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South Africa: Public Service Charter Launched
Source: Published in: Legalbrief
Source Date: Friday, October 25, 2013
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: South Africa
Created: Oct 25, 2013

Referring to the 'lacklustre' performance of public servants as 'one of the shortcomings' of service delivery identified by the National Planning Commission, Sisulu conceded that - despite South Africa' progressive constitution, and a body of laws designed to protect and advance citizens' rights - 'there is often a significant gap between the aspirations set out in official policy and what happens on the ground'. The Public Service Charter seeks to address this.

Among other things, on behalf of state employees the charter undertakes to ensure that no public servant engages in 'any transaction or action that is in conflict with or infringes on the execution of official duties; to act against fraud, corruption, nepotism, maladministration and any other act which constitutes an offence, or which is prejudicial to the public interest; and to demonstrate professionalism, competency, excellence, transparency and impartiality in the performance of official duties'. On behalf of the state, it undertakes to ensure that - 'within the confines of what is available' - 'adequate resources and tools of trade' are provided for public servants to perform their duties. The charter also commits the state to ensuring that it implements 'conditions of service that will fairly reward public servants'. These include 'adopting and implementing health and wellness policies and programmes' for all state employees.

According to the media statement, other interventions to which the state is now committed include skills development and mentorship programmes and policies that will support 'career pathing'; human resource management and development programmes that will ensure the recruitment of 'suitable' personnel; modern, innovative and user-friendly procedures, systems and ICT policies that will improve service delivery and access to services; governance systems that will optimise resource, risk and audit management; and 'national accountability and integrity systems' that will promote 'value-based societal behaviour and attitudes as a means of preventing corruption'.

The charter follows a
draft Public Administration Management Bill, published in May for comment. Among other things, the draft Bill proposes that each public institution should develop a service charter and seeks to provide a framework within which regulations for public service transformation can be implemented.

The overall objective of the proposed new statute is to improve service delivery by providing for 'the use and development of institutions, systems, practices, procedures, human and other resources', including ICTs, in a manner that optimises human potential, addresses staff shortages and barriers to staff mobility, and improves efficiency. According to Sisulu, 'what is intended is not centralised uniformity, but a harmonisation that properly allows for specialised differentiation and autonomy'. The Minister made this remark during an address to guests at a media breakfast meeting in March.
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