Speeches

International Seminar of the Institute of Municipal Personnel Practitioners

23 August 2011

Chairperson, thank you for the invitation to address you, your members and all delegates at this International Seminar of the Institute of Municipal Personnel Practitioners.

We have been brought together here today because of the importance of people in our organisations and municipalities.

The biggest challenge our municipalities are facing after the recent municipal elections is one of service delivery to all.

Service delivery will only succeed if we safeguard our most valuable asset: our staff. Your challenge is going to be one of leadership and, to ensure that we have functional municipalities, you are going to have to excel at managing your human resources.

Your theme: "Effective Human Resource Management Requires Exceptional Leadership" is even more appropriate given the recent problems we are experiencing at some of our municipalities since the elections and also against the background of the amendments to the Municipal Systems Act and the Municipal Regulations on Minimum Competency Levels.

The exceptional work being done by the Institute focusing on the development of professional knowledge and skills of municipal personnel practitioners to ensure the competent rendition of services in municipalities is vital.

Our shared endeavour is the development of municipal personnel practitioners in order to enhance capacity and skills.

Workshops and seminars, like this one, as well as training programmes in conjunction with various academic institutions, as well as the Department of Local Government, are our main contributors to achieving the common goal of efficient and sustainable local government that our communities deserve.

This, however, brings me to one of the disconcerting trends that seem to follow any local government election and that is the higher-than-normal staff turnover percentage. In particular, that of municipal directors reporting to the municipal managers as well as municipal managers.

In terms of the Municipal Systems Act, the employment period of a municipal manager must be for a fixed term up to a maximum of five years not exceeding a period ending one year after the election of the next council of a municipality.

Mindful of this, my Department undertook an assessment of the employment contracts of all municipal managers and directors in municipalities. Results indicated that a number of employment contracts of municipal managers and senior directors would expire soon after the recent local government elections.

In addition, councils and municipal managers are choosing by mutual agreement to terminate existing employment contracts before the end of the fixed term. This implies that a number of senior management posts will become vacant in municipalities and it is in this regard that I believe that effective human resource management will require exceptional leadership.

As these posts become vacant, you as municipal personnel practitioners and leaders will have to advise councils on exit strategies to ensure a smooth transformation at these municipalities. Your professionalism and integrity will be tested as there are going to be situations where you could be requested to relax human resource management requirements.

Where employment contracts are either extended or terminated before the end of the fixed term, the professional advice that you will be asked to provide to your councils must be credible and sound.

Your leadership will set you aside from other personnel practitioners and ultimately contribute to a smooth transformation.

In my capacity as the Minister of Local Government, I am going to place a huge reliance and trust in you to provide exceptional leadership in relation to human resource management, which will ensure that we have functional municipalities that can deliver effective service delivery.

In terms of the latest amendments to the Municipal Systems Act, I would like to draw your attention to some of these amendments.

In the first place, they relate to the appointment of municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers, procedures and competency criteria for such appointments and prescribed frameworks within which to regulate human resource management systems.

As these posts of municipal managers and directors become vacant, they will have to be filled through a credible and transparent recruitment process.

Recruitment, as a human resource management function, is one of the activities that impact most critically on the performance of a municipality.

Poor recruitment decisions will continue to affect organisational performance and limit goal achievement and, whilst it is taking a long time for public service organisations in many jurisdictions to identify and implement new, effective hiring strategies, we have to become single-minded in our quest to achieve the goals we set.

In this regard, my Department has issued a draft circular on a credible recruitment process for comment.

Those of you here in this room today that will have to advise councils on the filling of these vacant posts mindful of the latest legislative requirements and the recruitment process suggested. It is your collective responsibility to ensure that recruitment processes are fair, equitable and transparent.

In terms of your theme, I would also like to highlight the Municipal Regulations on Minimum Competency Levels.

In terms of these Regulations, municipal mangers, chief financial officials, senior managers, other financial officials and supply chain officials, amongst others, must generally have the skills, experience and capacity to assume and fulfill the responsibilities and also exercise the functions and the powers assigned to them.

