“Transforming the public service into an efficient, effective, competent and well managed organisation”
Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation,
Captains of the housing industry
Members of the Provincial Executives present
Senior officials of government
Ladies and Gentlemen
This is like being home with people you have always been a part of people with whom you have strived as we sought to find common ground for a common vision.
I have been invited in my capacity as Minister for Public Service and Administration, but lay claim to a very long relationship with the South African Housing Foundation. They were the first people to provide me with civil society support for the work I was doing as Minister of Housing. At that time, we had just created the ground breaking policy of what we now call Human Settlements. We were very uncertain about the reception from civil society about the direction we were taking.
The South African Housing Foundation supported us, gave us critical analysis where we could think through better and laid the basis for our interaction with civil society. Emboldened by their support, we went on the sell the idea of integrated human settlements to UN-Habitat, to the World Urban Forum and to the United Nations itself. We won critical acclaim and recognition for the approach South Africa took and were later to be recognised by Jeffrey Sachs and shared our views when he crafted solutions to the basic provision of housing for developing countries.
We were later recognised by Hernando de Soto, having been drawn by our bold and innovative programmes to form part of an Eminent Persons Group, the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor. And finally, we were requested by the World Urban Poor to be Chairperson of its fund.
I am recounting all of these successes, because they would not have been without the support of the South African Housing Foundation and to indicate how far our policies are recognised and acclaimed and lay the basis of many others, while our delivery is still woefully inadequate.
I agreed therefore to come to address this occasion, because I am now in a position where ensuring the administration of that delivery is my sole preoccupation. We have just returned from the World Urban Forum that was held in Naples, where discussions such as this one were taking place and what became very clear at the end of the discussion was that (1) the Urban Sprawl will be with us for a long time in the developing world, that we have to embrace it and plan for it. (2) That sanitation has become absolutely essential as we tackle the Urban Sprawl and (3), most worryingly is the observation that social distance had developed over time between the implementers of the policy and the beneficiaries of the policy.
We, as Government have just concluded our mid-year Lekgotla, at which, as you would know, the Report of the National Planning Commission was adopted. Central to this are a number of policies that are structured to speak to each other to create a coherent plan for the next 15 years. Thereafter we had to construct what would be required to ensure that that plan does work. In the case of Human Settlements in particular, it was observed that we need to:
Integrate diffuse funding flows into a single fund for spatial restructuring;
Government is about provision of basic necessities to the citizens and creating hope in the lives of the people. Truly, this cannot be an easy task. In this day and age, government is seen by citizens, the media and sometimes by public servants and political leaders themselves as plodding, inefficient, bureaucratic, change resistant, incompetent, unresponsive or corrupt. Citizens often complain that government provides services that are inadequate, inappropriate, inferior or too costly for their hard- earned tax payments. I am sure you will agree with me that frequently people see government officials to be acting in their own interest rather than responding to the needs of citizens.
Government now knows that using old ways of doing business no longer meets the demands of a more complex and interconnected South African society or the expectations of a more globally linked and politically aware citizenry. The recent report of the National Planning Commission attests to this. The plan calls for a capable and developmental state with a requisite capacity to tackle the root causes of these social challenges. It requires a state that is capable of intervening to support and guide development for the benefit of all, especially the poor. While rural poverty has declined significantly, the urban poverty has been rising.
Consequently, the urban poor has upped the ante; they need better conditions for their work, including in the informal sector, better infrastructure, and services, and good urban governance. At the same time, we are faced with obstacles of slow decision-making, conflicting departmental goals and priorities, risk-averse cultures and silo-based information. It is true that we need to do things differently. How do we respond quickly to the changing environment? Our posture, policy and practice as government has now been afforded a new vision. Based on this we need a new way of responding to the needs of our society.
The needs of the citizens are never static and government is no longer monopoly of goods and services and therefore, satisfying the needs of the citizens is core of its legitimacy. My department is the Cog of the government machinery and the objective of realising the aspirations of the capable and developmental state remains my responsibility. The manner in which the organs of state are configured should be supportive of the developmental agenda of this government. It should not be a matter of choice to follow directives or instructions issued by this department.
Section 197 of the Constitution makes it clear that there will be a single public service; those who perceive federal features somewhere are deceived. We have a sovereign, Constitutional and unitary state with three spheres of government and their concomitant powers. These spheres are interconnected and interrelated; which means there is only one public service. As spheres we need to work together and collaborate where necessary and ensure that services provided to communities are seamless. To our people, there is no difference between the spheres. My task is to make sure that the notion of single public service becomes a reality in practice and I must indicate that the legislative process towards realisation of this goal is at an advanced state. We will be commencing with social dialogue with the affected stakeholders on the modalities related to implementation in due course.
