The Department of Arts and Culture briefed the Committee on the building of libraries in communities and in schools. Government had identified a need for transformation in the sector to address the challenges of a decline in service delivery and the disparities in service provision throughout the country. Libraries were excluded from Schedule 5 of the Constitution, resulting in problems with adequate access to funding. As a result, Conditional Grant Projects were introduced to transform urban and rural community library infrastructure, facilities and services (primarily targeting previously disadvantaged communities) through a recapitalisation programme at Provincial Government level in support of Local Government structures.
The presentation included an overview of Government’s mandate in respect of libraries, the motivation for the transformation of the sector, the purpose of and desired outcomes of the Conditional Grant Projects, the Provincial Medium Term Expenditure Framework allocations for the period 2009 to 2012, a breakdown of the provincial expenditure for the first quarter of 2009, the conditions attached to the grants by National Treasury, the monitoring and evaluation responsibility of the Department, the infrastructure achievements during 2008/2009 and infrastructure projects planned for the future. The Department had conducted an investigation into the training of library services personnel and planned to introduce legislative changes dealing with norms and standards and the Schedule 5 issue. The Department had finalised a Transformation Charter.
Major challenges included a high staff turnover rate and a shortage of skills in the sector, the need for service level agreements to address the Schedule 5 issues and problems with infrastructure construction and maintenance.
Members were concerned that even though funding had been made available, funds were not being spent in the provinces. Delivery was not taking place at grassroots levels. In certain instances libraries were built but remained non-operational or were closed down because of mismanagement. Members pointed out that the presentation had also been silent on the issue of libraries in schools. A lack of books published in indigenous SA languages was identified as part of the problem why
Questions asked by Members pertained to the determination of the grant allocations to provinces, the responsible parties for the grant, the progress made to resolve the issue of an unfunded mandate, the training of library services personnel and the efforts made to encourage new entrants to the sector, the role played by Departmental coordinators, the effectiveness of the Department’s monitoring activities, the efforts made to raise awareness, the application of the National Library Policy, the performance of individual provinces, the facilities provided for deaf persons and the availability of material in the San and Nama languages.
Briefing by the Department of Arts and Culture
Dr Graham Dominy, Chief Director: Archives, Libraries and Heraldry, Department of Arts and Culture (DAC), briefed the Committee on the building of libraries in communities and in schools. Mr Themba Wakashe Director-General; DAC) attended the meeting.
The building of libraries was in line with Government’s mandate to promote equity, rural development, service delivery, socio-economic development, skills development and capacity building. There was a need for transformation in the sector. Partnerships between Provincial and Local Government entities were needed. Libraries were excluded from Schedule 5 of the Constitution and suffered from a lack of funding. Libraries could contribute greatly to social cohesion. Libraries promoted literacy and provided safe places for study and a safe environment for children. Libraries played a role in capacity building and provided facilities for unemployed persons to access media (for example newspapers and the internet) to look for jobs.
The purpose of the Conditional Grants Projects was to transform urban and rural community library infrastructure, facilities and services (primarily targeting previously disadvantaged communities) through a recapitalised programme at Provincial Government level, in support of Local Government. Improved co-ordination and collaboration between National, Provincial and Local Government entities; a transformed and equitable library information service delivered to all rural and urban communities; improved library infrastructure and increased staff capacity and an improved culture of reading were some of the positive outcomes of the Conditional Grant Projects. Key outputs included a monitoring and evaluation process, the implementation of community library governance structures, the building of new libraries, the appointment of additional staff, the acquisition of library materials, the upgrading of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and the provision of services for the visually impaired.
The presentation included an overview of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) allocations for each province for the period 2009 to 2012. A breakdown of the provincial expenditure for the first quarter of 2009 revealed that the provinces had spent only R32 million (7.3%) of the total amount of R93 million transferred by National Treasury. The total budget for 2009/2010 amounted to R440 million. The conditions imposed by National Treasury stipulated that the funding provided to provinces was not replacement funding for provinces, that each province remained accountable for funds transferred to municipalities and that monitoring and evaluation had to occur at municipal level. The Department appointed three provincial coordinators responsible for monitoring and evaluation. Each provincial coordinator was responsible for three provinces.
The infrastructure achievements during 2008/09 and the projects planned for 2009/10 were listed. The Department had undertaken an investigation into training in the field of library science. Many universities no longer offered courses in library studies. The issue was whether courses on offer were still relevant as the new skills required were now IT-based.
The Department was drafting legislation in respect of minimum norms and standards and attempting to address the Schedule 5 issue. Municipalities complained that they had an unfunded mandate. An investigation into the production of Braille material was undertaken. The Department had finalised a Transformation Charter. Staff turnover and the skills shortages in the sector, the need for service level agreements to address the Schedule 5 issues and problems with infrastructure (e.g. tenders and maintenance by the Department of Public Works) were identified as some of the major challenges.
Mr W Faber (DA,
Mr M De Villiers (DA,
Mr De Villiers referred to the issue of the unfunded mandate of Local Government and asked what progress had been made in addressing the matter at the three tiers of Government. He asked if Local Government and library officials were aware of the applicable norms and standards. He requested clarity on what was meant by the statement that libraries could play a major role in social cohesion. He asked what was being done by the Department in respect of the training of school teachers on library science. He asked what formula was applied in the calculation of funds allocated to the different provinces.
Dr Dominy responded that the Department was working with the Department of Education on the training of teachers. At the local level, the Department encouraged libraries to interact with teachers at schools.
