Public Service recruitment & mainstreaming of disabled persons: Ministerial & Departmental briefings, Disabled People SA comment

Committee: Public Service and Administration, as well as Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

Chairperson: Ms J Moloi-Moropa (ANC)

Date of Meeting: 29 Feb 2012

Summary

The Deputy Minister of the Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu, was welcomed to the meeting. The Department of Public Service and Administration briefed the Committee on its own recruitment strategy for people with disabilities, and showed performance trends since 2005. It was currently employing 2.5% persons with disabilities. Increases in employment of people with disabilities were evident in Mpumalanga, North West and National Departments, whilst there were declining employment figures in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Limpopo. This Department was collaborating with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, the Department of Labour and the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. The Department focused on employment opportunities, provision of reasonable accommodation, access to and within the workplace, support to staff and assistive devices. Most disabled people showed high commitment and were rarely absent from work, and this was a point that needed to be emphasised and highlighted. Members noted a general lack of understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and the practical implications, and wondered when it would be properly enforced. They also commented that although mention was made of lifts and ramps, there were far more interventions needed for those who were hearing or sight-impaired. Members stressed that it was important to speak to disabled persons directly, rather than making assumptions about what was needed. They also requested information on the levels at which disabled people were employed, and urged departments to employ people at higher levels, and focus on people’s ability rather than their disability. Members asked if there were accurate databases, enquired how the DPSA got its information, and noted that no one department seemed to be tasked with monitoring of others.

The Department of Women Children and People with Disabilities briefed the Committee on the strategic objectives of this Department (DWCPD), which were to raise awareness, establish an enabling environment and to monitor, evaluate and report on progress and impact through the realisation of rights of people with disabilities. The opportunities in the transformation process were presented. It noted strategic partnerships with the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) around training, and announced an increase in the availability of Assistive Devices was announced. Members asked if this Department had explored public/private partnerships to produce Braille documents, how the Department identified what training was needed, the relationship with PALAMA and the meaning of “reasonable accommodation measures”. They also asked if there had been collaboration with SARS on costs of assistive devices. Members also asked about the numbers and qualifications of disabled persons seeking employment, whether the monitoring and evaluation was working, and how its effect was measured, and the status of and relationship with the Sheltered Employment Factories.

Disabled People South Africa explained the disability targets and gave some reasons why the private sector had not met targets. Five steps to assist departments in addressing disability were outlined as sensitisation, workplace profiling,
creation of policy and strategy, disability access audits and recruitment strategies, and suggested that a meeting be arranged with the Minister to discuss these steps.

The Deputy Minister of Women,
Children and People with Disabilities urged this Committee to partner with the DWCPD on compliance issues, and to confer also with other Parliamentary committees to assist it in its work. She summarised that information on programmes and budgets would be provided, and highlighted the responsibilities of the Department of Public Service and Administration towards disabled people. It was vital to ensure the dignity of disabled people, and address the historical challenges and the environmental constraint


Minutes

The Deputy Minister of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities was welcomed to the meeting.

Public Service recruitment and mainstreaming of disabled people:
Department of Public Service and Administration briefing:
Mr Kenny Govender, Deputy Director-General: Human Resource Management & Development, Department of Public Service and Administration, presented a fact sheet showing performance trends since 2005, which illustrated that the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had reached 0.4% employment of disabled persons. Over the public sector the trends were tracked and he also presented the increase and reduction of employment of people with disabilities for all the provinces. Increases in employment of disabled persons were evident in Mpumalanga, North West and National Departments, whilst there was a reduction in employment of disabled people in Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Limpopo.

He noted that interventions had been put in place. These included a collaborative strategy between the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, the Department of Labour and the Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

The five areas of focus for the DPSA were summarised as employment opportunities, provision of reasonable accommodation, access to and within the workplace, support to staff and provision of assistive devices.

Mr Moshwale Diphofa, Director General, Department of Public Service and Administration, acknowledged the valuable comments about working relationships with the Employment Equity Commission and the Department of Women Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD), and said that the comments made were taken seriously. Relationships would be consolidated for purposes of achieving the objectives of policies. There was an emphasis on accountability and meeting the targets, as mentioned by Mr Govender, and this meant that part of the performance assessment process would be devoted to the extent to which there had been performance against the equity targets. Once the DPSA was able to achieve this, Heads of Departments should be able to cascade the requirements down, to create real commitment to achieving employment of disabled people.

Discussion
Mr K Marais (DA) said that there was a lack of understanding about the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the practical implications of that commitment by South Africa. There were many transgressions of the Convention and people were not serious about ensuring its implementation.

