The Minister of Communications briefed the Committee on the strategic plan of the Department of Communications for 2010/11 - 2012/13. The Strategic plan was developed to support the achievement of Government’s priorities as outlined in the Medium Term Strategic Framework. The Department’s priorities included the final implementation of the Broadband, National Radio Frequency Spectrum, Unbundling of the Local Loop and the Broadcasting Digital Migration policies, the development of skills in the Information and Communication Technologies sector, the improvement of the performance and sustainability of the State Owned Enterprises and the improvement of the availability, cost and quality of communications in the country. Particular focus was placed on the expansion of the network to rural and disadvantaged areas, the development of the youth, women and persons with disabilities and the development of small, medium and micro enterprises within the second economy. The Department provided support for other initiatives, including e-government, e-health and e-education and participated in international communications organisations.
The Director-General, Chief Operations Officer and Deputy Directors-General spoke on the strategic plan, budget allocations and details of the projects of the Governance and Administration (Programme 1), Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) International Affairs and Trade (Programme 2), ICT Policy Development (Programme 3), Finance and ICT Enterprise Development (Programme 4), ICT Infrastructure Development (Programme 5) and Presidential National Commission (PNC) (Programme 6). The total MTEF baseline allocation for the 2010/11 financial year amounted to R2.1 billion, reducing to R1.8 billion in 2011/12 and R1.6 billion in 2012/13. The bulk of the allocation (R1.6 billion in 2010/11) was earmarked for transfer to the ten State Owned Entities for which the Department was responsible.
Although the report submitted by the Department conformed to the format prescribed by the National Treasury, the Committee felt that insufficient detail was included on the priorities, target dates and budget amounts for each programme to enable the Committee to conform to the requirements of the new Money Bills Amendment Act concerning the approval of the Department’s budget. The Department agreed to provide the additional information required by the Committee.
Members asked questions about the Department’s austerity measures, its performance monitoring of its State Owned Enterprises, the self-funding models developed for State Owned Enterprises, the number of Acting positions and Deputy Directors-General in the Department, the implementation of staff performance appraisal systems and senior executive performance agreements, the progress made on the Broadband, National Radio Frequency Spectrum, Unbundling the Local Loop, Set Top Boxes and Broadcasting Digital Migration projects, the provision of alternative services in the quiet zones of the Square Kilometre Array, the provision of radio, television and cell phone reception in remote rural areas, the Department’s legislative programme, the issuing of policy directives to ICASA and the adequacy of the funding to the SABC.
In the afternoon session, the Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluations introduced the presentation by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). He said that the Presidency was currently interacting with GCIS about the Media Development and Diversity Agency and the International Marketing Council. There were a lot of changes taking place in government, however they had not yet been finalised. GCIS and other institutions under the Presidency would hopefully live up to expectations and inform the public of all changes.
GCIS was responsible for communication functions of institutions in all three government spheres. It had undertaken a review of itself and stemming from this had initiated a training programme for all government communicators. It noted its progress report in implementing the suggestion that the Committee had made in its last meeting with the Committee.
GCIS outlined the outputs for its eight programmes: Administration, Policy and Research, Government and Media Liaison, Provincial Coordination and Programme Support, Communication Service Agency, International Marketing and Media Development, Government Publications and the Communication Resource Centre. GCIS would ensure that the international media were constantly updated on the state of readiness of the country for the FIFA World Cup. The tournament was marketed both locally and internationally through campaigns and road shows. The allocation for the MDDA had not been included in the 2011/12 budget by National Treasury and this was currently being discussed.
The Committee said that the amount of money that was allocated for the use of consultants was too high. Several MPs expressed frustration about the lack of information provided to them when a high ranking official visited their constituency or when there was an Imbizo. The under-utilisation and neglect of constituency offices was disappointing. The performance and evaluation of GCIS came under scrutiny as well as its role in curbing service delivery protests. The Committee questioned the future of Thusong Centres especially their capacity for further development in the area of IT and communication services.
Introduction by Minister of Communications
The Hon Siphiwe Nyanda, Minister of Communications, briefed the Committee on the strategic plan of the Department of Communications for the period 2010/11 to 2012/13. The Strategic plan was developed to support the achievement of Government’s priorities as outlined in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). The key programmes of the Department included the finalisation of the Broadband, National Radio Frequency Spectrum and Unbundling the Local Loop projects. The Department was committed to reducing the cost of communication and to increase the broadcast services available to the public. The implementation of the Broadcasting Digital Migration policy was expected to be finalised by the end of the 2010/11 financial year. The Department was involved in enabling the manufacturing sector to produce the Set Top Boxes necessary to convert older television sets to receive the digital broadcasts.
