South African Association of Public Administration and Management

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

INTERSECTIONS IN GOVERNMENT STRUCTURES AND FUNCTIONS IN THE 21st CENTURY: PUBLIC SECTOR & TECHNOLOGY, PUBLIC TRUST AND COVID-19’s EFFECTS

The profundity of government structures and functions stems from the desire to develop adopt, and implement policies, processes and practices that are meant to deal with the needs of the citizenry. These policies must be institutionalised to optimise their impact on realisation of the goals of government. To realise effective institutionalisation, the various government departments and ministries are created to focus on particular determined imperatives such as education, health, science and technology, among others. The implication has often been that administrative approaches and business models of government departments and ministries, once established, often reinforce a silo approach and therefore encourage duplication of resources. The downside of a silo approach may be specialisations which could disregard other competing specialties and co-ownership of societal problems with other government structures. An eminent Turkish Public Administration Scholar, Ergun (2011) in papers edited by O.P. Dwivedi aptly observes that:

Public administration itself poses difficulties in terms of the democratic systems for various reasons. Specialisation leads to professionalism. Professionalism is sometimes in contradiction with public participation and there is often a dilemma between the elected and the appointed. It is getting more difficult to combine accountability and participation in the policy making process.

The above observation implies that a balancing act is required between the various competing societal needs and institutional arrangements by government to optimise the use of public resources. The issues of specialisation and professionalisation therefore need to incorporate the multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to the structuring and designing of government functions. In essence, the intersections in government functions, or what may be generally referred to as intergovernmental relations approach, need to be designed at the conceptualisation stages of the structure and function of government in light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR) era. Thus, while conceptualising structures and functions, government departments need to widen their focus and consider incorporating other complementing functions (outside of their core mandate) to attain common goal with other departments. This means some of the following complex and fundamental potential areas of revisions may be necessary, inter alia:

  • a realignment or revision of the various existing clusters (i.e. social, economic and justice)
  • determining essential new and emerging institutional needs and role-players
  • co-design and coordinate structures and functions of government departments
  • revise current public policies and decision-making processes
  • adopt modern technology to enhance efficacy

The above potential areas of revisions are essential in determining emerging intersections of government structures and functions. It is also through modern technology that the relevance of these emerging revisions could be consolidated and mainstreamed.

One of the major drivers of the 4th IR is the 5G network which serves to facilitate artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things. The implication is that a new skills set (or reset) for the public sector has become a requirement. Acquiring these skills means that restructuring government and some of its functions may require public officials to be equipped with the requisite modern skills and competencies. This means that re-determining new government structural designs for the different spheres and their functions needs to be prioritised to reposition the country into a global competitiveness. The new approach is necessitated by changes ushering the 4th IR era which has a bearing on the values and skills sets of public officials as well as the required coordination of structures and functions. The former (i.e. 4th IR) influences the latter (i.e. government structures and functions) for the local, provincial and national spheres of government. When functioning in the new environment in the public sector one is expected to possess these modern and cutting-edge technological skills, the ability to think critically thinking, function independently, with a minimum level of supervision, people skills, and communication, among others. Obviously, this is not just a scope (of government functions) that keeps evolving but also the implications of new interventions such as skills sets are needed to realise the set goals.

Thus, the necessity of intersections in government structures and functions is the emergence of new areas of focus that require careful interventions and coordination. This is a structure and function complexity spin because specialists and experts will require additional capacity to maintain their relevance and effective functioning. For example, there is a need to ensure that a cluster of departments function with the Department of Health to ensure the development and enforcement of COVID-19 regulations. For South Africa, these should include, among others: Department of Basic Education (DBE), Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Presidency, Department of Police – South African Police Service (SAPS), and Department of Labour. In this instance, the question of the intersection of government functions could require specially designed interventions to ensure that the COVID-19 impact on society is minimised. The opposite is also true – that a lack of properly coordinated interventions could exacerbate the ravages of this pandemic on citizens.

The other example considers how the Department of Labour may undertake to conduct inspections to maintain adherence of organisations to national labour policies. Inspections of such a nature could require multiple government departments and agencies whose functions need to intersect at the conception of their structural and functional roles. For South Africa, these include, among others: Department of Police – SAPS, Department of Home Affairs (where foreigner-owned businesses are involved), Local or Metropolitan Municipality and the South African Revenue Service. The focus in this instance would be to conceptualise relevant interventions in ensuring that all areas of possible labour violations are detected and enforced in order to be successful in addressing organisations’ adherence to the labour policies of the country.

The final example focuses on the local government where a rural local municipality may need to popularise and market small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) on bead work as part of its strategy for local economic development. In order to access both the local and international markets, conceptualising emerging intersections may require the following government functions with those of the local municipality: district municipality, provincial government, Department of Roads and Transport, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Department of Small Business Development and The Department of Travel and Tourism. Here, the essence would be to develop intersecting practical measures to support a local municipality to implement its constitutional mandate of economic development.

The significance of these examples, although not exhaustive, is to highlight the potency of the existence of intersecting government structures and functions that are becoming complex in nature and require interventions and considerations to maintain an optimum environment which is able to support functional government. It is clear that the 4th IR is significantly technology dependent and facilitate algorithms and coordination that could be idealised at the conception stages of determining structures and functions of government departments.

