Policy initiatives being considered to tackle public sector wage bill

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister, Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, says a number of policy initiatives are being considered as government makes a push to manage the rising public sector wage bill. 

Pilane-Majake said this when Ministers in the Governance Cluster fielded oral questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday. 

Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Desiree van der Walt had asked how government intended to cover the projected R30 billion in additional costs related to the public sector wage bill in the 2018/19 financial year. 

“It should be noted that the additional R30 billion spending in the public sector wage bill is spread over the three years of the 2018 medium term expenditure framework – that is 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21 financial years. 

“A number of policy initiatives are being considered to better manage personnel expenditure in the public service,” Pilane-Majake said. 

The initiatives being considered include reviewing the design of organisational structures across government; utilising existing exit mechanisms applicable in different sectors, where employees would like to leave the system voluntarily; implementing a uniform job creating system which ranks jobs commensurate with worth so that employees are paid on the principle of equal pay for equal work, and applying cost-saving measures in the areas of administration. 

Pilane-Majake said government would also review service delivery mechanisms, procurement, information and communications technology and process management. 

She said coordinated efforts would be taken to review personnel expenditure in the public sector that will lead to a revised remuneration strategy in the public sector. 

No retrenchments in the public service 

Responding to a separate question from the ANC’s Joseph Maswanganyi on reports of mass retrenchments in the public sector, Pilane-Majake said it must be emphasised that there is no mass retrenchments of public employees. 

“The review of government departments falls within the purview of the Presidency. The Minister for the Public Service and Administration provides inputs at the President’s request, in line with the Minister’s administrative responsibilities for organisational structures and macro organisation of government. 

“It is not clear what informs the narrative [that remains in the public domain]. 

“A voluntary severance package is different from mass retrenchments and the mass retrenchments information that we see in the public space is not something that actually exists and [this] is the message that we need to send out today.” 

200 public servants to be trained to handle disciplinary cases 

Pilane-Majake said 200 public servants will receive training on presiding over disciplinary cases, with the aim of reducing the turnaround times of all cases. 

“Approximately 200 public service employees will be trained in skills for initiating and chairing disciplinary hearings based on a discretionary fund of R1.2 million allocated from the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority. 

“This will augment the number of existing labour relations and legal experts in the public service pool, who are used to expedite disciplinary cases,” she said. 

Her report comes after the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation was told in March this year that the average time it takes for departments to finalise disciplinary cases stood at 95 days, and this was due to a number of factors. 

According to the records from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the department found at the time that the diverse nature of cases and the legal intricacies involved sometimes make it impossible to set a definitive target date for the finalisation of disciplinary cases. 

The Public Service Commission reported at the time that the total number of finalised cases on national level stood at 758 – with 87 coming from Gauteng, 66 from KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape (64), Limpopo (45), Free State (36), Mpumalanga (36), the Eastern Cape (27), Northern Cape (21) and North West (10). 

Responding to Members of Parliament on Wednesday, Pilane-Majake said the department currently did not have statistics readily available, and that these would be presented as and when they become available. 

“When it comes to the number of disciplinary cases…we currently do not have statistics of the number of people who are now on the list of those who are supposed to go through disciplinary cases within the public service.

“When those numbers are available, we will make them available to the House. We are quite aware that this is something that, to some extent, becomes expensive in a sense that to pay someone who is sitting at home on suspension is quite exorbitant… and we are dealing with those matters,” she said. 

She said the department currently maintains a central pool of presiding officers and initiators sourced from various departments and allocates them on request from government departments. 

“This strategy should assist in reducing the turnaround timelines for dealing with disciplinary cases, thus supporting and capacitating structures across the board to deal with consequence management,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za