Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed Members on Operational Performance Assessments. The system that was used in performance monitoring was in synergy with the public service. In 2011, 148 out of 159 employees provided signed performance agreements. There was a backlog of assessments; about 45 still had to be done. There were also outstanding moderation processes in relation to finalising the assessments. By the end of March the backlog would be eliminated.Improvements that the Department found necessary to implement included the Public Management Development System that was part of the renewal strategy. This was launched by the Minister in 2011. The focus in terms of improvements that the Department wanted to bring to the System had to be on the Strategic Management Structure core. There would be disciplinary action against employees who had not submitted assessments. No one was in doubt about the expectations. The Department would hold two Strategic Management Structure conferences a year – in the second weeks of April and October – where all managers would sign performance agreements. Establishing a system of managing employee information was a challenge, but the Department was establishing a system called Analytics. The employee information needed to be consolidated into a system or management tool to guide decision-making on employee matters. The Department had set aside an Assessment Week in every quarter to conduct performance assessments.
Members asked why managers at the office of the Minister were among those with outstanding performance evaluations. It would have been of help if reasons were stated as to why the outstanding evaluations were not conducted.
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefed Members on its 3rd Quarter 2011 Performance Report. The Department collected information on quarterly basis from all its branches and measured employees in relation to the annual performance plan. There was a structure called Quram – the quarterly report and monitoring structure. This was where information was shared with the managers. There were challenges with the Comprehensive Land Register as well as the electronic data capturing tools.
The Department had established 900 food gardens as part to the Social Technical Rural Livelihood and Institutional Facilitation. It had purchased 112 535 hectares of land valued at R692 758 million. This would benefit at least 124 projects and 573 households. The programme initially had a target of 75 903 hectares which exceeded the set target and was ahead of schedule.
Members sought clarity on the underspending and if the Department would be able to clear the backlogs.
The Committee's Impending Study on Farms would be undertaken jointly with five other portfolio committees – Labour, Human Settlements, Basic Education, Health, and Science and Technology – in response to damaging claims by the Human Rights Watch organisation. It would be conducted by researchers from trustworthy institutions. The Committee, AgriSA and the International Labour Organisation had agreed on the process. All that was left was agreeing on the terms of reference. By undertaking the research the Committee was not disputing the findings, but farm conditions should not be used as basis for a call to the international market to reject South African wine.
The Chairperson welcomed the Hon. Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform; the Minister himself would not join the proceedings as he was attending a Cabinet meeting. This was a standing apology to all Committees that sat on Wednesdays. He understood the APP had been presented to Cabinet and was discussed throughout the country. The Committee would only consider it when it had been tabled to Parliament as with all other policy proposals. He requested Members to come up with suggestions as to how best the APP could be dealt with. He proposed that the Department agree to presenting the Social Technical Rural Livelihood and Institutional Facilitation (STRIF); the APP and the green paper at the next Committee meeting on 20 March. Members should familiarise themselves with the document as that would facilitate and make easy the work of the Committee. He outlined the Agenda and handed over to the Department.
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Operational Performance Assessments
Mr Simon Meyer, Acting Deputy Director-General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRD&LR), said he would indicate the manner in which issues relating to performance were dealt with at the Department. The Department would give feedback on what had been happening in the past two years. He said the system that was used in performance monitoring was in synergy with the public service. The assessment of individuals could be categorised into three stages. The employee had first to agree to the assessment and sign performance agreement; secondly, the actual review and assessment was done; thirdly, the outcomes of an assessment were managed.
In 2011, 148 out of 159 employees provided signed performance agreements. 114 of this number were assessed. There was a backlog of assessments; about 45 still had to be done. There were also outstanding moderation processes in relation to finalising the assessments. By the end of March the backlog would be eliminated.
Mr Meyer said there were 191 signed performance agreements out of 201. Final assessments for this financial year would be done in April. This would be followed by the process to moderate and manage these assessments, and this would be completed by June in line with the prescripts of managing performance.
Improvements that the Department found necessary to implement were the Public Management Development System (PMDS) that was part of the renewal strategy. This was launched by the Minister in 2011. The focus in terms of improvements that the Department wanted to bring to PMDS had to be on the Strategic Management Structure (SMS) core, in other words the top management. This must be understood and driven from the top if the Department hoped to have an impact. The Department was invoking hard and soft measures for PMDS challenges. He said a lot of this related to how one managed people and how managers handled potential conflicts in the assessments.
