Shortage of Skilled Persons in the Public Service
18 MAY 2006
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
House met at
The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe
a moment for silent prayer or meditation.
QUESTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT
OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Speaker, yes, indeed there
is a shortage of suitably skilled persons in the Public Service, which has given
rise to the weakness in service delivery.
In 2004, an audit was conducted
across the 284 municipalities to assess the challenges they faced with regard
to delivery of services. The number one challenge that emerged was one of the
lack of skills, especially management and ``hard skills'' in welding engineering,
mechanical engineering and so on. That audit gave rise to Project Consolidate,
which is aimed at providing hands-on support and capacity building at local government
Last year the Cabinet requested the Forum for South African Directors-General
to assess capacity and organisation of the government to perform and deliver socio-economic
programmes. Again, the number one challenge in the findings was identified as
shortage of skills.
Following the discussions on capacity and the incapacity
and organisation of the state, focus capacity assessments were conducted by the
Department of Public Service and Administration on selected departments to determine
the gaps and present corrective recommendations to the Cabinet. The departments
that were assessed were Health, Education, Justice and Constitutional Development,
Housing and Trade and Industry.
In addition to that, of course, there have
been assessments made in the various sectors within the Public Service to identify
precisely the shortages that we need to address. As a consequence of this, for
instance, a plan of action has been developed for the health and education sectors
for the development of targeted training programmes for hospital CEOs and the
reopening of nursing training colleges, norms for principals and district staffing
procedures, all of which have been completed. A skills database has been developed
and piloted in the Departments of Trade and Industry, Justice and the Department
of Public Service and Administration to focus on the levels of skills shortages
across the government.
The same matter, as hon members know, is being addressed
in the context of the accelerated and shared growth initiative. There are a number
of initiatives currently being undertaken by government to address these challenges.
Five priority skills have been identified as critical spheres for that intervention.
The Joint Initiative of Priority Skills Acquisition - JIPSA - its technical working
group is currently involved in the process of developing concrete plans for the
implementation of interventions to address the following: The high level, world-class
engineering and planning skills for the network industries, that is, transport,
communications and energy; a city, urban and regional planning and engineering
skills addressing gaps at the municipal levels; artisanal and technical skills,
with priority attention to infrastructure development, housing and energy and
in other areas of further education and training provision identified as being
in strong demand in the labour market.
The other area is management and
planning skills in education and health, mathematics, science, ICT and language
competence in the public schooling system.
Among other things, the Old Mutual
Business School, in conjunction with the Office of the Deputy President, will
launch its foundational project management training to 100 employees within local
government in support of Asgisa and JIPSA in particular.
Delivery Improvement Programme, targeted at provinces, has already been initiated
by the National Treasury. It comprises a comprehensive project management and
infrastructure programme, management guidelines and computer spread sheet tools
to provincial governments for departments to use.
In addition, consultants
have been sent to provinces to train people in the use of the infrastructure delivery
improvement programme toolkit and assisting in the analysis of provincial constraints
with regard to infrastructure delivery. As we have already mentioned, work is
continuing under the context of Project Consolidate as well as an intervention
that has been made via the Development Bank of Southern Africa - an initiative
The clock says I must stop, Madam Speaker.
P J GOMOMO: Madam Speaker,...
. . . ndicinga ukuba uMongameli
uwuphendule ncakasana nangobuchwepheshe umbuzo. Kambe ke ndifuna ukulandelisa
. . . we recognize the importance to create
an enabling environment for a single Public Service. How far have we got to ensure
a more harmonious Public Service across the three spheres of government? How far
has the government come with the establishment of multipurpose community service
centres in rural development nodes from where all our people can access a basket
of basic services from government?
HON HE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam
Speaker, the hon member is aware that, of course, we have taken the necessary
decisions with regard to the steps that need to be taken towards the creation
of that single Public Service. Like him, we do indeed believe that this is an
important part of the process of dealing with the challenge that he posed - the
capacity challenge and the possibility to speed-up service delivery and development.
That process requires a lot of negotiation with all of these stakeholders, including
the trade unions. That process is on course, and I think that we just have to
wait its outcome, but certainly it is proceeding apace.
With regard to the
multipurpose community centres, again, we have set necessary targets to ensure
that they are available and accessible to our communities. The hon member will
be aware that there are some timeframes that have been set with regard to that.
