Digital Government Policy Framework; Public Service Recruitment Monitoring and Oversight Tool

Public Service and Administration

13 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms T Mgweba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Public Service Commission (PSC) responded to the Portfolio Committee's recommendation that it develop an oversight tool to monitor recruitment processes in the public service.

The PSC told the Committee that it conducted research, investigations and inspections and played an advocacy role in the interest of maintaining an effective and efficient public administration. The approach to monitoring compliance with legislation, directives and guidelines was through studies undertaken by the PSC.

The PSC said the DPSA, as the policy custodian, was responsible for developing instruments for monitoring recruitment by government departments.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) also briefed the Committee on a policy framework for digital government to improve E-government coordination in the public service.

The DPSA told the Committee that the quality of services and efficiency in delivering them remained unsatisfactory. A draft Digital Government Policy Framework has been developed to provide a comprehensive approach to using digital technologies to improve the effectiveness of government operations and foster a citizen-centric approach to governance.

During the discussion, Members raised concerns about the independence of the PSC. They asked whether it was dependent on the DPSA and Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and why it was not developing its own terms of reference and guidelines to determine the validity of appointments in government departments. 

Members asked the DPSA about measures to ensure government-wide implementation of digital transformation and the reskilling of workers. They asked whether all departments were implementing a revised framework for the governance of information and communication technology.

There were questions about citizens’ access to digital services, especially in remote rural areas, and about whether all public service offices were installed with Wi-Fi to assist citizens in accessing services. 

The Department was also questioned about the robustness of government’s cyber-security. 

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson said the Portfolio Committee had invited the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to report on a monitoring and oversight tool for recruitment processes in the public service. The development of such a tool was recommended in the Committee’s budgetary review report of October 2023. The aim was to ensure accountability for the Committee's recommendations and to establish whether they were implemented.

Seeing as the end of the sixth administration was approaching, the DPSA would make a presentation on the draft Digital Government Policy Framework, which aimed to improve the efficiency of government services.

Mr Vusumuzi Mavuso, Commissioner, PSC, said the PSC had noted the Committee’s recommendation that the PSC should develop a tool to monitor recruitment processes undertaken by various departments within the Public Service. This would have been the responsibility of the DPSA, but because the PSC had a collegial relationship with the DPSA, they engaged with them to discuss how this would unfold without creating unnecessary tensions. There was mutual agreement that the PSC should take charge of the process and make sure that they reported to the Portfolio Committee.  

PSC Briefing: Recruitment monitoring and oversight tool

Dr Kholofelo Sedibe, Deputy Director-General: Leadership and Management Practices, PSC, presented a report on introducing a monitoring and oversight tool to monitor recruitment processes in the public service.

18 October 2023 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report concerning Vote 12 of the PSC Annual Report for the 2022/2023 FY recommended the need for the PSC to develop a monitoring and oversight tool to monitor recruitment processes undertaken by various government departments comprising various indicators to scrutinise and test the validity of the appointments made on an annual basis.
-Process to understand and contextualise the expectation concerning the mandate of the PSC and role of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) embarked upon.
-Engagement was held with the DPSA to ascertain the status of various deliverables that are linked to the approved National Framework on Professionalisation of the Public Sector as well as current strategies being developed in the Human Resource Management Development (HRMD) space

The PSC:
-conducts high-level monitoring and oversight without interfering with the daily operations of departments;
-supports the policy development process through research;
-investigates complaints/grievance in line with applicable Rules; and
-Identifies, through research and investigations, deficiencies and/or best practices.

Simply put, the approach to monitoring compliance to legislation (including directives/circulars/guidelines) is through different studies undertaken by the PSC.

The development of tools and instruments for monitoring and compliance related to HR prescripts and practices resides with the policy development department, DPSA, as the custodian of policy

Officials of the PSC engaged officials from the DPSA on 07 February 2024 to get a common understanding of the expectation of the Portfolio Committee. The engagement intended to:
-Understand the current monitoring and compliance instruments that the DPSA is developing as the policy owners concerning the HRMD terrain, which includes all practices of HRM
-Understand the impact of the developing and evolving HR practices with due noting of the Public Service Amendment Bill as well as the Human Resource Management and Development Strategy, which is part of the suite of developments aimed at the Professionalisation of the Public Service; and
-Understand the best mechanisms to be put in place to respond to the request from the Portfolio Committee.

