ATC200605: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on the Strategic Plan 2019/20—2023/24, Annual Performance Plans (Apps) 2020/21 and the Budget Vote 12 of the Public Service Commission Date, 27 May 2020

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION ON THE STRATEGIC PLAN 2019/20—2023/24, ANNUAL PERFORMANCE PLANS (APPS) 2020/21 AND THE BUDGET VOTE 12 OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION DATE, 27 MAY 2020

 

  1. BACKGROUND

The Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration (hereinafter referred to as the Portfolio Committee) having considered the directive of the National Assembly to consider and report on the Strategic Plan, Annual Performance Plan and Budget allocations of the Public Service Commission tabled by the Minister of Public Service and Administration in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (Act No 1 of 1999), reports as follows:

  1. INTRODUCTION

Parliament plays an important role in overseeing planning and performance of government departments and public entities as well as Chapter 9 and10 institutions. The Public Finance Management Act, section 27 stipulates that the Minister must table the annual budget for a financial year in the National Assembly before the start of the financial year. Subsequent to that the Money Bills Amendment Procedures and Related Matters Act, No 9 of 2009, section 10 (1) (c) clearly stipulates that the relevant members of Cabinet must table updated strategic plan and annual performance plan for each department, public entity or institution, which must be referred to the relevant Committee for consideration and reporting.

In considering the strategic and annual performance plan, the Committee ensured that the Public Service Commission’s plan and budget allocation serve the needs and aspirations of the citizens. Budget allocation serves as a key instrument for government to promote socio-economic development. Budget allocation plays a critical role as an economic instrument of the government to reflect on the country’s socio-economic policy priorities by translating priorities and political commitments into expenditures. Budget serves as a vital tool to operationalise government activities towards the achievement of its intended priorities. Furthermore, the budget highlights the constraints and trade-offs in policy choices.

On 06th May 2020, the Committee considered presentation on the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans and budget allocation of the Public Service Commission (PSC). This report summarises presentation received from the PSC, focusing on the 2019/24 Strategic Plan and 2020/21 Annual Performance Plans and Budget as well as allocations over the MTEF.

  1. OVERVIEW OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

The PSC is an independent institution established in terms of Chapter 10 of the Constitution. It derives its mandate from Section 195 and 196 of the Constitution, 1996, which set out the values and principles governing public administration, which should be promoted by the PSC, as well as the powers and functions of the PSC. The PSC is required by the Constitution to exercise its powers and to perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice. The Constitution links the PSC’s independence firmly with its impartiality and no organ of state may interfere with the functioning of the PSC.

The PSC is vested with custodial oversight responsibilities for the Public Service and monitors, evaluates and investigates public administration practices. It also has the power to issue directions regarding compliance with personnel procedures relating to recruitment, transfers, promotions and dismissals. The PSC is accountable to the National Assemblyand to Provincial Legislatures and must annually report on its activities and performance to these two institutions.

  1. LEGISLATIVE MANDATE

The PSC is a constitutional oversight body, established in 1996, primarily to promote “a high standard of professional ethics in the public service”. The PSC operates in terms of the PSC Act 1997. The Act provides for the regulation of the PSC with regard to:

  1. The constitution of the PSC.
  2. Appointment of Commissioners.
  3. Designation of the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.
  4. Conditions of appointment of Commissioners.
  5. Removal from office of Commissioners.
  6. Functions of the PSC (inspections, inquiries, etc.)
  7. Rules according to which the PSC should operate.
  8. The Office of the PSC (OPSC); and
  9. Transitional arrangements with regard to service commissions (created under the Interim Constitution). 

 

  1. STRATEGIC GOALS OF THE PSC

The strategic goals of the PSCfor 2019-2024 are as follows:

  1. Promoting the implementation values and principles

The PSC has a constitutional mandate to promote and monitor compliance with constitutional values and principles in the course of rendering of services to the public. The promotion of the constitutional values and principles is aimed at fostering a positive behavioural change in the public servants and the Public Service in order to ensure that services are delivered in a responsive, caring and ethical manner, among other things.  

