Chairperson, hon members, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, I have come to the very firm conclusion that the best people in the world were born in May. Nothing will sway me from that belief, which is why today we celebrate the Deputy Minister's birthday. [Applause.] Deputy Minister, I happened to ask hon Du Toit at our last committee meeting if he was married and he said no twice. I don't know whether he meant no, twice not married or no, married twice or even a few times. I thought I would say to the hon Du Toit that the Deputy Minister is 35. This might be your only opportunity at co-operative governance. [Laughter.] Happy birthday, Deputy Minister.
Our work was virtually carved out for us at the adoption of the National Development Plan, NDP, which prioritised the creation of a strong and capable state. So, this is where we are, at the centre of the first major step this country is required to take for the implementation of all our plans and, because the pace at which we execute our responsibilities will determine the pace that we as a country take, there has been an expectation all round that what we do will determine how everything else will be done.
It is for this reason, therefore, that we have plunged headlong into a most hectic 10 months, which have left all of us breathless. The portfolio committee has been most supportive and understanding and I am very grateful for that.
The Public Service Commission has very graciously complied with all the requests made to them, grinning and bearing it all, protesting their independence all the while, but nonetheless delivering what was requested of them. The board of the State Information Technology Agency, Sita, has responded to "business unusual" with energy, returning confidence to the institution. The staff at the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy, Palama, and the Centre for Public Service Innovation, CPSI, wait patiently, ever supportive, hoping that at some point they too will have their share of attention from us.
Of course, the lives of the poor staff of the department and especially the Ministry have been in permanent turmoil. Alas, I cannot promise that there will be an end to this turmoil. The only consolation we all have in this frenzied time is that it was necessary and it will bear fruit soon.
Upon my assumption of office as Minister for the Public Service and Administration, I announced a number of reforms in the Public Service. These reforms included professionalising the Public Service for higher productivity and better value for money; the transformation of Palama into the school of government to produce a cadre of government; the finalisation of the constitutional requirements of Chapter 10 in respect of uniform standards, prescripts and values - and we hope, therefore, that soon we will have some kind of seamless approach to our Public Service; the prohibition of public servants from doing business with government; the establishment of an anticorruption bureau; the establishment of an Office of Standards and Compliance in the Public Service to ensure compliance with regulations and rapid reaction to provinces in distress.
These priorities, when they were put out in the public domain, were met in various ways; for example, with relief - phew, are we finally getting there; disbelief and raised eyebrows, like we find most of the time; and guarded optimism, with a slight sneer at the side of the mouth, almost like they are saying, "There they go again, dreaming". On the whole, the public response was positive and supportive of the proposals.
In some cases, however, we were accused of displaying naive optimism and biting off more than we could chew. This comes from research done by the University of the Western Cape.
Some people could not restrain themselves. They went as far as suggesting that these announcements, especially those around anticorruption, were nothing but sheer grandstanding. The latter response is in itself not surprising.
It reflects the sense with which we have resigned ourselves, as a people, to doing things and leaving them the way they are, as opposed to having things done the way they ought to be. It also reflects the diffidence that comes from dashed hopes subsequent to failed initiatives. Some feel that they have been here before and are, understandably, intimidated both by the experience, the enormity of the task and by the resistance that comes with it. Their diffidence is simply meant to protect themselves from having their hopes dashed once more.
So, for those citizens of this country who have watched and listened to us as we laid out our plans, sometimes with a benevolent cynicism, we would like to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw when he said, and I quote: "Some men see things and ask, why? We've dreamt of things as they never were and we ask, why not?" Bernard Shaw sums up my invitation to you to join me in posing ourselves this question: Why not? What stops us from trying to do the best, to be the best? Join me on this odyssey and soon we will have established a clean, efficient, capable, empathetic and effective state machinery. [Applause.]
In approaching this task, we have been mindful of its enormity. It is the sheer challenge arising from this enormity that has spurred us on. As we have said before, this is a challenge we do not accept grudgingly, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of one's own character, as giving our all to a difficult task.
In a letter dated 28 March 2013, Riana Fouch, a member of the public and a professional consultant, who listened to a radio interview I was part of, wrote to me and offered me several suggestions. She concluded her letter by saying, and I quote:
May you and your team find all the resources, equipment and grace to fulfil the great and honourable task to restore the image of South Africans, and may you receive much wisdom in establishing all pertaining to the restoration of public officials to integrity and purity of character. I am looking forward to seeing the changes coming.
The letter from Ms Fouch confirms that our people expect no less from us. Indeed, they should not expect any less from us. These reforms are in keeping with our moral obligation.