The need for compliance tools and instruments is acknowledged by both PSC and DPSA

The DPSA, as the policy developers, is in a better position to attend to this in line with the ongoing reviews of various prescripts and has commenced with the development of monitoring instruments (Interestingly, the DPSA’s briefing to the Portfolio Committee on 6 March 2024 has addressed this).

The work being carried out by the DPSA includes the following:
-Finalising an Integrated HRMD Strategy, including mapping out the overall HRMD value chain which will lead to reviewing all Determinations, Circulars and Toolkits to ensure alignment with the Professionalisation Framework,
-Revision of the Public Service Regulations,
-Public Administration Management Amendment Act (PAMA) and Public Service Act Amendment Bills; and
-Development of an Early Warning System (EWS) by the DPSA, which intends to continuously assess the level of compliance within departments on, not only recruitment and selection, but the spectrum of HRM practices.

This will considerably impact all departments as it has the potential to minimise the amount of grievances and investigations being conducted and the business intelligence will assist PSC researchers to determine where pitfalls may be. 

The EWS can be updated as policy and legislation changes, making it versatile to implement

The DPSA also has the following in the pipeline to deal with and manage the issue of compliance throughout the Public Service and with future plans being put in place for the Public Sector.

From 1 April new reporting tools will be applicable that integrate DPSA and DPME matters reported linked to APPs, PDPs, HRPs, and HRD Plans.

Some of the details were addressed by DPSA on 6 March 2024

Noting the development of various strategies and evolving legislative framework, the development of the EWS is a journey, and cannot be implemented on an ad hoc basis or in parts or otherwise. 

The DPSA also works closely with other departments to address HRM matters within the context of public service professionalisation.

The DPME has integrated into the MTSF targets on the Professionalisation Directive.

Professionalisation targets are included in the HOD and DDG Performance Agreements.

New Executive Authorities (EAs) will be inducted on the performance management roles for Heads of Departments (HODs) and departments.

The Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) will audit the implementation of the Professionalisation Framework by all departments following the release of this Directive

The PSC has a constitutional obligation to ensure that resources are used efficiently and effectively and this obligation is a shared principle across the Public Service.

It is also the responsibility of the PSC to advise the Portfolio Committee in a transparent manner that will avoid mandate creep and duplication.

As the custodian of HRM policy in the Public Service, the DPSA is responsible for setting norms and standards and developing a tool to monitor recruitment processes undertaken by various government departments; such tool will serve as the basis for scrutinising and testing the validity of the appointments made on an annual basis.

The PSC will continue to conduct macro level monitoring through research as part of its oversight mandate.

Therefore, DPSA should report on the development of the tool to monitor recruitment processes undertaken by various government departments to the Portfolio Committee in the near future

See attached for full presentation

DPSA Briefing: Digital Government Policy Framework

Mr Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director: E-Government, DPSA, presented a report on a policy framework aimed at improving coordination of E-government in the public service. He said the quality of services and the efficiency of government when delivering services remained unsatisfactory despite the initiatives that were identified and implemented.

Key digital government policies published recently dealt with the use of cloud technologies; cyber security; digital government risk management; digital governance; and knowledge and data management.

The aim of the draft Digital Government Policy Framework was to provide a comprehensive and coherent approach to leveraging digital technologies for the provision of public services, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, and fostering a citizen-centric approach to governance. The envisaged outcome of developing the policy framework was to improve delivery of services to the citizens.

See attached for full presentation


Ms M Kibi (ANC) asked the DPSA what measures were required to ensure a comprehensive government-wide implementation of digital transformation measures that addressed the reskilling of current workers. 

The Portfolio Committee had requested the PSC develop its own tool for scrutinising and testing the validity of appointments made annually in the public service. Was the PSC dependent only on the tool to be developed by the DPSA and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME)? Why not develop their own terms of reference and guidelines to determine the validity of appointments?

Ms R Komane (EFF) said the reason the PSC was asked to develop their own tool was because they were an independent entity and were capable of developing their own terms of reference to guide them. She referred to slide 6, bullet point 4. Did that mean the PSC was dependent on the DPSA? How did the PSC do things when they depended on what was developed by the DPSA?

She asked the DPSA if all the departments were implementing the norms and standards of the revised Public Service Corporate Governance of ICT Framework. If not, how many still needed to buy into the framework? What were the challenges faced by those departments in implementing the framework?

How would all citizens get access to digital services, especially in remote rural areas? Were all public service offices installed with Wi-Fi services to assist citizens to access services?
Dr J Nothnagel (ANC) asked the DPSA if the government had robust cyber security. 

Mr G Nkgweng (ANC) asked what principles should be considered when adopting such technologies. They could be used in a discriminatory manner if not ethically defined.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said that adopting an E-government solution required clear design principles which should respond to the context of the country. What design principles should be upheld by the Department? 

Ms S Maneli (ANC) asked the DPSA about the progress made in implementing the E-government strategy. To what extent had the three spheres of government progressed?

Have there been any cyber attacks since the DPSA developed the cyber security framework? How did they deal with them and what would have been the cost involved?

The Chairperson said innovation was an ongoing process. However, the government had to continually develop instruments that fostered a culture that embraced innovation. The government system should enable innovation, which is critical to ensuring that E-government interventions are impactful and respond to problems of service delivery on the ground. She asked the DPSA for its observations on government systems that enable innovation rather than inhibit it. 

PSC responses

Mr Mavuso said the PSC was not dependent on the DPSA. The responsibility of the PSC went much deeper. It was to conduct investigations and assessments of what had been done by the different departments. Their responsibility was not to design policies but to oversee the policies of government departments and ensure implementation and accountability on issues raised. 

Prof Somadoda Fikeni, Chairperson, PSC, said if the PSC Bill was passed, it would be a major step towards enhancing their independence. Proper implementation of public sector reforms and a professionalisation framework would enhance the autonomy of the PSC. This was part of the greater ecosystem that ensured effective, efficient public service that was people-centred and service-oriented.

Dr Sedibe said the PSC was not dependent on the DPSA. They had their own systems and procedures for investigating grievances and complaints, as well as protocols on how to deal with inspections and different types of research. These were properly documented to ensure that there was a level of consistency and rigour. What the PSC did happened largely at the meso and macro levels of the Public Service. It was only in investigations that related to the particular conduct of individuals or units within institutions that the PSC dealt with micro-level activities.

The PSC understood that the request by the Portfolio Committee required them to have a system that looked at the micro-level activities. The PSC was not able to monitor departments’ hiring of people over a certain period because they did not conduct micro-level monitoring. This kind of monitoring would involve the PSC in interfering with the executive function. The DPSA dealt with such issues through regulations, policy development and the development of tools that institutions themselves could use. The tool that the DPSA was putting in place was proactive to ensure that institutions were not misinterpreting the prescripts, processes, and procedures they needed to follow. Therefore, there was no need for the PSC to develop another tool parallel to that. Not only would they be creating inefficiency in the system, but they would run the risk of creating confusion. 

To ensure that the PSC was not always reacting, they constantly engaged with the DPSA. Any intelligence gathered from investigations, research and inspections was used to develop legislation, regulations, and tools. This ensured that proactive systems were in place. The PSC then conducted in-depth studies to influence the review and amendment of those systems. 

DPSA responses

Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, Director General, DPSA, suggested that the Portfolio Committee set up another meeting to report on research they had done. The DPSA conducted research in two areas. One is related to the issue of accessibility and usage of E-government services. The second was to understand what innovative initiatives were taking place in departments and how innovation was positioned in government generally.
In response to Ms Kibi’s question, Mr Aboobaker said the policy framework, would integrate the work done by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) in terms of digitalisation and digital skills development. The DCDT recently launched a digital skills forum. The DPSA was part of the forum and worked closely with them regarding digital matters.

