The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi)’s current budget was R68.8 million as against a forecast R78.8 million for 2011/12 – an overall 15% increase forecast as the minimum budget required for 2011/12. The grant from the Department of Basic Education for 2011/12 was 23% of budget and Umalusi would like to see an increase in that ratio.
Umalusi asked for increases on the three-year budget forecast of 15% for 2011/12, 16% for 2012/13, and 11% for 2012/14. Umalusi had submitted its budget as required in terms of the Public Finance Management Act in September 2010 and a response was received in January 2011. A revised budget was submitted on 18 January 2011 and the approval of the Ministry of Basic Education was awaited.
Umalusi would face the challenge of its financial sustainability through increased funding. The initial budget for the 2011/12 financial year was R82 million, which was revised and reduced to R78.8 million, for which approval from the Minister was still awaited. Umalusi was looking at increasing the certification fee in order for the organisation to be sustainable.
The base line of the grant from the Department of Basic Education was never correct from the onset; there were fluctuations in terms of the percentage grant Umalusi received from the Department.
The organisation was also appealing for a move from the certification fee to a quality assurance levy where all learners who wrote examinations had to be paid for by the Department, as they were all quality assured by Umalusi. Currently only those who passed paid for certificates.
The National Qualifications Framework had created a new qualifications body, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations . There seemed to be confrontation in terms of area and base and mandate between the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations and Umalusi, and no clear line of demarcation or reason as why the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations was created.
Umalusi was able to manage, through the media briefing of 23 February 2011 and subsequent engagements with the media, the risk of the organisation’s reputation from media reports about the non-disclosure of the standardisation decision. It was decided through the Quality Council to release the standardisation decisions before the Minister released the results. It was made clear during previous discussions with the Committee that it would not be easy to say the marks were adjusted upwards, because of the different ranges. There was an instance where at the bottom end the marks were adjusted upwards, and at the top end the marks were adjusted downwards.
With the revised budget and the work that Umalusi had to do in the area of qualification and standard setting and development, Umalusi would emphasise that it needed an increase. Umalusi therefore made a request to the Ministry for an increase in certification fees this year.
The Chairperson thanked Umalusi for having received a clean audit and the Committee approved the report.
The Chairperson welcomed all present and congratulated the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on having more than 50% women participation.
The Director-General, DBE, had tendered apologies; Mr S Padayachee, Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Planning, Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Mr Rufus Poliah, Acting Chief Director, Exams, represented the Department.
Delegates from Umalusi were Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Jeremy Thomas (CFO), and Ms Eugenie Rabe, Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Dr Rakometsi gave a brief overview of the Umalusi mandate, vision and mission, goals and key result areas.
Mr Thomas commenced with the Executive Summary on Finances and the financial performance of the organisation as at 28 February 2011. The period ended with a net surplus of R4.5 million, of which 110% of budgeted revenue from operations was recognised (recovery of debt); 100% of the grant was received from the DBE; and 76% of budgeted expenses were incurred to date.
Regarding the statement of financial position, cash flow, debtors and investments, total assets were R47.3 million; 93% of invoiced debts were collected; cash available at the end of the period amounted to R688 018; and investments R26.3 million. Management agreed to proceed with caution for the remaining month in order to increase the reserves to roll over into 2011/12 financial year due to the shortfall not being provided by the Department of Basic Education.
Significant increases were spent on Quality Assurance of Assessment due to increase in sample sizes with regard to moderation and monitoring of exams, and on personnel expenditure due to the big increase in the number of staff.
Umalusi’s actual revenue budgeted for 2010/11 was R68.8 million, and actual expenditure was R57.1 million. 83% of the budget was collected.
In terms of expenditure against the budget, national operations spent 65% of the budget to date, and corporate services 84% and it was expected that it would be fully expended by end March. The net surplus at the end of February was R4.5 million.
The Statement of Financial Position as at 28 February 2011 showed assets stood at R47.3 million, balanced by capital reserves and current liabilities totalling R47.3 million.
Mr Thomas turned to the 2011/12 Budget (Forecast) Quality Assurance of Assessments. The current budget for outcomes was R16.2 million, forecast R18.3 million. The motivation for 13% increase was due to increase in Moderator costs as per Ministerial approval and also increase in moderation/monitoring sample sizes.
