The Chairperson indicated the Committee would not meet the submission deadline of the 18 October 2013 for submitting the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) because the Department of Labour (DoL) had failed to avail the required information. The matter had to be raised with the Minister, because the Committee could not fail on account of the Department’s sluggishness. This behaviour from the Department was unacceptable.
The Content Adviser for the Committee took Members through the structure of the draft BRRR report.
Members congratulated the advisor and said he accurately reflected the debates that had taken place in the Committee. Members pointed out that under-expenditure was a challenge and needed to be reflected in the report. Although the Department had an unqualified audit opinion, there were matters of emphasis. DoL under-spent by R104m. An issue was raised about foreign shop owners who did not respect the labour laws of the country. When they were approached by inspectors, these people simply replied the shops did not belong to them. Mostly this happened with Pakistanis, Chinese and Somali nationals. The recommendation should be such that the Minister should be able to close such shops until owners respected the laws. The foreign-owned shops were where most vulnerable workers were found; the stereotype that this category of workers was only in the farms no longer applied. Exploitation happened right in towns.
The Chairperson indicated the Committee would not meet the submission deadline of the 18 October 2013 for submitting the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR). The Department of Labour (DoL) did not avail the required information to complete the report. The matter had to be raised with the Minister, because the Committee could not fail on account of the Department’s sluggishness. The information pertained to paragraph 4.4 of the draft report. This behaviour from the Department was unacceptable. He instructed the Secretary to draft a letter to the Minister, and to distribute copies to the Director-General (Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko) and Committee Members.
The Chairperson proposed that Members go through the report, even if it had gaps. The Committee could then engage and then take a principled position. Parliament should be alerted through the officer of the Speaker of this despicable behaviour, and it should be indicated that the Department did not take the Committee seriously
Mr D Kganare (Cope) proposed that the Committee should discuss the report and honour the Friday deadline. But it should be indicated in the report that the Department did not provide the information.
Mr S Motau (DA) concurred and said the Committee should do its job regardless of the constraint.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) proposed that Members adopt the report the following week, and in the meantime read through it and note the concerns.
Mr Kganare withdrew his proposal.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR)
Mr Sibongiseni Ngcobo, Content Adviser, Committee on Labour, took the Committee through the report. The report covered the mandate of the Committee, the core mandate of the Department, and an overview of the key relevant policy areas.
The summary of the previous key financial and performance recommendations looked at whether the previous year’s recommendations had been implemented by DoL. There were ten recommendations. The National Treasury (NT) dealt some with of the recommendations that pertained to funding, and it sought to address the matters raised with the Department. Also included in the section was the Committee’s budget report.
The overview and assessment of financial performance detailed the expenditure and financial performance. The section analysed the adjustments, shifting and virements that occurred DoL. It looked at allocations per programme and further looked at programmes. The section also covered the Auditor-General’s (AG’s) findings as reflected in the annual report. While the Department received an unqualified audit opinion, there were matters of emphasis.
Section 4.4 did not contain information, but was intended to deal with finances. Once the information was received from the Department it would be included in the report. The information was crucial because the Committee had supported submissions made by DoL to NT for the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for 2014/15 allocation.
The report gave a programme-by-programme overview and assessment of service delivery performance was included.
The Committee’s findings were made based on the annual report and the oversight visits that were undertaken by the Committee. The findings revealed that the Department spent 95% of the budget only to achieve 47% of the targets. The Department recorded an under-spending of about R104 million. This was ascribed to the slow filling of vacant posts. The Department vired about 8.6% of the budget on the administration programme, in contravention of NT regulations. The regulations stipulated that only 8% of the money could be vired among programmes, and the Department exceeded that threshold. The Committee had found that non-compliance by companies to the acceptable level of exposure to silica dust was concerning. Only 44% companies complied with occupational silica exposure limits. It was also found that the Department had been procuring goods and services without following NT regulations, and contracts were awarded without fair bidding processes. There was generally no consequence for non-compliance and lack of performance at the Department. Vacancies were not filled at the required time. Performance indicators were not well defined in accordance with NT framework for managing programme performance information. There also was an increase in the number of unprotected strikes and some of them had been marred by violence.
The conclusion and recommendations were read out to Members, who an option whether to agree or reject the recommendations. The Department was in a healthy state with assets worth more than liabilities.
The Chairperson congratulated the content advisor and said he accurately reflected the debates that had taken place in the Committee.
Mr B Manamela (ANC) proposed that the comments be general and not follow the report page by page, as that would be done when the report was adopted the following week.
