Public Service Commission Progress Report on Public Service Delivery: briefing

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
14 November 2006
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION PROGRESS REPORT ON PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr S Shiceka (ANC, Gauteng)

Documents Handed Out:
Public Service Commission presentation
Evaluation of Service Standards in the Public Service [available at http://www.psc.gov.za]

SUMMARY
The Public Service Commission informed the Committee that it had noticed commendable progress by the public service on service delivery. It had conducted various studies in order to determine whether or not the Batho Pele Principles were adhered to in the public service. The Commission invited the Committee to help in the provision of technical oversight.

The discussions mainly focused on the recruitment process with Members feeling that unsuccessful candidates should be able to receive answers why their applications had failed. Members also raised the question
whether the Batho Pele principles are really implemented by public servants, and discussed ways in which public servants can be held accountable for not adhering to the principles.

MINUTES

Public Service Commission (PSC) presentation

The PSC was represented by Mr J Ernstien (Commissioner), Professor S Sangweni (Chairperson),
Ms O Ramsingh (Director General), Mr N Maharaj (Commissioner), Mr M Diphofa (Deputy Director General: Monitoring and Evaluation) and Ms K Mokgalong (Commissioner).

Prof Sangweni begun by providing insight into the background of the PSC and how the PSC complies with the Public Service Act. He stated that through its oversight and support work the PSC has noted the commendable progress made by the public service with regard to compliance with the Public Service Act. Even though progress has been made, the PSC has also made certain observations about areas in the public service that still need attention.

Mr Diphofa stated that in terms of the selection and recruitment process in the public service, a fair and objective selection process takes place in order to determine the best candidate for the post. However the PSC has received a number of complaints regarding perceived unfairness in the selection process.

Mr Diphofa also stated that the PSC had conducted various studies in order to determine whether or not the Batho Pele Principles are adhered to in the public service. The studies found that progress has been made in certain areas of public service when it comes to adhering to the Batho Pele principles. However there are still members of the public who experience ill treatment at the hands of public servants.

In terms of oversight, Mr Diphofa stated that the PSC believes that it would be helpful to view its mandate as ‘technical oversight’ and that of the Select Committee as political oversight. He stated further that political oversight involves, among others, holding the Executive accountable for effective delivery of government’s programmes.

Discussion
The Chair thanked the Commission for their presentation and stated that public service is a key area of service delivery in local government. If the public service is not functioning correctly, then there is a huge problem.  Therefore there has to be a way of ensuring that government is seen to be fair to everyone in terms of citizen satisfaction.

Mr J Le Roux (DA) [Eastern Cape] questioned the selection and recruitment process and asked the PSC to elaborate on how it ensured that the best candidate is selected.

Mr Maharaj stated that when it comes to recruitment people are screened in order to see if they meet the minimum requirements, and whether or not they are competent enough to fill the posts. Once it is determined that all the minimum requirements are met, affirmative action is applied.

The Chair questioned the vacancy rate in the public service. He asked about the selection process and stated that in instances where the best candidate is not selected, it should be possible for the unsuccessful candidate to request information on reasons why he or she was unsuccessful.

Ms Ramsingh said that the PSC had not yet done a study on the vacancies; however they are aware that there are a large number of vacant posts. However it is important to note that there is insufficient capacity in the public service to handle the filling of the vacant posts. In terms of unsuccessful candidates, the Constitution states that where administrative decisions are taken, the unsuccessful individual has every right to question the reasons for not being appointed.

Mr K Mokwena (ANC) [Limpopo] asked the PSC to elaborate on how they feel about the outsourcing of recruitment by the various departments. It was unacceptable for the government to spend R5 million on the outsourcing of recruitment, and it should be reviewed.

Ms Mokgalong assured Mr Mokwena that the recruitment agency just assisted with the selection and the short-listing of candidates. They did not perform interviews.

Mr Le Roux stated that the private sector uses private firms all the time for recruitment. R5 million may sound like a lot of money, but the principle of outsourcing recruitment is sound.