The current budget for evaluation and accreditation of providers was R3.7 million with forecast of R4.5 million, a 19% increase due to the increase in the number of institutional site visits for 2011.
The current budget for the programme 2011/12 Qualifications, Curriculum and Certification was R4.0 million, forecast R3.8 million, a decrease of 4% due to the need to capacitate the unit before the roll out of qualifications. Curriculum work was increased. The organisation was looking at additional human resource capacity to fulfil that part of Umalusi’s mandate.
The Umalusi Research Unit had a budget of R2.6 million, forecast R3 million; there was motivation for a 16% increase to give effect to the formal mandate of research as a Quality Council which now also included extension of the research work in respect of standard setting and qualifications development.
The current budget for Management and Support Structures was R2.9 million, forecast 2011/12 R2.8 million – a decrease of 2% in budget was proposed as most Council members were office bearers and required less allowances. More capacity was required in public relations (PR), and thus there was a focus on increasing the human resources (HR) budget.
The Corporate Services budget for Information Technology Systems was R4.7 million, forecast R5.1 million – a 9% increase was required due to increase in computer costs mainly for replacement of hardware and software. No increase in State Information Technology Agency (SITA) costs was effected over the last two years.
The budget for Corporate Services: Finance was R4.2 million, forecast R4.6 million – 8% increase forecast for building, which was more maintenance orientated with supply chain costs for purchases such as stationery, etc.
The Human Resource Management and Development budget was R30.1 million, forecast R36.3 million – 21% increase due to additional posts required as per the HR review done, and approximately 5% towards cost of inflation increases.
Umalusi’s current budget was R68.8 million, forecast R78.8 million – an overall 15% increase forecast as the minimum budget required for 2011/12. The grant from DBE for 2011/12 was 23% of budget and Umalusi would like to see an increase in that ratio.
On the three-year budget forecast Umalusi was asking for increases of 15% for 2011/12; 16% for 2012/13; and 11% for 2012/14. Umalusi submitted its budget as required in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) in September 2010 and a response was received in January 2011. A revised budget was submitted on 18 January 2011 and the Ministry of Basic Education approval was awaited.
Dr Rakometsi reported on the challenges.
- Umalusi would face the challenge of its financial sustainability through increased funding. The initial budget for the 2011/12 financial year was R82 million, which was revised and reduced to R78.8 million, for which approval from the Minister was still awaited.
- Umalusi was looking at increasing the certification fee in order for the organisation to be sustainable.
- The base line of the grant from the Department was never correct from the onset. There were fluctuations in terms of the percentage grant Umalusi received from the Department.
- The organisation was also appealing for a move from the certification fee to a quality assurance (QA) levy where all learners who wrote examinations had to be paid for by the Department, as they were all quality assured by Umalusi. Currently only those who passed paid for certificates.
- The National Qualifications Framework created a new qualifications body, the Quality Council for Trade and Occupations (QCTO). There was confrontation in terms of area and base and mandate between the QCTO and Umalusi, with the QCTO claiming the further education and training (FET) Colleges space, with the end programmes that Umalusi had been quality assuring all along; with the National Certificate Vocational that Umalusi had been quality assuring all along; and all other new qualifications that Umalusi was going to introduce targeting young adults not in education or in any form of training. There was no clear line of demarcation and no reason as why the QCTO was created.
- The risk of Umalusi’s reputation: in January and February there were media reports about the non-disclosure of the standardisation decision, which was debated in two sessions between Umalusi and the Committee. It was decided through the Quality Council to release the standardisation decisions before the Minister released the results. It was made clear during previous discussions with the Committee was that it would not be easy to say the marks were adjusted upwards, because of the different ranges. There was an instance where at the bottom end the marks were adjusted upwards, and at the top end the marks were adjusted downwards. With the media briefing of 23 February 2011 and subsequent engagements with the media, Umalusi was able to manage the risk of the organisation’s reputation.
Dr W James (DA) asked what was the actual cost of the Umalusi board in terms of salaries paid and operational costs around board functions.