The Department continued to invest in skills development and research and development in the communications sector. The Department facilitated the development of the e-Government, e-Health and e-Education initiatives. The ability of the State Owned Enterprises to contribute to the achievement of the National priorities was considered to be a key factor. The Department was concerned with improving the performance and financial sustainability of the SOEs.
The Department had prioritised the expansion of the communications network to the rural and previously disadvantaged areas of the country. A number of interventions aimed at the development of the second economy and to increase the involvement of the youth, women and persons with disabilities in the communications sector were devised. It was important for the country to develop sufficient e-skills and that the ordinary man in the street understood the importance and impact of communications technologies on everyday life. The participation of all persons in Government entities was required to develop South Africa as a knowledge economy. The Department continued to participate in international communications organisations.
Minister Nyanda expressed confidence in the Department’s ability to increase service delivery through the development of policies that reflected the National priorities.
Briefing by Department of Communications (DOC)
Ms Mamodupi Mohlala, Director-General, DOC introduced the delegates from the Department. The Deputy Directors-General would present the strategic plans and budgets for their respective areas of responsibility to the Committee (see attached document).
Ms Mohlala presented the introduction, focus areas and key programmes of the DOC and gave an overview of the seven strategic goals and sixteen strategic objectives that had been set. The Department had six programmes, i.e. Governance and Administration (Programme 1), Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) International Affairs and Trade (Programme 2), ICT Policy Development (Programme 3), Finance and ICT Enterprise Development (Programme 4), ICT Infrastructure Development (Programme 5) and Presidential National Commission (PNC) (Programme 6). The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) allocation for the 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13 financial years for each programme was included in the presentation document.
Mr Gift Buthelezi, Acting Deputy Director-General: Policy Development, DOC presented the priorities set for the ICT Policy Development Programme 3. The MTEF allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R90.1 million. The programme included the Department’s legislative programme, the management of the implementation of the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) policy, the issuing of policy directives to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and reducing the cost and improving the quality, availability and usage of ICTs.
Ms Mohlala briefed the Committee on the Meraka e-Skills institute on behalf of Dr Harold Wesso, Acting Chief Executive Officer, DOC, who was unable to attend the meeting.
Ms Rosey Sekese, Deputy Director-General: ICT Infrastructure Development, DOC presented the priorities set for the Infrastructure Development Programme 5. The MTEF allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R175.9 million. The programme included Broadband, the National Radio Frequency Spectrum, Cyber Security, ICT infrastructure for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Internet Governance, providing support for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) bid, ISSA and oversight of the .za Domain Name Administration (DNA).
Mr Moseamo Sebola, Acting Deputy Director-General: ICT International Affairs and Trade, DOC, presented the priorities for the ICT International Affairs and Trade Programme 2. The MTEF allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R44.6 million. The programme included the implementation of the NEPAD ICT programme, proposing standards for international spectrum pricing by the members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), post-conflict reconstruction and development programmes in other African countries, participation in India/Brazil/South Africa (IBSA) initiatives, facilitation of training and development opportunities with India, Cuba, South Korea, France, Canada, Finland and Sweden and engagement with a number of international communications organisations.
Ms Mapitso Malaku, Acting Deputy Director-General: Finance and ICT Enterprise Development, DOC presented the priorities for the ICT Enterprise Development Programme 4. The programme was responsible for the bulk of the MTEF allocation to the DOC, i.e. R1.6 billion for 2010/11. The responsibilities of the programme included the transfer of funding to and oversight over the ten State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the communications sector and the establishment and development of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).
Mr Themba Phiri, Acting Deputy Director-General: Presidential National Commission (PNC) on Information Society and Development (ISAD) presented the projects managed by the PNC on ISAD Programme 6. The MTEF allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R32.5 million.
Ms Gerda Gräbe, Chief Operations Officer and Deputy Director-General: Governance and Administration, DOC, presented the priorities set for the Governance and Administration Programme 1. The MTEF allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R151.8 million. The programme was responsible for Intergovernmental Relations, the enhancement of Departmental performance and implementing national employment equity policies.
Ms Malaku presented an overview of the financial priorities of the DOC. The Department had a target of achieving a 30% spend on black-owned companies. The Finance section of the Governance and Administration department of the DOC planned to implement reviewed business management processes and systems to ensure sound financial management and other services.
The total MTEF baseline allocation for 2010/11 amounted to R2.1 billion, reducing to R1.8 billion in 2011/12 and R1.6 billion in 2012/13. The reasons for the reduction in the allocation included the conclusion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup projects and the Sentech dual illumination project. A breakdown of the allocated amounts per programme for the three-year MTEF period was provided and the percentage of total allocation for the programmes was illustrated with a pie chart. A bar chart illustrated the transfers to each of the ten SOEs over the MTEF period.
