Mogomotsi Magome

RESEARCHERS at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) have issued a stern warning to the government to start listening to advice to improve service delivery to poor South Africans.

They have lamented the state of the public service in the country, saying it was marked by incompetence and in need of urgent intervention.

The researchers, in a scathing paper presented yesterday, also called on the government to invest in recruitment, training and retention of skilled and talented public servants, who are appointed on merit and are subjected to a strict code of conduct.

The researchers also criticised government departments for lacking the basic capacity to investigate charges of corruption and bribery, while officials who were found guilty generally received very lenient punishments such as written warnings without the matters being reported to police.

Professor Modimowabarwa Kanyane, an acting director at the HSRC’s democracy, governance and service delivery programme, called for a single public service to be able to produce more effective delivery of services.

He claimed the ANC’s cadre deployment policy was one of the obstacles to effective service delivery. “One of the serious challenges facing the public service and municipalities is how to deal with the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, and the consequences of this policy.

“One conclusion that seems to be common is that the ANC’s deployment strategy systematically places loyalty ahead of merit and even competence, and is therefore a serious obstacle to an efficient public service.

“Politically connected, and in many cases, incompetent people are deployed to positions leading to demoralisation in the public service,” said Kanyane.

According to Kenyane, the lack of skilled professionals in the public service was also contributing to the government’s failure to provide even the most basic of services, such as water.

The public service was also struggling to attract and retain the most talented people, with skilled managers constituting only a small fraction of the public service at 0.4 percent, with the majority serving at national departments.

Another researcher, Dr Gregory Houston, said numerous reports by the auditor-general had pointed to poor governance by many government departments and municipalities.

“Poor governance has resulted in prevalent under-spending… in a situation of substantial service delivery and infrastructure backlogs,” said Houston.Though all government failures to deliver services could not be attributed to corruption, it was disappointing that there was no feedback from most government departments on corruption cases reported, he added.

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