Civil servants will be expected to work harder and become more effective in serving ordinary South Africans, while giving taxpayers more value for their money, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday.
In his State of the Nation Address last week, Zuma said that a Presidential Remuneration Commission would be set up to review the salaries of public servants.
In his reply on Thursday to the debate this week on his address, Zuma said the training of public servants will be prioritised to further improve the capacity of the state.
This he said would bring in much-needed skills and reduce the amount that the state spends on consultants.
"It is for this reason that we say if we are to pay public servants better, we want a return on our investment," he said.
Monitoring of frontline services
He said frontline services to South Africans would also be boosted, adding that over 300 unannounced visits were undertaken during the past year. "Repeat visits to sites indicate that, in many cases, the monitoring has resulted in improvements," he said.
He said a model example was that of Pearl Bhengu and Mondli Mazibuko and the staff at the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) office in Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal.
"After an unannounced visit, they acted on the findings and improved the queue management, provided chairs and a shelter for the waiting area and ensured that toilet facilities were working."
Zuma said the monitoring of management practices in the public sector by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation was beginning to bear fruit. He singled out that the average time to fill funded vacancies in the public sector had come down from nine months in 2010 to four months last year.
Added to this, the average time taken by the Department of Home Affairs to issue an ID book went from 150 days to about 30 days, while the average application time for a social grant also fell last year from 30 days in 2010 to 21 days, he said.
The bar-coded green ID book will begin to be replaced by a new ID smart card in the 2013 financial year, he said.
Economy the biggest focus
The economy was his administration's biggest focus, Zuma said, adding that a Grant Thornton report last week indicated that South Africa had maintained its position as a leading investment destination in Africa, climbed one place to 14th position in a ranking of the 27 largest emerging economies.
Zuma said tax incentives announced in 2011 had resulted in an increase in foreign investment - including the announcement by Unilever last month that it would build an R800-million plant in Boksburg, and the opening last year of two new factories by Nestlé in Babelegi, near Pretoria.
He said it was important to rebuild confidence in the mining sector, adding that the Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu had met with mining role players, including business, unions and the government, to push for a framework to ensure stability in the sector.
On the issue of job creation, Zuma said the youth unemployment incentive schemes discussed at Nedlac would complement the National Rural Youth Service Corps, the Expanded Public Works Programme, the Community Works Programme and job creation programmes within the SA National Defence Force.
Turning to education, Zuma said the Department of Basic Education's Annual National Assessments had revealed that the introduction of workbooks and the training of teachers in 2011 had resulted in progress in learning outcomes in lower school grades.
Zuma also highlighted South Africa's increased life expectancy, which increased from 56 years in 2009 to 60 years in 2011. This, he said, had been praised by the World Health Organisation.
Debate on violence against women
He encouraged MPs to continue debating issues around the Traditional Courts Bill following criticism that the Bill was unconstitutional and that it limited women's rights in the former homelands.
Condemning violence and abuse against women and children, he said South Africa had to nurture values such as ubuntu and respect for one another's rights and property.
South Africa had build on the success of last year's National Cohesion Summit to build better and more stable communities. To this end, the Department of Basic Education was looking at inculcating values of citizenry and ethics, he said.
The National Assembly is set to host a debate on violence against women next week.
Zuma said South Africa was a much better country today than it was in 1994, with a Constitution that extended equal rights to all.
"It has not been an easy road, as President Mandela told us in 1994. And it is a long road to the type of society we want to achieve, but we are getting there steadily."