Speech by Minister Collins Chabane during the National Assembly`s debate on the President`s State of the Nation Address

15 February 2010

Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly
Honourable President, Jacob Zuma
Honourable Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe
Honourable Members
Distinguish Guests

During the 2009 fourth democratic elections, the African National Congress promised the people of South Africa that we will deliver services better, faster and smarter. After the elections, we committed through President Jacob Zuma that we are building a performance oriented state.

Guided by these two important imperatives, government has put in place a range of initiatives to ensure that we have a public service delivery that is effective and efficient to respond to the overwhelming mandate we received from our people.

One of the first steps we took was to reconfigure the macro-organisation of the national government, with the aim of increasing the effectiveness of government operations. This reconfiguration process has been successfully completed on time and the reconfigured departments are now fully focused on delivering on their mandates.

Amongst these changes was the rationalisation of the education and training functions through the creation of the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training. This change has already had a marked positive impact on the effectiveness of the education and skills development functions in government.

The changes also involved the creation of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and the National Planning Commission in the Presidency, with the aim of addressing gaps in coordination, planning, and monitoring and evaluation. The two institutions are now well established.

The National Planning Commission is on course to meet its target of producing a draft long term plan by November this year. In this address I will speak to a number of initiatives that government is engaged in to improve performance of the public service.
Informed by the five priorities we chose to guide our work, namely; education, health, the fight against crime and corruption, creation of decent work and rural development, we introduced the outcomes approach to improve the performance of the state.

The outcomes approach is aimed at addressing various weaknesses, including the lack of strategic focus in government, difficulties with interdepartmental and intergovernmental coordination, the tendency towards working in silos, a lack of rigour in planning, and weaknesses in implementation.

The outcomes approach is not a short-term programme. It is part of the process of the transformation of the state into a results-oriented machinery, capable of delivering on the electoral mandate. It is about introducing improved short, media and long term planning, coordination, and management practices in government.

We have developed detailed implementation plans or delivery agreements for the 12 outcomes and departments are now focused on their implementation. They are also in the process of ensuring that their departmental strategic plans reflect their commitments in the delivery agreements.

The delivery agreements themselves are a major achievement; this is the first time that we have had outcome-oriented implementation plans which cut across departments and other spheres of government. However, we are fully aware that the delivery agreements are just the first step in the process. The difference will be in the implementation, and for this reason we have elevated monitoring to the highest level.
Starting from this month of February, on a quarterly basis Cabinet will be paying attention to reviewing progress reports. This process will result in an improved strategic focus of the work of government and should assist with addressing some of the implementation challenges that we might have experienced. These reports will be made public for our people to monitor progress.

Honourable members, we are of the view that political accountability must cascade down into the administrative accountability system following the signing of performance agreements between the President and the ministers.

In this regard the Department of Public Service and Administration is leading a process of reviewing the performance management system for officials, to make it more effective and results-oriented. This must include ensuring that there is greater accountability for poor performance.

In order to ensure that our limited resources are focused on achieving our desired outcomes, the government will be instituting comprehensive expenditure reviews. These reviews will be aimed at evaluating expenditure programmes to identify ways of increasing value for money and reducing spending on non-core activities. We will coordinate these comprehensive expenditure reviews with National Treasury and the first reports will be completed during the 2012/2013 financial year.

This house is acutely aware of challenges that government is experiencing with regard to financial management, as illustrated by the ongoing challenge of qualified audit reports. In this regard, National Treasury is assisting departments to improve their financial management practices. For example, it has been working closely with the national and provincial departments of health to assist them to address the financial management challenges in this sector. We expect improvement in this priority area.
Honourable members; an efficient and effective administrative machinery is a prerequisite for a developmental state and the achievement of the outcomes.

To ensure that public interface with government is hassle free we have undertaken to monitor our frontline service to our people. We are in collaboration with the Department of Public Service and Administration and the Offices of the Premier, putting in place various mechanisms including citizen-based monitoring, citizen satisfaction surveys and visits to service delivery sites by members of the executive to systematically measure key frontline service delivery indicators, and physical verification.

