The Portfolio Committee heard briefings on the 2009/10 Annual Reports of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Government Printing Works (GPW). The DHA gave a comprehensive account of the year under review, highlighting the achievements by the Department and the significant challenges which remained. Building on the transformation strategies of the turnaround programme launched in June 2007, key services were improved and updated to speed up service delivery and enhance security. This included the launch of a state of the art passport system, extension of the Track and Trace system for births, marriages and deaths supported by the use of SMSs, and the use of live verification for ID's and passports and live capture for passports. A key priority of the Department was ensuring the integrity and security of the National Population Register (NPR)and this had informed the roll-out of a Biometric Access Control System which would ensure that users of the NPR could be traced, thus increasing security and accountability, since staff would be linked to the clients they had dealt with on the system. A pilot project on child fingerprinting, on the spot adjudication which assisted in dealing with the Late Registration of Births (LRB) and the establishment of stakeholder forums and Centres of Excellence were some of the service delivery improvements made. It was noted that a 'Back to Basics' project was launched to strengthen financial and related management, controls and systems. The overall organisational design was made more effective by moving from a zonal to a provincial structure. Challenges included the uneven quality of front office staff attitudes service culture, unequal access to services, especially in rural areas, fraud and corruption, outdated IT infrastructure and systems, and a legacy of contractual issues and litigation against the Department. It was noted that the Department had once again received a qualified audit report from the Auditor-General, with problems remaining in the verification of its capital assets in particular. However, this was expected, and the DHA was committed to achieving a clean audit in the next two years.
Members raised their concerns about the AG's pronouncements, absentee management, the perception of the DHA held by its internal and external stakeholders, the lack of internal audits, backlogs in appeals at the Refugee Appeals Board, the delays in receiving work and other permits, the cost for the deportation of illegal foreign nationals from the country. They asked for details around the Smartcard investigations, and the halting of the Who am I Online (WAIO) project. They also enquired about what the DHA was doing in respect of fraud and corruption, asset management and revenue collection, and the capacitation of staff, especially in financial management.
The Government Printing Works presented an overview of its key outcomes and achievements for 2009/10. The GPW had been established as a Government Component in October 2009, which had impacted on the way in which the organisation ran itself and related to its strategic partners. Because it operated in the public service milieu, it was run on strict business principles and its decisions must be governed by market forces. However, it had challenges in staff shortages and problems in retaining skilled staff, who tended to be were lured away by higher salaries in the private sector. It also highlighted the depleted state of production equipment, the production environment and its need for more funding. Although GPW had, for the first time, obtained an unqualified audit report, the sustainability of the GPW remained a challenge and a recapitalisation programme was necessary for the transformation and modernisation of the component. Members were quite positive about the achievements of the GPW, but raised questions about the equipment needed to increase the viability of the GPW, the staff shortages and the continuing inability to retain staff. Questions were asked about the payment of creditors. One Member was concerned about the reported instances of non-compliance with the Public Service Act, the lack of internal audits and the fact that there was insufficient ongoing monitoring and supervision.
The Committee received the feedback from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the single comment received, from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), in relation to the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill (the Bill). SALGA raised concerns about the calibre of candidates, proposing that there should be a requirement that they must have an understanding of the developmental role of government and be able to grasp the legislative processes applicable to municipalities. The IEC responded that qualifications and disqualifications were determined by the Constitution. SALGA also claimed a lack of consultation. The IEC stated that consultation had taken place with all the political parties represented in Parliament. SALGA proposed that a time frame within which the election timetable had to be published to inform all interested parties of the relevant dates should be included in the provisions of the Bill. IEC explained that a time table was published immediately after the Minister announced the election date, and therefore disputed the need for that provision. SALGA maintained that it was not clear when a councillor assumed office and became entitled to remuneration, but IEC said that this was outlined in the Municipal Structures Act. The Department and State Law Advisors agreed with these comments.
The IEC then proposed that the current Clause 4 be swapped around with Clause 3, with the result that the new section would be 14A and not 17A. This would be done for reasons of continuity, and related to the central payment of deposits where parties were contesting the PR elections in more than one municipality. Members agreed that it would be difficult to prescribe qualifications of councillors. The DA, although it had not put in a written proposal as yet, proposed amendments in relation to the special votes, which were not broadly supported by the IEC, who explained that the wording had purposely been left broad. Another written proposal would be made that the presiding officer may re-determine and re-demarcate boundaries “in consultation with”, rather than “after consultation with” party agents. The IEC pointed out that this might pose practical difficulties, and that the current wording was reflected in the Electoral Act. A vote would be taken on the Bill on the following Thursday.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) was nominated to chair the meeting.
