National Council for Library & Information Services: Challenges facing Library & Information Services sector; PanSALB Progress Report on former CEO Disciplinary Hearing

Arts and Culture

01 June 2010
Chairperson: Mr T Farisani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The National Council for Library and Information Services briefed the Committee  on the drastic under funding, the lack of policy and structure,  a deterioration of the professionalism of librarianship, and other challenges facing the Library and Information Services sector. A transformation charter had been drafted. The Council suggested that the Library and Information Association of South Africa become a statutory body to stem the de-professionalisation of the library profession.

Members asked about the lack of funding and the bad state of libraries in the country,  requested information on the spending of the Community Library Services Conditional Grant,  expressed regret that inequality, especially in rural areas, was not being redressed, agreed that a culture of reading needed to be inculcated in the country, and vowed to deal with the sorry situation that libraries were in.

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) briefed Members on its progress since its last meeting with the Committee, indicated that it had begun all that the Auditor-General had requested for compliance, and gave a progress report on the disciplinary action against the former Chief Executive Officer, Ms N R Nkosi, whom, the Board alleged, had been stalling in order to delay the hearing indefinitely. The Board made allegations of financial irregularities and insubordination. The Board gave a date for the completion of the matter – 14 June 2010.

Members expressed regret and distaste over the ugliness of the situation and requested that the matters be expedited as soon as possible. There was concern over the mounting legal costs, especially with regard to Ms Nkosi’s case, and it was feared that tax payers’ money was being wasted. The Chairperson noted, however, that the Board was performing much better than it had in the past.

Meeting report

Presentation by the National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS)
Professor M Nkondo, Chairperson of the Board of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), on behalf of the National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS), briefed the Committee on the Library and Information Services (LIS) Charter.

Prof Nkondo indicated the background of the NCLIS. The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the NCLIS had appointed the seven members of the LIS Transformation Charter Technical Team. The team’s assignment was to define the challenges facing the LIS sector and to provide a framework for effecting the changes necessary for the sector to contribute to the elimination of illiteracy, the eradication of inequality in the sector, the promotion of social cohesion, and the building of an informed and reading nation.

There had been consultation with stakeholders. Briefings had been held in the nine provinces from May to July 2008. The Minister had briefed the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Executive Committee at Nelspruit in 2008. Presentations had been given at the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) Conference, Cape Town, October 2008. There had been a National Summit at Pretoria on 05 December 2008. Briefings had been given to the National Council for Library and Information Services, 27 January 2009, the Minister of Arts and Culture, the Minister of Education, 16 February 2009, and MINMEC, February 2009.

The Charter’s 12 chapters laid out a structure of practical reasoning to guide librarians, managers of educational institutions, and public officials on how they should think and act in order to enhance the public perception of libraries. The Charter set out an idea of what citizens should expect of librarians and public officials involved in the sector, the political, professional and ethical responsibilities they assumed in taking office and what constituted success in the execution of their work. It set out, in broad outline, an analytical framework to guide librarians and managers of educational institutions in analysing the situations in which they operated and assessed the potential for effective action. The Charter identified the particular kinds of interventions that they could make to exploit the potential of their political and institutional settings for enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.

As to methodology, the Charter was grounded in the context of the South African Government in the last 15 years. It was based on extensive public consultations in each of the nine provinces, interviews with scholars and practitioners, as well as on academic literature that was available and relevant to understanding the context, purposes, and methods of librarians and managers of educational institutions.

Under the heading challenges and interventions, the Charter called for institutional reform and changes in how librarians and managers of educational institutions should do their work.

The Charter aimed to establish national norms and standards for the LIS sector with regard to governance; education and training: investing in people; protecting the most vulnerable: people with disabilities; access and participation; and establishing a culture of reading and the transformation of national culture.

The Charter sought to ensure effective implementation by means of national norms and standards. At the core of the transformation challenges was the lack of national policy on norms and standards. Key to the governance challenges was overlapping mandates and the lack of capacity to transform the sector in line with the Bill of Rights and applicable national policies. In this regard, legislation had to be reviewed to eliminate overlaps and confusion at the point of implementation.

Fundamental to education and training was investing in people. The future of the sector lay in its human resources. Indeed, the sector had to solve its training, recruitment and retention crisis if it was to contribute to national development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The South African curriculum – in its ethos and its pedagogies – could not be delivered without access to well-managed collections of learning resources.

It was incumbent on society to protect the most vulnerable - people with disabilities. Government should enforce the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in terms of which the sector should develop a rights and inclusion policy framework.

With regard to access and participation, as part of a wider set of measures to achieve equality and justice, the sector must ensure free and easy access for all to library and information services.

