Use of Consultants in Department Rural Development: Auditor-General SA briefing; Geomatics Professions Bill, pass-rate of bursary students: Departmental reports

Rural Development and Land Reform

20 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Auditor General South Africa (AGSA) noted that it had recently completed a performance audit into the use of consultants by national and provincial departments across government between 2008 and 2011, when R102 billion was spent on consultants, divided into R33.5 billion spending by national departments and R68.5 billion by provincial departments. The specific characteristics of performance audits were set out, distinguishing them also from the regular audits into the financial statements. It was emphasised that the purpose of the audit was to assist in oversight over departments, and it would look to whether there was compliance with “three Es” of economic procurement, and efficient and effective use of resources. AGSA had found that some of the problems highlighted in previous performance audits still existed. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had spent just over R1 billion (3%) on consultants. It was explained that AGSA looked at every stage of the process, from planning and internal capacity through to appointments, to monitoring and oversight over consultants (an area where many departments employed yet more consultants to perform this task), to whether there was training and transfer of skills, whether lack of initial proper planning resulted in the necessity to extend the contracts, whether the gaps were filled and whether there was proper close-off. All these stages showed general deficiencies, and the impact of these were more fully highlighted.

The specific findings in relation to thirteen consultancy contracts at the DRDLR were then highlighted. AGSA accepted that in some cases, the employment of consultants was necessary, given the skills deficiencies, but emphasised that in many cases there was no proper assessment of staff capacity, whether the consultancy was the best option, and no follow-through to ensure that skills were transferred. Many contracts were varied or extended, at substantial further costs, and the fact that objectives were not achieved meant that gaps remained in the Department. Specific areas that oversight bodies should investigate further were noted. The problematic areas of selected contracts were highlighted, focusing on the HR contracts, outsourcing of HR recruitment, development of the state land leasing debtor system (which was never implemented, so that the DRDLR was still using manual systems), the ICT support services contract, where supply chain documents were never traced, and the contract for the project management office, where the consultant was later hired as an employee, at about half the cost of the consultancy, to continue with the work. AGSA, as well as setting out the recommendations made to this Department, presented some more general recommendations for government, that stressed the need to find an optimum balance between fees paid and timeous and quality delivery. It was emphasised that it was necessary to ensure compliance with existing legal prescripts, improved planning, better management and monitoring, stricter assignment of ultimate responsibility over contractors, compliance with contract terms for acquisition and transfer of skills and better monitoring of outcomes before extending contracts. AGSA also highlighted the assurance processes, stressing the need for thorough commitment from management, coordinating and monitoring institutions, and independent institutions, and suggested that the private sector needed to show better corporate conscience and not take advantage of perceived weaknesses in government.

The DRDLR responded briefly, noting that it had taken heed of the recommendations and had improved its management by setting up a Chief Directorate and closing the gaps in internal controls and risk management. The Audit Committee was playing a critical oversight role.

Members asked how effective monitoring could be if this function too was outsourced, asked how planning processes could be improved to prevent problems before they occurred, and commented that consultants would be unlikely to show a conscience if this would result in them losing their jobs, stressing that it was the responsibility of government to ensure that value for money was achieved. AGSA confirmed to Members that the Director General and Executive Authority had been engaged in this process, and clarified the position of the consultant hired as an employee. Members asked if tender processes were followed, if the best consultant for the job was hired, whether fruitless and wasteful expenditure had been found, and suggested that it would be useful to examine the relationship between consultancy projects and bonus payments. The Committee noted that it would be holding meetings with the Audit Committee of the DRDLR and might consider calling in consultants, as other committees had done.

The Committee tabled and briefly discussed reports that were submitted by the Acting Surveyor General in response to requests at the meeting of 29 January, in relation to the delays in bringing the Geomatics Profession Bill to the Committee, and giving feedback on the students holding bursaries from DRDLR and their performance at the academic institutions. The report on the Geomatics Profession Bill noted that this process was distinct from a previous Surveyor Profession Bill, which was not processed further. The report on the students was incomplete as certain information was still awaited from the universities, and Members thought that the Surveyor General also needed to answer other questions, and the DRDLR needed to track the students more actively itself, rather than assigning this function to the proposed professional board.