The Regulations imply that managers and officials must comply with the minimum competency levels required for higher education qualification, work-related experience, core managerial and occupational competencies and be competent in the unit standards prescribed in the Regulations.

The Regulations are also clear that a municipality or municipal entity may, before 1 January 2013, employ a person that does not meet the competency levels prescribed, provided that such official's continued employment is subject to a condition that the official attains the required higher education qualification and the required minimum competency level in the required unit standard on or before 1 January 2013.

However, no municipality or municipal entity may, with effect 1 January 2013, employ a person if that person does not meet the competency levels prescribed for the relevant position in terms of the Regulations.

The respective human resource strategies must therefore take into account these requirements that all their personnel practitioners at all levels are competent, skilled and capacitated to implement and manage these legislative requirements.

In this regard, I want to make a serious plea to you today, do not to compromise your human resource management integrity and professionalism.

It is incumbent upon you to put processes in place to ensure that all officials are assessed, trained, skilled and qualified to meet the minimum competencies by 1 January 2013.

I want to now refer to some of the initiatives that I, together with my Department, have undertaken recently to support municipalities with human resource management matters.

  1. Interventions Targeting the Youth:
    The Municipal Scarce Skills Bursary Programme for the Western Cape was established by the Department of Local Government in partnership with Masakh' iSizwe Centre of Excellence with specific focus on building capacity in scarce skills areas such as Engineering, Built Environment and related fields within municipalities.

    This bursary programme supports the existing bursary programmes already in place at various municipalities and has been established for allocating bursaries to unemployed youth (under the age of 35 years) for studies in scarce skill study directions. The closing date for successful applications will be during October 2011.
     
  2. Interventions Targeting Leadership Development:
      1. An accredited Municipal Councillors' Training Programme (Phase 2) has been launched, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Hans Seidel Foundation, to complement the Induction Training Course presented to councillors by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA)
      A wide-ranging number of themes are being addressed under the Phase 2 Training.

      2. A Municipal Professionalisation Programme is available to provide a vehicle to secure professional registration of Municipal Executives directly accountable to the municipal manager in order to ensure that they are able to effectively discharge the mandate of their job.

      The programme was initiated and designed by the Department of Local Government in the Western Cape and endorsed by the Department of Co-operative Governance, while GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft for Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is the project sponsor.
  3. Pool of Expertise Programme:
    The Department of Local Government has, as part of its dedication to strengthening the capacity of municipalities in order to deliver on their Constitutional mandate, including the provision of basic services, created a database with a "Pool of Expertise" in the field of local government to assist municipalities. The database covers a number of categories of expertise:


  4. Line Function Capacity Building:
    The coordination of nominations of other Capacity Building Programmes, eg Integrated Development Planning and Communication, are addressed by the Department of Local Government to ensure that the correct target audience is reached through training and focused capacity building within the municipalities.


  5. Compliance to Competency Requirements when Appointing Key Officials:
    It is now a requirement of the Municipal Systems Amendment Act (No. 7 of 2011) that councils ensure that municipal managers and managers directly accountable to municipal managers must possess the requisite skills and expertise.

    To this end, I have issued a draft circular for comment regarding compliance to the minimum standards of competencies when appointing officials in these categories.


  6. Internal Capacity to Coordinate Human Resource Development Programmes:
    As part of the re-organisation of my Department, I established a sub-directorate, to address the coordination of Human Resource Development programmes. One employee has been appointed at the level of deputy director and one more post is in the process of being filled during the 2011/2012 financial year.

In closing, what do we regard as a good leader?

A good leader must have discipline to work towards a vision single-mindedly and take his team with on this journey towards a pre-determined goal.

There are however a number of qualities that are vital and I am going to leave some of them with you to think about as they are the cornerstones of developing an authentic values system. They are:

  • Integrity.
  • Dedication.
  • Humility.
  • Openness.
  • Creativety.
  • Fairness.
  • Assertiveness.
  • And, very important I believe, a sense of humour. Thank you for listening to me today and may I wish you every success in your endeavours.
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