In a virtual meeting, the Public Service Commission (PSC) presented its 2021/22 annual report, which outlined its key achievements, a summary of performance information, financial performance and audit outcomes. They had achieved all but one of their targets, representing a 96% performance. The target they missed had been for the payment of creditors within 14 days of receipt of invoice, which was a self-imposed standard over and above the 30 days stipulated in legislation. Targets had been reduced to compensate for the effects of COVID-19, which may have given the illusion of overachievement, but they had since been increased for the 2022/23 financial year onwards.
The Commission had a budget of R265 million, of which 92.8% had been spent, with most of the expenditure allocated towards the compensation of employees and the procurement of goods and services for operations. Their audit outcome was impressive, with the achievement of their third consecutive clean audit report and no material misstatements identified in their annual financial statements and performance reports.
The Committee was told that the PSC played a substantive role in developing the National Implementation Framework on the Professionalisation of the Public Service, which would result in the standardisation of rules, compliance and practices through all levels of government, leading to better governance and ethical conduct. They had engaged with multiple entities and established initiatives to ensure the implementation of ethical values amongst public servants.
The Committee was impressed with the results of the annual report and the good governance displayed by the PSC. They asked how the Commission would address the outcomes of the State Capture Commission Report to reduce the effects of corruption in all spheres of government, including the scrutiny of officials appointed without the appropriate qualifications. They suggested a review of the ethics manual for public servants and for studies to be done regarding the impact of the PSC on the attitude and behaviour of public servants in carrying out their duties.
A Member asked how performance agreements were structured. Were they structured to ensure the achievement of national objectives or for the person filling out the performance agreement to achieve the minimalist objectives without being penalised? Another Member asserted that some public servants were appointed to do jobs for which they were not qualified, due to their political affiliations, and asked the PSC if there were means to ensure that the appropriate people were appointed instead, to achieve the advancement of the work of the government.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members of the Select Committee and the delegation from the Public Service Commission (PSC). He said the work of the PSC was important in addressing key problem areas in public service, and the Committee would learn a lot from their presentation.
PSC Chairperson's opening remarks
Prof Somadoda Fikeni, PSC Chairperson, said the entity had met all of its targets except for one, which was a self-imposed target to pay their service providers within 14 days when, in fact, the legislation set a target of 30 days. The reason and explanation for the shortfall would be reflected in the report itself.
The PSC was on the verge of filling all their vacant posts for commissioners, with just one post remaining vacant. He had had an interaction and correspondence with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, who had promised to conclude the process before the end of the current financial year. They had had a meeting with the Speaker in Mpumalanga to ensure that the vacancy in the province was filled. Interviews had been held in Gauteng, and they might be joined by the newly appointed commissioner soon.
The Commission had been central in driving a process of professionalisation of the public service, working with the National School of Government (NSG). In the days prior, Cabinet had approved the framework on the professionalisation of the public service. This would go a long way in advancing and fulfilling the core mandate of the PSC, which was ensuring that they had an efficient and effective public service by adhering to the principles and values of the Constitution itself.
They had had major developments since the conclusion of the report, and would in future discuss its implementation across all the spheres and branches of government. The PSC was undergoing a repositioning of itself and a review of its own targets and approaches so that they would have a greater impact.
He invited the Deputy Director-General (DDG) to present the annual report, followed by the
Chief Financial Officer.
PSC's 2021/2022 annual report
Dr Kholofelo Sedibe, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Leadership & Management Practices, PSC, said that the presentation would provide reflections on the key achievements, a summary of the performance information across all the PSC branches, the financial performance and audit outcomes.
The following were the PSC's key achievements:
Issued a circular on the implementation of unlawful instructions to executive authorities and heads of departments as a reminder of their duty to act within the confines of the law and to report any unlawful instruction.
Played a substantive role towards the development of the national implementation framework on the professionalisation of the public service.
Facilitated selected heads of department (HoDs) evaluations, in line with the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) framework for HoDs.
Issued articles on topical issues, focusing on the impact of COVID-19 in education, human resource management, as well as labour relations prescripts and practices.
Intervened and engaged suppliers and relevant institutions to unlock the payment of suppliers within 30 days.
Conducted a webinar on the effectiveness, efficiency and value for money of the procurement system.
Intervened on behalf of citizens to facilitate access to services during the lockdown, such as the fast-tracking of COVID-19 grants (R350), water tanks being delivered in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the processing of travel documents by the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Participated at various events with strategic partners, such as the South Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership Dialogue Facility, the University of South Africa, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the NSG.
Published its quarterly bulletin, the Pulse of the Public Service, through virtual media briefings which covered topics such as the non-payment of suppliers by departments and the management of employee productivity and responsiveness to the public in hybrid working arrangements.