Meeting report

Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: Use of Consultants: Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) briefing
The Chairperson noted the apology of the Minister.

Mr Naeem Seedat, Corporate Executive: Special audits, Auditor-General South Africa, noted that the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) had recently done a study into the use of consultants by selected departments. Similar audits had been conducted in other countries, which showed many common concerns, more fully set out in a detailed report that he had earlier e-mailed to the Committee.

Mr George Lourens, Business Executive: Performance Audits, AGSA, firstly gave a general overview. The mandate of AGSA was to strengthen democracy by enabling oversight, and this statement highlighted the vital work that AGSA performed in helping portfolio committees. He explained that performance auditing was an independent auditing process to evaluate the measures put in place by management, to ensure that resource use followed the “three Es” – procured economically, and used efficiently and effectively. He distinguished this from auditing of performance indicators, which looked at whether predetermined objectives were met. He expanded that "economically" meant procuring the right resources, at the right time and place, at the best price. "Efficiency" meant good management of the processes and "effectively" meant that the right results were achieved.

He explained that AGSA had decided to conduct a performance audit on the use of consultants by government. Over the last three years, R102 billion was spent on consultants. AGSA accepted that it was not incorrect to use consultants where permanent appointments might be too costly, or where government could not find the right skills. However, all consultant appointments and contracts should be based on a good relationships that allowed both parties to benefit from the process. This audit again reflected some of the same problems highlighted in previous performance audits in 1996 and 2002, so AGSA had concluded that South Africa had not yet addressed the challenges around use of consultants. However, South Africa was not unique in having this problem as the United Kingdom (UK) faced similar challenges. There was a need to find solutions.

Mr Lourens also distinguished performance audits from regulatory audits, the latter being done annually, looking into whether the financial statements were a true and fair reflection, as well as financial management. Performance audits were done cyclically, could run across financial years, and focused on "three Es" of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

A chart of expenditure by national and provincial departments on consultants over the three years showed that national departments spent R33.5 billion on consultants, eight of them spending 70% of this figure, and provincial departments spent R68.5 billion. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) had spent just over R1 billion (3%) of this.

The main areas of focus of AGSA in undertaking the study were tabled. This started with the appointments and planning process, and the internal capacity of departments. The question was whether departments had the capacity to oversee consultants themselves, or were using yet another consultant to do so. Training and transfer of skills was a very important factor, particularly in IT, when internal staff were often not trained to take over functions, so that departments became totally dependent on consultants in the longer term. Performance management and monitoring should have started at the time of procurement, with proper milestones, performance criteria and evaluation methods specified. Often, when there was lack of proper planning, contract specifics and performance management, the contracts would be extended. AGSA looked also at the closing and finalising of projects phase, to see if the intended result had been achieved, and whether the gap in the department that led to the appointment of the consultant in the first place had now been filled.

Key challenges were found across all of government. Most often, in the planning phase, the needs assessments, procurement processes and expectations were not properly done. Where internal capacity was lacking, there was often not a proper assessment of whether permanent capacity was in fact needed, and consultants were appointed without consideration of other options. However, once they were appointed, they did not transfer skills, either through lack of effort on their part, or because the internal staff were not trainable. At the management and monitoring phase, there was lack of effective oversight and internal controls prior to payments, with cost overruns often not being motivated and approved. Many contracts were extended due to inadequate project management. Finally, there was a general failure to retrospectively analyse projects.

Mr Lourens moved on to set out the specific findings in relation to DRDLR. Over the three years from 2009 to 2011, the total expenditure on consultants in this Department was R1.008 billion. AGSA audited thirteen projects, valued at R305.4 million. At this time, DRDLR had a vacancy rate of 12.55%, but this was lower than many other departments, some of whom had vacancy rates of up to 30%.

Details of all the projects, the consultants appointed and the amounts, the duration of the contract, the status of the consultants was presented (see attached presentation for details). Tick-marks showed where there were deficiencies. Seven of the thirteen contracts (more than 50%) showed problems in planning and assessments. Five showed deficiencies in assessment of internal capacity, with little training and transfer of skills. Several contracts were extended. Mr Lourens reminded Members that an extension of the contract did not automatically mean that rules or regulations had been breached, but the concern was rather that there had not been proper evaluation at the outset, coupled often with lack of performance management.

