Self-Assessment Report for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform: briefing by the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation

Rural Development and Land Reform

06 March 2013
Chairperson: Mr S Sizani (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to hear a presentation from the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation on the Management Performance Assessment Tool results for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. The assessment was based on 31 management standards in 17 management areas. The Department was the first one to go through the process of self-assessment and independent moderation, which was intended to promote a culture of continuous improvement and the sharing of good practice.

The Department scored a level three for strategic management improvement out of a possible four. It was also at a level three compliance level for all financial management. In terms of governance, the Audit Committee was at level four, but the Department was below compliance for all other standards. The Department was below compliance on all human resource management standards. The Department was a level three compliance level for all financial management standards. Those standards below compliance would have to be reviewed and support should be provided to those departments. Management needed to be proactive in acting on data collected in order to get to level four. Improvements were needed in governance and accountability and in human resource management to meet minimum compliance levels. 

Members were concerned about the ability to curb fraud and misdemeanours. It was encouraging that the Department was willing to act to as a guinea pig but the low service delivery and performance and human resources scores were worrying. The issue of ghost workers was raised. It was admitted that the tool looked at systems and processes, not outcomes. Therefore, departments could do the wrong things very efficiently. The Committee would meet the Department on the 27th of March to hear a report on the improvement plans.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, in particular the Deputy Minister of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), Mr Lechesa Tsenoli. The Director-General of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had sent an apology. The Deputy Minister thanked the Chairperson and introduced the team. He noted for the record that the Minister had wanted to attend but had to go to a Cabinet Committee.

Briefing by the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation on Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
Mr Ismail Akhalway, Programme Manager of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, presented on behalf of his Department. The report had been presented to the Committee the previous year. That presentation had been a self-assessment, it had since been through external peer moderation and the results would be presented. The premise behind the assessments was that "improved management practices were key to improved service delivery". Weak administration was a recurring theme across priorities and led to poor service delivery. The Department wanted to develop a culture of continuous improvement and the sharing of good practice and to link institutional performance to individual assessment of Heads of Departments. The Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) had first been implemented in the 2011/12 financial year and was based on international best practice. In the initial round 103 of 158 departments had participated. The results of this were available on the DPME website. Many departments had already implemented improvements based on the results. For 2012/13, all (156) departments participated.

The assessment was based on 31 management standards [contained in a separate document], in 17 management areas (developed collaboratively with the Department of Public Service and Administration, National Treasury and Officers of the Premier, Office of the Public Service Commission and Office of the Auditor-General). These were based on legislation and regulations – primarily, the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Service Act. 

The DPME had started the MPAT assessment and tested the moderation process in 2011/12. Policy and implementing experts from national and provincial departments were used as moderators. The moderated results would be published in July 2013, after presentation to Cabinet.

There were four MPAT ratings:
Level One – non-compliance with legal/regulatory requirements (red)
Level Two – partial compliance (orange)
Level Three – full compliance (yellow)
Level Four – full compliance and "doing things smartly".

The main difference between level three and four was that in level three there could be "malicious compliance" whereas in level four there was an effort to be smart and efficient.

The 31 standards were contained in a separate document, in which they were fully detailed. The standards were evidence based, so if a department scored itself about a level one, they would have to provide evidence. This would be verified by the moderators.

Some departments had been able reach level four in most areas. This meant that it was not impossible. The Department had developed good practice case studies. These were available on a website: There had been workshops on the case studies too. This would mean that there was no longer a need to hire expensive external consultants, because the expertise existed within the public service.

The DPME, Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and National Treasury offered support to departments to improve management practices.

Mr Akhalwaya recapped the DRDLR self-assessment scores for 2011/12 that had been presented to the Committee before. He then presented the final moderated scores for 2012/13.
The DRDLR had done an ‘honest and frank’ self-assessment.

DRDLR Final Moderated Scores for 2012/13
There had been an improvement in the previous self-assessment strategic management results. The Department was at level three here, but needed to push it to a four.

For governance, only the Audit Committee was at level four, the Department was below compliance on the other standards. Service Delivery Improvement Plans (SDIP) were at level one, this was the case across all departments. The DPSA would have to review policy and/or support departments. The requirement for the governance of ICT had been issued after the assessment, so non-compliance here was understandable. It was important to note that departments may have elements of compliance, but they needed to meet all the requirements of the standard to be a level three or four. The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) requirement had been included as a test, but had not been moderated. The DPME needed to engage the Department of Justice on how to moderate it. The DRDLR had rated itself a level one here.

