An efficient, effective and development-oriented public service

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN OUTCOME 12

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In 2030, state institutions are well-run and effectively coordinated, run by professionals committed to the public good and capable of delivering consistently high-quality services, and working for economic growth and reduced poverty and inequality.

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Public service – Downloads

Find out more about the National Development Plan.

National Development Plan – full text
National Development Plan – Chapter 13: Building a capable and developmental state
Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019 – Outcome 12: An efficient, effective and development-oriented public service
Infographic: Building a capable and developmental state

Public service – The vision

The National Development Plan’s vision is that, in 2030, South Africa’s public servants are skilled, professional and accountable to the people. The public service is efficient, effective and an essential part of a capable and developmental state.

State institutions are well-run and effectively coordinated, run by professionals who are committed to the public good and capable of delivering consistently high-quality services, while prioritising economic growth and reduced poverty and inequality.

By 2030:

• The public service is immersed in the development agenda but insulated from undue political interference.
• Staff at all levels have the authority, experience, competence and support they need to do their jobs.
• Relations between national, provincial and local government are improved through a more proactive approach to managing the intergovernmental system.
• Clear governance structures and stable leadership enable state-owned enterprises to achieve their developmental potential.
• The state is capable of playing a developmental and transformative role.

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Public service – The challenges

There is unevenness in capacity in the public service, which leads to uneven performance. This is caused by a complex set of factors, including:

• Tensions in the political-administrative interface
• Instability of administrative leadership
• Skills deficits
• Insufficient attention to the role of the state in reproducing the skills it needs
• The erosion of accountability and authority
• Poor organisational design
• Low staff morale

There have also been challenges in achieving constructive relations between departments and between the spheres of government. Reluctance to manage the system on a day-to-day basis has created tension and instability.

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Public service – Action required

Steps are needed to strengthen skills, enhance morale, clarify lines of accountability and build an ethos of public service. Long-term policy stability is essential, as well as awareness of the potentially adverse effects of overregulation. The actions required are not merely technical solutions: they are vital for creating a professional ethos of public service founded on a strong developmental commitment.

Mechanisms and structures to departments in developing their capacity and professional ethos must be established, while leaving departments with ultimate administrative authority.

Specific action includes:

Stabilise the political-administrative interface

• Create an administrative head of the public service with responsibility for managing the career progression of heads of department. Put in place a hybrid approach to top appointments that allows for the reconciliation of administrative and political priorities.
• Enhance the role of the Public Service Commission to champion and monitor norms and standards to ensure that only competent and suitably experienced people are appointed to senior positions.
• Amend the Public Service Act to locate responsibility for human-resources management with the head of department.

Make the public service and local government careers of choice

• Establish a formal graduate recruitment scheme for the public service with provision for mentoring, training and reflection. Formulate long-term skills development strategies for senior managers, technical professionals and local government staff.
• Use assessment mechanisms such as exams, group exercises and competency tests to build confidence in recruitment systems.
• Use placements and secondments to enable staff to develop experience of working in other spheres of government.

Improve relations between national, provincial and local government

• Use differentiation to ensure a better fit between the capacity and responsibilities of provinces and municipalities. Take a more proactive approach to resolving coordination problems and a more long-term approach to building capacity.
• Develop regional utilities to deliver some local government services on an agency basis, where municipalities or districts lack capacity.
• Adopt a less hierarchical approach to coordination so that routine issues can be dealt with on a day-to-day basis between mid-level officials. Use the cluster system to focus on strategic cross-cutting issues and the Presidency to bring different parties together when coordination breaks down.

Achieve the developmental potential of state-owned enterprises

• Develop public interest mandates for SOEs.
• Improve coordination between policy and shareholder ministries by making them jointly responsible for appointing the board. Ensure appointment processes are credible and that there is greater stability in appointments.

Public service – Key medium-term goals for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following sub-outcomes to ensure an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service.

• A stable political-administrative interface
• A public service that is a career of choice
• Sufficient technical and specialist professional skills
• Efficient and effective management and operations systems
• Procurement systems that deliver value for money
• Increased responsiveness of public servants and accountability to citizens
• Improved interdepartmental coordination and institutionalisation of long-term planning
• Improved mechanisms to promote ethical behaviour in the public service

Public service – Key medium-term targets for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following targets to ensure an efficient, effective and development-oriented public service.

12 public service targets
GRAPHIC: MARY ALEXANDER

 Researched, edited and compiled by Mary Alexander
Updated December 2015