Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Human Resource Challenges Confronting the Senior Management Service of the South African Public Service

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Human Resource Challenges Confronting the Senior Management Service of the South African Public Service

Article excerpt


The SMS of the South African Public Service is required to provide the necessary leadership to ensure that the transformatory agenda of the South African Government is sustained and achieved. However, the SMS is currently being confronted with certain human resource challenges. In order to ensure a systematic treatment of the subject, the article begins with an exposition of the origins and aims of the SMS. Thereafter, there is a discussion of capacity concerns, strategic cross cutting issues, and staff turnover.

Origins and Aims of the Senior Management Service

The race-based, pre-1994 oppressive, suppressive and undemocratic South African Government, created and promoted practices in the Public Service, which were compliance driven, discriminatory, impersonal and non-developmental. (1) In the post-1994 developmental state, the Constitution of the Republic of the South Africa Act, 108 of 1996 (hereinafter referred to as the Constitution) became the supreme law in the Republic of South Africa; law or conduct inconsistent with it is involved, as well as obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled. (2) In the apartheid state, Parliament was regarded as the supreme legislative authority. Indeed, the 1996 Constitution enshrined a rights-based human resource management practice that advocated the maximization of the human potential and its advancement as a constitutional value. (3) A value that must underpin the mission of the Public Service (national and provincial public service departments), which is to promote a high quality of life, living and livelihood for all South Africans. Underpinning this new human resource management practice is valuing of diversity, emphasizing peer and team support, rewarding excellence, promoting professionalism, as well as constituting a culture of lifelong learning and growth. (4) Certainly, a daunting task. The SMS (also referred to as the Public Leadership) was established to promote, sustain and champion this new human resource paradigm. A paradigm fundamental to transforming service delivery in South Africa. (5) This requires the SMS to be highly competent and multi-skilled to give strategic guidance to a Public Service in a developmental state.

In 2001 the South African Government introduced the SMS as a strategic human resource dispensation to professionalize the senior management level of the South African Public Service. The SMS comprises positions from the Director upwards to that of the Head of Department (HOD) in both the national and provincial public service departments. This was enabled mainly through the amendment of the 2001 Public Service Regulations. (6) As a distinct and deployable pool of scare resource, the SMS is required to be aligned and linked to the various programmes of the public service departments which are significantly, the agents of the developmental state. (7) In order to ensure that the SMS cadre ensures, promotes and sustains service delivery in an innovative and creative manner, collaboration is fundamental. The partners must be the community, different government sectors and organs of state, civil society formations and international actors. (8) Indeed, this collaboration is a constitutional imperative, essential for a developmental state. However, recent investigations of the Public Service Commission (PSC) revealed certain human resource challenges which confronts this unique dispensation of the South African Public Service.

Capacity Concerns

It is incumbent on the South African Government to ensure that Senior Public Service Managers as leaders, pace-setters and role models, be meaningfully capacitated to perform in an optimal and competent manner. In January 2008 the PSC, in its oversight, monitoring, evaluation and research role published the Report on the Evaluation of the Training Needs of Senior Managers in the Public Service. Data and information for this research was solicited through a demographical stratified survey of all Senior Managers in national and provincial public service departments. …

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