Service Delivery briefings: Minister and Departments of Public Works, Department of Transport, Auditor-General South Africa, Human Sciences Research Council & Information Technology Association

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

11 May 2010
Chairperson: Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted that the term of this Committee would be extended to end of July 2010, and reported that Members would visit KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and the Northern Cape to interact with the local communities as well as public officials on service delivery, before making its final report and recommendations.

The Minister of Public Works gave a high level overview of some key achievements of the Department and some of its main programmes. The Minister restated the mandate and noted that key challenges hampering service delivery included issues of confusion and lack of clarity on the responsibilities of the three spheres of government, but said that lack of understanding should never be an excuse for poor service delivery. He emphasised the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) as the cornerstone for job creation but cautioned that it had to be managed wisely. Members raised concerns about poor payment of rates by provinces and other State organs, reiterated that there was confusion over mandates, with the Department acting in some areas to maintain roads, but not in others, and noted that there was still not sufficient impetus in delivering the EPWP to the smaller more marginalised communities. They furthermore questioned whether the Department was aware of its assets, when the register was likely to be finalised, and highlighted the poor state of some government buildings.

The Department of Transport focused on the improved strategies for road, air and rail regulations. He noted that the integration of public integrated transport systems was hampered by lack of joint planning, and outlined the Bus Rapid Transit system and some of its problems. He noted that government had a strong commitment to rural transport, which was viewed as a key to unlock the economic potential in rural areas, although the Department had been concentrating on the host cities in the run up to 2010. Members commented that the roads in rural areas in particular were in a poor state and questioned what initiatives were being taken to persuade hauliers to use rail instead of road. The Chairperson welcomed the statement that an emphasis on shifting from road to rail was now the subject of an agreement between the Department and the President.

The Auditor-General South Africa gave a consolidated report on the audit outcomes for municipalities and municipal entities, explained their statistics and gave an explanation on future outcomes. They also set out and explained what the Performance audits would mean. Members questioned some figures and said that they would have liked to receive more details of those municipalities who were not complying, questioned what would be done about local government failing to provide the information requested and commented that they thought that a stronger approach was perhaps needed.

The Human Sciences Research Council focused on what service delivery was, how it was applied in South Africa, the motivation behind some of the service delivery protests, and how the Council was responding to the needs of the nation, and what its research was directed towards. Some examples of research findings were presented to demonstrate what could be done. Shortage of time prevented a detailed presentation and questions.

The Information Technology Association briefly presented an overview of why and how ICT could assist government in meeting its delivery objectives, and provided a model for arriving at and adopting a strategy for ICT in service delivery. Once again, there was insufficient time for questions and the Committee decided that the Association would be invited back, with other parties, to another meeting where issues could be explained in detail.

Meeting report

Service Delivery Briefings:
Department of Public Works (DPW) Briefing

Hon Geoff Doidge, Minister of Public Works, stated that there were relevant issues relating to service delivery. These were the payment of rates by local government on the buildings owned by Department of Public Works (the Department or DPW) and the successes and challenges related to the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The DPW worked very closely with all the provinces as well as with SALGA and other stakeholders, and had signed protocol agreements with each province.

The Minister reminded members of DPW’s twofold mandate. It was to provide accommodation for government departments, and must also regulate the entities under its control, being the Construction Industries Development Board (CIDB), the Council for the Built Environment (CBE) and
Agrément South Africa (ASA). He further stressed that DPW was a “sleeping giant”, with its potential not utilised for many years.  He referred to the White Paper issued by his predecessor, Minister Jeff Radebe, and said that the Department had lost track of those published plans but wished to pick up the momentum on the service delivery agenda. The Department’s Medium Term Strategic Framework was geared to address just that. DPW was also committed to the Growth Path Initiative as discussed by government.

One of the goals stemming from this commitment was to pay service providers within 30 days. Plans were in place to utilise the entities under its control, like CIDB and CBE, and work together with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and external bodies like the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), in order to grow the professional skills base of civil and structural engineers required by local government. He would be addressing the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA) to promote the transformation of the property sector. DPW aimed to increase the uptake of young people in its programmes. The registration of professionals was also high on the agenda, particularly since not all institutions offered courses that led to registration as professionals. DPW was working closely with all the relevant registration councils as well as the Department of Higher Education to address this matter.

The Minister also encouraged the Chairperson to invite the Independent Development Trust (IDT) for a presentation because it was heavily involved in social infrastructural delivery across all spheres of government.

