House Chair, I hope you are going to give me more minutes. House Chairperson, chairperson of the portfolio committee and members of the portfolio committee, the Deputy Minister hon Ayanda Dlodlo, and other colleagues present, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission and other commissioners present, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, the Ministry thanks you most sincerely for affording us this opportunity to address the House on this important day, on the occasion of the Budget Vote for the Ministry of Public Service and Administration for the 2012-13 financial year.
The Ministry presents this Budget Vote under a dark cloud which has befallen not only the Ministry of Public Service and Administration, but the whole of government, our country and its people following the sudden passing on of Comrade Roy Padayachie two weeks ago while in service of our country at the African Peer Review Mechanism Focal Points meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. May his soul rest in peace. In honour of the late Minister, I am humbled to stand before you to deliver what Minister Padayachie would have communicated to you today. My responsibility and conviction in this regard is to ensure that the fallen baton Minister Padayachie carried is picked up and that the journey and endeavour towards bettering the lives of all South Africans are continued.
Chairperson, the people of South Africa have bestowed confidence in the ANC government by continuing to vote for the ANC in the past four democratic elections. By so doing, they are affirming their confidence that the ANC government will provide them with quality public services, in a timely manner, close to where they live, at a minimum and affordable cost for those services for which they have to pay, using modern technologies so that they can access these services anywhere at their convenience and, where possible, delivered efficiently and effectively through appropriately trained public servants while ensuring that their dignity is preserved. The people of South Africa are further saying that they are confident that the ANC government will protect the state assets against fraud, theft and corruption. Herein lies the noble ideal of the developmental state that is willing, capable and caring.
The ideal of a developmental state, as articulated in the 2007 strategy and tactics of the ANC, is dependent on the capacity of the state to intervene in the economy in the interests of higher growth rates and sustainable development, on its ability to effect sustainable programmes that address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment with the requisite emphasis on vulnerable groups, on the mobilisation of the people as a whole, especially the poor, to act as their own liberators through a participatory and representative democracy, and on the capacity of instruments to regulate private capital whilst, at the same time, mobilising it towards increased rates of investments and job creation.
The realisation of these attributes of the developmental state is highly dependent on an efficient, effective, responsive and capable Public Service across all three spheres of government. The ANC government confirms that there is a continuing need to restructure and refocus the Public Service in the context of the developmental state. The shared view the Ministry has with the general population in South Africa is that the Public Service must be responsive, professional and guided by a new ethos - an ethos that resonates with the commitment of public servants to belong, to care and to serve.
The set of pillars that currently underpin the work of the Public Service and Administration portfolio are the 2009 election manifesto of the ANC, the five priorities of government, the outcomes-based performance approach, the delivery agreement signed with the President, and the respective state of the nation addresses. Outcome 12 of the delivery agreement in particular enjoins the portfolio to work towards "an efficient, effective and development-oriented Public Service, and an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship". Guided by these pillars, the portfolio has been able to carve out a niche for its work and to identify key programmatic areas and priorities within the ambit of five ministerial strategic focus areas for the financial year, to which I will refer and expand on later.
During the 2011-12 financial year, however, the Ministry set the following nine priorities: service delivery quality and access; effective systems, structures and processes; leveraging information and communication, ICT, technology as a strategic resource enabler; effective human resource management practices, norms and standards; a healthy, safe working environment for all public servants; appropriate governance structures and decision-making; citizen engagement and public participation; corruption tackled effectively; and contribution towards improved Public Service and Administration in Africa and the international arena.
The portfolio has delivered on these commitments to a significant degree and, looking ahead, we will continue to apply ourselves even more diligently towards improving on our achievements. In this regard, I must state categorically that the creation of a people-centred society in which everyone has access to services remains an ongoing priority of the ANC government. Central in this regard are the conscious efforts to transform and strengthen the Public Service so that it contributes to the realisation of the developmental mission of the state. In this sense, support to transforming the Public Service is directly linked to the achievement of our developmental agenda.
I now wish to share very briefly with this august House some of the high- level achievements of the Public Service and Administration portfolio. The Deputy Minister will elaborate further on the significant achievements. During the past year, the Ministry worked with the line departments to develop standards for waiting times at pension pay-out points, hospital queues and vehicle licensing centres, and to develop a turnaround strategy for the processing of driving licence applications. These standards will in future be made public so that members of the public can know in advance the level of service they should expect.
The Ministry also worked with government departments to facilitate the development of service delivery improvement plans. This was part of our strategy to start with the basics of the broader response plan to the service delivery challenges facing our people on a daily basis. May I inform this House that, whilst the Ministry prides itself on the compliance rate of 78,3% in respect of departments having service delivery improvement plans for the 2011-12 financial year, the Ministry will double its efforts so that the Public Service will achieve full compliance.
The portfolio also worked diligently to leverage information and communication technology as a strategic resource enabler. To this effect, this portfolio has assisted with ensuring that there is connectivity in Thusong Service Centres. Out of the 100 ICT-connected Thusong Service Centres across the country, 50 were validated, and 38 of these were declared fully functional and have been providing a wide range of key public services to our people.
This year the Ministry will strive to make sure that all the remaining Thusong Service Centres are fully functional in terms of ICT connectivity, as part of an effort to bring government closer to the people. One of the most urgent tasks is to finalise the issue of the location of Thusong Service Centres. The Department of Public Service and Administration, National Treasury and the Government Communication and Information System, GCIS, have already embarked on an assessment in this regard, and this will be completed during the course of the 2012-13 financial year.
Ensuring a healthy workforce within a sound and enabling working environment is a key element in our efforts to construct a capable developmental Public Service, strengthened by our belief that the backbone of any Public Service is its people. The portfolio has developed gender- sensitive and rights-based HIV/Aids mainstreaming guidelines which are now being implemented in the Public Service.