In order to ensure the continuity over the MTEF period, the commission plans to conduct 50 quantitative evaluation reports in 2020/21 and 12 qualitative evaluations in each of the remaining years of the MTEF period. The purpose of these reports and evaluations is to assess departments’ compliance with constitutional values and principles with a view to promoting a culture of excellence in the public service. Quantitative indicators are used to establish whether systems are in place, while qualitative indicators aim to establish whether those systems assist in effecting change.

  1. Promoting professional ethics in the public service

In terms of Section 195 of the Constitution, the PSC is required to promote professional ethics in the Public Service.  Given this Constitutional mandate, the PSC would raise ethics awareness through the promotion of Code of Conduct in the public service ethical leadership dialogues and commemoration of international events such as the International Anti-Corruption Day.

  1. Public Administration Investigations

The PSC will, over the MTEF, continue to conduct investigationsas a way of holding public service accountable in exercising their functions.  A variety of access mechanisms have been established by the PSC to promote accountability and encourage a culture of reporting ethics-related issues, accountability-related issues such as appointment, procurement and financial irregularities, non-compliance with Public Service legislation and policy, service delivery and professionalism-related issues such as bias/impartiality, unfairness, discrimination and prejudice, and performance-related issues such as incapacity, incompetence, lack of training/capacitating and lack of representivity. 

  1. Management of the Public Sector National Anti-Corruption Hotline

Public Sector National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) is another mechanism established by government to prevent and combat corruption. Government has introduced the NACH for departments, public entities and local government in 2004 through a Cabinet Decision of 14 August 2003. The investigation or resolution of the NACH cases has been a challenge since its inception and has been an MTSF commitment for a number of years and departments are expected to resolve 80% of cases lodged with the NACH per quarter. The PSC would over the MTSF monitor the resolution of these cases.  

  1. Management of the Financial Disclosure Framework

In terms of Regulation 21(1)(a) of the Public Service Regulations, 2016, the PSC is required to scrutinise the financial disclosure forms of Members of the SMS. The purpose of the scrutiny is to assess compliance with the requirement to disclose all financial interests and also establish whether the involvement of officials in any activities of the companies could lead to conflicts of interest.

The scrutiny of the financial disclosure forms involves the verification of information provided in the financial disclosure forms against the information contained in the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission Deeds Registry and the National Traffic Information System databases. The PSC also assesses the extent to which SMS members are engaged in work outside their normal employment in the relevant Departments.

  1. Disciplinary Proceedings on Financial Management

In terms of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (PFMA) read in conjunction with Treasury Regulations, 2002, accounting officers of departments are required to report on the outcome of completed disciplinary proceedings on financial misconduct, to amongst others, the PSC. The PSC will over the MTEF monitor and evaluate, amongst others, how departments are managing financial misconduct, which is part of ensuring that the Public Service maintains a high standard of professional ethics. The PSC will continue to produce on annual basis an overview of completed disciplinary proceedings in respect of financial misconducts.  The overview is aimed at reflecting on action taken by departments institutionalising consequence management on cases of financial misconduct.

 

  1. BUDGET ANALYSIS

The Public Service Commission’s overall budget allocation for 2020/21 is R297.6, compared to R278.3 million in 2019/20. This represents an increase of 6.9 per cent in nominal terms. However, in real terms the total budget for the Department increased by only 2.43 per cent between the 2020/21 and 2021/22 financial years. Expenditure increases at an average annual rate of 5.7 per cent, from R278.2 million in 2019/20 toR328.2 million in 2022/23. Compensation of employees accounts for approximately 76.9 per cent(R725.5 million) of the department’s total expenditure over the medium term.

Budget allocated will focus on fighting corruption, strengthening human resource practices and management and monitoring and evaluating service delivery performance in the public service. It will also monitor service delivery and the implementation of the financial disclosure framework and strengthening the financial disclosure system to combat corruption.The budget of the Public Service Commission is divided into four programmes. The main cost drivers are Programme 1: Administration (R143.3m) and Programme 4: Integrity and Anti-Corruption (R61.1m).