I cannot on my feet now remember exactly what dates we have set. Certainly, we
have said we need to have these multipurpose community centres everywhere in our
country. But we have gone beyond that to say that we would make sure that they
are available in all of these areas by particular dates. I am sure that if the
hon member checks the government website as to the implementation of that programme,
he will see regular reports with regard to that to indicate what sort of progress
we are making. It is an important initiative which is now being backed by the
introduction of e-government activists that we are deploying among the people
to assist people to be able to understand accessing the computer technology that
will be at these centres, because one of the lessons has been that the mere fact
you got that infrastructure there doesn't answer all your questions. You have
to address the matter of the ability of the population to access that infrastructure
to be able to reach government. But certainly, as I was saying, the hon member
would be able to see on the government website reports on the programme of action
of the government, the timeframes we have set and what we are doing with regard
to this matter.
Rev K R J MESHOE: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Hon President,
whilst the ACDP appreciates that JIPSA has an initial time-table of approximately
18 months, what progress has been made with the programme, particularly relating
to special training programmes and bringing back professionals and engineers that
are retired abroad and also South Africans who are working outside of the country,
who can help us with economy?
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Well, as I
have indicated, Madam Speaker, the technical working group of JIPSA is indeed
currently in the process of developing concrete plans for the implementation of
the interventions that are required. So, it's working. But there have been other
interventions with regard to this. I do not know if Minister Erwin would allow
me to say this. Alec, do you allow me?
The MINISTER OF PUBLIC ENTERPRISES:
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Thank you. You see, for instance,
with regard to the state-owned enterprises you are perfectly familiar with the
very big infrastructure programmes that we have put in place as part of the Asgisa
programme. They also have to address this matter of skills shortages. One of the
things we have done is to reach out to the South Africans who left the country
in the various skills that are required - engineering skills and so on - and have
really combed through that, contacted people directly to say, ``are you ready
to come home?''
There's extensive work in all countries in the world to
identify these people to address them directly, each one of them individually
and to ask them to come back and all of that. So, it's not just plans that are
in the making, it's work that is actually being done. So, I think that hon Meshoe
referred correctly to this 18-month timeframe. I would say let's give it a little
bit more time, we will get these priority skills addressed.
week discussed and reviewed again the issue of immigration regulations to see
whether the regulations themselves or the implementation of the regulations serves
as an obstacle with regard to acquiring those skills outside of the country as
work that is therefore going on Home Affairs, and as a result of that to make
sure that we remove obstacles of that kind. So, I am making an appeal that let's
give the project a few more days, I am sure it will be able to produce the results
that we need.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Mr K J MINNIE: Thank you,
Madam Speaker. Mr President, does the government agree with the judgement of the
Cape Arbitration Court that black candidates should get preference over coloured
candidates and members of other disadvantaged groups for employment in the public
sector? Mr President, if government does agree with this judgement, what are the
reasons? If government does not agree with the judgement, will the government
support amending legislation to allow for the equal treatment of all previously
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Speaker, it
is the first time I hear about this decision of any arbitration process. Most
certainly the government would not agree to this. Our Constitution and legislation
that derives from that addresses in part the issue of sections of our population
that were previously disadvantaged. The coloured community belongs among those
sections of our population that were previously disadvantaged, and therefore it
would never be possible for the government to say that the coloured people with
regard to those processes should be excluded and therefore would indeed argue
for the equal treatment to which you refer. [Applause.] I do not believe, Madam
Speaker, that there is any need for any changes in legislation with regard to
that. What might be necessary is that we pay a little bit more closer attention
to what actually is being done which might be at variance with policy and the
law. But I do not believe that there would be need to change the law. I think
we must respect what all of us agreed that one of the critical matters with regard
to the transformation of the country is indeed to ensure that these previously
disadvantaged millions in our country catch-up with the previously advantaged
in our society. [Applause.]
Mr W D SPIES: Thank you, hon Speaker. Hon President,
regarding the bringing back of skilled people into the Public Service we have
found with the private database that we have launched last year, we have got quite
a number of queries from people who used to work for the Public Service, especially
teachers who accepted severance packaged that they are not being readmitted into
the Public Service because of the severance packages that were granted to them
in the past. Now, certain Ministers have announced that these measures will be
looked at. What is the actual position because people still complain that they
are being referred away and told that severance packages were paid out to them?
Will this barrier of entry be removed or should we give other plans to these people?
The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Madam Speaker, let me suggest that the hon
member discuss this matter with the Minister of Education. I am sure that it will
be possible to find some solution. I know that this matter relates also to people
in the health sector who also once took severance packages and now want to come
back to the Public Service. I would suggest that in the event that there are people
of this kind on that list, that you engage the relevant Ministers. I am sure they'll
be able to find solutions to that problem. Thank you, Madam speaker.