Public Service Commission 2010/11 Evaluation: Department Rural Development & Land Reform

Rural Development and Land Reform

13 September 2011
Chairperson: Mr P Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Public Service Commission (PSC) presented its findings on the assessment of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), as well as specific particular recommendations. Since 2011, the PSC had implemented a transversal monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system that was used to evaluate the performance of selected departments against the nine values set out for the public service in the Constitution. Although currently the system simply evaluated the extent to which a department had complied, using random sampling methods, it would in future also look to actual outcomes. To date, the PSC had assessed 132 departments and produced seven consolidated reports. In the 2010/11 research cycle, 4 national and 17 provincial departments were assessed, including all departments dealing with agriculture. It was noted that the DRDLR had been asked to comment on the Draft Report, but failed to do so by due date, and so the PSC had proceeded to finalise its report.

Overall, the DRDLR had scored 74%, which meant that performance was generally good against most of the standards. There were six recommendations per principle and the PSC would follow up within six months on implementation. For Principle 1, professional ethics, the Department achieved 75%, but it was noted that although all managers had a working knowledge of the disciplinary procedures, the cases took far too long (127 days as against the recommended 20 to 80 working days) to finalise. It had achieved 40% on the efficiency scoring under principle 2, with under-expenditure of 8.4% in the last financial year, and only 10 of the 33 outputs were achieved. For principle 3, a development-orientated public administration, the DRDLR scored 80%, and the sampled poverty-reduction projects reflected acceptable standards of beneficiary participation, although the success of the projects could not be determined. All decisions taken, in accordance with principle 4, appeared to have been correctly and fairly taken, but here the PSC recommended that the letter to applicants must be expanded to inform them of their rights to make representations, appeal or review, and request reasons for decisions. Principle 5 related to public participation in policy making, and here the DRDLR scored 100%, since it consulted widely, took account of contributions and produced comprehensive reports and recommendations. It had 60% performance on accountability, as it had a qualified audit opinion, due to material losses through criminal conduct and fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and because, although fraud prevention plans were in place, they were not always adequately implemented. The DRDLR scored 90% for transparency, covering 78% of matters prescribed. A score of 70% was obtained on human resource management, because although plans were in place, the DRDLR took too long to fill posts. No evidence was found of how the impact of training of staff and service delivery were assessed. In respect of representivity, the DRDLR scored 70%, as although it had achieved its targets for employment of black and disabled people, the percentage of women in senior management was still too low. 

Members expressed their appreciation of the Report, noted that two previous reports from the PSC had been tabled, but probably were not discussed in depth, and asked how often these investigations were conducted, and how the PSC would follow up on them, particularly if it followed random sampling methods in the first place. They questioned the methodology followed for assessing the poverty projects and disciplinary matters. One Member expressed her concern that the Report assessed only compliance but did not look at actual outcomes or effect of the programmes and the PSC conceded that this was so, but that it would be changing its approach in future. Members asked for a summary of the recommendations made to the DRDLR, noting that these related to finalising cases of misconduct, communicating administrative decisions, implementing the fraud prevention strategies, ensuring full compliance with National Treasury requirements in the Annual Report, and reviewing processes for filling posts. The Department confirmed that it was working on all of these.

Meeting report

Public Service Commission (PSC) Monitoring and Evaluation Report on Department of Rural Development & Land Reform 2010/11
Mr Ben Mthembu, Chairperson, Public Service Commission, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to come and present the Monitoring and Evaluation Report for 2010/11, on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR or the Department). Although the Public Service Commission (PSC) had been preparing these Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) transversal reports for some time, this was the first time it had been invited to present to this Committee, and it was appreciated because the PSC recognised Parliament, and particularly the Portfolio Committees, as key stakeholders. He noted that the PSC’s primary responsibility was to support the Constitutional democracy, and to promote the vision for an excellent public service, following the nine principles outlined in section 195 of the Constitution. It would like to see its recommendations implemented and engaged upon.

Mr Kobus van der Merwe, Chief Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, PSC, noted that the PSC had designed a monitoring and evaluation system that assessed the compliance of departments to the nine values governing public administration outlined in Section 195 of the Constitution. 22 departments, chosen from throughout the system, were assessed in 2010/11.The assessment on the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was complemented by other oversight work done in the department. This included the Meta-Evaluation of a Review of Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) Project Performance from 2001-2006, and the Evaluation of Integration and Coordination in the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme, October 2009.

