Key note address by the Minister for the Public Service And Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu, at the launch of the Integrated Public Service Month.
September of every year, as the President notes, is embraced in South Africa as Public Service Month. This is a month where the public is sensitised of the services delivered by government but it also serves as a month where the services are reviewed in order to ensure that quality services are delivered to the beneficiaries, being the citizens and as such, the public plays a critical role in the focus of this month.
As government, we deem it important that the citizens of the country have access to the necessary quality services. We want to highlight the collaborative efforts by all public servants, inclusive of the elected personnel, in the form of members of Parliament, Councils, the judiciary and the executive within all spheres of government. Public servants, in this instance, employed in terms of the Public Service Act, stand out as full-time category public servants, fully engaged in the business of rendering services to the public, including frontline services.
Citizens often approach government institutions in need of services, either in person or through other mediums of communication and start off with: “Dumela”, “Sawubona” “Good morning”, from there, public servants are then supposed to return the courtesy and render the service. It is the people first, followed by the service and then the public servants who have to render the service. This makes public servants very pivotal, as noted by the President and indeed, this is what shapes the relationship between the citizens and government, their servant.
This year’s theme: “Growing South Africa together for an ethical public service” is an effort to capture the above scene, focusing on the values and principles which must underline the services we give to the people and therefore, we must be ethical.
We want to call upon all public servants to conduct themselves ethically, in line with their professions, but overall in line with section 195 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996; which provides that: “A high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained”. Similarly, we take this opportunity to call on all public servants, to not only desist against any criminal and corrupt activities but to fight and isolate it and expose anyone who commits such acts. Public service must enhance good governance and not be associated with corruption.
In order to professionalise the public service, the National School of Government (the NSG) responsible for strengthening state capacity through education, training and development, is currently providing a number of programmes to public servants and these programmes are tailor-made to upskill and equip public servants. Further to this, Cabinet approved two new training programmes on 27 August 2020.
The first programme, “Economic Governance Spring School for Members of the Executive”, is specifically targeted at Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, Mayors, MEC’s and MMC’s. The second programme falls under the “Framework for Continuing Leadership Engagements for Heads of Departments” in their capacity as Accounting Officers and is a programme which will be offered to Accounting Officers across all 3 spheres of government as well as Chief Executive Officers in SOE’s.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus has dominated and characterised the year 2020 and has claimed the lives of more than 14 563 citizens in our country, a very sad occurrence indeed, and within the public service, has claimed more than 1000 lives. As government, we would have hoped to not have had even 1 death- not of a citizen or public servant. Our priority has always been and still is, to save lives and protect livelihoods.
As a result, government has had to impose a number of measures to ensure the safety and support of the public at large such as the national lockdown and its various alert levels. Specific measures have also been taken to ensure the safety of public servants throughout all three spheres of government, such as guidelines for safe working environments, the introduction of remote working, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), guidelines to occupational health and safety in the workplace and training of health and safety representatives as well as the deployment of Cabinet Ministers to Districts, to assist with issues relating to health, education and also water and sanitation.
Government has had to mobilise its forces, the private sector and society as a whole and engage with Labour in the fight against the virus. In its proactivity, government has had to declare certain services as “essential”, which then called public servants in the health sector-in particular, SAPS, Defence Force and Education into action to render those services declared as “essential”. It is however, the health sector on which the spotlight fell, with health services in the form of clinics, hospitals and personnel having to work in the frontline, ensuring the continuity in the delivery of essential services. These public servants have had to face the virus head-on. We appreciate these essential workers and as a country, we will forever be grateful for their dedication, bravery and selflessness.
In our engagements with Labour, issues such as “danger allowance”, the supply of adequate PPE and leave provisions have been discussed. We understand the importance of arriving at solutions and wish to advise that apart from the fiscal constraints (inclusive of budget cuts and deferral of funds to the COVID-19 relief fund) which hamper on government’s ability to provide certain allowances to public servants, there currently is no policy which deals with, amongst others, remuneration of public servants during a pandemic and for that reason, a Disaster Policy Framework will be developed to address these defects. Government will however, continue its engagements with Labour.
As we launch the Public Service Month, I wish to repeat that as government, we sympathise with the families of the public servants who have lost their lives in the fight against COVID-19 and we stand in solidarity in the continued fight! I want to assure the public that there is a future in public service. Lastly, I encourage public servants to comply with all the legal prescripts and to do right – even when no one is watching. Let our conscience guide us in serving the citizens of the country, as we continue to strive for a better South Africa.
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