National Electronic Media Institute, Universal Service & Access Agency: 2011 Strategic plan briefings, in presence of Deputy Minister

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Communications

18 April 2011
Chairperson: Mr S Kholwane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Communications attended the meeting. The National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA) briefed the Committee on the 2011 strategic plan, noting that it was required to accelerate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and electronic media training, undertake research and development for the advancement and empowerment of South Africans, and harness strategic and sustainable partnerships. It aimed to enhance its research and development, its own financial viability and sustainability and improve its organisational efficiency, security and effectiveness. It would be undertaking some market research and assess the feasibility of research publications. NEMISA wished to establish provincial offerings, develop two employer endorsed training programmes and develop a new funding strategy, as well as integrated strategy and planning. In terms of training, it was aiming for 100% compliance in verification and certification of students, maintain its education accreditations, and grow its short courses. It aimed to secure R2 million from donors and funders, and wanted to raise R6.3 million through content development, as well as develop a campus in the long term. The achievements over the last year were outlined. Its budget for revenue was projected as R47.17 million for 2011, and it was anticipating a deficit. Members asked what NEMISA was doing to address the formerly negative perceptions about its value-add, why there was a plan to move away from the current funding strategy, and the projected deficit. They also questioned the value of the Memorandums of Understanding that it entered into. Members were interested what strategies were used to recruit students from rural areas and stressed that it should work with youth agencies on youth programmes. The relationships with other entities and departments were questioned. Members asked about the irregular expenditure on recruitment, called for a report on this, and expressed their concern that the strategic plan did not set out the targets clearly enough. Members discussed whether they could adopt the strategic plan, but agreed that they would hold a further meeting in May to receive a revised document and consider it further.

The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) also briefed the Committee on its 2011/12 Business Plan. The plan focused on challenges that the entity faced in the past, and set out the key priorities and ways to achieve them in the future. A new strategy had been developed in 2009, and USAASA promised that by 2020 USAASA and its partners would have created the opportunity for all South Africans to connect, speak, explore and study using ICTs. Other plans included effective and efficient use of the Universal Service and Access Fund and facilitation of multi-sectoral networks. USAASA, in terms of delivery agreements with the Department of Communications (DoC) would improve competition and regulation, improve broadband to 256 Kbps, through broadband policy intervention, and develop a set of operational indicators for each segment. Key projects for 2011/12 included involvement in Set Top Box subsidies, the Broadcasting Digital Migration process, broadband infrastructure roll out, public access facilities in under-serviced areas, and the handing over of the Legacy Access Centres. A budgetary shortfall was predicted as USAASA could not fulfil its obligations on the amount allocated. It was hoping to obtain funding, plan and implement projects in provinces and reposition itself as facilitator and forerunner of universal access. Members wondered if USAASA had shared these strategic plan priorities with the DoC, but were assured that all the entities had been involved in discussions and agreements. They noted that this was the first time that any entity had made a commitment to universal access by 2020, and commented that it would be held to this commitment. Members questioned possible costly duplications with Sentech, as well as the apparent duplication of research between the DoC and USAASA, and stressed that this needed to be clarified. The Committee again commented that the strategic objectives and indicators needed to be very clear, so that the Committee could perform its oversight properly, and enquired if USAASA sought to provide, or improve ICT access. They asked about the involvement in municipal projects and integrated development planning for these, and asked also about its role in policy recommendations.

Meeting report

National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA): 2011 Strategic Plan briefing
The Deputy Minister of Communications attended the meeting.

Mr Tsediso Gcabashe, Chairperson, National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA), Board, informed the Committee that NEMISA's mandate was to position itself as a sustainable, relevant, effective, industry-led and advanced multi-media skills developer and content generator. NEMISA provided much-needed skills training, at an advanced level, for the broadcasting industry. 

Mr Ndivhoniswani Tshidzumba, Chief Executive Officer, NEMISA, briefed the Committee on NEMISA's strategic intent and strategic focus areas. The mission of NEMISA was to accelerate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and electronic media training, research and development, and to harness strategic partnerships in a sustainable manner.