Department of Home Affairs (DHA) Annual Report 2009/10 briefing
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, Director-General, Department of Home Affairs, presented an overview of the Annual Report of that Department (the Department or DHA) for 2009/2010. The three key strategic priorities which had underpinned the Department's programme were, firstly, ensuring the integrity and security of the National Population Register (NPR), secondly, ensuring that the Department fulfilled its guarantees for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, and thirdly, building on the achievements of the turnaround programme launched in June 2007 to transform service delivery.
The NPR campaign was successfully launched by the President and Minister in Libode, Eastern Cape. There were many key achievements by the DHA in the programmes which had been implemented to improve its services to citizens. This included the roll-out of a Biometric Access Control System, which would ensure that users of the NPR could be traced, thus increasing security and accountability, as staff would be linked to the clients they had dealt with on the system.
The piloting of child fingerprinting was another key achievement aimed at securing a child's identity as soon as possible. This would facilitate processing them securely and rapidly when they were 16 years old. This would help eliminate the fraudulent use of ID numbers that were allocated on birth certificates. Track and Trace was also implemented for births, citizenship, late registration of births, amendments and rectifications.
A new passport production system was implemented by the Government Printing Works (GPW) High Security Printing Facility in Tshwane. This new South African passport introduced unique South African quality features and also improved security features. Live capture technology was implemented at the 40 highest volume offices, and reduced the average turnaround time to 14 days.
Online verification of fingerprints, which eliminated the need to verify fingerprints manually, also speeded up the process of issuing passports. The Department could now issue all forms of documents within reasonable turnaround times. 273 offices had online verification technology by the end of the 2009/10 financial year.
A pilot project was undertaken to assess the feasibility of introducing online verification in banks. An Agreement of Intent was signed between the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) and the DHA, which would allow SABRIC to verify bank clients against personal information held by the Department.
A review of the Late Registration of Births (LRB) was conducted and on the spot adjudication had assisted in reducing that backlog from 88 689 to 21 609 by the end of March 2010. Two stakeholder forums were successfully launched in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. A total of 21 new service points were opened and this footprint expansion would benefit the rural communities.
It was noted that a 'Back to Basics' project was launched to strengthen financial and related management, controls and systems. The overall organisational design was made more effective by moving from a zonal to a provincial structure.
Challenges faced by the Department included the uneven quality of front office staff attitudes and service culture, unequal access to services, especially in rural areas. Fraud and corruption, outdated IT infrastructure and systems and a legacy of contractual issues and litigation against the Department remained of concern.
The Department received a qualified report from the Auditor-General. The qualifications related to the verification of the existence, completeness and the accuracy of valuation of the Department’s capital assets. Irregular expenditure relating to overtime paid to employees and acting allowances had also been incurred. The Department had spent 98.7% of its budget overall, although 100% had been spent in most classifications. The Department was committed to working towards an unqualified audit report within two years, as indicated in the Minister's budget speech. The 'Back to Basics' financial management project would be intensified in order to achieve this.
The Acting Chairperson thanked Mr Apleni for his comprehensive overview. She welcomed the Department's commitment to ensuring the integrity and security of the NPR, since a contaminated population register had serious consequences for the country.
Ms A Lovemore (DA) expressed her concern with the delayed posting of the Annual Report on the Department's website. She also noted that the media had access to the report before Committee Members. She asked Mr Apleni to expand on the need to review legislation, in order to improve service delivery and enhance security. She alluded to the Immigration Amendment Bill, which this Committee was still dealing with, which had attracted much media comment, for reasons other than enhancing security. She asked what “enhancing security” meant in terms of the legislative revision process.
Ms Lovemore then cited various issues which had appeared in the Annual Report, which had not been included in the presentation. The absenteeism management programme included under Human Resources in the Annual Report had not been mentioned, and she asked what had been achieved in the year under review. One of the measurable objectives identified under administration section in the Annual Report was the improvement of the public image of the Department through proactive measures and interventions such as community based events, workshops and media campaigns. An 8% target was set for improvement in the perception of the DHA by its internal and external stakeholders. However the perception that the DHA was rendering a good service increased by only 1%, from 24% to 25%. The reason given for this variance was that the perception of service delivery was not determined by communications strategies only, but by service delivery standards. She agreed that service delivery was an aspect on which the DHA must focus. In relation to the turnaround strategy, a matter of serious concern was that less than a quarter of staff were aware that things had improved in the DHA. She asked for comment on that point.
