File picture: Ayanda Sitole

Johannesburg - The revolving door that sees ministers, MECs, directors-general and heads of department regularly change is among the reasons government cannot fill vacancies, a Public Service Commission (PSC) report has revealed.

The PSC report is scathing on ministers and MECs, saying they interfere in appointments, disciplinary hearings and want to configure their departments according to their personal preferences and not government’s strategic goals.

Among the reasons cited for the political interference are lack of trust, suspicion and abuse of power by ministers and MECs.

“In many instances these restructuring processes tend to follow the preferences of the political and/or administrative principals instead of government and the departmental strategic priorities,” reads the report.

This results in organisational structures “not fit for purpose with dire consequences for service delivery”.

The report, titled State of Human Resource, Grievance and Discipline Management in the Public Service, also notes that changes in political and administrative principals creates an environment where organisational structures are not aligned to the organisational objectives of departments and undermines the capacity of the departments to deliver on their mandate.

“It is important to note that this challenge was ascribed to, amongst others, the constant restructuring of departments whenever there are changes at the political and/or administrative levels,” says the report.

Concerned senior government officials have asked the PSC to pay serious attention to this contentious issue and develop sustainable solutions.

According to the report, there is also reluctance by executive authorities (ministers and MECs) to delegate human resource functions and authority to their administrative leaders (DGs and HoDs).

By the end of February last year, 113 851 funded posts were vacant, according to the Public Service and Administration Department.

In some provinces, moratoriums on the filling of posts placed by executive authorities also contributed to the high number of vacancies.

National and provincial government departments have a prescribed four months period to fill each vacancy.

Delays in the candidate vetting process by the State Security Agency also increase the time it takes to fill vacant posts, according to the report.

The PSC report also lifts the lid on political interference in the disciplinary process, which it says is problematic and compromises the disciplinary management process.

Executive authorities, according to the report, “cherry pick” cases based on the individuals involved.

“In some cases, alleged perpetrators are not subjected to a disciplinary inquiry because of their political connections, whilst another employee having committed a similar offence will be prosecuted,” it says.

The PSC report suggests that ministers and MECs should not be involved in the disciplinary process.

It also found that labour relations officers are instructed by an executive authority to get rid of a particular employee, and because of fear of victimisation, they (labour relations personnel) often act on such instructions.

The PSC also found that advice provided by labour relations units on management of discipline is not always taken into consideration.

This week, the PSC did not respond to questions on its plan of action regarding its findings.

The Public Service and Administration Department had committed itself to the reduction of the public service vacancy rate to 10 percent by end of March this year.

The Public Administration Management Bill now awaits President Jacob Zuma’s signature after it was passed by the National Assembly in March.

It makes provision for the establishment of an ethics, integrity and discipline technical assistance unit.

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Sunday Independent