A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.
AD HOC COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF
STATE INSTITUTIONS SUPPORTING CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY
26 January 2007
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Chairperson: Prof K Asmal (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Public Service Commission’s Responses to the Committee’s Questionnaire
Terms of Reference
State of the Public Service Report 2006
Public Service Commission Annual Report 2005/06 available on www.psc.gov.za
Presidential Review Commission
The Committee’s more than three hour long engagement with the Public Service Commission saw Members asking questions about the Commission’s alleged neglect of the provinces, its poor public visibility, the apparent lack of collaboration on gender related issues and its budget-related challenges. The Commission drew the Committee’s attention to their lack of power as far as enforcing their recommendations. Some Members questioned why these powers had been removed, while others suggested that the Commission might have greater power around enforceability if regulations to this effect were put in place. The parliamentary committees’ oversight capabilities were also drawn into sharp focus.
Having read a South African Press Association report that had appeared the day before and which had ascribed a statement to him which he did not make, the Chairperson reminded the media of the necessity to be absolutely accurate in their reporting.
Prof Asmal’s opening remarks
Prof Asmal welcomed all to the Committee’s engagement with the Public Service Commission (PSC), the second of the bodies to be reviewed. He explained that the Committee approached its work in good faith and in accordance with the terms of reference that governed the proceedings.
He emphasised that there was no intimation of any conclusions arrived at during the meetings and thus “any headlines that stated at this point that X,Y or Z was not carrying out its mandate, ws erroneous.”. The Committee was merely “teasing out” the way in which the Chapter Nine bodies responded to the Committee’s 25 point questionnaire. The responses to the questions were general in nature and the Committee would request the bodies to expand on them. There were no prima facie conclusions. Conclusions would only be drawn after six weeks of deliberations. In the light of the above, any statements prescribed to a Member or to the Committee should have the highest degree of accuracy. The sessions were privileged and protected and thus this accuracy was of great importance.
Prof Asmal said that through the South African Press Association (SAPA) a notice had gone out on 25 January reporting that he had warned that “alignment to the ANC would not protect state funded bodies from scrutiny by the Committee charged with reviewing their relevance”. He said that the proceedings were recorded and there was no question that that statement could have been made by him. Tapes were available to journalists.
What he had said was, because they were performing a constitutional function, the Committee was not made up of a majority of ANC members. Judging from the way the Committee had done its work so far, it was clear that they were performing a function higher than a partisan political organisation. He had wanted it to be quite clear that although their parties had nominated them, they were performing a function for the National Assembly. He had specifically said at the 24 January meeting that the Committee would be objective and “non party and non partisan”. He knew that it was often politicians that had to apologise, and that it was very rare that a report was withdrawn with an apology. All he could say was that the statement that was ascribed to him had cause “tremors and anxieties, particularly since SAPA saw fit to refer to two bodies only. He said that, ”if he were the chairperson of one of those bodies he would have been very offended" at what was he was ascribed to have said. He expected SAPA to set the record straight, especially considering that SAPA reports were picked up by every newspaper that was not there. He knew that journalists did not have shorthand but reminded them that they could tape the proceedings.
Prof Asmal then welcomed the Public Service Commission (PSC) which was a body that many had had close relations with as ministers as well as members of Parliament. They were very much aware of the PSC’s work and he had had ten years of experience working with them.
He explained that the Committee was not a court of law, nor would Members put anyone “through the mincing machine”, which is what portfolio committees should be doing when they looked at departments or departmental bodies. The Committee was looking at what were unique structures under the Constitution. The same procedure would be followed with every body appearing before the Committee. By the very nature of the questionnaire, responses had to be general. Members would now have the opportunity to ask for additional information for clarity. They realised that some information would not be readily available and the Committee would then note that the PSC would supply said information within a reasonable time period.
He remarked that the PSC now had women commissioners which he thought was a great advance.
Opening remarks by the Chairperson of Public Service Commission
Prof Stan Sangweni led the delegation which included the Director General, Ms Odette Ramsingh, Deputy Chairperson, Mr John Erntzen, Chief Director Ms M Mampuru, and Commissioners Mr Neville Maharaj, Mr Admill Simpson and Ms M Mokgalong.
Prof Sangweni said that the PSC welcomed the opportunity to share its views on its role in supporting the democracy. They also welcomed the opportunity to place close scrutiny on their institution without which they might stumble into complacency which would not benefit the democracy.
The PSC was a Chapter 10 and not a Chapter 9 institution. Its mandate required it to not only loosely oversee the national and provincial administration, but also to inculcate the values and the principles that were enshrined in the Constitution. Members would recall that although the Constitution was adopted in 1996, because of “legal wrangling” it was not until 1999 that the PSC was reconstituted. Once the legal entanglements to the functioning of the Commission were removed, and given the very limited resources that were availed to them, the Commission buckled down to interpret simultaneously their multidimensional constitutional mandate and also to deliver the best they could not only to the country but also to the continent.
As reflected in the submission, in the seven years since they were reconstituted they had built a vast legacy of work in the areas of ethics and corruption, human resource management, performance management, service delivery and quality assurance, monitoring and evaluation, critical interventions in national as well as provincial departments (which were encountering serious problems) and of course the annual State of the Public Service Report. It was not merely by their oversight reports that the PSC could be measured, but also by the instruments and norms they had developed, together with the physical hands-on work they had performed whilst in the departments.
A few of these instruments were taken for granted in the public service for instance. These included the Code of Conduct Manual for the Public Service, which was recommended in 1998 and was applicable to all 1.8 million public civil servants; the Framework for the Evaluation of Heads of Departments at the level of directors general; the Recruitment and Selection Toolkit; Guidelines for the Implementation of Grievance Rules; Guidelines for Management of Suspensions; Toolkit on the National Anti Corruption Hotline and the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Protected Disclosures Act (2000). They were currently working on a much broader integrity framework for the public service.
The impact of all this work on the entire public service could not be quantified. The PSC’s work through the transformation of the public service also impacted on the continent. Their work in Africa went to the heart of the struggle for the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals central of which was poverty reduction. The monitoring and evaluation system they had developed played a central role for this. The PSC had hosted a conference bringing together 67 donor and African countries on this issue but also contributed in a sustained manner to capacity building in this area. They had partnered with a number of institutions including the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to host a training workshop on the monitoring and evaluation of African Directors General and senior managers, that was held in Tunis. The PSC had also been instrumental in getting the DBSA to give dedicated capacity-building resources to SADC partners.
The radical change in the mandate, function and powers of the PSC, which started from 1999, and its consolidation in a single public service commission were accompanied by radical curtailment of its resources. Rather than focusing their energies on this area of challenge, the PSC had single-mindedly sought to marshal its own to give its best to country and continent.
