PSC releases the Report on the Assessment of the Implementation of the Policy Framework on the Appointment of Ministerial Staff in National and Provincial Departments

22 October 2014

The Public Service Commission (PSC) conducted a study to assess the implementation of the Policy Framework on the Appointment of Ministerial Staff in National and Provincial Departments. Key challenges in this area include the fact that there is limited compliance with the Public Service Act, 1994, as amended, and the Regulations, 2001, as amended, the Ministerial Handbook, the Senior Management Services (SMS) Handbook and Human Resource Management prescripts when appointing Ministerial Staff. Also, the practice through which those employed in Ministries are redeployed to permanent posts in departments has been a source of concern for a long time. The working relations between Departments and Ministries have created, in many instances, serious challenges when not managed properly. This report therefore seeks to elaborate on the challenges that hinder the effective and efficient management of the career incidents of Ministerial staff and recommends viable solutions.


  1. Interpretation of chapter 8 of the Ministerial Handbook, Recruitment and Selection Policy and Procedures The study revealed that Chapter 8 of the Ministerial Handbook has, in most cases, been interpreted as the recruitment and selection policy for use by Executive Authorities (EAs) to employ staff in their offices. Departmental recruitment and selection policies and procedures are not used when recruiting, selecting and appointing employees who support EAs. There is a general perception within Ministries that departmental policies do not apply in the Ministries.
  1. Capacity in the offices of EAs
    The PSC found that in most departments the recruitment, selection and appointment of the Chief of Staff is not in line with the SMS Handbook. This means that there is no adherence to the processes that need to be followed to recruit and select senior managers in the Public Service. The minimum skills required for the position, that is, management, administrative, liaison and interpersonal relations are not met, resulting in poor functioning of the Ministry. Furthermore, the Deputy Director and lower levels are affected by the processes followed at the top levels. The competencies required are not tested and no due process is followed in most instances. There is a misunderstanding about what the core competencies required in Ministerial Offices should be. Individual employee skills are being used to define the core competencies by some departments.
  1. Redeployment process
    The study revealed that there is non-compliance with prescripts in terms of transferring employees from one component to the other. The challenge is compounded when incompetent employees are transferred to departments on a permanent basis.
  1. Other challenges
The following are some of the challenges highlighted in the report:
4.1 Relationship between Ministries and departments
The study showed that there is no uniformity in the delegation of responsibilities from Ministers to Deputy Ministers across departments. Also the issue of special advisors for Deputy Ministers needs to be addressed, as at the moment, Deputy Ministers have no access to advisors appointed for the Ministry, and only Ministers get to utilise them.

4.2 Reshuffling of Ministers
The reshuffling of Ministers in some departments has resulted in turnaround strategies and restructuring processes which are not informed by change in the mandate of the department but rather on perceptions regarding the departments performance. When restructuring processes take place, institutional memory and continuity in Ministries is not considered and in certain instances all staff in Ministries are changed.

4.3 Job security
Ministries experience difficulty in finding competent and qualified candidates due to the fact that there is no job security and prospective candidates are not prepared to gamble with their careers.

Based on the findings of the study, the PSC made the following recommendations:
  • The DPSA should develop a focused policy framework that will regulate the employment practices of persons who provide support and serve in EAs offices.
  • All SMS levels in Ministries irrespective of the method of recruitment must be subjected to proper selection processes and for any identified competency gap, a developmental plan must be put in place to address the gap.
  • Compulsory induction, orientation/training on the functions performed in Ministries, the relationship between the Ministry and the department, the protocols of being a sessional employee and the benefits thereof and how to support the Minister with political responsibilities should be conducted with staff working in the EAs offices, either at departmental level or coordinated by the National School of Government (NSG) or the DPSA.
  • There should be a dedicated course for Chiefs of Staff and a forum to share experiences and to professionalise this strategic role.
  • Uniform job profiles and descriptions should be enforced for Chiefs of Staff across the public service.
  • 80% of positions in Ministries should be permanent and be part of organograms of departments.
  • An orientation programme for Cabinet Ministers/Premiers/Members of Executive Council (MECs) and DGs/HoDs should be developed.
  • The DPSA should continue to give guidance and assistance in the development and implementation of turnaround strategies and restructuring processes.
  • The DPSA should develop a database of employees with working experience in Ministries who could not be absorbed by departments for purposes of redeployment.
The legislative framework, policies and processes for recruitment, selection, appointment and development of employees for EAs are critical in ensuring that performance and quality of service is achieved. The report has attempted to outline viable solutions in response to the findings. It is important that the recommendations made in the report are taken forward to assist the Public Service Leadership to perform.

Issued by the Public Service Commission

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