State Information Technology Agency: Cancellation of Ministerial briefing, Departments' 4th quarter 2010 & 1st quarter 2011 performance reports

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

23 August 2011
Chairperson: Ms J Moloi-Moropa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson noted that the Department was due to present on its turnaround strategy, a report on the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and two quarterly reports.

At the outset, Members expressed displeasure that the documents had not been provided in sufficient time. When it became apparent that the Minister had tabled an apology and that the Deputy Minister was not prepared for the briefing, the Committee said that it would prefer to postpone this presentation, as it was also not clear that the political heads had endorsed that report. Relations at the Ministry were strained, and the Committee indicated that there was a need to hold meetings with the Speaker, Minister and Deputy Minister, to try to resolve some of these issues and ensure that the Department was properly functioning. This was the second time that there had been problems brought to the Committee’s attention.

The Department was then asked to present its performance reports for the 4th quarter of 2010 and the 1st quarter of 2011. Very detailed reports were presented, detailing a number of achievements, tracking progress on various issues, and outlining Memorandums of Understanding that were reached. However, Members later commented that the reports were somewhat thin on figures and had not given reasons when targets were not achieved. Questions by Members, in relation to both reports, related to the use of technology by the Department, how the Community Development Workers were to be dealt with and under whose responsibility they would fall, and  how access to government services would be widened. The functioning of the Thusong Centres was questioned. More information was needed on the graduates taken in to learnerships, as targets were not achieved. The way in which the GSETA would function was questioned, as well as the relationships with the Management Performance assessment tools and Khaedu. Members asked for more details on the concept housing policy, and whether there had been sufficient consultation with recipients. Members were concerned about instances of underspending and asked about claims that corruption was decreasing. There was a general impression that perhaps the reports must speak more honestly to the realities.

Meeting report

The Chairperson outlined the agenda for the day, noting that the Committee was due to be briefed on the turnaround strategy implemented by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA or the Department), the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and two quarterly performance reports of the DPSA. The Chairperson said these reports provided details on how far the Department had gone in implementing the budget it was allocated.

Mr A Williams (ANC) complained that Members had received the relevant documents only that morning, and could not possibly be expected to engage with them meaningfully. He said that this situation happened repeatedly, and he wanted to be assured that this level of disorganisation would not persist.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Williams and said she was not going to pretend that this was acceptable. She understood the challenges in the Department, but that such lack of regard for the Committee was not acceptable. The perception that Members may not read the documents was certainly not true of this Committee.

The Chairperson noted an apology from the Minister. She asked that the Deputy Minister should lead the briefing.

Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, informed the Committee that she had only had sight of the presentation for the first time earlier this morning, and would not be in a position to respond to questions on the turn-around strategy. She was in fact not supposed to be present at this meeting but had been asked to attend. She hoped that the Acting Director General, Mr Kenny Govender, would help to answer some of the questions.

Mr L Ramatlakane (COPE) raised reservations about whether the SITA presentation should be given, pointing out that it seemed to be an administrative document that had not received political oversight. He was not sure how reliable it was, and expressed the view that if it lacked political support, he would like to discuss with other Members whether it should proceed.

Mr Suka (ANC) said the Deputy Minister was merely expressing her views. He felt that the presentation should be given as scheduled.

The Chairperson agreed with Mr Ramatlakane and, having debated the issue, said that the presentation on SITA must be cancelled. This meeting would instead attend to adoption of outstanding minutes and hear the progress quarterly reports. Although the Committee was interested in hearing about the SITA issues, some other time must be found to hear it.

The Deputy Minister requested that the SITA presentation be not postponed on her account, noting that she would be able to read and familiarise herself with this Report. She noted that it was very unfortunate that these discussions were being held in front of officials.

The Chairperson said she would intervene “the Parliamentary way” in the relationship at Ministry level, since this was the second time that such a situation had occurred. Political intervention was needed. She would set up a meeting between the Speaker, herself, the Minister and the Deputy Minister. If matters continued as they were, without a proper working relationship at Ministry level, the progress of work at the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) would be comprised and service delivery would be hampered.

