal system was crucial for implementing professionalisation and ensuring effective monitoring. This was why the PSC collaborated with the DPSA and the NSG to develop an implementation plan. The PSC had initiated discussions with the AG and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) to institutionalise an equal system of accountability in performance agreements. The PSC would continue to oversee the implementation as part of its constitutional mandate on behalf of Parliament. Regardless of their reporting line, it would engage with departments to integrate accountability into performance agreements and targets.
The PSC had raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest and the crafting of conditions for themselves. They had suggested that an independent entity should create the handbook. However, Parliament had insisted that the PSC be responsible for crafting the handbook. It was essential to note that the PSC attempted to assist in creating this draft.
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Ms Ngwenya reiterated that the handbook was a draft, and was open for further consideration. Regarding permanent incapacity due to injury or sickness, Section 10.9, point 2, subsection C of the handbook clearly outlined the procedures to be applied when a Commissioner had been declared permanently incapacitated. This aligned with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act of 1995, as regulated.
Ms Sizani emphasised that the PSC handbook was intended to assist the employer in establishing a proper framework, as an institution could not operate in a vacuum. Commissioners were not appointed from entry-level stages -- instead, individuals who had been established politically or academically were appointed to serve the country. This appointment may necessitate the transfer of individuals from their established primary locations, requiring accommodation to fulfil their obligations. Therefore, it was essential that they were provided with adequate accommodation, considering their five-year term, which was insufficient time for them to procure houses at their own cost, especially when they already owned houses in their primary locations. Parliamentary Members were offered accommodation outside their primary locations, so Commissioners should not be exempted. These accommodations were not prestigious places like the ministers' lodges. Commissioners should be provided housing from the available stock owned by the state, where they would sign a lease agreement with the DPWI and pay a minimal rent applicable to everyone.
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The issuance of diplomatic passports fell under the discretion of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, and these passports were not exclusive to diplomats. They were service passports also acquired by ministers, deputy ministers, HoDs, traditional rulers, and others. The inclusion of this item in the handbook would be subject to the Committee's decision.
Individuals who exhibited underperformance or engaged in behaviour inconsistent with the expectations of a public office would not be permitted to continue their work. A disciplinary code and procedure existed in the public service, and the PSC was attentive to the policy codes that would guide Parliament on proper conduct. A section in the Constitution addressed the removal of employees, and this provision was applicable to Commissioners as well.
Ms Ntuli asked that the Department not respond to Members as if they are “crèche children”.
In closing, the Chairperson said the Handbook would be sent to the parliamentary legal team for further legal insight for one view, especially regarding Section 195. The feedback would be provided to the Committee. The Department and the PSC were thanked for their participation.
Members supported this.
The minutes from previous meetings were adopted by the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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