Cape Town-130219-Trevor Manuel speaks during the SONA debate in the National Assembly. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - Non-performing civil servants must go, others needed retraining and MPs themselves needed to upgrade their skills, Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said on Tuesday.

During a media briefing on the National Development Plan (NDP) in Parliament on Tuesday, Manuel said there were too few consequences for public servants who did not perform and that there were certain incentives that encouraged government employees to do things that were “inimical to the public good”.

Speaking later during the State of the Nation debate, Manuel called for teachers, health workers and other public servants who did not fulfil the basic requirements of their jobs to face consequences.

If teachers got paid, “even when they have not taught our children”, there should be consequences. “When health workers make lots of money in the private sector while they are in the employ of the state, where they then report for duty only to rest, there should be consequences,” he said.

“When policemen and women avoid being involved in crime prevention, there should be consequences. And when public servants do business with their employer, there should be serious consequences.”

Manuel said demands for “development” should be coupled with the government’s recognition of its role to “lead the behavioural change through our own actions and through legislation”.

With a government skills audit under way, Manuel emphasised that the state required “a very different skill-set” and called for “evidence-based decisions” to be taken from the cabinet down.

“If we want to use evidence then we must train public servants to actually use available evidence, or ensure that the data-sets are generated,” he said.

MPs themselves were not spared. Manuel pointed out that the NDP had “harsh words” for Parliament, saying it was “failing to fulfil its most basic oversight role”

“Good technical skills from MPs backed by solid research teams” were needed to strengthen the legislature.

He called on MPs to re-examine the compatibility of the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Service Act to clarify the chain of accountability and to review the Public Service Act in the light of the NDP recommendation that an administrative head be appointed for the public service.

Manuel said it was time for behaviour to change and that “detailed discussions on implementation should be repeatedly heard” in Parliament as well as in government departments.

Competency should be the basis for allocating power and functions, and this would “improve value for money in our procurement system”.

“So much of what goes wrong, whether these wrongs masquerade as intra-party factions or whether it is just the reality that a segment of society has wealth whose origins these individuals cannot explain, all of these wrongs are traceable back to the fissures in our supply chain management system.

“Parliament can no longer ignore the seriousness of this issue,” Manuel said.

He pointed out that the National Planning Commission had recommended that the public-interest mandates of state-owned enterprises be made explicit and public, and the roles of regulators, policy ministries, shareholder ministries and boards be clarified, and said this could be spearheaded by Parliament.

“It is in the best interests of all South Africans and members here, irrespective of political persuasion,” that they be “in the vanguard of that endeavour to build a professional and capable public service”, he said.

“Effective implementation will require a constant desire to improve. Too often the incentives do not encourage people to make the extra effort,” Manuel said.

Political Bureau