Government Communications and Information System 2012 Strategic Plan

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

13 March 2012
Chairperson: Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

Representatives of the Department: Government Communications and Information System briefed the Committee on the strategic plan for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework period 2012/13 to 2016/17.  The briefing was the first interaction between the Department and the Select Committee. 

The presentation included an overview of the mandate, vision, mission and corporate strategy and summarised the achievements during 2011/12.  Five strategic objectives were identified and were aligned to the national priorities and outcomes.  Details were provided of the objectives, outputs, performance indicators and targets for the core programmes of the Department, i.e. Communication and Content Management; Government and Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Service Agency.  The medium term expenditure estimates for each programme for the financial years 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 were included.  The budget for 2012/13 totaled R429.1 million, which included a once-off allocation of R50 million for the construction of the new head office of the Department.

The current challenges faced by the Department were public perceptions on government performance; cluster/client relations; limited financial resources; uneven communication skills in all spheres of government; inadequate office space and inefficient media bulk buying practices.

The Committee requested more detailed information on the Department’s provincial operations at future briefings.  The Department undertook to provide a detailed breakdown of the expenditure estimates by province and the contact details of its provincial and regional offices.

Other questions asked by Members concerned the interaction between the Department and traditional leaders, local government and provincial authorities; the support provided for community media enterprises; the relationship with the media; outsourcing; the promotion of gender equality and indigenous languages; the distribution of communication materiel and products; the vacancy rate and staff morale; the role of the Media Development and Diversity Agency; the performance of the Thusong Service Centres; the work done to ensure government communications reached remote rural communities and the training provided to communications officers and other government officials.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department: Government Communications and Information System (GCIS)
Ms Phumla Williams, Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Corporate Services, GCIS presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

The presentation included an outline of the mandate, vision, mission and values of GCIS.  The focus of the corporate strategy was the five national priorities for job creation, education, healthcare, fighting crime and rural development and land reform.  The Department’s responses to the challenges concerning public perception of government performance, client relations, limited financial resources, uneven communication skills, inadequate office space and inefficient media bulk buying were summarised.  The Department’s strategic plan for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period was approved by the Cabinet in June 2011.  Performance highlights during 2011/12 were listed.  An overview of the five key strategic objectives was provided.  The objectives were aligned to Government Outcomes 1, 2 and 12.  The organogram supporting the organisational structure of the Department was included.

Ms Tasneem Carrim, Chief Director: Policy and Research, GCIS took the Committee through the objectives, outputs, targets and performance indicators of the Communication and Content Management programme (Programme 2) and the Communication Service Agency programme (Programme 4).

Ms Nebo Legoabe, Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Government and Stakeholder Engagement, GCIS presented the objectives, outputs, targets and performance indicators of the Government and Stakeholder Engagement programme (Programme 3).

Ms Williams covered the budget for the four GCIS programmes for the period 2012/13 to 2014/15.  The budget for 2012/13 amounted to R429.1 million, which included a once-off allocation of R50 million for the construction of the new GCIS head office.  A more detailed breakdown of the 2012/13 budget for each programme was provided. The budget for 2013/14 was R393.3 million, increasing to R417.1 million for 2014/15.

Discussion
The Chairperson thanked the GCIS for the first briefing to the Committee.  Members would find the information provided useful when reporting to their constituents in the various provinces.

Mr M Sibande (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked for information on the action taken by GCIS to promote gender equality in local government and provincial structures and in community media.  He noted that GCIS made use of the assistance of agencies for the delivery of services and wanted to know to what extent functions were outsourced.  The Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Limpopo provinces did not have their own television channels and he asked what assistance was provided to communities in these areas.  He asked what the relationship was with traditional leaders, who played a significant role in promoting the use of indigenous languages.  He asked for more information on the services provided to remote rural communities, particularly concerning improving the access to radio broadcasts.  The 2010 FIFA World Cup was broadcasted to remote areas but the service was no longer available.  He asked what the morale was of GCIS personnel.

Ms L Mabija (ANC, Limpopo) asked if the current challenges identified by the GCIS were new challenges or were carried over from previous years.  She asked if previous challenges had been addressed.  As this was the first briefing to the Committee, Members were not able to assess the performance of the GCIS.

Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE, Eastern Cape) asked what the relationship was between the GCIS and the media.  The briefing made little mention of the involvement of GCIS with community media.  Community radio stations played a critical role in informing communities.  He asked what the role was of the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) in delivering government communications to all levels of society.  He asked for more information on the distribution of the communication products.  He wanted to know what action was taken by the Department to ensure that service delivery achievements were communicated to communities.  He asked what the Department’s vacancy rate was and what action was being taken to address the challenges related to a lack of capacity.  He asked if the Department was fully aware of the performance of the Thusong Service Centres (TSC’s).  The briefing did not include sufficient information on the Department’s activities in the provinces.  He asked if the GCIS was satisfied with the functioning of local government communication officers.

Mr M Jacobs (ANC, Free State) asked where the provincial and district offices of the GCIS were situated.  He asked where communication products were distributed and what the target audiences were for the products.  He asked if the publications were available in all official languages.  He asked if the GCIS had an official who was responsible for the translation of material in indigenous languages.

The Chairperson explained that the Select Committee was more focused on the delivery of services at the provincial level.  She asked GCIS to provide a list of GCIS contact persons and offices to the Committee.  She asked if the Department monitored whether the communication message was filtered down intact at all levels.  She asked if GCIS materiel was distributed to all constituency offices.  She asked when the competency audit that was undertaken would be completed.  She asked for more information on the challenge concerning media bulk buying.

