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South Africa: Civil Servants Key to SA’s Dream
Source: Google Alert
Source Date: Monday, October 21, 2013
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Country: South Africa
Created: Oct 21, 2013

The developments should also be viewed against the backdrop of the establishment, by many countries, of numerous policies that lend themselves to public participation in governance processes – including decentralisation and community-based planning.
In keeping with this view, South Africa launched its National Development Plan (NDP) in August last year. This plan, developed through a consultative process by the National Planning Commission, aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
The commission is confident that “South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society”.
The slogan of the NDP, “Our Future – Make it Work”, suggests an implicit commitment to transform institutions and service delivery processes, aligning them with the vision for efficient and effective performance.
Indeed, one of the strategies suggested in the NDP is that society be mobilised to support the plan through conducting research on critical issues affecting long-term development; advising government and social partners on implementing the plan and working with relevant state agencies to report on the progress of the plan’s objectives.
Responding to these strategies inevitably draws on the efficient functioning of the public sector and on the principles of good governance, responsiveness and accountability.
The move is not an easy one. Decades of colonialism followed by years of apartheid and separate development present a scenario of a public service battling to balance the needs of its diverse citizenry. On the one hand, the public service system needs to maintain global standards of an investor-friendly and technologically advanced system. On the other, it still has to deal with fundamentals of delivering basic services like water and sanitation to a citizenry that had hitherto been denied such services. Thus South Africa is faced with critical issues relating to public service delivery processes.
The fact that local political representatives are elected at community level means greater accountability can be demanded by the communities that elect them. Numerous oversight structures exist, including municipal public accounts committees and audit committees, which are well positioned to play a critical role in promoting good governance, transparency and accountability for the use of municipal resources.
However, the capacity of these structures in rural areas in relation to their urban counterparts is worrisome. We need to interrogate the extent to which governance processes and structures that nurture the involvement of citizens in decision-making processes are fulfilling their role.
A pivotal cog in the accountability wheel is the issue of communication. An efficient and effective communication model is essential for enhanced service delivery and good governance.
In this regard, the incorporation of e-governance into the government communication cache would promote maximum publicity in service delivery and, more importantly, promote reciprocal feedback that would inform future government service delivery processes.
With the launch of the NDP, the need to boost institutional performance has never been greater.
Yet, any institutional performance management intervention must begin with the individual employee in the public service, to ensure proper alignment between the individual employee’s actions and the strategic state departmental goals.
In the public service, employee performance management is largely based on the employee performance management and development system. Questions have been raised about the system’s usefulness – and research has shown that while employees understand its use and potential benefits, the system is inadequate in improving employee performance and contributing to departmental strategic goals.
This may be attributed largely to implementation problems that face most well-intended policies.
The NDP presents clear guidelines on the development of the employee into a professional public servant. There is general consensus across the political spectrum of the need to professionalise the civil service.
This was made abundantly clear in the address of the minister of public service and administration to the portfolio committee on public service and administration, at a breakfast meeting with academics and in her budget speech to Parliament. In professionalising the public service, three inter-related issues ought to be realised:
* A professional must have a level of specialised knowledge obtained through education and training from credible institutions.
* A professional must subscribe to principles, practices and values dictated by a code of ethics of that profession, since each profession has a specific world view that sets it apart.
* A professional should hold some level of stature consequent from association and admission to a network of similarly attuned professionals.
This network of professionals provides prestige and a recognised means to protect and develop its members.
Professionalising South Africa’s public service requires an integration of efforts from institutions of higher learning, public service institutions and well-established professional bodies to provide guidance and support.
While a large responsibility for operationalising the NDP lies with public administrators and policy makers, it is important that the NDP be seen as a lasting vision for all South Africans.
It’s not a plan for government, but a plan for everyone. Giving effect to it is therefore every citizen’s responsibility.
* Betty Mubangizi is associate professor of public administration in the school of management, IT and governance at University of KwaZulu-Natal.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.
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