The table also showed the variations, or numbers of extensions, to the original contracts. The first contract, with Sithole Human Capital Consortium, was originally valued at R10.1 million. There were two further extensions, amounting to R1 million, then R563 000. The proper procurement policy was followed, but there were doubts whether there had been a proper assessment of whether value for money was obtained and the correct result was achieved. In other cases, there were deficiencies in closing and finalising the projects. The rand amount was relatively small, but the fact that the objective was not achieved meant that there were still gaps in the department.

Ms Heidi van Zyl, Manager: Professional Audit Business Unit, AGSA, set out some contract-specific challenges. She indicated that AGSA had used colour coding. Those areas marked in green could be addressed by the Committee questioning the strategic plans. Purple shading showed that there was a need for closer – probably quarterly – monitoring. Blue shading was used to suggest areas that the committee needed to follow up, to see if corrective action was taken. She highlighted that in many cases that AGSA examined, supporting documentation was not available. Another point was that there was not consideration given, prior to extending the contract, whether sufficient effort had been put into creating internal capacity, whether there was still a need, whether results had been obtained from the first contract and whether value for money was obtained.

She then took the Committee through selected contracts. The skills audit and HR re-engineering project arose out of a valid need to examine the staff structure and evaluate the skills. Separate tenders went out, and two consultants were appointed. However, lack of proper planning impacted on the project, because one intervention depended on the result of another. There were delays in approving the HR plan, and the project took five years to complete. By that stage, the number of job evaluations escalated from 169 to 900, something not taken into account at the planning phase, and there was no proper tracking of what must follow on from each phase. There had been further delays when the Minister was changed, which delayed approvals, since even though the Minister of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had given approval for the posts, no funding for them was approved. The moratorium in filling positions pending the review impacted on use of consultants. Of further concern in this project, and others, was that the delays meant that the consultant recommendations may be obsolete by the time they were implemented. There were inadequacies in relation to invoices since lack of detail on the invoices made it impossible to verify what service was delivered. Disbursements were paid at a flat rate, with no receipts or proof of the link to the activity.

The contract for outsourcing of HR Recruitment was entered into because of the lack of internal capacity, and the delays caused by long internal processes. However, no ceiling was set, and the initial R28 million was escalated by a further R19.9 million, and then by another R21.7 million in the following year. At the end of the contract, DRDLR failed to evaluate what had been achieved, and there was no report on whether the positions were filled. The contract finally lapsed after the third year. Ms van Zyl pointed out that HR recruitment was normally considered to be a core function that should be done internally.

Valuation services contracts were used extensively, particularly for the restitution process and valuation of land. AGSA accepted that this was a valid outsourcing. However, the cost per project was not in proportion to the value of the services, and there were deviations of up to 50%.

The contract for development of the state land leasing debtor systems was not that large, at R3.5 million, but it was of concern that a need had already been identified in 2001, but nothing done to meet that need until several years later, when consultants were appointed for the full systems development. Implementation was problematic. The financial model was begun, and fees were paid for this, but DRDLR had then discarded the model. At present, there was still no state land leasing debtor system. This resulted in negative audit opinions every year. The gap that was left in the Department was more problematic than the amounts spent. The consultant had delivered services, but once again Ms van Zyl pointed out that delays in implementation often resulted in the systems becoming obsolete and useless. DRDLR had now reverted to a manual system.

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) support services contract had failed to weigh up the comparative cost benefits between appointing a consultant and hiring internal staff. Three extensions of the contract pointed to the fact that no internal capacity had been created while the project was running. The cost of the extensions was R34.2 million. There were no contracts for project managers detailing objectives, responsibilities and deliverables, and no supply chain documents could be traced supporting these contracts.

Cost alternatives were also not considered in relation to the contract for establishment of a project management office. The person who acted as the consultant was later hired as a permanent employee by the DRDLR, at about half the cost of the consultancy (which included agency fees), so this begged the question whether a permanent appointment was not most suitable from the outset. There was no close-off of the project, and the deliverables were not measured, because they were not properly defined at the outset.