Mr Thomas responded that the budget for Umalusi Council members for the financial year was a total of R366 000, which made up of Council and committee allowances – meetings, workshops, travel and accommodation.
Dr James referred to the budget history and the fact that year on year there was an above inflation increase.
Mr Thomas responded that Umalusi’s mandate and the General Education and Training Quality Assurance Act clearly specified that Umalusi should take on its work progressively, which was what Umalusi had done over the years. In 2001 Umalusi was not granted any establishment funding and so there was a constant cry to the Department for additional funding for the establishment of the council. In 2004/05 the Department gave excess funds that were available to assist Umalusi. Unfortunately that had been the trend since the establishment of Umalusi. A scientific allocated base line allocation was not reserved for Umalusi. Umalusi had through the years made do with what it received, and fortunately it managed those reserves efficiently and effectively, to the extent that it had reserves at the end of February. By the end of March it would probably be in the region of R22 million. Of that R22 million it was forecast that Umalusi would have to utilise at least R15 million for the 2011 budget to make up the difference of the mandated work that Umalusi had to do. It was very difficult to go into a planning session without knowing exactly what Umalusi was going to receive, because there had been promises made to Umalusi to look at the base line allocation and at increasing it over time. Promises were made that the quality assurance levy structure and system as proposed were sound but they were not implemented with immediate effect. With those promises the organisation had to go into a planning scenario, go back to the drawing board and cut the cloth according to the organisation's means, which was very difficult for management to contend with. Of most of the public entities, Umalusi received the smallest grant.
With the revised budget and Umalusi's work on qualifications and setting standards, Umalusi would constantly be asserting that it needed an increased budget. Umalusi therefore made a request to the Ministry for an increase in certification fees.
Dr James noted the investment, asked why Umalusi would invest money and then request a further grant increase that was above inflation, and why the increases were so way above inflation?
Dr Rakometsi responded that that was also his contention when he joined Umalusi. In engagements with Mr Duncan Hindle, the former DG of the then Department of Education, Mr Hindle had advised that there might be some emergencies that might call for a huge cash injection. Those emergencies might be in the form of investigations which Umalusi had to conduct that were not budgeted for; it might be for litigation or court proceedings, or building emergencies. Mr Hindle had also advised that the Department might not always be able to bail Umalusi out in the case of emergency.
Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) noted that one of the mandates was to advise the Minister; there was tension between Umalusi and the Minister when advising. He was interested to know on what issues Umalusi advised the Minister and what the outcome of that interaction would be.
Dr Rakometsi replied that the advice given to the two Ministers to date had been well received. An investigation was done on the NCD in the FET Colleges as to what were the constraints and challenges, and Umalusi received very positive feedback where the former DG of the Department of Higher Education and Training was able to come up with an implementation plan for all the provinces, identifying areas of weakness that must be corrected and started monitoring that process. A foundation phase was submitted to the Minister and the Minister was implanting that in terms of the weaknesses identified. A comparison was done of the curriculum of South Africa, the Cambridge international examinations and the National Senior Certificate in Namibia and that was given to the Minister. Umalusi would also report to the Minister on areas of concern in terms of how examinations were run. In those reports Umalusi would point out the weaknesses of the different assessment bodies in the provinces. Free State, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Limpopo’s examination systems needed attention. The Minister was also advised on issues such as language compensation, which was not meant to be part of the system forever. It was supposed to be temporary intervention that would go once the learner was proficient and the language was improved. The Ministers were also advised on Umalusi’s qualification framework.
Mr Mpontshane asked why the budget of R82 million was reduced to R78.8 million?
Ms responded that according to the PFMA one had to budget to the Secure Fund; if the funds were secure the Minister could not approve the budget, which was why the budget was returned and one had to revise the budget. The R78 million was in the process of being approved. It was analysed and submitted to the Minister for approval.
Mr C Moni (ANC) asked for clarification of the columns surplus, budget and actuals.
Mr Thomas explained that the budget indicated the budget approved by the Minister and the actuals indicated what was spent to date. The surplus was the difference between the budget in actual income less the actual expenditure.
Ms F Mushwana (ANC) expressed concern about the fact that there was no increase from SITA for two years. If the relationship was correct the organisation would know what was due to it.