Since the introduction of the system, the PSC had already assessed 132 departments and produced seven consolidated reports. The sample of departments for the 2010/2011 research cycle comprised of 4 national and 17 provincial departments. The sample included all agriculture departments and all Offices of the Premier, allowing the PSC to focus specifically on these two sectors.

The Draft Report was forwarded in writing to the Department on 4 April 2011 with a request for comments within 10 days after receipt of the report. Despite numerous requests, no comments were submitted on the due date of 18 April 2011. The PSC had, therefore, proceeded with the finalisation of the Report.

He outlined the methodology adopted by PSC. One or two performance indicators were set in respect of each of the nine values. Up to five standards were then linked to each indicator was, and linked to the standards was a scoring scale. There would then be a comparison of actual practice in departments with the standard. The information on administrative practices, which was sourced from reports, data bases, interviews and files, was collected by using standardised templates. Depending on the level of compliance to the standard, a score was awarded.

The DRDLR’s score per principle averaged 74%, which meant that performance was generally good against most of the standards. There were six recommendations per principle that were made in that report which needed to be implemented within specific time frames. Within six months of the delivery of the report, the PSC would do a follow-up on the progress made with the implementation of the recommendations.

Principle 1 spoke to professional ethics. Here the Department achieved 75%, which was a good performance. The score reflected that all sampled managers surveyed had a working knowledge of the procedures for dealing with discipline. It took the Department an average of 127 working days, according to statistics drawn from the list of cases submitted, to finalise a case of misconduct, and this fell outside the prescribed 20-80 working days. Regular management reporting was done on cases of misconduct but there was no evidence of management response on the reports that were made available. The Department had trained 80% of its staff members on all aspects of labour relations which meant that there should be enough capacity to deal with cases of misconduct.

Principle 2 related to efficiency, economy and effectiveness, and here the score for 2010/11 was 40%, which was rated as poor performance. There had been under expenditure of 8,4% of the voted amount which fell outside the accepted limit of 2% set by National Treasury. All the performance indicators were found to be measurable, but out of the 33 outputs appearing on the Annual Reports, 10 were achieved, and this fell within the under-40% range of the PSC’s transversal M & E System.

Principle 3 outlined a development-oriented public administration, and the Department here scored 80% for 2010/11. There were six poverty reduction projects submitted for assessment, which were initiated by the Department but implemented at local level, and all reflected an acceptable standard in terms of beneficiary participation. There were project management standards set with regard to objectives, timeframes, and financial projects. The success of the projects could not be determined because project implementation reports were not submitted for assessment.

Principle 4 related to impartiality and fairness. All decisions that were submitted were taken in accordance with the Departmental legislation or policies, and in terms of the delegations. All sampled decisions assessed were taken by duly authorised officials and the contents showed that decisions that were taken were fair and just. Prior notice was given in the form of a letter, but it did not clearly state that the applicant would have the opportunity to make representation, the right to appeal or review and to request reason for decisions.

Principle 5 related to public participation in policy making, which scored 100% for 2010/11. There was a  guideline for engaging with stakeholders on policy making, and a system for soliciting and managing public contributions was in place and operational. The Department considered and acknowledged contributions obtained during stakeholder consultations, and comprehensive reports were produced with recommendations.

Principle 6 related to accountability. The score for 2010/11 was 60%, which was adequate performance. The Auditor-General (AG) gave the Department a qualified audit opinion. The M & E system in all departmental programmes was operational. A risk register for the Department was in place. The main concerns raised by the AG related to material losses through criminal conduct, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure issues. The Fraud Prevention Plan (FPP) of the Department was based on a thorough risk assessment, but there was a shortage of staff to investigate alleged fraud cases, and strategies for the FPP were being implemented.

Principle 7 was transparency, and the Department had scored 90% on this principle. The Department’s Annual Report was attractively and clearly presented, and was well written, in simple accessible language. The Annual report covered, in sufficient detail, 78% of areas prescribed by National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), although this was less than the standard set by the PSC’s Transversal M & E System. In at least two-thirds of the programmes listed the Annual Report clearly reported on performance against predetermined outputs. With regard to access to information, the Department had Deputy Information Officers in place and although a Manual on Access to Information (MAI) was in place, it was not annually updated, resulting in out-dated contact details. The procedure for handling and tracking requests for access to information was in place, and the Departments submitted section 32 reports on an annual basis.

