The new year presents an opportunity for building a clean government accountable to the people, Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said on Sunday.
"To serve one's country is the greatest one can expect. This privilege falls squarely on those in the public service," she said in her festive message to public servants.
"It is a responsibility that we embrace not grudgingly but enthusiastically. After 18 years of democratic government, our people's patience with shoddy service is wearing thin. But they have not given up. The widespread protests are an expression of frustration in as much as they are indicative of their faith in government."
She thanked all public servants for their hard work in 2012.
"We had quite a remarkable year, culminating in a multi-year wage agreement, endorsed by all public sector unions and peacefully supported by all public servants."
She said three government departments - home affairs, health and defence - had made huge strides towards the goal of ensuring access to and services for all.
She said the department of home affairs, under the leadership of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who is now chairwoman of the African Union commission, managed to change the department of horror affairs, as a member of parliament referred to it, to the department of home affairs which citizens were proud of.
"Public comments confirmed that the citizens of South Africa have confidence in the department of home affairs."
She said the department of health was recognised by the United Nations for significantly reducing incidents of HIV in South Africa.
She praised the department of defence for achieving its first clean audit since 1990, in the 2011/2012 financial year.
"It is the commitment of the staff of the department that made this possible and I am particularly grateful that I can lay claim to such an achievement in my time. The staff of the department of defence made me proud.
"This lays a basic, fundamental requirement that all Accounting Officers should have clean audits."
She said all government departments should have clean audits.
Sisulu served as defence minister until June this year, when she was appointed public service and administration minister.