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Public Service Commission Opposes DA’s Proposal on Directors-General

The Public Service Commission (PSC) chairperson, Professor Somadoda Fikeni, criticized the DA’s proposal regarding the appointment of directors-general, citing it as counterproductive and against the principles of public service professionalization. He emphasized the importance of maintaining an impartial and effective public service free from political interference.

In a recent statement, Professor Somadoda Fikeni, the chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), firmly opposed the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) proposal concerning the appointment of directors-general (DGs). According to Fikeni, the DA’s move is counter-intuitive and akin to cadre deployment, a practice that undermines the professionalization of the public service.

Fikeni criticized the DA for attempting to subject public servants to political influence, noting the irony in their stance as the same party that previously championed the protection of public servants’ rights against political interference. He stressed the importance of existing laws designed to shield public servants from such influences, highlighting that insubordination by a DG is already addressed by existing regulations.

During an interview with The Star, Fikeni elaborated on the PSC’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its role and contribute to building a capable, ethical, and developmental state. He mentioned that the PSC is in the process of amending legislation to ensure that qualified individuals are appointed to senior management positions and to create a harmonized public service. The legislative review is expected to culminate in the enactment of the new PSC Bill by the end of the year, transitioning the PSC into an independent secretariat as outlined in the Public Service Commission Act.

Fikeni emphasized that the PSC Bill aims to enable the PSC to execute its mandate as an independent and impartial constitutional entity. He added that the mandate of the PSC would be expanded to cover local government and public entities in accordance with section 196(2) of the Constitution.

The DA’s proposal, detailed in a leaked letter from the party’s federal chairperson Helen Zille, suggested that the party should have the ability to choose its own directors-general and possibly re-invoke the contracts of current incumbents. Fikeni warned that allowing each minister to appoint their own staff could set a dangerous precedent, potentially leading to legal challenges and hindering service delivery.

Fikeni reaffirmed the PSC’s commitment to maintaining an effective and efficient government, which is central to its constitutional mandate. He highlighted the PSC’s repositioning efforts, which aim to deliver high-impact projects that enhance strategic state capacity and ensure effective government functioning. This repositioning marks a shift from an audit-driven approach to a focus on impactful performance outcomes. Fikeni also noted the increased visibility of the PSC and the strengthening of stakeholder relations as key components of their strategy.

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