The Chairperson explained that the Committee had to comply with the requirements of the new Money Bills Amendment Act which required the Committee to accept or reject the proposed budget of the Department and to issue a report on the adoption of the budget. The presentation included substantial content on the activities of the Department but did not include any detail on a breakdown of the amounts budgeted for each of the Department’s programmes. The funds allocated to the DOC was public money and the Members of the Committee needed to know exactly how much was spent by the Department on the various activities. Future presentations made to the Committee had to indicate how the budgeted amounts matched the plans of the Department.
Ms J Kilian (COPE) observed that all Government entities were required to cut back on expenditure. She asked for specific examples of the austerity measures introduced by the DOC, for example expenditure on travel, external consultants and conferences and functions. The DOC was responsible for transferring funding to the SOEs and she asked how the Department ensured that the SOEs delivered satisfactory performance. She was concerned by the inordinate number of Acting appointments in the Department and asked for an explanation. It was not clear whether the key areas were being focused on and she asked what the exact goals were for ICT in rural areas, schools and health care centres and how the progress made were measured and monitored. She wanted to know what problems were experienced with the BDM project.
Ms Kilian was concerned that the DOC was too focused on itself and appeared to be building a bureaucracy. She asked if it was really necessary to have six Deputy Directors-General in such a relatively small Department. She noted the increasing allocation for Administration and the reduction of the allocation for transfers to SOEs. The Members of the Committee found it difficult to measure the outcomes of the DOC if the desired outcomes were not clearly spelled out. She asked if the Department had implemented staff performance measurements and, if not, when the performance appraisal systems would be in place.
Ms Mohlala explained that the presentation included a high-level summary of the Department’s plans and policies and excluded the specific performance targets. The details had been developed for presentation to the Cabinet but she did not think that it was appropriate to provide the information to the Committee prior to the presentation to the Cabinet. The presentation to the Committee would have included too much information but the additional details could be released once the plans were approved by the Cabinet.
Ms Mohlala said that the second economy interventions by the DOC were not only in rural areas and included peri-urban and economically depressed urban areas as well. The DOC needed to coordinate efforts by the various SOEs to ensure the systematic implementation of projects and to ensure that the maximum value was provided.
Ms Mohlala advised that the Department only had two Acting positions. The Acting Deputy Director-General position in ICT Policy and Development was as a result of a historic situation that arose when the incumbent was transferred to another position at the same salary. The other Acting position arose when the incumbent died in a car accident and the Department was unable to appoint a person to the position as the institutional review was still in progress. The Deputy Director-General for International Affairs and Trade had resigned but the vacant post had been advertised and she expected that a permanent appointment would be announced in the near future.
Ms Mohlala advised that the austerity measures introduced included the reduction in the number of employees and the scrapping of some obsolete posts (including three Chief Directorates). The Department reviewed the relevance of a post before new appointments were made and tried to make optimal use of the existing personnel.
Concerning the management of the performance of SOEs, Ms Mohlala believed that more progress had been made in this area. The DOC not only monitored performance but conducted analyses as well. The SOEs were required to submit proper business plans, which had to be aligned with the policies and the budget. Interaction between the Department and the SOEs took place on a regular basis and frameworks were being developed. More detailed information could be made available to the Committee if required. Further information concerning the oversight over the SOEs was included in the addendum to the presentation document.
Ms Malaku confirmed that only the Minister, Deputy Minister and Director-General traveled business class. Overseas visits were approved only if the visit was essential and considered a priority. The DOC only made use of external consultants if no internal capacity was available. Further austerity measures included less funds available for furniture and equipment and curtailing functions and catering services at meetings.
Ms Sekese advised that there were approximately 32,000 schools requiring ICT services in the country. The focus during the first three years was to provide internet connectivity in the secondary schools as the pupils would soon be entering the job market and need to develop skills to equip themselves for the workplace. A plan had been developed that needed to be approved by the Cabinet and the required funding made available for implementation.
Mr N Van Den Berg (DA) complimented the DOC on submitting a detailed plan but he would have liked to see the target dates for the implementation of the plans as well. He wanted to know what progress had been made and when the projects concerning Broadband, the National Radio Frequency Spectrum and the Unbundling of the Local Loop would be completed. He asked for clarity on the radio quiet zones that were a requirement for the SKA and wanted to know what the impact would be on cell phone, radio and television reception for the people living in the affected areas and what alternative arrangements would be made.
