Executive Director of SAAPAM, Prof. Khalo
Practitioners in Public Administration and Management
Ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be invited to this prestigious 15th Conference of the South African Association for Public Administration and Management.
Sadly, I stand here before you addressing at the time our country has been gripped by attacks against foreign nationals. This is indeed an unacceptable act, which we condemn, in the strongest possible terms. I wish to assure you of the South African governments commitment to rid our nation of these barbaric acts. Government is working around the clock to stop these senseless acts and bring the perpetrators to book. These are acts of criminality and they don’t represent the overwhelming majority of South Africans. As government we say, no matter how legitimate grievances our people may have and it does not justify the attacks against fellow human beings and looting of shops, let alone taking anyone’s life as we have seen.
As government we will not rest until these attacks are stopped. South Africans have been living side by side with foreign nationals for years and therefore there is no reason for any lives to be lost. As South Africans we say not in our name!
Equally so, we meet at the time when our country has just lost its Minister for Public Service and Administration, Collins Chabane. Minister Chabane was responsible for the establishment of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation which monitors and evaluates the work and programmes of government. At the time of his passing, he was responsible for the body of work of your esteemed profession. He would have been here to interact and celebrate with you 50 years of the incisive Journal of Public Administration and address this conference. I wish to dedicate this address to his memory.
You have indeed chosen an intriguing theme entitled: Half-a-Century of Disciplinary Existence-Antecedence, Evolution, Scholarship, Trends and Issues. We also wish to congratulate you on the attainment of the 50th Anniversary of the Journal of Public Administration.
By all standards of measurement, this is a major accomplishment. The growth in Public Administration as a field of intellectual, academic and scientific endeavour is gratifying to us as government, as it can only enhance good governance and public administration.
Authors Daren Acemoglu and James Robinson, in their seminal work entitled “Why Nations Fail”, published in 2012, examine why some nations are successful and others are not. They further offered us a treatise on the dynamic interplay between institutions, economic forces, politics, and policy choices that are created in these countries. These scholars concluded that appropriate interplay between these factors, especially the existence of appropriate democratic institutions, plays a critical role in the fate of nations. Thus two nations, which at face value look so similar, differ so greatly in their economic and political development. In support of this perspective, Gary S. Becker, the 1992 Nobel laureate in economics, concurs that countries escape poverty only when they have the right institutions, administrative and democratic institutions are like, pluralistic political system, with competition for political office, amongst others.
This conference coincides with the 60th celebration of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, a compact of the downtrodden masses, which crystallized the vision for a democratic and transformed South Africa, based on the principles of respect for human rights, universal suffrage, equality before the law, equitable and inclusive economic growth, return to the land, access to education and culture, and the transformation of our society into a truly egalitarian one. This historic charter was an antecedent and forebear of the democracy we have enjoyed for the last 20 years in South Africa.
The founding fathers of the democratic South Africa certainly did not want this beautiful country to be a failed state, nor did they want South Africa to be country that is riddled with violence and attacks on innocent lives like was the case with the Apartheid Government. Hence the core values espoused in the Freedom Charter found their way into the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which was adopted as the supreme law of the country in 1996.
We have put in place effective and efficient building blocks and institutions that provides the necessary checks and balances for our nation to succeed. As a country we have embraced the constitution as the supreme law of our country and put in place measure that protects both the state and its people. In the context of the administration, South Africa has several government departments and institutions performing oversight functions over the administration. These institutions are the Auditor-General of South Africa, the Public Service Commission, Department of Public Service and Administration, and National Treasury. Their functions are governed by a legislative framework. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in the Presidency, and Offices of the Premiers derive their authority from their placements in these strategic offices.
In 2009, the democratic government of South Africa enhanced its instruments of accountability and adopted a new outcome-based approach that emphasised results-based management or managing for results, rather than the traditional way of administration, which focused on compliance with legislation and conformity to policies. A set of 14 outcomes were adopted, each of which was assigned to a coordinating Minister, who leads implementation, in collaboration with other Ministers responsible for related functions. The key objective of the new approach is to improve service delivery to the public, and to improve the responsiveness of government departments.
Another innovative development for strengthening accountability was the development of Performance Agreements between the Cabinet Ministers and President of South Africans, for the 2009-2014 term of office of government. This best practice has also been entrenched during the 2014-2019 political term of office, with the Performance Agreements being signed in 2014. These Agreements are reviewed periodically.
In 2012, while Acemoglu and Robinson were writing about failed states, South Africa was adopting an inspiring National Development Plan 2030 (NDP), which sets us on a positive development trajectory aimed at eliminating poverty and reducing inequality. Chapter 13 of the NDP calls for South Africa to build a capable developmental state.
Developmental states seek to construct and deploy their administrative and political resources to the task of social and economic development. The main defining features of a developmental state are the resilience and character of its institutions, which are constructed in such a manner to formulate and implement its development agenda in a coherent and binding fashion. State institutions refer to both the formal and informal structures and processes that structure human interactions, including the legislature, executive and the bureaucracy as well as the diverse networks of interactions and institutions of civil society.