Mr Thomas said Umalusi had been constantly engaging with the Department and he believed had a very healthy relationship. Unfortunately when it came to the aspect of funding there were times that the organisation had to really motivate. Mr Thomas met with National Treasury together with the Acting CFO of the DBE to explain the thrust of the quality assurance levy. In terms of Umalusi’s mandate, Umalusi could increase its certification fees without consultation but realised that the Provincial Education Department would go back to National Treasury to ask for additional funds should Umalusi increase the certification fees. Therefore engaging National Treasury was important, because one of the advantages that Umalusi proposed, as a quality assurance levy, would be a top slicing mechanism that would mean raising large debtor accounts with provinces that Umalusi would have to manage. Currently Umalusi had in the region of 3 500 debtors on its books with FET institutions and provincial education departments that it had to manage. Each and every entity had to get a statement and an invoice on a monthly basis and the money had to be collected. There was a lot of administration involved which a levy system would obviate.
Dr Rakometsi added that the matter of the QA levy had been tabled with the Committee of Heads of Education.
Dr Rakometsi added that the relationship with the Department was sound and the issue of the budget was also discussed with the Minister and the Chairperson of the Umalusi Council in his presence last year, where the Chairperson of the Umalusi Council raised the issue of the sustainability of the organisation in relation to the allocation that it was receiving, and the Minister promised to do something about it.
Ms N Gina (ANC) referred to the relationship between Umalusi and QCTO around the issue of FET Colleges and asked what QCTO was currently doing? She was concerned that they said they had met with the Minister. Were they doing anything about their attitude in meeting with the Minister of Higher Education and Training? If they left everything to the QCTO and there was nothing for Umalusi to do with the FETs, why was Umalusi still doing it?
Dr Rakometsi explained that according to the founding act of Umalusi, the General and Further Education and Training Act, Umalusi had to assure the quality of education offered through the South African Schools Act (SASA), the FET Act and other legislation. The end courses in the FET Colleges were also a part of the mandate; also Umalusi assured the quality of the NCV qualifications in the FET Colleges. The QCTO said it was taking over the end courses, which did not make sense to Dr Rakometsi. The QCTO did not have the capacity to run the end courses. The QCTO did not have a CEO or even an Acting CEO, and only had a skeleton staff. There was engagement between QCTO and Umalusi, SAQA and the Department of Higher Education and Training.
A Member asked what was holding that up the qualification QA certification fee.
Ms Gina raised the concern that more budget was requested for accreditation, yet fewer institutions had applied for accreditation. So many colleges were not registered and were fly-by-nights, and though there was an agreement that colleges could not be force to apply, they should be made to apply; those colleges should not be allowed to continue like that as they were a risk to young people.
Mr D Smiles (DA) referred to the outcome for Umalusi with regard to HR. Umalusi wanted to maintain, improve and develop HR practices. The 21% increase, which was 6% more than the average increase of 15%, was a huge increase. Where did Umalusi intend to spend that money because there was no ground-breaking news to say the organisation deserved such a increase?
Mr Thomas explained that the organisation budgeted 5% for cost of living increases for the 2011 financial year and an additional R4 million for the additional posts that would be required to fulfil the qualification and standard setting work together with whatever came out of the business review process, and it was hoped that that would be finalised by the end of March this year.
Dr Rakometsi added that Umalusi’s mandated was expanded with the addition of the founding act in 2008. Where SAQA used to do the qualification and Umalusi approved the qualification, now Umalusi was doing it alone and that called for units such as the Quality Classification Curriculum (QCC) to expand. There was also an increase in the sample size for quality assurance assessment and it might be necessary to increase the staff size because of the demands of the organisation’s mandate.
Mr Smiles also referred to the contestations and challenges, and that Umalusi and QCTO were not clearly demarcated. Why was QCTO established while Umalusi was doing the work? The quality should not be put at risk. He had attended a Higher Education meeting where QCTO presented, and felt that this Committee could not respond to that question; it was a political thing. He would not like to see another QA body.
The Chairperson asked the Department what the status the revised budget that was submitted to the Ministry was.
The Chairperson asked Umalusi whether its base line tickets were correct. It was important to reassure the Committee that the base line ticket was correct, because, if not, Umalusi would not get the budget it wanted.