Ms Mohlala replied that the presentation summarised the various projects that the DOC was involved in and more detailed information was available in other documents. She pointed out that the DOC was responsible for formulating policy and other entities, for example ICASA, were responsible for the implementation of the policies. The study on the Unbundling of the Local Loop was undertaken in 2007 and since that date, the Department had endeavoured to obtain the necessary information from ICASA. A policy intervention had become necessary and although the Department can not take over the regulatory function from ICASA, a policy directive can be issued. The draft policy on the National Radio Frequency Spectrum had been approved by the Cabinet Committee appointed for the purpose and was ready for submission to Cabinet for approval. The DOC provided support to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on the SKA project and liaised with ICASA and the DST. ICASA was responsible for issuing licenses.
Ms Sekese advised that the DST was providing the funding for the relocation of radio masts in the area affected by the SKA and the alternative medium available was satellite broadcasting. The SKA project had no impact on ICT delivery in the affected area.
Ms Mohlala said that the implementation of BDM was critical and the efforts by the SOEs concerned needed to be coordinated to ensure the delivery of Set Top Boxes (STBs). The DOC had to ensure the transfer of the signal and provide support to low-income households to acquire the STBs. The DOC had submitted a document to Cabinet on the subsidies to low-income households for television sets and STBs but needed a further two weeks to rework the standards. A plan had been received from Sentech on the roll-out of the STBs.
Mr Buthelezi advised that ICASA had issued the regulations the previous week. The DOC was concerned that the current STB manufacturing industry was unable to produce enough STBs in South Africa and alternative sources of supply were being investigated. The problem was caused when a service provider had failed to deliver.
The Chairperson asked why the target date for the BDM was changed from 2011 to 2015.
Ms Mohlala suggested that the question was referred to ICASA. The DOC was currently analyzing the regulations issued by ICASA and attempting to determine the likely impact on the implementation of the BDM.
The Chairperson asked if the ICASA regulations issued were the draft or final regulations.
Ms Mohlala suggested that the question was directed at the representatives of ICASA, who were present at the meeting. She said that the DOC had experienced some difficulty in understanding the language that had been used in the regulations.
Mr Paris Mashile (ICASA) confirmed that the final version of the regulations had been issued.
Ms R Morutoa (ANC) referred to the second economy interventions listed on page 22 of the presentation document. She asked why the DOC had targeted only five SMMEs for development into mainstream businesses. She felt that the targets set needed to be greater. She remarked that there were areas in the Limpopo province where cell phone and radio reception was very poor and asked if the Department’s plans included the improvement of the signals in these areas. She asked if local companies and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) entities were involved in the manufacture of the STBs.
Ms Mohlala explained that the Department had identified five SMMEs that could be developed into bigger companies. The targets could well be exceeded and there was the scope to create many more SMMEs in the communications sector. She confirmed that South Africa as the centre of manufacture of the STBs was a key element and said that the Department planned to reserve 30% of production for black-owned enterprises. She conceded that the expansion of the network was a challenge in remote rural areas but the DOC intended to improve the quality of reception in these areas.
Mr J De Lange (ANC) said that this was the first year of implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Act. The Committee needed to pass a resolution accepting or rejecting the Department’s budget. The presentation did not provide sufficient information for the Members to approve the budget for the various programmes and projects planned by the Department. He suggested that the DOC prepared a different input document which included a more detailed breakdown of each programme, listing the plans, the priority, the capacity required, the budgeted amount, the target dates, etc. The Committee would then be able to hold the DOC accountable for achievement of the desired outcomes and would be in a position to assess the priorities, whether sufficient funding was made available and if the plans were in line with the National priorities.
Ms P De Lille (ID) asked if the DOC was advised of the need to amend the format of the reports submitted to Parliament. There appeared to be different plans at various stages as some plans had been approved by Cabinet and others were still being drafted. She requested a breakdown of the various plans and an indication of the progress that had been made. The Department was subjected to frequent changes in Government policy and she was concerned that there was a risk of losing continuity. She asked if previous policies were subjected to review, which old policies had been scrapped as no longer applicable and which new policies had been developed. A schedule of all the policies was necessary for the Committee to determine if the Department had implemented all the policies required. She requested more information on the subsidy for poor owners of television sets. She asked for more information on the self-sustaining funding models developed for the SOEs, for example the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Sentech and Nemisa. She noted that a monitoring mechanism had been developed for SOEs and wanted to know if the Department had implemented performance monitoring of its own employees and if the Executives had signed performance agreements. She said that the DOC had no provincial function but planned to establish nine provincial committees. She asked for more information on the provincial committees, how the committees would operate and how they would be funded. She commented that the DOC could not create a concurrent power in the provinces.