Mr Tshidzumba noted the main strategic areas. NEMISA aimed to transform itself into a Technology, Research and Development (R&D) driven organisation. It aimed to enhance its own financial viability and institutional sustainability, and to improve its organisational efficiency, security and effectiveness. It also aimed to improve and align stakeholder and strategic partnerships, both internally and externally, and to expand the accessibility and reach of the NEMISA product offerings.

Mr Takalani Nwedamutswu, Chief Operations Officer, NEMISA, spoke to NEMISA's key priorities for 2011/12. It aimed to undertake market research, assess the feasibility of research publications and produce three prototypes for further development. NEMISA aimed to develop healthy relationships with stakeholders. It would revise and enhance the value proposition. It wished to establish provincial offerings to extend NEMISA's reach, develop two employer endorsed training programmes and develop a new funding strategy, as well as integrated strategy and planning.

On the training side, NEMISA wished to achieve 100% compliance in verification and certification of students, maintain Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) accreditation and achieving Council for Higher Education (CHE) accreditation, and grow short courses to reach 500 trainees. Its training should improve productivity, quality and competitiveness, and to allow learners to act in wide-ranging working conditions.

NEMISA aimed to secure R2 million from donors and funders. NEMISA aimed to raise R6.3 million through content development. It wanted, as a long-term project, to establish a NEMISA campus.

Mr Nwedamutswu noted that ten bursaries were awarded to students enrolled for Television and Radio Broadcasting, Animation and Graphic Design courses. Three lecturers had published two books on graphic design and multimedia, which were prescribed texts in Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. NEMISA obtained another grant from MAPPP SETA for community media journalists. NEMISA trained 430 students for community radio, television and FET sectors. The entity continued to work with industry specialists to deliver its programmes and 80% of its graduates in graphic design and animation were employed. NEMISA also reached all the provinces through exhibitions and electronic media to recruit prospective students.

NEMISA's total revenue budget for 2011/12 was R47,17 million, rising to R48.63 million in 2012/13, and R51.23 million in 2013/14. NEMISA projected a deficit of R1.314 million for 2011/12, a deficit of R2.57 million for 2012/13 and a deficit of R1.107 million for 2013/14.

Discussion
Ms N Magazi (ANC) noted a perception that NEMISA did not add any value to the industry. She asked what it was doing to address this matter. She also noted that NEMISA struggled to attract students to the animation and graphic design courses, and asked what it was doing also to resolve this specific issue.

Mr Tshidzumba replied that a campaign had been started last year to get people to notice NEMISA. NEMISA was in the process of informing industry players what it was doing, and about the contributions that NEMISA was making to South Africa. The industry had now started to work with NEMISA, since December 2010, and was seemingly showing greater acceptance of NEMISA. He added that NEMISA would be offering internships for certain programmes, in partnership with certain production houses. This had to be organised through the SETAs.

Ms A Muthambi (ANC) noted the R22 000 irregular expenditure and asked if any remedial action had been taken against those responsible for it. She also addressed the R2.5 million deficit that NEMISA projected for the 2012/13 financial year, and asked what its major concerns were around this deficit.

Mr Nwedamutswu explained that NEMISA’s board had already approved a changed management strategy in order to strengthen the organisation’s effectiveness. The strategy would address some of the shortcomings that NEMISA had already identified.

Mr Gcabashe explained that the irregular expenditure was incurred during the 2009/2010 year, and had been mentioned in this presentation to bring the matter to the attention of the Committee. It was the only instance of this nature. The R22 000 was not specifically authorised for payment, although the Board had requested the services of a human resources practitioner for recruitment purposes. Because the service was actually required, the Board did not think it needed to take further action against any individual.

In regard to the deficit, Mr Gcabashe said that depreciation was a non-cash item, and if the depreciation figure was added back in, NEMISA would actually show a surplus. He noted that NEMISA was a not-for-profit entity, but also a government entity. NEMISA was primarily focused on providing training, which raised the question of whether it should in fact generate a profit.