Prof Asmal said that the PSC was a constitutionally prescribed body and whether this ought to be so was an entirely different matter, which the Committee would discuss at a later stage.
He noted that in their report the PSC said that it had to “balance the need for independence” with “continued expectation by government departments for the Commission to provide support and calling for involvement in executive functions of Government”. Section 196(2) of the Constitution read that the PSC had a constitutional duty to be independent and impartial, and could not override the expectations of Government. He said that the judiciary, the legislature and the executive were part of Government. He wondered if promoting the needs of the executive did not lead to a conflict as far as the PSC’s independence was concerned. He said that the public would be very interested to know how they maintained their independence.
Prof Sangweni replied that the PSC made this comment against the backdrop of their “extreme sensitivity” that the Commission was located within a developmental state that had, as its major preoccupation, the transformation of the society, and therefore the transformation of the public service itself.
They recognised the “sacred nature” of the Commission’s independence but also wanted to make sure that the PSC was used. The PSC could not afford to be “aloof” when exercising its independence. The practical instances of maintaining that independence could be found when one considered the national and provincial interventions the PSC made. Such interventions were made when departments were facing collapse.
He explained that Section 100 of the Constitution provided for the President to intervene when an administration was faced with collapse due to mismanagement. There had been instances, such as in the Eastern Cape, where the President should have intervened but instead opted for the PSC to join in the effort to address the matter. The PSC would then be involved in what could be described as an executive function. In such a situation the PSC would have to maintain its independence so as to come up with a finding that could contribute to the solution of the problem.
Ms Ramsingh added that the PSC considered its independence to be of utmost importance and was sensitive that interference from role players could erode it. They thus needed to ensure that such interference did not occur. The PSC did not believe that maintaining their independence was difficult. The PSC was sensitive to the fact that they were operating in a developmental state with a very young public service.
The Constitution required the PSC to be an external monitor and evaluator. The PSC could not afford the luxury of monitoring and evaluating without to some degree influencing, steering and directing the public service into the direction it ought to be going. They sometimes inevitably got their hands dirty. Ms Ramsingh emphasised that the PSC entered that arena only by setting its own agenda. On some occasions they did not get involved because of the fear that it may influence their independence.
She added that the PSC needed to consider the state of the performance management system. The PSC, realising the need for an improved system, had entered into the arena and advised that unless the performance of heads of departments were evaluated, one would be unable to measure whether Government objectives were being met. The PSC saw that gap and since they had the expertise and the ability to put a performance management framework into place, they had offered that to Cabinet.
Prof Asmal thought that the Presidential Review Commission’s Report had made an important comment, which may govern some of the Committee’s proceedings. It found that the need for transformation and reform that characterised the public service in recent years had highlighted a number of important tensions and contradictions in the role and operation of the service commissions. At a general level the constitutional position of the commissions orientated them towards stability rather than change. As public service reform is usually driven to a lesser or greater extent by political concerns, the service commissions had always found it difficult to act as a focal point for change especially in terms of the policy framework for personal management which underpinned most areas of reform. This indicated that there was a tension. There was no reason for the PSC to be defensive of their independence, because the tension spoke to a problem that was related to the nature of the public service.
Ms Matsomela (ANC) thanked the PSC for the professional and comprehensive manner in which they had made their response. She said that the PSC saw itself as the custodian of the nine values and principles that governed the public administration. They had structured their work into six key performance areas and she asked how they ensured that all nine values and principles were accommodated in the performance areas.
Ms Ramsingh replied that to answer this question frankly and honestly members could refer to the section challenges and constraints within their submission. Ideally one would have wanted to structure the PSC in a manner that spoke to each one of the nine values and principles. However, the PSC had realised that they did not have the finances or human resources to allow for such individual attention.
There was overlap between the nine values and principles. In putting forward the six key performance areas they ensured that none of the values and principles were ignored. She thought that this was best demonstrated in the PSC’s State of the Public Service Report. The basis of this was an evaluation of the performance of the public service in a given financial year but actually looked at the nine constitutional principles. She admitted that they had not done as much work as they had wanted to and that the PSC accepted that the broadness of their mandate and the limitation around resources did not necessarily allow them to do the work they wanted to. Despite this they definitely covered the priorities embodied in each of the principles.
Ms Matsomela said that the Committee had looked at some of the above-mentioned reports. Members had observed that in reporting, the PSC always confined themselves to the nine values. She asked whether this was not a constraint and wondered whether there were no additional areas that could be reported on.
Prof Sangweni responded that the values were a constitutional imperative. The PSC had no choice but to adhere to them. Whatever else the PSC may want to do they had to make sure that the public administration was fully committed and engaged as far as the nine values were concerned. The onslaught was on the implementation of the values and this was the message the PSC presented in their advocacy work.
He would have thought that the question to ask was whether the PSC was succeeding in their advocacy work and in driving home the notion that the nine values had to be embodied within the public service and needed to be implemented. The assimilation of these values was the challenge they were faced with.
Prof Asmal agreed that that was what was contained in Section 195 of the Constitution, but Ms Matsomela was asking if there was another way, other than referring to these very broad principles, of expressing what their activities were to the Parliament and the public.
Ms Ramsingh explained that the PSC had made a conscious decision to develop the transversal monitoring and evaluation system. The key indicators of that system were drawn from the values, which were a constitutional imperative. The PSC was also conscious that there were procedures and practices, which may fall under the broad umbrella of the values but needed to be looked at a much deeper level.
Prof Sangweni drew members’ attention to Batho Pele, which was an elaboration on the constitutional values. It emphasised participation also on the part of policy making, which was contained in the values. The PSC did have very specific programmes to reinforce the ideals that Batho Pele promoted.
Prof Asmal said that after Masakane, Batho Pele was his favourite slogan.
Ms Matsomela noted that leadership and performance improvement were key performance areas. The PSC had developed a framework for the evaluation of heads of departments. Did the evaluations include directors general? How successful were the evaluations?
Mr Erntzen confirmed that directors general were included. The PSC was constantly reviewing the methodology for evaluating heads of departments. Their evaluation was always done in relation to departmental performance because the one was inextricably bound to the other.
They have had various degrees of success because heads of department and particularly directors general did not remain constant. Some leave the public service or were being moved from one department to another at the President’s behest. The PSC was compiling a report on what they regarded as the weaknesses of the current process and how it could be improved. They aimed to have a Cabinet discussion on the matter.
Ms Ramsingh said that the PSC had realised that while the HOD framework was geared towards looking at the individual performance of directors general and the heads of department, there had to be a mechanism for measuring the relationship between their individual performance and the organisational performance. The evaluation of the HOD framework was aimed at recognising the link between individual and organisational performance.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee might have to recall the PSC for another session at which the matter could be discussed further.