Mr Mzolisi ka Toni, Deputy Director General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said that there was an obligation to report to the United Nations, and his Department was ensuring that it finalised the report and was trying to formulate policies that would domesticate the terms of the international treaties.

He added that Annual Reports of Departments on continuity and absenteeism displayed clearly that disabled people were far and away the most loyal employees, who took the least amount of time off. There was not enough recognition of their abilities and far more disabled people should be employed. There were so many different definitions of people with disabilities, and some people were adding their own definitions, so it was important that there was a common understanding of what “employment of disabled persons meant”. Without this, there would be mere lip service paid to the principle.

Mr Marais said that if persons did not comply or perform continuously, then very little could be done about it. The targets for employment of women and ethnic groups had increased but the same emphasis was not accorded to employment of persons with disabilities. This came down to unfair discrimination.

Mr Marais noted that mention was made of ramps and lifts as part of the changes for dealing with the disabled. This was a step in the right direction but he stressed that this was not the only type of assistive device that was needed, as the range of disabilities was broad. He mentioned the need also for installing emergency lights for persons who were deaf, for specific announcements for those who were sight-impaired, or surround sound systems so that hearing aids would pick out sound from nearly anywhere, which was crucial for those with hearing impediments. These examples represented merely a fraction of what was needed to address the needs of persons with disabilities. It was important to speak directly with them.

Mr Govender said that when a number of these interventions were put in place, they were based on a survey conducted by the DPSA and interviews between the Human Resource Management and Development Branch, and every single disabled person in the organisation. The Department then put mechanisms in place to accommodate specific individuals with disabilities in that organisation. The Department viewed the support of people with disabilities very seriously, and did its best to supply them with what they required. He emphasised that his presentation had identified only some of the initiatives. The DPSA also provided computer programmes for people with visual impairments. The Department intended to promote that further through its policy on Assistive Devices and Accommodation of People with Disabilities. He thanked the Committee for all the feedback about assistive devices. The Department would try to build this feedback into its work in the future.

Mr Marais asked on which levels the 4 798 people with disabilities were currently employed. He said, from his experience, that departments tended to employ disabled people only for work requiring lower skills, then claiming that they had met their targets, but he regarded this as unacceptable. Employers tended to focus more on the disability than the ability of the disabled person. There were plenty of people with disabilities who could operate at the highest levels.

Mr Govender replied that of the 4 798 disabled employees in total, 1 927 were female employees, 74 were people at senior management level, and 172 were at middle management level. The majority being 4 552 disabled employees, were at levels one to nine. It was interesting to note that in the numbers given of the branch at the DPSA, two of the four were middle managers, one was a Chief Director, and the other one was below middle management level.

Mr D du Toit (DA) asked how the 2% target was arrived at, and if it was taken from national statistics.

Mr Govender responded that the 2.5% was specific for the DPSA itself, and this was a target internal to the DPSA, not the whole public service. The target was not going to be increased. 2% was the general public service target.

Mr du Toit asked if an accurate database existed, either at the Department of Labour or elsewhere, of disabled work seekers, and if it was known how many persons with disabilities were looking for employment.

Mr Govender replied that the DPSA did rely on the Department of Labour for information, and there was a range of available information that was used. The Department worked with Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), and figures on disability had been included in the recent census. The DPSA also worked with independent and private databases. Recently ,work had been done with SuperCross Space-Time Research, for the June 2010 Report, which identified 88 630 unemployed people across all categories of disability: sight, hearing, physical, communication, intellectual, emotional and multiple disability. All those databases were used to garner information and in the work that was done.

Ms M Mohale (ANC) thanked the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) for the presentation. Since 2009 the Department had shown improvements, as it moved from 0.4% employment of disabled persons to above 2%. However, Parliament still had a lot of work to do on this issue.

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) said that there was no one Department liaising and making sure that evaluation and monitoring took place, or checking whether other government departments implemented legislation. He wondered if there was a general problem with learnerships.

Department of Women, Children, and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) briefing
Mr Mzolisi ka Toni, Deputy Director-General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities briefed the Committee on the background, establishment and the mandate of the DWCPD (see attached presentation for details). The strategic objectives of this Department were outlined as raising awareness, establishing an enabling environment and monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress and impact, through the realisation of rights of people with disabilities.

The opportunities in the transformation process were presented and he highlighted the strategic partnership forged with the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) for training.

He also noted that there had been an increase in the availability of Assistive Devices was announced, and said that this Department was making efforts to strengthen the enforcement of compliance. The main challenge to the employment of disabled persons was said to be the disincentive of additional disability costs.

