MIL-OSI Africa: Progress made in reforming the public service

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Source: South Africa News Agency

President Cyril Ramaphosa has in his weekly newsletter to the nation, touched on the recent progress that has been made in reforming and professionalising the public service.

“Several important milestones have been reached in the last week as part of the work underway to reform and professionalise the public service. These developments are vital both to advancing the goal of a capable developmental state and give effect to recommendations of the State Capture Commission,” he said.

In his weekly newsletter on Monday, the President said the National Assembly had passed two important pieces of legislation that will improve the functioning of the public service, strengthen accountability and increase efficiency. 

These bills, the Public Administration Management Amendment Bill and the Public Service Amendment Bill will now go to the National Council of Provinces for consideration.  
 
Also, the Department of Public Service and Administration published a new directive to guide departments in implementing the framework for the professionalisation of the public service. 
 
“This directive, together with the draft legislation, will have a far-reaching impact on the functioning of the public service. They give effect to some of our most important tasks. 
 
“Firstly, these reforms will help ensure that the best people are appointed to the public service and that they are given support to perform effectively,” the President said. 
 
He highlighted that the directive, for example, requires that a person can only qualify to be appointed to senior management in the public service if they have successfully completed the pre-entry programme known as Nyukela. 

The course, which is provided by the National School of Government and takes about 120 hours to complete, aims to ensure that all applicants to senior management positions have the knowledge and capabilities they need to succeed. The course aims to ensure that prospective senior managers are grounded in the values of good citizenship, ethical leadership, and developmental public administration.
 
All shortlisted candidates must undertake two pre-entry assessments – a practical exercise that tests their competencies, and an integrity assessment that establishes their grasp of ethical principles and ability to take ethical decisions. 
 
All new employees must undergo a compulsory induction programme within six months of appointment, and all current public servants must attend a compulsory re-orientation programme once every five years. 
 
“To ensure continuous learning and development throughout a public servant’s career, every department must spend at least 1% of their wage bill on training. To support this effort, the draft legislation currently in Parliament establishes the National School of Government as a national department to provide education and training to employees in all spheres of government, including municipalities and public entities,” he said. 
 
National School of Government

During the State of the Nation Address last year, President Ramaphosa announced that the National School of Government will work with the Human Sciences Research Council to undertake a skills audit in selected infrastructure and frontline services departments. 
 
The first phase of the project has now been completed, giving valuable insights into potential critical skills gaps in these departments.

In infrastructure departments, for example, the report highlighted the need to improve knowledge of modern engineering practices, sustainable construction methods and environmental impact assessment. 

“The results from the frontline services departments will support the work being done to improve the administration of public services and the quality of services provided. These skills audits have been well received and will help us to get the best that each public servant can offer.”

Work experience
 
Another important part of the most recent directive is that the requirement of work experience has been waived for entry level posts in the public service. 

This must be accompanied by in-service training and support such as coaching and mentoring. Departments are also instructed to establish graduate recruitment schemes to attract young people leaving higher education institutions into the public service. 

Political interference and delineation of powers
 
“Secondly, the reforms contained in the draft legislation will significantly reduce the potential for undue political interference in the administration of government,” President Ramaphosa said.
 
He further highlighted that the Public Service Amendment Bill makes a clear distinction between the powers of elected officials, such as Ministers, and professional public servants, such as Directors-General or Heads of Department. 

The elected officials, legally defined as the Executive Authority, provides strategic and political direction, while heads of department are granted full administrative powers to run their departments. 
 
“This clear delineation of powers will make for a more professional and efficient public service. It will also help to prevent the kind of undue political interference in the administration of the state that the State Capture Commission found sometimes enabled corruption.  Another important change proposed in the legislation is to prohibit a head of department or an employee directly reporting to them from holding political office. This is to strengthen the distinction between political and administrative roles.”

Thirdly, the President said these reforms will improve coordination and accountability. 
 
Among other things, the draft legislation will enable the transfer of public servants between national and provincial governments and municipalities.

This will help to ensure that people with technical and scarce skills and capabilities can be moved to where they will have the greatest impact. This is important for supporting municipalities, which often suffer from a shortage of skilled employees. 
 
The draft legislation also assigns additional functions to the Director-General in the Presidency, in line with the National Development Plan, to create an administrative head of the public service to whom Directors-General would report on operational, organisational and administrative matters. 

Corruption
 
Fourthly, the President emphasised that these reforms will strengthen the fight against corruption. 
 
As part of the draft legislation, public servants who leave government may not, within 12 months of leaving, accept employment or appointment to the board of a service provider to which they were involved in awarding a contract. 

They may not perform any paid work or receive any other payment. Service providers or employees who contravene this provision would have committed a crime and could be fined up to R1 million. 
 
To improve accountability and tackle corruption, an inter-departmental task team has developed a central register to track all dismissals and resignations with disciplinary cases pending in national and provincial government. This register currently has over 12,000 records.
 
“Work is underway to include information from local government and public entities. This will prevent public servants with disciplinary records being appointed in another part of the State. 
 
“All of these reforms will contribute to building a more effective and efficient state that is responsive and accountability. They will enable public servants to do their work without interference and with the necessary support. And they will provide impetus to our collective efforts to build a capable state that is better equipped to fundamentally transform and develop our society,” the President said. – SAnews.gov.za

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