Ms Lovemore then referred to the measurable objective dealing with risk management and internal control, and queried why only 58% of internal audits had been conducted. She drew attention to the measurable output in the Annual Report on the minimising of corruption through competent analysis, identification, prevention, investigation and prosecuting processes. Public representatives received many complaints from the public about corruption, yet the document did not go into any detail on this point. She had visited a Visitor's Reception Centre in Port Elizabeth recently and was told that, from the security desk onwards, people were expected to pay bribes to get service. She asked for response on this.
Ms Lovemore noted that the establishment of four Centres of Excellence had been targeted for the 2009/2010 financial year, but only two had in fact been established. The reason for the variance was attributed to 'over-ambitious target and setting', which caused her concern.
Ms Lovemore noted the massive backlog at the Refugee Appeal Board and she was interested to see how the matter would be addressed in the Refugee Amendment Bill. She wanted to know what the present status was as only 3 498 appeals had been considered in the year under review.
Ms Lovemore then queried the targets set and achieved for the issuing of various permits such as work, business, corporate and other permits. She noted that delays in receiving permits had economic implications. While a four week target had been set for permits to be issued, she had it on good authority that it took from five to nine months to get a work permit. She commented that the DHA was well aware that it could be facing a legal challenge from the Federation of Immigration Practitioners in this regard.
Mr Apleni responded to the questions posed by Ms Lovemore. He stated that, in compliance with the Act, and as required by the Auditor General, the Annual Report had been tabled in Parliament before the end of September 2010, thereby fulfilling the Department's obligation. Technically the Department had no responsibility to table it through any other processes.
Mr Apleni commented on enhancing security through amendments to the Immigration Act. He cited the example of bogus marriages, which enabled foreign nationals to obtain South African citizenship and the improved security measures taken to curb this practice. In the proposals to Parliament, priority had been given to ensuring that people felt safe and secure in the country. The role of agencies was to be done away with, to ensure that persons making applications were physically present at the DHA offices, so that engagement for the purposes of verification could be done with them directly.
The Department acknowledged the problem of absenteeism. This was seen as a management problem. The necessity of appointing a manager at every office was identified. An analysis of the issues had been undertaken, including looking at employment wellness and the issue of sickness, and control measures were being implemented by management.
With regard to the perceptions of the DHA internally and externally, he responded that the Stakeholder Forums that the Department was putting in place across the country would assist in checking whether service delivery standards were being implemented and if service delivery was improving. He conceded that the Department was still faced with many challenges, and this was reflected in the 24% of employees indicating knowledge of the positive changes in the DHA. He emphasised the Department's commitment to achieving a level of excellence in service delivery that would be visible to and confirmed by the public.
Commenting on the internal audits, Mr Apleni said there had been an audit programme, but that there were divergences from this, because of the necessity to deploy the auditors to conduct forensic audits and investigations relating to corruption. This had been explained by The Acting Chairperson of the Audit Committee in his report, and this information had been submitted to the Auditor General. The Department was committed to minimising corruption and employees were aware that it would not be tolerated.
Mr Apleni explained that only two of the four Centres of Excellence were implemented because of difficulties around infrastructure and services, but the Department was progressing towards achieving the standards it desired.
Mr Apleni said that the main problem relating to backlogs in refugee appeals resulted from the Refugee Appeals Board being centralised with too few staff. In regard to the proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, he said there had not been a policy to differentiate between political asylum seekers and economic migrants. When application for refugee status was denied to economic migrants, they invariably appealed, and this was clogging the system. The Department had already appointed a Chairperson to the Refugee Appeals Board. One amendment proposed was the establishment of provincial boards to deal with the backlogs.
The targets for the issuing of permits were based on the decentralising of this function, but the Department had realised that it was not working. This was currently being centralised currently and was being monitored at close range, to see that the permits were issued in the required time. Capacity had been increased, and the backlogs were being dealt with, but they were certainly no longer at the 50 000 level that had been quoted.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) enquired about the 52 officials who had been arrested and charged by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and asked whether they had been prosecuted, or convicted, and whether the message that corruption would not be tolerated had an impact on the Department.
Mr Apleni said that a clear message on fighting corruption at all levels was being conveyed by the Department, as was seen in the arrest, by the Hawks, of a Chief Director who was caught in the act of misappropriating cash.