It was essential to build a culture of reading and to transform national culture. To develop a culture of reading, steps should be taken to mobilise television and other forms of mass media in the campaign to resocialise all South Africans, especially children and the youth, within the framework of values provided by the Constitution and the White Paper on Batho Pele.

The other memory institutions - archives and museums - should be advised to develop their own charters.

In order to ensure effective implementation, if the sector was to take responsibility for its own development, as it should, the Library and Information Association of South Africa and the National Council for Library and Information Services must be given greater authority on issues that concerned them.

Adequate funding must be provided. An independent monitoring and evaluation system must be established to make sure this happened.

National Achievements to date included the Community Library Services Conditional Grant; the drafting of a Library and Information Services Transformation Charter; the reprinting of African literature classics; and a draft South African Community Library and Information Services Bill to provide a legal framework for national norms and standards.

Mr G Haffajee, NCLIS, highlighted that key challenges facing the sector were primarily motivated by the serious under funding of the sector, and also by the lack of norms and standards for libraries across the country, together with issues of governance. It was evident that the LIS sector was seriously under funded in all respects. There was no funding framework to meet cost requirements for libraries. This was a serious inadequacy.

Since 2008 a Community Libraries Conditional Grant had been implemented. However per capita spending on libraries in South Africa was low by comparison with other countries.

There needed to be legislative changes to allow the DAC to fund via the provinces. Currently there was no clear policy on allocation of roles. The Copyright Act needed to be amended in terms of special provisions for education, libraries, and interlibrary loans. Furthermore, norms, standards, and the development of suitable legislation were needed for the LIS sector.

Ms R More, Deputy National Librarian, NLSA, stated that challenges facing the library profession included the de-professionalisation of the profession, with many unqualified people being employed as librarians. This led to an impact on the quality of library services. The low status of the profession was decreasing the number of new entrants. Furthermore there was high staff turnover due to low salaries. Another problem was the aging nature of the profession and a large number of people retiring.

LIASA advocated the provision of proper library services. LIASA represented the LIS sector at an international level and had decided to explore the possibility of becoming a statutory body to address the aforementioned problems.

Prof Nkondo added that the current President of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) was Ellen Tigh, who was based at Stellenbosch University.

Prof A Lotriet (DA) congratulated the delegation on the work done and added that LIS played a crucial role. The challenges were disconcerting. Elaboration on the issue pertaining to schools was required as a culture of reading began at schools. She asked whether overlapping mandates included the education sector.

Mr Haffajee replied that there was no national school library policy, but that there was one in Kwazulu-Natal. Because there were so few school libraries the strain on public libraries was drastic, where they were available. The public library mandate did not include school children, but they had to be catered for due to the lack of school libraries; this led to conflicting mandates.

Ms J Tshivhase (ANC) said that there was a problem when it came to rural areas as they were historically disadvantaged but nothing had happened so far. Schools in rural areas complained that there were no libraries. She asked for the statistics on libraries built in rural areas. 

Prof Nkondo replied that chapter 5 of the charter was devoted to school libraries because the urgency of the problem was appreciated. In the Eastern Cape, 2.9% of areas had functional libraries, in the Free State 8.8%, in Gauteng 18.4%, in Kwazulu-Natal 6.1%, Limpopo 2.3%, Mpumalanga 6.1%, Northern Cape 2.3%, North-West Province 6.4% and Western Cape 25%.  Overall, 2.75% of areas in the country had functional libraries. Outcomes based education (OBE) was resource based. In the light of this there was an inbuilt contradiction between the curriculum philosophy and the resources available. He added that there was a failure to address historical inequalities and the situation was as bleak as it had been in 1994.

Mr S Ntapane (UDM) said that he was aware of how bad librarians’ salaries were and asked for any solutions or suggestions.

Ms More replied that low salaries were a challenge which had resulted in a mass exodus from the profession. The amounts differed from area to area. A new librarian entering the sector could expect to earn from R89 000 to R107 000 a year. She was aware of librarians in the sector for 30 years who were earning R130 000 a year.

Prof Nkondo replied that the Charter’s chapter on implementation gave specific recommendations. However, it was very difficult for the NCLIS to prescribe things. There was a difference in terms of how provinces paid librarians, which was inexplicable.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) was concerned that there was continual discussion of the LIS issue, but that implementation was decreasing. It was necessary to evaluate where the R1 billion conditional grant was spent. If community libraries did not exist, the possibility of using mobile libraries needed to be considered. A large number of students used libraries to study and access resources after school due to a lack of access to resources and assistance at home. An audit needed to be done on the implementation of libraries.