Conducted qualitative evaluations of departmental compliance with constitutional values and principles, culminating in the state of the Public Service (SOPS) report.
Conducted inspections at selected education facilities in eight provinces to assess compliance with minimum health, safety and social distancing requirements to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 during the phased re-opening of schools for grade 7s and 12s.
The summary of performance across the four programmes -- administration, leadership and management practices (LMP), monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and integrity and anti-corruption (IAC), showed the achievement of all performance targets, except for one target under the administration programme. This target was for the 100% payment of valid invoices within seven to 14 working days of receipt, which was set lower than the 30-day period mandated by the legislation. The target had been rectified in the annual performance plan for the 2022/23 financial year, and aligned with the 30-day prescribed timeframe. Overall, 22 out of 23 targets were met, which translated to a 96% overall performance compared to a 93% performance in 2020/2021 and 100% performance in 2019/2020.
(Please see the attached document for performance information details.)
Mr Zweli Momeka, Chief Financial Officer, PSC, presented the audited financial performance. Most of the allocated budget of R286 million was spent on the compensation of employees, followed by the expenditure on goods and services for operations. Of the allocated budget, only 92.8% was spent, amounting to R265 million. The underspending was mostly due to natural retrenchment and vacancies for commissioners, which were not in their control. Utility costs were also saved because most employees worked from home.
(See document for detailed breakdown of expenditure)
The PSC had achieved its third consecutive clean audit outcome following years of unqualified audit outcomes with findings. The days to pay creditors had improved from 17 days in 2020/2021 to nine days in the current year.
The audit report reflected the following:
There were no audit report findings for the 2021/22 financial year.
There were no material errors in the annual financial statements and performance report.
No irregular, fruitless, wasteful, and unauthorised expenditure was incurred.
Only a historical procurement of R2.4 million in 2018/19 FY, which ended in 2021/22 and was not made through the State Information Technological Agency (SITA), was condoned by the National Treasury’s Office of the Chief Procurement Officer.
The overall financial viability assessment had improved.
There were no cases of employees doing business with the state.
No deficiencies were found in the internal control of procurement and contract management.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) said there had always been uncertainty about whether or not the PSC accounted to the Select Committee, but following legal advice it was confirmed that they do. He raised the point because he did not know if he would be conflicting the PSC’s mandate with the questions he posed. He was happy with the report and the good governance displayed by the PSC.
In questioning the impact that the PSC had on the public service in general, he asked about the extent to which they would ensure that the outcomes identified in the State Capture Commission report, for example, would be reduced or eliminated. Did the PSC highlight the governance challenges identified in the Auditor-General’s (AG) audit report, especially concerning procurement issues, and if so, how did they address them? The presentation highlighted the PSC visiting schools during COVID to ensure that social distancing and other safety protocols were implemented accordingly, so did the PSC’s mandate extend to investigating issues of service delivery in schools, the infrastructure and lack of learner-teacher support materials? The challenge raised about the PSC’s offices not adhering to the occupational health and safety standards could be raised at a meeting held in the following week. Did the PSC have a role to play in issues related to lifestyle audits in the public service? There had been complaints about whistleblowers not being protected -- how were these challenges being addressed to ensure the protection of whistleblowers?
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KwaZulu-Natal) asked if the ethical code of conduct for public servants would be updated, as it had not been updated since the first edition was published in 2002, titled the "Explanatory Manual on the Code of Conduct for the Public Service: A Practical Guide to Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace," especially considering the recommendations of the Zondo Report. Given that public servants work with public representatives, were there any initiatives in place to provide practical ethical training beyond just handing out ethics manuals to public servants to help them navigate the pressure that may be placed on them by their political superiors to deviate ethically? Had the PSC conducted any research about public servants' perception of them and how that perception influenced the behaviour of public servants in discharging their duties? If so, what had been the outcome, and if not, he recommended that they conduct such a study.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) asked how performance agreements were structured. Were they structured to ensure the achievement of national objectives or for the person filling out the performance agreement to achieve the minimalist objectives without being penalised? Public servants often filled out the minimalist objectives to achieve 100% performance, but that did not advance the state's objectives or their relevant Ministry. The same results occurred when the outputs for which Director-Generals (DGs) were responsible were measured without considering the outcomes that Ministers were responsible for. The PSC should provide training and consider if performance agreements were designed to achieve objectives, or to just achieve compliance.
Mr T Apleni (EFF, Eastern Cape) said that some public servants were appointed to do jobs for which they were not qualified, due to their political affiliations. Had the PSC conducted an assessment to identify such people and if so, were there means to ensure that the appropriate people were appointed instead to advance the work of government?