This work has started to bear fruit, as illustrated by the remarkable success of the Department of Home Affairs project to improve turnaround time for applications for ID books; the average waiting period for ID books has dropped from 130 days to 40 days. This remarkable turnaround also applies to passport applications. The Department of Home Affairs has since received international recognition for this achievement, including an award from the United Nations. We must take this opportunity to congratulate the department for this sterling work.

In addition to monitoring frontline service we have to ensure that the backroom of government is fully functional. The Presidency and the Offices of the Premier will also be monitoring the performance of individual departments. The intention is for performance monitoring of departments to become a mechanism for improving management practices and operations in government.

We are working on a Performance Assessment Tool which will include an assessment of the departmental performance against their strategic plans. The tool also looks at governance processes, supply chain management, financial management, human resource management, organisational design, programme and project management, communication and stakeholder management, and risk management.

In developing a comprehensive tool to assess the performance of departments we are building on work already done by DPSA and National Treasury to ensure that we have a comprehensive view of a department`s strength and weaknesses. This will ensure that national departments are better able to identify and implement support interventions where necessary.

In particular the National Treasury`s Financial Management Maturity and Capability Model is an example of a tool that provides us with a basis of determining the levels of financial maturity and capability in a government department. This analysis sets a bench mark on existing capacity and identifies area of weakness where targeted support and interventions from centre of government department can be directed.

This important work will be undertaken with DPSA, Treasury, the Office of the Auditor General, and the Office of the Public Service Commission.

Honourable members, we are also paying particular attention to getting basic administration right across government, particularly in areas such as the efficient location of decision making powers, ensuring clarity regarding mandates and roles and responsibilities, and improving human resource management and development.

We have begun with an assessment of the management practices in the Presidency itself as a pilot. This assessment has revealed a number of weaknesses in human resource management and supply chain management, including frequent non-compliance with the PFMA requirement to pay suppliers within 30 days. The results are assisting us to put in place plans to address these weaknesses and lead by example.

As the President said in the State of the Nation Address, we will be monitoring the process of filling vacant posts in government. We have already identified some of the challenges with regard to human resource development which include inappropriate service delivery models, organisation designs, high vacancy rates and poor management of performance and discipline. There are also challenges of the inability to recruit and retain sufficient number of skilled personnel in key positions, and inadequate training and development of employees.

Honourable Members, we need to improve the management of the PERSAL information management system within departments and use this information as strategic management information. The drive to clean-up PERSAL is being coupled with the drive to reduce the turn-around time to fill funded vacant posts from 9 to 4 months and to reduce the vacancy rate from 19.2% to 10%.

The President in his SONA declared 2011 a year of job creation given our unacceptably high unemployment and persistent poverty despite recording reasonable economic growth. Our department will coordinate and monitor the job creation efforts within government. We will also be working with this house to ensure that identified targets are met as it does its oversight role.

In the area of discipline, the DPSA is in the process of reviewing the disciplinary and incapacity codes with a view to increasing their effectiveness as tools for managing discipline. DPSA is also providing much more proactive support to departments to manage disciplinary processes more effectively, with the aim of ensuring that 80% of disciplinary cases are finalised within 90 days of the initiation of the disciplinary process by 2014.

As mentioned by the President, the DPSA has set up a new unit to enable us to provide this proactive support, with a particular focus on improving disciplinary processes related to cases of corruption. This is being coupled with a strong focus by the various law enforcement agencies on criminal investigations and prosecutions related to corruption in the public service, and a strong focus by the national and provincial treasuries on stamping out corruption in government procurement processes.

In conclusion, all the initiatives that I have described are part of a bigger process of changing the culture of the public service. We need to change from an inward-looking bureaucratic culture to one which is focused on improving service delivery to citizens.

While we will be putting more energy in the Batho Pele programme to improve the attitudes of public servants, I have no doubt that most of our public servants at the coal-face of service delivery want to serve the people well and want to be proud of their work. We are therefore also focusing on practical measures to improve the way in which government works, in order to create an enabling environment for public servants to perform better, faster and smarter.

We are indeed building a performance orientated state and a developmental state.

I thank you