Mr Mnqasela asked how much the 1 060 deportations by the Department had cost. He noted a number of instances where officials in the Immigration Department had been accused of wrong doing.
Mr Jackie McKay, Deputy Director General: Immigration Services, Department of Home Affairs, pointed out that the cost of the deportation of 1060 illegal persons had been included in the Goods and Services budget and had not been specified separately in the Annual Report. He did not have the exact figures at hand, but would forward them to the Committee.
Mr Mnqasela raised the issue of the Smart ID Cards. The Committee had been told that they would be updated on the matter, after the World Cup, but little had been reported about this matter in the Annual Report. He enquired specifically as to the progress made and what was happening in the litigation process.
Ms H Makhuba (ANC) referred to the cancellation of the 'Who am I Online' (WAIO) project and enquired what had to be done with the information integration beyond the South Border Management System, until such time that the legal dispute with Gijima had been settled. She wanted to know whether there were any budgetary allocations for the project.
Mr Apleni responded that the Department had accompanied the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to the meeting in question and that SITA was responsible for providing the report back. He said that the matter was of serious concern to the Department, and that litigation was seen as a last resort. The Department was trying to resolve the matter amicably. Cabinet had mandated the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Finance to look into the matter. The Department would be looking at what to do with the money allocation. There were projects in IT and the integration between systems, but the Department did not want to negotiate in bad faith with any other parties.
Mr Mnqasela that although Mr Apleni stated that all written questions had been responded to, he himself had submitted numerous written questions to Parliament which still required answers, so he doubted that Mr Apleni’s claim could be correct.
Mr Apleni stated that the Department had a unit receiving Parliamentary questions and the records presented had been checked against what had been received by the Minister during the time period that had been given. If questions had not been answered, they should be resubmitted so that they could be responded to.
Ms Makhuba said that in its previous Annual Report, the Department had stated that it would be implementing corrective measures to improve its asset management. The plan was that there would be a review, development and implementation of the asset management policy by November 2009. She wanted to know whether this had been functional since November 2009, and, if so, why the Auditor-General (AG) had stated that no verifiable asset records could be obtained.
Mr J Thibede (ANC) also referred to the assets, and the commitment to working towards obtaining an unqualified report in the present financial year. Asset recordal bedevilled many departments during Mr Apleni’s comments about linking assets to departments and individuals, which he thought was a good approach. He wanted to know whether there were any other interrelated measures which could be implemented, and if there were any other obstacles that had to be overcome to improve the situation. Personally, he felt that the fact that the Department recognised its challenges was a step along the way to resolving the problems.
Mr Thibede said that during his interactions with the public, he had heard some positive comment about the way the Department was conducting its business. It was imperative that the Committee raised critical issues, to ensure that the Department could succeed in improved its public image.
Mr Apleni said that the annual report reflected the audit problems of the previous financial year and this was the basis of the qualified audit report. He reiterated the Ministers statement that due to its complexity, it would take two years to resolve the problem around the assets. He said that the question to be asked was whether there had been an improvement since the last report, and he could positively state that this had been shown, and that problems were being dealt with systematically. He agreed that asset management was one of the major problems in the government sector. In the past, there had been no asset registers, and assets had just been bought and written off without being properly recorded. This, however, had changed in the past two years, and now whenever assets were bought, they were strictly controlled, including being barcoded before they were distributed to the offices. Payment was made for the asset only if the barcode number was reflected on the invoice. In future, there should be no problem with assets. The evaluation and verification of assets exercise related to assets acquired in years prior to 2006, which was problematic. The appointment of a Director of Finance for each Province would help in the control, as they were closer at hand.
Ms Z Balindlela (COPE) asked if there were any plans on revenue collection.
Mr Apleni said that the issue of revenue collection had formed the basis for a qualification in the previous audit report. It had to do with the 'old' outstanding accounts and the lack of supporting documentation on revenue that had been collected. Systems had now been put in place in all offices to ensure that all revenue collected was verified by supporting documentation. The only outstanding matter was revenue collected at missions abroad, and this was a matter under discussion between the DHA and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The Auditor-General had met with the Minister, and the recommendation was that a Task Team be set up, to include DHA, DIRCO and National Treasury. Ambassadors had overall control at missions abroad and the DHA had to close the gaps in terms of control mechanisms. He added that with the implementation of the enhanced Movement Control System (MCS) it was possible to trace persons with outstanding fines, even if they moved to other regions, and border posts could be controlled better.
