Back to school to learn how to deal with errant civil servants

2013-10-21 15:23

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Senior managers in government will get comprehensive training on how to follow procedures when taking disciplinary steps against errant civil servants, Professor Job Mokgoro, the new head of the SA School of Government has said.

This is just one area where government employees will get training to improve service delivery and build capacity within government.

Speaking to journalists after the launch of the school at Freedom Park in Pretoria today, Mokgoro said there was growing evidence that civil servants were getting away with misconduct because some senior managers do not follow disciplinary policy and procedure.

Mokgoro said: “The situation is bad. You just need to look at reports by the Auditor-General (AG) and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on disciplinary action in the public service. It is bad.”

Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced Mokgoro as the caretaker head of the new school, which will be opened by President Jacob Zuma in December.

Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel also lauded the launch of the school as a breakthrough in the training and retraining of civil servants to make them better understand and implement government policies.

Sisulu announced that the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (Palama) was being shut down and replaced with the new school.

While both Palama and the SA Management Development Institute were tasked with building capacity within government, Sisulu said the new school would do things differently.

Although there may be scepticism about what the new school would be able to achieve, Sisulu said government has learnt from its mistakes.

“What we have today, I am convinced, will stand the test of time, because we have learnt from our past mistakes, learnt from international best practice.

“We have put together some of the best minds in the country to ensure the product will be different, because it will have been custom-made to serve a purpose, even though we recognise that the country has an abundance of institutions that can provide certain skills,” said Sisulu.

There has been a call for current and former senior public servants to use the school to train government workers in areas such as financial management and also to mentor government workers on planning properly and improving their performance.

“The (school) derives its genesis directly from the Constitution. The Constitution is unambiguous in its expectations – it enjoins us to establish a competent, efficient, effective, accountable and responsive public service. We have understood that this efficient, effective and responsive public service that we seek cannot will itself into existence,” said Sisulu.

The establishment of the school was also informed by the work of the National Planning Commission, which, Sisulu said, had generated enough information about the challenges facing government, including capacity issues affecting the performance of government in service delivery.

She counted the skills deficit, instability of “administrative” leadership and the “erosion of accountability and authority, poor organisational design, inappropriate staffing and low staff morale” among the challenges facing government.

A task team comprising scholars, education practitioners and academics worked for nine months to develop the concept of the school.

Sisulu also called on senior people in government, including ministers, to take sabbaticals to go and teach at the school which will work closely with universities.

It will be compulsory for all public servants to undergo an induction programme, said Sisulu.

Although the curriculum was still being developed, Sisulu also highlighted damning reports by the AG and the Public Service Commission as painting a “gloomy picture” about how and where things went wrong in the public service.

“These range from high rates of unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, an increase in cases of financial misconduct to general noncompliance with legislation and regulations. These are all matters well known to all of us,” said Sisulu.

Instead of relying on “external” professionals and institutions for training, who have a limited experience of the challenges facing the public service, the school will use the expertise and experience of current and former public servants and academics to design and deliver courses, said Sisulu.

Courses in technical and behavioural skills will help civil servants apply their training directly and immediately in the departments in which they work.

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