Mr Haffajee replied that the conditional grant was beginning to make an impact and that the money was transferred to the provinces. The provinces managed the implementation of funds; some transferred money to municipalities and some implemented directly. The focus area was to build new facilities and upgrade and ensure there were new materials in libraries. There was also a focus on information and communication technology (ICT).

Prof Nkondo replied that in quite a few rural provinces there was a significant use of mobile libraries, but the challenge was how to manage them as there were vast distances involved in provinces such as the Northern Cape.

Mr Puleng Kekana, Director, Library and Policy Coordination, DAC, added that the funding amounting to R1 billion was spread over three years. It was a Schedule Five conditional grant and provinces implemented it.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) stated that in terms of bringing back a culture of reading the campaign should focus on adults as well as children as libraries were for everyone.

Ms More replied that the members of the LIS Transformation Charter Technical Team were very passionate about building a culture of reading. They had used library week during March as a platform. The theme for this year was ‘Reading Changes Lives’. There was also a campaign during that month to ensure that every child had a book.

Mr Mandla Matyunita, Executive Head, Centre for the Book, NLSA, said that there were quite a few interventions that they were embarking on and that they had partnered with PanSALB. Every year World Book Day was celebrated. Last year it was taken to communities and celebrated in Phillipi; this year it was celebrated in the Free State. There was a partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). As there was a reading gap in children form Grades 10 to 12, reading clubs had been piloted.

Ms Van der Walt stated that if Parliament allocated the conditional grant, it needed to have controls, but there were none. There needed to be a way to ensure that the grant was used for its intended purpose. It was wrong to use it to pay personnel costs.

Mr Kekana replied that the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) set the framework for managing the grant and it outlined the specific responsibilities of provinces and municipalities. It was very clear in the DORA that one could spend the grant only on what it was mandated for.

The Chairperson stated that he was aware that the NCLIS could not prescribe, but added that they could make suggestions which had muscle. 

Prof Nkondo replied that if LIASA was given statutory power, it would put salary norms in place.

Prof Lotriet proposed a serious review of the conditional grant and community libraries. Thorough reports on the situation were needed; a KPMG audit was available.

Mr Kekana replied that the KPMG audit was available on the DAC website.

Mr P Ntshiqela (COPE) asked for elaboration on the eradication of inequality in the LIS sector.

Prof Nkondo replied that unless there was a framework for the determination of norms and standards it was difficult to address inequality.

Mr H Maluleka (ANC) stated that constituency offices could be used to popularise a culture of reading. Everyone had a responsibility to contribute. The inculcation of this culture started before school. Children needed to be read to. The dying profession of librarianship needed to be popularised.

Prof Nkondo replied that many ways had been identified to inculcate a culture of reading. The problem was that there a relationship between how children were taught in schools and the culture of reading. If the approach was to focus on the mastery of a textbook without reference to other material, then a textbook culture would be created. This would kill curiosity.

Ms More stated that non-professional librarians led to low quality of service in libraries. There were instances where libraries were in such disarray that accessing information was impossible.

Prof Lotriet asked for feedback on the reading clubs. The Minister of Arts and Culture had also referred to these in the budget speech.

Mr Matyunita replied that book clubs were well established in the DAC.

Mr Maluleka drew attention to the fact that it was assumed that everyone who was not a learner and had gone through the schooling system could actually read and added that there was a tendency to read merely in order to pass.

The Chairperson said that it was clear a lacuna existed in the area of legislation. He asked for more information. He agreed that inculcating a culture of reading was everyone’s responsibility. It had never been brought home so clearly that the country had such a low percentage of functioning libraries. The Committee would take up the issue very seriously. The vision to be the best informed nation seemed almost unachievable in light of literacy problems. It was a huge challenge to address past inequality.  With regard to the KwaZulu-Natal policy, he asked what the interaction with the other provinces was and what the response of the DAC was. Rationale and details on LIASA becoming a statutory body would be appreciated.

Prof Nkondo replied that it was not possible to give step-by-step plan, but recommended that the DAC have a challenge-specific action plan. The Charter was document of aspirations. It was not just a matter of resources, but attitude. The prevalence of reading was a global issue as it also related to the overwhelming impact of the visual culture. It was easy to state that a library should be built, but there also needed to be norms on what was appropriate. It was also necessary to have reading material.

Mr Haffajee replied that LIASA was recognised internationally 12 years ago and that seven years ago it won the bid for the ‘world cup’ of libraries.

Ms More added that greater co-operation with provinces was sought.

Mr Kekana stated that the DAC worked very closely with provinces and had established provincial steering committees. From 2008-2009, in terms of the conditional grant, the Auditor-General’s (AG) concern was under spending. The Department had brought technical support from National Treasury to deal with this. The latest AG report was not available, but 2008/09 was unqualified.

