The idea of a single public service does not seek to undermine the distinctions between local, provincial and national government, Minister of Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi said on Tuesday.
She was speaking at the national conference of the South African Local Government Association (Salga) in Midrand.
“They are spheres, not tiers [of government]. We are looking at inter-relatedness and working together in synergy across the spheres rather than through a stack of bricks,” she said.
Fraser-Moleketi reminded the conference that the goal of the single public service, which would see municipal employees become central government employees, was solely to provide better service delivery.
“Single public service is in essence and must be a joint venture across the three spheres of government. It must be able to deliver to citizens.”
Fraser-Moleketi warned against passing the buck, saying there should be no “wrong-door” service philosophy. This would also require a massive change in management style.
A working group of delegates later raised questions about how municipalities would adapt to the single public service idea.
One councillor raised the question of dealing with existing contracts with various employees while another foresaw difficulties when it came to meeting existing deadlines during a transition.
A third councillor foresaw “casualties” during such a restructuring and suggested that Salga request that provisions be in place to deal with such casualties.
Another councillor suggested that local government was already a single public service.
“I think the public thinks that there is a single public service and that it comes from the councillors,” he said.
“I have seen on television the president saying to a lady while looking at her house falling apart that she must tell the councillor to build her a better house.
“Obviously, there is a single public service,” he said, stressing that NGOs and politicians travelled to local areas and then disappeared, leaving local councillors to answer questions.
Earlier in the day, an official from the Presidency said the acronym AsgiSA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa) was being misused as a brand by some commercial firms.
Alan Hirsch, a deputy director in the Presidency, said it was obvious that people wanted to associate themselves with the government programme.
“Worst would be people who make promises to uneducated people about housing and the delivery of services, making promises and taking money,” he told delegates.
Hirsch said companies were also known to organise conferences using AsgiSA as part of their label when there was in fact no real association.
“If there are any cases municipalities have identified, we would be interested [to hear about them],” he said.
In his address, he said many municipalities had regulations in place that did not help small businesses grow.
He said a tool kit was being prepared to assist small businesses in this regard.
“I think we have quite a long way to go on that path,” he said.—Sapa