Public Service Commission - News


Face to Face with the D G

The Office of the PSC, easily referred to as the OPSC, comprises civil servants who provide operational and administrative support to the Commission. PSCnews had an opportunity to speak to the Director-General of the OPSC, Mr Mpume Sikhosana, and got to know and understand the person at the helm of this unit, his vision, assessment and approach to the positioning of the PSC.

Traversing the Road From Civic Affairs to Civil Service

Mr Sikhosana joined the OPSC as Director-General (commonly abbreviated to "DG") at the beginning of last year. He has worked for the old Public Service Commission from 1994, first as a consultant, thereafter as Chief Director, and later a Deputy Director-General with the post-apartheid reformed Department of Public Service and Administration. (The DPSA and the current PSC were born from the unbundling, in 1996, of the old PSC.)

Upon qualifying as an Industrial Psychologist he did a lot of voluntary work within the political and trade union movements, on job evaluation and grading. Together with a fellow Industrial Psychologist, they also ran workshops for shop stewards on a range of issues as part of the Trade Union Research Project at the University of Natal. The services were free of charge, but, as Mr Sikhosana puts it, "the level of satisfaction has never been surpassed by any material rewards I've received since I started working."

Defining Today's PSC and Shaping its future

Since taking up office in January 2000, Mr Sikhosana has worked non-stop and tirelessly to prepare the groundwork for the PSC to deal with challenges of the 21st Century and to position it strategically within the public service. This restructuring process had begun with the inception of a transformed PSC in July 1999. The DG has succeeded in that endeavour, but more work still lies ahead.

Mr Sikhosana disclosed to PSC news that since he came to office, effective working relationships between the Office (OPSC) and the Commission (PSC) as a single organization have been improved. Furthermore, cohesive arrangements have been put in place to limit bureaucratic bottlenecks and speed up workflow in the organization. More meaningful roles for the nine Regional Offices of the PSC have also been defined. The Office has also made significant improvements on the information technology front.

Mr Sikhosana stressed that a future niche for the PSC lies in it being a knowledge-based learning organization responsible for collecting information, synthesizing it and making it available to all stakeholders in an accessible way. Therefore, the biggest task for the PSC, he asserts, is to make available a proper mirror of the public service and to prescribe necessary interventions from the level of the President, to politicians in parliament, and that of government departments. The challenge in this regard is to retool personnel with necessary skills - policy analysis, research, and so forth - to perform in accordance with the new demands.

The battle to defeat corruption in the country has hitherto been one of the key activities and contribution of the PSC. On this anti-corruption front, Mr Sikhosana says: "We have worked tirelessly to carry out the mandate of the National Anti Corruption Summit, to form the National Anti-Corruption Forum which unites government, private and civil society in the fight against corruption. We are managing the Asset Register and monitoring its developments. Having said that, I would like to believe that the PSC is really making an impact on anti-corruption despite its limited mandate and lack of sufficient capacity."

He pointed out that the PSC would in future concentrate more on monitoring rather than corruption combating, because there are many agencies that are properly resourced to deal with the combating of corruption.

Part of the mandate of the PSC is to conduct investigations, monitor and evaluate compliance of departments to government policies, and then compile reports that spell out problems and recommendations for correction.

On the issue of PSC reports the DG says that the PSC is producing excellent reports, which have an impact on the public service. The process of monitoring whether departments are implementing PSC recommendations has already started. He, nevertheless, acknowledged that the PSC has since discovered that some departments do not implement its recommendations. The solution in this regard, is "not to seek legislation that will give us 'teeth' to act on those departments that do not implement our recommendations," Mr Sikhosana pronounces. "Rather, it is to become credible and respected so that departments can act on our advice."

One of the gains of a democratic South Africa is the recognition of women to play more meaningful roles in all facets of society, including the workplace. On the issue of gender representativeness, Mr Sikhosana says that the PSC is on target, although it could still do better. He stressed that women and people with disability have a place in the Public Service Commission. Asked why other departments, particularly in provinces, are still lagging behind in terms of gender representativeness, Mr Sikhosana says that the problem could possibly be attributed to the historical under-investment on women and people with disability in general during the apartheid era.

What does the next five years hold for the PSC? "I would like to see the Commission increasing its relevance regarding reporting on the state of the public service as well as concentrating more on monitoring and evaluation of public administration practices," the DG concludes.

Article compiled by Yvonne Mogadime



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