There would have to be disciplinary action where employees, who had not submitted assessments, needed to be brought to book. These were employees who despite having provided performance agreements failed to appear for assessments when their time was due. It was essential to align performance agreements with those of the top managers and with the APP and the strategic plan. The validation of performance assessments was critical.
Mr Meyer said key areas against which senior employees were to be measured needed to adhere to the ‘smart principles’. Conflict could be presented if the Department clearly set out the measures against which it was going to measure managers. Everyone was in no doubt what the expectations were. The Department held two SMS conferences a year where all managers signed performance agreements to avoid the backlogs.
Another challenge was putting in place a system of managing employee information with the Department. The system was called Analytics. The SMS received real time information on employees and that assisted them in the decision making. Although there was Persal [Personnel and Salary System: Government’s personnel and salaries management system] where such information could be retrieved, the employee information needed to be consolidated into a system or management tool to guide decision making on employee matters.
PMDS dealt with the issue of hard and soft issues. Soft issues included assigning coaches to assist other employees. The Department did not take this lightly, as it was part to the renewal strategy that was announced by the Minister in 2011. He said the Department wanted to bring, at deputy director-general (DDG) level, coaches to assist in ailments of management. Assigning coaches would improve the system of PMDS.
There was a problem with managers who continually failed to carry out assessments because they were busy. Management dealt with issues of managing people; and core to this was managing performance. The Department had to this end established an institutionalised week, to be referred to as Assessment Week, in every quarter. During this time managers would be grounded; there would be no travelling and meetings. This was the time managers had to devote to the performance management of their staff. It would not happen if all managers were always out of office.
The Department had to address backlogs and finalise some disciplinary matters in this quarter. The development of the Analytics and the assigning of coaches would be completed by June.
The Chairperson commented that this area was identified as a weakness by the Public Service Commission (PSC) last year. The devil was in the detail.
Ms C Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) said the plan would assist the Committee to monitor whether the Department had been able to implement this initiative. She enquired about the two conferences that would be held for the SMS. Could the Department also confirm that it would meet its deadline of clearing the backlogs on evaluations and disciplinary processes by the end of March?
Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director-General, DRD&LR, replied that the plan was put together in order to instill a culture in the Department. He said the Department wanted everybody to understand that this was not an option. The SMS conferences would happen in the second weeks of April and October. The Department would also do a mid-term review of its performance. Now that the APP was developed, each specific programme developed an operational plan, starting with the managers and the general staff. The deadline of 31 March would be met, as the Department did not want to carry over the backlog of 45 outstanding evaluations to the next financial year.
Nkosi M Mandela (ANC) asked for clarity when managers claimed tiredness when they had not carried out the assessments. He also asked what the Department did when staff simply refused to cooperate with the assessment process.
Mr Shabane said the Assessment Week would go a long way in addressing excuses by managers. He said the Department would force managers not to honor other commitments during this time. The plan sought to instill the culture and also it was important to understand the issues between the supervisors and the employees, especially when they failed to submit to the evaluation. There were two instances last year where employees just refused to be subjected to evaluations as a result of disciplinary proceedings that were pending.
Mr J van der Linde (DA) wanted to know why managers at the office of the Minister were among those outstanding performance evaluations. It would have been of help if reasons were stated as to why the outstanding evaluations were not conducted.
Mr Shabane replied that enforcement did not happen in the past. This was a culture issue that needed to be enforced upon all employees. There had not been compliance in the past; there had not been a culture of internalising this responsibility on the part of the managers, but also there had not been support to enforce it. As a result of this other units conducted performance assessments but just did not submit.
The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) Report
Mr Shabane said the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) report was presented to the Committee last week on what the Department was doing to respond to the audit qualification. He said the presentation was discussed at length with Members.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila proposed that the presentation be not presented again, rather those Members who had follow-up questions could just raise those.
Nkosi Mandela seconded the proposal.
There were no further questions.
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform 3rd Quarter 2011 Performance Report
Mr Meyer said there were 55 targets planned to be achieved in the quarter and in 19 instances the Department exceeded those. He said the Department collected information on a quarterly basis from all its branches. The Department measured employees in relation to the annual performance plan. Performance reports were analysed and consolidated. There was a structure called Quram – the quarterly report and monitoring structure. This was where information was shared with the managers.
There were challenges with the compilation of the report. Guidelines had been approved to assist manager in improving the manner in which performance information was collected. The Department provided enough information on indicators stated in the APP, so as to avoid uncertainty on what would be reported on. Five programmes under Operational Performance were considered and they included: administration; geospatial and cadastral services; rural development; restitution; and land reform.
