PUBLIC Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s wide-ranging plans to revamp the public service by eradicating corruption and harmonising systems between all three spheres of government include a project to professionalise it by establishing a school of government.
A capable, efficient state is one of the preconditions for the effective implementation of the government’s long-term National Development Plan (NDP).
The minister conceded, in a briefing to the media on her plans on Thursday, that there had been weakening of the state which was developing into a "tender state" and that corruption was prevalent in all spheres of government. The government bureaucracy was cumbersome and inefficient, creating inertia and inflexibility.
The Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy, which falls under Ms Sisulu, will be transformed into a school of government by October 21 this year. She did not believe that government should outsource one of its core functions, which was to train and develop its employees. A task team will work on establishing the school, which would provide compulsory induction and orientation for new entrants into the public service, as well as providing management training and development for the upper echelons.
Ms Sisulu said no new entrants to the public service would qualify for pay progression unless they had been on courses offered by the planned school, which would aim to "massify" training and development. "We want a public service cadre that is professional, conscientious and passionate about the work he does, a cadre in the service of the people," Ms Sisulu said.
Another priority of the department was to amend the Public Service Act by June to establish an anticorruption bureau that would have more powers to investigate and intervene in cases that have not been resolved within a certain period.
Ms Sisulu said that there was a huge backlog of cases of misconduct and that the state was having to pay huge sums to employees for prolonged periods of precautionary suspension.
The minister referred to research of the Public Service Commission, which found an increase in the number of misconduct cases and the low level of financial disclosures (less than 50%) of senior managers.
There were also cases of public servants being involved in illegal procurement. Research showed that the cost of financial misconduct had increased from R120m in 2004-05 to R364m in 2009-10.
New legislation to create a uniform public service — the Public Administration Bill — was on the agenda of Parliament for late June. The bill would aim to align and harmonise institutions within the three spheres of government. "We will create a strong centre of government that is in a position to hold service-delivery vehicles together and to provide support, guidance and advice where needed," she said.
The minister said the department was moving with speed to amend the Public Service Act to prohibit public servants from doing business with the state. Legal advisors were checking the proposals. It was planned to link the databases of the department with those of the South African Revenue Service so that the lifestyles of public servants could be scrutinised.
A presidential remuneration commission would also be established to review the remuneration and conditions of service of the public service. Ms Sisulu said President Jacob Zuma would promulgate the terms of reference of the commission, which she hoped would finalise its work in eight months time.