Principle 8 related to good human resource management and career development practices. Here, the score was 70% for 2010/11. A detailed recruitment policy was in place that complied with good practice standards. It took the Department an average of 5 months to fill a vacancy, which was far beyond the standard of three months or less set by the PSC’s Transversal M & E System. In terms of skills development, a workplace plan was in place that outlined all critical skills needed by the department and training activities planned. All 2 983 activities planned were implemented by the Department. However, no evidence could be found on how the impact of training on staff and service delivery was assessed.
Principle 9 related to representivity, and the Department here scored 70% for 2010/11. The Employment Equity Policy and Plan complied with the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and both had been approved and implemented. By the end of 2009/10, the Department had achieved its 77% target of black employment and 2,1% employment of people with disability, but only 37% women in senior management levels, which represented a deficit of 13% against the 50% target. Regular management reporting had been done and definite action was taken on the basis of those reports. Mr van der Merwe concluded that 74% of diversity management measures of the PSC’s checklist had been implemented.

He added that the Department had implemented the recommendations.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) appreciated the report because it complied with the mandate of the PSC as enshrined in section 195 of the Constitution. She noted that the Committee must support the PSC, whose findings would assist the Department to strengthen its performance. The Committee had to ensure that the recommendations given by the PSC were implemented. She also wanted to commend the Department, saying that this report indicated progress and more strengths than areas still to be improved. She also appreciated the fact that the Department had responded promptly to the report and had come up with some intervention strategies to effect improvements.

However, she noted that there were two areas highlighted in the report that did not indicate what interventions would be made by the Department. The first concerned gender representation. The second was the issue of under spending. She asked the PSC whether it was practical or possible to implement the recommendations within six months, as she had thought that these recommendations were categorised into medium and long term objectives.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked the PSC if how often it conducted investigations into departments.

Mr Mthembu responded that the PSC conducted investigations annually, on departments that had been selected for sample. The PSC was a small entity and already had its work cut out to meet its constraints, and it could only do as much as its size allowed. Last year there had been a number of departments sampled, and a report would be produced on programme assessment. Programme assessment was more concerned with outcomes than with compliance and it would be interesting to see those outcomes.

Mr van der Merwe added that the report stated that the PSC would conduct investigations within a cycle of three years to all departments. However, it was not able to achieve that. The biggest sample undertaken was 30 departments a year, but this had certainly stretched PSC to its limit. It had been difficult even to do 22 departments.

Ms Lindiwe Mazibuko (DA) asked if the PSC had provided the Committee with the two previous reports it had commissioned, and whether it would make a presentation on those.

Mr Justice Kgoedi, Director: Support, PSC, responded that these reports were tabled in Parliament. However, this was the first time that the PSC had actually presented to this Committee. It was dependent on whether the Committee would invite it to come and present the reports. However, now, as part of its outreach programme, the PSC was trying to interact more with the Committees so as to highlight the importance of the reports that were tabled and encourage them to be taken further.

The Chairperson said that this was a telling statement.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) asked if what methodology was used in arriving at the figure of 127 working days for finalising a case of misconduct, which, as indicated in the report, fell outside the prescribed 20-80 working days.

Mr van der Merwe said that if the cases of misconduct had actually showed good progress, it would not have been necessary for the PSC to count the days. The PSC followed the approach of counting the days from the start to the end of the disciplinary process. Samples were taken of those disciplinary cases that were still ongoing. Any cases that were not reported to the PSC were not taken into account.

Ms A Steyn (DA) was concerned that the Committees, when receiving the Annual and Strategic Plans for the Department, followed a process that was very much like ‘ticking boxes’, to check for compliance. If the baseline was very low, and if the same indicators were used for each department then it would probably result in specific policies and implementation not being usefully stated. She noted that the communication between Department and beneficiaries was poor, scoring only 5% to 15% on the compliance.

Ms Steyn, like Ms Ngwenya-Mabila, highlighted the question of gender, asking whether, for purposes of the survey, it counted more if a Department had a policy on gender than the outcomes of that policy did.

Ms Steyn further asked who would decide on the projects submitted or the information to be given under principle 3. Six poverty projects had been initiated by the Department – but this again sounded like an exercise of simply ticking boxes. Whilst she appreciated the report from the PSC, she was concerned that the actual implementation and real outcomes from the Department were lacking.