The Deputy Minister agreed with that ruling and said Parliament needed to take a keen interest in the role of the Deputy Ministers. She said she was first an MP before being a deputy minister, and was equally concerned about what was happening. However, she said that this went beyond the relationship between herself and the Minister, and she thought that this was a structural problem. Officials should not be concerned what happened between the Ministers, but bore the responsibility to ensure that the Ministry was thoroughly briefed on the work of the Department. The relationship at Ministerial level was not relevant. Sending information via e-mails was not enough, it was necessary to check that the information was actually received. This was a problem that was generic in all Departments.

Ms Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, Chairperson, SITA Board, apologised and promised to brief both the Minister and the Deputy Minister on any future presentations. She said it was an embarrassment that SITA had prepared something of which the Deputy Minister had no prior knowledge.

The Chairperson said the SITA presentation would not continue, because, firstly the Deputy Minister had not been briefed, and secondly, there was no guarantee that the document had received political approval.

Department of Public Service and Administration 4th quarter 2010/11 Performance Report
Mr Kenny Govender, Acting Director General, Department of Public Service and Administration, noted that the Department’s were informed by the 2010-2014 Strategic Plan, which adopted an outcomes-based approach, and that the main objective was consolidation of the work being done. The  Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) Human Resources (HR) system was already in use by DPSA and the Free State Department of Education, with input from National Treasury, the programme was launched on  27 February, and DPSA and SITA provided on-going support to users. There were challenges, but structures to oversee the implementation were in place.
The Department was planning to take 25 000 learners for internships and learnerships. Just over 13 474 learnerships and over 1 000 internships were achieved in the last financial year. Although there were still some problems with full consolidated reports not having been received from the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), the main objective was to get these learners exposed to real job opportunities.

Mr Govender noted that a report on organisational members’ skills gap, covering 40 departments, had been drafted. Information on competency assessments was integrated into that report. The information was used to develop a policy. The DPSA had also analysed the average time spent by officials at a post level, following a perception that senior managers did not spend sufficient time in one post without moving to a higher post, possibly without acquiring the necessary experience. This analysis had, however, shown that on average, senior government officials would spend 3.8 years in a post, and that had led to the conclusion that it was not the time that was spent in a post that was as important as whether, during that time, sufficient competency and skill was acquired to lead on to the next post. The Department was hoping to reduce the turnaround time for the filling of vacancies in the public service. He said some departments had verified the qualifications of their employees.

Mr Govender said that a directive was given by the Minister to ensure that all public servants’ qualifications were verified. He said a report had been completed, but the Department had not received the responses it had hoped for because the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) as unable to handle applications by the Department.

He said there was a need to revise the strategic Performance and Management Development (PMD) Framework and Senior Management Service (SMS) assessments at the request of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. The DPSA had spent most of last year working on developing the management performance system. Once that tool was in place it should be linked to individual assessments. The Cabinet had approved the Institutional Performance Assessment Tool and this was being piloted in two departments.

Mr Govender indicated that wage agreements for 2010-2011 had been finalised, and negotiations were under way for the current financial year. Employer proposals for aligning salary negotiations and the budget presentation were developed. Organised labour’s response was awaited.  All Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) agreements, emanating from the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Resolution 1 of 2007, had been signed and implemented for engineering and related fields. The only outstanding item was a review of the current housing policy. By end March, the DPSA, together with the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) and National Treasury, was working on a sustainable home ownership scheme, and this would be taken forward in this current financial year.

In respect of disciplinary matters, he indicated that DPSA was looking to reduce the period of disciplinary processes, down to three months. A Task Team had been established with the Office of the Auditor-General (AG). Guidelines on suspension had been developed and were at consultation stage. DPSA wanted to mobilise resources to ensure consistent application of discipline. Poor performance policies in the public service were being reviewed.

In addition, DPSA had devised an Information Technology Plan with IT managers at the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape. The plan defined a roadmap for IT operations in the province, and would provide a reliable service to the Provincial Government. A conceptual framework for the implementation of an e-government prototype and work would be drawn. This included design, testing and refinement. He said e-government would see automation of a number of services.