Mr ka Toni said that input from Parliament was appreciated, as this strengthened the work that the Department was doing, and assisted with future endeavours. It was equally important that Members in turn should understood the constraints under which this Department laboured, both in regard to the capacity, and the budget that was allocated, as this militated against the DWCPD achieving all that it would have liked to achieve.

He noted that there was now more of a focus on the economic empowerment of disabled people, especially since the Deputy Minister had been given that responsibility. This would be used as one of the measuring yardsticks. The DWCPD was also very focused on Universal Access, as this was one area that was based on the level of understanding of what employers should be doing. The DWCPD wanted to see employers choosing, rather than being forced, to employ disabled persons.

He noted that this Department had done a lot of work on integrating and mainstreaming disability in South Africa, through the various legislative instruments. However, before a Disability Act could be drawn, there had to be a focus on the gaps, and a greater consolidation of all types of disability in South Africa. It was hoped to make significant progress on this by August 2012.

Discussion
Mr Marais acknowledged the expense related to preparation of Braille documents and asked if the Department had explored entering into private partnerships with other organisations who were assisting people who were sight-impaired.

Mr ka Toni replied that the DWCPD worked closely with South African Braille Services to make sure it could empower service providers. This included working in other provinces.

Mr Marais asked how this Department identified what training needed to be done and facilitated by the Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA).

Mr ka Toni replied that DWCPD did not intend to take over from the DPSA, but tried rather to enhance what was already happening. Part of the engagement with PALAMA involving looking at facilitators and trainers that were already doing work.

Mr Marais asked what was meant by the reference to ‘...reasonable accommodation measures to improve performance...’ (listed under Learnerships: Opportunity 4). He also asked if there were limitations in terms of “reasonable accommodation”.

Mr ka Toni felt that the issue of ‘reasonable accommodation’ had been explained quite well in the technical assistance guidelines, and referred Members to that for a more detailed summary. It broadly meant that matters must be explained properly. It was important that DWCPD ensured a good understanding of the issues, so that equal opportunities were presented to all individuals.

Mr Marais asked if there had been any interaction with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) about unintended or additional costs. He said, from his experience, that SARS tended to be sympathetic on this point.

Mr ka Toni said that the DWCPD worked with SARS but had not experienced resistance with regard to the issue of concessions. The Department made sure the disability movement was also engaging with SARS.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) asked for information as to how many people were on the database, and what their qualifications were. He asked further if there appeared to be lack of political will to appoint people, or if it was general lack of qualifications that prevented disabled persons from entering the job market.

A representative from DWCPD replied that the Department had had meetings with many partners. The Department wanted to have a centrally-located database to enable it to keep track of persons with disabilities, and their qualifications, to be able to quantify who was unemployed and why. This would also assist the Department in raising awareness about the qualifications of persons with disabilities in order to facilitate their placement.

Mr Msimang asked if the Department was working with the private sector, and if it was possible for the Department to assist disabled people to promote their appointment in the private as well as the public sector. He also asked how the private sector compared with government, in appointing people with disabilities.

The representative from DWCPD replied that the private sector did provide assistance, and it was also targeted for information and encouraged to employ disabled persons, as was the public sector.

Mr du Toit asked about the effect of monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress and impact of programmes, asking whether it was apparent that the initiatives were working, and how the actual link could be assessed.

The representative from DWCPD said that this area was largely a function of the Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), but that DWCPD was also working very closely with the former departments, as it was trying to promote the Outcomes-Based approach. The DWCPD was looking at a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system that talked to an integrated approach to service delivery.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) expressed appreciation for the report and hoped that it could implement what it was saying. She asked if those people who had undergone training with PALAMA were likely to be promoted to higher levels.

The representative from DWCPD replied that the Department was targeting persons with disabilities, as there was the awareness that they may not be considered for promotion unless they had necessary. The DWCPD also focused on partnerships with Higher and Basic Education institutions and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), to promote acquisition of skills.

Mr Nyekemba and Ms Maluleka noted their appreciation for the report, saying that the Department did not have an easy task and had done well in a short period of time.
 
Mr Nyekemba asked for further information on engagement with the private sector, especially with the relationship the Department had with Sheltered Employment Factories.

The representative from DWCPD replied that the Department had a good relationship with the twelve existing Sheltered Employment Factories (SEFs). These were, however, thought to be under-performing at the moment, and were not taking in as many people as they could. Part of the problem was that preferential procurement was not being implemented, so these SEFs did not get commitment that government would procure from them. If that commitment was given, the SEFs would be able to increase the number of disabled people that they employed, in a financially viable way. The DWCPD was working with them to resolve the problem. A Memo had been prepared and was on its way to Cabinet, from this group.    