Ms Balindlela said that she had visited the Eastern Cape and that the Stakeholder Forum at Libode was not gathering speed. In discussion it had emerged that some people felt they were not empowered enough to handle some of the issues, and this should be addressed. She had also visited the offices at Stutterheim, which were quite well-run, but were understaffed, with only two staff in the office. She had received positive feedback from the rural communities about the improved services. She was concerned about the skilling of traditional chiefs, and the new chiefs who were now included as part of the local government representatives, and urged that they all be skilled to catch up with the DHA programmes.
Ms Balindlela raised the issue of a lady who had made representations to the Committee yet still did not have an ID, which meant that her disabled child could not access a grant. This had to be rectified as a matter of urgency.
The Acting Chairperson confirmed that she had written to the Department about this case, and a response was urgently required.
Mr Apleni said he really wanted to solve the problems experienced by this lady, and noted that Mr Vusumuzi Mkhize, Deputy Director General: Civic Services had all the details, and the Committee would receive a response by the next Friday.
The Acting Chairperson asked about the capacitation of staff on financial management.
Mr Apleni confirmed that understaffing and the capacitation of staff were serious issues. Previously, certain offices did not have finance staff, with all employees being based in civics or immigration, but this was being changed. In all provinces there had to be a Director of Finance, and all offices had to have a manager. A State Accountant was to be appointed to all regional offices in the 2010/2011 financial year. There were still challenges at local offices. Further improvements should be made in the next financial year. Funds that had previously been utilised for overtime would now be used for the appointment of level 6 financial staff at district offices. The Department also acknowledged the problem of staff shortages. It had been allocated 417 posts by the Minister. There were, however, problems in the filling of those posts. The Department had made a commitment to the Minister that this would be done before the end of the financial year, to alleviate the problems caused by staff shortages.
Mr Apleni said that engagement with the Stakeholders Forums had identified some shortcomings in their constitutions, and the Minister had asked that these be reviewed and suggestions made for reworking. Another issue was raised that forums were restricted to the local area and there was no structure whereby the local forums could connect to a district structure. District forums should then be linked to a provincial forum and in turn provincial forums should be linked to a national structure. This would empower the stakeholder structures and there were proposals for the establishment of a programme with workshops and training, which were supported by the Minister, and which would be included in budgets. He noted that the good relationships in the stakeholder forums also would enhance the skilling of traditional leaders, which would be done.
The Acting Chairperson enquired about the non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and Treasury regulations, as identified by the Auditor-General.
Mr Apleni said that non-compliance with PFMA was one of the challenges faced by the Department. It was important for people to be accountable. When managers were appointed, they were informed in writing of their responsibilities, and that this was spelt out as including procurement, budget management, asset management and a range of other issues. There was further training, to enable managers to understand what their financial responsibilities were, and to ensure that the problems of the past did not recur. The Minister had engaged with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on these issues and managers would be held accountable for non-compliance with the PFMA.
Government Printing Works (GPW) Annual Report 2009/10 briefing
Mr Joe Engelbrecht, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Government Printing Works, provided an overview of the progress and developments at Government Printing Works (GPW) for the 2009/10 financial year. He also outlined the key priorities in the future (see attached presentation for details).
The GPW had been established as a Government Component in October 2009, and this had a significant impact on how the organisation related to itself and its strategic partners. While it operated in the public service milieu, it had to be run on purely business principles. It thus applied the normal market force strategies, including the need for prompt decision making. Service delivery was adversely affected by staff shortages, and there remained problems in retaining skilled staff, as they tended to be lured away by higher salaries in the private sector. Other challenges were outlined as including the depleted state of production equipment, and funding requirements.
Mr Rassie Barnard, Chief Financial Officer, Government Printing Works, presented the annual financial report of the GPW (see attached presentation for figures). He noted that the major break through for GPW was the achievement of an unqualified audit for the first time, despite the serious challenges it had faced.
The Acting Chairperson said she was concerned by the references to the old, outdated equipment that needed to be replaced, which was constantly raised by the GPW. She wanted to know what equipment had to be replaced. She recalled that a new printing machine had been bought.
Mr Engelbrecht responded on the issue of old equipment. He said the GPW was a fully fledged printing facility responsible for all three disciplines of printing. The first related to origination, which included all the processes relating to the typesetting of text, layout and design. The second discipline was printing, which included web printing in black and white for high-volume work, such as Government Gazettes. There was litho and litho-offset printing for full colour printing, and also digital printing and various others. The third discipline was the finishing, where the printed matter was transformed into books or other formats.