Mr Govender then outlined that although the target of the DPSA was to achieve 100 Thusong Service Centres, more than this had been set up, and all were connected to the internet. SITA was instrumental in achieving this, and the SITA delegation could expand on this further. A Government IT Security Policy had been developed. This would ensure access control measures to protect information and IT resources from loss, data corruption and unauthorised use of services. He added that the DPSA was looking into the accessibility of government services. Differentiated geographic access norms had been developed to determine how users found the service in the Departments of Basic Education, Home Affairs, Social Development and Labour. DPSA was in the process of consulting stakeholders on the Draft Policy for Community Development Workers (CDWs). A concept document to refocus Batho Pele and the working culture of public servants was devised, in line with  Government Outcome 12 and other government priorities. He said the Department was also looking at improving waiting times for pension, hospital and licensing queues. In line with this vision, a draft Citizen Complaints Management Framework had been developed, and was under consultation. He said the majority of provinces held Premier’s Awards ceremonies in 2010.

Mr Govender reported that Maponya Mall in Soweto had been completed and was open for business. Two internet centres were opened in the Mall and were in use by the public.

An Anti-Corruption Unit had been established to coordinate management of corruption in the public service. The Unit had started investigating cases, and a feasibility study was conducted, together with the Special Investigating Unit and National Treasury.

Mr Govender then tabled a detailed financial performance report for this quarter (see attached presentation for details).

Mr Williams thought that the second Quarterly Report (covering the 1st quarter of 2011/12) should also be presented before questions were asked, as some issues raised in this Report might also be addressed in the later report.

The Chairperson agreed that whilst this might be so, there were other questions specific to this performance report. She asked about technology use by the Department and the CDWs.

Ms Dlodlo, Deputy Minister, briefly explained the way envisaged to widen access of the CDWs. She said the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa had already agreed to sponsor the programme, and would make two trains available for this purpose. DPSA was looking to widen access to government services, and hoped that ideally, people would be able to access services in the morning before they went to work or school.

Ms H Van Schalkwyk (DA) wanted to know if the Thusong Centres were outsourcing their services.

Mr Govender noted that this would be answered by the second presentation.

1st quarter 2011/12 Performance Report
Mr Govender noted that in March 2011, the DPSA had tabled a revised plan and also presented a Report for the Committee. The revised plan would ensure alignment with the Strategic Plan and Outcome 12. The Service Delivery Agreements (SDAs) were finalised, and these had been incorporated into all the projects and activities of the Department. Year 1 of the SDAs comprised conclusion and adoption of the SDA. In year 2, there would be a focus on establishing baselines and enabling mechanisms. Years 3 and 4 would focus on implementation, and support given to the departments. The entire purpose of the outcomes-based approach was to improve the service. Outcome 12 focused on three main areas where things would be done differently. These were the implementation model, anti-corruption interventions and monitoring and evaluation. DPSA was implementing four out of seven outputs, comprising human resource management, HR development, business processes, business systems, decision on rights and accountability management, as well as the tackling of corruption.

The first of these outputs was aimed at improving the responsiveness of government to citizen’s needs. The second dealt with performance development, assessment, discipline, recruitment, retention and similar matters. The third included improving PERSAL functionality and accuracy, SITA effectiveness, supply chain management and procurement delegations and decision rights, implementation of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and Promotion of Access to Justice Act (PAJA), financial management and business processes. The fourth output dealt with creating and implementing measures to combat corruption in the public service.

Mr Govender noted that support had been provided to the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, had been given, on the development of the draft organisational performance assessment tool (OPAT). He said both departments and the Public Service Commission were looking into relocation of the responsibility for performance evaluation of Heads of Department (HoDs).

A strategy to reduce the recruitment period to 6 months and the vacancy rate in the public service had been developed. The draft strategy had been circulated to all departments and a report had been compiled on the vacancy rate. Departments reported a much lower vacancy rate than indicated on the PERSAL. This confirmed challenges with PERSAL information establishing a credible baseline on vacancies.
Mr Govender said, in regard to the skills gap, that DPSA would analyse 46 departments and use such information to validate and rectify that the departments had the right skills. Skills gaps in SMS members from 15 departments had been analysed, and would inform a policy on mandatory training. DPSA had been to 45 departments to hold workshops on the use of competency assessments results. All departments were implementing the competency-based assessments for SMS, using the revised process, but this would not be the sole mechanism used. Through the policy of optimum utilisation of training budgets, DPSA wanted to ensure that the 1% of the wage bill set aside for training was used to improve the competency of the public servants.

