DG DR NONHLANHLA MKHIZE'S REMARKS DURING THE OPENING OF MPUMALANGA SENIOR MANAGEMENT SUMMIT AT INGWENYAMA LODGE
26 November 2014
PURPOSE OF THE SUMMIT
In opening the Provincial Executive Council Lekgotla on Wednesday, 12 November 2014, the Premier of the Mpumalanga Province, Honourable DD Mabuza remarked that, “The Province is still faced with the unrelenting triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment that require a well oiled and willing government administration with capacity to take well thought out decisions to turn the situation around.”
It is in the light of this important remark that we are convening here as the leadership cadre of the provincial government’s administrative machinery to conduct a deep introspection of our capacity to assist government in driving back the unrelenting frontiers of these triple challenges.
The phrase “triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment” becomes a meaningless cliché to a government bureaucracy that is used to the comfort of air-conditioned offices and guaranteed a pay cheque at the end of each month to take care of all its material needs.
It is only in reaching out and being there with the masses of our people that we will begin to appreciate why former President Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity but an act of justice.”
I have visited the poverty nodes of the Province and have seen the ugly face of extreme poverty. What I have seen fuels my drive to disregard the hours I put in my work as a civil servant charged with the responsibility to bring justice to the downtrodden masses of our people.
The 20.2% South Africans that were living below “food poverty line” by 2011 as reported by the Statistician-General translated into 10,2 million people who were unable to purchase enough food for adequate diet. We cannot continue as a disinterested island in this sea of acute lack and furthermore we should not be deluded by the reported declining poverty levels driven by unsustainable factors such as the growing social safety net (social grants), above inflation wage increases and expansion of credit.
Colleagues; As stated in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) policy document in 1994 and reiterated in the National Development Plan (NDP) in 2011, “no political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of its people remain in poverty, without land and without tangible prospects for a better life.”
As key decision-makers, the ball is in our court. Attacking poverty and deprivation must be our first priority because just like Slavery, Colonialism and Apartheid, the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment that we face are not natural phenomena. They are man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions and decisions of human beings.
STATE OF PUBLIC SERVICE IN THE PROVINCE
The National Development Plan envisages well-run and effectively coordinated state institutions with skilled public servants who are committed to the public good and capable of delivering consistently high-quality services, while prioritizing the nation’s developmental objectives.
In Mpumalanga Province, this ideal is challenged by various factors such as tensions in the political-administrative interface (e.g. signing of HR Delegations, holding political office by administrators); instability of administrative leadership (e.g. duration of top-management contracts); skills deficits (e.g. officials holding positions without requisite capacity); insufficient attention to skills development and knowledge mining & management; the erosion of accountability and authority (e.g. lack of consequence management); poor organizational design (e.g. structures that are not fit for purpose but just convenient for employment); low staff morale; failure to achieve constructive relations between departments and between the spheres of government (e.g. operating in silos and turf-wars); as well as a reluctance to manage the system on a day-to-day basis and take unpopular decisions.
In a presentation to the Government Leadership Summit of the 3rd April 2013, Prof R Levin, the Director-General of the Office of the Public Service Commission indicated that, “performance of the South African public service remains disappointing.” The key challenges facing public service in the country he raises, can be summarized as:
a) Prioritization of personal benefits and sectional interests over the general public good;
b) Complacency with mediocrity and mockery of excellence in the public service managerial system;
c) Outsourcing of all cognitive work to consultants;
d) Recruitment practices and career progression that do not make the public service an authentic employer of choice.
This analysis is best summarized by what former President Mbeki described as “the public servants who see themselves as pen-pushers and guardians of rubber stamps, thieves intent on self-enrichment, bureaucrats who think they have a right to ignore the vision of Batho Pele, who come to work as late as possible, works as little as possible and knock off as early as possible”.
Colleagues, history will judge us harshly if in our tenure we do not seek to decisively turn the situation around.
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Let me reiterate what we indicated in the PMC Lekgotla of 23-25 October 2014 that:
Section 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (the Bill of Rights) and many other progressive laws of the country such as the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, Public Service Act, etc enshrine rights and responsibilities of workers, the employer, trade unions, etc. Each right is balanced by an accompanying responsibility. In exercising one’s rights, one must not encroach on the rights of the other.
The state as a juristic person has rights and responsibilities as well. In its configuration, the state has appointed managers (you and me) to be its eyes, ears and mouth – to defend it when its rights are being trampled on since it cannot toytoy to sound its dissatisfaction. It will be an abdication of duty if as managers we will perpetuate the abuse of the state. A few cases in point are:
- PMDS has been reduced to mean “incentive/performance bonus”. The right of the employer to get value from its labour force is replaced by a violent feeling of entitlement.
- Overtime is used to augment salaries instead of adding value to government business. In other departments, municipalities and state institutions one makes better money from overtime than a salary.
- Travel and S&T has become one of the luxuries of government employment. Government employees crisscross the Province and country and never produce a report to justify their trips.
- Lunch and tea breaks last for hours, late-coming and absenteeism are some of the symptoms of a dysfunctional and uncaring work environment that disrespects its clients. This is often accompanied by unprofessional dress code and disregard of the noble principles of Batho-pele. If the state cannot realize any value from our capacity to manage human resources, then we are not fit to be at the helm of government business.
- Management of leave and gainful utilization of human resource is one important area of management where government funds bleed. Leave is money and if we fail to manage leave, we fail to manage governments’ financial resources.
- Over years, the Auditor-General has lifted lack of consequence management is one of the reasons why public service is struggling. Poor performance, transgression of rules and regulations, late and non-submission of information and shoddy quality of work have come to characterize public service – all done with impunity.
Colleagues; Clearly, this cannot continue under your watch. There is no greater honour than to be afforded an opportunity to serve your people in a position of responsibility, like the management positions you are holding. It is only fair that you should return the favour by managing the institutions you are responsible for in the best possible way.
With all these issues in mind, let us engage in robust discussions that will result in:
- An effective and innovative state machinery geared towards the delivery of Vision 2030;
- Upscaling of sector-specific service delivery initiatives on government key priority areas;
- Sharing best practices and development of a broad framework to foster integration, coordination and innovation for senior management;
- Effective, efficient and functional delivery model for the Province;
- A pledge for implementation of this Summit’s resolutions.
I wish delegates fruitful deliberations.