New public service framework looks to depoliticise civil service posts – Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa

PHOTO: GCIS

  • Public consultation is open on a draft framework that will aim to build professionalism in the public service.
  • The framework will look to remove politics from the appointment process.
  • Other recruitment improvements will include integrity tests and entrance exams.

Public consultations are under way on a framework that will guide the appointment of public servants in an attempt to build an efficient and ethical state, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

The draft framework was approved by Cabinet in November last year and structured consultation with various sectors of society are now under way, the president said in his weekly newsletter.

Ramaphosa said:

Over the past two weeks, public consultations have been under way on an important policy document that will give greater impetus to our efforts to bolster, strengthen and capacitate the civil service. The draft National Implementation Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Service aims to build a state that better serves our people, that is insulated from undue political interference and where appointments are made on merit.

One of the key recommendations in the draft framework is that the public service must be depoliticised and that government departments must be insulated from politics.

“All too often, people have been hired into and promoted to key positions for which they are neither suitable nor qualified… There is also the related problem of political and executive interference in the administration of the public service. One need only to look at the instability in government departments when senior managers are swopped or replaced each time a new minister is appointed,” the president wrote.

“Where there is a high turnover of heads of department, there is often administrative turmoil.”

Integrity tests

The government is proposing a number of far-reaching reforms. This includes extending the tenure of heads of department based on merit and performance, doing occupation-based competency assessments and involving the Public Service Commission in the interviews of directors-general and deputy directors-general, Ramaphosa said.

Integrity tests will also be introduced for all shortlisted individuals to ensure civil servants “who can serve honestly” are recruited, and a compulsory entrance exam will be extended to applicants outside of senior management.

Ramaphosa said:

We are suggesting a more rigorous approach towards recruitment and selection of public servants, induction and performance management. This includes continuous learning and a clear professional development path for every public servant.

The draft framework puts emphasis on the need to hold public servants accountable for irregularities and doing away with the culture of impunity in the mismanagement and misappropriation of state resources, he added.

“Professionalising the public service involves training for accounting officers across all spheres of government on the applicable legislative provisions… Many public servants have specialised skills that are necessary for the effective provision of services.

“It is therefore not necessarily the case that we need a smaller public service: what we actually need is a fit-for-purpose public service with suitable skills, a professional ethic and a commitment to serving the people,” Ramaphosa said.

The public can comment on the draft framework on the National School of Government’s website.