Public Service Commission on Status of Disabled Persons within the Public Service

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


29 August 2001

Acting Chairperson:
Mr Mboniwe (ANC)

Documents Handed out
State of Representativeness in the Public Service

PSC delegation: Chief Director, Mr Naidoo; Deputy-Director General, Ms Ramsingh; Mr Msoki; Ms Mokgalong and Ms Rantho.

The Public Service Commission presented its aims and objectives on the empowerment of disabled persons and employment within the Public Service.

The purpose of the meeting was to receive a status report on the position of disabled persons employed within the Public Service. As the PSC report had not been circulated in advance due to logistical problems, the PSC presented the report for later comment by the Committee.

Although only a few members were present, Mr Mboniwe stated that because no decisions would be taken at this meeting, the question of quorum did not apply.

Ms Rantho (PSC) stated that a Public Service Administration (PSA) report was presented to the Committee in March 2001. The components on disability had been researched further and would be explained presently.

It was necessary to inform the members about the tasks of the PSC. A new PSC was established by the 1996 Constitution, with 14 commissioners (5 from the National Assembly and 9 from the individual provinces). In addition a support structure was created, with its offices in Pretoria and one in each of the provinces. In terms of S195 of the 1996 Constitution, the main responsibilities of the PSC are to mandate, to monitor, to investigate and to make proposals.

The PSC is often confused with the PSA, but the PSC was in no way a policy-making department. In addition, it would suffice to say that the commission dealt with professional ethics, risk management, anti-corruption, service delivery and human resources.

State of Representativeness Report
Ms Ramsingh (PSC) presented the main findings from the State of Representativeness Report. She explained that the Report highlighted the issues of progress regarding disability. An outline of the PSC project on disability was contained in the report.

Ms Ramsingh discussed the roles of the body. It is required by the Constitution to mandate and evaluate the effectiveness and the efficiency of the entire Public Service. Through monitoring projects such as the State of Representativeness Report, the PSC is able to identify areas that require further attention.

The progress in achieving race, gender and disability targets varied. Regarding race targets and progress, the target of achieving 50% Black Senior Management by the year of 1999 was met, at a figure of 58%. The only exceptions were the Western Cape and the Free State, with figures of 28% and 35% respectively. As far as gender targets and progress, the target of getting 30% women into Senior Management by the year of 1999 was not met, the global figure sitting at 22%. Neither did all provinces did meet their targets.

Ms Ramsingh added that across the board there had been little progress in improving the employment of disabled persons within the Public Service. The figure as of date was a negligible 0.02%, which was far from the target of 2% set for 2005. It was therefore a priority that the matter be investigated in detail in order to understand the nature of the constraints that prevent the target from being met. There was a very minimal amount in terms of effective decision making by disabled persons within the Public Service.

A study commissioned by the DPSA, and which provided a baseline information on Public Service Training and Education indicated that disabled persons accessed limited training. Between the period of 1998 to 1999 and 2000 to 2001, 173 and 374 disabled employees respectively received training. This is out of 1065 disabled persons employed in the Public Service. Although there was an increase in the uptake of training over the two periods, there still exists potential for further training to be received by disabled persons.

Ms Ramsingh gave a breakdown of the numbers of disabled persons employed within the national and provincial departments. A number of the National departments, such as the departments of welfare and education, had very negligible figures, (with 6 employed in the former and 8 in the latter). However, even those departments that employed the disabled did not have satisfactory figures, the department of correctional services having employed 71 disabled persons, whilst the department of labour employing 61 disabled persons. The Western Cape was leading the provinces, with an employment figure of 201 disabled persons, whilst the Free State was very low, at only 8 disabled persons. However, one had to bear in mind that these figures represented only 0.2% on the 2% target to be met.

Public Service Commission Objectives
Ms Ramsingh gave an outline of the PSC proposals. The PSC is giving high priority to the slow progress made in improving the employment of the disabled in the Public Service. A study will be conducted which aims to identify the constraints preventing the targets from being met.

The PSC must identify what has been done by national and provincial administrations to narrow the employment gap between non-disabled and disabled job seekers in the public service. The commission must also identify measures for the integration of people with disabilities. It must establish and examine the nature and extent of the barriers that make it difficult for the disabled to access jobs in the public service, in addition to identifying such barriers that make it difficult for them to enjoy their work.

The performance and productivity of disabled employees must be evaluated on an equitably comparative basis with non-disabled employees. It must also evaluate the contents of the national and provincial department policies in accordance with the Employment Equity Act and Draft Code of Good Practice on Disability, and advise departments on the best practice. The PSC is required to establish whether or not mainstreaming of women with disabilities takes place.

The project would cover the National Departments and the Provincial Administrations. This is because the jurisdiction of the PSC does not cover the third tier of government.

In order to achieve its objectives the commission must engage with this Committee and others to gain comments and insights. Heads of Department will be informed of the Project, and awareness will be highlighted. The PSC will engage with the office of the Presidency, although this has already begun. In addition, questionnaires will be implemented, and in loco inspections and interviews will be conducted. The commission will interact with the Provincial OSDP where such offices do exist.

Ms Ramsingh explained what the commission hopes the outcome will be. It is hoped that a process, in the form of extensive consultation, will be emphasised as it is felt that engagement with a wide range of role-players will enhance the project. A report will be produced, with workshops for comments and feedback. The report will form the basis for the necessary policy recommendations.

She concluded requesting that the Committee enhances communication of the project. The Committee must give suggestions on whom to engage with, and must give support for the project. This will require an agreement regarding the on-going reporting to the Committee by the commission on progress made. The PSC hopes to aggressively deal with the situation where little has been done for disabled persons in the past.

