Original Research - Special Collection: Social Economic Transformation in a Dynamic World

Consultocracy in South African public service: A case of repositioned public administration curricula

Arthur M. Shopola, Ricky Mukonza, Rasodi K. Manyaka
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 12, No 1 | a747 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/apsdpr.v12i1.747 | © 2024 Arthur M. Shopola, Ricky Mukonza, Rasodi K. Manyaka | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 June 2023 | Published: 25 April 2024

About the author(s)

Arthur M. Shopola, Department of Public Administration and Local Government, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Mafikeng, South Africa
Ricky Mukonza, Department of Public Management, Faculty of Humanities, Tshwane University of Technology, Polokwane, South Africa
Rasodi K. Manyaka, Rasodi K. Manyaka symbol Department of Public Administration and Management, Faculty of Economics, Development and Business Sciences, University of Mpumalanga, Mbombela, South Africa


Background: This article attempts to make a reasoned case for re-thinking and repositioning public administration education curriculum in South Africa considering the emerging ‘consultocratic’ regime in the public service. It appears that public managers are determined to outsource private knowledge and expertise with little efforts made to build their own internal capacity.

Aim: To establish ways in which the higher education sector can help in preparing future public servants in South Africa.

Setting: The article is an extract of the study that was conducted in 13 Limpopo-based municipalities, including provincial Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and South African local government association.

Methods: Qualitative methods were used to obtain perspectives from officials and practitioners involved in local government in order to establish reasons why public institutions over-consult.

Results: The main finding of this study shows that public institutions, municipalities in this case, over consult because of limited inhouse talent and skills shortage. Participants agreed that while municipalities take blame for ineffective recruitment strategies, higher education sector can play a bigger role in building future skilled graduates. A lack of critical thinking skills was said to be the main problem. With the backup from critical thinking theory, the study proved the need for revised Public Administration (PA) curricula.

Conclusion: The repositioning of PA education is encouraged considering that the public sector governance approach is said to be inspired by the market – oriented ideology, the New Public Management, which favours outsourcing against the central role of government.

Contribution: Inclusion of critical thinking as module in the PA discourse is recommended. Public sector is also urged to ease legislative red tapes to encourage innovation in the public service. This will guarantee skilled and readily available recruitment pool from which public sector can source talent from, but most significantly, a cultivation of tactical, critical, and strategic thinkers will positively challenge the prevailing consultocratic regime.


consultocracy; consultants; public administration; qualification; South Africa

JEL Codes

D73: Bureaucracy • Administrative Processes in Public Organizations • Corruption

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions


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