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Pretoria - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has lamented the high turnover of skilled staff in the public service due to weak political leadership.
Motlanthe said service delivery was being hampered by the failure to manage the relationship between political and administrative authority, resulting in rifts between ministers and directors-general.
Motlanthe was addressing the University of Pretoria’s 5th annual conference on public management and administration yesterday.
“Like many other key areas of governance, this connection between the political authority and public administration had no historical frame of reference or long-established tradition in our new democracy.
“This has in some cases led to strained relations between ministers and directors-general, resulting in the high turnover of senior administrative personnel, who take with them invaluable skills.
“This loss of rare skills and pivotal institutional memory further constrains the ability of the public service to deliver,” said Motlanthe.
He said “short-shrift” changes in leadership, policy and priorities gave rise to instability and hurt service delivery. The interface between political and administrative leadership had to be developed.
“In this regard, the Public Service Commission has largely supported the proposal to develop our political and administrative interface arrangements through a hybrid approach.
“This takes into account the need for political principals to have confidence in the heads of departments by, for example, devolving the appointment of certain levels of senior management to heads of department.
“One aspect of this approach entails the Public Service Commission conducting the assessment of competent candidates, given its expertise in this area as well as its constitutional mandate, said Motlanthe.
According to Motlanthe, institutions like Parliament, provincial legislatures and councils had to provide oversight to determine whether the public resources were being utilised properly.
“They need to interrogate whether public resources are allocated and used in accordance with policy priorities (and) there is efficient spending and value for money,” he said.
According to Motlanthe, such accountability in the public service was as important as the transformation of the human resource management principles.
“It requires a mind-set change and an understanding by citizens that they have a right to government services.
“At the same time public servants must understand that they have the duty to provide these services without the expectation of a bribe,” he said.
Motlanthe said the lack of experience in governance by the new democratic leaders also contributed to the challenge of creating an efficient public service.
Many had leaders coming into government who had no experience in managing large organisations with big budgets, and did not have the required understanding of the complex processes and procedures they were required to follow.
“The process of transforming the old order with a view to rebuilding the institutions to effect sustainable material changes in the lives of our people turned out to be a stubborn challenge that was compounded by the inexperience of the new democratic state,” said Motlanthe.
Pretoria News Weekend