Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) on its performance management systems

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

24 April 2012
Chairperson: Ms M Themba. (ANC; Mpumalanga)
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Meeting Summary

After ICASA had briefed the Committee on the performance management system which had been formulated to monitor the performance of the entity’s chairperson and members, discussion centred on whether it had been relevant to present the document to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), as it should have been presented to the National Assembly for approval. 

The presentation dealt with the key principles considered in developing the Performance Management System for the chairperson and other councillors of ICASA, the objectives of the system, the development of key performance indicators and targets, and measuring and evaluating the performance of the ICASA Council. The presentation also covered constituting an evaluation panel, as well as the roles and responsibilities of various role-players in implementing the Performance Management System.

The Committee was informed that the National Assembly had approved the Performance Management System in February 2012, and it was being referred to the National Council of Provinces for consideration. The next step would be to put the system into operation.  This would involve the call for nominations for members of the evaluation panel, followed by the National Assembly and the Minister concluding the appointment formalities.  The Minister of Communications would then sign individual performance agreements with all councillors based on the agreed annual work-plan, with clear deliverables and corresponding timeframes for implementation.

During discussion, it was revealed that performance agreements with ICASA councillors had already been signed on 1 April, so several members questioned the need for the presentation, and objected to the use of the National Council of Provinces as “a rubber stamp.” The Committee Secretary, who was asked why the matter had been brought before the Select Committee, replied that the Announcements, Tablings and Committee (ATC) report, which had been received on 8 December 2011, and which served as a guide to committees and Parliament of what was expected, had referred the document to the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises. Once the ATC referred a paper, the Committee was required to consider it.

It was finally agreed that that the meeting would be considered an information-sharing session. The Committee then discussed current challenges facing ICASA, and received input on issues related to inadequate funding, a regional radio monitoring matter, the involvement of previously disadvantaged communities in the sector, the issue of broadband, and the roll-out of infrastructure required for the move from analogue to digital broadcasting by 2015.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
Ms Mameetse Mphahlele, Chief Director: Economic Policy Development, Department of Communications, presented the briefing, which dealt with key principles considered in developing the Performance Management System (PMS) for the chairperson and other councillors of ICASA, the objectives of the PMS, the development of key performance indicators and targets, and measuring and evaluating the performance of the ICASA Council. The presentation also covered constituting an evaluation panel, as well as the roles and responsibilities of various role-players in implementing the PMS.

The guiding principles and provisions for the PMS to monitor and evaluate the ICASA chairperson and councillors were the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (especially Section192), the ICASA Act of 2000 as amended, Broadcasting Act of 1999, Postal Services Act of 1998 and Electronic Communications Act of 2005.  Section 6A(1) of the ICASA Act stipulated that the Minister, in consultation with National Assembly, had to establish a PMS with key performance indicators, measurable targets and procedures to measure and review performance at least once a year

Key principles considered in developing the PMS were constitutional independence -- which related to ICASA’s status as an independent juristic person – and its mandate as spelt out in the Electronic Communications Act and Postal Services Act. Other principles concerned the centrality of decision-making, and the adoption of an outcomes-based approach
to ensure that limited resources available to government were used in a manner that achieved the desired outcomes.

The objectives of the PMS were to ensure compliance with the provisions of the ICASA Act.  National Assembly also needed to ensure that the ICASA Council performed in accordance with the set goals and targets in an efficient, effective and measurable manner. The development of key performance indicators and targets was informed by an outcomes-based approach.
The evaluation panel would be constituted according to the following guidelines:

Section 6A(4) required that the Minister, in consultation with the National Assembly, constituted a panel to evaluate the performance of the chairperson and other councillors. It was proposed that the panel should consist of at least five members, one of which had to be the designated chairperson.  Members were required to have the necessary skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience to serve on the panel.
It was proposed that the panel should be comprise a retired high court judge, a representative from the Office of the Auditor-General, respected experts from academia, a representative from an organised consumer group, and an independent consultant/expert in the electronic communications, broadcasting or postal sector from outside the country.
Members of the panel should not have a conflict of interest whilst serving in this capacity. 
The Minister should call for the nomination of members from the public, and appoint the members, as well as designate one of those nominated as the chairperson, in consultation with the National Assembly. 