Mr Govender noted that in the first quarter DPSA managed to recruit 3 760 graduates for learnerships and 1 502 for internships. This target was way too low, but hopefully would be increased in the second and third quarters. Following the challenges with the SETAs, the DPSA had initiated the revitalisation of the GSETA Forum. He said 20% of departments had approved the mainstreaming plans, but had missed their targets in the first quarter due to consultations on the issue of HIV/AIDS particularly with the Southern Africa Development Community, South African National Aids Council, and government’s Inter-departmental Committee on HIV/AIDS.

The IFMS HR system in the Free State’s Department of Education had been completed in this quarter. A strategy for the full rollout in the public service was being developed with SITA. Work was continuing on the IFMS governance structures, to finalise a framework that would inform the implementation strategy. DPSA was now at the point where it had to make a decision, with National Treasury and SITA, on whether to continue. This was largely because of challenges around rollout of the HR model – as it was impossible to do a full rollout without the models in place.

Frameworks and guidelines to improve discipline in the public service were developed and implemented in this quarter. Precautionary suspension and sanctioning guidelines had been developed. DPSA had consulted with the relevant people, and a joint Task Team, with the Auditor-General, Public Service Commission and the Department had been established and would review the current discipline-reporting mechanism. Strategies for discipline and functioning had been set, with guidelines to improve sanctions and suspension. A further strategy on discipline and sanction for improving the management of poor performance of Directors General, Deputy Directors General and Municipal Managers had been developed.

Mr Govender noted that a further Framework on the efficient and effective management of annual and sick leave had been developed, and a survey was conducted as part of the benchmarking that would inform the Framework. Out of 156 departments, about 82 had responded. A concept paper had been developed on the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS), which was signed in August. This looked at promoting home ownership among government employees. A technical team made up of the Employer and Labour representatives had been established to develop the new GEHS. Personnel expenditure reviews that were conducted would inform the review of the Remuneration Policy of the Public Service.

In this quarter, there had been 123 Thusong Services Centres connected to the internet, and 50 of those were LAN cabled whilst 41 were connected via satellite. The remaining centres would be connected on a case-by-case basis, since they were being renovated or had power problems. The Schools Connectivity blueprint had been developed. A Memorandum of Understanding on schools ICT Connectivity had also been signed off with the Departments of Basic Education and of Communication.

A Green IT Policy had been adopted and implemented. The draft Green IT Policy was communicated to the relevant stakeholders and a draft discussion paper on e-waste had been developed. Meetings were held with the offices of the Premiers in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal to obtain support for the project.

Mr Govender noted that a service-user satisfaction survey was conducted and there was consultation with the Department of Health to discuss methodology and data collection tools. The developed methodology was adjusted by the working group to suit the health sector. Also, employee satisfaction surveys were conducted. Various initiatives were implemented to improve the quality of information on PERSAL and the unfunded ratio went down.

The infrastructure establishment phase of the urban mall concept, such as was applied in Maponya in Soweto, was tested and adjustments were undertaken. Framework for internal operations and workflow processes had been developed and implemented. Additional ICT requirements such as the telephone management systems, e-mail solutions and cabling were in the process of being procured. He said Maponya was functioning smoothly, with management structures in place and weekly meetings held.

DPSA participated in the Africa Day and successfully exhibited on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) during the celebration at Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on 25 May. The DPSA had had facilitated and attended meetings at DIRCO. It was  looking at exploring the formalisation of bilateral relations with the French Ministry of Interior. The DPSA had also attended the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration meeting, held between 4-8 April at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr Govender concluded the presentation by announcing the establishment and functioning of an Anti-Corruption Unit. He said it had already started working at the Department of Health in the Eastern Cape, especially helping with disciplinary hearings. DPSA had received a request from the Office of the Premier to assist with hearings of the backlog of cases in five departments. There were consultations with the Public Service Commission, SITA, Department of Defence and the National Intelligence Agency on the development of a comprehensive case management system. He said evidence collected from relevant departments served as basis for conducting the investigations. Evidence validated on 80% of cases was referred back to departments for further investigations.

Mr Williams again demanded that the Department must promise that it would not again show any disrespect or display any disorganisation in its dealings with the Committee.