Ms Matsomela noted that the PSC had raised a concern around the proposed assignment of investigative powers to the Minister of Public Service and Administration through Section 78 of the Public Service Amendment Bill (2006). She wondered what effect the PSC thought this would have on their work.
Mr Maharaj responded that the PSC was arguing that Chapter 10 of the Constitution assigned very specific functions to the PSC. Investigative powers were assigned to the PSC.
Prof Asmal asked why the provision was being included then.
Mr Maharaj responded that the Minster was part of the Executive as well as the political head of of the departments the PSC was intended to monitor and evaluate independently. There might well be a conflict should one member of the executive be expected to investigate another.
Prof Asmal asked the PSC why it thought the Minister was introducing this particular proposal.
Mr Maharaj said that he could not speak for the Minister. If he read her correctly she made the proposal based on the difficulties in implementing the PSC’s recommendations (which followed the findings of their investigations).
Prof Asmal wondered if the proposal was not the result of impatience with the PSC.
Dr J Delport (DA) noted that the PSC, on no less than ten occasions in the report, complained about non response to their recommendations.
Prof Asmal wondered how the Minister investigating matters would improve the level of response. The Minister was not a judge and would not be able to execute decisions.
Dr Delport said that the report indicated that recommendations were not enforced, that Parliament was not taking recommendations seriously, portfolio committees were not interested in what they had to say and that the Executive did not implement them. Departments reportedly adopted a negative attitude towards the PSC. He said that the PSC could make rules and issue directives and wondered to what extent they could use these processes to enforce their recommendations.
Mr Maharaj replied that the PSC had the power to summons and call departments to account but that was only at the administrative level, that is, at the director general and head of department level. The PSC had no power over the executive.
Prof Asmal wondered whether they had ever used the power to summons over directors general and whether they had made a public statement about that.
Mr Maharaj confirmed that they had. Very often there were delays as far as obtaining responses to enquiries made by the PSC. In these cases they used their power of summons. They did however not publicise this information.
Prof Asmal asked what the point of doing good in private was. He asked the PSC to supply the Committee with occasions, over the last three years, on which summons had been issued.
Mr Maharaj explained that the PSC also had the power of enquiry. There had been significant interaction between themselves and one of the oversight bodies within Parliament on the same question i.e. the implementability of the PSC’s recommendations, as well as their enforceability. He had then reminded the select committee and the portfolio committee that in fact the power of enforceability and power of accountability of the executive were vested in the committees of Parliament and not the PSC.
They were publishing reports and making recommendations but, in the absence of any authority over the executive, the PSC could not ensure that these were implemented. The PSC’s frustrations were related to the interaction with the committees of Parliament and in the way they exercised their oversight roles and functions. In the interim Constitution the function of enforceability was vested with the PSC.
Mr Ernzten said that the cause of the problems was "sitting on the opposite side of the PSC today". He asked why the 1993 interim Constitution, that imposed the will of the PSC’s findings on its recipients, was changed. The PSC had to comply with the 1996 Constitution, which took away the compulsion to comply. Recommendations would be disregarded unless public watchdogs, the portfolio committees of Parliament inter alia, played their role. He suggested that perhaps the Committee could reconsider the Constitution.
Prof Asmal said that Mr Ernzten was raising a hornet’s nest. Some recommendations such as the ones related to staff matters had to be binding. A watchdog could not have judicial functions. The Committee’s work was concerned with whether Parliament was performing its oversight function. So far at least two answers indicated that the PSC felt that portfolio committees were not performing their task. Parliament could not give binding directives to the executive. He said that the PSC was the second body being reviewed that compiled reports which did not appear in the public domain. This was either because the reports were not published or because the PSC did not call departments to task. The Committee’s task was to look at whether Parliament was performing its oversight function. Whether the law should be changed or not was a political matter that had its own complexities.
Dr Delport wondered to what extent the PSC could step in, in the case of inefficient departments. Some departments were highly inefficient. How was it possible that inefficient accounting officers could get a bonus despite a damning report from the Auditor General? How could an accounting officer be judged excellent when the department was performing poorly?
Prof Asmal said that it was very difficult for a minister to evaluate a director general. The Minister and the Director General would have had to have a relationship of at least five years. The PSC had already confirmed that they were carrying out an evaluation of the process.
Ms Ramsingh said that there was a disjuncture which should not be there. There should be a linear connection between individual performance and organisational performance. This presented a serious gap that needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
The PSC’s constitutional mandate allowed them to enter a department through investigation, on own accord, or at the request of the executing authority. They could also enter a department through monitoring and evaluation. The PSC believed that their monitoring and evaluation activity in certain departments offered an early warning sign to government or to the executive to do something or to face disastrous consequences. This relayed also to the initial question around how to balance their independence with the need to be responsive to the challenges facing the public service. She asked how an evaluator and monitor could get involved in the implementation process. This was one of the challenges the PSC faced. They saw the problem but were not clear as to how they could become implementers. If they implemented something today they would have to monitor and evaluate that a year later and therein there could lie a conflict.
Mr Simpson added that the disjuncture was the reason they wanted to implement the organisational assessment instrument. There were instances where there could be justifiable disjuncture in the level of performance of the HOD and the level of performance of the organisation. HODs were only appointed for a very short period of time. Sometimes they came into a department that was performing extremely poorly. Then within a very short period of time he or she might have improved the department’s work considerably.
Prof Sangweni said that the question under discussion related to an earlier question. The PSC assessed a department and wrote the report which would point out the weaknesses. This was done in association with the evaluation of the HOD. The PSC then advised the executing authority on their findings. In terms of the constitutional provision the PSC’s involvement ended there. They were in no position to come up with remedial action. This presented a fundamental weakness in the Constitution which needed to be corrected. He added that he was not calling for a constitutional amendment as he believed that it had been appropriately amended in 1998. This matter could be dealt with through legislation. There was capacity for a dispensation where the recommendations and advice given by the PSC would be implemented.
Ms Matsomela noted that the PSC appeared to rely mostly on feedback received from departments. She wondered whether they received feedback timeously and asked how reliable the information they received was.
Ms Ramsingh explained that the PSC had internal mechanisms for measuring outcomes. One such mechanism was the tracking mechanism, which required the PSC to do follow-ups to see whether implementation of recommendations had taken place. The grievance rules required that the executing authority within a department reply within five days of a recommendation.
Bigger investigations were very complex, and so were the recommendations in these cases. In these cases the PSC would return three months after making a report to assess whether there had been progress on the recommendations. This was the only way that they measured response to their recommendations. The most quantifiable way of measuring was to assess how many of the recommendations made in a particular year had been implemented.
Ms Matsomela wondered what effect the move to a single public service would have on the custodial oversight responsibilities and the monitoring, evaluation and investigation of public administration practices.
