Transforming Public Services

Transforming Public Services Across The Continent

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During her official opening address at the Fifth General Assembly of the Association of African Public Services Commissions (AAPSComs) on 13 March 2018, South African Minister of Public Services and Administration, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo took the opportunity to welcome some of the very influential people who had joined her to discuss the challenges of public administration and service delivery they face within their various countries

Among the delegates was the President of the Association of African Public Services Commissions, Advocate Richard Sizani, Vice-Presidents of the Eastern African and Southern African Regions of the Association of African Public Services Commissions, various chairpersons of the African Public Services Commissions, Permanent Secretaries and Mr Kennedy Maimela of the South African Association of Public Administration and Management, as well as Vice-Presidents from East and Southern Africa.

She also noted that the theme, Building and strengthening the capacity of the Public Service Commissions to meet the challenges of public administration and service delivery in Africa, was perfect for the occasion, given the challenges the continent faces when it comes to governance and service delivery.

She said the Assembly, in short, has a few important objectives, which she laid out as follows:

  • To provide a common platform for the Commissions to promote and share best practices.
  • To promote professionalism in the conduct of the business of the Commissions.
  • To promote solidarity among African Commissions by fostering relationships towards a shared vision on public administration and management on the continent.
  • To develop linkages and networks with international and regional bodies in order to promote the objectives of the Association and facilitate the implementation of inter-governmental goals applicable to the public service.
  • To promote transparency, accountability and equity in pursuance of good governance.
  • To promote the increased use of information and communication technology and other innovations to improve public administration and management.

She continued, “Given these critical objectives, I have no doubt that as experts in public administration, your deliberations during this three-day meeting will do justice to these important matters in a manner that will benefit our common objectives as public service practitioners on the continent.”

According to Dlodlo, the solutions to the challenges that the continent faces lie in associations like the AAPSComs, which, as a network of oversight institutions, has the express purpose to promote good governance and efficient public administration.

This passionate speech was addressed to an audience of influential people, “an audience who has, as its stock in trade, the strategies, insights and methodologies to oversee their respective public service administrations, and in so doing promote the much-needed transparency and accountability.”

Dlodlo continued to say, “We know that good governance is not easy, and tends to become a nebulous concept, as it embraces many concepts of importance. Notions like the struggle against corruption, greater accountability for poor management of public funds and vigilance against human rights abuses can only be attained when there is the competent management of a country’s resources and affairs in a manner that is transparent and accountable.

“Where there is corruption, wastage of public funds, a lack of accountability and human rights abuses, development will suffer. If we were to take the argument that effective service delivery is the outcome of good governance, which can best be promoted through sound oversight, we would be on the right track towards an efficient and accountable public service.”

According to authors John Hatchard, Muna Ndulo and Peter Slinn in the book titled: Comparative Constitutionalism and Good Governance in the Common Wealth, An Eastern and Southern Perspective, “The public service is the bedrock of the government, providing not only the expert advice on the basis of which policy is determined, but also the machinery for executing such policy. It is important therefore that the public service functions effectively from any political interference.”

It is with this in mind that AAPSComs must play an instrumental role in contributing towards the effectiveness of public services across the continent.

“When deliberating on key issues pertaining to development within the continent, I would like you to keep this in mind.

‘I have no doubt that you will emerge from this Fifth General Assembly with practical measures that will contribute towards the effectiveness of the public service,” Dlodlo continued.

Dlodlo then moved onto South Africa, saying that, “we faced similar challenges to other African countries and that a critical success factor in our National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030, is the existence of a developmental state that is capable of tackling the root causes of poverty, unemployment and inequality across all spheres in government.”

The NDP states that: “A developmental state needs to be capable, but a capable state does not materialise by decree, nor can it be legislated or waved into existence by declarations. It has to be built, brick by brick, institution by institution, and sustained and rejuvenated over time. It requires leadership, sound policies, skilled managers and workers, clear lines of accountability, appropriate systems, and consistent and fair application of rules.”

The NDP further states that: “To achieve the aspiration of a capable and developmental state, the country needs to enhance Parliament’s oversight role, stabilise the political administrative interface, professionalise the public service, upgrade skills and improve coordination. It also needs a more pragmatic and proactive approach to managing the intergovernmental system to ensure a better fit between responsibility and capacity. Equally, the state needs to be prepared to experiment, to learn from experience and to adopt diverse approaches to reach common objectives.”

Dlodlo then stated that “I am confident that we all subscribe and support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially on the matter of dealing with the challenge of ‘fragile states’. As we are all aware, Goal 16 of the SDGs makes an impassioned appeal for building resilient states.

“This goal urges an expansion of ‘inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels of state function.’ It calls for developing ‘effective, accountable and transparent institutions,’ and ensuring ‘responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making.

“As we gather here, these ideals should inspire us to work harder to build the credibility of our state institutions, to better serve our communities.”

Since its inception, the Presidency of the AAPSComs has been held by South Africa and one of the agenda items to be discussed at this year’s General Assembly was the appointment of Office Bearers, namely the President and Vice-Presidents positions.

Dlodlo took the opportunity to wish the role players luck and also to thank the current President and Vice-President by saying, “Let me take this opportunity to thank the current President of AAPSComs, Advocate Richard Sizani and his fellow Vice-Presidents, including the Secretariat, for the leadership and commitment they have demonstrated in ensuring that AAPSComs contributes towards an improved public service administration on the continent during their term of office.

“You are leaving behind very big shoes to fill but the incoming administration, I believe, will take the work further.”

In conclusion to her opening address, Dlodlo stated, “The continent has made significant progress in the area of good governance. A number of countries in Africa are also playing more important roles in the allocation of funds towards health and education and these actions are resulting in significant improvements in child mortality, primary enrolment rates and access to life-saving medicines. In South Africa for instance, education is an apex priority of the government’s pro-poor policy.

“To this end, in December 2017, the South African Government took a policy decision to subsidise free higher education for the poor and working-class undergraduate students. Not only will the policy shift on education assist students from poor backgrounds to achieve tertiary qualifications, but it will also enable them to contribute in a meaningful manner to the economic growth of the country and towards a better life for all, after the completion of their studies.

“In moving forward, the focus lies on the building of capable states, endowed with transparent, accountable political and economic systems and efficient public institutions to provide an enabling environment for all stakeholders to play their respective roles in efforts to consolidate the foundations of sustainable development.

“Public administration has to go beyond national boundaries and have a global reach to deal with global governance and administrative and public policy challenges.

“Let me conclude by wishing you successful deliberations. The objectives set out for this event will bring great and lasting benefit to us all and we will be up to the responsibilities bestowed upon us by the African people.”

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