Mr Williams asked for more information on the 25 000 graduates to be taken for learnerships, pointing out that the targets were missed in both quarters. Mr Williams wondered if the G-SETA would “swallow” the current thirteen public sector SETAs. Mr Williams enquired how much emphasis was placed on the Anti-Corruption Unit. He wondered how, in respect of the Thusong Service Centres, the DPSA would decide on the number in each municipality, and where they should be placed.

Ms M Mohale (ANC) asked about the relationship between the Management Performance Assessment Tool and KHAEDU. She also asked if, in respect of the concept paper developed with the DHS on public servants housing, there had been sufficient consultation with the recipients, and if there was any difference between the previous system and what was now proposed. She also enquired about the management and viability of the IT security system, especially if provided by the same service provider.

Ms Van Schalkwyk wanted to know if the issue of the designated department to have responsibility over the CDWs had been finalised. She asked if the officials had any statistics to prove the claim that corruption was on the decrease. She asked how the Provinces were responding and if they were now being accountable.

Mr Suka said he was unhappy about the numbers provided as they showed under-spending and yet the Department claimed to be in control. He said that officials would have to come back and explain the spending patterns of the quarters, and he might also ask National Treasury to look at the figures. He asked about the working relationship between DPSA and SITA. He also noted that nothing had been said about the money spent on learnerships and wanted to know what was spent here. In general, he did not think enough figures on costings were presented. He also wanted to know what the Green ICT Policy meant. He urged that all reports should speak honestly to the realities that South Africa faced, and there was a need to ensure that the playing fields were levelled.

The Deputy Minister promised the Committee that it would never again receive documents late, but in the event that it might happen, then the documents would be presented in a simpler and more user-friendly format.

The Deputy Minister cautioned about looking only to the numbers of learnerships. The impact was more important, and it was important to have systems in place that ensured quality of the learnership, There was a need to look at how many of the 25 000 were employable after completion, and what kinds of skills had they acquired.

Mr Govender said that the Department could send the cost of the learnerships to the Committee, but there was no fixed cost. The National Treasury, for example, appointed interns doing Masters’ degree and these were paid at a much better rate.

Ms Potgieter-Gqubule dealt with the ICT related questions. She said that it was regarded as a failure that the DPSA had not been able to secure a permanent IT system. At the end of last year DPSA had completed a government inventory of ICT products and services. It was cheaper to use different systems. Electronic back-up filing systems were needed to safeguard documents in government institutions. The Green ICT Policy referred to electronic equipment being environmental friendly, and had nothing to do with policy processes. She said the policy took keen interest on what became of old computers, and how power was saved by being energy efficient.

Mr Govender explained the idea behind a GSETA, which was not the creation of a new SETA, but instead would be a Forum to bring together and coordinate the work of the 12 SETAs in the public sector. The issue of norms and guidelines dealt with determining where government services were located, particularly if they were based in urban or rural areas. He said the IMAT and KHAEDU were tools to measure how well an institution was performing, which looked at all of the HR components, as well as the performance.

Mr Govender explained that DPSA would be capacitating the Anti-Corruption Unit, but was waiting on the assessments to be done. The only measurement on corruption thus far were perception surveys. Mostly, issues around corruption were dealt through disciplinary processes. DPSA however wanted to improve the ability to provide good service. The ACU would be used to track corruption and monitor democracy.

The Thusong Service Centres were not the responsibility of the DPSA, but of the Department of Communications, but there were discussions at executive level to formalise the bringing under the DPSA of both the CDWs and the Thusong Centres.

Mr Govender explained that the Concept Paper on GEHS aimed to promote home ownership by government employees. He said it was directed at public servants ranging from salary level 1 to salary level 16. Employees would continue receiving the R800. The new policy had three elements: it encouraged home ownerships, or Rent to Buy, under which an employee would be allowed to rent for five years and then buy. A number of employees in the public service could not immediately afford to buy. For those public servants who did not want to buy property, rental units would be built. The DPSA had established relationships with municipalities to make land available for this purpose. A government assistance scheme was also envisaged, whereby an employee must contribute no more than 15% of basic salary to a property.

The Chairperson noted that there were still a number of questions that needed clarity and consideration, but said that, because of time constraints, these would be followed up at another time.

Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson tabled minutes dated 25 May 2011, and 1, 7, 8, 15, 22 and 29 June 2011.

Members approved the minutes, with minor changes relating to spelling and attendance.

The meeting was adjourned


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