In order for all of you to understand the problems that face and will continue to face us, allow me to sketch the terrain we cover. Our Public Service, as provided for in Chapter 10 of our Constitution, consists of more than 1,4 million employees spread across 156 departments in national and provincial spheres of government; 270 public sector institutions consisting of government components, public entities, agencies and state- owned enterprises. When you add the local government sphere, with 275 000 people, the figure becomes 1,6 million employees. That is the scale of the Public Service.
This is the size of the Public Service, consisting of nothing more and nothing less than men and women engaged daily in the service of the people of South Africa. It is these men and women who daily ensure that our children are schooled and equipped with education; care for the patients in our clinics and hospitals; issue identity documents and maintain the integrity of the data of over 52 million people and, furthermore, administer over 1 million births and 560 000 deaths each year; manage our water resources and infrastructure to bring us clean water for drinking and washing in more than 13 million households; maintain our roads and transport networks for all our mobility needs; administer and pay social grants on time to over 16 million recipients monthly; maintain our borders and points of entry on a 24-hour basis for all travellers and goods; support the regulation and functioning of an economy of over R3 trillion; are the first line of response to protect us from crime and are the people who respond to gut-wrenching and spine-chilling natural disasters and other accidents. That is what the Public Service does on a daily basis. I could go on.
In summary, our Public Service is a massive enterprise, one of gargantuan proportions. Despite our natural and immediate response of negativity towards them, most of these men and women are diligently occupied in the service of our people.
In instances where there are problems, we have been very honest and open to acknowledge these and are tackling them. To turn this enormous ship around will require all hands on deck, especially yours, Members of Parliament, and mine.
And as we tackle these problems, we should take the time to honour those who work hard to make our lives better. And, therefore, in honour of those who toil with dedication to serve our people, we have decided to establish a Public Service Excellence Award, which will be called the Batho Pele Excellence Award.
The National Batho Pele Excellence Awards will henceforth be held for the entire Public Service in the month of September each year and members of the public will be invited to nominate public servants deserving of recognition at national level for excellent service. [Applause.]
The main focus of these awards is to recognise excellence in the Public Service, acknowledge and encourage it and, in exceptional circumstances, ensure that we can urge and nurture it to greater heights of delivery.
In this respect, I am delighted to announce a very generous offer made to my Ministry by the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust for a partnership with us in, and I quote, "developing, recognising and retaining world-class talent in the Southern African Public Service". This partnership will see 10 public servants each year being awarded a scholarship for opportunities to study abroad and locally at distinguished institutions to sharpen their competence. [Applause.]
The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, through Minister Manuel, approached me to ask: "How can we help you achieve excellence in the Public Service?" An amazing experience! Imagine the feeling of affirmation that came from that.
The future of this country is intrinsically linked to whether we succeed or not in repositioning the public sector. The National Development Plan was bold enough to suggest that unless we fix the Public Service, all our objectives, hopes and plans would come to naught. It is worth repeating. The Public Service is the engine of the state. If the engine is dysfunctional, the vehicle will not move.
We would also, within these awards, create a category that caters for eminent, outstanding, long-serving public servants. In the case of Parliament, for instance, which comes to mind, perhaps Members of Parliament would like to nominate outstanding public servants like the former Secretary to Parliament, Mr Sindiso Mfenyana; former Secretary of the National Assembly, Mr Hahndiek; former Secretary of the National Assembly, Mr Kamal Mansura; or even people you have worked with, such as Prof Stan Sangweni, or even the current Auditor-General. These are people deserving of acknowledgement and recognition for the work they have done for our people.
It is my intention today to report that we have indeed accomplished those goals that we set ourselves for the past 10 months and we will entrench them irreversibly on our Statute Book. The rest will depend on our collective will.
I am happy to report that my term of office was off to a good start the minute I met the representatives of labour. As you would know, I came to office during the wage negotiation process - in fact, a day after labour had declared a dispute with the state as the employer. After intense and often unpleasant exchanges all round, we emerged with a groundbreaking multiterm agreement, which was historic. What was historic about it was not only its multiterm nature, but also the content of the agreements themselves made by labour and ourselves and the fundamental principles that underlie these agreements.
We have now turned an often very antagonistic relationship between employer and employee into one that can actually work towards the achievement of our goals as a people. For this period we have not only removed the threat of a strike but the ugly scenes of public servants destroying property are also beginning to recede. The absence of the annual fear of the disruption of essential services has enabled us to plan and have some level of certainty for the future.
I am grateful that labour and we found each other. For too long the relationship has been characterised by ugly exchanges. This could never have been for common the good and it is definitely not what our people live and hope for. They don't go to bed hoping that there would be a strike the next day.
The signing of the multiyear agreement has enabled us to focus on those outstanding issues that are necessary in building a capable state, on the creation of an environment where the Public Service can thrive and deliver better services.
