Restructuring of Public Service: Department briefing

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041103pcpservice

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
3 November 2004
RESTRUCTURING OF PUBLIC SERVICE: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents handed out
Department briefing

SUMMARY
The Department of Public Service and Administration briefed the Committee on the proposed plan for a single public service highlighting their progress thus far. The different provinces were discussed individually and the specific issues of absorption and excess employees were discussed. Members questioned the timeframes for implementation, the reasons why some provinces were further along than others, and if retrenchment was a possibility.

MINUTES
Department briefing
Prof Richard Levin, Director General, spoke about the lack of co-ordination between and within spheres and within the Local Government sector which had a negative impact on service delivery. There was a need for over-arching, umbrella legislation that would govern the different spheres so that there would be parallel processes around the development of legislation. A Governance and Administration task team had been set up to develop a single public service with systems and mechanisms transformed for seamless service delivery and clearly defined frameworks that covered all employees.

A comprehensive work plan had been developed which contained four streams:
- human resources,
- legislation (Public Administration Management Bill, Local Government Employees Bill, Public Entities Bill and amendments to the Public Service Act)
- cost analysis (National Treasury) and
- internal restructuring.
Prof Levin then spoke about the progress to date in each of these streams and details about the framework legislation that was required (see presentation document).

Mr Kenny Govender, Senior Manager: Negotiations and Labour Relations, said that since the lapse in 2003 of Resolution 7 of 2002, the Departments and provinces had continued with absorption. The Department of Public Services and Administration supported this process by holding workshops and advising management on excess employees. He provided a progress report on each province. Provinces had made contributions in reducing excess staff, vacancies were at higher levels and employees did not see a threat to their employment status (see presentation document).

Discussion
Mr K Minnie (DA) asked what the difference between integration and centralisation was. Were there plans on the table to change the Constitution? Would it be possible to have a time frame for this process and for the policy document to be drawn up? Who would control the personnel function after integration?

Prof Richard Levin, Director General, stated that specific legislation which' speaks to each other' would be required. Once this was in place, overarching legislation would be developed that would create norms and standards according to the principles of the Constitution. A Public Administration Management Bill was what the technical team proposed should be put in place at an overarching level. This bill was at the concept level and no draft existed as yet. However, this would be required to create the single public service system which respected the integrity of the different spheres of Government.

Mr Levin explained that centralised services delivery was for example if Pretoria would try to deliver a piece of land or a tap from their office in Pretoria. Integrated services delivery recognised that in order to provide a service a number of role players would be involved. The role players involved should be integrated. For this to be possible a uniformed system of public administration was required.

Mr Levin stated that the policy document was considered to be a priority and the Deportment would like to complete it soon. However, policy was not in the hands of the Department and therefore a time frame could not be given. Personnel would be controlled by the suggested legislation. It was hoped that draft legislation could be placed before Cabinet in 2005.

Ms W Newhoudt-Drunchen (ANC) stated that she had heard of a deaf person who had applied and got a position at a school for the deaf. She was informed, however, that she might lose this position because the Department should have filled the position with excess staff. Was the school not informed that they should have filled this position with excess staff and that interviews should not have taken place? Seeing that a percentage of disabled staff was required in terms of the Employment Equity Act, was there a possibility that this person could keep her job?

Mr Alvin Rapea, Executive Manager: Human Resources, stated that more information would be required to follow up this situation. However, the employment of disabled persons was in line with their policy on employment equity. The Department was lagging behind in employment equity and the school should therefore not change this post.

Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) asked if there were excess employees in the Department of Health. She asked if the excess employees could be trained to fill vacant positions in the Department. Have nurses taken retrenchment packages? Would the single public service affect the remuneration of those municipal mangers who earned huge salaries?

Mr Govender answered that the excess employees in the Department of Health were found in positions such as the laundry room and kitchen. Very few nurses were declared in excess, as there was a national shortage. Therefore, a limited number of employee-initiated retrenchment packages were available to nurses.

Dr Luthuli (ANC) suggested that the Department should explain in the next meeting how the process would be managed. He asked for insight into how the employee-initiated severance package would look and how it would impact on total retirement figures.

Mr Govender stated that the employee-initiated package was the same as packages initiated by the Department.

Mr W Shkosana (ANC) asked when the Public Service Commission would be brought into the picture and if they were involved. What was happening at local government level? How was it possible that Mpumalanga had no excess employees?

Mr Levin said the Public Service Commission was part and parcel of the process. The entire process would be done within the overall principles and values the Commission had been established to promote, uphold, monitor and evaluate.

Mr Govender explained that absorption had been very successful in Mpumalanga because the province had only had 151 employees in excess of requirements. A concerted effort was made by employees to remain in service even if it meant re-deployment to other provincial departments.

Mr M Mzondeki asked what would happen if employees were not willing to accept voluntary severance packages as well as not wanting to relocate.

Mr Govender stated that this was a big difficulty faced by the Department. These matters were issues for collective bargaining. The Department hoped to train the involved employees in various skills, thus making them more marketable.

The Chairperson stated that any restructuring posed a threat to employment stability and therefore the process should be transparent. The Department should also be careful not to make the package too attractive so that important skills were lost.

The meeting was adjourned.

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