The passport production facility was an important process and a considerable amount of money had gone into it. He said the GPW had folding machines and other equipment that were more than 60 or 70 years old. Printing presses were needed to print the Government Gazette, and digital printers were needed to print examination papers. The majority of the machines, apart from the passport and card equipment, were past their economic lifespans, and therefore had a zero book value. These machines had to be systematically replaced, to give the GPW capacity again. For example, Pavilion 2 (part of the upgraded facilities) had three machines which were 40 to 45 years old. These had been used for security work such as visas, but they became so dilapidated that they had to be withdrawn from production about three years ago. Visas and index papers for ID books were currently sourced from the private sector. The development of Pavilion 2 would bring back all that work to the GPW. He reiterated that for equipment there had to be periodic replacement. This did not apply to the state-of-the-art passport machine, which was a year old. He invited Members to visit the facility to acquaint themselves with its operations.
The Acting Chairperson asked for clarity on the key positions that were vacant, saying it was important to ensure that the GPW, as a government component, could function better.
Ms Balindlela said she was pleased that the GPW had kept its promises and congratulated it on achieving a clean audit. She noted that the biggest problem the GPW had experienced was staff losses and the inability to retain skilled staff, as people received better salary offers in the public sector. It was regrettable that there was an Acting Chief Executive Officer yet again, and she said that the GPW had to work out a plan to stop the staff losses.
Mr Engelbrecht said that after it was established as a government component, a scientific study had been done on the staffing and post structure required by the GPW. 692 staff were needed, but presently the staff component was just above 450, which was only 70% of the staff required. Part of that exercise had been to develop a structure for senior management. The posts identified had been for General Managers for Financial Services, Operations and Technology, Marketing and also Human Resources. After the former Chief Executive Officer, Mr Moyane, had left, the Deputy Minister issued a directive to stall the filling of these vacancies until a new Chief Executive Officer was appointed, to give that person a chance to participate in the appointment process, and thus the posts had not been filled. In terms of the remuneration, it was hoped that the GPW could get close to market-related salaries. Inroads had been made into the appointment of skilled production staff, as well as in the appointment of administrative and financial staff.
Ms Lovemore referred to the statement made on the reduction of debtors’ days and she noted the intention to reduce this to 63 days. However, she pointed out that the PFMA required that payments should fall within 30 days. She enquired what the situation was at present. She referred to the instances cited by the Auditor-General of non-adherence to the Public Services Act. Statements made included that the accounting officer had not ensured that employees declared their interests and did not engage in remunerative work outside the GPW. She made further reference to other Auditor-General's pronouncements, such as the lack of internal control mechanisms. She was concerned that the accounting officer did not exercise oversight responsibility over reporting and compliance with laws and regulations, and that ongoing monitoring and supervision had not been undertaken. This, she felt, might relate to skills. The prevalence of Acting positions had been mentioned by other members, and it was also an indication that proper management was not taking place. She called for feedback on this.
Mr Barnard responded to the questions on the financial statements, saying that GPW generally paid creditors within the 30 days stipulated. There were exceptional cases involving foreign suppliers. The systems that were in place, which involved going through the postmaster and via the reserve bank, were not the same as using commercial banks. They involved foreign exchange. The cases to which the AG had referred were mostly those involving foreign suppliers.
The Acting Chairperson asked for feedback on money owed to the GPW.
Mr Barnard replied that there were attempts to run GPW on normal business principles, so the system he had outlined had to apply to the creditors as well. GPW had received a huge cash injection from the DHA, which had settled all its outstanding debt from past years, although in the new financial year the debt had accumulated again.
Mr Engelbrecht commented that the non-compliance with PFMA related to the fact that overtime worked by employees exceeded 30% of their salary. Within the production environment, and given the staff shortages, it was not possible to render critical services without working overtime. He cited the example of the Government Gazette, which was a weekly publication, printed on Fridays. There should be one publication per week, but in fact there was one normal Gazette and 29 Extraordinary Gazettes. GPW tended to be approached by government departments at close of business on Thursday, to print the publications by Friday, and because of the strict regulations around the release dates, had to comply. It was not possible in these circumstances, coupled with the dilapidated equipment and the shortage of skilled production staff, to fulfil its mandate without working overtime. To address this matter, the GPW had engaged with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the Minister of DHA to formalise a strategy to exempt it from that PFMA, and was currently awaiting a response from the Minister.