Mr Ernzten responded that the question was a bit delicate to answer at that stage since much discussion was still taking place around the single public service concept. The PSC had been briefed by the relevant ministers around what stage had been reached and what the thinking behind the concept was. The legalities of who had jurisdiction over what and whether there was any intention to make changes to this, had not been discussed.
On of the questions to be considered was whether the PSC would in terms of the current provisions of the Constitution be able to do the monitoring and evaluation and all the other attendant work which it currently did for the public service. Public administration broadly included, amongst others, local government and parastatals. The PSC was currently confined to the public service only. Therefore the implications of the move could lead to an extension of the PSC or alternatively the bringing into life of another body that would work cheek by jowl with it. These were things that had not yet been dealt with but to which they were applying their minds and would make inputs on at the appropriate time. At the moment, it rested in the realm of the policy makers of which the PSC was not a part.
Prof Asmal asked whether the PSC’s advice was not sought in policy discussions.
Mr Ernzten replied that while advice was sought the appropriateness of the timing for the seeking of that information had to be addressed. No advice had thus far been sought.
In reply to Prof Asmal noting that an announcement of a single unified public service had already been made, Mr Ernzten said that there had been announcements and briefings and that the PSC was abreast of this and was applying their minds so that they could give the appropriate advice when it was sought. Ms Mokgalong added that when the "single Public Service" Bill was being debated the PSC would make an input.
Mr J van der Merwe (IFP) realised that the PSC was the watchdog in respect of national and provincial departments but not local governments or parastatals. The question thus was whether, when a single uniformed public service was formed, they would be the umbrella body.
Prof Asmal said that the unified public service would be a unified service with all the remarkable ramifications of the central, provincial and local governments. It would have implications as far as salary scales, which, he quipped, were the heart of the public service. These were issues around which he had thought the PSC would have had some reasonably central advisory role.
Ms Ramsingh pointed out that there was a difference between advice seeking and consultation. The PSC would not necessarily know when a proposed bill was being placed on the table, but when the bill was initiated and the consultation processes started they would be invited to give commentary on that bill. She thought that what the Committee was actually asking was if the PSC did not have the responsibility to proactively advise.
Ms Matsomela said that the PSC’s number of interactions with Parliament and provincial legislatures had increased from 14 in 2004/5 to 33 in 2006/7. She wondered to what extent the increased interaction added value to the work of Parliament and the provincial legislatures.
Ms Mokgalong explained that the manner in which they interacted with both Parliament and the provincial legislatures varied. Besides reporting on investigations, they had on occasion accompanied the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on their provincial oversight visits. This gave effect to their technical and their political oversight role. They have also conducted citizen forums with the Portfolio Committee and they had participated in that committee’s strategic planning sessions. The interaction in the provincial legislatures was not as rigorous as they wanted it to be because not all provinces had established the same portfolio committees. This matter had been addressed with the speakers of the provincial legislatures.
Ms Ramsingh added that the PSC saw Parliament as their primary and critical stakeholder. To a large degree their interaction with portfolio committees had helped to inform the work plan they developed for a particular year and helped inform the kind of issues they investigated. She believed that the greatest contribution they had made so far was the very relevant and informative reports on the state of the public service presented to Parliament. They had armed them with enough information to take things forward and to engage with departments at different levels.
Prof Asmal said that the answer was very honest – the PSC had given departments the basis for engagement. A central part of the Committee’s work was to establish whether Parliament’s oversight was satisfactory. He asked the PSC to give Members an honest and frank evaluation of whether portfolio committees responded effectively.
Prof Sangweni said that the PSC’s sense was that the kind of material they published was heavy and required a certain level of concentration. They sensed that portfolio committees were overworked and thus often overwhelmed by the information. Sometimes delegations were informed that all members could not be present at a meeting because they had to attend other meetings.
Mr van der Merwe interjected that they were also underpaid.
Prof Asmal thought that Prof Sangweni’s response indicated that Parliament had to review the organisation of portfolio committee meetings.
Prof Sangweni agreed and added that portfolio committees were also supposed to be supported by a host of research capacities that attended to them and this was not necessarily always the case. The PSC did at times feel that the committees could engage a bit more. He agreed with Prof Asmal’s comment that perhaps they needed to be more searching in their interactions with the PSC’s work.
Mr Maharaj said that if one looked at the rigour with which the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) performed the function of assessing financial management and then looked at how portfolio committees looked at the performance and utilisation of those funds in terms of public service delivery, there was a vast difference. Notwithstanding parliamentarians being underpaid and overworked, the PSC believed that the emphasis was “a bit odd” because the financial audits of a department was a small part of that department’s performance. The PSC felt that the focus ought to be on the performance audit.
Prof Asmal said that SCOPA, by necessity had an excellent research staff. Since members too were public servants, he did not think that the comments that they were underpaid were relevant. How one made use of research staff depended almost entirely on the committee.
Ms Matsomela noted that the PSC recommended the formation of strategic partnerships between the portfolio, select committees and themselves as a way of improving the effectiveness of Parliament’s oversight role. She wondered how this could be done without impacting on the PSC’s independence and impartiality.
Ms Ramsingh did not think that it would impact in the PSC’s independence and impartiality. Supporting and assisting the portfolio committees could not impede on their independence. If anything, the PSC saw itself as a research unit for committees because it provided evidence-based research which could be used to strengthen their work. The PSC maintained that if one had the strategic partnership, they could also be more focussed in terms of what kind of public service research the committees were interested in seeing done. It would be useless for the PSC to do research on some remote issue when there was a particular practice within the public administration on which no research was being done. They saw themselves as a knowledge and research institution that could contribute to providing evidence-based research to the committees which they in turn could use to call departments to account. If anything such a relationship would strengthen their role and the way in which they should be positioning themselves in the technical oversight role of Parliament. Broadly speaking the PSC saw themselves as having technical oversight – they gathered and collated data which gave an opinion on one or other practice. Parliament had political oversight which could only be enhanced and strengthened by the technical assistance.
Ms Matsomela noted that the PSC had neither a formal nor an informal relationship with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). She felt that such a relationship would be appropriate considering that the PSC’s focus was on gender equity as a public service imperative and the CGE’s role was to advance gender equity in all spheres of the public service.
Mr Simpson explained that where there was a need for collaboration such as research or discussion, the PSC involved all bodies such as the CGE. If it was about gender mainstreaming in the public service, on which they were about to bring out a report, they would include these organizations, in the discussion following the publishing of the report. At the moment there was no formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two bodies. The PSC did involve any organization which they believed was appropriate for the area of the public administration they were investigating.
Prof Asmal felt that the MOU was very interesting. The response document mentioned the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) quite extensively. The PSC had MOUs with the Public Protector and the Auditor General. Yet there was not much emphasis on the CGE. Their report of their relationship with other bodies was superb but still made little mention of gender issues. He wondered why there had been a slightly recessive approach to this area.