The Chairperson requested that the delegation should provide more details on the issues raised during the meeting.

Presentation by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB)
Prof Sihawu Ngubane, Chairperson, PanSALB, said that much had happened; it had been found that the status quo in the organisation was not acceptable and an audit around the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) had been requested.  There had been a moratorium on suspensions which the former CEO, Ms N R Nkosi, had broken; Ms Nkosi had then suspended the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Senior Legal Advisor. The suspension of Ms Nkosi was cautionary on the grounds of mismanagement of funds.

Mr Chris Swepu, Acting CEO, PanSALB, said that there was progress since the last meeting with the Committee. PanSALB had moved from a disclaimer to an unqualified audit. An internal audit committee charter was now in place. The necessary requirements were implemented to address the Auditor-General’s concerns from the previous year. There were now no financial irregularities. A resource mobilisation strategy had been produced. Despite media reports, PanSALB was now stable and well managed.

Prof Ngubane stated that, PanSALB had also included a three-year strategic plan.

Mr Mike Mbada, Labour Law Specialist, PanSALB, explained the progress report on the disciplinary hearing against Ms Nkosi and stated that all the documentation relating to the process was included. The PanSALB Board had decided to suspend her in February 2009 because she had defied the Board on a moratorium on disciplinary action. The Board had approved an investigation into the finances of PanSALB. A preliminary forensic report was submitted to the Board in August 2009 and a final report in September 2009. Steps were immediately taken to draft charges against Ms Nkosi after the preliminary report had been received. The charges related to alleged financial irregularities and insubordination.

Ms Nkosi was served notice of a hearing on 04 September 2009. Ms Nkosi and her attorney had been given all the necessary information and the matter had been postponed until 04 November 2009. She was not present and the hearing was postponed until 07 December 2009. Again on 07 December 2009 Ms Nkosi was absent and her lawyer informed the chairperson of the hearing that an application had been made to the Gauteng North High Court. This application cited the Board, its members, and the Minister of Arts and Culture as respondents. Ms Nkosi had sought the relief of the court. Ms Nkosi had alleged that the Board was not properly constituted in term of Sections 57 and 6 of the PanSALB Act and had sought an interdict against her suspension.

Ms Nkosi’s lawyer had tried to postpone the hearing until the outcome of the High Court case. The employer, PanSALB, had objected to this on the grounds that Ms Nkosi and her lawyer were engaged in delaying tactics. After the 07 December 2009 hearing, which was postponed, her salary was stopped. However, she had approached the Labour Court and that court had ordered that she be paid during her suspension. It was eventually decided that the matter must be finalised on 25 June 2010.

Mr Swepu stated that in their attempt to implement the three-year strategic plan, it was necessary to achieve the desired organisational structure. On 08 April 2010 the executive management committee was defined; it had previously been constituted on an ad hoc basis. This was approved and executive heads for these components were appointed.

Prof Lotriet said that the whole matter of the suspension of the former CEO was an unhappy and untenable occurrence. She was concerned that taxpayers’ money was being wasted in the prolonged pursuance of this matter. There needed to be a cut off point. She asked if there was any indication as to the basis on which Ms Nkosi was saying that the Board was not properly constituted.

Mr Mbada replied that the matter would be finalised on 25 June 2010. He added that if PanSALB did not comply with the Labour Relations Act it might spend more money on the matter. Ms Nkosi had contended that during the first meeting of the Board its members had not been sworn in by a chief justice. This was incorrect.

Mr Ntapane asked why PanSALB had not challenged Ms Nkosi’s High Court appeal.

Mr Mbada replied that PanSALB was defending the applications. However the other issues that Ms Nkosi had raised related to her responsibilities which she had failed to carry out.

Mr Swepu added that PanSALB was not worried about Ms Nkosi’s complaint as to the constitution of the board.

The Chairperson said that there was no certainty in law and that for now the current approach might be the wisest course to follow.

Ms Van der Walt asked who paid the legal costs.

Mr Mbada replied that normally the High Court judge made that decision.

Ms Van der Walt said that PanSALB needed to be prepared to motivate for Ms Nkosi to pay the costs if PanSALB won.

Prof Ngubane replied that PanSALB would further report to the Committee.  

The Chairperson stated that PanSALB was dealing with an unpalatable past and that there had been a dramatic improvement in the organisation. Language was at the centre of culture and anyone who paralysed an institution that such a vital role did much damage. The judicial process also needed to be respected. He requested that PanSALB did its best to expedite the disciplinary hearings.

The meeting was adjourned.


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