Mr N Mack (ANC) [Western Cape] said that there should be a way in which the Batho Pele principles could be brought into the performance agreements.

Mr Dipofa stated that senior managers are required to include the principles in performance agreements. The agreements must also be accompanied by a list of the management criteria.

Mr D Worth (DA, Mpumalanga) questioned the performance agreements and stated that the PSC needed to find a better way of measuring performance. He said there has to be a way of measuring performance between provinces and that the PSC should investigate the issue of acting heads of departments, as certain departments had acting heads for long periods of time. They did not have the authority to sign performance agreements.

Ms Ramsingh argued that personnel should act in a position for a maximum of 12 months; however if someone acts for more than 10 months then immediate action should be taken.

The Chair stated that the Department of Home Affairs is experiencing massive problems. The PSC should find a way of ensuring that performance agreements have been signed in the department, and consult with the department at lower levels.  The Chair asked the PSC to give clarity on the issue of disciplining public servants, and how long it should take before a suspended official is charged.

Ms Ramsingh stated that the Home Affairs issue was too big to deal with in one meeting. The Department is faced with serious challenges, mainly leadership and management issues. The Department is also faced with human resource issues, and the need for upgraded IT systems. The only way forward for Home Affairs was to appoint a good administrator at its helm. The disciplinary code stated that an investigation should take no more than 30 days, and if the investigation is not completed within 30 days, the suspension has to be reviewed.

Mr Mokwena stated because public servants did not adhere to the Batho Pele principles many South Africans are suffering. He asked the PSC to elaborate on what is being done to motivate officials.

Prof Sangweni argued that the issue of leadership is a key factor when it comes to adhering to the principles. When it comes to the reporting of officials, it is found that many senior officials cover each other. Therefore it is important to find a way of ensuring that there is empowerment amongst officials to stamp out corruption.

Ms F Nyanda (ANC) [Mpumalanga] felt that Home Affairs did not adhere to the Batho Pele principles, and asked the PSC to give clarity on what is being done to stamp out corruption in the department.

Prof Sangweni stated that there is a task team led by Ms Ramsingh that will be investigating ways in which the Department of Home Affairs can be turned around. The PSC is awaiting the outcome and will engage with the Committee once the results of the investigation become available. However it is important to note that it would be a long time before the department is fully turned around.

Mr Ernstien argued that departments face many different problems, and these could not be addressed in a single meeting. Therefore more meetings are needed between the Committee and the PSC so that results can be achieved faster.

Mr Maharaj stated that when it comes to service delivery by public servants, there has to be inspections that would ensure that front line service delivery officials adhere to the Batho Pele principles.  However the inspections will only provide more reports and that is the full extent of what the PSC can do. The Committee on the other hand is empowered to make a difference. Complaints and grievances should not be addressed to the PSC, but to the Minister of a particular department.

The Chair acknowledged the points made by Mr Maharaj, and agreed that it was important for the Committee and the PSC to work together in order to achieve a common goal. Public servants from the various provinces should be also be brought on board at the next meeting.

Mr Le Roux felt that there has to be input from the public, as the public does not know what to do when they receive poor service.

Prof Sangweni said that under the Promotion of Public Administration provisions of the Public Service Act, the public is able to engage with public service standards.

The Chair asked the PSC to provide give clarity on the issues the Committee should focus on when it comes to reporting to the various departments.

Mr Le Roux said the Committee could not just complain to departments without facts. The PSC however has the power to conduct the necessary investigations and provide reports. Therefore Members can use the reports and take them to the various departments to notify them of their shortcomings.

Mr Mack suggested that the Committee should perform their own front line inspections, instead of meeting with senior managers.

The Chair stated that the public should be informed on how long a particular service would take to be provided. If it takes longer than stated, the public should be informed of the reasons for the delay. If this did not happen, the matter should be followed up.

The meeting was adjourned.


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