Ms Magazi responded that she understood that there had been an urgent need to recruit a Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, but NEMISA should have abided by the correct procedures around the R22 000 payment.

Ms Muthambi added that the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) was clear on the rules and procedures that had to be followed.

Mr Gcabashe explained that the matter of the irregular expenditure had been captured in the 2010 Annual Report. NEMISA would endeavour to give the Committee a full report as to what remedial action had been taken.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would wait for the report. His understanding was that action had already been taken by the shareholder on the matter.

Ms Muthambi noted that NEMISA had identified, as a challenge, introducing itself to the MIC SETA and asked what the anticipated problem would be.

Mr Tshidzumba replied that NEMISA had recently met with the CEO of the former ISETT SETA, now renamed as the MIC-SETA. This was noted as a challenge because the relationship was still in its early stages, rather than being settled.

Ms Muthambi noted that NEMISA had mentioned the signature of Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with LoveLife, and asked what value these would add. 

Mr Tshidzumba responded that MOUs were always linked to projects, and cited the example of NEMISA’s MOU with the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) and the MAPP-SETA, which was linked to a project around learnerships. Another MOU with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) was linked to a skills development programme.

Mr C Kekane (ANC) stated that he was aware that NEMISA had limited physical resources. There were, however, many vacant properties owned by government in both urban areas and former homelands. He asked NEMISA, before taking a decision to build new premises, to check with the Department of Public Works whether NEMISA could be allocated any of the buildings.

Mr Tshidzumba replied that NEMISA had met with some studio owners who had indicated that a few TV studios were empty and could be used for practical courses.

Mr Kekane understood that it was not easy to recruit students from rural areas, because of lack of newspaper information and facilities, and asked what strategy NEMISA had in place to recruit students from rural areas.

Mr Tshidzumba said that NEMISA aimed to train people from rural areas for the digital migration process.

Ms T Ndabeni (ANC) asked what criteria or selection process NEMISA used to recruit students. She asked if the selection included a special criterion for physically disabled persons. She also asked if NEMISA worked with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and South African Youth Council (SAYC) on youth programmes.

Mr Tshidzumba answered that it was very difficult for the trainers to include disabled people because of the type of technology that was used. This matter was also discussed in the previous year. In 2010, NEMISA did have a student in a wheelchair and this year had one with a hearing disability. It was very interesting and challenging, as they needed to get the right technology to train disabled persons.

Mr Tshidzumba noted that in 2010 NEMISA and SABC held a campaign, and had received up to six thousand applications from all over the country but was only able to take 100 students. The potential students would be interviewed (but the interviews were not difficult), because the programmes were so specialised, and were also asked to create portfolios as part of the selection process. The selection criteria for television and radio were easier than for animation and graphic design courses.

Mr Tshidzumba added that NEMISA had embarked on a campaign to create partnerships to help it reach out to the youth in the country. It was in the process of creating partnerships with provinces, and was also wording with the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) to get an inventory of all the Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) that were willing to train communities in broadcasting. NEMISA was also in partnership with a few youth league structures in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Durban. At the moment, it did not have any projects with the NYDA or the SAYC.

Ms Ndabeni asked for clarity on the template that was used for the strategic plan. Her understanding was that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) usually became deliverables.

Mr Nwedamutswu agreed that, because of the newness of the monitoring and evaluation paradigm, it was difficult for NEMISA to distinguish between an output and an indicator. He had noted Ms Ndabeni’s concern.

Ms Ndabeni responded that a monitoring body needed to have clear targets and objectives, to allow it to exercise its oversight properly. Members had to approve the strategic plans submitted by NEMISA to Parliament, and would be unwilling to adopt a document that contained only vague information. She stressed that the Committee’s oversight work focused on NEMISA’s activities, objectives and KPIs, and it was therefore vital that these must be clear.