This Call for Paper seeks to demonstrate that the 21st century period that has ushered in the 4th IR is grappling with the introduction of the 5G Network which is intended to revolutionise every aspect of human civilisation. The industrial revolution is driven by artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things as its conduits to maintain technological dominance to government structures and functions. The challenge is that, while this revolution is taking place, even in the middle of a Coronavirus pandemic, policy makers need to factor a reimagined and complexity mode of conceptualisation that develops and maintains new intersecting government structures and functions. In respect of the Call for Paper, the following key areas of focus should be borne in mind:

Public sector and technology
Technology forms a critical part of the environment of public administration. With the 21st century and the emergence of the 4th IR and the 5G network development, it has become clear that technology is not only the main driver but also that technological access, innovations and skills have become central for all the various sectors of the economy. This means that the manual approach to public service provision will soon become expensive as technology is fast replacing most of the traditional physical practices such as meeting procedures, teaching and learning activities and access to health facilities. These are significant shifts and require deliberations on how developing countries such as South Africa need to catch up and even consider how the various government structures and functions need to re-evaluate their future relevance and existence. Therefore, there is a need to determine how the various public sector institutions could use technology to facilitate their intersecting structures and functions.

Public trust factor
Trusting government by its citizens is one key area which serves to determine its legitimacy. Usually, governments are trusted by their citizens when they are seen to be acting in their interest and not necessarily in the interest of the few elites who are in charge of or close to government levers of power. The many reported corruption cases and scandals in South Africa and elsewhere, where prices for procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers during initial stages of the outbreak of the Corona Virus in early 2020 seeks to determine the kind of multi sectoral interventions required to curb corruption. These kinds of interventions need to promote efficiency where an intersection of government functions are concerned to detect, avoid or punish those unduly benefiting in order to maintain the trust of citizens on their governments.

COVID-19’s effects
The outbreak of COVID-19 is considered to be a human catastrophe which has claimed millions of lives and continues to do so. One of the immediate outcomes of the impact of COVID-19 on humanity is what is considered to be a ‘new normal’ or a ‘reset’. In sectors such as education and health, it means that online interactions have become normal and require access for the populace. The challenges of developing countries such as South Africa, where the levels of inequality are unacceptably high, are similar because access to resources such as computer devices and data are often skewed. In this case, it should be considered that the various intersecting structures and functions of government departments may need to be streamlined to optimise resources that are meant to deal with the effects of this pandemic.

 

CONFERENCE SUB-THEMES

The changing structure and functions of government

  • Forms and modes of collaboration and intergovernmental relations
  • Emerging and new forms of public sector institutions
  • Government intersections
  • Public policy-making processes and public participation

Public sector and technological innovation

  • Emerging public sector service provision, strategies and innovation
  • Public policy-making process
  • Technological awareness and access
  • Technological innovations and skills

Public sector trust and corruption issues

  • Maintaining government legitimacy
  • Examining citizens trust
  • New interventions and measures for curbing corruption
  • Cases of strengthening public institutions

Repositioning local government for the new normal

  • Emerging challenges of local government and 2021 local government elections
  • Local government service delivery and innovation
  • District development model for local government
  • Technological innovations for local government

Public sector COVID-19 and the new normal

  • Effects of government COVID-19 regulations
  • Human capital and people management practices
  • Transitioning to remote work environment for public sector
  • The online office and work/life balance for public sector employees

Therefore, in the context of this Call for Paper, it is necessary to grapple with a discourse on the issues of intersecting government structures and functions to determine possible and emerging realignment and collaboration. In this way, contributions would be addressing the theme of the conference within the framework of the above sub-themes.

SAAPAM’s 20th Annual Conference will be hosted at Sun City (Rustenburg) in the North West Province. The province is one of South Africa’s tourist destinations in which the Pilanesberg National Park, Cradle of Humankind, among others are found. The timing and venue are ideal for SAAPAM’s 2019 Annual Conference where delegates with their colleagues, friends and families could spend time adding leisure time to their plans. Delegates could undertake tourist plans either before or after the conference to allow maximum participation at the conference as well as enjoying discovering the magnificent Mpumalanga province. Delegates are also advised that a conference tour will also be arranged by the conference organising team.

The National Board of the SAAPAM invite you to the 20th Annual Conference to be held in Rustenburg, North West province. Two types of contributions will be considered during this conference:

Firstly, Panel discussions
This is to allow a group of researchers, academics and thought leaders in Public Administration and Governance and broader social sciences disciplines to make submissions about their ideas related to the conference theme. In essence, presenters will have a dedicated session to present and interrogate their ideas and/or research findings with some of our top scholars in South Africa.

Secondly, individual submissions
These are normal individual submissions which are required to focus on any of the conference sub-themes. In this case, research papers, opinion pieces or ideas will be considered.

Conference edition of the Journal of Public Administration for 2021
Completed papers which adhere to the editorial guidelines of the Journal of Public Administration will be subjected to the normal triple-blind peer-reviewing process. The final decision to include these papers in the conference edition rests with editors once peer reviewing process is finalised. Only papers submitted by the due date will be considered for publication in the conference edition.

 

CONCLUSION

The conference will commence with a postgraduate seminar for those delegates who are registered for their Masters and Doctoral degrees. An experienced facilitator will present some of key considerations for masters and doctoral students in Public Administration.