Mr Rayi asked if the PSC had considered reviewing the Public Service Commission Act 46 of 1997 to make amendments, as there had been developments in governance and the challenges faced in the public service. The addition of a provision for remedies could be considered, to introduce penalties for a failure to adhere to constitutional principles, as currently, the only penalty outlined was related to obstruction of the work of the Commission.
In the process of evaluating heads of department (HoDs), had they identified those who were not meant to be occupying those positions?
The Chairperson asked if Prof Fikeni could give a sense as to the thrust of the Framework on the Professionalisation of Public Service and share it with the Committee, as it would help with understanding the interface they had with the NSG, particularly the nature of the relationship they had and extent to which they played a positive role in terms of intervening at the level of the professionalisation of the public service. In the assessment of the work done by the commissioners at the provincial level -- for example, in Mpumalanga -- were there challenges that would need intervention from the PSC? Was the PSC able to provide an overview of the level of compliance with the regulation in terms of the obligation of HoDs to take charge of the ethics and corruption risk, the need to ensure that there was an ethical risk management strategy in place to confront and deter against unethical conduct and acts of corruption, and an obligation to refer any allegations of crime to the relevant enforcement agency? There were senior members of the public service who were repeat offenders, so it was important to take charge of that process.
Prof Fikeni said that the PSC’s mandate was broad and spoke to ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the public service. This was done through policy advice on good practice in improving the public service and promoting ccconstitutional values. The mandate was also made to be specific in certain areas.
The Commission had taken the extraordinary step of organising an anti-corruption conference in December, in partnership with the United Nations and the University of South Africa. The heart of the conference would be to determine how to respond to the outcomes of the Zondo Commission and other corruption-related reports from other commissions. To allow all three branches of government to lead in the process of such responses, they had invited the President, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Chief Justice. The Chapter 9 institutions were part of the organising team, and would also be presenting at the conference. The approval of the Framework for Professionalisation of Public Service was another concrete, practical response, if well implemented, that would go a long way in ensuring that corruption issues were limited, and service delivery was more effective through creating a single public administration. Meetings had been held with the AG to discuss their reports on the public service, where weaknesses within human resources in the supply chain had been identified as the biggest contributors to loopholes leading to corruption. This was in addition to unlawful instruction and poor management of the political-administrative interface, which sometimes became an interference.
Referring to the PSC’s accountability, Prof Fikeni said they accounted to Parliament and were pleased that the matter had been clarified with the legal advice received.
In addressing the lifestyle audits, the PSC would oversee the process and ensure that departments implemented what was required. They had been working closely with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), as they were issuing instructions and guidelines for implementation.
A meeting was held in Gauteng with Minister Bheki Cele and police commissioners to discuss the protection of both whistleblowers and investigators, following the threats received by the HOD of Health after the suspension of the CFO and the murder of a whistleblower in the Department. The PSC would engage them to get a concrete response and advice where necessary.
Regarding the training on ethics, the PSC had been in discussions on moral regeneration, and had engaged the Head of the Ethics Institute and the NSG to achieve a new ethos in the public service. They would ensure that public servants internalised ethical values and were aware of the need to change their attitude and behaviour. They wanted to move from a rule-based to a value-based public service. The performance management system needed an overhaul for greater impact, so malicious compliance was not the indicator of success or failure.
A Public Service Commission Bill was underway and served before the Portfolio Committee, which was meant to strengthen and give more independence to the PSC. The Framework of Professionalisation of Public Service and the draft Bill mentioned would be made available to the Select Committee.
Dr Sedibe said that the PSC was in the process of conducting a study to determine all the relevant stakeholders’ perception of public servants. They had already learned through their informal interventions that public servants and members of the community who had benefited directly did appreciate the work of the PSC. While others may not have benefited directly from the work of the PSC, they appreciated an improved understanding of the prescripts and what was expected of them following engagements with them. The current study would give the PSC an informed perspective of whether they were positively perceived or not.
Various studies had been conducted on performance management and development, the findings of which were mixed results. Certain institutions had performance agreements that were directly linked to the strategic documents of the Department, and the strategies themselves were linked to the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF). However, the same institutions had instances of target gaining, where the targets set in some performance agreements were not as strong as outlined in the departmental strategy. They had engaged with the DPSA on this, as it was in the process of reviewing the PMDS system. The biggest challenge identified in the PMDS system was that it was closely linked to financial incentives, so the PSC had recommended that the two be delinked, which had been implemented in the previous two years.
The evaluations of the HoDs were not designed to test if they were not supposed to be appointed. Before a HOD was appointed, however, the DPSA had oversight over the entire process before any recommendations were submitted to Cabinet at the national level. At the provincial level, the process was overseen by the Office of the Premier. From the PSC’s perspective, nothing amiss had been found from the HoDs whose performance evaluations had been conducted. Due to the high turnover rate of HoDs in the public sector of between 2.9 and 3.2 years, and the small number of HoDs who completed their five-year terms, most did not reach their performance assessment period. The lack of a performance assessment for some HoDs was because of irreconcilable differences between them and executive authorities, but that did not mean that they had performed poorly or were linked to ethical misconduct.