So, project one is sealed and signed. We have peace in our environment for the next year to deliver better services, without any threat that there might be a strike. [Applause.] As part and parcel of our agreement with labour, we agreed we would introduce a compulsory induction programme for all public servants. The training has been implemented already at national level since September 2012 and this has already been launched in eight provinces.
With this we have committed ourselves to building a professional Public Service at all levels. This includes attracting highly skilled people and cultivating a sense of professional common purpose and a commitment to developmental goals. The Public Service must become a career of choice for graduates who wish to contribute to the development of this country and ensure that highly competent staff are recruited on the basis of their suitability for the job.
Transforming Palama into a school of government is one such building block for the creation of this highly competent group of people in the Public Service. The school of government will enable us to customise the offerings and programmes in order to respond to real problems we face in real time, and to restore confidence in the Public Sector.
We have done the groundwork and I met with academics from higher learning institutions on Monday to canvass a partnership between us. I believe we received positive feedback from them and we intend to ensure that the success of the school of government is based on a solid partnership with them. The school of government is on course and will be launched on 21 October 2013.
The school of government will operate, I hope, as an institution of higher learning with the proper accreditation from the proper institutions that do the accreditation. It will work in collaboration with other institutions of higher learning that offer the specialised skills required, but we will design the curriculum. We want a professional class of committed cadres to drive the developmental agenda of this country. [Applause.]
We will recruit the best in administration and train them for greater efficiency and we will train them to succeed. Nothing stops us from striving to be the best, when the best of us is driving the administration of the state. Imagine the spin-offs in everything else this country does.
We have provided each one of you with a copy of the crest of the school of government - I believe it will be distributed later - and we would appreciate your comments before 1 June 2013, because thereafter, we intend to table it at the necessary institutions that will accredit the school of government. When that is done, we will have sealed and clinched the deal and project two will be done.
Our third priority was the creation of an environment that is not conducive to corrupt practice. We are prohibiting public servants from doing business with government. This would enable us to close the loopholes that some unscrupulous officials have used.
We have come to a determination that the most effective and efficient way of dealing with a conflict of interest is to remove it altogether. [Applause.] This will take effect as soon as Parliament approves the Bill, which will be tabled in June. We will then be able to tick off project three. This will be encompassed in the Public Administration Bill, which I tabled before the Cabinet Committee yesterday - a longstanding problem, which we hope you will prioritise in this particular session.
This Bill, as I indicated, has been in the pipeline for a very long time. What it seeks to do is to follow through the requirements of Chapter 10 of the Constitution. This is to ensure that all spheres of government operate according to the same standards and norms while retaining their operational independence. All spheres will share seamlessly the requisite skills pool, competence and standards. This will serve to improve mobility across the different spheres of government and diminish the costly barriers to such seamless and rational mobility, while balancing the capacity across the state. We want to emphasise that we do not intend to take away any powers that reside, in terms of the Constitution, with either provincial or local government.
The Bill was accepted by the Cabinet Committee and we hope that Parliament will prioritise this Bill. When this long journey is concluded, it will mean that project four is done.
A cursory reading of the reports of the Auditor-General and the Public Service Commission paints a very gloomy picture of noncompliance. It is for this reason that we have established the Office of Standards and Compliance, which is led by the Director-General of the Department of Public Service and Administration, Mr Mashwahle Diphofa, who is supported by a very able team.
They were able to go over to Limpopo and sort out some of the problems that we experienced there. I can report to you now that we have completed the first part of our personnel salary clean-up in Limpopo. We found that in the provincial treasury 222 posts that were not funded resided in the structure and we have abolished them. In the Department of Public Works we had 4 447 unfunded posts and we have abolished them. In the Department of Education there were 8 754 unfunded posts and we have abolished them. In the Department of Health we had 3 868 unfunded posts and we have abolished them. [Applause.]
When we are done with this, we hope to move to the Eastern Cape and have the kind of structure that will deal with the problems we have. When that is done, we will be able to say that project five is well and truly on its way.
The process of disciplinary cases has been moving very slowly, though, and we will come back to that at a later time.
In line with the decisions of the ruling party and government, I promised to deal decisively with corruption in the Public Service. We must be clear on this. Corruption has become a common stick to beat any government, especially Third World governments.
But in our case we have deliberately taken this stand against corruption because it is essentially antithical to the struggle that brought us here. This has been raised as a clarion call, both by government and the ruling party, to ensure that where it raises its head, we can deal with it and not allow it to strangle our growth and our image. [Applause.] We have beaten all the odds as we struggled. This one is but a small struggle. We will beat it too.
I invite South Africans at large to be part of this campaign against this scourge that has the potential to corrode our society. When the response to this has not been outrightly cynical, it has been overwhelmingly positive. The cynics we urge to watch this space.