Mr Meyer said the administration (admin) programme achieved 50% of its planned target in the quarter. Under the admin programme the highlight was the flighting of the risk and compliance committee. The issue of client satisfaction was also measured. He said a survey had been conducted and the Department got a 55% rating. There were no new legislation and policies developed, but there were pieces of legislation tabled including the Spatial Planning Land Use Management (SPLUM) Bill. He said the overall performance for the admin programme from April to December was 50%.
Geospatial and cadastral services
The programme made enormous strides in the preparation of the SPLUM Bill. The unit also included turnaround times to register title deeds and issued 63% of state land. There were challenges with the Comprehensive Land Register as well as the electronic data capturing tools. These challenges had plagued processes in the unit.
In the quarter under review the branch was restructured. The chief directorate relating to disaster mitigating services and technology research and development was moved to the rural development programme. The move affected the indicators for this programme. An additional indicator that arose from the budget and policy speech of the Department was the revival of rural towns. This was developed and placed within the strategic objectives that spoke to the integrated land systems, and would be reported on as time elapsed. The average performance from April to December was 48%, whilst it was 45% for the third quarter.
Mr Meyer said this was a newer programme for the Department. The highlight of the programme was the Social Technical Rural Livelihood and Institutional Facilitation (STRIF). It had established 900 food gardens, equalling an average of 200% achievement against its targets. Rural structure development prioritised and exceeded infrastructure provision of fencing in the Comprehensive Rural Development (CDR) wards. Sanitation, electricity and clean water were provided. Over performance was recorded as 54 institutions were established. These were core to the implementation of the CRD programme.
The programme inherited some other programmes from geospatial and cadastral services. The budget and policy speech brought five additional indicators, that were housed within the strategic objectives that spoke to the provision of economic structure. Those indicators referred to the number of bridges, roads and agriculture infrastructure provided. An indication, rural towns, was captured within the strategic objective referred to as rural towns. This too would be reported upon. The overall achievement for the three quarters was 50%; and for the third quarter the programme stood at 56%.
Mr Meyer said the restitution programme spent the least of the total budget with 64.7% less of its total allocation. The progress report indicated that 133 claims were finalised, and 44 settled but not finalised. He said 35 was the target that was initially set aside. The programme achieved 50% in the third quarter, and also the same average for the period under review. The Commission had a plan to finalise 19 blocked claims.
This branch had done well, and had achieved 100% of its targets in the quarter under review. The programme purchased 112 535 hectares of land valued at R692 758 million. This would benefit at least 124 projects and 573 households. The programme initially had a target of 75 903 hectares which exceeded the set target and was ahead of schedule.
The budget and policy speech brought an additional indicator, namely the number of irrigation schemes revitalised. This was captured in the strategic objective of revitalising development support provided to black farmers, rural communities and land beneficiaries by 2014. This would be reported on as well. The average performance for the past three quarters was 89%.
Mr R Trollip (DA) said it appeared that the Department had underperformed against its own evaluation targets. He asked if the general under-performance as reflected on the report would be reflected on the annual assessments, and if Members would be allowed to interrogate those assessments. He said he wanted to note a comment made last year by the Chairperson about those who wanted to get bonuses even if they failed.
He failed to understand how the restitution and rural development programmes could underspend. The Committee was told that the Commission was finalising 19 backlog projects for the quarter under review; the report suggested 33 was completed and 44 were completed and in the process of being finalised. The target achieved should be way above 50%. He asked if there was a methodology that the Department used to evaluate outcomes on investments. If the outcomes did not improve lives then there was a problem with the land reform programme.
Mr Shabane replied that the bar set for the departmental staff was very high. He said success would be considered if one achieved a 60%. Under-performance would be reflected on the performance assessments of the programme. There would be no senior manager who would take a bonus if such a person had under-achieved. There would be no basis for that.
The evaluation of the outcomes happened at two levels. The Department's monitoring and evaluation unit would go visit the projects and assess whether the work had been undertaken. This would be contained in the portfolio of evidence. Secondly, there was monitoring and evaluation done by the Presidency. In the past there had been too much emphasis on quantity and that had been a drawback in the performance of land reform in general. The quoted programme in the presentation had fewer people and was focused on some level of skill on beneficiaries, so as to make the farms productive.