The Department was below compliance on all human resource management standards. The requirement for reporting on diversity was not well known by departments and compliance was low across all departments. The management of disciplinary cases included the adherence to the 60-day rule and most departments did not adhere. There was little to prevent ghost workers. The Department was below compliance on the Senior Management Service Performance Management and Development System (SMS-PMDS); this meant there were no performance agreements for SMS members in the current cycle.

The Department was a level three compliance level for all financial management standards. 

There were improvements in strategic and financial management. The Department was at compliance level. Management needed to be proactive in acting on data collected in order to get to level four. Improvements were needed in governance and accountability and in human resource management to meet minimum compliance levels.

The value-add of this process was that MPAT provided a single holistic picture of the state of a department. It focused on getting managers to work smartly, whereas generally audits focused solely on compliance. It also covered a broader range of management areas. Service delivery would be improved by getting all departments to level four. By carrying out annual MPAT assessments, the Presidency sent out a clear message that improving administration was a priority of government.

The main limitation of MPAT was that it focused on processes related to converting inputs into outputs; it did not focus on whether the right outputs were being produced. The risk was that departments might be doing the wrong things very well. In viewing the overall performance, it was therefore important to consider the achievement of outcomes and impacts. The DPME was doing this through the monitoring of the 12 priority outcomes and related delivery agreements.

Mr N Mandela (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation. What systems were in place to move the Department from a level two to four for fraud prevention? The Committee had been on an oversight visit to Bloemfontein and a tractor had seemingly disappeared from the provincial department. What was being to prevent this? Normally, when fraud was discussed, it ended in a dismissal. What actions were being taken to make sure people were taken to task? There was one disciplinary case being handled. It would be ideal to see disciplinary cases being handled more assertively. How could the Department be assisted to get it from a three to a four?

Mr A
Trollip (DA) said it was encouraging that the Department was willing to act to as a guinea pig. It was good to have two objective assessments of the Department – the first by SCOPA, which had been presented on 5 March, and this one by the DPME. One of the requirements stated that an evaluation had to be conducted or be planned. How could someone get a level four for planning to do an assessment, when they might never actually do it? The scores for strategic management were low in the self-assessment. If service delivery and performance scores were at level one, then the Department was failing. SCOPA showed that service delivery was pitiful in this department. It was important to lead by example; if the Head of Department had a performance agreement then the rest of the SMS would have them. The score had gone down from 2011/12 to 2012/13.

Ms P
Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) thanked the Department for the presentation. It had underscored itself on some factors. Were state entities a part of this process? After the moderated assessment, improvement plans were developed, when did the DPME intervene? How did the DPME relate to similar entities such as the Auditor General's (AG) office and the Public Service Commission (PSC)? The Committee would engage the Department when they presented their improvement plans.

Mr R
Cebekhulu (IFP) wondered if there were measures to ensure that departments did not spend on areas outside their mandate or to prevent wasteful expenditure. In the Free State, an official had built a large house for his family and only a small clinic for the community.

Mr B Zulu (ANC) said that service delivery had improved even though it was at level one. Often departments worked in silos. What measures could be taken to prevent this?

Ms N November (ANC) said the report was good. Departments and officials tended to be creative. Were there ways to prevent them being creative in finding ways around the rules or stating things in creative ways to give a certain impression?

Ms P
Xaba (ANC) had raised the issue of a farm in Eshowe. It had been bought by the Department, and there was no one to make sure that it was productive. The owners had received a grant from the Department, but they had bought expensive cars first and the farm was not productive.

Ms H
Matlanyane (ANC) wondered about HR practices. The Department had given itself a level one. Could they afford to have such a rating given the vacancy rate? The result for the functionality of management structures was at level one; these were meant to lead the Department in service delivery. Could anything be done to improve these?

Mr Akhalwaya responded that the DPME / MPAT dealt with systems and processes. The evaluation strategy plan had been approved by Cabinet the previous year. The Department had significant work in strategic planning. The difference in three scores was due to timing. The AG report looked bad based on what had been the previous year. The MPAT was current; improvements would be reflected in the next AG report. The DPME was reluctant to compare the 2011/12 and 2012/13 results as the former was a self-assessment and the latter an external moderation. Further, the standards had changed slightly.

70 percent of departments were non-compliant with service delivery planning. This had been raised with DPSA. Some of the requirements were not always appropriate. Some departments had argued that they did not deal with clients or the public, so their delivery was different. An SDIP was still part of the policy though.

State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were not part of the MPAT. A plan to do similar assessments on municipalities was being rolled out. SOEs had a different regulatory framework, but it was being looked at. Case studies were important in supporting departments. Sharing knowledge and expertise were important. Policy departments were being made aware of the different factors at play. An unintended, but good, consequence was that policy was also being assessed. This was used to report back so it could be improved.

