The research question of this article is to examine the extent to which the South
African public service conforms to the concept of representative bureaucracy. A
representative bureaucracy is understood to be one that consists of a workforce
that reflects the composition of the citizens of the country. Furthermore it is held
that if a public service reflects the diversity of the society within which it functions,
then it is more likely to be responsive to all the diverse interests and make policy
that reflects this.
Data on race, and gender up to 2010 was obtained from the Department of
Public Service and Administration’s PERSAL data base. The methodology used was
that of a longitudinal study of affirmative action data across four time periods,
namely 1995, 2000. 2005 and 2010.
The data shows that the democratic aims of representative bureaucracy have
largely been fulfilled in respect of race and gender although there were certain
Blacks are underrepresented at senior management level;
Whites are overrepresented at senior management level;
Females are overrepresented in public service in relation to workforce;
Females are underrepresented at senior management level;
Whites are underrepresented at lower levels of public service.
Has a representative bureaucracy led to better service delivery? The evidence
is mixed at best. There is general consensus that there are poor skills levels in
the public service albeit co-existing with pockets of excellence. More systematic
research is needed to examine this relationship.