The PSC was not mandated, and did not have the capacity, to conduct ethics training, but the NSG did. They had a training course on ethics in the public service which, in 2021/22, was made available free of charge to public servants. They could also tailor-make programmes for specific sectors and spheres, so any sectors or departments needing training should refer to the NSG.
Inspections were done in schools to determine the availability of learning and teaching support materials and basic infrastructure, and the relevant departments were engaged that were responsible for ensuring the supply of those needs in the schools. The PSC may be seen to not have achieved the desired impact across the different areas as they were a small institution, but some of the methodologies that they employed, such as service delivery inspections or citizens' forums, could be used by the different departments to troubleshoot in the same way the PSC did. The expectation was that departments would use the PSC’s findings and apply them to other schools that were not specifically identified. They tried to follow up on the implementation of their recommendations.
Mr Matome Malatsi, Deputy Director-General: Integrity and Anti-Corruption, PSC, said a study was conducted over a three-year period which was concluded in the 2021/22 financial year, in compliance with Regulation 1 of 2016, on ethics infrastructure and conducting ethics and corruption risk assessments, and the report was available. The study considered the extent of leadership’s commitment to integrity and establishing an ethics infrastructure at both national and provincial department levels. It was found that most provincial departments did not have a dedicated ethics unit, but assigned duties on an ad hoc basis to existing employees who already had their own day-to-day functions. A proposal had been made to the DPSA to issue an advisory to departments to establish ethics units so that the ethics function was not just a compliance exercise, but that ethics were internalised in all departments.
The Ethics Institute conducted a study that found government employees still had confidence in the PSC. The study included whether they would refer complaints or allegations of corruption to the PSC, for which high ratings were received. The report was also available.
Like the conference to be held in December to interrogate ethical issues, a well-attended seminar had previously been held in April, which reflected on the revelations of the State Capture report, the failure of government, and concrete proposals on what roles all stakeholders would play going forward to prevent issues similar to state capture.
The ethics manual mentioned by Mr Brauteseth on the ethical dilemmas in the workplace has been reviewed. A newer version was published in March 2022 to account for unlawful instructions, titled "Unlawful Instructions and Handling of Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace." This manual was used to engage with all departments, with the latest engagement being on 13 September, where heads of human resources (HR) and ethics officers were engaged on their roles in departments.
The DPSA led the lifestyle audits. The PSC’s role was to share disclosures by senior managers and to flag suspicious transactions with the HoDs, as the function was entrusted to them. They also scrutinised all the disclosures of employees on supply chain finance, those dealing with tenders and designated officials. The PSC indeed conducted investigations on procurement irregularities. They were currently dealing with a case in the Eastern Cape centering on procurement irregularities, solar transport, and great amounts of expenditure. They would ensure that justice was served accordingly.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the AGSA was established where, once AGSA had found irregularities relating to finances, it would be the PSC’s responsibility to monitor the implementation of disciplinary cases and the finalisation thereof so that there was consequence management on the matters discovered. A report was issued annually, which could be shared with the Committee.
Investigations were conducted on appointment and procurement irregularities. Upon conclusion, if there was substance to the matter being investigated, certain actions were recommended, including disciplinary action, cancellation of contracts and cancellation of appointments through a court process.
Mr Rayi asked if the PSC monitored the functionality of the anti-corruption hotline regularly to ensure that calls were being attended to. Had the scope of the Bill been widened to cover local government and state-owned entities, because they faced challenges of good governance?
Prof Fikeni responded that the scope of the Bill did extend to local government, and the new framework aimed to create a single administration through a series of legislation to ensure the standardisation of rules, compliance and practices through all levels of government and state-owned entities.
There had been a rapid assessment of the qualifications of senior management service (SMS) members because some were reported not to have the relevant qualifications, or had not updated their information, therefore the number was expected to reduce. The standardisation of appointment requirements and the review of the appointment criteria would eliminate the scope of members appointed without the appropriate qualifications.
Mr Malatsi responded that the national anti-corruption hotline was constantly monitored, and calls were answered. There was a period where the lines were being serviced, resulting in calls being rerouted to mobile devices. The calls were still answered, except in the evenings, when callers were requested to record their messages which were attended to the following morning.
In conclusion, the Chairperson thanked the Select Committee, Prof Fikeni, the Commissioners and the management team of the PSC for being present at the meeting. What was key was that the PSC should continue its work of promoting good governance and achieving clean audits, as they were
leading well by example.
The Committee considered and adopted the minutes of the meeting on 19 October.
The meeting was adjourned.
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