Prof Sangweni admitted that the PSC had not been proactive in its relationship with the CGE. The PSC had however done a number of studies, one of which was a comprehensive study on gender mainstreaming, which was currently in the process of being finalised.
Prof Asmal interrupted and said that he felt that something was being left unsaid. The PSC had taken major initiatives as far as gender issues and yet had not forged a relationship with the CGE.
Prof Sangweni reiterated that the PSC had not involved itself with the CGE as it should have. He admitted that that was an oversight of sorts.
Prof Asmal said that as with marriage, and corruption, collaboration too took two.
Ms Ramsingh said that it was a practicality related issue. The practical interface the PSC had with the Public Protector and the Auditor General were on matters within their mandate that happened on a daily basis. The PSC would like to give individual attention to each of the values and principles. Since far more people were involved in the gender environment, the PSC did not think it so pressing to get involved.
Prof Asmal asked whether the PSC was not duplicating a function that was already being performed by a genuine Chapter 9 body. The Committee was not only looking at collaboration and coordination, but also at whether the country was getting value for money.
Ms Ramsingh categorically stated that there was no duplication of functions. The PSC had to follow the constitutional imperative which put them in a situation where they needed to assess transformation from a gender point as well.
Prof Asmal said that the Constitution and the legislation on the SAHRC and the CGE was quite clear: they had to collaborate with bodies of a similar function and nature. The PSC spent R250 000 on doing the evaluation for the gender mainstreaming report. They could have formed a joint committee with these bodies. If one wanted a joined-up government, as the PSC tried to do all the time, there was a statutory obligation on bodies to cooperate. He would have thought that in areas such as violence against women, AIDS in the public service, which affected women far more dramatically than men, that the bodies would collaborate for greater impact. Instead it seemed as if the watchdogs did not have many teeth in this regard.
Mr Ernzten said the PSC had not found the need to raise the bar to the level the Committee seemed to want them to. They could only reconsider the matter. The PSC spoke to the CGE when the need arose but could not emphasise a relationship that did not exist.
Prof Asmal said that the PSC complained that they made recommendations but did not know what became of them as they did not see the results. He wondered whether they did not think that a joint report between the CGE, SAHRC and the PSC would break new ground and would be widely publicised. He said that what happened to women in public service was very much part of their daily work. One of the questions the Committee would be looking at was where their mutual or common cooperation lay.
Ms Matsomela said that the response document did not clearly indicate whether CEOs, chairpersons and commissioners were prohibited from engaging in activities that may result in a conflict of interest.
Prof Asmal said that the PSC failed to answer question 16 of the questionnaire. He was curious to know where the public could access the disclosures register.
Prof Sangweni said the instrument covering the disclosure framework for commissioners did not arise from any legislative instrument other than the conditions of employment which required the commissioners to get permission from the President if they wanted to take employment. That disclosure instrument was arrived at through a process of discussion at the level of Parliament through the conduit of the Portfolio Committee of Public Service and Administration. The PSC drafted it but it still had to go through the portfolio committee. One of the provisions was that the register would be lodged in the Office of the President. Disclosures were done through his office and went to the Office of the President (via the director general in the Office of the President). The disclosure process followed by the PSC was the same as the one that governed other civil servants’ disclosures.
Moving to the next question, Prof Asmal said that the question of the accessibility of the register would have to be addressed later. The PSC had asked the Auditor General to carry out an audit of the disclosures by senior civil servants (from the level of director and up). He asked what findings had been made.
Ms Ramsingh replied that ideally the PSC would have liked to do it themselves but due to lack of resources, they had had to request the Auditor General to perform the audit which had now been completed. The Auditor General had filed an exception report – he had picked up that there had been some failure to disclose. The PSC was currently engaging executing authorities to find why there had been no disclosures and where it did not happen according to regulations, disciplinary procedures had to be taken.
Ms Ramsingh felt that such disclosure was a very effective integrity mechanism. The PSC had always maintained that 100% compliance would be the only acceptable standard. She did however feel that it was noteworthy that in a public service where a disclosure instrument had never existed before, there was currently 70% compliance. Considering the rate of uptake and the consistency with which this was being reported, it was an important building block within the integrity framework, and should be strengthened.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee would discuss the matter further once members had had a chance to look at the Auditor General’s report on disclosures. He had drafted the parliamentary and the executive disclosure framework and felt that the real problem, as far as the disclosure register was concerned, was where it was vested and how accessible it was. It was often up to the Director General to circulate it, was often badly printed and photocopied and “often very incomplete”. If presented very late, the relevant minister would suddenly be faced with 300 of these registers. This proved to be a challenge to both a minister’s tenacity and time.
Prof Asmal added that he had attended a conference along with Prof Sangweni a few days earlier at which values and ethics had been discussed. Central to the discussion was the question of values and ethics within the public service. He wondered what the PSC had done to inject the notion that this was a new kind of civil service in a democratic dispensation that had not existed before and that a renewal of the civil service was underway. He wondered what role the PSC played in inculcating values such as ethics, morality, service and professionalism.
Prof Sangweni replied that the discourse on the values and ethics of public service dated back to 1995 when the first public service summit was held. This was followed in 1998 by the broader summit on ethics in the entire country. All of these were initiated by the PSC in collaboration with the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration. The PSC thus was at the helm of advocating the ethics ethos. The Code of Conduct manual that was being promoted was based on the Code of Conduct for the Public Service adopted in 1998 and was recommended by the PSC after it had done extensive research on this.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee was aware of all the things the PSC had done in this regard. What members were interested in knowing was how effective the policy position was. He asked whether the true meaning of Batho Pele had been injected into the daily lives of public servants. South Africa’s civil servants were paid better than those in comparable economies. He asked whose job it was to inject the remarkable value systems the PSC had developed into the consciousness of public servants.
Prof Sangweni replied that when he raised the question for himself he always thought that if on the day of judgement the Bible were to be assessed on the basis of the number of sinners then all the clergy would be condemned to hell. Departments, ministers and even NGOs had the arsenal in their hands with which to attack the challenges facing the public service. The PSC and the entire civil society structure were currently involved in a joint effort of promoting ethics and non-corruption. He felt that it was everyone’s responsibility to guard and promote these values.
Prof Asmal quipped that those who come from a secular tradition had a problem with the last judgement. He said that it was of enormous importance that more than a decade into South Africa’s democracy, the public service reflected values that were in accordance with a democratic order and the values that the PSC was charged with promoting. He knew that departments had to carry out the values but felt that the initiative had to come from somewhere else.
Ms Mokgalong acknowledged the PSC’s role in the promotion and maintaining of professional values in the public service. Prof Sangweni had indicated the PSC’s initiatives Because the PSC realised that the values had not taken root sufficiently, they had looked at ways and means of inculcating them. She assured the Committee that the PSC was looking into the matter.