Table 1: Budget allocation

Programme R'000

Revised

Estimates

2019/20

Medium Term Expenditure Estimates

2020/21

2021/22

2022/23

1.  Administration

131.2

143.3

152.1

160.6

2. Leadership and Management Practices

46.0

47.2

50.2

51.2

3.  Monitoring and Evaluation

43.7

46.1

49.0

50.0

  1. Integrity and Anti-Corruption

57.4

61.1

65.0

66.4

Total

278.2

297.6

316.3

328.2

Source: National Treasury (2020)

 

  1. PROGRAMME PERFORMANCE

The PSC has four programmes whose budget and activities are as follows:

  1. Programme 1: Administration

The purpose of this Programme is to provide overall management of the PSC and centralised support services. The budget for Programme 1 increased from R131.2 million in 2019/20 to R143.3 million in 2020/21. This represents a 4.62 per cent increase in real terms in the budget allocation between 2019/20 and 2020/21. The programme is one of the three major cost drivers under this Vote, consuming 48.15 per cent of the overall allocation. It is also one programme that experiences real percentage increase. The main cost drivers are Chief Financial Officer (R55.9m); Public Service Commission (R26.0m); Property Management (R23.3m) and Corporate Services, which has changed to People Management Services with effect from 1 April 2020 (R23.1m). The compensation per employee budget has increased at about 7.3% a year, while the Compensation of Employees (CoE) budget increased at about 5.2% over the medium term. The budget allocated for Programme 1 will be spent on developing the strategic and annual performance plan for the PSC. The PSC intends to receive unqualified audit opinion in 2020/21 financial year. 

  1. Programme 2: Leadership and Management Practices

The Leadership and Management Practices (Programme 2) is responsible for promoting sound Public Service leadership, human resource management, labour relations and labour practices.The programme has two sub-programmes, namely: Labour Relations Improvement, and Leadership and Human Resource Reviews.

The budget allocation for Programme 2 increased from R46.0 million in 2019/20 to R47.2 million in 2020/21. In real terms the budget allocation of Programme 2 decreased by -1.79 per cent between 2020/21 and 2021/22. This programme consumes the third largest portion (15.86 per cent) of the overall budget. The bulk of the Programme’s budget (R22.6 million) is allocated to the Leadership and Management Practices sub-programme, which provides overall management of the programme. The other main cost driver is Labour Relations Improvement (R14,7m), which is responsible for promoting labour relations and practices through the timeous investigation of properly referred grievances and the provision of best practices in the public service. The Commission plans to address grievances and complaints arising from the reorganisation process, and induct new Heads of Department and Executive Authorities with the aim of strengthening compliance with the principles of reorganisation and effective public administration.

In line with government initiatives in Priority 6 of the NDP, the PSC will focus on professionalisation of the public service through promoting meritocracy and ethical conduct in areas of Human Resources Management and Leadership practices. The PSC’s contribution will be facilitated through research, monitoring and capacity development on key topical issues relating to, among others, ethical practice in the recruitment process, effective discipline management, the strategic repositioning of Human Resources in departments as well as effective management of continuous employee development. The Commission will under this programme promote sound labour relations and practices through timeous investigation of all properly referred grievances and provision of best practices. The Commission intends to finalise grievances of the employees on salary 2 -12 within 30 days from date of receipt of all relevant information.

  1. Programme 3: Monitoring and Evaluation

The main purpose of the programme is to improve the functionality of the Public Service through institutional and service delivery evaluation. Programme 3 accounts for 15.49 per cent (R46.1 million) of the total budget vote in 2020/21. Between 2019/20 and 2020/21, the budget allocation for Programme 3 increased by 0.95 per cent in real terms. The main cost drivers of the Programme are Programme Management: Monitoring and Evaluation at R24.6 million and Service Delivery and Compliance Evaluations at R11.1 million. The PSC conducts service delivery inspections at various service points in order to influence positive behavioural change in the manner in which services are rendered in the Public Service by the public servants. Service delivery inspections are regarded as a fact-finding exercise to observe and get first-hand information on service delivery.

The main contribution of the PSC through the discharge of its monitoring and evaluation function will be on improved leadership, governance and accountability, functional, efficient and integrated government and professional, meritocratic and ethical public administration. This contribution will be realised through monitoring of departmental compliance with Constitutional Values and Principles(CVPs) in order to ensure that the Public Service is responsive to the needs of the citizens. One of the mechanisms the PSC intends to use to measure the responsiveness of the Public Service is monitoring departmental performance against their respective service standards. The PSC’s work on building stronger institutions will be complemented by service delivery inspections, so that the institutions can also be evaluated from the perspective of the citizen so that solutions to real world service delivery problems can be developed.