Mr Nwedamutswu replied that he thought Ms Ndabeni’s main concern probably related to the terminology used, as the KPIs were not captured in precisely those terms, but were captured as “objectives”. He proposed that NEMISA should amend this, to set out properly structured indicators and objectives, and provide Members with a revised document.

The Chairperson acknowledged his proposal.

Ms S Tsebe (ANC) asked about NEMISA’s relationship with provinces and municipalities regarding its recruitment strategy. She also wanted to know about its relationship with the Education Departments.

Mr Tshidzumba answered that NEMISA considered that its partnership with the SABC was not enough, and so had also embarked on partnerships with other stakeholders, including the municipalities. Ethekwini Municipality had invited NEMISA to use its new multi-media centre to train students. Many other entities had similarly asked NEMISA to make use of their facilities to train their staff members. Such partnerships would enhance the recruitment campaigns driven by NEMISA. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) had identified NEMISA as a trainer of FET colleges on the multimedia curriculum. NEMISA would be engaging with schools on the National Digital Repository (NDR) project. Most of NEMISA’s road shows were a response to the career days hosted by various district offices in provinces.

Ms Tsebe noted that one of NEMISA’s key priorities for 2011/12 was the development of new funding strategies. She asked if this meant that NEMISA wanted to shift away from the current funding model and introduce a new one.

Mr Nwedamutswu said that the reason NEMISA was looking at a new funding model was to examine the potential to generate more income to sustain activities throughout the financial year. NEMISA was still in discussions with the shareholder and had not yet decided on which model it would be using. NEMISA agreed that a substantive organisational review had to be completed first.

Ms Tsebe also asked NEMISA to elaborate on the number of vacant posts, and to indicate how much it spent on outsourced services.

Mr Nwedamutswu addressed the question on vacant posts. He said that the strategy document was developed in July 2010. Since then, all the major posts had been filled. The only vacant posts were that of the finance manager and procurement manager.

Mr Gcabashe added that funds spent on outsourced services usually related to the internal audit process.

Mr Kekane said that the NYDA had some very interesting programmes, and suggested that NEMISA had to work with NYDA to improve the situation with the youth, especially if it wanted to make an impact in rural areas, which would be beneficial to those youth.

Mr Tshidzumba replied that NEMISA had some interaction with the NYDA but at a project level. NEMISA was aware that it needed to increase the interaction with the NYDA, and become part of the bigger projects.

Ms Magazi proposed that the Committee should approve NEMISA’s key strategic objectives, so it could start to implement the plans. She assumed that NEMISA’s objectives were aligned with those of the Department of Communications (DoC). She noted, however, that NEMISA wanted to undertake an organisational review and asked if NEMISA had met with the shareholder to discuss this idea.

Mr Kekane thought that the strategic plan document could not be accepted immediately as it did not yet talk to the high level presentation made by NEMISA.

Ms Ndabeni thanked NEMISA for proposing to rework its document, and proposed that it should be adopted after it had been revised.

Mr Kekane proposed that the Committee could adopt the document, subject to the corrections being made. He did not want to delay the process for too long, pointing out that a long recess was about to start, but said that a deadline for re-submission of the document must be given.

The Chairperson said that the schedule would be tight, but that the Committee would have to fit in another meeting with NEMISA as soon as possible.

Mr Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of Communications, agreed that the Committee should approve NEMISA’s document as soon as possible. He clarified that the shareholder was in discussion with NEMISA on the documents and how NEMISA was positioned in the country. He stated that there was a place in the digital environment for NEMISA; especially in terms of television and radio.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister and NEMISA for their contributions. He said that the Committee would meet with NEMISA after the elections in May.

Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa
(USAASA) 2011/12 Business Plan briefing
Mr Louis Moahladi, Chairperson, Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) Board, thanked the Committee for affording this entity (USAASA or the Agency) the opportunity to make its presentation.

