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OPINION: Enhancing service delivery through technology

By Sello Mashao Rasethaba Time of article published Mar 18, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG – The Fourth Industrial Revolution can enhance Service delivery through State Information Technology Agency (Sita) only if we implement recommendations of the Presidential Review Commission and the raison d’être of Sita, why the then Minister of Public Service and Administration, Dr Zola Skweyiya, initiated it.

In an interview for a position to serve on the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), one candidate could not define what the term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (Industry 4.0 ) means.

The term Industry 4.0 is an embodiment of innovative technologies that are spearheading the computerisation of production of goods and services.

This revolutionary digitisation has already taken industries by storm globally in the private sector and government, with Minister Ayanda Dlodlo launching the e-Recruitment system in the Public Service as part of a wide government process to make it simpler and easier for people, especially the youth, to apply for job opportunities in the public service and to keep up and embrace the digital age in all its processes.

The government is expected to make staggering annual investments to integrate Industry 4.0 frameworks into existing government operations and practices, with Stella Tembisa Ndabeni-Abrahams indicating that the Department of Communications, Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) “has been mandated to spearhead and lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution, working with other stakeholders within and outside government”.

In 1998, the Presidential Review Commission and the Department of Public Service and Administration identified the shortage of Information Technology (IT) skills within government departments, which led to the formation of Sita aimed at incorporating all Public Services IT resources.

One of Sita’s objectives is to facilitate transformation in the IT sector of the government and reduce government spending by sharing IT resources. More than 20 years down the line this remained but a dream, as demonstrated by several disparate initiatives in government:

In 2010, defenceWeb reported that a multi-million rand security system provided for the DCS to supply, deliver, instal and commission access control equipment to all the country’s correctional centres, but was not fully functional.

In November 2016, the then government’s chief procurement officer, Kenneth Brown, revealed in Parliament that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) had signed off on a contract for R378 million to supply and maintain an integrated inmate management system that should have cost the taxpayer R50m.

In 2016, the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) team comprising the National Treasury, DPSA and Sita concluded the contract to purchase software licenses for the IFMS programme with Oracle Corporation (Oracle).

Last week Oracle issued a stern “no comment” on accusations that it hired a former senior National Treasury official in order to secure the contract after an “anonymous whistle-blower alerted the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the US department of justice to possible violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the award of the tender”.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should have taken the recommendations of the Presidential Review Commission and a DPSA-sponsored 1998 cabinet decision to establish Sita “that will provide IT related services to the Public Service with guaranteed performance levels” into consideration when he merged the Department of Communications and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

Sita, like the School of Government and the Public Service Commission, is better placed in DPSA.

The DPSA’s vision is to have a “professional, productive and responsive public service and administration” and its mission includes:

* Establish norms and standards to ensure that the state machinery functions optimally and that such norms and standards are adhered to.

* Implement interventions to maintain a compliant and functioning public service.

* Promote an ethical public service through programmes, systems, frameworks and structures that detect, prevent and combat corruption.

* Contribute towards improved public administration in Africa and internationally through dialogue and sharing of best practices.

The following comment from the working research policy paper titled “Measuring Governance, Corruption, and State Capture” - a joint paper of the World Bank’s Governance, Regulation and Finance, World Bank Institute, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is appropriate in the circumstances:

“As a symptom of fundamental institutional weaknesses, corruption needs to be viewed within a broader governance framework. It thrives where the state is unable to reign over its bureaucracy, to protect property and contractual rights, or to provide institutions that support the rule of law.

Furthermore, governance failures at the national level cannot be isolated from the interface between the corporate and state sectors, in particular from the heretofore underemphasised influence that firms may exert on the state. Under certain conditions, corporate strategies may exacerbate misgovernance at the national level.”

The benefits of Industry 4.0 span across several areas such as cost, productivity and service delivery that government is actively seeking to control, streamline, optimise or enhance.

“The public wage bill is unsustainable and we must shift expenditure to investment,” said Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his Budget speech.

Mboweni also said that the government must “allow older public servants, who want to do so, to retire early and gracefully”. This is planning for the future ,“we must live the dream in the wake of the industry 4.0” as Prof Marivate of the University of Pretoria proclaimed at last week’s conference in Pretoria on Artificial Intelligence, hosted by Sita.

With respect to DTPS and DPSA on Sita, the two ministries share a mutual interest in achieving digitisation of the government that responds to the needs of citizens and merges elements such as customised service design, administration processes and service delivery to maximise the satisfaction levels of all our citizens.

Sello Mashao Rasethaba is the former chairman of Sita and current chairman of the African Entrepreneurs Council.


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