Ms Mohlala advised that the DOC was not requested to change the format of the report, which was in accordance with the requirements of the National Treasury. The plans submitted were outcomes-based and included the expected impact of the implementation of policy initiatives. She requested the guidance of the Committee on the format of the report required. A copy of the presentation was submitted to the Speaker, who had not indicated that the report was not acceptable. She said that the Department would need more time for a detailed presentation to the Committee and estimated that it would take approximately five hours to present a detailed budget presentation. The Department had detailed business and operational plans, which could be made available to the Members.
Ms Mohlala pointed out that the Department’s key programmes, focus areas and priorities were included in the presentation document. She confirmed that the Minister of Communications had approved the content of the performance agreements of the Department’s executives. Her own and the agreements of the Deputy Directors-General had been signed.
Ms Mohlala said that the Department participated in local government and provincial forums and interacted with both local and provincial authorities. The Department was working with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on matters concerning ICT. A task team was established to develop the funding models for the SOEs and had submitted some proposals. The issue required much more discussion with the SOEs concerned. She pointed out that certain SOEs had healthier financial structures than others and each entity had to be handled differently. She pointed out to Members that the total MTEF allocation for each programme for the next three years was indicated in the presentation. The budget cuts had been taken into account and a more detailed breakdown was available to the Committee.
Mr Buthelezi advised that the model developed for the Universal Services and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) was available for developing other funding models. He said that the determination of the exact number of STBs that would be required was a challenge as the number of pensioners tended to fluctuate.
Ms Mohlala confirmed that the Department was involved in developing new policies as well as reviewing previous policies. The DOC avoided reinventing the wheel where at all possible and preferred to fine-tune existing policies and build on them. She undertook to provide the Committee with a schedule of the policies. The proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) and the ICASA Act was intended to strengthen the entities concerned and aid the effective implementation of the policies.
Ms L Mazibuko (DA) agreed that a review of the format of presentations was necessary to aid the Committee in implementing the Money Bills Amendment Act requirements. The presentation included much detail on the plans and operations of the DOC but did not have enough information on the budget for the various plans and programmes. More information was required on National and Government priorities as well as the internal Departmental priorities. She felt that the presentation document could have been more focused. She asked why the emphasis was placed on the issuing of policy directives to ICASA. ICASA was an independent body and was not bound by any directives from the Department. The five proposed directives would add a further administrative burden on ICASA, which had already been mandated. She asked for more information on the PNC and noted that the programme was likely to change. She asked why the emphasis was placed on the legislative programme.
The Chairperson remarked that the PNC appeared to be a high level intervention but seemed to include a number of smaller projects that did not fit any where else. He asked for further information and an explanation of why an amount of R32.5 million was allocated to the programme.
Ms Mohlala explained that the PNC programme and the funding for the programme were approved by Cabinet. The activities of the programme included the allocation of IP addresses, internet governance and the implementation of international e-connectivity agreements. South Africa was ranked in the top five countries in this regard and the projects implemented by the PNC programme were successful. The PNC programme was staffed with employees with employment contracts, which needed to be taken into account during any review of the programme. She conceded that the name of the programme could be misleading.
Ms Mohlala reiterated that the DOC was responsible for making policies and drafting appropriate legislation. The legislative programme was a key Departmental output. A more detailed document was available to the Committee on the proposed legislation. She conceded that the issuing of policy directives did not always have the desired impact, for example the Broadband and Unbundling of the Local Loop projects.
The Chairperson confirmed that the report submitted by the DOC was in accordance with the format required by National Treasury and that there was no new format requirement. The implementation of the Money Bills Amendment Act required that more detailed information was available to the Committee, which could be forwarded by the Department in due course.
Mr S Kholwane (ANC) pointed out that the debate on the Budget Vote was scheduled for 20 April 2010 and the Department’s budget needed to be approved prior to the debate. He requested an explanation for the doubling of the provision made for external consultants in view of the number of Deputy Directors-General in the DOC. He asked if the new organogram ensured that the departmental structure would be core competent and if the use of external consultants would be discontinued in line with Government policy. He referred to the proposed amendments to the ECA and the ICASA Act and commented that the regulations issued by ICASA did not always conform to Government policy. He questioned the advisability of having an independent authority such as ICASA in a developing country such as South Africa. He noticed that the DOC did not include a review of the Council structure of ICASA in its plans. He asked if the Department was making use of labour brokers as the function for recruitment of personnel had been outsourced. He noted that the amount being transferred to the SABC was substantially reduced over the following three years. He pointed out that the ANC had taken a resolution at the Polokwane Conference concerning the SABC and was concerned that the funding provided would not ensure that the resolution would be implemented.