Mr Maharaj said that as a commissioner he would like to be “out in the field” on a daily basis. He agreed that all nine values were not yet embedded in the public service and acknowledged that “the public out there was getting a raw deal”. The PSC was seriously considering going on regular inspections to look at how services were being delivered and even doing back office inspections. He added that of course there was protocol to observe and the PSC had to tread carefully so as no to upset too many apple carts in the process.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee would also take into account how interlinked the functions of the Chapter 9 and the Chapter 10 institutions were, when making their recommendations. He added that the transmission of values could “not be left to ministers and priests”.
Ms Matsomela wondered whether Citizen’s Forums, Citizens’ Satisfaction Surveys and the National Anti-Corruption Forum were effective in all provinces. She wondered what steps had been taken to ensure their effectiveness.
Mr Simpson said that the PSC was experiencing quite a few problems as far as the National Anti Corruption Hotline was concerned. One such problem related to the rate at which departments provided feedback for the cases the PSC referred to them. This may be due to lack of investigative capacity, but it could also be due to other problems. The PSC had gone through a round of workshops with all anti corruption units within the provinces. They had also developed a toolkit on the National Anti Corruption Hotline that had been distributed to the units in the public service and that gave an indication of the kind of processes they needed to put in place. He agreed that there was unevenness across the public service even at national department level in the rate they provided feedback to the hotline.
Ms Ramsingh added one should not lose sight of how important an instrument the Hotline had become as far as participatory mechanisms were concerned. The challenge for the public service and the PSC was how one could maintain the integrity of the Hotline. Their concerns were on two levels: to what extent were the departments in partnership with them to bring about credibility and how will they get the capacity to address some of the more complicated issue. Currently they were having difficulty doing so. She feared that, as innovative as the project may be, it might come to bite them if they did not have the capacity to deal with the cases reported.
Prof Asmal wondered what happened when corruption issues were referred to departments or to the Public Protector. The letters he had received indicated that nothing happened. Large numbers of people were frustrated because of the lack of follow-up. He asked what the PSC did to protect whistle blowers and what follow-up mechanisms were in place?
Prof Sangweni explained that the whistle-blowing continuum happened at different levels. Whistle blowing under the Protected Disclosures Act (2000) was quite a different matter from whistle blowing through the hotline mechanism. The first was not in the PSC’s hands and was dealt with by the Minister of Justice. While the PSC was interested in that, at their level they were concerned that the legislation controlling this level of whistle blowing had not been properly regulated. There were still no regulations or guidelines as to how this should be implemented. There was not much they could do other than exert some pressure.
He said that the Hotline was a fairly new project and was only introduced in 2004. Towards the end of 2006 a decision was taken to review the direction it would take. They had encountered a tremendous amount of frustration as to what happened to the referents. They knew that there were instances that concrete evidence was referred to the relevant authorities and nothing came of it. The PSC had proof that in some instances the relevant authority had even covered up the matter. They would be doing a follow up and would take the appropriate actions to deal with serious cases.
Ms Ramsingh added that departments were given 40 days in which to respond. Much of the information gathered during an investigation was very complex. One had to take into account the nature of the allegation and also that it may relate to a regional or circuit office, which the director general needed to deal with.
Ms D Smuts (DA) wondered whether the PSC was not “too soft” sometimes. She made reference to the human resource investigations where they say that their approach was developmental and supportive rather than punitive and judgmental. She was encouraged by Mr Maharaj’s determination as far as addressing malpractice, as well as by Mr Ernzten’s call to have the interim Constitution’s powers of enforcement back. She thought this “refreshingly independent”. She wondered why they did not make clearer that any malpractice and maladministration was unacceptable. She referred to Prof Asmal’s statement that one had to shame people who were guilty of transgressions and wondered whether they had not lost the shame culture altogether.
Prof Sangweni said that the background to not being punitive went back to the earlier dispensation. The pre-1996 dispensation was based on the Apartheid commission, and was engaged in policy making and employed punitive methods. The new PSC was sensitive to this background. The current PSC was equally strong in implementing the ethos of professionalism and ethics. However, the PSC was saying that due to weaknesses in the Constitution as far as its powers of enforcement, challenges arose in ensuring implementation. If recommendations were enforced, the public service would be very different. The PSC would not be advocating a punitive approach. They did not believe that they needed to be backed by punitive instruments, but rather that they should be backed with constructive developmental instruments.
Ms Ramsingh added that investigations needed to be seen in broad terms. Some investigations looked at systems and in these the PSC took a developmental role because they wanted to uplift the public service so that it could be geared to accelerate service delivery.
There were also investigations that dealt with malpractice and their recommendations were very clear. The PSC had gone on record to say which directors general should be charged for misconduct. Some investigations were research orientated to improve the public service systems and were guided by a developmental role.
In answer to Ms Matsomela’s earlier question, Ms Ramsingh said that the citizens’ forum was an initiative the PSC was very proud of. It acknowledged that public participation was lacking. The kind of robust social debate that characterised the liberation struggle had largely disappeared. The PSC believed that for public administration, public participation was an imperative. The PSC realised that departments were not necessarily facilitating participation in a structured way. The PSC had then introduced the citizens’ forums and had encouraged departments, parliamentarians and communities to discuss issues. The PSC acted as facilitator at these events. Due to budgetary constraints they had had to fall back on rolling these out. They thus put in place a toolkit for citizens’ forums and encouraged departments to use them. The PSC would like to be at the forefront of driving these forums but this was not necessarily happening.
Citizens’ Satisfaction Surveys were done on an annual basis. The PSC was not only interested in how a department was performing but also interested in what the public rated that performance. As far as the survey was concerned, prioritisation was also necessary. Different sectors were surveyed at a time. The Justice sector had been surveyed and very recently Water Affairs and related services. These surveys were very effective and they encouraged departments to use them to see what citizens thought and to establish what they would like to see happening.
Ms Matsomela said that the complaints rules enabled members of the public to complain to the PSC. She wondered what mechanisms had been put in place to address complaints about the Commission itself.
Mr Simpson explained that the complaints rules that applied to the public service also applied to the PSC. The same complaint form was used. Boxes in which complaints could be placed were displayed at all PSC offices. Such complaints were investigated in the same manner that the PSC investigated other public service related complaints.
Mr Dithebe noted that on pages 33, 68 and 71 of the response document reference was made to budgetary constraints. According to the 2006 estimates of national expenditure (ENE), PSC expenditure increased rapidly from R62 million in 2002/3 to R92, 4 million in 2005/6. It was due to increase to R106, 6 million by 2008\9. The budget increases reported in the ENE appeared to contradict what was stated in the response document.
