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Planning Commission: Argument that public service is bloated not helpful

The commission is instead advocating for a variety of methods to ensure the public service met its primary goal of service delivery.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa meets the National Planning Commission on 6 August 2019. Picture: @PresidencyZA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The National Planning Commission (NPC) said the argument that the public service was bloated and needed to be trimmed at the top was not helpful.

The commission is instead advocating for a variety of methods to ensure the public service met its primary goal of service delivery.

The NPC held a webinar earlier on Thursday discussing its report on a review of economic progress towards the National Development Plan’s 2030 vision.

The commission’s report found that there is an imbalance - with shortages in professionals, specialists and front-line services in the public service.

The finding is not all that new.

Unions have spent the past few years stressing this point amid increasing criticism that the 1.5 million state employees are too many and weighing heavily on the wage bill.

Commissioner Miriam Altman said the problem was rather that personnel costs were not aligned to budgeting which was critical.

“This has to propel longer-range personnel strategy around sustainable remuneration, staffing structures aligned to delivery and performance benefits.”

Furthermore, the commission has urged a shift in how wage negotiations were conducted in the sector.

It called for the strengthening of state capacity to negotiate and align with budget processes.

The NPC has recommended that government restores confidence in the budget process and commits to a fiscal framework to restore the economy.

The recommendations are critical if South Africa is to realise the goals it set out in the NDP that has a timeline that expires in nine years.

It calls for a restoration and modernisation of revenue collection capability in order to secure a sustainable fiscal and financial pathway.

The country faces several economic challenges that are mainly rooted in a weakened fiscus, forcing Treasury to enforce budget cuts across the board.

Altman said: “We tend to have a very scattered discussion on this set of issues. It goes like this: we need to cut spending, or we need to raise taxes. But we know very well that there are so many opportunities.”

Although the NDP states a clear plan on great gains that could be achieved by dealing with corruption, the review also makes mention of this, urging government to take credible action against it.

There’s also a call for municipal management and finances to be strengthened and the improvement of public spending.

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