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Framework for Professionalisation of Public Service Under the Spotlight

March 24, 2022

Department of Cooperative Governance

Professionalising local government means having “qualified people who know what they are doing and are fully equipped to perform their jobs with diligence”.

The deputy minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Thembisile Nkadimeng, highlighted this in an address at the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) national conference.

Referring to the draft framework for the professionalisation of the public service, the deputy minister emphasized that one of the key recommendations is that the public service must be depoliticized.

The deputy minister added that the review of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Amendment Bill is ongoing and it seeks, amongst others, to “professionalise local public administration by insulating senior municipal officials from political interference; provide for procedures and competency criteria for appointment of municipal managers and other senior managers; provide for the consequences of appointments made in contravention of the Bill; prohibit municipal managers and other senior managers from holding political office in political party and promote an ethical local public administration through regulation of the employment of municipal employees who have been dismissed for misconduct”.

In December 2021, the national council of provinces (NCOP) amended the bill and returned it to the national assembly (NA) for concurrence.

The NA passed the bill and sent it to the NCOP for concurrence in December 2020.

The bill was tabled in parliament in February 2019.

The proposed legislation was drawn up by the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department.

According to the bill’s memorandum, the main purpose of the bill is to grant the minister adequate regulatory powers in respect of municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers.

The bill flows from a Constitutional Court decision in 2017 declaring the Municipal Systems Amendment Act of 2011 unconstitutional for failure to comply with the procedures as set out in section 76 of the Constitution – the Act was tagged as a section 75 instead of a section 76 Bill.

The portfolio committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs introduced amendments to the bill.

A new subsection (10) was inserted into clause 2 stipulating that “if the MEC for local government fails to respond to the appointment process and outcome within the timeframes, as contemplated in subsection (7)(b) or the Minister fails to respond as contemplated in subsection (9), the appointment of the senior manager will be deemed to be in compliance with this Act: Provided the municipality submitted all relevant documents, as prescribed”.

A new subsection (7) was also inserted into clause 6 indicating that municipal councils must decide whether the employment contract of a manager directly accountable to the municipal manager must be for a fixed term or on a permanent basis.

Such decisions must be made in consultation with the mayor or the executive committee after recommendation by the municipal manager.

A new clause 71B stipulates that staff members may not hold political office in a political party, whether in a permanent, temporary or acting capacity.

Current staff members who hold political office will have one year to comply once the clause’s subsection (1) comes into effect.

Last week, the portfolio committee gave the green light to the NCOP’s proposed amendments.

In a statement, the committee confirmed that it had agreed to amend the provision in the bill relating to the appointment of managers who are directly accountable to the municipal manager.

The select committee had called for the amendment of clause 5 to provide that the employment contracts of managers accountable to a municipal manager must be on a permanent basis.

In the address, the deputy minister also pointed out that professionalisation also entails understanding that the cornerstone of a developing government is corruption-free public services.

“Let me remind us all that corruption also speaks to intentional failure or refusing to deliver services to our communities”, she said.

The deputy minister also indicated that government was working around the clock to improve the whistle-blowing system with particular focus on the protection of whistle-blowers as “one key way of addressing the cancer of corruption that is rooted in many of our institutions”.

Meanwhile, during a NCOP debate last week, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, pointed out that the department is currently undertaking a “nation-wide online skills audit for all municipalities which incorporates the necessary competency frameworks for the different occupational streams for all municipal staff below the management echelon”.

In Gazette 46062, the department announced a 0% cost of living adjustment for the upper limits of municipal managers’ salary packages for 2020/21.

The announcement was made in terms of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act.

The department added that Gazette 43122 published in March 2020 on upper limits of total remuneration packages payable to municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers remains in force.