Ms Williams replied that the most significant challenge faced by GCIS was the lack of resources.  An international study had revealed that South Africa provided relatively little financial support to the entity responsible for government communication.  Despite the limited budget, the Department was committed to provide the best possible service.  Five Chief Directors to supervise the various clusters were planned but the Department had only been able to appoint two Chief Directors.  Staff morale was positive and employees were committed, energetic and determined to deliver.  GCIS was currently undertaking a customer climate study to gauge client perception.  The vacancy rate was currently less than 2% and the Department tried to fill vacant positions within two months.

Ms Legoabe undertook to provide a list of contact details to the Committee.  The addresses and contact details of the GCIS’ provincial offices were included in the published strategic plan document of the Department.  She explained how GCIS operated in close collaboration with the provincial authorities, the South African Local Government Agency (SALGA) and the
Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).  The Department worked closely with traditional leaders.  She conceded that more could be done to communicate government’s service delivery achievements.  The communications capacity of local government authorities had been audited and it became apparent that additional training in communication was necessary at all three tiers of government.  After the local government elections, the new councilors received training in communication, including the effective utilisation of community media.

Ms Legoabe confirmed that GCIS materiel and products were distributed to constituency offices.  GCIS had a translations office.  Officials in the provinces understood the language needs of the various communities and publications in the languages spoken in the regions were ordered.  GCIS worked closely with the provinces to ensure that the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was broadcast to as many people as possible and provided assistance to municipalities to communicate the State of the Local Government Addresses.  The Thusong Service Centres submitted monthly reports of activities and the Department had a good working relationship with the TSC managers.  The GCIS had developed a ward information system, which would be made available to the TSC’s to address some of the challenges that were experienced in providing performance reports.

Ms Legoabe advised that the MDDA would provide a separate briefing on the Agency’s strategic plans and would provide more information on community media.  The GCIS worked closely with the MDDA and referred queries concerning community media to the Agency when necessary.  The GCIS had been instrumental in ensuring that the Free State province included provision for community media in its budget.

Ms Carrim explained that the MDDA was established for the purpose of transforming the media sector.  The Agency played a significant role in establishing community media organisations.  The GCIS provided materiel for publication and broadcast in community media and coordinated government advertising.  The Department regarded community media as the prime vehicle for getting the government’s message across to the people.  For example, the post-SONA ministerial briefings were broadcast simultaneously to 62 community radio stations in all the official languages.  More could be achieved if additional funding was available.

Ms Carrim explained that the distribution of GCIS materiel was linked to the strategic plans.  The Department had undertaken research into the new mobile communications technologies in order to determine the most suitable medium for bringing government’s message across.  GCIS provided advice to other stakeholders and considered community radio broadcasts to be essential.  An external service provider was appointed to conduct an audit of the corporate identity of government, which would be finalised by 2013.  The previous practice of media bulk-buying had been inefficient.  If more government departments and entities were on board, better economies of scale could be achieved.  There was a need to co-ordinate government advertising in order to derive maximum benefit and optimise costs.

Ms Williams explained that the bulk of the work was done in-house by the Department and only the printing function was outsourced.  The Department spent 52% of its budget on personnel costs.  The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had developed a template for a service delivery work plan.

Mr Jimmy Manyi, Chief Executive Officer, GCIS apologised for his late arrival.  He had attended a Cabinet meeting that day.  GCIS provided content to the media sector, which was reported on.  The relationship between the GCIS and the media had improved after the meeting held in October 2011.  Recently, the Mail and Guardian had apologised for disparaging headlines before the matter was taken up by GCIS.  The relationship was improving but remained a work in progress.  He undertook to include more detail on the provincial perspective at future briefings to the Committee.

Mr Mlenzana explained that his question about the relationship with the media arose after he observed that two journalists attending the briefing had left soon after the start of the presentation.  He suspected that the journalists had lost interest when it became apparent that nothing exciting was happening.  Ms Mabija supported his position.

Mr Sibande asked for more clarity on the challenges concerning the content of government communication.  He asked if the challenge of uneven communication skills had resulted from the lack of skills of previously disadvantaged sectors of society.  He asked for details of the budget allocation for each province.  A written response in due course was acceptable.

The Chairperson advised that the Committee had discussed the issue of broadcasting coverage to the remote rural areas of the country with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

Mr Manyi said that the strategic plan had been presented to the Portfolio Committee on Communications.  The plans were clear and purposeful.  The Department did not attempt to hide anything and would deal with any negative reports.  The GCIS had found that there was a need to improve the communication skills of officials at all levels of Government.  The possession of formal qualifications did not necessarily mean that an official was able to communicate effectively.  Other officials had good communication skills, without any formal qualifications.  GCIS was working with the
Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) to develop a formal qualification in communication for public servants.  Training was provided to officials with communication responsibilities.  He cited the examples of the SONA broadcasts and the Vukuzenzele publications to illustrate the commitment of GCIS to ensuring that government communications reached people living in the remote areas of the country.  He undertook to provide the Committee with the information on the budget for expenditure in the provinces.

The Chairperson thanked the GCIS for the information provided during the briefing.  The Committee looked forward to future interaction with the Department in order to meet its oversight obligation, to monitor the performance of GCIS and to identify areas where assistance was required.

The meeting was adjourned.


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