Public Service Amendment Bill: Workshop

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Meeting report

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
21 February 2007
PUBLIC SERVICE AMENDMENT BILL: WORKSHOP

Chairperson:
Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents handed out
Public Service Amendment Bill [B31-2006]
Public Service Amendment Bill presentation by Department
Public Service Act of 1994 with proposed amendments
Public Service Act

 

Audio Recording of the Meeting

 


SUMMARY

This was a continuation of the workshop given in November 2006 as the clause-by-clause briefing had not been completed. However, the Department was asked to provide again a full briefing on the Bill. The Director General gave an overview of the background to the Public Service Amendment Bill which would amend the Public Service Act of 1994. He highlighted the issues that had prompted the proposal to amend the Act.  This was followed by a briefing on the amendments by the Chief Director of Legal Services. The Committee asked questions about the clauses dealing with promotions which did not appear to spell out how employees would be rewarded for good performance, potential conflict and cost implications of the agencies, transgressions of the Act by political office bearers such as Premiers and the reduced period of absence for dismissals.

MINUTES
Briefing on Bill by Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA)
The DPSA Director-General, Prof Richard Levin, gave an overview of the objectives of the Bill. The Department had realised there was a need to strengthen organisational and human resource matters in the public service. Experience had shown that some of these arrangements in the Public Service Act directly hampers internal efficiency and service delivery. Legislation was also underway for a single public service incorporating all three spheres of government but it was necessary to strengthen the Act in some areas urgently.

He noted the following areas:
- Inadequate provision for deployment of staff
to priority areas where there is an identification of scarce resources.
- Some functions provided through departments not close to service delivery point and without direct accountability and decision-making by functionaries tasked with delivery; or by entities outside public service without direct control by a political head.
- Transgressing employees resign and join other departments without being disciplined.
- Employees dismissed for misconduct, even related to corruption, may be re-employed.
- Some provisions have resulted in legal disputes or conflict with other legislation.


He then handed over the presentation to the Chief Director: Legal Services, Ms Empie Van Schoor. She went through the proposed amendments, particularly the proposal by the National Treasury and the DPSA on government agencies. The main aim of establishing agencies was to perform specific functions which accompany direct accountability. It was a mechanism to bring back institutions outside the public service that have functions that should be performed within the public service. Agencies would be within the public service and staff would be public service employees.

With regard to implementing disciplinary actions, abscondment provisions had been revised. The period of absence had been reduced from one calendar month to ten working days and fourteen days for educators. [In the private sector, it was three working days.]

Other amendments dealt with: powers of the minister, collective bargaining, promotions, enhancing compliance, implementing disciplinary sanctions, continuation of disciplinary hearings in new department, summoning witnesses, grounds of dismissal, supervening impossibility, prohibition on re-employment if dismissed for misconduct, outside remunerative work, grievances, political rights, regulation-making and delegation powers. [See document for details]

Discussion
The Committee sought clarification on certain issues:

Promotions:  The Committee pointed out that the Bill did not clearly spell out how employees would be rewarded for good performance.

Government agencies: Concerns were expressed that there might be a conflict when the Minister/MEC/Premier favours the advice of an agency against that of the Department or vice versa. Clarification was also sought with regard to cost implications and the criteria that would be used to establish an agency.  On this issue, the answer was that the Department that wished to establish an agency would submit a motivation.

Disciplinary actions: It was pointed out that the Bill should spell out clearly who should be responsible for reporting Premiers who transgressed the Act. The response was that the DPSA Minister should report political office bearers to the President.

Dismissals: The Committee was concerned about the period of absence that had been reduced as it did not give allowance for mitigating factors.

The Committee would be meeting to have extensive discussions on the Bill. There would be continual communication between the Committee and the Department for more input.

The meeting was adjourned.

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