There was a general consensus that DPW needed to revise its business model and create a more technically astute entity. This was part of the reason for the establishment of the Property Management Trading Entity, soon to be launched. He compared DPW, with only a handful of professional employees, with its Indian counterpart, where over 7 000 professionals were employed. He said that dependence on consultants must stop.

The Minister said that through the 109 000 properties on the asset register of the national Department, DPW must ensure that it created decent employment for young people. It must ensure that its asset base was used optimally. In order for government to deliver, its departments needed efficient and responsive infrastructure. The Department would therefore have to ensure that it used programmes like its Rehabilitation and Maintenance Programme (RAMP) to create more skilled artisans, and would work closely with other key stakeholders to revive some of the training centres where artisans used to be trained.

The Minister wished to emphasise that the concurrent functions between provincial and national departments left room for conflict. However, Sections 40 and 41 of the Constitution provided for cooperative government and intergovernmental relations to deal with such matters. Section 100 of the Constitution could be invoked if required. He stressed that confusion about the concurrent competencies should never be used as excuses for poor service delivery.

DPW did not have its own budget for Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP), as these were budgeted for by local government or any other participating departments. The only money DPW had for EPWP was by way of Incentive Grant funding. DPW assisted departments to design such programmes and then managed them. He was very excited about one of these programmes, Food for Waste, where citizens were encouraged to collect waste, in return for food parcels. Many municipalities were clamouring for the DPW to implement this in their areas. The benefits were enormous. The environments were clean, poverty was alleviated, and entrepreneurship was ignited. It was still, however, a challenge in how to penetrate the rural regions as well as how to introduce more labour intensive methods.

Mr Stanley Henderson, Acting Deputy Director General, Department of Public Works, spoke about the performance of municipalities against the Incentive Grant conditions (see attached presentation for details).

Mr Mandla Mabuza, Deputy Director General: Special Projects, DPW, briefly outlined and discussed the status of rate payments from provinces to local government (see attached presentation and statistical reports).

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) asked why it was necessary for any government department to still rent a building when the DPW already owned it. He also needed more clarity on who owned what.

The Minister explained that even if another department should commission the development of a building, such a building would be handed to DPW, once completed.

Mr A Williams (ANC) asked if the Minister was happy with the Constitutional mandate and its structure.

The Minister said he was happy with the mandate but accepted that there was some difficulty in understanding the mandate. He stressed again that nobody should use any confusion or difficulty as an excuse for poor delivery.

Mr Williams asked if there was an effective asset register and whether an audit had been done or was being planned on the clients’ needs. He asked whether DPW had any intention to build further capacity in municipalities to collect outstanding rates.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) and Ms M Wenger (DA) were concerned about non-payment in Limpopo.

Ms Mushwana asked if any municipalities were reporting this non-payment.

Mr W Dorman needed further clarity on who paid for properties on the provincial register.

The Minister replied that a task team from all spheres of government had been set up to deal with the entire rates issue. The problem with rates was a billing problem. He said that often a municipality would still send a bill to the client department, such as South African Police Service, although DPW had signed the lease agreement. To help clear up the confusion about ownership and responsibilities for buildings, DPW wanted government to extend the Government Wide Asset Management System (GIAMA) legislation to local government as well. 

Ms G Borman (ANC) asked for more details about the intended Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with DPW’s tenant departments.

Ms Borman needed more clarity on why certain municipalities were not taking up the Incentive Grant.

Ms Borman also had a concern whether the skills in which people were being trained actually matched the opportunities available, and how this could be improved upon.

Ms Wenger asked what control measures were in place to ensure local municipalities were spending the money and reaching their targets for the EPWP.

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) asked whether the transfer of assets to provinces and municipalities had been finalised. He felt that the delay may be part of the reason why there was still confusion about ownership, maintenance and rate payments. Some of the lease agreements were questionable, and it said it may be in the Department’s interest to review such agreements. A concern was that some service delivery protests were targeted at the wrong sphere of government, because of lack of direction or action.

The Minister explained that the Department did indeed transfer assets, at no cost, to provinces and local governments for various projects, including housing and sewage. In the past few months he had signed over more than 50 assets to provinces and local government.

Mr Makhubele referred to the unspent R5 billion sitting with the National Skills Fund. He asked what coordination there was amongst the stakeholders, to avoid working in silos and to ensure monies were spent appropriately. He asked what the criteria were for allocating monies to provinces, especially since there was still not proper accounting for some of the assets.

