Single public service 'not unconstitutional'
Cape Town - There is no need to change the Constitution to create a single public service, but the process is dauntingly complex, Public Service and Administration Minister Roy Padayachie said on Monday.
"We are not envisioning a constitutional change in the way government is architectured," Padayachie told a briefing of the government's administration cluster.
"We are rather focusing on the mechanisms that we need to put in place to integrate the system so that we can get a much more easy, swifter movement of people in the public service."
The minister said legislation to integrate the public service would be drafted with care because lessons were learnt after a bill to this effect was withdrawn from Parliament in 2008.
"The complexity of establishing the infrastructure was not understood. Now we have become much wiser about the complexity of this task. We must this year set the motion in place for the establishment of the institutional infrastructure for a single public service. Currently a great amount of work is being done to establish that basic infrastructure."
Public service director general, Mashwahle Diphofa, last week told MPs a bill aimed at establishing a single public service would be tabled by June. But he said on Monday the department was exploring the option of rather amending existing bills.
"The other option is to look at the existing pieces of legislation and effect amendments in those pieces of legislation such as the Public Service Act and the Municipal Systems Act."
He said the aim of the long-awaited integration was to allow officials to move between different levels in a bid to enhance service delivery.
"At the heart of the initiative is the promotion of integration and the harmonisation of processes between national, provincial, and local government so that service delivery can improve."
'Critical deficiency' in public service
Padayachie noted a "critical deficiency" in the public service was that those areas in most dire need of skills, notably the municipalities, were those that struggled most to attract them.
He warned that the process would prove fraught on several fronts, pointing out that public servants belonged to more than 20 different pension funds.
Law amendments would therefore have to deal with the nitty-gritty of ensuring officials could be transferred without losing their benefits.
The Democratic Alliance said last week the plan contravened section 151 of the Constitution - which protects the powers of municipalities - and was also likely to undermine the executive authority of provinces.