Mr D Kganare (Cope) pointed out that on page 3 of the report a reference had been made to the ruling party. He sought clarity on whether it would not be more correct to say the governing party. The word ruling had connotation that the country was being ruled by a certain class. A ruling party and a governing party were totally different things.
Mr Kganare said too much reference had been made to the Minister in the report. The report should indicate if some of the recommendations had been implemented, otherwise the report sounded nothing more than praising the Minister.
Mr Kganare sought clarity on whether reference to a R1 000 that was vired on page 5 was correct. A virement of R1 000 was really insignificant and did not warrant a mention in the report.
Mr Kganare said the reference to inspectorate employment services on page 7, should be clear, and make a recommendation that these people were “qualified to do the job”. In KwaZulu Natal (KZN) an issue was raised about foreigners who did not respect the labour laws of the country. When they were approached by inspectors, these people simply replied the shops did not belong to them. Mostly this happened with Pakistanis, Chinese and Somalis. The recommendation should be such that the Minister should be able to close such shops until owners respected the laws. The foreign-owned shops were where most vulnerable workers were found; the stereotype that this category of workers was only in the farms no longer applied. Exploitation happened right in towns.
Mr Kganare pointed out that the Department was not supposed to make surplus as suggested in the conclusion on page 12. DoL should spend money, and not generate money.
Mr Kganare requested that an issue be raised on the supply chain management (SCM) under recommendations. This was where government departments and public entities were mostly challenged and encountered irregular expenditure. There had to be serious consequences if people transgressed SCM policies, and such actions should start with the DG right at the top. Then he would learn to cascade it downwards.
Mr Kganare said the recommendations ought to specify that payment of bonuses would only be done if and when targets had been met.
Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) said the sentence about filling vacant posts on page 4 of the draft report, should specify “filled with suitable qualified persons” as opposed to filling vacant posts.
Mr van der Westhuizen said the number of jobs that the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) indicated it created should be investigated. The investigation should seek to establish how many of those jobs resulted in permanent postings.
Mr van der Westhuizen suggested that the word “re-integration” be included on training, as training appeared limited. What was really required was “reintegration to the job market” of people affected by personal injuries in the workplace.
Mr van der Westhuizen said on addressing the continuing ICT challenges at the Department, the recommendation should be that “not only down-time but also slow computer skills”. He said the word management in the report should be changed to administration as Department had an administration programme not management.
The Chairperson suggested the recommendation should simply read “upgrading of the tools of trade”. There was no point in detailing things that had happened the previous year. The Committee should focus more on recommendations.
Mr van der Westhuizen said there was also a need to indicate that effectiveness and efficiency of the DoL call-centre should be measured.
Mr Motau pointed out general grammatical issues and proposed that they be attended to. He cited an issue with such words as “per cent” “over spending” and “under spending” and said they ought to be written as one word.
Mr Ngcobo replied that in the NT documents these were written as two words.
Mr Motau said recommendations should stipulate that the Minister should ensure that Treasury Regulations were strictly adhered to, particularly SCM process. The challenge on SCM was a recurring thing. This recommendation was particularly important given what the Public Protector (PP) said yesterday about corruption levels reaching unacceptable proportions. He acknowledged the work of the Committee staff.
Mr E Nyekemba (ANC) (who acted as Chairperson during the temporary absence of Mr M Nchabeleng) said the session was not a question or clarity seeking session, but it looked to elaborate more on the points. The issues with grammar and spelling would be attended to.
Mr Ngcobo cited a point on the administration programme, as recognised by departments while NT regulations referred to the programme as “management”. The word percent was two words in financial writing written as “per cent”, but in normal English it was one word.
Ms Makhubela-Mashele said the report needed to be clear on the issue about virement between the inspectorate services to administration programmes. This always reflected as virement although money would be put into good use. The issue reflected badly in the Department. This was always reported on by the AG and the Committee should consider it.
Mr Motau agreed and said this was a good point. When one looked at the report and saw that money had been redirected from inspectorate, an impression had been that the programme did not need the money, and yet Members would motivate for more money for that function. This indeed looked bad.
Mr Nyekemba said the letter would be sent and all Members of the Committee needed to be copied in the letter, as well as in the response.
The Committee Secretary, Mr Zolani Sakasa, informed Members that there were invitations for Members to join the Department on blitz inspections on Thursday and Friday. There was an imbizo on Sunday on the West Coast.
Members indicated they were occupied and would not be available.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of 20 August; 10, 11, 17 September with minor amendments mainly on apologies.
The meeting was adjourned.
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