Qualification verification in the Public Service: Department’s report, & Public Administration Management Bill: re-tagging

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Meeting Summary

The Public Service Commission explained that the administration of the public service was based upon Batho Pele principles, a number of which were outlined in the Constitution, including effective, efficient and economic management. He explained that it had recently been decided by Cabinet that the qualifications of all public servants be verified, so that assessment of the public service and its progress could be made. To this end questionnaires were sent out. Although not many departments had as yet completed them, it had been found that there was still staff resistance, and that delays were occasioned by the need to have qualifications assessed by outside bodies. Many departments also had not budgeted for this process, either in terms of money or of staff to undertake the work.

A presentation was given on how departments were to ensure that “value for money” was received in the public service, which was being done on the basis of indications of all service delivery, and obstacles hindering departments. This was an attempt to ensure that plans were fully aligned with spending. Members were not entirely in agreement with the presentations, believing that it was the task of the Department of Public Service and Administration to ensure good delivery, and queried why some of the problems identified in the audit had not come to light before. A few Members saw little purpose in verification of qualifications, and did not agree with some of the groupings.

The Committee was informed that the Public Administration Management Bill was to be re-classified from a Section 76 to a Section 75 Bill, as a result of a typographical error. It was noted that a workshop on the Bill would be held on 12 and 13 August.

Meeting report

Verification of qualifications in the public service: Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) presentation
Professor Stan Sangweni, Chairperson, the Public Service Commission, said that the Batho Pele principles were based on a number of principles and statements outlined in the Constitution, and included effective, efficient and economic management of the public service. He noted that in 2000 the Minister for Public Service had requested that there be a verification of the qualifications of all public servants. In 2002 Cabinet took the decision to verify all qualifications. A checklist was drawn up that would include matters such as citizenship, criminal records and qualifications, so that a better picture of the public service could be obtained and an assessment could be made of the progress in the public service. All departments were sent and had to respond to a Public Service Commission (PSC) questionnaire.

The forms were duly set out, but only seven provincial and two national departments had submitted the feedback reports to their Heads of Department, and the main challenge to the verification process was that there was still staff resistance, and delays. Another problem in the process was that external verification of qualifications by outside bodies, such as the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) was costly, and in most cases these costs were not known by the departments before they embarked on the process, and they therefore incurred major costs without having budgeted for them. This was a further constraint that slowed down the verification process, especially when officials had more than one qualification. In addition to that there were human resources constraints, since some departments did not always have adequate capacity to conduct the verification of qualifications.

Value for money Presentation
Professor Sangweni noted that departments had also been asked to ensure that “value for money” was being received throughout the public service. A definition for this could be derived from all the vision and mission statements and any assessments of value for money would be done on the medium to long term basis. It had been decided that in order to make these assessments, all front line programme managers had to indicate all service delivery which was beyond their reach, and all the obstacles which hindered them in achieving value for money, so that better planning could be done to ensure that plans were fully aligned with spending.

Discussion
Mr I Julies (DA) stated that the service delivery was the responsibility of the Department of Public Service and Administration itself and that if there was not good service delivery then the department would have to be taken to task.

Ms M Matsemela (ANC) added that it was clear that the study had identified problems in several departments. However, these problems had been in existence for some time and should have been identified earlier, not only during the audits.

Mr M Baloyi (ANC) asked when and how all the monitoring would be done.

Mr A Nyambi (ANC) mentioned that in every department it would be essential that the Heads of Department must lead by example.

Mr K Minnie (DA) pointed out that he did not see sense in the “Value for Money” presentation, and had not understood clearly what it entailed.

The Chairperson echoed this question, asking for clarification of the figures in the presentations in regard to appointments.

Commissioner Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, Public Service Commissioner,  replied by stating that when staff were being recruited, a numbers of components were considered by Human Resources. They would then verify all qualifications, in line with the directives of the Cabinet.

A Member stated his frustration at the qualifications issue and said that he still saw no sense in it.

Mr V Gore (ID) said that, being disabled himself, he was not pleased to see inclusion of “special groups” in the presentation. He did not believe that for these purposes people with disabilities should be classified or categorised differently, but should be included with all other staff.

All Committee Members agreed with this.

Public Administration Management Bill (the Bill) B47/2008: Final classification
Ms Zuraya Adhikarie, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, and Ms Suraya Williams, State Law Advisor, noted that the tagging of this Bill should be amended from a Section 76 Bill. The Joint Tagging Mechanism should follow the recommendations.

The Chairperson said that the mistake on the classification of this Bill should not have happened because officials were to give support to parliament, and it was unacceptable if there had been misleading information.

Mr Nyambi asked when this error came to light, and what measures would be taken to ensure that the Committee would not be mislead again in the future.

Ms Williams added that this error was her fault and that it was a typographical error.

The Chairperson accepted her explanation, but noted that the contradictory information had impacted upon the the image of the Committee.

He added that a workshop on the Bill would be held on 12 and 13 August instead of having public hearings and that further opinions on the classification could then be given. Only then would a decision be made by the Committee on how to proceed with the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.

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