The Chairperson asked if the senior executives in the DOC had declared their private interests, if the required register had been compiled and if all the executive personnel had complied with the ruling.
Ms Mohlala confirmed that the policy to reduce the dependence on external consultants was in place. She agreed with Mr Kholwane concerning the issue of ICASA and the power of the policy-making entity to ensure that the desired outcomes were delivered. The current legislation did not confer sufficient power on the DOC. The issue of ICASA as the regulator and the DOC as the maker of policy was a historical situation that required review. The DOC was considering the matter and reviewing the legislation (such as the ECA) in an attempt to strengthen the power of the Department as the responsible entity. She agreed that the Council-based structure of ICASA needed to be reviewed and the Department planned to introduce amendments to the ICASA Act in the near future. She confirmed that the Department did not make use of the services of labour brokers to recruit staff. The declarations of interest by all the executive personnel had been finalised.
Ms Malaku explained that the budget provision for external consultants was increased because of the need to create public awareness of the BDM. The Department did not have the internal capacity for this project, which would not be of an ongoing nature. The Department did not plan to appoint external consultants for other projects. She advised that the SABC was allocated an amount of R200 million in 2009/10 for the application of new technology. The project had been completed and the funding to the SABC in following years therefore reflected a decrease.
Mr Kholwane repeated his question concerning the provision of sufficient funding to the SABC to ensure that the ANC’s policy was implemented by the national broadcaster.
Ms Mohlala replied that the SABC decided on what the funding would be spent on. The issue was raised in a meeting held two weeks earlier and she felt that the SABC’s plans were too optimistic.
The Chairperson summarised the major priorities of the DOC, which included BDM, the final ICASA regulations, the revised presentation to the Committee, the schedule of policies and a report on the declarations of interest.
Ms Mohlala requested clarity on the format of the revised presentation requested by the Committee.
The Chairperson confirmed that the report submitted was acceptable but the Committee needed more information in order to comply with the requirements of the Money Bills Amendment Act.
Mr De Lange repeated the suggestions made earlier on the type of information the Committee would find useful in considering the Department’s budget.
The Chairperson thanked the participants for their input and advised that the remaining proceedings would be closed to the public.
Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, made the opening remarks, saying that this interaction would be useful in order for the Presidency to improve. A new Department had been created within the Presidency which was to look after the institutions that fell under it. The Presidency was currently interacting with GCIS about the IMC and the MDDA. There were a lot of changes taking place in government, however they had not yet been finalised. GCIS and other institutions that were under the Presidency would hopefully live up to expectations and inform the public on all changes.
Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) presentation
Mr Themba Maseko (CEO: GCIS) said that GCIS had implemented the recommendations arising from the June 2009 meeting with the Portfolio Committee. He gave feedback about the status of each of these recommendations (see document). A review had led to the decision that GCIS would develop a Government Communications qualification to ensure a trained cadre of communicators.
The Corporate Strategy for 2010-2013 would see greater emphasis on providing communication about the mandated targets of government’s Millennium Development Goals and its Programme of Action to the public. GCIS was responsible for marketing the South African brand globally through the International Marketing Council (IMC). It would provide clear guidance to the IMC by informing them of where government wanted to go. GCIS was responsible for overseeing the mandate of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) to ensure that media diversity was fulfilled. Partnerships with key stakeholders would be enhanced. Communication would be informed by the eight priorities outlined in the State of the Nation Address.
Mr Maseko explained the purpose and medium-term outputs for the 8 GCIS Programmes: Administration; Policy and Research; Government and Media Liaison; Provincial Coordination and Programme Support; Communication Service Agency; International Marketing and Media Development; Government Publications, and Communication Resource Centre. Some of these details were:
● Programme 2 Policy and Research: ensuring that government communicators were trained on how to communicate the programmes of government. When programmes were designed, GCIS would try and find out the information that the public was not getting from government.
● Programme 3 Government and Media Liaison: ensuring that there were communication strategies for programmes, projects and current issues. This section was also responsible for ensuring that there would be communication between GCIS and the media. BuaNews was a publication that was responsible for the dissemination of government information and other developing stories taking place around the country. This was an online government news agency. BuaNews was becoming one of the most reliable sources for news agencies outside of the country.
● Programme 4 Provincial Coordination and Programme Support: filtering down the Cabinet approved communication strategy to provincial and local municipal spheres of government. This included the Imbizo programme, was about taking government to the people in order to get feedback on what the government was doing.