Mr Mboniwe asked if there were any additions from the rest of the PSC delegation before opening the discussion to the floor.

Ms Rantho stated that the prevailing situation in terms of representation is weak. She called upon the Committee to give recommendations, and ensured that they would be adhered to. The Constitutional requirement for a broadly representative public service is their aim.

Ms Gore (DP) discussed the treatment of her deaf husband when he was looking for a job. He went to the departments of home affairs and welfare with a letter requesting application forms. They were not granted on both occasions. It was only when he went back demanding to see the supervisor that the forms were quickly given to him. Who gave training on disability issues because the attitude towards disabled persons starts at grass roots levels?

Ms Mokgalong said that the various department levels must be trained. This situation has resulted from the historical stigma that is associated with disabled persons. People should be made aware of the need to treat disabled persons equally.

Mr Msoki added that this situation indicates misconduct. The PSC has developed a code of conduct and in the event that this type of behaviour occurs, there is a need on the part of the service user to report the person and the department.

Mr Dithebe (ANC) stated that the PSC had no jurisdiction over local government. However, it was his opinion that all three spheres of government should be involved. Proposals should be able to filter down because the spheres of government are both distinct yet interrelated.

Ms Mokgalong said that there is a need to interact with the NCOP because it deals directly with the provinces. Thus the NCOP can inform the commission of what is happening on the ground level.

Mr Mboniwe said that he thought that the question was directed at ensuring participation of local government.

Mr Dithebe explained that the question was in the context of organised local government in the NCOP and organised local government in its own right. The nature of this Committee required more than co-operation with the NCOP.

Ms Rantho agreed that this co-operation would be needed at some stage. However, until legislation was amended to mandate this and thus empower the commission in this regard, this would not be possible in terms of the existing laws. She conceded that the bulk of employment is on a local level and thus there must be co-operation.

Mr Msoki added that great difficulty lies with the legislature. There is a need for a framework allowing this because while informal interactions may occur, they are not binding. The Public Service Act does not apply to employment within local government and this is another problem.

Mr Dithebe asked for an indication of the budgetary allocations in the various departments as far as disability units. In particular, he asked if the commission was sufficiently happy with the fact that the transport services were progressing at a level satisfactory to attract disabled persons.

Ms Ramsingh said that at this stage only opinions could be given regarding the transport issue. It has been seen quite evidently that there are problems. However, in terms of the project, such factors will be given particular attention.

Ms Nkuna (ANC) emphasised that the number of disabled persons that are employed raised concern. Was there a disparity between the wages of able and disabled persons?

Ms Rantho said that it would be unconstitutional to discriminate in this way. In the public service, both able and disabled persons received similar salaries for a particular job. The issue should rather be to look at the level of assistance that is given to disabled persons to enable them to function at a level that will make them productive.

Ms Nkuna enquired if the PSC worked in communities and rural areas. Although awareness can be created, the department must have respect for and recognise disabled persons.

Ms Rantho explained that as part of the stakeholders, it would obviously be important to include people in those areas. The PSC would undoubtedly communicate in these areas in order to complete the project.

Mr Maloyi (ANC) asked whether the commission was working in any time frames.

Ms Ramsingh pointed out that this was PSC opinion at this stage. Questions could only be answered definitively after the project has been initiated. The commission hopes to bring its final report by early January 2002.

Mr Maloyi asked about the total number of the persons employed in each department in order to form a comparative basis with the number of disabled persons employed.

Ms Ramsingh stated that although the total employment figures could be given, they were not available at present. However, as far as the correctional services, out of about 32000 workers, only 71 are disabled.

Mr Morkel (NNP) explained that using the narrow definition of disabled persons, statistics indicate that 6% of the population is disabled. However, using the broad definition, it can be seen that 14% are disabled. He doubted if the number of disabled persons actually employed in the public service was at all significant when looked at in terms of these statistics. It was his opinion that the national education department should be more involved in the process.

Mr Morkel enquired why the large provinces do not employ more disabled persons.

Ms Ramsingh pointed out that the figure given for the Western Cape was in relation to the employment of about 2 million people in the entire public service. This would mean that the total number of employed disabled persons is about 0.02% of the total, and of this figure Western Cape employs about 0.01%. Thus although the employment of 201 disabled persons is good in comparison to the rest of the provinces, the provinces are lagging generally as a whole.

Mr Moss (ANC) stated the statistics given are appalling. What processes had been put in place to amend legislation? It must be ensured that disabled people are found.

Mr Mokgalong replied that this aspect is still in the consultative stage, but that the commission was aware of the need for initiatives in this regard.

Ms Nkuna said that the issue of the employment of disabled persons needed to be addressed on the ground. It was a question of attitude that even extended to the families of disabled persons. In her opinion, in order to be successful, the commission requires changed mindsets.

Ms Rantho felt that advertising was the right tool to use in this regard. The normal advertising through print media implies a level of discrimination because blind people are not included. Her conclusion was that recommendations would be made upon monitoring.

Mr Msoki stated that the issue of recommendations and enforceability is needed. The commission is struggling with legislation because there is a need for enforceable policy making and this could only be guaranteed by the legislature.

Mr Mboniwe stated that it would be very helpful for the commission to give a clear list of the gaps in legislation in order to enable the Committee to interact with the legislature. What was the position regarding the employment of disabled persons in Parliament? In this regard, members of Parliament must play a role in their constituencies. He concluded by saying that the Committee was fully behind the PSC and would assist wherever possible.

The meeting was adjourned


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