Ms Lovemore said that this answer still did not address her question, which had related to the fact that the AG had said that ongoing monitoring and supervision were not undertaken, and that internal audits had not been functional. These were serious issues. However, she conceded that there was probably not sufficient time to deal with her questions, and she would raise them later.
Mr Engelbrecht said that internal audits had been non-functional because the GPW did not have a staffed audit section at the time. Since then the necessary staff had been appointed and an audit strategy was currently being developed.
Mr Barnard commented on the AG’s remarks on lack of leadership. There were five top positions of which only two were filled. The GPW did not have a CEO, and a General Manager for Marketing, and this had sometimes resulted in lack of internal controls. It was not always possible to have the necessary segregation of duties, but sufficient measures had been in place that resulted in the unqualified audit report. Leadership comments were not only applicable to the top structure but other levels as well.
The Acting Chairperson referred to the new Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, saying that if the Committee was informed what GPW lacked, it would be in a better position to discuss the allocations.
Mr Mnqasela concurred with the presenters that obsolete equipment was not tenable in the 21st century, as agreed to by the Committee during the budget discussions. He asked that the necessary upgrade of equipment should be costed, to establish what amount was needed from Government for the kind of modernisation that would enable the GPW to compete globally. He acknowledged the challenges GPW faced, and noted that disparities in salaries offered by the GPW and the private sector accounted for the perpetual staff losses. It was important for Parliament to debate the possible capitalisation of the GPW and whether it should be a private enterprise, in order for the GPW to function better and serve the best interests of the country.
Mr Barnard said the Committee's comments were always taken positively by GPW. He invited the Committee to visit the new facility, and also to observe what the GPW dealt with on a daily basis, and what it was asking for in the business and strategic plans. Strategic thinking around these issues would clarify what direction should be taken to move forward. An amount of R395 million was required to comply with the transformation.
Local Government: Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill [B27-2010]: Independent Electoral Commission report
Mr Michael Hendrickse, Senior Manager, Independent Electoral Commission, stated that the Commission (IEC) had received only one submission on the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Amendment Bill (the Bill), from the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The first matter SALGA raised related to the calibre of candidates. SALGA stated that candidates must have an understanding of the developmental role of government and should be able to grasp the legislative processes applicable to municipalities. The IEC responded that qualifications and disqualifications were determined by the Constitution and the Local Government Municipal Structures Act, and not in the IEC Act nor in the municipal electoral legislation.
SALGA claimed a lack of consultation in the process and insisted that the IEC had a duty to consult with it. IEC responded that the Bill was not Section 154(2) draft legislation, in which consultation was mandatory, since this Bill did not impact on the 'status, institutions, powers or functions of local government'. The legislation that dealt with that particular aspect was the Municipal Structures Act and Systems Act. Consultation had taken place with the National Parties Liaison Committee (NPLC) on which all political parties in Parliament had representation.
SALGA proposed that the Bill should be amended to provide a time frame within which the election timetable had to be published, to ensure that all interested parties were aware of the relevant dates as soon as possible after the announcement of the date of the election. The IEC responded that the election date was determined by the Minister after consultation with the IEC. After consultation with the NPLC, the time table was drafted, and this was published immediately after the Minister announced the election date. There was therefore in its view no need for the amendment that SALGA suggested..
SALGA had further complained that it was not clear when a councillor assumed office and became entitled to remuneration. It asked that Section 64 should be amended to create certainty in this regard. IEC responded that, once again, this had nothing to do with the IEC, but was dealt with in the Municipal Structures Act, which stated that an elected candidate became a councillor on the day he or she was sworn in.
The IEC then presented its proposals for a slight change in the format of the Bill, to which it requested approval from the Portfolio Committee. The proposal was that the current Clause 4 be swapped around with Clause 3, so that the new section would be numbered as 14A and not 17A. This related to the 'Central Payment of Deposits', where the parties were contesting the public representative (PR) elections in more than one municipality. The provisions of 17A would then be named as 14A. Section 14 of the Act dealt with the nomination of candidates for these elections, and Section 17 dealt with ward nominations. Central payments related specifically to PR elections and it made more sense for it to be located there.
Officials from the DHA and the State Law Advisors informed the Committee that they were in agreement with the IEC's response to SALGA, and its proposals on the Bill.
