Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

ALL 1.6-million individuals in South Africa’s public service will need to be retrained should a bill to align all three spheres of government be passed, Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Monday.

The move would also see directors-general having to write an exam as part of the job requirement, the minister said at a business breakfast in Sandton.

Ms Sisulu said the Public Administration Bill, first mooted eight years ago, was expected to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday. Should it be passed, the incorporation of municipal employees into the single public service would see public servants equal, "the total population of Namibia" and greatly add to the "enormity of the challenge" of professionalising the government.

This comes ahead of Ms Sisulu’s budget vote speech on Wednesday and as her department continues a vigorous campaign to professionalise the public service and form a capable, efficient state that could implement the National Development Plan.

This year Ms Sisulu has also indicated that amendments to the Public Service Act to fight irregularity are forthcoming.

These include prohibitions of public servants doing business with the state, and an "anticorruption bureau" with powers to intervene and investigate in disciplinary matters that are not concluded timeously, often leading to long periods of officials remaining suspended on full pay.

Ms Sisulu said on Monday that when she delivers her department’s budget speech, she would announce plans to implement exams as requirements for individuals to fill the positions of director-generals that would also be linked with promotions. The department was "starting at the top" with training and testing of public servants in order to "entrench professionalism".

Ms Sisulu said the current training unit, the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy would be transformed into a "school of government" in October.

She said with that establishment, training courses for local government officials could become compulsory.

Government faces enormous challenges with 1.3-million public servants employed in 45 national and 207 provincial departments, and a further 300,000 staff in 270 municipalities.

The passing of the bill would expand the public service. "Each one of them requires retraining," Ms Sisulu said.

Public sector unions had already agreed on compulsory induction courses for public servants, which was a "pleasant surprise," she said.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) spokesman for the public service, Kobus Marais, said he had been unaware of the bill being presented in any form on Tuesday, as it was not on the official programme. The DA had, however, in the past been "absolutely, totally opposed" to the bill which could interfere with the independence of municipalities, something vested in the constitution.

He said the bill could lead to interference in the local government sphere, and "nothing that we have seen so far" has indicated that the single public service would improve service delivery or offer "better value for money."

Mr Marais said the testing of abilities and competencies of public servants was a "fantastic idea" but the party would await firm details, for example how the creation of an institute, which would almost need to be the size of university, would be budgeted for.

The DA had noted its concern that while Ms Sisulu often announced highly useful policies or programmes, there still remained a distinct lack of timely execution, he said.