In the contract for development of a claim validation and monitoring system, the consultant had signed off as completing the project, in 2007, but in fact it was not completed and it cost an additional R5.8 million to mitigate the risk of not being able to implement the system. Here, there were also problems around the basis of the contract, and Ms van Zyl said that the benefits of appointing on an hourly rate, with the possibility that the hours may be extended, or a project-based rate, which should insist that the contractor deliver specified services by a specified time. In this case, the consultant delayed the process and DRDLR had to extend the services.

Mr Seedat presented AGSA's key recommendations as to how government could remedy the current situation. He highlighted that the purpose of the audit was to focus on improvement of the “three Es” in the future. It was necessary to ensure an optimal balance between what was put in, in terms of price, and what was achieved in terms of time and quality, so all AGSA’s recommendations were centred on how to achieve value for money when the need for consultants was identified. Firstly, he noted that several strong legal prescripts were already in place, but there was a need to comply properly with them.  Secondly, improved planning was vital, as many of the issues were linked, and depth of planning and better focus would achieve better value. Thirdly, it was important to manage the process properly and to monitor performance, ensuring that a system was set up that would hold somebody responsible for management. All the focus areas that Mr Lourens had earlier identified were important internal controls. Fourthly, there should be policies for acquisition and transfer of skills from consultants to the departments. He emphasised again that it was known that certain skills sets were not available to government, but a focus on training would help to develop the state. Fifthly, contracts should be extended for valid reasons only, and not because of deficiencies in the planning processes. AGSA consistently recommended that the departments should investigate possible fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Robust internal controls, oversight and monitoring were needed.

Mr Seedat noted that government needed to apply the lessons learned from the past, to ensure that there was not repetition of the problems in the future, and a focus on value for money and institution and compliance with good practices. He indicated that there were three levels of assurance. The first was in management. Senior management must take immediate action to address specific recommendations and adhere to financial management and control systems. Accounting officers had to hold the relevant officials accountable for use of resources and report annually on use of consultants. The Executive Authority must monitor use of consultants and enforce accountability and consequences.

The second level of assurance lay with the coordinating and monitoring institutions, including National Treasury, DPSA and the governance structures set up to manage the risks around consultants. That would include compliance with laws and recommendations. Internal audit units of departments should conduct their own performance audits on the use of consultants. The Audit Committee should monitor the implementation of commitments on corrective action, as well as monitoring the spend on consultants. This would help to avoid many of the deviations identified later.

The third level of assurance included the independent institutions, such as public accounts committees, the Auditor-General and Parliament. Portfolio committees should review strategic and business plans, as well as the Accounting Officer's reports on use of consultants, more stringently, to pick up any problems earlier. Public accounts committees would exercise specific oversight, and provide independent assurance on the credibility of information, and AGSA, the external auditors, would provide an independent opinion on achievement of the three Es

Finally, Mr Seedat stressed that better value would only come from meaningful commitment. AGSA had obtained positive commitments from all parties to address the deficiencies in relation to the DRDLR, and to put more robust and sustainable controls in place, as more fully detailed in the presentation. He noted that in order to achieve a balanced partnership equation, it would be ideal to get commitment from the private sector and citizens. Although AGSA focused on the public sector, government should urge the private sector to act as good citizens, show good corporate conscience, and not to take advantage of weaknesses that it perceived in government.

Mr A Trollip (DA) referred to slide 7 on the audit focus areas. He wanted in particular to address performance management and monitoring of consultants, and questioned how effective monitoring could be, if it was being done, in turn, by a second set of consultants, rather than a department itself.

Mr Lourens said that the full report, at page 78, showed that consultants who were appointed for the establishment of the project management office at DRDLR were also empowered to employ additional consultants. People from the same firm were interviewed, and there was appointment of project administrators who compiled minutes and records. This indeed begged the question whether the first consultant was making an objective assessment when appointing others to assist him.

Mr Trollip agreed that poor planning could compound risk, and good planning could mitigate risk. He wondered what steps AGSA was taking to help government ensure that the work of consultants was not going wrong from the outset, as the costs of consultants were eating into scarce resources.

Mr Lourens responded that AGSA had embarked on a project where it would now audit projects as they developed, rather than waiting for completion. It would be useful if portfolio committees could identify and bring to AGSA’s attention any large projects in departments, and if they would also check whether tender documents were properly prepared and signed off.