Ms Ramsingh responded that while there was a marked increase in its budget, it was not commensurate with the unfolding of its mandate. The PSC at times found itself involved in “unfunded mandates”. It was for instance, asked to manage the Hotline. This was not a problem because it fell sharply within the PSC’s principle of ethics. The hotline was set up to manage cases of corruption. Of the 3 500 odd cases about 1000 related to service delivery investigations however. Prior to the hotline being set up there was a chief directorate of investigations which dealt with about 65 investigations per year. Suddenly there was an increase to 1000 per year yet neither the budget nor the chief directorate had increased to accommodate this.
When the PSC did ask for funding, National Treasury gave funding for investigations. That funding normally went to the category ‘consultancy’ or ‘professional fees'. Given the nature of the investigations the PSC could not outsource the investigations to private consultants. If the PSC was allowed to use the funds to grow their staff complement, they might even under spend.
Prof Asmal said that nonetheless there was still a remarkable increase from R56 million to more than R100 million in the space of five years. Government’s commitment to dealing with ethics and dealing with corruption was central. He wondered why the PSC then took on unfunded mandates. This was a political matter and was very important to the Committee. If one took on unfunded mandates, other issues might suffer since resources would have to be transferred. The political issue therefore was that one should not undertake unfunded mandates.
Ms Ramsingh explained that in the PSC’s case it was slightly different. The unfunded mandates in essence fell within the PSC’s mandate but had not necessarily been rolled out yet. When the call came for the mandate to be rolled out, it was not necessarily matched with increased funding. So it was not an unfunded mandate but rather a call that mandates be rolled out faster.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee would take into account that their budget was fixed by National Treasury without the intervention of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). He noted that there was enormous variation in the budgetary process with the consequent effect that some Chapter 9 bodies may suffer and others may have an advantage.
Prof Sangweni said that the bulk of the unfunded work that the PSC found itself obliged to undertake came from the provinces. The PSC was under a great deal of pressure from the provincial administrations and stood accused of being “national department-centric”. He said that this apparent absence from the provinces could be linked to staff shortages.
Mr Dithebe recalled that in the 2001/2 evaluation of heads of departments there was a very useful instrument called the ‘360 degree evaluation’. He wondered why the PSC had chosen to make this evaluation optional.
Mr Simpson reminded members that the PSC did not have the authority to develop policy. A recommendation on a framework had been made to Cabinet and the decision was taken to use this instrument as an optional instrument. The 360 degree evaluation instrument was an add-on instrument to look at the performance of heads of department in terms of core management criteria. Subsequently, use of that instrument was withdrawn, through a policy directive.
Ms Smuts asserted that she believed in affirmative action but that she got very concerned when it took “problematic forms”. One of the constitutional imperatives relating to personnel practices required ability, objectivity, fairness and representative. She wondered whether enough emphasis had been placed on ability. It was only in the public service that representivity was mandatory.
She added that everyone knew that there was lack of capacity and what the scale of provincial under spend was and the disastrous consequence that resulted from that. 60% of the money Parliament voted for went to the provinces and she was pleased that the PSC would work with the provinces.
Mr Maharaj agreed that the question around ability was crucial. The PSC had developed a toolkit on recruitment and selection processes in the public service. If one read it, one would discover that the emphasis was not only on one aspect of recruitment but looked at the whole picture. The Commission would take umbrage if someone without ability was appointed to a position and would make recommendations in that regard.
They had also done two studies on whether people were appropriately qualified for the work they were doing. One was done at the level of deputy director, and quite surprisingly, it was found that most of these managers had the necessary qualifications. A subsequent investigation rendered similar results for managers below the level of deputy director. It found that in terms of the total package of ability, suitability, qualifications and necessary experience, they all met the requirements.
He added that the PSC would take exception if people were employed only on the basis of one particular criterion. This was often the issue for people who felt aggrieved in appointment processes and the PSC would then make recommendations in that regard. He said these complaints did not form the bulk of their investigations.
Prof Asmal asked that the Committee be supplied with the information for the hearings to be held in two weeks time.
Ms C Johnson (ANC) asked whether the investigations into the public servants with fraudulent qualifications had been concluded.
Mr Maharaj said that the one report had come out but that he was not sure whether the second one had been released. They had concluded the investigation at a more senior level and that had been published.
Ms Ramsingh added that the report on senior managers had been published and that there had only been one case of misrepresentation. The second report on the deputy directors had revealed no misrepresentation. The investigation around misrepresentation of qualifications at the level below deputy directors had been rolled out to the provinces - due to resource constraints. The PSC would do oversight of these investigations to see what they revealed.
Ms Matsomela noted that the response document indicated that the PSC funds were not approved by the departments or organs of state that it was meant to monitor. She wondered what the PSC would like to see happening in this regard.
Ms Ramsingh replied that the PSC had a direct vote as far the budget was concerned. The Minister submitted the budget to the National Treasury. The PSC’s challenge was that once that had been forward to Treasury, the PSC was not in a position to debate for a better allocation when the executing authorities sat and debated and lobbied for extra funding. They did not have room to lobby and participate at such forums. Given their mandate and given the safeguarding of their independence, they would find it difficult to approach the Minister with a request to lobby on their behalf. They thus found themselves in a very invidious position. Engaging with National Treasury at the time of allocation was still “that one last step” that needed to be taken, and still they did not find that they had the voice with which to do it.
Prof Asmal said that that the Director General was appointed by the Executive and he assumed that the Minister played a big part in the appointment of the Chief Executive. It seemed a bit anomalous then that these officials carried no influence. Although formally they did not have any power, informally there surely had to be accepted ways in which they could exercise some influence. He did not expect an answer to this comment.
Prof Sangweni said that these were issues that they would like the Committee to ponder. There was a perception that the PSC was under the Minister, that she controlled the PSC’s budget because she presented it to Parliament. The PSC had discussed the matter and some commissioners felt very strongly that the responsibility should be shifted.
He said that the appointment of the Director Genera had to be seen in a particular historical context. Pre-1996 the PSC was part of the administration because it determined policy. There had been issues that tended to impact on the Commission's independence.
Prof Asmal said the PSC was tasked to look after the quality of the public service yet their report made no reference to the South African Management and Development Institute (SAMDI), which was vested in the Ministry. The public had a particular interest in it because the quality of public service was enormously important.
Ms Ramsingh replied that the PSC was currently undertaking a study on the extent of training at senior management service level. The Commission had been involved in an evaluation of SAMDI. She agreed that they could do more as far as training was concerned.
Prof Asmal wondered whether there was any other country in the world with a similar level of political expedience and expectations that did not have a civil service staff training college. India was a classical example. He wondered whether it was not anomalous that South Africa did not have one.
Ms Ramsingh said that she would not like to pre-empt the Minister’s work around the evaluation of SAMDI but could inform the Committee that some interesting developments would unfold.
Prof Sangweni said that post 1994 there had been a trend within administration to close teaching training colleges and nursing colleges. Training from 1994-1996 was under the South African Training Institute, which was under the then PSC. This was removed and replaced by SAMDI. He did not know of any country that did not have such a training college and agreed that this was a pertinent question.
Prof Asmal responded that it was not the intention to embarrass the PSC at all. He was merely curious as to why the report did not mention training.
Moving to the next issue Prof Asmal, said that the report noted that interaction with the provinces was very limited despite nine provincial commissioners having been appointed at relatively high salary levels. He wondered with what credibility the Committee could report to Parliament, that despite the presence of the 9 provincial commissioners’ offices, the national PSC reported limited interaction with the provinces.
Mr Maharaj agreed that interaction with the provincial legislatures was extremely limited. The PSC submitted the same reports and documents at provincial and national speaker level. Provincial legislatures did not necessarily engage with the reports in the way that the national level did. On at least two occasions they had addressed appeals and correspondence to provincial speakers and chairpersons of portfolio committees to address the matter urgently. The PSC believed that they could impact much more significantly at provincial level especially when it came to issues of public service delivery.
He continued that the PSC frequently and regularly interacted with heads of departments at the administrative level. He himself engaged with every single department in terms of promoting the values and principles. In his first year with the PSC they had gone to every department executive committee to inform them of the role and function of the PSC and the value it could add to the functioning of those departments. Within provincial departments they also ensured compliance with some of the obligatory requirements such as submission of financial disclosures.
The PSC could boast that within some of the provinces there was 100% compliance, particularly because of the very direct interventions made by provincial commissioners. The PSC believed that at a political level a lot more could be done.
Prof Asmal brought their attention to the fact that on p31 of the response document, they said that regional offices (provincial offices) were not adequately capacitated to fulfil the PSC’s mandate in the respective provinces. Reading this “from a cold, analytical point of view”, this statement indicated that the system was not working in the provinces at administrative level. He added that the Committee would like to see the budgets for each of the provincial offices.
Mr Maharaj explained that for some reason or another, the provincial offices had been confined to five persons only. Considering that there were 12 to 14 provincial departments, such a small unit could not do monitoring and evaluation on each of these departments every year and still do other work as well. He mentioned that in one of the provinces, the Office of the Auditor General was the size of the entire PSC staff complement.
Prof Asmal pointed out that the function of the Auditor General was entirely different. Moving on he said he dreamt of there being a one stop advice centre in major towns so that people could get information as to where to lodge complaints. The real issue was that people did not know where they could turn to. He felt that if this could become a realisation, the PSC would be doing one of the best services it had done since 1994.
Mr Dithebe noted that the PSC and Public Protector had signed an MOU in which they agreed that the Public Protector would deal with complaints from the public, while the PSC would deal with complaints from public servants. He wondered whether the public had been made aware of this arrangement.
Ms Ramsingh said that the PSC had constrained itself as far as marketing was concerned. This was because they wanted to contain the flood gate that would inevitably open. The PSC had compiled a brochure which was distributed to the public as well as to public servants. She agreed that the PSC could market the hotline much more extensively. She admitted that marketing had been a shortcoming in the PSC’s activities.
Prof Asmal noted that some very good work was being done but that the Committee had not been aware of them. He said that for some odd reason the British Navy was known as the ‘silent service’. He joked that the PSC was taking the idea of a silent service too far. There were newspapers that took articles from third rate academics all the time and he wondered why Commissioners did not write articles on the PSC’s activities to be published in the papers. He added that while only 3% of the population read newspapers vast numbers listened to the radio. He did not think that the PSC needed a separate publicity unit for this.
Ms Johnson said that the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (2000) and the Promotion of Access to Information Act (2000) required public awareness raising activities. She said that the PSC had alluded to the fact that the public was not aware of these provisions and that the public service was not compliant with it. Such legislation meant nothing if not applied. She wondered what the PSC was doing about this and what they thought the Committee could do to assist.
Ms Ramsingh responded that the PSC had gone into collaboration with the Department of Justice. They had done an evaluation on the implementation of these two pieces of legislation. The findings were a matter of concern. They were trying to partner with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to promote these two pieces of legislation in a much more aggressive way. Implementation of the legislation remained the responsibility of the relevant department.
Prof Asmal said that according to the Presidential Review Commission, the PSC was too large, unwieldy and costly. There was a need for much growth and change and that it should be a much smaller body vested somewhere else. It also pointed out that the body should be without the power to address employment grievances, because such instruments were already in place. The report said that the question remained whether these bodies were relevant in a developmental state. Prof Asmal wondered whether the PSC could comment on this statement either then or in writing.
Prof Sangweni said that the PSC could respond then as well as in writing at a later stage. He recalled that the study Prof Asmal had referred to was made against a particular backdrop. With hindsight, given the evolution and the levels of transformation that had taken place, and given the magnitude of the work they had done and the possibility of a single public service, there was no need to tamper with the size of the PSC. The amount of work that needed to be done was such that there would have to be greater resource allocation, if the PSC were to continue in its current configuration. He did not think that the recommendation was applicable in the present situation.
Prof Asmal said that the responses the Committee had received from the PSC were sharp and helpful. He felt that the Committee had had a genuine interaction with the PSC. He urged the PSC not to feel that they had been cornered and reiterated that the Committee had not arrived at any conclusions.
He said that it would help the Committee if the PSC could consider the matters raised in the questionnaire as well as at the meeting as citizens of South Africa and not merely as officials within the PSC. This would enable them to objectively state what was happening within the public service rather than always raising the "money matter". The Committee would like to have self analytical responses.
The PSC was not like other commissions. They had been charged with special work. Many of the commissioners had strong political backgrounds and had been actively involved. They had insight into how things should happen, which they could share with the younger commissioners. He invited them to make further submissions that would assist the Committee and doing its work, before thanking them for the engagement. He looked forward to possible further interaction.
Mr Ernzten said that the significance of what the Chairperson had said would only be felt very much further down the line. It was significant to note that he and Prof Sangweni were the last two remaining members from the original PSC. In terms of the Constitution, 60% of the current commission had to leave in two years' time. That institutional memory should not be lost. He added that the PSC was working in the interest of the country and not just in the interest of those who served on it.
Prof Asmal said that the Committee had made a similar observation. There were one or two commissions, where effectively all the commissioners were new. Their successes were not many at all and the new commissioners were held accountable. He assured the PSC that the Committee would recognise the importance of continuity.
Prof Sangweni thanked the Committee for the robust engagement. The delegation had not felt that they were being interrogated at all. It had been a positive engagement that helped them a great deal. In fact he could not recall any engagement in the past seven years where the PSC required to reflect on things they were doing. He recommended that the Committee should try to engage with one or two of the provinces. It would help enormously.
The meeting was adjourned.
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