Civil servants hit the books

2013-03-31 10:01

Public officials to be schooled by the very best.

South Africa’s public servants are going back to school – and their teachers will include the country’s former spy boss and a raft of top academics.

The school, which is set to be opened by Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in October, is designed to produce excellent, more committed public servants.

Its graduates, Sisulu and her team hope, will fight maladministration, fraud, corruption and unethical behaviour, rather than being accused of it.

The National School of Government will replace the existing Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy in Tshwane.

Professor Job Mokgoro will head the new school’s advisory committee.

Dr Trish Hanekom and Gemma Paine-Cronin are also part of the committee.

Paine-Cronin is an organisation design and development consultant, while Hanekom is a strategy consultant and former Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site chief executive.

Former spy boss and ex-Home Affairs director-general Barry Gilder is also on the school’s committee, alongside Professors Nomathemba Magi, Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, Mokobung Nkomo and Itumeleng Mosala, all academics.

Mokgoro, an adjunct visiting professor at the Wits Graduate School of Management, told City Press that all was “not well in how the state provides service to its citizens”.

This, he said, was clear from “widespread service delivery protests”, Auditor-General Terence Nombembe’s audits, and reports by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and the Public Service Commission.

Mokgoro said the school was “an instrument” to help improve public servants’ mind-sets, culture and ethos.

There are still some details to be ironed out.

The advisory committee is developing the curriculum and recruiting more staff.

Mokgoro says the length of the courses will be “needs driven” and students will have to juggle their part-time studies with their full-time jobs in the civil service.

“We are not trying to replace or compete with what is offered by higher education institutions.”

Sisulu and her team are establishing the school in the wake of a four-year survey of 328 senior government officials, which included directors-general and chief directors.

The results from 8?000 performance appraisals of those surveyed were alarming.

Most could not innovate and had poor financial and project management skills.

The school’s task is to ensure public servants, at all levels, have the experience, competency and support they need to do their jobs.

“There will be a direct link between what is offered in terms of courses and the identified weaknesses, and gaps in terms of skills and competencies in government,” Mokgoro said.

The advisory committee recently visited China, where Mokgoro said they learnt about public servants’ commitment to societal and government values.

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