● Programme 5 Communication Service Agency: ensuring there was continual communication between the government and the public through content and product development. Government departments could make use of the agency for advice on which medium to use and how to run a campaign.
● Programme 6 International Marketing and Media Development: interacting with the IMC and the MDDA on a regular basis to ensure that they fulfilled their mandates and spent their budgets adequately.
● Programme 7 Government Publications: improving unmediated and direct communication by government to the public. Vukuzenzele, its largest publication, targeted disadvantaged communities with the purpose to inform them on what government was doing. It was delivered to every second house so that citizens could get information directly. The content of the publication was informed by what the community wanted most to find out about. This information was obtained through surveys that were conducted from time to time.
● Programme 8 Communication Resource Centre: analysing international media coverage on the country as part of GCIS’ leadership in strategic government communication.
GCIS then outlined its information management and technology plans.
In conclusion GCIS said that it would ensure that the international media would be constantly updated on the state of readiness of the country for the FIFA World Cup. Previous negative reports had been eradicated by GCIS. The Football Friday and the Fly the Flag campaigns had been launched and had proven to be very successful. An international road show in all the 31 participating countries had been launched to bring their fans into the country to watch the World Cup.
The GCIS budget over three years was R546 million for 20010/11, R507 million in 2011/12 and R515 million in 2012/13. The reason for the major dip between 2010 /11 and 2011/12 was that the allocation for the MDDA had not been included in the budget. The Minister had instructed that National Treasury must be engaged on this. No political decisions had been taken that suggested that the MDDA should no longer exist. The allocation was currently reflected in the budget they presented to the Committee.
The Chairperson noted that the new Money Bills Amendment Act had placed a unique obligation on the Committee as it could now approve, reject or make recommendations on the budget. The document presented was useful but not helpful in processing the budget as the Committee had to know how much would be allocated for each specific objective. This also meant that the Committee needed to be informed about the specific time frames within which all tasks would be completed.
Mr Maseko replied that the format that was used for the strategic plan was the existing format. The Department would be able to submit a breakdown to the Committee by the end of the week. The issue of the MDDA was a major one; it had to be addressed with National Treasury. The CEO of the MDDA was advised to submit a budget for a 3-year strategic plan to the Committee. The Department was working under the impression that the funding for the MDDA would be re-allocated.
The Chairperson asked what had happened concerning this budget allocation.
Mr Maseko responded that only National Treasury could answer this question, the decision had been taken without any consultations. The allocation was on the budget in December but on the final allocation there had been an omission. The matter would be sorted out and if necessary it would be elevated to the level of Ministers. The MDDA existed as a result of an Act of Parliament, the non-allocation of a budget meant that an Act of Parliament would be rendered unimplementable
The Chairperson said that the Committee still had to approve the budget; a written notice from National Treasury had to be issued to the Committee stating that the budget allocation for MDDA would be restored. This was important so that it would be reflected in the Committee’s report.
Ms Williams confirmed that a detailed report would be submitted to the Committee by the end of the week. The budget that the Department worked with could be broken down to specific activities and allocations.
Mr S Kholwane (ANC) commended the helpfulness of the presentation. What was the impact of the exclusion of the MDDA from the budget? This was important, as the Committee would be approving a three-year budget. The fees diverted for the use of consultants was too high, what was the total amount spent by GCIS on consultants?
Ms Phumla Williams Deputy CEO for GCIS replied that the Department was very cautious when it came to the use of consultants. The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) was mainly used for IT services. The seemingly large figure noted by Mr Kholwane was a Cabinet initiative for saving energy. A lot of the work on this project was undertaken by GCIS as well.
Mr K Zondi (IFP) said that the MDDA was encouraging community newspapers and radio stations. However when government wanted to advertise they would forget about this media. What was the government doing for the sustainability of local community radio stations and newspapers?
Mr Chabane replied that Cabinet had observed that Thusong Centres had started out as communication centres that communicated with the communities. Over time they had assumed a civic centre profile. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was the ideal department to assume responsibility for these centres. A range of departments - for example the Department of Home Affairs and the Department Social Development - had provided services at the Thusong Centres on a part time basis. The delay for resolving the issue of the Thusong Centres was because it had earlier transpired that the services provided by various departments to these centres caused a serious burden on their budgets. A review process was underway and once its findings were complete, Cabinet would take a decision.
Ms Williams added that many of the Department’s live communication programmes had a link-up with over 60 community radio stations on a monthly basis.
Mr Maseko noted that GCIS did support community media but the bulk of this was mainly concentrated on radio. The Department could also look at using print media in future.
