Key focus areas outlined in the budget presentation were the reduction in youth unemployment, extending the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), contributing land for low-income housing, and providing quality office accommodation which facilitated service delivery to all citizens. In the medium term, priority would be given to job creation and poverty eradication, skills development in the built environment and property management, service delivery improvement to client departments, enhancement of the immovable assets register, cost effective infrastructure delivery and rural development.
A review of the DPW’s expenditure during the past financial year indicated that EPWP incentive grants had been significantly underspent up to March this year. Only R182,4 million of the R331 million incentives allocated to the provinces (55%) had been spent, while the municipalities had drawn down only R279,6 million out of R623 million (45%) available.
Members expressed concern at the failure of local authorities to take advantage of the incentive grant scheme, particularly at a time of widespread unemployment. It was suggested that a dedicated fund be established to support the creation of co-operatives, particularly in the construction sector, to provide increased work opportunities.
Questions were also raised about the effectiveness of Government training programmes, as there was still a shortage of skills, which was having a negative impact on economic development. Doubts were also expressed about the prospect of achieving the targeted 4,5 million work opportunities by 2014, particularly in the light of the world economic situation.
Department of Public Works (DPW) 2011 Strategic Plan
In the absence of the Acting Director-General, the presentation was delivered by the DPW Acting Chief Operating Officer, Mr Butcher Matutle. Five outcomes formed the basis of the department’s strategic plan:
▪ The creation of decent employment through inclusive economic growth;
▪ An efficient, competitive and responsive infrastructure network;
▪ An efficient, effective, development-oriented public service for an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship;
▪ A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path; and
▪ Sustainable human settlements and an improved quality of household life.
Key focus areas were the reduction in youth unemployment, extending the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), contributing land for low-income housing, and providing quality office accommodation which facilitated service delivery to all citizens. In the medium term, priority would be given to job creation and poverty eradication, skills development in the built environment and property management, service delivery improvement to client departments, enhancement of the asset register, cost effective infrastructure delivery and rural development.
Mr Matutle gave a brief overview of the five programmes of the department, covering Administration, Immovable Asset Investment Management, EPWP, Construction and Property Policy Regulation, and Auxiliary and Associated Services.
Mr Aaron Mazibuko, DPW Director: Management Accounting, provided a breakdown of expenditure for each of these areas, and said the total budget for these programmes was R7 819 million.
Mr Matutle drew attention to several key activities of the DPW. One of the targets was to achieve a 90% level of updating of the DPW’s immovable assets register by the fourth quarter of the budget year. The need to speed up the process of creating more work opportunities for poor and unskilled communities was also stressed
Another strategic goal was to ensure the transformation and regulation of the construction and property industries by facilitating new entrants to the sector, and contributing to economic growth and development.
Mr Mazibuko reviewed the DPW’s expenditure during the past financial year, and highlighted the fact that EPWP incentive grants had been significantly underspent up to March this year. Only R182,4 million of the R331 million incentives allocated to the provinces (55%) had been spent, while the municipalities had drawn down only R279,6 million out of R623 million (45%) available.
The Chairperson expressed disappointment that the clash of meetings had allowed very little time for members to engage the DPW on issues raised in the presentation [which was delayed for 90 minutes as the DPW delegation was involved in another meeting]. He commented that the presentation was heavily oriented towards national issues, with little focus on individual provinces, except in the case of the EPWP.
Mr R Tau (ANC,
He said the department had an interest in job creation through the EPWP, but said there did not seem to be an “exit strategy” for all the people who had been put through training programmes to acquire skills, and who should be capable of being a part of, or managing, co-operatives and small businesses. He asked what the DPW’s strategy was to use these skilled young people.
The underspending by the provinces and municipalities of the incentive grants was a major concern, as they should be at the forefront of job creation at a time of widespread unemployment. The Committee needed to know which municipalities were not performing satisfactorily so that they could be taken to task during oversight visits.
The DPW’s role in the management of the parliamentary villages provided the Department with an opportunity to support the Minister of Health’s appeal to MPs to follow a healthy lifestyle, by equipping gyms for members who lacked transport to keep fit at outside fitness centres.
Mr Tau asked about the Cuban technical adviser programme, as no information had been provided as to whether they were still involved, or how effective the programme had been. As part of the effort to reduce unemployment among youth, he wanted to see a dedicated fund with a clear objective of ensuring that co-operatives would be established and supported, particularly in the construction sector, for the main benefit of young women in the rural areas.
Mr H Groenwald (DA,
He supported Mr Tau’s comments on skills training. There were thousands of projects in progress throughout the country, but there was a shortage of skilled workers. He wanted to know what had happened to all the people who had been trained, but who no longer seemed to be available. He pointed out that of the 279 municipalities, 100 of them did not have a single engineer.
He said that in the current economic climate, which was influenced by the international situation, the EPWP target of creating 4,5 million jobs was not achievable. He said short-term work opportunities would soon revert to people being unemployed again. He also criticised municipalities for underspending on job creation projects, even though funds were available, and said this pointed to poor management.
Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE,
He asked for a breakdown of the number of youths, women and people with disabilities who were involved in job creation projects, as well as an indication of how far the Department had gone towards meeting its targets. He also described the 4,5 million job opportunities target as “ambitious.”
He expressed concern at the poor response to the incentive grant programme, and felt this could be due to the fact that it was no longer being implemented in the same way it was originally. It should also be better monitored.
The Chairperson supported members’ concerns regarding the incentive grant programme, project monitoring, and the asset register. He also urged the Department to allocate more funds to the under-developed provinces, rather than focusing on those that were more developed.
As there was no time for the DPW delegation to respond to the discussions – Committee members had to leave to attend other meetings – it was agreed that the Department would respond by e-mail before 09h00 on Friday, June 10. This would give the Committee time to receive the information ahead of the Parliamentary debate scheduled for next Tuesday.
The Committee adopted the minutes of meetings held on March 1, March 22, March 29, April 12 and April 19, with minor amendments. They also discussed means of improving the effectiveness of their oversight role through planned visits to the various provinces.
The meeting was adjourned.
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