The Minister said the Department was indeed tapping into the NSF’s pool and for this year alone it had secured R350 million.

Mr M Mdakane (ANC) raised concerns about the pace of introducing the EPWP to the smaller towns where there was still large scale unemployment amongst the youth of between 20 and 35 years old.

Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) asked how to go about replicating the Food for Waste programme in her constituency. She needed to know where the Department’s programmes were located, so that she could monitor and provide support to those programmes.

The Minister agreed that it was a problem and that much effort and planning was going into finding the right model to create sustainable jobs. There was already success in some areas and it now remained for DPW to work with other stakeholders in replicating this. He referred to the example of India and said it was also vital to consider how much of every project could be constructed by labour intensive methods.

Mr Mdakane said that many of the local municipalities were not capacitated sufficiently to take up these programmes. He emphasised that some of the Department’s properties were creating serious social problems. Because of poor management they were vandalised, used by informal settlers, and were even becoming a hive for criminal elements.

Ms Nhlengethwa mentioned the town of Amsterdam, asking when a robot was going to be erected. She remained confused about who was responsible for roads, since the Minister said he was not the “Minister for Potholes”. She found that in her area the regional office of DPW was indeed fixing roads.

She said another reason for the service delivery protests was the inaccurate and ineffective billing systems administered by the local governments. She wondered if DPW could help local government to improve their systems.

Mr W Dorman (DA) wanted to speak on behalf of the municipalities with only one or two State buildings in their region. This seriously impacted on their revenue stream, making it difficult to deliver services. He asked if it would not be possible for such municipalities to simply get a grant.

Ms Borman expressed her concern that DPW always seemed to be at the planning stages, and asked when real action was going to be taken.

The Minister wanted to clear up the perception that his Department did not know what properties it owned or was responsible for. He stated that the former homelands had properties whose title was uncertain. It was only through continuous forensic investigations and searches through the Deeds Register that such properties’ owners were established. There were properties that DPW and government were slowly getting to. He said that he would provide further detailed written feedback.

Department of Transport (DoT) briefing
Mr D Mahlalela, Director General, Department of Transport, explained that his presentation was 100 pages long but that he would briefly touch on priority issues. He would refer to road, rail and air transport.

The key issues in road transport included regulation and service delivery around testing stations but also public transport issues, including the integrated public transport networks, such as the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.  Other issues were also the Rural Transport Strategy and the national road network. There were major challenges at the road testing stations. In-depth inspections were under way at many of the stations, and a special investigations unit had been established to deal with fraud and corruption. This was work in progress. Another problem was the lack of understanding of the legislative framework amongst provinces and local governments, and the challenges included the need to build capacity there. Ongoing inspections were under way at transporters of dangerous goods and services. In the past year alone over 115 operators were inspected.

One of the interventions to improve service delivery in licensing was to look at various service providers, like the post office and banks, and agreement had already been reached with the Post Office and negotiations were underway with the banks for renewal of licences there.

DoT had a mandate from government to look at providing integrated public transport systems to twelve major cities and six rural areas by 2020. Because of the World Cup in 2010, major progress had already been made in host cities, but now the focus was on the other identified areas. One of the key challenges with providing integrated services was that specific functions were sitting with different spheres of government. The solution could lie in municipalities taking over the entire responsibility. Allocations, in the form of the Public Transport Infrastructure and Systems (PTIS) Grant, were already made to municipalities. Two major areas where attention was needed was the problem of rapidly escalating costs coupled with the failure of government to look at the question of integration, such as the lack of integration between the Gautrain and the BRT systems.

Another area of concern was engagement with the taxi industry. Government promised that all those affected by the BRT would become beneficiaries or shareholders of the BRT system. This engagement had proven to be a major hurdle that DoT was still working on.

The Rural Transport Services and Infrastructure Grant wished to steer rural transport in a certain direction. A Rural Transport Policy was now in place and government hoped to unlock the enormous economic benefit from the provision of rural access nodes of transport. This programme started with a very low financial base but after 2010 a strong bias would be shown to rural transport in the public transport spending. A serious problem was that most of the funding was directed at building new roads, whilst very little or nothing was kept for maintenance. The balance between new roads and maintenance needed to be resolved.

Mr Mahlalela asked Members to read the remainder of the presentation themselves, as he felt the remaining time was needed for questions.

