Public Service Commission - News

Dealing With Grievances: What Every Citizen Should Know

By Theo Sefuba - Chief Director: Labour Relations

Every citizen in a country has at one stage or another to deal with the public service. It may be seeking a birth or death certificate, getting a passport or ID, pension or child support grant, being served by a hospital, a police station or a public school. Not many people know, but private citizens as well as state employees can also lodge complaints with the Public Service Commission (PSC) if they feel aggrieved about services dished out by state institutions. In terms of the provisions of section 196(4) of the Constitution, 1996, the PSC is mandated to deal with a complaint of a member of the public or an employee of the public service, lodged with the PSC, relating to an official act or omission within the Public Service, which adversely affects that person. Such complaints may include any complaint about the public administration, which may entail allegations with regard to the following:

  1. Maladministration;
  2. The standard of service provided;
  3. Dishonesty or improper dealings with regard to public money;
  4. The behaviour, competency, diligence or attitude of staff; and
  5. Any form of discrimination, e.g. racism, nepotism, etc.

It should be noted that grievances of public servants, which fall within the ambit of the formal grievance procedure, are excluded from this procedure.

In order to indicate the Commission's commitment to service delivery, it was decided to draft Rules in terms of the provisions of section 11 of the Public Service Commission Act, 1997, to be published for public consumption. These will serve to inform members of the public and employees of the public service of their right to lodge complaints with the Commission, as well as the procedure to follow when lodging such complaints with the Commission.

The Office of the Public Service Commission is presently in the process of conducting research on the development of such Rules and obtaining inputs/ comments from all relevant stakeholders.

Once these Rules have been finalised, the PSC will launch the Rules in public. They will be distributed within all relevant departments and provincial administrations. They will also be published in the media for the general public. In this regard PSC News will also inform you, government departments and provincial administrations once the Rules have been published.

Investigation of Complaints and Grievances of Employees in the Public Service

The Commission is also constitutionally mandated to investigate the grievances and complaints of employees in the public service and to recommend appropriate remedies. The Commission also has the authority to prescribe the manner in which grievances and complaints of employees in the public service should be dealt with, i.e. to prescribe the grievance procedure for the public service.

The Commission has realised that the grievance procedure currently in use in the public service is not user-friendly, both to the employees and employers. It has, therefore, drafted a new grievance procedure, which aims at ensuring that grievances are handled speedily, impartially and equitably to promote sound labour relations. The new procedure also provides for the resolution of grievances at the lowest possible level in a department. Unlike the current procedure, the new procedure will be accessible to all public servants as it will be in pocket-sized leaflets that will be distributed everywhere.

As grievances and complaints are matters of mutual interest, the new procedure has to be negotiated with organised labour. The draft grievance procedure has, therefore, been forwarded to the PSCBC for negotiation. Once it has been negotiated, it will be gazetted and launched throughout the country.

Public servants will, from that time onwards, be able to lodge their grievances in terms of the new procedure, with the knowledge that their grievances will be dealt with speedily and fairly.

Utilisation of Summons by the Public Service Commission

In terms of the provisions of section 10 of the Public Service Commission Act, 1997, the Public Service Commission is authorised to summons any person to -

  1. Appear before the Commission to give evidence about a matter being investigated by the Commission or an enquiry conducted into any matter, which the Commission is mandated, by the Constitution Act, 1996, or the Public Service Commission Act, 1997, or the Public Service Act, 1994, or any other law, to investigate or to enquire into; and
  2. Hand over to the Commission any book, document, record, object, or any other evidentiary material which the Commission may be in need of to fulfill its mandate as far as investigations and enquiries are concerned.

The Commission's mandate to conduct investigations and enquiries into public administration emanates from the enabling legislation contained in the Constitution Act, 1996, the Public Service Commission Act, 1997, and the Public Service Act, 1994. In terms of the provisions of the mentioned Acts, the Commission is mandated to investigate and / or conduct enquiries into, amongst others, any matter relating to the promotion of a high standard of ethics, effective use of resources, continued development within the public service, clean and transparent administration and to ensure that public administration is accountable.

The rules pertaining to the issuing and service of summonses are rules that will only apply to the Commission and the Office of the Public Service Commission. These rules have been drafted with a view to ensure the orderly and correct manner in which summonses must be completed, authorised, issued and served.

Although the Commission is legally capable to summons people, the Commission has no authority to arrest a person who does not comply with the provisions of the summons. Furthermore, the Commission is also not authorized to attach documents, books, objects or other evidentiary material, which it may need. Furthermore, the Commission does not have the power to fine a person, who is guilty of contempt for not appearing before the Commission or not handing over the required evidentiary material. For this purpose the Commission will have to charge such persons for contravention of the prescripts of the Public Service Commission Act, 1997. Section 10 of the Public Service Commission Act, 1997, provides for a penalty should a person be found guilty of the described contraventions in a court of law.

Article compiled by Advocate Theo Sefuba



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