Ms Molalekoa responded that it was not a reduction of the base line on the slide. What happened at the time where there was a huge increase; the Department had huge savings in the budget and Umalusi required additional funding, so it was given additional funding at the time, which was why it looked as though it increased and increased again, but that was not the case. Transfers to public entities were prescribed so Umalusi knew each year what it would receive, but, as there was a need for additional funding and the Department had excess money, Umalusi had an increase.
The Chairperson also asked whether the amount given for the allocation of samples would be sufficient for the organisation to quality assure the higher number of samples in terms of moderation?
Ms Rabe responded to the above and also to the question on continuous assessment (CASS). Previously Umalusi quality assured once a year, and then only a small sample and it also happened at the end of the year, which was after the event. That model had changed. With the doing away of portfolios in schools Umalusi was looking at a process specifically as a CASS task and did a sampling across provinces three times a year, so there was a monitoring of the standard of the CASS throughout the year, which was much more effective. Previously CASS was done on ten subjects once a year, now CASS was done on nineteen subjects three times a year across provinces, so it was a substantially bigger sample and a different, more comprehensive approach as well. In terms of the verification of the marking, that meant checking on the standard of the marking. Previously the NST moderated the ten gateway subjects, and that had now been increased to 25 subjects. That was marking a sample of papers to ensure that the marking was up to standard.
Monitoring the actual conduct of the examination increased by 25%. Umalusi’s monitoring of the conduct of the examinations had always been quite small because provincial and national departments monitored, and Umalusi did the verification sampling. It was not a comprehensive verification of the whole system; it was a sampling.
An extra step was taken called post exam analysis. Umalusi analysed how the learners answered the questions and looked at the standard of those questions, using that to confirm the standardisation decisions that were made. Umalusi was doing quite a few extra things, and that impacted on the budget.
Ms Rabe said that RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) was part of Umalusi’s mandate. Umalusi had a draft policy but it had to be finalised with SAQA and the QCTO and the Council for Higher Education. Umalusi had an examination approach as assessment of examinations, whether it was a vocational subject or an academic one. Umalusi’s approach was if you wanted the qualification you must write the exam. Umalusi was in the process of developing an NEC for adults: an alternative matric for out-of-school people who wanted a matric.
A Member said that the Annual Report mentioned a scarcity of qualified external moderators, and she requested Umalusi to comment.
Ms Rabe said that was a huge problem; it was quite hard to find external moderators and sometimes they let the organisation down quite badly, in which case their contracts were not renewed. Umalusi was looking at building capacity in that area.
The Chairperson expressed concern as to whether the National Senior Certificate (NSC) really equipped learners for acceptance to university? Learners had to take bridging courses.
Ms Rabe said that was an everlasting question and one had to discuss the purpose of matric and its predictive value. Umalusi’s Research section was doing a study with Higher Education South Africa (HESA) on matric's predictive value.
Dr Rakometsi added that it depended on the purpose of the NSC and whether it was only to prepare the learner to go to university. He believed that NSC prepared learners for citizenship. It depended on the learner achievement. A head of one of the universities reported that the students who started as student teachers were more engaging, were more articulate, and there was more teamwork, which was the result of outcomes based education. The NSC was a national asset that had to be protected and had to be strengthened.
The Chairperson also asked what plans were in place for the CASS (Continuous Assessment).
Ms Mushwana asked whether there was a plan to skill, for the world of work, the people who had dyslexia.
Ms Rabe responded that the DBE had programmes and standards for special needs learning. Skills development would probably be more of a physical skill as opposed to writing an examination. Such would not fall under Umalusi but in an occupational area.
Mr Mpontshane asked whether Umalusi only quality assured on exit, that is, Grade 12.
Ms Rabe replied that Umalusi was setting standards for the qualifications for which it assured quality. This would require a broader scope of work. To that extent Umalusi had engaged in research, for instance around the standards for the foundation phase curriculum.
Mr Smiles asked whether Umalusi provided the Department with its model for research and its base line for approval?
Mr Thomas responded that Umalusi had been providing the Ministry and the Department with what was required outside the base line, which was a guaranteed secured funding which the organisation would receive year on year. Umalusi would, in September, indicate to the Ministry what Umalusi would require in addition, and engage with the Department as to what extent Umalusi could have its base line increased.
