Politicians being responsible for senior public servants’ appointments has historical reasons that need to change in post-apartheid SA
Discussions of ethical challenges in the public sector frequently lead to discussions of the “political-administrative interface”, which seems to be a euphemism for political interference in the bureaucratic systems of government. To which the solution is just as frequently given that we need a “more professional” public sector.
On the surface it may seem that we can just appeal to public servants to be better — more professional, more ethical — and rest comfortably, hoping that rhetoric will translate into change. Yet this strategy misses the deeper problems enabling the unprofessional and unethical practices in the first place.
One of the main problems preventing the country from realising its hopes for a more professional public sector lies in how senior public servants are appointed — or more accurately, who appoints them.
Consider the following: directors-general for national departments are appointed by the president, and heads of provincial departments by the premiers, while ministers and MECs are responsible for deputy directors-general in their departments. So, currently, the power for these important administrative appointments lies squarely with politicians.