The Ministry is proud to report to this House that the Government Employees Medical Scheme, Gems, was ranked the first amongst medical schemes in the 2011 Ask Afrika Orange Index. This is indeed another feather in the cap of Gems, and it attests to its efficiency. The Government Employees Medical Scheme continues to cover Public Service employees and to provide for their medical needs. To date, Gems has registered 641 000 principal members and 1,7 million beneficiaries. More than 200 000 employees on salary levels 1 to 5 were enrolled on Gems by the end of 2011, representing more than 50% of all levels 1 to 5 employees in the Public Service. The Government Employees Medical Scheme now effectively covers 58% of eligible Public Service employees. Income bands in the scheme's contribution table are applicable for each benefit option and promote access to the benefits by lower income earners. Continued growth in the membership and the offerings by Gems was realised as a result of the effective execution of both planned and targeted marketing strategies.
The fight against corruption remains a key priority for our government. In contributing towards this priority, the Public Service Anti-Corruption Unit, PSACU, located within the Department of Public Service and Administration, conducted joint investigations with the Special Investigating Unit, SIU, on high-level corruption-related cases. Having completed its first year of existence, the Ministry expects the unit to gain more capacity and to intensify its work in the fight against corruption. In order to benchmark our anticorruption mechanisms, the portfolio participated in a number of anticorruption and bribery fora, such as the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Group.
The Ministry's efforts to improve the Public Service on the domestic front are influenced by global developments and vice versa. The portfolio, therefore, participated in and shaped the architecture and agenda of the continental governance and public administration programme which is implemented by the Pan-African Conference of Ministers of Public/Civil Service under the aegis of the African Union Commission for Political Affairs.
The portfolio also profiled South African innovative projects on the international landscape through the Centre for Public Service Innovation. The Ministry is proud to report that an Eastern Cape project was the overall continental winner at the All Africa Public Sector Innovations Awards in 2011, whilst the Independent Electoral Commission and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development were winners in the prestigious United Nations Public Sector Awards during the same period.
The work of the portfolio in the continental capacity-building programme was also undertaken. In this regard the portfolio remained actively involved in a number of continental and international bodies, including the African Association for Public Administration and Management, the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development, the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, and the Association of African Public Services Commissions, whose president happens to be the chairperson of our Public Service Commission.
It is important that the Ministry does not become complacent too easily with past victories. A lot more still needs to be done to improve the capacity of the state to extricate the masses of our people from the malaise of poverty and deprivation. As the President said, our role as a developmental state is to lead and guide the country's advancement in the interest of the poor. To ensure that such a developmental state plays its role effectively, the Ministry has adopted five strategic focus areas. They are: strengthening access to service delivery to our people; improving internal the efficiency of the Public Service; implementing the State Information Technology Agency, Turnaround Strategy; accelerating training and development of a Public Service cadre and the repositioning of the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy, Palama, into a school of government; and corruption tackled effectively in the Public Service.
These focus areas are accompanied by clearly defined projects, with targets, indicators and delivery timelines, and are elaborated as follows: When we talk about the strengthening of access to service delivery, government has the responsibility to provide services to its citizens in an accessible, affordable and accountable manner. Consequently, it needs to know where the people live to determine what services are needed and are being provided to them. Secondly, it needs to set norms and standards to improve access to services, with particular focus on reducing the distances people have to travel to access these services and improving waiting times and turnaround times, especially in hospitals, Home Affairs offices, vehicle licensing offices and pension pay-out points.
User satisfaction surveys will also be conducted to assess the level of satisfaction by the public with government services and to ensure that departments and service delivery points develop action plans to address the challenges for continuously improved service delivery. On the internal efficiency of the Public Service, in order to deliver quality services to the citizens, the Public Service requires sufficient numbers of adequately skilled and motivated public servants with the correct attitudes and service ethos and well-functioning modernised systems and processes, including an enabling policy and legislative framework. There is a need for improvement in human resource management and development, achievement of labour peace, and improvement of business processes, systems, decision rights and accountability management.
In an effort to build a single Public Service, streams have been identified and implemented to create a sound institutional base for such a single Public Service, such as our flagship project at the Maponya Mall in Soweto. This work has assisted the department to better understand the challenges and opportunities when dealing with integrated service delivery across the three spheres of government.
Guided by the Constitution, the Ministry will draw from these experiences when it considers the legislative implications of taking the process of a single Public Service forward, including the finalisation of discussions on the most suitable legislative approach to support the need for seamless integration.
Other initiatives to improve the internal efficiency of the Public Service will include: implementing a plan that ensures full compliance by senior management in submitting performance agreements; improving the average period it takes to fill a vacancy in the Public Service; maintaining and supporting the roll-out of the human resource module for the Integrated Financial Management System; contributing to the improvement in conditions of services for the Public Service by, amongst others, promoting home ownership among public servants through the introduction of a government employees housing scheme; and further strengthening the disciplinary management system within the Public Service.
The third focus area is the implementation of the Sita turnaround strategy. The State Information Technology Agency plays a critical role in the modernisation of the Public Service through the implementation of ICT projects and solutions that seek to achieve economies of scale, reduce ICT costs, minimise procurement bottlenecks and generally improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Public Service. The Ministry will encourage government to take advantage of available technologies to advance accessibility to government services by our people. On this matter, the Deputy Minister will elaborate further.
When talking about the training and development of a Public Service cadre and the repositioning of Palama into a school of government, training and development interventions within the Public Service will have to be needs based, respond to government's priority skills areas, support the national development agenda and contribute to increased performance. The Ministry will embark on a capacity-building programme through an improved induction programme for new entrants and the training of unemployed young people. We will also continue to work with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority,