Hon Chairperson, hon Minister for the Public Service and Administration, hon members of the NCOP, hon chairperson and members of the select committee, the SA Local Government Association members, leaders of the national Public Service and Administration portfolio, leaders of institutions, distinguished guests, fellow South Africans, thank you for affording us this opportunity, and welcome to this address from the office of the Deputy Ministry for the Public Service and Administration.
We are barely eight days away from marking the 35th anniversary of the 1976 uprisings that reverberated throughout our country, when thousands of schoolchildren in this country risked life and limb and courageously followed their convictions when they decided to march against the injustices perpetrated by an inhumane and unjust social and political system.
During the period that the leaders of the liberation struggle were either imprisoned, exiled or silenced in some form or another, it was these young people who rose and looked at apartheid with fearless eyes, faced rifles with stones and rocks, and decided to sacrifice everything they had, including their lives, on the altar of hope, to fight for an equal say in issues that affected their lives. We are today able to enjoy the rights commensurate with living in one of the best democracies in the world because of the unwavering and unstinting collective efforts of these young people.
Fellow South Africans, may we never forget the spirit and dedication of those who stood up in the name of freedom, equality and fraternity. Our country has navigated itself through a very long and painful past to where we are today. Though we will never forget our pain, today we are a nation and people steadfastly committed to constructing a new future based on unity, equality and respect for each other's rights and diversity.
I think that as my Minister and I present our Budget Vote, it would be fitting to challenge the youth of South Africa in this Youth Month to honour those who sacrificed their childhood and youth and ensure that they follow in the footsteps of those martyrs and luminaries and build with us a viable, efficient, effective and development-oriented Public Service.
Chairperson, in honour of Ma Sisulu, who too was a leader in her young days, I would like to challenge the youth of Parliament and the public administration to work diligently and with honour and dignity in service of our people, as many others who would have liked to be in their position never lived to see this freedom and be servants of the people in a free South Africa for which they fought.
The Ministry for the Public Service and Administration, which is honoured to present its Budget Vote to the NCOP, is determined and committed to the construction of this future. We remain unyielding in our promise to never again allow public resources to be used to serve the needs and wants of one group of people, across gender, class and race, at the expense of another.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to the creation of an efficient, effective and development-oriented Public Service and an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenry. We will support the office of the Minister in leading the Public Service and Administration, provide professional advice and support to ensure Public Service excellence, and promote good governance nationally, on the African continent and globally so as to be an exemplary, professional, ethical and accountable department and government that embodies the principles of Batho Pele and service excellence.
The main priorities of the office of the Deputy Minister in 2011 include a viable and committed strategy to ensure that our community development workers are effective in their mandate as the foot soldiers of government. The potential ultimate effect of a knowledgeable and dedicated community development cadre motivates us to work tirelessly to ensure that we transform the current status quo in their operations to one more conducive and favourable to the development of our communities.
A review of the Public Service Regulations, which focuses on all the gaps for the institutionalisation of a number of service delivery mechanisms as well as a framework for community development and public participation, is currently under way. The amended regulations will address the working conditions of this community-based public servant who is the face of government in the delivery of services to our people.
The code of conduct for community development workers, CDWs, will also be reviewed to address the conflict between the Public Service and political activities. This year we plan to work with more vigour in ensuring that the CDWs are linked with the existing community structures such as school governing bodies, community police fora, ratepayers' associations, traditional institutions, citizen assemblies and religious bodies.
We are also aware of specific challenges that may hamper the impact of the programme with regard to the acceleration of service delivery to citizens. One of the challenges is the complex relationship between CDWs, ward committee members and ward councillors and the discrepancies in remuneration, accountability and reporting lines.
The governance, management, planning and reporting functions have been inconsistent and fragmented across the different spheres of government. The key elements of the redesigned governance and management CDW model are as follows. In terms of national co-ordination of the programme or model the DPSA will be responsible. At the provincial level the co-ordination of the programme will be located in the premier's office, while at the local co- ordination level the CDWs will work and will be based at the Thusong centres.
We will also be reviewing the operating hours of Thusong centres around the country. It does not make sense for this vital service point to be open only during working hours, when most people who need their services are also at their places of employment or at school.
The work on Thusong centres has moved at an impressive pace since inception. We have developed a blueprint to connect Thusong centres. Eighty per cent of them were already connected by Sita in 2011. Sita has also deployed satellite connectivity to Thusong centres across those that have been established. A process to validate equipment deployment and facilitate site sign-off is currently being undertaken.
The Thusong centres will be established in places where services are unreachable through innovative means and extended to train stations where commuters can access the facility on their way to work or school or when they return home. We have engaged the Passenger Rail Agency of SA to explore the possibility of having mobile Thusong centres on rail. These trains will be designed to offer many of the services that rural and peri- urban communities access with difficulty.
We are working with the Departments of Basic Education, Communications and Health to develop blueprints for the connectivity of schools and clinics, some of which the Minister has already alluded to.
In all the work we do the department will continue to monitor the implementation of gender, disability and youth frameworks by all departments through the analysis of periodic reports submitted. The enhancement of skills for gender and disability focal points will be done through training in mainstreaming the implementation of the strategic frameworks.
I wish to state that there is a need to explore ways to improve the working relationship between the political heads and the heads of department. To this end, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that accountability in terms of administrative responsibilities, as outlined in the Constitution, the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Service Act, is not compromised based on the poor working relationship between the executing authority and the accounting officers.
Having said this, relationship management at all levels is key to an effective and efficient workplace. It should be noted that in instances where the relationship sours, the department gets embroiled in tensions that make it difficult for the system to operate optimally. In these instances, the image of government gets tainted and the shareholders of this government, our people, ultimately bear the brunt for this through poor service delivery and performance by departments.
Public service also needs to deal with the burden of cost to the state occasioned by indecisive and incompetent leadership in the area of human resource management and the handling of labour relations matters. The challenges in the Public Service include the management of discipline, sick leave, corruption and conflicts of interest, including the management of the integrity of the public servant.
The scourge of HIV and Aids also contributes to the loss of skilled staff and loss of man-hours owing to ill health. The Minister of Health has also lamented the nation's unhealthy lifestyle and this is a problem for our employees as well. In order to curtail the cost of ill health to the employer, the Government Employees Medical Scheme will accelerate its employee wellness programme to deal with this.
The Gems membership currently stands at 556 000 and is set to grow in this financial year to 620 000. We can say proudly that this is one of the well- performing Public Service entities and we will continue to enhance its product offering so that it becomes the medical scheme of choice for all Public Service members.
The department will embark on a study to consolidate the work of entities charged with addressing corruption in the public service. A single reporting and accounting entity needs to be established that would deal with corruption in a streamlined fashion. There are too many anticorruption drives that work in a fragmented fashion and, as a result, the government's global drive against corruption gets compromised and becomes less effective. I dare say this continues to be the responsibility of the Department of Public Service and Administration.
Our priorities for 2011-12 are informed by our commitment to placing citizens at the centre of service delivery and to delivering services in a co-ordinated, cost-effective and timely manner in order to achieve clearly defined outcomes. As we celebrate Youth Month together with the youth of South Africa let us take cognisance of the continent's efforts to celebrate the work of the Public Service in this month as well.
Let us celebrate and honour the lives of Tsietsi Mashinini and the class of 1976 for their service to the people of South Africa. Special thanks go to the department staff and my Minister for walking me through to finally deliver this speech. Thank you. [Applause.]