The Public Service Commission briefed the Committee on the 2007/08 expenditure and 2008/09 budget. The report summarized the Commission’s April 2007 to January 2008 expenditure report, medium term framework expenditure estimates for 2008/09 to 2010/11 and also expanded on the priorities for the medium term period. The PSC budget had increased by an annual average of 10 per cent. The PSC had received unqualified audit reports for the past seven years and under-spending stood at 1%. Its programmes had increased from three to four and included Monitoring and Evaluation, Leadership and Management Practices, Integrity and Anti-Corruption. Despite the limited financial resources, the PSC reported that it had managed to fulfill its constitutional mandate with vigor.
Questions from the Committee dealt with the matter highlighted in the State of the Nation Address that all senior managers should file their Key Performance Agreements with the PSC each May in order to improve state organisation and capacity. Also discussed was its budget for anti-corruption, capacity utilization, the independence of the PSC, Commissioners’ absence from Committee oversight meetings, challenges faced by the Commission, potential for a reduction in the budget for PSC administration, monitoring and evaluation practices in the Commission, and the ‘citizen forum’ concept.
The Public Service Commission delegation included: Mr A Maluleke, the Acting Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Public Service Commission and Mr M Diphofa, Deputy Director General, Office of the Public Service Commission.
Mr Mashwahle Diphofa (Deputy Director-General, Public Service Commission), pointed out that since 2005, the PSC’s budget allocation had increased by an annual average of 10 per cent. Savings / underspending for the 2005/06 and 2006/07 financial years was 1.6 per cent and 1 per cent respectively.
He said that despite the limited financial resources, the PSC had managed to fulfill its constitutional mandate with vigour. The expenditure estimates would increase by an average of 6.6 per cent over the MTEF period. Over the three-year MTEF period, the annual increase in budget was expected to increase from a mere 2,7% in 2008/09, to 8,4% in the 2009/10 and 8,8% in 2010/11. PSC’s Administration programme continued to take a substantial chunk of the budget
The PSC’s budget used to be divided amongst three programmes: Administration, Investigations and Human Resource Reviews and Monitoring and Evaluation. In order to improve organizational efficiency and performance, the budget would be divided into the following four programmes with effect from 1 April 2008: Administration, Monitoring and Evaluation, Leadership and Management Practices, Integrity and Anti-Corruption. The amounts for each sub-programme were provided.
He concluded by saying that since its inception, the PSC had increasingly managed to improve financial management and budgetary control. Spending patterns have consistently improved from an under-expenditure of 2.35 per cent in 2001/02 financial year to 0.99 per cent in the 2006/07 financial year and PSC had an exemplary audit history with unqualified audits for the past seven years.
Mr K Julies (DA) bemoaned the large amount of money allocated to fight corruption with the government, when in fact Parliament had the jurisdiction of enacting legislation to arrest the situation. He implored the Committee to take up the issue seriously and engage other committees on this matter.
Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) commended the work currently being done by the PSC with a tight financial injection.
Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) agreed with Dr Roopnarain on the excellent work being done by the Commission. However, she suggested that it would be understandable to allocate more funds to Monitoring and Evaluation and Leadership and Management Practices programmes given the government’s motto ‘Business Unusual’. She urged the PSC to continue looking into ways of minimizing the budget allocations for PSC’s Administration programme.
The PSC was asked about its remedial action in light of the problems being faced in the administration of performance agreements of Heads of Departments (HODs). This was highlighted in the State of the Nation Address as part of an overall effort to improve the organisation and capacity of the state: By May of every year (and within two months of the beginning of the financial year at local government level) all senior managers should have filed their Key Performance Agreements with relevant authorities. The Office of the Public Service Commission will set up monitoring systems in this regard.
Mr Minnie (DA) wanted to know if for their Monitoring and Evaluation and Integrity and Anti-Corruption programmes, the Commission had budgets items enabling them to carry out their oversight duties and compliance evaluations effectively.
Mr Diphofa (DDG) defended the amount of money allocated to Integrity and Anti-Corruption, arguing that their strategy of fighting corruption was two-pronged, prevention and combating, hence justifying the estimated costs. He added that there were problems with financial disclosure, which required urgent attention to arrest the massive embezzlement of state resources. He emphasized that there was a need to build an ethically sound public service.
Mr Julies stated that the issue of anti-corruption had to be dealt with by Parliament because the current budget allocation to the PSC to fight corruption was unnecessary given the authority of Parliament to outlaw certain corrupt practices.