The PSC aims to continue with sector specific service delivery inspections for the next five financial years. The PSC intends to conduct service delivery inspections in ten health facilities. The PSC will enhance its knowledge base through lessons in the rollout of District Service Delivery Model (DSDM) by the Presidency as articulated by the President in the 2018 State of the Nation Address. Furthermore, the PSC produces evaluations and advice addressed to decision-makers with a view to changing public administration practices and behaviours. In line with its Constitutional mandate, the PSC’s contribution towards strengthening state capability has prioritised the ambition to build a value-driven public service through ethical, credible and accountable leadership, and embedding constitutional values and principles across the public sector.  

  1. Programme 4:Integrity and Anti-Corruption

The Integrity and Anti-Corruption programme is responsible for undertaking public administration investigations, promoting a high standard of professional ethical conduct amongst public servants and contributing to the prevention and combating of corruption.The budget allocation for Programme 4 accounts for 20.53 per cent share or R61.1 million of the total budget vote in 2020/21. In 2020/21, the allocation for Programme 4 increased by 6.45 per cent in nominal terms, but in real terms, it increased by 1.97 per cent. The main cost drivers are Programme Management: Integrity and Anti-Corruption at R24.6 million and Professional Ethics at R23.1 million, respectively. There has been a decrease in the number of complaints lodged and closed by the PSC over a four-year period. This may be attributed to the departments putting in place own complaints mechanisms including reporting lines and investigative capacities as required by the Minimum Anti-Corruption Capacities (MACC) established by Cabinet. This shows the effectiveness of the Programme, although the issue of public service employees conducting business with the State is slower than anticipated. 

A responsive and values driven public service depends on, among other things, the investigative function of the PSC on public administration malpractices, particularly in the areas of irregular appointments and curbing of corruption in government departments. The PSC will continue to investigate public administration malpractices, scrutinise compliance with financial disclosure framework management of the National Anti-Corruption Hotlines and conduct investigative research on professional ethics. 

 

 

  1. OBSERVATIONS AND FINDINGS

The Portfolio Committee identified the following matters in relation to the Budget Vote 12,

  1. The Committee noted and considered the Strategic Plan (2019-2024) and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21 financial year of the Public Service Commission. The strategic plan covers most of the functions of the Commission as encapsulated in section 196 of the Constitution. The Committee further noted that PSC’s strategic focus is mainlycontribution towards building a responsive, ethical and value-driven public service that responds timeously, efficiently and effectively to the needs of the citizens.

 

  1. Over the past years, the PSC used to receive its budget through transfer from the Department of Public Service and Administration budget vote. The Committee welcomed government’s decision to grant the full budget vote status as part of reinstating its independence from the Executive. The Committee was dissatisfied with the fact that the PSC would still be unable to argue on its budgetary requirements before Cabinet and or Parliament and is dependent on the Minister of Public Service and Administration to do so.

 

  1. The Committee notedthe PSC’s initiative onthe legislative reform project intending to introduceto Parliament a Bill that will allow the Commission to be supported by a Secretariat that is independent of government in order to strengthen its independence. Currently the Director-General of the PSC is appointed through section 12 of the Public Service Act, 1994, thus making him/her part of employees under the Public Service.

 

  1. The Committee further notes existing vacancies of the Commissioners at the National Office and in Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces. The Committee was wary of Section 3(2)(a) of the Public Service Commission Amendment Act, 1997 which stipulatesthat such posts be filled within a 60-day period. The Committee conceded that it will speed up the process of filling a vacancy of the National Commissioner and further encouraged legislatures to fast-track their recruitment process to be in line with Section 3(2) of the Act.

 

  1. Due to COVID-19, government has listed certain departments as essential services. However, the Committee was of the view that the National Anti-Corruption Hotline administered by the PSC could have been listed as an essential service. Corruption is rife during the disaster period, as most departments are allowed under certain circumstances to procure services without following PFMA prescripts. The National Anti-Corruption Hotline is useful during this period to provide citizens with a platform to report any allegations of corruption in the public sector.