The Department deemed the following parties to be critical to the implementation of the PMS:  the Minister of Communications, the Chairperson of the ICASA Council, the ICASA Council, the evaluation panel and the National Assembly.  

The Committee was informed that the National Assembly had approved the PMS in February 2012, and it was being referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for consideration. The next step would be to put the system into operation.  This would involve the call for nominations for members of the evaluation panel, followed by the National Assembly and the Minister concluding the appointment formalities.  The assistance of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development had been enlisted for the appointment of a retired high court judge.  The Minister of Communications would then sign individual performance agreements with all councillors based on the agreed annual work-plan, with clear deliverables and corresponding timeframes for implementation.
Ms Mphahlele concluded her presentation by indicating that the performance agreements of councillors would be based on the objectives and indicators circulated in the annual plan. These would be used to assess the councillors.

Discussion
The Chairperson stated that she was not sure why the document had been brought to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). In the whole document there had been no mention of the NCOP, only the fact that the document should be referred to the National Assembly.

Mr Z Mlenzana (COPE; Eastern Cape) also wondered why ICASA had come before the NCOP, and whether it had been a waste of time. The NCOP had been mentioned just once in the whole presentation.

Mr O De Beer (COPE, Western Cape) suggested that maybe the Committee should go over the Act to clarify the Committee’s role on oversight. The Act needed to be amended, as the performance agreements with councillors had already been signed on 1 April, as indicated in the presentation, so he queried the point of ICASA coming before the Committee.

The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to clarify why ICASA was before the Committee.

The Committee Secretary replied that the Announcements, Tablings and Committee (ATC) report, which had been received on 8 December 2011, and which served as a guide to committees and Parliament of what was expected, had referred the document to the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises. Once the ATC referred a paper, the Committee was required to consider it.

Ms L Mabija (ANC, Limpopo) said that the exercise was futile and suggested that the Committee should adjourn. The Committee did not have time to waste on matters which did not concern them.

Mr Mlenzana proposed that the Committee should consider it as an information-sharing session.

Mr M Sibande (ANC, Mpumalanga) stated that matters could be processed in the National Assembly, but referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). However, the NCOP should not be used as a rubber stamp. The document was not inclusive. The issue should be pursued further through the study groups of the portfolio committee and the select committee.

The Chairperson stated that the problem was with the ICASA Act, as it referred only to the National Assembly. Hence the document was framed in the manner it was. The Committee would not consider the document until such time as the issues were clarified. The Department needed to make relevant amendments to legislation.

The Committee agreed that the meeting would be considered an information-sharing session.

Other Issues
Mr De Beer stated that there was a radio station in his area called West Coast radio which was currently facing internal squabbles. When ICASA issued licences, it should ensure that it had a monitoring and evaluation system in place.

Mr Joseph Lebooa, ICASA Councillor, replied that ICASA had taken note and would follow up the issue. Radio stations were required to have annual general meetings, so it was indeed an issue of monitoring.
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Mr Sibande asked what issues facing ICASA represented challenges, where the Committee could be of help.

Mr Lebooa replied that principal among the issues where ICASA lagged behind, was the self-funding model.  ICASA operated on the basis of grants received from government and these were often insufficient to meet its priorities.  ICASA collected revenue from licensing activities, and if a portion of these funds could be given to the organisation it would help it to achieve some of its objectives. The grant received from government last year had been allocated 60% towards labour costs, and 40% towards other activities. It would be helpful if the funding barriers could be broken down.

Mr Sibande asked which issues had been achieved and which were lagging since ICASA’s last meeting with the Committee.

Mr Lebooa replied that ICASA was trying to use its licensing power to enforce involvement of previously disadvantaged people into the sector. It was also working with the Department of Communications (DOC) on the issue of broadband. This was a key project for the country with major infrastructural roll outs required. Other projects were the licensing of high-capacity spectrum and the move from analogue to digital broadcasting by 2015.  ICASA and other stakeholders would need to do country-wide campaigns to inform communities.

Mr Norman Munzhelele, Chief Director; Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy Development, Department of Communications, told the meeting that the when developing legislation in future, the Department would consider the NCOP first. The Department had just finalised an ICT strategy where 161 rural nodes had been identified as places where ICT needed to be deployed. 

Consideration and Adoption of outstanding Committee Minutes
The Committee adopted its minutes of 14 March, 2012 with minor grammatical changes.

The meeting was adjourned.

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