The Chair commented that it was important for members to understand that the amount allocated to the Integrity and Anti-Corruption programme was indicative of the underlying social reality of corruption rearing its ugly head in the public sector. He added that the total amount for Anti-Corruption summarised all the activities to be done to combat corruption. He suggested that there was a need to implement the necessary tools to detect, monitor, prevent and combat corruption.
A member noted that the anti-corruption drive would be boosted following revelations that the PSC was in the process of recruiting a Chief Director for the Integrity and Anti-Corruption programme.
Mr Diphofa confirmed that the recruitment process for the Chief Director was underway. He pointed out that the PSC had sub-programmes to enable the Commission to carry out its oversight role, especially professional ethics issues. He added that the current budget estimates had not factored in the ‘Business Unusual’ motto of government.
Mr Diphofa said that the budget had also not taken into consideration issues pertaining to the performance agreements of HODs as cited in the State of the Nation Address. On the need to increase money for the Leadership and Management Practices programme, he said capacity was a big problem. He pointed out that almost all their programmes involved aspects of monitoring and evaluation.
Ms Mashangoane suggested that it would make sense if the PSC could tone down the Administration Programme budget a bit in order to capacitate the other programmes.
Mr Diphofa responded that it was difficult to tone done given the importance of sub-programmes housed under the administration unit (management, corporate services and property management). One thing that they had done in the interim had been to advise that senior managers within the PSC share office administrators.
Mr Maluleke (Acting CFO) added that the same could not be duplicated in areas such as corporate services, where compliance evaluations were done, as that would be tantamount to turning functionaries into players and referees at the same time. He said such a situation was corruption-inducive and costly.
Mr Diphofa commented that the PSC was compelled in terms of Project 15 to report by June every year on the matter of performance agreements. However this had been difficult to implement given the lack of seriousness by most HODs on the issue of Key Performance Agreements and disagreements on what needed to be included in those agreements. He expressed hope that something would be done to address the problems, given the attention on the issue by various stakeholders. The PSC facilitated the performance agreements after a certain time based on cut-off dates. However, it was difficult to evaluate HODs before the publication of annual reports, which usually came out in September. The PSC had since piloted the cluster approach based on performance evaluation, where particular HODs within a targeted departments were evaluated before moving on to others. He added that this had worked in some provinces where it had been piloted and the PSC was monitoring this approach with keen interest.
The Chair commented that in the past the Commissioners used to attend and be part of the committee deliberations and he was wondering what had happened to them. He wondered where this was in line with ‘Business Unusual’ motto. He asked why the PSC was presented in the budget under the Administration programme as if it was a department and whether that had implications on the normal functioning of the Office of Public Service Commission. He questioned the unbundling of programmes from three to four and queried whether the additional programme was not ‘old wine in new bottles’?
Ms M Tlake (ANC) wanted to know the context in which the ‘citizen forum’ concept was being used by the PSC. She also questioned the remedial action the PSC was taking in addressing the human resource challenges it was facing in reviving the ‘citizen forum’ concept.
Ms Mashangoane commended the PSC for effectively and efficiently utilizing their limited financial resources, as testified by significant drops in their annual rate of under-spending.
Mr Diphofa promised to take the issue of the Commissioners’ absence from committee deliberations with the relevant authorities. He agreed that the identity of the PSC was somewhat confusing given that in some quarters it was referred to as a department and yet also a partner of the Committee in providing oversight on government departments. On the increase from three to four programme areas, he said that these were a consistent set of themes that the Commission has followed. He refuted claims that it was ‘old wine in new bottles’, arguing that although some sub-programmes and sub-activities continue to recur – these were in line with their strategic focus and not in pursuit of fashionable programme names.
He pointed out that the PSC had also introduced Service Delivery and Compliance Evaluations within the Monitoring and Evaluation programme to assess the validity and reliability of submitted monitoring and evaluation reports. They had also finished guidelines on the ‘integrity barometer’ to measure professional ethics adherence, which was expected to be piloted this year.
Finally he said that the ‘citizen forum’ concept was being used within a particular context, as a methodology to organize community groups to participate in and evaluate government programmes. In the past, the PSC used to facilitate this concept with other role players in assessing stakeholder recommendations and plans. He complained about the lack of capacity that had led to their abandoning the project, although the PSC still had tool kits, training manuals and advisory capacity to facilitate future citizen forum projects.
The meeting was adjourned.
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