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Saiba recommends an African solution for professionalising the public sector

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Saiba is heartened by the announcement that the government intends to “create a capable, ethical, and developmental public service” based on merit.

The National Implementation Framework towards the Professionalism of the Public Sector focuses on five key pillars:

a.            Recruitment and selection,

b.            Induction and onboarding,

c.             Planning and performance management,

d.            Continues learning and professional development,

e.            Career progression and management of career incidence.

Saiba’s submission to government draws on ancient organisational structrures, such as Babylon, where the Akitu Festival from 3000 BC was an opportunity for ordinary people to humble their king and remind him of his obligation to serve the community.

Order and the welbeing of the nation was therefore the primary goal of all public administrations, from ancient to modern.

Historians have traced the decline of Egyptian and Roman civilisations to the decay in public administration. Ancient civilisations such as the Asante kingdom in Ghana and the Songhay Kingdom in Western Sudan flourished for hundreds of years due to a merit-based bureaucratic system.

Post-colonial Africa’s experience of public administration has been in many instances less effective than what preceded it. There emerged a naïve trust in centralised authorities which promised much but delivered little.

“South Africa is one of the few African states that did not suffer a crisis in its public administration during its own transition to independence. At different times from the late 1970s through the 1980s “…the rot set in and a decline of the public administration system in many sub-Saharan countries became noticeable due largely to: collapse of commodity prices, weakening of economies, political instability, assession of political leaders that undermines the public administration system. This resulted in the 1990s in the phenomena of failed states, failing states, whilst others embraced democracy and economic liberalisation.

However, South Africa of late have suffered a perfect storm of corruption and mismanagement, and a declining economy that left us close to the brink of suffering a safe fate as our African counter parts.

The diagram however does not address the grotesque size and depth of the recent State Capture developments. The cost of this event is estimated at around R1,5 trillion over the second term of President Zuma’s administration and is reckoned to have annihilated four months of all labour and productivity of all South Africans.

All stakeholders and actors working within public administration need to fully grasp and understand how State Capture occurred, who was involved, why it occurred, and how to protect future administrations from suffering the same fate.

Recommendation

The NIF document is otherwise extremely comprehensive and impressive in the way that it presents the historical development of the sector, the analysis of the legislative context, the country comparison, and presents the philosophical basis for adjustments. The recommendations to improve the management of the system is also accurate and is likely to deliver significant improvements.

Explains the Saiba document: “We particularly appreciated the approach adopted by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). There is a clear analogy between the PRCs approach and that adopted by the Sumerians during the Akitu Festival.

“We explained how ancient administrations combined concepts of personal accountability, religious ceremonies, merit, neutrality, skills and performance.

“According to the draft NIF the PRC applies strict discipline in their administration, ‘The responsibility of unethical practices in the Public Service rests upon the Central Disciplinary Committee and the Ministry of Supervision, in addition to Auditing Bureaux, Corruption Inspection Offices for Financial and Fiscal Discipline, Corruption Reporting Centres, as well as internal and external corruption monitors. Penalties for crimes against these institutions include ‘steep fines, confiscation of property, imprisonment and/or the death penalty’, whilst Confucianism plays an integral part by introducing a higher order or spirituality.

“We recommend that the draft NIF include similar proposals of discipline and spirituality, but within an African context.”