Mr Trollip said that it was noble to expect the private sector to practise good corporate citizenship, but the reality was that consultants would never do themselves out of a job. It was surely up to government to ensure that value for money was achieved, and not to place reliance on the private sector to do the right thing. At the moment, many consultants simply saw government as a cash cow. Outcomes could be good, but they were invariably too costly.

Mr Lourens agreed, and added that this was particularly the case with ICT consultants, who were creating massive systems on which government was completely dependent. Departments must ensure that contracts did include a specific term for the transfer of skills. However, although many of the contracts for the DRDLR had already contained this term, and it was paid for, DRDLR failed to monitor that this was happening. Obviously, a consultant would not point this out, because as long as other staff were not trained, there was a continuing need for the consultant.

Mr Trollip asked for an example of an "arms length body in the departments".

Mr Lourens responded that the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) would be one example, although AGSA had not looked at its services.

Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked if at any stage AGSA would engage the Executive Authority and Director General on these reports and help develop plans to correct them.

Mr Lourens said that there was full engagement with the Director General at the commencement of the audit, and the management report was discussed also with the Executive Authority. 

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked if the person who was initially appointed as a consultant, and then became an employee, was still employed. If money had been paid, but the assignment not completed, she wondered how and if the DRDLR could get back the money.

Mr Lourens responded that in regard to re-claiming funds paid, a department would have to be able to demonstrate that it had played its part properly and the correct legal steps would have to be followed. Prescription of debt could be problematic in some cases.

Ms van Zyl highlighted that in this particular case, there was in fact nothing that could prove whether the contractor had delivered, because there was no proper evaluation and close-off at the time. It was particularly important, in all cases, to have a proper evaluation and to convey the lessons learned to everyone in the department. ICT divisions in particular tended to motivate for extra resources although it was not clear whether any deliverables had resulted from projects, as a result of poor definitions at the outset. As she understood it, this person was still employed by the DRDLR.

Ms Ngwenya-Mabila referred to the point that in some cases, there seemed to be lack of compliance with prescripts, such as a person being appointed despite not having provided the lowest quotation.

Mr Lourens clarified that prescripts did allow for appointment of a person who had not quoted the lowest price, but the reasons for deviation must be motivated. In this case, the person who had quoted the lowest price had to give a month's notice, and DRDLR therefore decided to appoint the person who was available immediately. In the end result, though, the contract did not start immediately, but only after the notice period of the other candidate.

The Chairperson asked if the AGSA had found fruitless and wasteful expenditure, either from these thirteen contracts or from others, and why they were chosen.

Mr Lourens said that when doing the performance audit, AGSA would not generally not look into fruitless and wasteful questions. However, he did indicate that in the contract for development of the state land leasing system, the services were delivered, but never used, so the expenditure was wasteful.

The Chairperson noted that annual reports by DRDLR cited performance bonuses to senior managers, and he wondered if AGSA looked into the relationship between projects and managers being awarded bonuses.

Mr Lourens replied that he did not have information on this point.

The Chairperson noted that the DRDLR had, in its last annual report, claimed that it had improved planning processes. It also noted a moratorium on recruitment, due to the fact that it had “surplus” staff. He wondered if the moratorium was running during the contract for recruitment. He also said that the vacancy rate had risen over the last three years.

Ms van Zyl responded that the average vacancy rates reflected in the presentation related to 2009 and 2011. She had not had any direct engagement on vacancies within DRDLR since this time.

The Chairperson also noted that DRDLR had shown a huge budget for training, yet this report seemed to indicate that there was actually no training by the consultants to the Department’s employees.

Ms van Zyl said that DRDLR’s response to AGSA noted that it now had a budget for learnerships and was looking to build capacity rather than outsourcing the whole IT service, so AGSA's recommendations seemed to have been taken into account. Extra resources would be needed to build capacity, as this was still needed even if DRDLR had missed out on the opportunity for training during the consultancy contracts.

Mr J van der Linde (DA) asked if the AGSA had considered whether the tenders had been awarded to the best candidates.

The Chairperson stressed that the Committee was interested also in the performance of the consultants, as well as of the Department.