Mr Mdakane was concerned that there did not seem to be a focused approach on revitalisation of the railway lines. He complained that heavy trucks were damaging the roads. He was also worried that the taxi industries were not involved from the beginning to the end of the BRT planning, with the result that there was violence.

Mr Williams asked if DoT had a mechanism to force whoever was responsible to do maintenance of roads. As a solution, he suggested the Department should be charging more for truckers to use the roads.

Ms F Mushwana (ANC) asked if the grants included the transport of learners.

Mr Matshoba referred to the conditions of the road between Queenstown and Beaufort West and asked if the DoT relied on reports from third parties or whether it undertook its own inspections. He also felt that the privatisation of road maintenance was a failure, and that DoT needed to reverse that decision.

Ms Borman called for more intense driver education programmes. She also needed more clarity on why integration of the transport systems was not working so well. She asked whether the increased use of taxis should not be held responsible for the poor conditions of rural roads.

Mr Makhubele had a problem with DoT handing functions like licensing over to the municipalities, because they could not cope, yet making all sorts of prescriptions and conditions a few months later. He felt that the two different permit systems – one road based and the other radius based, were at the heart of most of the taxi violence. He called for a single simplified system. He also said that some of the taxi licensing boards could be part of the corruption.

The Chairperson noticed that Mr Mahlalela referred to funds being ring fenced for maintenance. He felt that imposing this on locals meant total disregard for local conditions and asked if there was no other system for implementation to obtain the same objective.

Mr Mahlalela responded that the problem was not simply one of ring fencing, but rather that South Africa had no model for managing its road assets. DoT was interacting with stakeholders to find a model that cut across all spheres of government, in order to find a balance between building new roads and maintaining them. He said he would revert to the Committee on this, because it was important to gain a shared view.

In regard to the trucking questions, he said that the problem with rural roads was indeed the trucking. The Minister and President had signed an agreement to focus on moving cargo from road to rail. The only way to attract hauliers to the rail system was by revitalising both rural and national railway lines.

Mr Mahlalela conceded that the taxi and BRT integration system was problematic because the quality of the engagement was not always sound. There were also elements from the taxi industry that made it their business to create division and sabotage the process.

He said, in regard to licensing, that the Department was not trying to take over functions from local government, but it did not wish to hand over systems with inefficiencies.

Mr Mahlalela promised to make a written submission to accommodate all the unanswered questions.

The Chairperson welcomed the fact that the road to rail initiative was now one of the Minister’s stated outcomes. She said that it had been an unimplemented policy for too long.

Office of the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA) briefing
Mr Cobus Botes, Senior Manager, and Ms Macy Nkau, Representative of Office of the Auditor-General, and gave a presentation on the audit outcomes for municipalities and municipal entities.

Ms Nkau tabled and explained the statistics on the audit opinions, by region (see attached presentation).  She then commented on the Performance Audit, saying that this related to issues of compliance and management of performance information. Areas requiring improvement were highlighted.

The key drivers for improvement were focused on leadership, financial management and governance. Leaders should focus more on matters such as the tone set by management, mentoring and coaching, willingness to take remedial action and effective manpower utilisation. Proper Financial Management meant insisting upon monthly statements, sound internal controls, compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and effective information systems. Governance was about audit and risk reviews as well as scope of work and capacity.

She proceeded to share some general warning signals emanating from the audits (see attached presentation). In conclusion she reminded members that AGSA was committed to being pro-active to exert a positive influence on outcomes and to have regular contact with the Executive authority. 

Ms Nhlengethwa asked if it was possible that the high non-compliancy could be ascribed to lack of understanding of the legislative framework. If so, she asked whether Parliament should be considering revising the framework.

Mr Williams felt it would be helpful to have a breakdown into specific municipalities, so that Members and the Departments could provide leadership to those who were showing a general trend of adverse reports.

Mr Doman and Mr Williams asked for clarity on slide four.

Mr Makhubele asked to what extent the audit report was influenced by AGSA’s own backlog of completing and processing information. He understood that some municipalities could have submitted all their information, but that AGSA was hampered by its own internal backlogs.  He asked if there was a mechanism that could force municipalities to improve their outcomes. If so, he asked how effective it was.

Ms Macy responded that she was not sure if the Annual Report would reveal details of the backlog and its influence but failing that, she was happy to provide members with such details in the future.

The Chairperson asked if the turn around strategy could perhaps be the mechanism referred to by Mr Makhubele.