I have observed that this conference is also considering papers on developmental state verses a Capable Developmental State. I look forward to reading the outcome of this discussion and the paper with the view to drive agenda to building this capable and developmental state that is service oriented. However, allow me to add my humble contribution to the debate.
In my understanding, developmental states focus primarily on effectiveness, outcomes and impact, rather than on efficiency. This is because while efficiency and attendant processes are important, they are not ends in themselves. Developmental States adopt effective policies that enable achievement of developmental goals and avoid complex procedures and laws because of the disabling effects these have on the state and society. They favour flexible and adaptable procedures and laws, which give scope to public officials to exercise some innovation and discretion in policy implementation.
Successful developmental states have been characterised by autonomy and embeddedness. Autonomy refers to the ability of a developmental state to formulate and consistently implement collective goals instead of public representatives and officials pursuing individual or sectional interests. A key institutional requirement is strong coordination and synchronisation of government’s programmes and policies through a coordinating agency or central ministry.
A further requirement is a capable career oriented public service relatively insulated from political interference in its day to day operations. However, the public service needs to have an understanding that it is serving a political administration and therefore assisting it to achieve its political goals. Embeddedness refers to the ability of the state’s organisational structures to penetrate and interact with non-state actors – the ability of the state to elicit broad-based co-operation and promote its development goals. Indeed an embedded state is a prerequisite of people centred participatory development.
Effective developmental states have built human capabilities, strong professional merit based public services and succeeded in understanding the complex institutional web and networks that bind the state and civil society together. Parliament is central to building state embeddedness, because public representatives provide a key interface between the state and society. Moreover, strong state-society relations are linked to state capacity, because democratic forms of embeddedness are likely to “strengthen capability enhancing state interventions.”
Chapter 13 of the NDP outlines the type of public administration we need in order to construct service delivery systems and procedures that achieve the effective outcomes that we are committed to. This is an administration capable of playing a developmental and transformative role. The path towards this goal entails: stabilising the political-administrative interface, which entails building a professional public service that serves government, but is sufficiently insulated from political patronage; making the public service and local government administration careers of choice; which entails attracting the best talent, expertise and experience to the public service.
It further entails developing technical and specialist professional skills, which requires continuous re-invigoration of the technical skills required for the state to fulfil its role; strengthening delegation, accountability and oversight, which will also make it easy for citizens to hold public servants and politicians accountable for service delivery amongst others. The ideals of the NDP 2030 have been translated into reality by means of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework, which is a 5-year implementation plan.
Processes are underway to create an Administrative Head of the Public Service with the responsibility for managing the heads of government departments. The envisaged roles of the Head of the Public Services include convening panels to advise the Executive Authority on the recruitment, performance assessment and disciplinary procedures of Heads of Government Departments. At national level, this role would be carried out by the Director-General in the Presidency, and at Provincial level, it would be performed by the Directors-General in the Offices of the Premiers.
This public administration will not be successful without a capable public service cadre who understands his or her role as being to serve and deliver services to people. This is cadre who is committed to making a difference in people’s lives and embraces the principles of Batho Pele, which means – people first. This cadre further knows that his or her work is not done until the people have received the service and are satisfied.
South Africa has developed innovative approaches to improve the quality of citizen’s experiences when interacting with government – at the coalface of service delivery. The Presidency has created a direct interface with the public, through the establishment of a Presidential Hotline where citizens can raise their concerns. Unannounced Front Service Delivery visits are conducted rigorously to the coal face of service delivery, schools, clinics, hospitals, police stations and payment centres of government social grants. Gaps in service delivery are identified and the management teams of those facilities are required to develop and implement improvement plans, before the second monitoring visits are conducted. A Citizen-based Monitoring Programme exists, where citizens rate the quality of services they receive from public institutions.
Major improvements have been observed in various areas such as health outcomes and levels of educational attainment, since the outcome-based monitoring and evaluation system was implemented. These are corroborated by international institutions and agencies of the United Nations such as the World Health Organisation, as well as locally, by quality assurance institutions such as uMalusi, which verifies and validates our matric results.
The biggest question that remains is whether these interventions are felt by the people of South Africa who are the recipients of government programmes? This question I put it to you and hopefully at the end of the conference you might have a particular view.
Programme director we definitely have challenges like any other state, however we remain committed to tackle them head on for our nation to succeed. These challenges include inequality, poverty and unemployment. We also have challenges of corruption in both the public and the private sector and we are addressing them. The country, like other states, is experiencing narrowing revenue levels which make it difficult to address all challenges we face. However as government we remain committed to address them and create a better life for all our people.
The founding fathers of the democratic South Africa certainly did not want this beautiful country to be a failed state and it will never be. The 20 Year Review produced by government in 2014 attests to the fact that the country is on positive trajectory. We have the right administrative and political institutions in place. We are continuously enhancing their performance and addressing weaknesses where these manifest.
Your deliberations at this conference will further enhance our lessons in good governance and public administration. They will further come in handy in improving people’s lives.
SOURCE: South African Official News