Ms Lovemore referred to the wording in the Bill that stated that presiding officers may, 'after consultation with’ the party agents, re-determine and re-demarcate the boundaries of a voting station. She said that she, and Mr Mnqasela, believed that the words ‘after consultation’ should be replaced by the words ‘in consultation’, so that there was no danger of the presiding officer making his or her own decision after talking to the party agents. They also proposed that this be followed with a further qualification, along the lines of: 'Such re-determination and re-demarcation of the boundaries should not impede on the rights and obligations of political parties to promote democracy and the right of voters to free and fair elections'. This was to ensure that the boundaries were not moved unreasonably, which had happened in the past.
Ms Lovemore then noted that Clause 6 of the Bill referred to more than one room in a venue being used for voting. She asked that this should stipulate a maximum of two party agents at each area at any one time.
Ms Lovemore welcomed Clause 8 of the Bill, which dealt with special votes, and noted that the IEC was negotiating with the NPLC about how this would work. She understood that the voting would take place over two days, with one day allowed for home visits. She recalled that during the National Elections, the aged and infirm, and some other categories, had been allowed to vote separately. She did not know if that was the intention of the Bill, but felt that the present wording, which stated that 'any' voter who was unable to vote at a voting station could vote separately, would not cater adequately for those aged and infirm people who might be able to get themselves to a voting station, but at considerable inconvenience or difficult. She asked that the categories of 'elderly', 'frail', and 'infirm' should be catered for in the amendment.
Mr Thibedi said that SALGA's submission may not have been adequately covered by the IEC. He felt that it might have some merit, particularly in relation to the qualifications needed by councillors.
Mr Mnqasela found the qualifications called for by SALGA problematic, and said capacity and leadership should be the qualities required. In Africa sagacity was recognised, so that even those who had never attended formal schooling could be recognised as leaders in their own right.
Mr Hendrickse responded that SALGA was stipulating that there should be some form of qualification attached to being a candidate. It was not clear whether SALGA meant an educational qualification or experience, but it was quite a radical requirement that had to be defined in the Constitution and not in ordinary legislation. Sections 156 and 157 of the Constitution defined who could be council members and candidates for local government, and this was where the issue of qualifications should be addressed.
Mr Thibedi suggested that it was preferable to avoid being too prescriptive or including too many descriptions in relation to special votes.
The Acting Chairperson asked Ms Lovemore to submit her proposed amendments in writing. She noted that the Committee had received no written submission from the DA.
Mr Fanie van der Merwe, IEC Commissioner, responded to the amendments proposed by Ms Lovemore. He commented that if the wording were to be changed to ‘in consultation’ this implied that the presiding officer and party agencies would have to be in agreement. 'After consultation’, on the other hand, meant that the presiding officer was responsible for taking the decision after he had consulted with party agents. Getting political parties to agree had proved problematic in the past. He thought that the best practice was for the presiding officer to make the decision. This was also supported by the Electoral Act, which used the same wording.
Mr van der Merwe said that in the Electoral Act, special votes were dealt with in categories, and the infirm were categorised by type. He said that special votes were very complicated and had a long history of experimentation. The clause was intentionally broadly worded, with the only qualification being that the person had to reside in the area of the polling station and be on the voters’ roll. Two categories of voters had been identified. One was people who were unable to get off work on the voting day, such as policemen, and the other was those who, for physical reasons, could not get to the polling station, and who would thus be visited at their homes. The logistics were still to be worked out, in consultation with the political parties.
Mr Mnqasela said there was a lot to consider around the special votes, especially the practicalities on the ground on election day. Special votes could be open to abuse by those who did not want to spend time waiting in queues.
Ms Lovemore noted the explanations by Mr van der Merwe, and said she would still submit some proposals to the Committee Secretary.
Mr Hendrickse said that the provisions of the Bill had been presented to the NPLC and most of the suggestions related to the modalities of the special votes. Special votes had to be applied for before the time. For the home visits, it had to be known how many people qualified in order to determine how many staff and vehicles were needed. During the regulatory phase and in consultation with the parties, modalities and issues such as the abuse of special votes would be dealt with.
The Acting Chairperson thanked the IEC. She noted that it had consulted quite widely, and that most parties were in agreement on the issues. The Committee would be voting on the Bill on the following Thursday.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Southern African Institute of Steel Construction presentation
- Building a New Government Printing Works Annual Report 2009/10 presentation Part 2
- Building a New Government Printing Works Annual Report 2009/10 presentation Part 1
- Response by the Electoral Commission
- Department of Home Affrais presentation
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting