Speeding Up Effective Service Delivery

by | Feb 9, 2010 | Public Service | 0 comments

The theme chosen by the ANC for the year 2010 is an extension of its tried and trusted “better life for all” formula. This theme concentrates on speeding up effective service delivery as the means by which that elusive better life can be found. The words “a better life” appear in the section of the Constitution that governs our national security which “must reflect the resolve of South Africans, as individuals and as a nation, to live as equals, to live in peace and harmony, to be free from fear and want and to seek a better life.”

It is certainly unarguable that seeking a better life is what good governance is all about in developmental states, and that finding both has proved problematic in ours.

When the state of the nation address is broadcast and televised on 11 February, President Jacob Zuma will hopefully expatiate upon this theme and embark upon an examination of the “how” questions that have so bedevilled service delivery that disgruntled citizens have resorted to violent protests, rates and rents boycotts and the destruction of state property to mark their displeasure with both the rate and effectiveness of service delivery.

The first question to address is whether we have the resolve to be a nation living in peace and harmony. Although the Constitution in its preamble expresses the belief that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity” the ANC continues to pursue the goals of its national democratic revolution [NDR] in which the adversaries in the black/African revolution are clearly identified as whites. An aim of the NDR is to place safe revolutionary hands on all of the levers of power in society, including those at present held by these “adversaries”. The cultivation of a broad South Africanism, pleaded for by intellectuals such as William Gumede, is eschewed by those who occupy high political office in the ANC. Consider the words of Ngoako Ramatlhodi, MP, and former premier of Limpopo, as published on the ANC website:
“…[T]he white nation…have surrendered political management of the country to black people whilst holding on to all other levers of power…look at the ownership of land, the ownership of factories and the banks, the schools and universities that produce the best results…[T]he strategic objectives of the NDR are far from being achieved.”

If President Zuma is in favour of nation building he will take time to repudiate the racially divisive sentiments expressed by Ramatlhodi and, in accordance with his oath of office, reaffirm our multi-party system under the rule of law in which the new order was adopted so as to “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights” among which rights is the right to property as guaranteed in the Bill of Rights in the following words:
“No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.”

The second question is whether we can live as equals under the ANC. The Bill of Rights seeks to promote the achievement of equality through measures favouring the previously disadvantaged of whatever race or gender in a non-racial, non-sexist context. The affirmative action, employment equity and Black economic empowerment steps taken since 1994 have not served to promote the achievement of equality. Instead they have perpetuated racial discrimination, left those most genuinely disadvantaged, (ironically Black rural women), worse off than they were in the past and have created an oligarchy of BEE moguls, usually well connected to the ANC and predominantly male. Our gini co-efficient indicates that we are the most unequal society in the world. Fresh measures to suitably address inequality and sweep away the failed measures should be announced on 11 February.

Thirdly, freedom from fear is a priority and has been since the crackdown on crime became an election promise of the ANC. Our dysfunctional criminal justice system, condemned as such by the previous deputy minister of justice, needs an overhaul from clogged courts to overcrowded correctional facilities that serve as universities of crime. The police must be professionally empowered to prevent, combat and investigate crime while maintaining public order in this our world cup year and beyond. Protecting and securing all the inhabitants of the country, including visitors, must become the overriding priority of the police. Policy space to do this must be created.

Lastly, freedom from want involves addressing the evils of poverty in a constructive and pro-active way. Decent education and job creation, through measures which encourage economic activity in the post-crash world, and a new look at how to so structure our ways of doing business as to prevent joblessness, want and insecurity, including food insecurity, are needed.

The means of speeding up effective delivery depends in large measure upon the capacity of the public administration to execute the lawful policies of the government of the day. In this regard the President has already fingered “cynicism, laziness, lamenting and incompetence” as the key elements. He will do well to expand upon his thoughts on these evils.

Cynicism is the hand-maiden of corruption. It would be cynical to continue to ignore the calls for a commission of inquiry into the arms deals, to pardon those who are undeserving of being pardoned, to appoint or persist in the appointment of those whose loyalty to the land is trumped by their loyalty to the cadre deployment committee which secured their positions in the public service for them, with scant regard for the requirements of the law. It is cynical to refuse to promote police personnel who are competent because of “representivity” requirements, especially in circumstances in which no competent or even incompetent candidates who meet the need for “representivity” exist. It is supremely cynical to talk the anti-corruption talk without walking its walk.

Laziness or sloth, as it is biblically known, is a deadly sin which ought to be punishable by dismissal in the public service, but is not. Lamenting is a more mysterious item on the President’s list. Presumably he is referring to the losers in the faction fighting within the ANC who bewail their misfortune at being removed from the lucrative positions in which they have been “deployed” (instead of employed) in the public service and parastatals. Hopefully, the announced intention to strip the local government sector of party political office bearers will be broadened to other spheres of the public administration when the president addresses the state of the nation. Service, and not self enrichment, ought to be the watchword, both in politics and public service.

Incompetence is anathema when it comes to speedy and effective service. Means to either suitably train or dismiss the incompetents in the public service should be announced. Those public representatives who are incompetent are the responsibility of their parties and those who vote them into power.

The best way in which to address the problems of service delivery is to get back to the constitutional basic values and principles governing the public administration. Once we have a professional and efficient public administration in which services are provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias in accordance with people’s needs, the speed and effectiveness desired will fall into place. Accountable, transparent and well managed professional public servants, whose human potential is maximized, are better able to speed up service delivery than deployed cadres who are lazy, incompetent and cynical. Ending cadre deployment in the public service will, in the President’s own words “truly change the way government works.”

Paul Hoffman SC
February 2010

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