Mr Mthembu thanked the Committee for their comments in support of the Report. He answered Ms Steyn’s observations by saying that these had a measure of truth. The PSC had, in the conclusion of the report, emphasised its approach, adopted since the M & E Transversal System was started. The system by its very nature was supposed to follow a fairly simple process. The PSC had not wanted to have a very complex system which involved looking at outcomes and similar processes, but rather wanted to have a system that would be implementable across the large scale public service, comprising more than 140 departments. Ms Steyn was quite correct on the emphasis. Compliance was in fact a minimum requirement for this system. However, he accepted that the PSC needed to move beyond simply looking at compliance, to looking to outcomes, particularly since the current administration had, since 2009, adopted a more outcomes-based approach, rather than simply looking to compliance. PSC had therefore reviewed the system. The kind of indicator, as well as the norms, would now be taken more into account. The indicator was based on a particular assumption, and some of the assumptions were not in compliance with the outcome. PSC was now reviewing its indicators as well as its standards so that it would be able to strike a balance. The basic requirements for assessment were present. However, the question of outcomes was the issue that the PSC needed to accommodate.

Mr van der Merwe added that, in respect of the poverty reduction project, a random sampling method was used.

The Chairperson asked what use the report would be to the Department, how it would assist them, and how the Department would be able to assess if there had been improvement, because it was unlikely that PSC could track what it had recommended in the following year, if the report was based on random sampling.

Mr Mthembu responded that this perhaps illustrated the weakness of insisting on compliance. At times, it could be misleading to attach a quantitative value. The PSC itself had observed that the ideal approach would be one that neither concentrated on one thing nor the other. Compliance should remain as a minimum requirement, but on its own, and should be reviewed separately from the actual performance.  As already indicated, the PSC had now reviewed the whole system so that it was able to accommodate both requirements, as well to ensure that the actual outputs were achieved.

Mr van der Merwe said that where a department failed to comment on a report, this was a very serious issue for the PSC, because this also tied in with the use of the report. The PSC needed an in-depth engagement with departments, much earlier in the process.

Mr van der Merwe said, following up on the comment that the earlier reports were not formally presented to the Committee by the PSC,  that the fact that the reports were put into the public domain, were perhaps discussed in Committees, and were presented to the Department’s management, did produce pressure for change. The same pressure should encourage the setting of outcomes and results would be expected in the long term.

Mr van der Merwe added that from 2001, the trend for outcomes had been rising, and the public service was becoming a better public service. However PSC could not ascribe that only to its report. The Department of Public Service and Administration Guidelines and National Treasury Guidelines also played a role.

The Chairperson thanked the delegation from the PSC and from the department for the presentation. He asked the PSC to share with the Committee the recommendations that had to be implemented by the Department.

Mr Van der Merwe noted that the recommendations were not thorough diagnostic solutions for the Department. However, some indicators had been taken into account. The recommendations reflected the weaknesses pointed out by the PSC, but were not intended to be a turnaround strategy.

The first recommendation was that the Department should ensure that all cases of misconduct in which the disciplinary hearings had been conducted were finalised within the 20-80 working days. In respect of the development orientation, the Department, as part of its Land Reform plans, should spell out the M&E arrangements for the projects. In line with Principle 4, the communication of administrative decisions to the applicant should in future indicate that the applicant had the opportunity to make representations, and should spell out the right to appeal or review and right of the applicant to request reasons for the decision.

Under Principle 6, in regard to the implementation of the fraud prevention plan, the Department should ensure that all the fraud prevention strategies were in fact implemented. It should determine the exact capacity required for the handling of fraud cases and ensure that the necessary training was provided for handling of fraud cases. The PSC had also recommended that the content of the Annual Report must fully comply with all the requirements for Annual Reports set by the National Treasury. Finally, the PSC recommended that the Department should review its processes for the filling of posts and put in place measures that would improve performance and time spent to fill a vacant post.

Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director-General, DRDLR, noted that his Department had engaged with the PSC after that report was issued. The Department fully embraced the recommendations, and would cooperate with the PSC on implementation.

The Chairperson emphasised that the Committee had to take every report placed before the Committee very seriously. It could be that sometimes reports were misleading or conflicted with the reports of other entities, and it was therefore correct to put every report into the correct perspective, and use it for the purposes for which it was intended. He said that sometimes it was not wise to require a Department to respond to everything that was said about it.

Adoption of Minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of 31 August 2011.

The meeting was adjourned.


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