Public Service Commission: candidate interviews

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report



21 July 1998



This meeting was the first in a series of twelve meetings that will be held this week to interview the twelve shortlisted candidates for the Public Service Commission (PSC). The candidate interviewed during this meeting was the current chairperson of the PSC, Professor S S Sangweni. The meeting, attended by ten ANC MPs and five National Party MPs, lasted less than an hour.


The chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee, Mr. M R Sikakane of the ANC, opened the meeting by noting that the interviews are open to public observation in accordance with the government’s principles of transparency.

The chairperson encouraged the candidate to be interviewed - Professor S S Sangweni, current chairperson of the Public Service Commission - to feel free and comfortable.

The chairperson asked, ‘What is your vision for the Public Service Commission?’

Prof Sangweni responded that the PSC should contribute towards building a civil service that excels in delivering services to the people of South Africa. The civil service should be loyal to the government of the day, but not committed to that government in a partisan sense. The civil service should be guided by high standards of ethics and integrity. Prof Sangweni stated that despite the complexity of the situation, the PSC had already assisted the current government in developing a civil service that reflected the government’s vision and policy.

The chairperson opened the floor to questions from other committee members.

A National Party MP asked, ‘Are you satisfied with the current situation in the public service? What are the critical issues now facing the public service? If reappointed, how would you address these issues?’

Prof Sangweni responded that the civil service is still in the early stages of transformation. Much of the necessary rationalization has been accomplished, but critical tasks lie ahead. These tasks include improving service delivery and making the civil service more representative of the country in terms of gender, race, and disability.

Prof Sangweni stated that the PSC and the civil service now have a full package of policy frameworks to guide the transformation process. The time has arrived to put those frameworks into action. He said that he has been impressed with the ethics and professionalism of many of the civil servants whom he has met. He is optimistic about the progress and potential of the civil service.

An ANC MP asked, ‘How can public servants with needed expertise be persuaded not to leave the civil service?’

Prof Sangweni replied that to retain talented civil servants, it is necessary to ensure that civil servants have fair compensation, good conditions of work, and a good pension arrangement. In addition, the image of the civil service needs to be improved so as to attract and retain talented personnel. He believes that retraining can effectively reorient veterans of the civil service with needed expertise to the new modes of working required by the present government.

An ANC MP asked, ‘What should be done about the provinces in which the civil service is said to be in danger of collapsing?’

Prof Sangweni stated that the situation is different in each department in each of the weak provinces, and each situation requires individual consideration. He recommended that the PSC and other concerned parties visit each trouble spot and meet with a range of role-players in order to assess the situation. He stated that workshops and other training programmes could address many of the problems in the problematic provinces.

An ANC MP asked, ‘How would your reappointment promote the accomplishment of the ends of the PSC?’

Prof Sangweni responded that the PSC needed to make progress in several priority areas, including improvement of service delivery, implementation of affirmative action, and enhancement of professional ethics. He stated that the PSC has failed to ensure effective service delivery to all citizens of the country and needs to be more aware of what is happening at community level.

A National Party MP asked, ‘How important is continuity on the PSC? What additional knowledge and skills does the PSC need to meet the challenges ahead?’

Prof Sangweni replied that the PSC needs a wide range of expertise, including persons with human resource management and development expertise, leadership skills, and familiarity with affirmative action programmes.

An ANC MP asked, ‘Has the PSC encountered resistance in the civil service to transformation initiatives?’

Prof Sangweni responded that the introduction of new ideas inevitably causes insecurity and uncertainty. He stated that most of the civil servants who resisted change have already left the public service. The remaining resistance can be overcome by training and reeducation.

Mr. Sikakane thanked Prof Sangweni. Mr. Sikakane stated that as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, he had observed the PSC taking on an enormous task. He suggested that continuity on the PSC was important. Mr. Sikakane then adjourned the meeting, reminding members to reconvene at 14h00 for the next interview.


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