Regarding up-skilling current workers, a human capital strategy has been developed in the DPSA. The DPSA identified the need for reskilling and thinking about issues of data skills and how to infuse basic technology skills into public servants. They also addressed issues of capacity building by talking to their biggest suppliers and international companies to fund and train young people and bring them into public service as part of their social responsibility initiatives. 

Concerning the Corporate Governance of ICT Policy Framework, when the directive was published, departments were given 12 months to implement it. The next step was to start a monitoring cycle in the next financial year. The Department conducted awareness sessions with departments to get some feedback from them. The departments that had progressed with version one of the corporate governance strategy indicated that they found it easy to move on to the new version. The departments that struggled had issues about bringing their leadership closer to information technology (IT) and understanding the value of IT governance.   

The SA Connect project played a vital role in providing citizens with access to government services. However, there was an issue with funding and coverage. Service providers did not want to go to underserviced areas unless it made clear business sense for them. The DCDT was working with service providers on how they could use the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) to provide connectivity in underserved areas with the prioritisation of Wi-Fi hotspots. The benefit of digitalisation was not only about citizens having easy access to services but also about the efficiencies that digitalisation brought. 

From a cyber security perspective, there was no robust security, and there would never be. It was always about being ahead of the criminal. Criminals were becoming sophisticated and using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to hack. The Minister had published a directive on information security meant to deal with the basics of cyber security in every department. Cybersecurity capacity was a constraint and a problem, and it was related to government’s ability to attract expensive cybersecurity officials.

No AI policy has been put in place yet, but there have been discussions between the DCDT and the Department. From a policy framework perspective, it was important to think about transparency. If AI was deployed and it replaced the human in terms of specific tasks, there must be transparency in how it performed tasks. When AI was used for a business process, the Department had to make sure that it did not discriminate at any point. The AI must be reliable, secure, and scalable and the Department must ensure that citizen and government data is not compromised when using AI tools.

In response to Ms Ntuli’s question, whatever the Department did must be based on the Batho Pele principles. There were specific design principles from the technology perspective such as the needs of the users, simplicity, and value for money. Money spent on technology should meet its objective and add value.

Regarding the progress in implementing the E-government strategy, there has been progress since 2012, including the development of the early policies. South Africa has a connected government today regarding the backend in every government department. Globally, many governments were struggling to have the integrated backend that South Africa had. The Department of Home Affairs has done well in giving citizens the ability to apply online for certain services and in using partnerships with banks. In the transport sector, people were able to renew their licences online and have them delivered to their doorstep. The E-service platform had around 1 770 services and it worked. Some departments had not been able to digitise some of their core processes which were still manual and paper-based. The challenge was integrating services for the citizen’s convenience.

There had been cyber-attacks at some government agencies and departments but not at the DPSA, which had done very well internally in securing their systems. There were organisations which worked in partnership with the DCDT and DPSA on what needed to be done to deal with cyber-attacks. There was no study in place to quantify the cost of cyber-attacks but it was something that the DPSA could include in its research agenda.

A research study on innovation was underway. It sought to unpack the challenges in departments in terms of innovation, what the departments were and what the legislation said.  

The systems deployed enabled innovation in the sense that they allowed things to be done in a different way and new methods and technologies to be adopted. Developing and deploying systems requires businesses to think in an innovative way and to abandon the old ways of doing things. As technology was deployed, it was forcing units in departments to think in a different way and to use system and design thinking in their approaches.

Adoption of minutes
The minutes for 15 November 2023 were reviewed, Ms Ntuli adopted and Ms Kibi seconded.

The minutes for 22 November 2023 were reviewed, Ms Kibi adopted and Ms Ntuli seconded.

The minutes for 14 February 2024 were reviewed Ms Ntuli adopted and Ms Kibi seconded.

The meeting was adjourned.


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