Ms Borman asked if ASGA reached a point with some entities where information was simply never received, or whether it persisted in asking for it until it was handed over to complete the audit.

Mr Makhubele asked if ASGA had plans to assist municipalities with support in order to cope with GAAP readiness and implementation.

The Chairperson was concerned that the approach seemed to be one of diplomacy. He asked for more direct and fundamental identification of the problems, saying that there was no room for diplomacy here. He also challenged Members to come up with ideas as to how the Committee should deal with regions that showed high levels of non-compliancy.

Ms Nkau replied that most of the issues like compliancy and further breakdown of the statistics, would appear in the Annual Report to be tabled in June 2010.

Ms Nkau explained the figures on Slide 4. She noted that the figure of non-compliancy in North West meant that all the municipalities did not comply, but that the 78% figure showed the extent of the municipalities who failed to provide reliable information. As much as some did not comply they still provided supporting documentation that was reliable.

Ms Macy said that AGSA did have a quarterly review with the municipalities and a clear action plan to address gaps was developed. AGSA then constantly monitored the effects of such plans. She concurred with the Chairperson that the turn around strategy formed part of that mechanism. 

Ms Macy said that she would report to the Committee about any municipality that did not receive an audit report for the past three years. However, she stressed that ASGA did strive to complete audits within two months of submission of complete information.

The Chairperson asked if it was possible to report separately on municipalities and municipal entities. He understood that this was a consolidated report but felt it would be more useful in the future if members could view them separately.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) briefing
Dr Olive Shisana, Chief Executive Officer, Human Sciences Research Council, was accompanied by her colleagues Dr Yudesh Pillay, Executive Director: Service Delivery Unit, Policy, Democracy and Governance, Professor Magnus Simbayi, who was responsible for Social Aspects of Health and HIV/ AIDS, and Professor Labadarios, Executive Director: Knowledge Systems. Serious time constraints compelled the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to simply provide a high level overview of some key service delivery issues. Some of the key issues covered were a set of acceptable principles for what service delivery should be like; what the reasons were behind service delivery protests; and monitoring and evaluation practices.

This was followed by a brief statement of how the HSRC had already and still intended to respond to the needs of the nation. It had established a dedicated research unit for service delivery. It administered regular surveys across various areas of delivery, concentrating on actual delivery as well as perceptions over time.  It had engaged in research projects and case studies in order to derive best practice models. It then hoped to take this new body of knowledge to the “market”, where other departments and communities could benefit after a learning process.

With these research projects and programmes HSRC hoped to provide a framework for all stakeholders to plan for optimal impact and massive improvements. HSRC regarded service delivery as critical to development and addressing backlogs and inequities. It was a complex matter and not just a simple case of delivery of products and services. Constructive engagement and research-based planning was required. There were no easy gains and no one-size-fits-all solutions. 

She asked that Members study the attached presentation for more detail.

Information Technology Association (ITA) briefing
Mr Adam Rabie, Past President, Information Technology Association, gave a presentation in which he tried to sketch the potential of the use of ICT in service delivery. Although the presentation was very technical, he said that he would try to give an overview of where and why ICT could assist with service delivery. Firstly, he stressed the point that no government could ignore ICT any longer. Its citizens expected government to respond to them via various technological platforms.

The benefits of fully employing ICT were varied. They included streamlined management functions, simple but powerful oversight functionality, quick and easy linkages with all the role-players, driving down costs, improving economic access for many of the marginalised citizens, monitoring and control. Further benefits were the provision of information kiosks, similar to ATMs, to provide citizens with almost anything to do with services. These kiosks could act as a two-way communication channels between the State and its people.

Mr Rabie also alluded to various steps government could follow to formulate its own ICT strategy, referring Members to the presentation.

The Chairperson reminded members that the Departments of Communications and Public Service and Administration, as well as the State Information Technology Agency, had much more information on these matters and that Members were free to interact with them. He said that unfortunately there was simply no more time for any discussions on these topics. He said that it would have been helpful if the ITA had surveyed what was already happening in government on the ICT front. He would invite the ITA to present again, when a broader group of stakeholders could be present to talk through these issues in more depth. He hoped the presentation had created a further platform for the Committee to look at potential.

Other business

The Chairperson reminded Members that the term of this Committee would be extended to end of July 2010, and reported that Members would visit KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and the Northern Cape to interact with the local communities as well as public officials on service delivery, before making its final report and recommendations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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