I want to take a moment to reflect on the tragedy of Marikana that will live with us for a very long time. Whether, as we came across the intractable problem of housing the poor in the mining industry, it received our fullest attention. Recognising the complexities of the provision of housing across the spectrum of the poor, we came across the even more complex problem of housing for miners.
We called a meeting with the private sector, especially mining capital, to see how jointly we can resolve this problem. We came across the phenomenon then of the preferred choice of the miners to take a housing allowance rather than be housed in mining towns or hostels. We came across the tragedy of woefully inadequate salaries that the mining industry paid and to leverage themselves out of abject poverty, the miners opted for a housing allowance, which became part of their salaries. We allowed Capital, together with Labour to override the basic requirement of a basic living wage, instead of basic living conditions. We should have laid down the requirement of basic living conditions.
The Government must be interventionalist, as all developing states are and lay basic conditions of how people should live to ensure that employers take responsibility for the reproduction of their labour. If we don’t take note of this, we will continue to reproduce less than what the State requires. I am convinced that the State has put in place all the necessary infrastructure, policies, etc. What we require now is a basic regulatory framework. The second requirement of the State is to ensure its ability to deliver on that basic regulatory framework. This talk about the people required to drive the regulatory framework.
At the Ministry for Public Service and Administration we are busy at work in repositioning the public service to be the institution of excellence. The Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) will be conducting a compulsory induction course for new entries in the public service at the end of this month. I have made it my personal responsibility to drive the development of the curriculum which will be used to shape a future public servant; who is not a “careerist’ or “job hopper” as is the practice in the corporate world.
We envision an ideal public servant who is determined to serve based on proper orientation and doctrine. Low productivity, absenteeism, high labour turnover, lack of job security, failure to recognise the performance of individuals, lack of training etc., should be the thing of the past. The induction will not take two days or weeks as it has been the case but a year or two and this approach has been agreed to with our social partners at the last wage negotiations.
The skills profile of the public service mirrors the national skills profile. There are critical shortages of good quality doctors, engineers, information technology professionals, forensic specialists, detectives, planners, accountants, prosecutors, curriculum advisers and so on. In addition, the management ability of senior staff operating in a complex organisational, political and social context requires greater attention. To solve both this technical and managerial skills shortage, government has to take a long-term perspective on developing the skills it needs through career-pathing, mentoring and closer partnerships with universities and schools of management.
Fighting corruption in the public service ought not to be rhetoric, but a practical demonstration coupled with political will. I am in the process of formally establishing the Public Service Anti-corruption Unit (PSACU), an agency that would deal with corruption in the public service head on. The process of establishing this structure is underway and I promise that once it is established, the results will be visible. It is our goal to eliminate tendencies that seek to create selfish society; we need to love one another and stop chasing money.
This government is a listening government. In my task as the new Minister in this portfolio, I will be engaging all sectors of society on what services should be provided and how. This process will culminate in a service accord. The first phase of this process will start with labour within the public service and will be extended to include other sectors of society. I will be talking to civil service actors in rural areas such as land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutions, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties, the military etc.
My goal is to foster a government that is participatory, consensus- oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, equitable and inclusive; and which follows the rule. Within this context, we will make sure that the views of the minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision making.
“When people honour each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.” Blaine Lee
Our government must be responsive to the present and future needs of the society. Our people will be allowed to participate in matters that affect them either direct or through legitimate intermediatory institutions or representatives. We will make sure that their participation is informed and organised.
As government we would have to make sure that we work in a transparent manner. Government department will be compelled to make public information available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. The information ought to be provided in an easily understandably forms and media. A well-managed organisation requires an environment that is conducive for growth and development. We must make a public service the employer of choice and be a trendsetter in conditions of service for workers in this country.
The delivery agreement I signed with the President compels me to ensure that this government works in an efficient and Responsive manner. It calls for us to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe as well as be accountable to public and to institutional bodies. A business efficiency exercise will be undertaken to eliminate wastage, duplication and weaknesses in the system.
Government departments must produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best of resources at their disposal. Citizens expect improvement in the capacity of the public service to deliver more and better services at lower cost. Public wants improvement in the ways in which government serve citizens, that is, a public administration that delivers better services and extends their reach and coverage more effectively and efficiently.
A plan is only as credible as its capacity to deliver on that plan.
It remains our responsibility to ensure good governance, eradicating extreme poverty, ensuring access to housing for the poorest of the poor and promoting global partnership for development.
I thank you.