A Positive Step Towards Reform: The NSI Applauds the Reintroduction of the Public Service Amendment Bill
The New South Institute (NSI) notes that South Africa is on the cusp of major change in the organisation of government. South Africa’s transition from Apartheid had three streams: political: moving from whites-only rule to democracy, economic: creating a prosperous and inclusive economy and administrative: building a capable state. After nearly thirty years of inertia, administrative change is finally on the agenda.
Director of the New South Institute and leading scholar of government and performance in South Africa, Ivor Chipkin said, “We welcome the return of the Public Service Amendment Bill to the parliamentary calendar.”
Why it Matters
The Public Service Amendment Bill, currently teetering on the parliamentary periphery, holds huge significance. “Should it be approved, the Bill promises to professionalise and modernize the South African public service by reducing the hold of politicians over the appointment process in departments and over operational decisions”, explained Chipkin. Coupled with the Professionalisation Framework approved by the South African cabinet in 2022, the Public Service Amendment Bill will go a long way to create the foundations of an autonomous, capable public administration. It is no exaggeration to say that it is the most important reform Bill in parliament since 1994.
Addressing the Imbalance
Based on our ongoing work on public service reform, the New South Institute think tank calls for the amendment of Section 3 of the Public Service Act, especially those clauses that:
1) give Ministers, MECs and the President ultimate power over who gets appointed in government departments, in court administrations and in State Owned Companies, and
2) give Ministers, MECs and the President ultimate control over operational decisions in departments.
Section 3 of the PSA creates conflict in the heart of government by creating confusion between political, oversight and operational roles. The Public Service Amendment Bill represents an important effort to resolve this crisis, redistributing powers from politicians to senior officials in key areas. Coupled with efforts to improve the professionalism and skills of public servants, passing the amendment Bill would be a significant breakthrough.
Call to Action
Having closely monitored the progress of the Bill through its parliamentary journey, we encourage political parties to unite in support of its approval. This is a moment to prioritize the interests of the people and to address the systemic issues contributing to poor service delivery in many communities.
We are confident that the adoption of the Public Service Amendment Bill will pave the way for tangible solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems. The NSI remains committed to fostering a more efficient, responsive, and people-centric government.
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