Mr Lourens noted that the criteria for evaluation would go out with the tender, showing how many points would be allocated to each aspect. AGSA had not identified any contracts where there was not adherence to the tender criteria.

Mr Seedat said that page 101 of the detailed report contained a table setting out the questions that AGSA would use as a guideline to itself when preparing the questions. The Committee could raise similar questions to the DRDLR during its oversight.

Departmental response
The Chairperson asked if the Director General of DRDLR wanted to respond.

Mr Mduduzi Shabane, Director General, Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, confirmed that he and the Minister had been briefed about the report and outcomes. He was fully aware of the focus areas and contracts examined, as well as the gaps within the internal control environment at the Department. DRDLR would correct the most obvious weaknesses when preparing its next strategic plan. He highlighted that although DRDLR had weak risk and compliance ability during the period covered by the AGSA investigations, it had since addressed the issue, and the Audit Committee was playing a critical oversight role. A Chief Directorate for risk and compliance had been created, with greater focus in this area. DRDLR would concentrate on learning from the mistakes, rather than attempting to justify them. Capacity would be an ongoing challenge. DRDLR would have to ensure that it increased delivery, as National Treasury had noted that it would not give more money for administrative functions, but was prepared to give money for delivery on the ground. He emphasised the fact that AGSA was not disputing the need for consultants, but was focusing on getting value for money. Many of the contracts discussed in this presentation had now ended. DRDLR had taken note of all the recommendations, and he noted that the support of the Portfolio Committee would strengthen the Department's own ability to monitor in future.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would be dealing with the capacity issues and comments of the Public Service Commission at a later stage. There was still one aspect that concerned him, arising out of his own experiences when he was involved with the Eastern Cape Department of Education, and had found that files of all schools built and under construction were held not within that department, but by consultants, who asked to be paid for any information released. There was, in that case, no question that any capacity was being built. He wondered if DRDLR had similar problems and how much information resided still with consultants.

Mr Lourens noted that the Public Finance Management Act prescribed that departments should keep records to prove that money had been spent for its intended purpose, and to ensure that the services were delivered economically, effectively and efficiently. After AGSA had reported to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on its previous performance audit into development of infrastructure for schools and clinics, SCOPA had decided that at its oversight visits, it would invite consultants and contractors to account as well. He thought this Committee might also consider asking consultants to appear before the Committee.

The Chairperson also noted that committees had been advised, by both the Public Service Commission and the Portfolio Committee on Appropriations, that it would be useful for portfolio committees to have meetings with Audit Committees of departments. Such a meeting was being arranged. He also stressed that when acting personnel were in place, this posed a risk – not for personal reasons, but for the running f the Office. He noted that in the DRDLR, the Chief Financial Officer was still holding an acting appointment only.

Mr Seedat noted AGSA’s appreciation for assistance provided during the audit by DRDLR and Minister.

Processing of Geomatics Professions Bill: Department of Rural Development and Land Reform written report
The Chairperson noted that although nobody was present from the Office of the Surveyor-General, a written report had now been delivered, as requested at the meeting on 29 January, on the delays in processing the Geomatics Professions Bill (GPB).

Mr Z Mandela (ANC), at the request of the Chairperson, read out the report (see attached document). In summary, the Acting Chief Surveyor General, Mr S Mdubeki, had reported that the GPB Bill was submitted to Parliament in 2013. Whilst it was true that a process had commenced in 2005, that had in fact related not to the GPB, but to the Surveying Profession Bill, a precursor to this process, which had been withdrawn when it became clear, from stakeholder comments, that a complete overhaul of the legislation was needed. The GPB was formulated in 2008, to accommodate all sectors of the geomatics profession, not only surveyors. The processes, including stakeholders’ interaction, took until the end of 2010. The draft was submitted to Cabinet in May 2011, was gazetted for public comment in May 2011, and there was a need for considerable analysis and research, to give a comprehensive response to the considerable comments. Cabinet approved the tabling of the Bill to Parliament at the end of 2012.

Performance of Students in the Geomatics Profession: Report by Department of Rural development and Land Reform
Mr R Cebhukulu (IFP), at the request of the Chairperson, read out the written report on the performance of students in the geomatics profession, which was requested at the meeting of 29 January.