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila sought further clarity on the underspending by the some of the programmes. The presentation suggested that underspending was as a result of the vacancy rate, and wanted to know if the posts were funded. If they were what could be the reasons for the delays in filling those. She wanted to know the reason for the late approval of Section 42 (d). She asked if there were any financial implications on those areas where targets were exceeded; if yes, from which programmes were the additional monies taken? She asked if the 22 established stakeholders were all operational. She also asked for an update on the SPLUM Bill and if it was ready to be presented to Parliament.
Nkosi Mandela asked for a breakdown of the food gardens in relation to provinces.
Mr Shabane replied that the Department would spend its budget. He said that money would be moved from programmes that did not need it most to where it could be spent. He said the Department would ensure that the money was spent on most of the programmes. Under-expenditure was improving, and the picture was different to what it was. It would be reported on at the end of the quarter.
The Department had to stop land reform from purchasing land, as there was no money to buy. There had not been overruns there; the Department saw it in good time that it was running out of money under land acquisition. He said STRIF although it had overachieved still had money available.
The report indicated that there was an intention to present the Bill to Cabinet, but due to delays in the consultation process, the Bill was now being circulated to the Cabinet Committee. He said the Bill would be tabled to Cabinet this month; thereafter it would be taken to Parliament.
He said a list of councils of stakeholders and breakdown of the food gardens that had been established would be provided to Mandela.
Mr Z Ntapane (UDM) queried if the Department had identified the causes for not achieving the targets in almost all the programmes. He asked if anything was done to address the capacity challenges in the geospatial and cadastral programme. This was one of the important programmes; what had the Department done to improve capacity?
Mr Shabane replied that the Department sat down and reviewed performance of each and every programme. He said there would be agreements on corrective measures. In one of the programmes, for example, it was felt that the unit had ambitious targets that it could never have met. There were also capacity constraints in implementing the programmes. The Department avoided using consultants, as it wanted community members to be trained and be capable of running the projects.
The Department had addressed the issue of capacity in the SLUMP programme. The Unit was allowed to fill some of the posts. The other area of under-performance there was that the Department was going to survey a number of hectares of state land during that period but there was also under-performance under the programme due to the fact that the Unit started to survey at the beginning of the quarter. The Department did interrogate the performance of each programme; it identified each of the problems and agreed on the set of interventions. Improvement could only be observed during the next reporting period.
Committee's impending study on farms: terms of reference
The Chairperson said there were two processes that Parliament would follow on the research on farms. He said six Portfolio Committees – Labour; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Human Settlements; Rural Development and Land Reform; Basic Education; Health; and Science and Technology – would form an ad hoc committee. This committee would visit farms throughout the country and look at the farmworkers and farm-dwellers' conditions. The research would be spearheaded by the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform.
The Committee would decide on the research process. The research would not follow the logic of Census or Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). The Committee would have to agree on a sample that was meaningful and questions to be asked. The Committee would set up a reference group that would monitor progress. This would be made up of researchers from trustworthy institutions. He said the Committee, AgriSA and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) had agreed on the process. All that was left was agreeing on the terms of reference.
Members needed to go through a document that was circulated, and come up with proposals on the terms of reference and other issues that could be included in the reference group. He said funding was available; all that was left was to agree on researchers. The researchers were not going to be the same as the reference group.
The background to the research was brought about an accusation that South African wine was made by the labour of children. The Chairperson said this was as a result of hosting an organisation called Human Rights Watch (HRW) last year. This organisation presented a document to the Departments of Labour and Human Settlements. The document contained allocations that the conditions on farms in the
In that document the Committee had identified flaws that might have impacted on the outcome of the HRW report.. The findings were based on documents not visits to the farms. HRW could neither reveal the sources of its information nor the farms it made reference to. In the research field researchers were not forbidden from relying on other's evidence.
The HRW report was baseless and needed not be honoured. Two years ago, stakeholders identified these weaknesses in this report. It was agreed with them that this exercise would be undertaken. The Committee was not disputing the findings, but the claim that the quality of South African wine was poor. He said farm conditions should not be used as basis for a call to the international market to reject South African wine.
Deputy Minister's closing comments
The Deputy Minister said there was a need to clarify the role of the Department in the research so that staff could go and think about it. The research would raise critical issues. There was a potential of other agendas in the findings by HRW. This could pose a major risk to the industry, and that would be unfair if it was not true. The principle of fair trade was one that everybody should associate with. The Department would like to see that happening everywhere else. He said the interaction with the Committee was useful in speeding up interventions that had already been started. These included filling of vacant posts and improve communication in the Department.
The meeting was adjourned.
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