We assessed our current capacity and arrived at the conclusion that we have inadequate and poor systems to deal with corruption in the Public Service. Therefore, we have decided to set up an anticorruption bureau, and - because I am stretched for time - this is a matter that will be brought before Parliament for your consideration.
This initiative is also meant to protect the vast majority of public servants, those men and women who do an honest job and squirm at being painted with the common brush that public servants are corrupt. We will tighten up the instruments through which people report in order to give more protection to those who do report any wrong. We are building a database that will be a nerve centre and assist us in monitoring all public servants in relation to financial misconduct, disciplinary cases.
Corruption elsewhere, and in the Public Service in particular, involves a corrupter and corruptee. We are aware that some public servants are manipulated by elements out there in the private sector. These people have mastered the procurement system of government and have positioned themselves to better manipulate from outside. We intend to deal with both very decisively.
We want to ensure that there are minimum sentences for public servants found guilty of corruption. For the private sector, once we secure a conviction for corruption by a particular company, that company will be blacklisted and barred from trading with government forever. [Applause.] I have already instructed my legal team to find legal ways to strengthen this.
So much has been done in a short space of time that it would not be possible for us to report on all of it. It is for this reason that we have prepared for each one of you a pack that is a report-back to all of you on all the work that has been done. We still remain, however, with a few serious challenges. We are grappling with these. Among these is ensuring that our disciplinary cases are brought to finality very quickly, and we know that Members of Parliament are very concerned about this. We are working on the matter.
Another critical failure in our system is the response time that government takes generally on matters of delivery, and their general efficiency. Having learnt from the remarkable improvements that we have assisted with in the Department of Home Affairs, it is clear that sector-specific minimum norms and standards are required for each work sector. With known standards, it will be possible for the public to know what service and quality to expect.
It should be possible to know the minimum waiting period at the hospital or the response times for a policeperson to respond to an incident that is reported. We will in this current year be working on a minimum waiting period for hospitals and we will be running the pilot projects in Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.
I invite all South Africans from all walks of life to work with us and give us feedback on this matter.
Regarding the budget, we are very keenly aware of the fact that this budget that we have will not cover the scope of the work that we have cut out for ourselves. We are therefore going to ask you please to oblige. Let us look at what the requirements are of making sure that we have a capable state and make sure that we are sufficiently funded to do that.
We return to a matter that I know is very close to your heart; the matter of Sita. Through its centralised system, Sita is required to reduce the ICT costs of government. We have now begun to do that. In the 2012-13 financial year, we managed to track savings of R263 million due to agreements negotiated with key suppliers, mainly on software licences. We welcome these partnerships with industry and hope to achieve more this year as more suppliers come to the party.
In November 2012, Cabinet appointed the current membership of the board, led by Mr Jerry Vilakazi. The board has conscientiously assisted us in driving this particular programme and making sure that we bring the necessary energy and credibility back to Sita.
We want to say to those in the private sector that work with Sita, please help us get it right by doing the right thing. At all times, just do the right thing. I know I am speaking from a different perspective, but it cannot be difficult to do the right thing.
The budget allocation of R437,135 for this year is directed towards initiatives within the department. An amount of R131,9 million has already been earmarked for Palama, which will be transferred to the school of government. An amount of R22,866 million is availed for the CPSI and R23,3 million is set aside for transfer to the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority, PSeta. The Public Service Commission will receive R201,1 million. I am certain that hon members can appreciate that the budget availed pales in comparison to the scale of the reforms we seek to achieve.
My final message to all public servants: I call on you to please embrace discipline in implementation; compliance with norms, standards and statutes; compassion for all the employees and the public we serve; and efficiency in performance.
To the people of South Africa: I invite you to lift your gaze and see that the Public Service is working for you. South Africa deserves an efficient Public Service. Work with us to improve the Public Service.
Hon members, ladies and gentlemen, a highly productive, disciplined Public Service is not a luxury, nor is it a matter of intellectual and political pontification; it is a primary ingredient of achieving sustainable growth and development in our country.
What I request from you is, where the public servants do good, please affirm them. A great deal that we take for granted is done by hard-working, dedicated people. Where they fall short of their responsibility, do not hesitate to complain and insist on proper treatment. Do not tolerate mediocrity, because we are not a people who celebrate mediocrity.
The reforms we have embarked upon ensure that we build a Public Service capable of and orientated towards meeting the developmental aspirations of our people. We strive continuously, seeking to answer the question, "Why not?" We can do it.
We can imagine a world where every teacher feels appreciated, respected and supported and where every teacher is dedicated, committed and gives seven hours of every day to teaching productively.
We imagine a world where every child is taught in an environment that is conducive to learning, where every child feels cared for and where every child will give the best of his childhood, learning in the full knowledge that his efforts are the most important investment this country needs. Imagine what a foundation we will be building for our future. I thank you. [Applause.]