A Member said that, on the issue of reputation risk, all agreed that the number of marking centres and the quality of the markers was a big issue that created problems with regard to Umalusi’s reputation. Where in the budget did the organisation take care of that risk and what amount would be spent there?
Ms Rabe responded that the sample had been increased in terms of the marking. The budget would fall under the section in the strategic plan on assessment, and R1.5 million would be spent.
Dr Rakometsi added that this was captured in the strategic plan under verification of marking on page 6 - “Review system for verification of marking in terms of the 2010 interventions. Marking verified and reported on across qualification.” Remedial measures were taken where weaknesses were identified in the 2010 report. Umalusi would be monitoring with the Department and would expect it to take corrective action.
The Chairperson asked when Umalusi would deal with the scarcity of moderators?
Ms Rabe replied that in the next year or 18 months there would be a stronger focus on training and assessment.
Ms Molalekoa added that Umalusi had submitted an additional bid and the Department had submitted the bid to Treasury because it could not afford to give the additional funding from the Department’s budget. After the meeting with Treasury and Umalusi, she was positive that something would come of it. Unfortunately the bid would only be submitted with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) during July, which meant, if approved, it would only come in the 2012/13 financial year.
Mr Padayachee added that the issue of the quality assurance levy had been addressed between Umalusi and the Department by also engaging Treasury. Edcon itself, when dealing with the issue, did not accept the proposal, as a result of the issues relating to the top slice, but the door was opened to go back to Treasury to make a bid. The Ministry and the Department would want to take the process forward to a long term solution to provide sustainability in a funding model so that Umalusi could go forward. In July 2012/13, when the MTEF was announced, the issue should be addressed in terms of the correct base line and the shortfall in that regard.
The Department was already taking measures on the marking centres and the recommendations by Umalusi. There would be smaller number of centres to enable better control and stronger security.
With regard to marking, the Department was looking at a selection of markers, each of the markers had to go through a competency test before being selected. All the recommendations of Umalusi had been studied; the proposals would be discussed with Edcon next week.
Mr Van den Heever, Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO), Ministry of Basic Education, said that the Minister had formally tabled the Umalusi report for consideration and discussion by other portfolio committees.
The Chairperson asked Umalusi what the correct amount of the certification fees was. The reply could be in writing.
The Chairperson also requested the report on the foundation phase; and the Committee should also have the debate on the unfunded mandate.
Ms Mushwana said she did not hear any time frames regarding the QA levy.
Mr Thomas responded that Umalusi started engaging on the issue of the QA levy in 2009 and had expected that it could have been implemented by now. As the Department had indicated, in 2012/13 Umalusi would focus on the ramifications of the QA levy.
Ms Gina also requested the report on the provinces that the CEO had just mentioned, as it would assist the Committee in its oversight work.
Dr Rakometsi said the report on the state of examinations did not deal only with the assessment bodies and the centres. It dealt also with the whole cycle of quality assessment, from the moderation of papers, monitoring of the schools assessment, monitoring of the writing examinations, and marking after the examination. Umalusi would send the report. The report also highlighted the corrective measures that had to be taken and the areas of weaknesses.
The Chairperson commended Umalusi for receiving a clean audit. It showed that the organisation was working according to the PPPs in respect of the PFMA.
The Committee found the presentation acceptable.
The Committee hesitated to adopt the report because it was still not clear on the Umalusi Council's forecast total income for 2011/12 - a figure of R78 861 400 (Umalusi Council. Revised budget for 2011/12, page 1).
The Committee noted that Mr Van den Heever had said that the report was tabled, and the Committee would therefore check and approve the report subsequently.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and the delegates from Umalusi for their presence and input,
After a break, the Chairperson referred Members to the back of the strategic plan - the forecast for 2011/2012, and pointed out that, because it was tabled, the figure of R78 861 400 had been approved.
The report was adopted.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes of committee meetings held on 8 March 2011 and 15 March 2011 were approved and adopted.
The Committee discussed times for the workshop to be held on 28, 29 and 30 March 2011.
The meeting was adjourned.
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