Mr Phineus Moleele, Chief Executive Officer, USAASA, informed Members that USAASA had faced constraints in the past, which were linked to the limitation in its universal service and access role, to the lack of optimal support systems and processes to sufficiently support core delivery, and the lack of an established partnership model. Other challenges arose because USAASA was only involved in projects instead of leading them, the fact that it had uncoordinated business units, and the lack of alignment between USAASA's structure and mandate. In 2009, USAASA  took a leap forward and developed a new strategic plan, and it was hoped that by 2020, the Agency and its partners would have created an opportunity for all South Africans to connect, speak, explore and study, using information communication and technology instruments (ICTs).

Mr Moleele set out the strategic objectives, which included providing universal service and access strategy, policy and partnerships, facilitating interventions in ensuring affordable and equitable access and usage, and monitoring and evaluating effective use and social appropriation. USAASA would also efficiently and effectively manage the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF), achieve project-based organisational excellence, and facilitate multi-sectoral networks towards improving the public profile of USAF.

Mr Molefi Mollo, Executive Manager: Business Development Services, USAASA, spoke to the priorities and delivery agreement outcomes of the Department of Communications (DoC). The priorities were job creation, education and skills development, healthcare, rural development, and the fight against crime and corruption. The delivery agreement outcomes for USAASA included improving competition and regulation, improving broadband to 256 Kbps, through broadband policy intervention, and developing a set of operational indicators for each segment.

USAASA aligned itself with the Department of Communications’ strategic outcomes, and he set out a comparison (see attached presentation of strategic objectives).

Mr Mollo informed Members of  USAASA’s key projects in 2011/12, which included involvement in Set-Top Box (STB) subsidies as part of the Broadcasting Digital Migration (BDM) process, broadband infrastructure roll-out, new public access facilities in under-serviced areas, and the handing over of the Legacy Access Centres. USAASA anticipated that it would create 88 jobs through the Rapid Deployment of Access Centres. 528 jobs would be created through the construction of the access centres. The BDM strategy development would create 1 000 temporary jobs for a period of a month.

Mr Mollo set out the funding requirements. He outlined the baseline allocations of R256.7 million in 2011/12 and the following years, and said that USAASA predicted a budgetary shortfall of R320.9 million in 2011/12, R2.2 billion in 2012/13, and R567.3 million in 2013/14, in view of its obligations. USAASA's major financial obligations included research costs, BDM STB capacity building, corporate identity and public awareness initiatives, staff costs, IT system upgrade costs, non-core administrative costs, and monitoring and evaluation costs. The medium term estimated costs for these objectives were set out for the following three years (see attached presentation for all details).

Mr Mollo set out that USAASA’s key initiatives for the future included obtaining funding for the projects outlined in the business plan for 2011/12, facilitating the planning and implementation of universal service and access programmes in provinces, focusing on the National Broadband Strategy, facilitating the unlocking and administering of the USAF, and repositioning USAASA as a facilitator and forerunner of universal access and services. He assured the Committee that USAASA had turned the corner and was ready to try to achieve its 2020 vision.

Discussion
Ms Magazi noted the statement that USAASA would be holding a workshop, with DoC, to share the strategic plan priorities, but pointed out that all draft strategic plans of State Owned Entities (SOEs) ought already to have fed into the strategic plan of the DoC. The DoC was supposed to elaborate on the priorities of USAASA in the strategic plan. The Committee assumed that the DoC had communicated with the SOEs and that their inputs had been inserted into the DoC’s strategic plan.

Prof Shaun Pather, Board Member, USAASA, replied that there had been a misunderstanding on this. He asserted that USAASA was engaged in ongoing meetings with the shareholder. USAASA met with the DoC and the Minister to discuss its draft business plan, so this plan was drafted in consultation with the shareholder.

Ms Ndabeni addressed USAASA’s project regarding broadband infrastructure. She asked if it was working with, or holding consultations with Sentech, who was also responsible for the rolling out of broadband.

The Chairperson added that he hoped that there was not duplication, as this could be costly to tax payers. If USAASA was rolling out broadband, it had to ask the question whether another entity already had the infrastructure to provide this service.

Mr Moleele replied that a workshop was held with all the provinces, SOEs and other government departments when USAASA was deciding on its strategic objectives. Sentech and Broadband Infraco had been present when the decision was taken on the broadband project for Kwazulu-Natal, and was fully aware of where the project would be rolled out. He assured Members that USAASA was having ongoing discussions with Sentech, so there was no chance of duplication.

Ms Ndabeni said she was not sure whether USAASA was saying that it had invited Sentech to a meeting after having taken the decision to roll out the project, or if the relevant stakeholders had been invited to discuss and then together agree on the areas of operation.

The Chairperson stated that a broader discussion was needed on USAASA’s role in the rolling-out of broadband. The Committee might have to call the DoC, USAASA, Sentech and Infraco together to talk about USAASA’s mandate in broadband penetration.

Mr Moleele assured Members that USAASA’s business plan was based on all the inputs from the Committee and the DoC.

Ms Ndabeni stated that USAASA’s strategic objectives and KPIs had to be clear, so that the Committee could monitor them properly. One of USAASA’s objectives was access to ICT services and infrastructure. She asked if USAASA wanted to provide access, or to improve it. She asked if the projects in which USAASA was involved with municipalities formed part of the Integrated Development Planning (IDP).

Prof Pather thanked Ms Ndabeni for her comments on the indicators and objectives, which indicated good management by the Committee. USAASA had improved drastically from the situation a few years ago, although it recognised that there were still some weaknesses, which would be addressed during workshops on the whole performance management system. He welcomed and noted the comments. The alignment of targets, outcomes and objectives would be perfect by the time USAASA next met with the Committee.

Mr Moleele added that USAASA’s strategic focus, in terms of consultation and facilitation, was to ensure that municipalities were empowered to include ICT projects in their IDPs. Some municipalities in Gauteng and the Western Cape were far advanced, whereas others, particularly in the deep rural areas, were not, and USAASA was working with those who were struggling.

Ms Magazi noted that one of USAASA’s mandates was to make policy recommendations to the Minister. She asked if USAASA had addressed this since being established and if there was any data in this regard.

Mr Moleele explained that he was grateful that this had been raised, as it was key for USAASA to go back to the basics. The Act was clear in setting out that USASSA had to define what “universal access and service” was. This was presented to the Ministry in 2008, when issues such as broadcasting signal and broadband policy were also raised. USAASA also worked with South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Sentech to discuss the “reach”. USAASA made recommendations to the Minister and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) on certain matters. USAASA responded also to what it needed to, in terms of its mandate, and made recommendations on under-serviced areas.

The Chairperson stated that USAASA had made a bold statement in saying that there would be access to ICT services for all South Africans by 2020. It would have to live with the implications of this statement, as the Committee would keep track of this objective. Even the DoC had failed to tell the Committee exactly when there would be universal access. However, USAASA had not specified what type of access people would have. He noted that there were many internet cafes on almost every corner of the major cities. He asked how USAASA could help to release entrepreneurial potential. He noted that the DoC was in the process of establishing a research unit, although the legislation specified that USASSA should be performing the research function, so this must be clarified, to avoid duplication. USAASA should be the advocates of ICT.

Mr Moleele answered that one of USAASA’s targets was to have internet centres close to all major locations, which would be preferable to having internet cafés at every corner. USAASA wanted the provinces to take charge of such a project, but also wanted to look at ways to make other industry players participate. The challenge was to train people to manage the internet centres.

Prof Pather said that the Chairperson was raising some deep strategic issues that spoke to quite a broad environment. The types of research projects that were being conceptualised by USAASA were partially related to Sentech and other entities. The problem was that these entities could be sitting with a mandate relating to universal service and access that was broad and encompassing. USAASA was aware that there were other role players in the sector, but understood what its own mandate was, and did not want to duplicate the activities of other entities. If the DoC also had a research unit, USAASA would work with that unit to ensure there was no duplication. 

The Chairperson thanked USAASA, and said that the Committee had noted its improvement. He reiterated that USAASA and the entire sector must stand behind USAASA’s commitment to universal access for all by 2020.

The meeting was adjourned.

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