Ms S Tsebe said Members of Parliament were also responsible for being communicators for their various constituencies. Would it be possible for MPs to send information from their constituencies to BuaNews? Where and how was Vukuzenzele distributed? Constituency offices were closer to the people; they could be used to reach the community. Why were MPs and constituency officers not assigned any role for Imbizos?
The Chairperson added that the exclusion of MPs at Imbizos was an important matter that had to be addressed. The MPs were representatives of the people and there had been concerns about this from many others.
Ms Baby Tyawa, Deputy CEO for GCIS, responded that BuaNews functioned as a newspaper whilst Vukuzenzele was based on what the community wanted to be published. Ms Tsebe request was better suited to Vukuzenzele rather than BuaNews. Vukuzenzele was an open invitation for stories to be submitted and profiled. The distribution strategy was such that the target market was that category of persons with a Living Standard Measure (LSM) of 1-4. Thus there would be areas that would be excluded. The distribution strategy was continually reviewed. The publication was also dropped off in Parliament as well as in the pigeonholes of all the MPs. The Department would not be able to deliver the publication at constituencies that were outside the target market.
Ms Tyawa said that, for Imbizos, GCIS relied on an integrated strategy at provincial level. Unfortunately Ministers flew all the time to various areas without any notice. Until there were inter-stakeholder teams led by Directors General on a permanent basis to monitor these situations, problems would still continue.
Mr Maseko added that because of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers it would not be possible for GCIS to train MPs. Any information or advice required by MPs would readily be made available but the mandate of GCIS did not cover the training of MPs.
Minister Chabane commented that the main issue was how constituency offices could be used for communication purposes. It was true that Ministers moved from place to place without informing GCIS. GCIS was only ever informed if there was a need for its assistance. The matter could be resolved through coordination. The Ministry was reviewing Imbizo programmes. It wanted to come up with a system for checking the extent of communication within Departments. It had to change the system so that there would be a single date on which all relevant stakeholders would be available for a particular event.
Mr Zondi asked how GCIS monitored and evaluated its success as well as the government’s Programme of Action for communities. What was the role of GCIS in addressing the problem of service delivery protests?
Ms Nebo Leqoabe, Deputy CEO for GCIS, said that the Department had always been giving guidance to communicators. Provincial officers were conducting local and provincial assessments to identify areas where there were service delivery problems. The immediate step would be to invite communicators and municipalities to develop a strategy to curb any protests. Communicators could not effectively address the issue of service delivery however because it was beyond the Department’s scope. Communities were often satisfied if there was engagement or a perception of engagement for sorting out their dissatisfaction. Provincial officers mostly used constituency offices to distribute information on government programmes.
Mr Maseko said that the communication framework had been approved by Cabinet and then sent to departments as a guide for developing their own communication strategies. These were then sent to GCIS for an evaluation. One of the important methods for monitoring GCIS was the use of research projects that were conducted by external agencies. These projects informed GCIS of what people on the ground were thinking. The feedback of the last six months was that national government was performing well but there were concerns over provincial and local government. Guidelines for departments and provinces might have to be compiled on how to put together a good advertisement.
Ms J Kilian (COPE) commended the Vukuzenzele publication. It was a nightmare for MPs when they had to direct people to constituency offices in order for them to obtain information. Posters could be made that directed citizens to constituencies as well as posters with information could be put up at constituency offices themselves. Funds were scarce for municipalities yet they ran big advertisements that cost a lot of money. Cost cutting measures should be considered and the Department should guide these institutions so that they achieved their goals but with limited funding.
Mr Maseko responded that the Department would look into the issue of posters. Ms Tyawa also agreed.
The Minister clarified to GCIS that the cental issue was how information would be made easily available to members of the public. The government had to address simplifying access to information. The Presidential Hotline was in fact a tool for assessing the most pressing issues by determining the number of calls that covered the same issue.
Mr N Van Den Berg (DA) said that citizens mostly needed information the moment they had problems. It would be money well spent if the Department had an internal information strategy within government. If every official attended to the problems of citizens especially in the rural areas then there would be no problems. All government officials should realise that in the eyes of the public they embody the government and they should be able to either answer the phone or attend to all problems.
Ms Mazibuko (DA) asked what was the scope for Thusong Centres to be used for E government services?
Ms Leqoabe replied that there was a toll free number that could be accessed if community members needed any information. Those who had access to the Internet could access the government portal for E services. The Thusong Centres were supposed to house tele-services. There were some services that the community had to pay for.
Mr Maseko added that a new vision was being developed for the Thusong Centres. They had to be converted into one-stop shops for all government services.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its cooperation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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