Repair public service sector - Manuel

2013-04-03 22:01
Trevor Manuel (File: Sapa)

Trevor Manuel (File: Sapa)

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Pretoria - The National Development Plan (NDP) will not get off the ground unless the public service sector is fixed, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said on Wednesday.

"If we don't repair what we call the engine room, which is public service, we are not going to be able to involve all South Africans in implementation of the plan," Manuel told reporters at the government leadership summit in Pretoria.

"Fixing the engine room must begin with understanding how the parts fit together. The parts which are big drivers of change, the big pistons in this engine, are the senior public servants."

Manuel said during discussions with public servants at the summit earlier in the day, the relationship between them and politicians was discussed.

The interface between the two needed to be repaired. The attitude towards public service also needed to change.

Manuel said when he was young, people would say "become a public servant, there's a good pension at the end".

"It wasn't about work, it wasn't about innovation. It was about the pension and that is the culture we need to change."

Manuel said it was time for government to take responsibility for its actions.

"We [government] should no longer say it's apartheid's fault. We should get up every morning and recognise we have responsibility. There is no longer the Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves."

He said in 1994, 1995, and 1996, government could perhaps have said "we don't have the experience", but as the country approached two decades of democracy, this was no longer an excuse. Government, led by the African National Congress, had served four terms.

"It is a privilege to serve four consecutive terms, and with that privilege comes responsibility."

Line becoming blurred

Manuel warned about the line between being a public servant and a politician becoming blurred.

"Almost without exception public servants and we as ministers come from the same activist background, but what we must ensure is that even if we are members of the same political organisation, that is not carried into the work place."

At the same time, work-related issues could not be resolved in the political space.

Manuel said government needed to make sure such lines were clear. However, this was not the same as the debate around cadre deployment.

"I can say without fear or contradiction that I have never appointed a senior public representative who doesn't share the same philosophical outlook, but that has not detracted us from dealing with matters in a very highly-professional way."

The line was also blurred when a public representative interfered with procurement processes.

Manuel said if pressure was put on a public servant, it was their responsibility to write to the minister of public service and administration and explain.

By dealing with these issues it would help build a strong and capable public service.

Read more on:    trevor manuel  |  service delivery  |  politics

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