It was not possible to see whether departments were spending on things outside their mandate. MPAT just looked at how things were done, not whether the right things were being done. This was one of its limitations. There was a standard on expenditure management though. There were other institutions to check on other aspects of evaluation. Parliament, the AG and the PSC all kept departments accountable in different ways. There was a triangulation in this regard.  

Mr Henk Serfontein, Director of Management Performance Assessment at the DPME, said that DPSA was actively helping departments improve performance and compliance. The DPME used other state entities, such as the PSC and the AG, for secondary information, especially by the moderators to verify the information provided by departments. It should be acknowledged that the less systems and processes were in place, the greater the scope for ‘creativity’ by officials. It was therefore important to strengthen these systems and processes. Regarding vacancy rates, there was a standard to deal with this. Often there were approved structures that were not fully funded.

Ms Irene Singo, Acting Chief Financial Officer at DRDLR, said her department had engaged the DPME and development and action plan on the areas that needed improvement. This would be presented to the Committee in due course.

Ms Karen de la Rouviere, Chief Audit Executive at DRDLR, said that MPAT had been useful. The relationship with DPME was positive. The main challenge for the Department was that the requirements changed often, so it was hard to keep up. Whereas the Department had been at level four, they could be at level two after the next assessment. This kept them on their toes and ensured constant improvement.

The Chairperson said there were two areas of concern for the Committee. The Minister had responded well to one. The other area included the consequences of fraud and misdemeanour. According to the Annual Report, there had been 32 disciplinary cases in the Department. Ghost workers were a big problem.

Mr Pule Sekawana, Acting Deputy Director-General of Corporate Services at DRDLR, said the SCOPA report would come to the Committee too and would also deal with the 32 cases. From 2011/12, there had been 17 dismissals in the Department. Part of the HR plan next year was to conduct a ghost employee search. They would have a ‘cheque collection’ initiative. The DG had insisted on it and it would be implemented in the coming year.

The Deputy Minister said that regarding ‘creativity’ among officials, it was important to assume good intentions and not be guided by experiences elsewhere. There needed to be an agreement on the currency of assessment, especially because the criteria changed and affected the scoring.

The Chairperson said there seemed to have been no improvement in certain aspects, even taking into account changing criteria.

Ms Singo said the DPME had specific evidence documents. Often the DPME wanted specific things but the Department may not have them. This affected the score. The Department needed to have all documents in a specific way. This did not mean non-compliance.

Mr Akhalwaya added that this standard was particularly harsh. The Department could have a quick win by completing a single missing document.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on what was missing.

Ms de la Rouviere responded that an effective risk management unit was necessary and an oversight body like a risk-management committee to oversee this function.

The Chairperson asked why the Department had suffered certain risks if the systems were in place.

Ms de la Rouviere responded that their effects would only be visible in a year or two.

The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister if it was possible to change the name on a title deed. Was this risk-proof as Ms de la Rouviere had said?

Mr Tsenoli responded that she had not said risk-proof. She had said the system was there and was operative, it was not said to be risk-proof. The effects would be visible eventually. He added that the portfolio of evidence was important. The moderators used evidence from a variety of sources to verify claims. The system was not risk-proof. The Department was required to respond to the moderation. Internal audits had produced reports on what needed to be done by management. This would be available the following week, to show what the Department planned to do to improve.

Regarding the claims by Ms Xaba, he asked that the information be given to the Department for follow-up immediately.

With reporting requirements, there were often clashes between the policy and the reality. This exercise helped the Department to improve. A frank self-assessment was very important.

The team from DPME were released.

The Chairperson said the Committee wanted the DRDLR to come back in April to present its improvement plan. They could not do the Annual Performance Plan before. It would be good for the Department to engage with the Committee and the AG’s office. Did the internal audit have its own report or was it part of the AG report? The Committee requested to see it.

Ms Singo said that it had an audit plan. Internal audit focused on internal issues; the AG was external evaluation.

The Deputy Minister said the APP was due on 14 March. The Department would be guided by the Committee on time frames.

It was agreed that the deadline would be 27 March - three weeks from then.

The Chairperson noted that the Department did not seem to have a system for PAJA.

The Deputy Minister said the work for PAJA had already been done. It had been presented to the Minister, but he was not sure if he had indeed signed off on it. 

Adoption of Committee Minutes

Mr Cebekhulu moved for the adoption of minutes for 20 February 2013.

Mr Mandela moved for the adoption of minutes for 27 February 2013.

All the minutes were adopted.

The Meeting was adjourned


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