The government’s move to consult stakeholders about professionalising the public service is welcome, but comes at a very difficult time, the Public Service Accountability Monitor says. The PSAM was responding to the announcement by Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, of a two-week public consultation process next month on this topic.
In December the draft National Implementation Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Service was published for comments.
The Framework recommends that the public service be merit-based and insulated from party politics. Among the elements it proposes are critical to professionalising the service are pre-entry recruitment and selection within the public service; planning and performance management, and continuous learning and professional development.
The National School of Government (the NSG) is leading the project on behalf of the Minister.
In a media statement, the School said, professional bodies, interested parties, civil society organisations, institutions of higher learning, “think tanks,” organised labour and public servants were invited to participate in the consultation process.
A two-week public consultation process is scheduled from Monday 15 to Friday 26 February to engage 10 “functional groups”, which include civil society organisations, institutions of higher learning, experts and “think tanks”; regulators, policy departments, oversight institutions and quality councils; organised labour; professional bodies and organisations in the built environment sector responsible for design, planning, implementation and project management (engineering, town planning, etc.); Finance and Audit fields, including supply chain management and contracts management; human resource management/development and organisational development; responsible for legal, governance, oversight and compliance functions; in local government; and those responsible for state-owned entities.
The process seeks to establish the effect of professionalisation on performance of the Public Service; what’s required in recruitment and career management to ensure public servants are ethical, people-oriented and competent; policy and legislative reforms required to give effect to professionalisation; opportunities for public servants in terms of lifelong learning, development and recognition of prior learning; and the influence of the professionalisation framework on the higher and further education and training curriculum.
“The Minister for the Public Service and Administration has committed to engage, through the National School of Government, transparently with stakeholders and interested parties who have valuable contributions to make in the national effort of building a capable state that serves the citizens ethically and diligently,” the statement read.
Commenting on the move, PSAM Director Jay Kruuse said Chapter 10, section 195 of the Constitution remained the bedrock/foundation for the type of public administration the Constitution envisages.
“For far too long leaders within the executive and administrative functions of the state have paid lip service to this section and some would say that the revelations at the Zondo Commission reveal rather that many within the public administration have been largely focused on self-enrichment rather than public service.
“The consultations planned for February and the opportunity to comment on the draft framework are encouraging but fall at a very difficult time when the nation is in the midst of a pandemic,” Kruuse said. “I am concerned that the consultations and comment will be affected by pre-existing demands that are straining all sectors. The PSAM plans to make comment and involve itself in the consultation.”
The NSG said stakeholders within the relevant functional groups were invited to confirm their participation in the virtual consultation sessions to email@example.com. Details of the virtual link would be provided to confirmed individuals and parties.