Putting People First: The Month of Public Service

By Jessie Taylor 

September marks Public Service Month in South Africa and is a time for commending the work of public servants and reviewing service delivery programmes. The commemoration includes programmes to improve service delivery productivity. It also serves as a reminder of what it means to serve communities and the government’s impact on service delivery. As part of the Public Service Month, public servants are encouraged to engage the public around service delivery issues and unblock the bottlenecks in the delivery of services. It is also a time when public servants are encouraged to use public resources efficiently to benefit the citizens and recommit themselves to serving them.

Service Delivery Is Crucial For Bettering Society

Public Service Month is a regular national event that requires all the national and provincial departments to participate in campaigns to improve service delivery. The Constitution demands that the public service maintain a high standard of professional ethics, promote the efficient, economic, and effective use of resources, and be accountable for its actions. The South African government employs more than 1.2 million people in the public service, and among those employed are approximately 410 000 teachers, 243 000 health workers, and 193 000 police officers.

Service delivery improvement is vital to bettering the lives of South Africans, says Public Service and Administration Minister Noxolo Kiviet. “Service delivery improvement is crucial to ensuring a better life for all our people. The District Development Model (DDM) plays a pivotal role in assessing the level of service rendition and engaging with communities to improve services,” she says. Hon. Kiviet says the department works to enhance coordination and collaboration among other government departments, municipalities, and civil society organisations. It also works to ensure that all departments are adequately equipped to address the needs of communities.

Hon. Kiviet adds that the government must be capacitated to address service delivery challenges effectively. This involves improving systems, processes, and procedures and adhering to Batho Pele’s principles. Public servants also need to be provided with continuous training and conducive workplace environments.

Capacitate Public Servants

“We need to streamline operations, evaluate productivity regularly, and maintain high standards of service delivery. Inter-governmental relations are crucial to maintaining synergy across the three spheres of government. “We must continue to foster strong relationships and ensure effective communication. The war-room approach can be an effective tool in achieving this synergy.

“We must encourage and support innovative approaches to service delivery. Let us embrace new ideas and technologies that can enhance the quality and accessibility of public services.” – Hon. Kiviet. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) is central to the government, and it plays a major policy role in establishing norms and standards for public service. The department is also tasked with addressing governance and operational challenges in the public service sector, including fighting corruption, developing measures to reduce the government’s wage bill, developing regulations, and reviewing key legislation.

The DPSA’s programmes to combat corruption include strengthening disciplinary action and promoting a culture of accountability, ethical behaviour, and professionalism. The department is also working to limit the scope for conflicts of interest by prohibiting public servants from conducting business with the State, conducting lifestyle audits on certain categories of employees, and monitoring the implementation of the Financial Disclosure Framework by designated employees.

The Public Administration Ethics, Integrity, and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit is responsible for developing guidelines for lifestyle audits. It develops norms and standards on ethics, integrity, conduct, and discipline management in public administration.

Batho Pele

Adherence to Batho Pele principles means putting people first in the delivery of public services, a sentiment that underscores all public service campaigns and programmes. It is a particular focus during Public Service Month, in which government employees are encouraged to reflect on their role in serving their communities and country. Batho Pele is a Sesotho phrase meaning “people first.” From this concept, eight principles for transforming public service delivery were derived:

• Regular consultation with customers

• Set service standards.

• Increased access to services

• Higher levels of courtesy

• More and better information about services

• Increased openness and transparency about services

• Remedying failures and mistakes

• Giving the best possible value for money.

The Department of Public Service and Administration oversees the implementation of the Batho Pele programme and the extent to which departments promote and implement its principles. This entails, among other things, evaluating whether departments consulted and agreed with citizens in developing standards for each principle.

Source: Africa Check | M&G | SA Gov | The Public Servant

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