DRDLR noted that there were currently six Higher Education institutes (HEIs) offering qualifications in surveying and geomatics. Two offered the BSc degree in land surveying, which would allow the graduate then to enter around two years of articles, sit the Board exams and be registered as a professional surveyor. The other institutions offered national diplomas or B Tech qualifications, allowing a graduate to qualify as a technician, or technologist.

The Chief Surveyor General had asked the institutions to give their pass rates over the last six years, from 2006 to 2012 and some of this information was still awaited, although DRDLR did include figures that it had already. DRDLR, recognising the deficiencies, had now negotiated with institutions to provide the information more timeously, and according to a set format, in the future.

DRDLR set out the reasons for its bursary scheme, which had been operating from 2006 under the HR unit. Prior to that, there were some low-scale bursaries offered by the Chief Directorate of Surveys and Mapping, but these had been unable to ensure sufficient throughput of professionals to the DRDLR, so the national bursary scheme was conceived and was coupled with more aggressive strategies to try to attract staff. The student intake into the courses was low, and the University of Cape Town (UCT) was on the brink of shutting down its programmes. In 2006/07, DRDLR’s precursor department therefore negotiated with UCT, and agreed to sponsor  20 first year students, for 2007 and the next three years. 387 bursaries were offered, and five scholarships were offered to MSc students. Since 2006, 190 students had completed their studies and were being supported to do articles with the intention that they be permanently appointed by the DRDLR. 22 students were excluded due to poor performance, especially in their final year, so there were currently 175 students supported by the Department.

Tables were presented of the total numbers of graduates, along with some breakdown as to gender and race. The surveying profession's statistics indicated that the gender and racial balance had been heavily weighted in terms of white males, of whom 30% then in the profession were already over 60. After the bursary scheme was introduced, the number of female land surveyors had increased from 17 to 37, and the number of female survey technicians from 14 to 141. Male numbers increased by 41.

Pass rate tables were also included, although it was noted that these were incomplete as further information was still being awaited from the institutions, who were busy with registrations at the moment. The tables noted that although some pass rates were around 78% to 83%, better than other professions, some were very low at less than 30%. UCT had a high exclusion rate of 20%, but a 43.4% success rate. The DRDLR had since introduced a survey officers foundation phase course, internally, to try to help students who wanted to study this profession to attain the university levels.

The report concluded that there was a still a huge need to increase capacity the geomatics and surveying industry. Although the agreements were made with HEIs, there was a limit, initially, to the number of students who qualified to gain entrance to the programmes. Students who were awarded bursaries were mostly from the rural areas, and were hampered by low levels of general knowledge which negatively impacted on their performance. Despite this, there was a slow increase in those entering the profession. Although there were still only 16 female registered surveyors, another 30 were busy with articles. The proposed Geomatics Profession Council would be asked to monitor the success rates and promote a high standard of training. Further focus would be placed on monitoring the students.

Mr Trollip thought that the reports raised several points to which the Surveyor General needed to respond. The report actually confirmed his suspicions, voiced during the meeting on 29 January, that DRDLR probably did not know how its students were faring. He had noted that non-bursary students may also seek jobs with the Department. It was difficult to follow the tables, as some did not have headings. Some of the pass rates were very poor. Many issues had been highlighted for the future. He suggested that the Committee should call for annual reports on how bursary students had performed, each year, at every university, showing how many passed, failed, were excluded, and their overall performance. He noted that he had been tracking one particular candidate and had noted some very mixed results.

The Chairperson agreed that it was not easy to interpret this report as figures had been presently baldly, with no analysis. He agreed that there should be a particular focus on those getting bursaries, to assess whether taxpayers' money was being used effectively, and whether the DRDLR was building relationships with its bursary holders, commenting also that candidates would be prompted to improve their performance if they knew they were being monitored. Although DRDLR suggested that the Professional Council would play a role, it was actually the responsibility of the DRDLR’s human resources unit.

Adoption of Minutes of 12 February 2013
Ms Ngwenya-Mabila asked that her initials be corrected. The names of some presenters needed correction. She discussed the possibility of changing some words to improve the meaning of the sentences.

The minutes were adopted, subject to correction.

The meeting was adjourned.


No related


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: