Public Service Amendment Bill: hearings

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Portfolio Committee in Public Service and Administration (National Assembly) Public Hearings on Public Service A/B – Oral presentations by Mr S Gopal, Federation Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA)/Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Unions (IMATU) and Na

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
14 March 2007
PUBLIC SERVICE AMENDMENT BILL: HEARINGS

Chairperson:
Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
Public Service Amendment Bill [B31-2006]
Submission by Mr S Gopal
Fedusa and IMATU Joint Submission

SUMMARY
Mr Gopal, highlighted aspects of the Bill pertaining to the transferal of employees within the Public Service. He noted that the Bill in effect proposed that employees could be transferred to all parts of the country, essentially without their consent. Concern was expressed regarding the fact that an employee would effectively have no recourse against the Department if he were asked to transfer to another part of the country. Mr Gopal stated that this was a right of the Department that was likely to be abused.

The Federation Unions of South Africa and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union’s joint submission expressed concern over the constitutional impact of the intended amendment; in particular, the fact that the Bill was allowing national government to usurp the role of municipalities, most notably through the incorporation of agencies at the local level.

The discussion focused on the question of forced transfer of public servants, and the issue of a single public service, as well as the fact that the proposed agencies were not from outside of the government but would rather be formed from within it. The Committee repeatedly emphasised that it had not yet formed an opinion on the Bill and thus the Unions’ presentation may have been premature.   

MINUTES
Submission by Mr Gopal

Mr S Gopal (a public servant appeared before the Committee in his personal capacity) argued that the proposed Bill was unconstitutional and that it would strip members of their dignity. Public servants belonged to families and the transfer of a public servant to different areas of the country had a great impact not only on individuals but also on their children and the general stability of his family. He argued that the aspect of the Bill that dealt with the transfer of individuals should prioritise the interests of that individual, rather than those of the public service.

IMATU and FEDUSA Joint Submission
Representatives of the Federation Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Unions (IMATU), Mr Van Heerden and Mr Van Staden, made a submission challenging the constitutionality of the Bill. Their presentation dealt primarily with the manner in which the Bill appeared to compromise stipulations regarding the three spheres of local government. 

Discussion  
Mr M Sikakane (ANC) stated that the current government would never negate the principles of freedom. He asked what the Department should do if it were faced with a public servant whose skills would be better used elsewhere.

Mr Gopal replied that the problem he had was that someone could be moved if it was in the public interest, without that public servant’s consent. The needs of the employee needed to be placed at the centre of the issue.

Mr A Nyambi (ANC) stated that he felt the employees would be assisted by this system, and enquired if Mr Gopal had had the opportunity of looking at the Bill with a legal expert.

Mr Gopal replied that he did have a legal background and was thus in a position to interpret the Bill for himself

Mr K. Khumalo (ANC) stated that Mr Gopal had raised a legitimate concern. A recommendation should have been made.

Ms Roopnarain (IFP) remarked that currently employees were being transferred from one place to another and did have redress in those instances.

Mr Gopal replied that there should be checks and balances. If an employee did not want to move, he should have the option of staying. He was against forcing Public Servants to move and it was not going to always result in greater capacity on the other side.

The Chair stated that there was currently no forced transferal of people.

Mr Khumalo stated that the presentation of IMATU was slightly premature. He noted that Mr Van Staden had referred in his presentation, to section 196 only and had failed to refer to section 195, which dealt with the functions of the public service. He noted that section 195 was far broader. Nowhere did the creation of agencies mean taking power away from local government. Nowhere in the Bill was it stated that municipal services would be replaced by agencies.

Ms L Maloney (ANC) asked whether the issue of agencies was being fully understood. These agencies were not from outside the government, but from within it and they therefore understood constitutional issues.

In that light, Mr Van Staden questioned the necessity of the agencies and suggested opening a government office to carry out those tasks.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) asked for greater clarity on the issue of unconstitutionality that Mr Van Staden had raised. Was the concern over the subordination of one sphere of government by the other? 

Mr Van Staden replied that the Bill indicated that functions could be transferred from an organ of state. The transfer of municipal tasks to national government was unconstitutional. Section 151(3) of the Constitution determined the powers of the national government, and that certain functions be done by the municipality.

The Chair enquired as to why IMATU was calling for the Bill to be revoked. Surely it should have been looked at and grievances taken under advisement. The Chair thanked the presenters.

The meeting was adjourned.


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