 

  1. The Committee took note of the PSC’s caution on mushrooming of other hotlines within the public and private sector, which has the potential to render the Public Sector National Anti-Corruption Hotline ineffective. The function to report and investigate on corruption resides with the PSC, therefore the Committee felt that a central hotline should be under the auspices of the PSC. Too many hotlines are a duplication of services and multiplied cost to Government, when there is a need to save to grow the economy.

 

 

  1. The Committee in its analysis of the annual performance plan identified an anomaly in terms of percentage of budget allocated mainly to spend on Compensation of Employees. The PSC is a knowledge-based institution that attracts highly specialised individuals with relatively scarce skills to be able to assist the institution to pursue its mandate of investigation, monitoring and evaluation as well as research. Therefore, most of the officials are appointed with high expectations such as master’s degrees and intense experience, which comes with cost and an expectation to provide quality services to the Commission.

 

  1. As a result of audit outcomes of the 2018/19 financial year, the Committee cautioned the PSC to address matters of emphasis the Auditor-General identified resulting to qualified audit,among which was the deviation on the procurement of the Information Technology related matters, resulting in most unfavourable audit outcomes.For the PSC to fail in these matters undermines good governance, which it must uphold and of which it is a custodian.

 

 

  1. RECOMMENDATIONS

The Portfolio Committee recommends that the Public Service Commissionundertakes the following activities:

  1. In light of COVID-19, the Commission should approach government to reconsider its position and list the Public Sector National Anti-Corruption Hotline as an essential service. During thisperiod, citizens have to be encouraged to report allegations of corruption through the NACH.The Committee noted that Government had subsequently declared the NACH as an essential service.

 

  1. The PSC should ensure, as it is already doing, that the Public Sector National Anti-Corruption Hotline operatesfor 24 hours on a weekly basis.

 

  1. The PSC should conduct a study on all existing government corruption hotlines dealing with corruption cases in order to establish their efficacy and overlaps in rooting out corruption in the public service, with a view to streamlining and centralising all hotlines with a common purpose under one hotline. 

 

  1. The PSC should speed up the finalisation of the legislative reform project, which seeks to allow the institution to be supported by the Secretariat independent of government in order to strengthen the Commission, especially when the Commission has acquired back the status of a fully-fledged budget vote. 

 

  1. The PSC should review its organisational structure with the intention to reduce budget on compensation of employees, where necessary, and commit more funds to expanding its capacity of investigation, monitoring and evaluation across the public service.

 

  1. The PSC should through its monitoring and evaluation programme expand its reach of monitoring government facilities rather than conducting inspections only in the health facilities as stipulated in the Annual Performance Plan 2020/21. There are various government department’s facilities that require extensive monitoring in order to deliver effective and quality services to the citizens.

 

  1. The PSC should ensure that it addresses all concerns raised in the 2019/20 Auditor-General’s Report so that solutions are found to making the organisation efficient.The PSC should not fail in these matters because it undermines good governance, which it must uphold and of which it is a custodian.

 

  1. Since the PSC reported that key services are continuing in spite of the pandemic, it must ensure that employee grievances are resolved on time, especially where suspensions are involved.

 

  1. The Public Service Commission should conduct an evaluation to determine factors leading to and the cost to government departments sourcing external legal services towards resolution of disciplinary cases in the public service, which is contrary to Disciplinary Code and Procedure. The PSC should report within 90 days on this matter.

 

  1. CONCLUSION

The Portfolio Committee is satisfied with the fact that the PSC continues to deal with key services even as the pandemic has disturbed the course of service delivery in the public service. The Committee understands that service delivery will definitely be affected and will not be at hundred per cent, but the efforts towards minimising the impact of the pandemic are appreciated. The PSC should conduct a study on all existing government corruption hotlines dealing with corruption cases in order to establish their efficacy and overlaps in rooting out corruption in the public service, with a view to streamlining and centralising all hotlines with a common purpose under one hotline. The Committee will continue to support the PSC towards achieving what it can achieve under the circumstances.

 

Report to be considered.

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