South African Association of Public Administration and Management

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE

TOWARDS 30 YEARS OF DEMOCRATIC PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, MANAGEMENT AND GOVERNANCE

South Africa has since 1994 transitioned from a system of white minority rule to one of majority rule. In particular, the 1994 elections heralded a democratic system of government. The African National Congress (ANC) came into power in 1994 and has since retained power after subsequent national and provincial elections in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014, and 2019. In the year 2024, the 7th democratic election for national and provincial governments will be held. This is significant progress for South Africa’s democracy. In two years, South Africa will celebrate 30 years since the advent of democracy. This is a noteworthy milestone that not only provides an opportunity to celebrate past achievements but also to reflect on past failures and shortcomings, as well as strategies and approaches for future courses of action. As we approach 30 years of democracy, critical discourse on the aforementioned points at issue becomes increasingly important. In its 21st Annual Conference, the South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) has coined this theme specifically for the conference to reflect on these matters.

In this regard, a reflection on the state of the discipline is necessary. Such a reflection should include a review of its multi-disciplinarity, academic and knowledge contribution, thought leadership, partnerships for improved service delivery, and the discipline’s contribution to policy development and implementation. This much is important because policy development was necessary to transform a fragmented Public Service from serving apartheid policies of discrimination to being citizen-oriented. Hence, the first administration (1994-1999) under President Nelson Mandela was loosely defined as a period of policy development and included the release of new macro policies such as the Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP) (1994), the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) (1996), the White Paper on Transformation of the Public Service (1995) and the White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery (Batho Pele) (1997). This era was followed by a period of consolidation and implementation from 1999 onwards. It was aptly described by then President Thabo Mbeki during the second and third administrations as South Africa being a nation at work, with ‘all hands-on deck’.

Examples of policy consolidations that occurred are the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). The current policy trajectory is dominantly defined by the National Development Plan: Vision for 2030 (2012), launched during the presidency of Mr Jacob Zuma. It is imperative for all actors in academia, the intelligentsia, the Public Service, the political sphere, civil society, the private sector, and the youth to analyse these periods of transformation with a view to plan for the future of democracy in South Africa. Partly, the future trajectory emerges within the present challenges. For example, the sixth administration (2019 to date) commits to the creation of a capable and ethical State, hence a sub-programme of the professionalisation of the Public Service. Priority 1 of the sixth administration is a capable, ethical and developmental state that requires professional, ethical, responsive and meritocratic public servants. Thus, in response to priority 1 it is imperative that practitioners and academics discuss the topic of preparing students for a career in the public service. Universities are the engine behind the production of future public servants therefore the university’s agenda needs to positively contribute towards preparing students to actively take part in the professionalised public service.

A thorough analysis of the transformation of the public sector cannot occur without scrutinising the transformation of education and training, scholarly contributions, thought leadership, think tanks, research and development (R&D), and society at large. P(p)ublic A(a)dministration does not exist in a vacuum. It is also a reflection of its society. However, engagements with these issues cannot occur in a mutually exclusive fashion — the intersections between the generation of ideas and practice are imperative. In this regard, SAAPAM’s 2022 Conference will engage with the above-mentioned transformational agendas in the Public Service, with transformation in the academic space aimed at analysing the relevance and role of the discipline of Public Administration. The transformation of the discipline was defined during two conferences at Mount Grace in 1991 and in 1999. The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) will act as an independent facilitator for the hosting of the third Mount Grace conference.

With a view on constructive discourse, the sub-themes of the 2022 SAAPAM conference encapsulate the current realities in the public sector and related fields. It further provides opportunities for an in-depth analysis based on the benefit of hindsight. This is understandable because, unlike in 1994, a wealth of experience in all sectors on governing in a democracy has developed. Therefore, proper planning should now be achievable.

Institutions such as the National School of Government and Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), colleges and international partners exist to train and develop public servants to be reskilled. Yet, academics from the discipline rarely if ever take responsibility for the countless challenges confronting the public sector. Hence, with its 21st Annual Conference, SAAPAM intends to inaugurate a format of in-depth discussion among professionals and experts in the form of Policy Execution Labs (PELs). In this regard, SAAPAM’s approach is aimed at bringing together academics and practitioners to interrogate these aspects. This focus is aligned with SAAPAM’s strategic thrust of promoting the interface between academics and administrators in the field to enable a cross-pollination and an exchange of ideas that are needed to optimise the administration of the State. This is vital since considerably more remains to be done in the democratic dispensation. Consequently, the PELs will entail a combination of papers and sub-themed discussions with senior government officials, policy-makers and experts in various fields.

In contextualising the theme of the conference, the following sub-themes are formulated.

1. Professionalisation of the Public Service: challenges and opportunities

 

  • Pre-entry, recruitment, and selection
  • Induction and onboarding
  • Planning and performance management
  • Continuing learning and professional development
  • Career progression and career incidents

2. Public Finance, Auditing and Financial Management

  • Compliance to legislation
  • Auditing challenges
  • Supply chain management
  • Financial management
  • Financial Reforms

3. Ethics and governance in the public sector

  • Ethical Governance – the role of integrity institutions
  • Ethics, Leadership and management
  • Governance of State-Owned Entities (SOEs)

4. Public Administration

  • Transformation and socio-economic development
  • Human resource management as enabler for public administration and democracy
  • The state of the discipline and Post-New Public Management discourse in South Africa

 

5. Local Government Administration

  • Service delivery and municipal elections
  • Capacity challenges in local government administration
  • Local government finances

6. University education

  • Curriculum reforms in the scholarship of teaching Public Administration
  • Role of universities in preparing future public servants
  • Research outputs by universities on public administration

 

Authors are requested to strictly abide by the conference theme since this will be one of the primary criteria when selecting abstracts or manuscripts to be presented at the conference.

 

The National Board of the SAAPAM, in collaboration with the National School of Government and Walter Sisulu University, invite you to the 21st Annual Conference to be held in East London, Eastern Cape province. Two types of contributions will be considered during this conference:

Firstly, Panel discussions

The panel discussions will allow a group of researchers, academics and thought leaders in Public Administration and Governance, as well as broader Social Science disciplines to make submissions on 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 the 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 2022

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 a paper in the conference edition rests with editors, once the 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 Master’s and Doctoral degrees. An experienced facilitator will present some of the key considerations for masters and doctoral students in Public Administration.

SAAPAM

SAAPAM