Trevor Manual

NATIONAL Planning Minister Trevor Manuel will have struck a chord with many South Africans with his reminder this week that public servants who don’t perform must go.

During debate on the State of the Nation address, and at a subsequent media briefing, Manuel reiterated that public servants who do not fulfil the basic requirements of the job they are paid to do, must face consequences.

Among the examples he singled out are teachers who do not teach, health workers who go to work “to rest” because they are tired from moonlighting in the private sector, and policemen and women who don’t protect us from crime.

Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, in her response, also conceded that public service performance left much to be desired.

In particular she mentioned serious concerns about the quality of service, corruption and an over-reliance on consultants to do what the state is supposed to do.

She said the whole of government was concerned about the public service and acknowledged the need to do something about it.

A skills audit will reveal where training – or retraining – needs to take place urgently in order to improve the standard and performance of staff. But as important is an attitude change among some of those working in the service of the public whose ineptitude and lack of interest has caused growing frustration, especially in poorer communities.

At least the problem has been acknowledged and, in the words of Manuel, there is an attempt to build a “professional and capable” public service which can implement government policy.

As for the many excellent and dedicated public servants, many of whom could earn far more money in the private sector but have chosen the path of service to the public, they should be appropriately recognised and rewarded.

We must develop a culture of pride in our public service, so that the brightest and the most hard-working in our society choose this as their career.