He explained that the Department had engaged in a planning exercise during 2006/2007. He advised that the accounting firm KPMG had determined the formula to calculate the grant allocation by taking the performance of the provinces into consideration. KPMG concluded that the
Ms B Mncube (ANC,
Ms Mncube advised that the Alexandria Multipurpose Centre was facing closure due to mismanagement. The closure of the centre meant that the library would also be closed down. She wished to make the Department aware of the matter.
Mr Wakashe replied that popularising library science at universities was difficult. Degrees in humanities were not perceived to have economic value. He conceded that salaries in Arts and Culture needed to be reviewed as they were not attractive. The entire sector required re-assessment to determine if the conditions of employment were good enough to attract new skills. There were also broader problems, for example the poaching of skills. He said that the conditional grants needed to be further broken down. At present, the picture in the provinces was not too rosy. The Department should be able to assess the extent of the impact made by the conditional grant after about three years.
Dr Dominy agreed with Mr Wakashe’s comments. The Department did not always obtain the correct information from the provinces and there were gaps in the reports submitted by the provinces. He pointed out that each province had a top slice of the grant that must be used. He explained that the Department had a technical assistance unit to assist with monitoring and evaluation tasks.
Responding to Ms Mncube’s question, Dr Dominy explained that the timelines were built into the business plans of provinces. He reported that the Technical Assistance Unit within National Treasury and the monitoring and evaluation section of the DAC were reviewing the plans and target dates. He said that the thrust of the Transformation Charter was to define a new policy. The policy had to be in a format that could be implemented. He said that consultation on the Charter had taken place in all nine provinces.
Mr Wakashe advised that the Department had entered into gentleman’s agreements regarding centres such as the Alexandria Multipurpose Centre. The agreement was that the Department would build the centre, the relevant Provinces would maintain it and the responsible Local Government would handle programming. Unfortunately, Local Government had not come to the party and the Department had to provide programming. He undertook to look into the matter concerning the Alexandria Centre.
Mr T Mashamaite (ANC,
Mr Wakashe replied that public awareness was increasing at the professional and political levels. For example, imbizos were taking place. He referred to an article that had appeared in the Sunday Times which had alluded to the fact that black people do not read. People were willing to spend money on dvd’s and cd’s but not on books. Children were not being exposed to a culture of reading. He asked what was read to a black child - there were no books published in indigenous African languages.
Dr Dominy replied that Provinces were held accountable for the funds allocated to them in terms of Schedule 5 of the Constitution. Provinces received the funds from National Treasury and dispersed the funding to municipalities.
The Chairperson asked what the status quo on National Library Policy was. She asked if the policy had been adopted and whether implementation had commenced. She found it disturbing that the provinces were under-spending. She remarked that monitoring appeared to be a problem and asked what mechanism the Department had in place to address the weakness. She asked if the Department was satisfied with the performance of provinces.
Mr Wakashe replied that he was ambivalent about the performance of the provinces. He said that the conditional grants had been over three years and although there had been delivery, it was unfortunately uneven. The provinces with the greatest need were the ones not spending the funds. The performance of the provinces was linked to the capacity of the State to deliver. Provinces had tabled reports on expenditures. In
The Chair requested the percentages spent by each province.
Dr Dominy provided a breakdown of percentage expenditure figures per province for 2008/09. The percentages were
Mr Wakashe said that many library projects were hampered because of political issues. It was unfortunately the reality as political egos played a huge part. He said that the Department should discourage the practice of provinces using different instruments for reporting. There needed to be a single standard for reporting. The Department had engaged with the provinces over the issue.
Ms N Magadla (ANC, KZN) felt that the MTEF allocations for KZN were far too low. She said that the province was predominantly rural and that delivery was mostly taking place in the urban areas.
Ms D Rantho (ANC, EC) said that a multi-purpose centre had been built in Burgersdorp but that the facility was standing empty. She was concerned that the briefing had only covered libraries in communities and made no reference to libraries in schools. She asked which schools would acquire libraries and if the schools concerned would have the necessary space for the library. She said that library week was celebrated every year but there were no follow-up activities after the event. She felt that further monitoring was needed. She pointed out that provinces did not spend funds because they lacked clear direction. The Department was asked to look into the matter.
Mr Wakashe agreed to look into the Burgersdorp matter.
Ms G Boroto (ANC,
Mr Mashamaite asked whether the Department was able to detect over- or under spending by provinces. He requested the Department to provide the Committee with a report on libraries.
Mr Wakashe agreed to submit a report on libraries to the Committee in due course.
Ms Mncube said that many schools found it difficult to teach indigenous languages as no textbooks were available in that particular language. She appealed to the Department to engage with publishers over the issue. She said that there were no textbooks because there was no political will to push for the need.
Mr De Villiers asked if there was a working relationship between the Department and the Department of Education concerning libraries in schools. He asked what backup mechanisms were in place in the event that provinces did not deliver libraries. He asked what the Department was doing to improve services for the deaf at libraries. He asked what mechanisms were in place to prevent overspending in the building of libraries, for example accepting unnecessarily high tenders.
Mr Wakashe said that the Department was concerned about the ever-increasing construction costs. He suspected collusion amongst builders. It would seem that there was a belief that Government was a free-for-all that can be ripped off.
Mr Webber asked if there was reading material for the San people.
Dr Dominy answered that there was a project in place on the San and Nama languages.
The Chairperson highlighted the problems with libraries in the
Mr Wakashe agreed to look into the issues reported by the Chairperson.
The Chairperson asked the Department for hand-out packages containing flags that members could distribute to schools in their respective provinces.
Mr Wakashe agreed to forward packages to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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