Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Ayanda Dlodlo. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

Ministers and deputy ministers will be required to adhere to the ministerial handbook regarding the appointment of support staff in their offices.

This limits the number of staff to 10 for ministers and six for deputy ministers. This forms part of the government’s belt-tightening exercise to contain its wage bill.

Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo is spearheading a process to mitigate the effect of the rising public sector wage bill in the context of a constrained fiscus.

The government has projected a wage bill of R587bn for the current financial year, up from R437bn in 2014-15.

The minister outlined details of the initiative on Wednesday ahead of her budget vote speech in Parliament later in the day.

She said the project would ensure that personnel expenditure remained within the budget ceiling of the medium-term expenditure framework. Dlodlo and her team are engaged in critical wage negotiations with public sector trade unions.

Asked whether the number of public servants would be reduced during this process, Dlodlo emphasised that "rightsizing" the government did not necessarily mean getting rid of employees, but aligning skills to the mandate.

"We have not come to the conclusion that the public service is bloated," Dlodlo said.

"What we know is that the wage bill has really gone way beyond what we had envisaged. So that is what we need to be taking care of."

President Cyril Ramaphosa has initiated a project for departments to be reconfigured. Dlodlo said its main aim was to "do away with the challenges faced in the current structure and size of the public service".

The minister said the initiative to mitigate the effect of the rising public sector wage bill would include the development of a comprehensive remuneration strategy that covers the three spheres of government — including public entities — in the medium term.

The organisational structures and the whole public service would be reviewed, she said.

"We are also seized with extensive work to look at the organisational structure of departments," Dlodlo said.

This work will result in a directive that will seek to limit the personnel additional to the structure and this will be done without affecting the operations of the department."

Dlodlo also announced further measures to cut costs, including the strict management of overtime, payment of performance bonuses, leave, implementation of the occupation specific dispensation and the exiting of employees through voluntary severance packages.

She said that these measures and indicatives would form part of the performance agreements of heads of departments to ensure their implementation.

Another area of concern raised by the minister was the government’s expenditure on information and communication technology (ICT), which in 2016-17 amounted to R36bn.

The key cost drivers in this respect were for consulting and solution implementation services, networking costs as well as software licensing.

Dlodlo said she would soon be announcing measures and interventions across the public service to curb the escalating ICT cost.