Disabled People South Africa briefing:
Mr Andrew Madella, General Secretary, Disabled People South Africa, said that the majority of people in South Africa with disabilities had been excluded from the mainstream of society and had been prevented from accessing fundamental social, political and economic rights. He explained the Disability Target and gave some reasons why departments and the private sector did not meet the 2% target. He also noted that five steps were in place to try to assist departments in addressing disability. These were sensitisation to issues around disability, workplace profiling, policy and strategy initiatives, disability access audits and recruitment strategies. Disabled People South Africa proposed that a meeting should be arranged with the Minister, to address those five steps.

The Chairperson said that her understanding of the last issue spoke to mainstreaming. It was clear that the statistics on employment of disabled people were showing a decline. The Portfolio Committee wanted informed research to be done, as this would assist in finding the cause for the decline, and allow for the issues to be addressed. The Public Service Commission (PSC) would be asked to assist in looking at the matter. She thought that a closer working relationship should be established with the PSC on issues of Disability, which would then allow the PSC to assess which departments were compliant with employment of disabled persons targets, and expose those who had not complied.

The Chairperson added that there was a need to solicit collaborative programmes between government, civil society, Parliament and other institutions, and to look at how best to facilitate and speed up programmes. Sufficient support systems to focus on monitoring the implementation of programmes were needed. There was a need also to emphasise the mainstreaming of disability in the public service.

Mr Marais re-emphasised that there was a problem if able-bodied persons attempted to make decisions for persons who were disabled.

Briefing by the Deputy Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities
Ms Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu, Deputy Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities said that it was important to place issues in context. She herself was a disabled person, and the mother of two disabled children, and that qualified her to make assumptions and statements on behalf of disabled people. She noted that the Committee needed to partner with the DWCPD on compliance issues, and this partnership must also stretch across other relevant organisations. It was also important for this Committee to confer with other Parliamentary committees to assist the DWCPD in its work.

She highlighted that the DWCPD presentation had highlighted what would be done in the future, and what was currently being done. She noted that the Committee was welcome to evaluate the work of the Department, and she assured it that any questions and more details would be addressed as required. As programmes were put in place in terms of the mandate, the DWCPD would ensure that all information, including budgets, were provided. DPSA would be monitored both on employment of its own employees, and on the performance of other departments, and DPSA had a responsibility to disabled employees in other departments in the public service.

The Deputy Minister commented that the issues that the Disabled Persons South Africa raised were correct, and it was also correct that assumptions were made by able-bodied people as to what the disabled sector required. Environment was a very important factor. There were no mechanisms agreed upon, but these must be established. She emphasised that the most important principles involved ensuring the dignity of disabled persons. There were historical challenges, but together it was hoped that all would create a society that benefited everyone. To date, there had been failure to meet the 2% target for employment of disabled people and this must change.

The following questions were raised but not answered
Mr Marais asked if a study had been done to determine how many people with disabilities were old enough to be employed, and were in fact employable. The number of 4 799 was a drop in the ocean, and related only to a 2% employment figure, but did not address the Constitutional obligation to allow equality of work opportunity to all people.

Mr Marais said that because able bodied persons did not know what it was like to be disabled, they would not be able to assess properly what assistance was needed for the disabled. He asked if public/ private partnerships involving government, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and officials representing bodies of persons with disabilities had been explored, since such groupings may have better knowledge about the abilities of disabled persons, and how they could and should be trained. This was not evident from the presentation, which only looked at identifying the issues from inside government.

Mr Marais asked whether the five areas of focus outlined by Disabled Persons South Africa also did not need to include giving support to staff who, although they did not have disabilities themselves, needed to deal with people with disabilities.

Mr du Toit asked if the Departments had any idea of the number of people with disabilities and the categories of disability. He asked if there was any way to categorise disabled children from school level and to draw plans for them from that level, to integrate them into job markets.

Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) thanked the Departments for their presentations and the commitments made. He asked how other departments could also be assisted to achieve the same levels of employment.
He also asked how equipment used could be adjusted to maintain the impetus and increase the numbers.

Mr Nyekemba asked what could be done if there was non-compliance with the Employment Equity Act of 1999. He suggested that the DPSA should work with the Employment Equity Commission so that positive measures could be taken if there was non-implementation of the disabled people’s employment targets.

Mr Marais asked for enlightenment on the three divisions and the budgets.

Mr C Msimang (IFP) asked for comment whether there was full implementation on the Departmental initiatives.

Mr du Toit asked if there was sufficient legislation to back up the mandate, or whether there was still the necessity for legislation. He asked how the success rates could be measured.

The meeting was adjourned.