Department of Higher Education & Training on its 2013 Annual Report, in presence of Deputy Minister

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

23 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms M Makgate (North West, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Of the Department’s 107 targets, 62 were achieved and 12 were not achieved. The remainder were partly achieved. Two new universities and 12 Further Education and Training (FET) colleges would be opened in 2014. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had allocated bursaries to 222 817 FET students and 210 000 university students. Certification rates in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification was low and this was attributed to lecturer incapacity, institutional instability and students’ inability to cope with subjects such as physical science and digital electronics. Bursary recipients performed poorly in VCET with a certification rate of 26 to 36%, suggesting that colleges did not apply eligibility criteria properly. The transfer of funding for the FET college sector from provinces to the national Department was not complete. Walter Sisulu University, which was under administration, was briefly discussed. Irregularities in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) were being addressed. Engineering students were graduating but not registering with the professional body. Nearly 13 000 new teachers graduated in 2012, up from 6 000 in 2008. The Department received an unqualified audit opinion with findings which were explained. One of these was that verification processes had not been performed prior to appointments. There were significant contingency funding uncertainties as the Department was the defendant in several lawsuits. The ratio between college and university students was 1:4 and it should be the other way around. The FET college sector had to be expanded but could only be expanded to those colleges with capacity.

Some of the concerns and comments raised during the discussion were:
• high failure rate due to admissions criteria not being applied at FET colleges
• qualified engineers who did not have work placements
• racial profile of teacher training students
• which two private higher education institutions (HEI) were deregistered
• supported all FET and university councils undergoing training to prevent more HEI financial disasters
• a request for a progress report on struggling college interventions
• unequal allocations given by NSFAS, especially for accommodation and transport
• catch-up plan for students affected by Walter Sisulu university strike
• when the outstanding 18 106 FET certificates would be issued.
• DHET performance targets were low and vague
• what was the cost of eight colleges being under administration
• HEI building delays due to environmental impact assessments.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed the Deputy Minister and the large delegation of about 17 officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). She noted that the Committee did not have a quorum but no decisions were to be taken. She emphasised that she wanted a ‘true reflection of what was happening on the ground’ because a previous presentation on institutions under administration had left committee members surprised by media reports about events unfolding at Walter Sisulu university.

Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director-General of Education acknowledged the Chairperson’s comments and promised to highlight challenges as well as the achievements. He felt that DHET reports were a true reflection of their mandate and the DHET had met the challenge of retaining Walter Sisulu University as a going concern. The University had been overdrawn and creditors had not been paid. It was now breaking even and there had been no destruction of property because of the way the labour dispute had been handled. Before moving on to the presentation, Mr Qonde said that the FET college handover was problematic as funding was still with provinces. In some cases funds had been diverted and infrastructure neglected.

Further Education and Training (FET) enrolment had increased by 90% from 2010. University enrolment had increased by 14%. Two new universities would open in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape in 2014. The Medunsa campus would unmerge from the University of Limpopo. Twelve new FET campuses had been or were being built. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had allocated bursaries to 222 817 FET students and 210 000 university students, a substantial increase in numbers and amounts. Nearly 13 000 new teachers graduated in 2012, up from 6 000 in 2008.

Of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s 107 targets, 62 were met, 33 were partially achieved and 12 were not achieved. A further 11 were achieved after March 2013.

Before DHET was established in 2009, many National Certificate (Vocational) NC(V) certificates had not been issued because public FET colleges owed certification fees to Umalusi. The DHET ensured that Umalusi lifted this block so that 16 602 certificates could be issued. A similar situation existed at private FET colleges and the DHET had contacted these to settle their debts. A further 18 106 certificates, the bulk of the backlog, had not been issued because of anomalies in the State Information and Technology (SITA) datasets. SITA was sourcing additional capacity to resolve the matter. Forty students had been implicated in leakages of examination papers. Measures had been put in place and disciplinary proceedings undertaken. Sixteen FET colleges had Councils, at several more appointments were underway but eight colleges were under administration.

To strengthen financial and human resource (HR) management, accountants accredited with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and 20 HR generalists had been deployed at all FET colleges. To improve student performance, attendance was being monitored daily, particularly when attendance was linked to bursary payments and selection tests were administered at the beginning of the year. The NSFAS error rate was 50% at FET colleges.

Programme 1 (Administration)
Ms Lulama Mbobo, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services, noted the DHET achieved 100% compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) except that some suppliers were not paid within 30 days, because their payment details were incorrect or missing.

Programme 2 (Human Resource Development, Planning and Monitoring Coordination)
Mr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director-General: Human Resource Development, Planning And Monitoring Co-Ordination, said that the target of 90 days to resolve disciplinary cases was not met. The DHET would provide the chairpersons of the hearings with a mandate not to grant unnecessary postponements. The HR plan, the macro- and micro-organisational structures and service delivery plans had been approved for implementation. Institutional data from FET colleges, higher education and adult education had been integrated into the education and training management information system, and the data of 24 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) would be loaded during the course of the year.

The National Career Advice Portal (NCAP) had been established. A report on training investment would be produced by the end of October 2013. Relations with international partners were being pursued. Social inclusion and monitoring and evaluation targets were all achieved.

Programme 3 (University Education)
Mr Shai Makgoba, Chief Director, University Financial Planning And Information Systems, said that environmental impact studies would be achieved by March 2014. Gazetting of seats and interim Councils for the two new universities had not been achieved because the gazettes had not been published at the time of reporting. Each university had a programme qualification framework and spatial plan and the target of 20 universities to be involved in foundation phase teacher education had been achieved. A policy document on FET lecturer qualifications had been completed but not yet gazetted.

Shortly after the audit, the targets for female students, graduates overall, graduates in engineering science, human and animal health, natural and physical science, teaching and foundation phase teaching programme enrolment at university level had been achieved. He mentioned that the teacher attrition rate was high. 78% of universities had good governance and management. All private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were reviewed. The targets for postgraduate students and research outputs were met. The Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) for 23 universities was updated, meeting the target.

Programme 4 (Vocational and Continuing Education and Training)
Dr Maboreng Maharaswa, Deputy Director General: Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (VCET), said that 13 out of the 22 targets to plan, develop, monitor and maintain policy, programmes and systems for vocational and continuing educations and training, including FET colleges and post literacy adult education, were not met. In Adult Education and Training, the target of 255 000 enrolments was missed by 4 262 learners, probably because of inadequate funding. The target for FET enrolments overall was exceeded because of increased funding and campaigning to make them institutions of choice. The National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA) curriculum was not developed because funding only became available in the latter part of the financial year but would commence in the 2013/14 financial year.

The target number of FET NC(V) college students awarded bursaries was exceeded and eight colleges offered National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 5 to 6 programmes, achieving the target. However, certification rates in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification were low (24 to 43%). This low performance was attributed to lecturer incapacity, institutional instability and students’ inability to cope with subjects such as physical science, digital electronics etc. The pass rate for mathematics and mathematical literacy was slightly higher (36 to 85%) because of lecturer training and the development of assessment guidelines.

Bursary recipients performed poorly in VCET with a certification rate of 26 to 36%, suggesting that colleges did not apply eligibility criteria properly. Lecturers and support staff achieved the training target but the target number of provincial education department (PED) officials was not met because of absenteeism and unwillingness of some to incur costs.

Only 31 out of a target of 50 college Councils were fully constituted because of a failure to attract suitable candidates. The DHET was re-advertising. The post provisioning norms for HR management and planning were being researched.

Only 87% of FET institutions conducted national examinations in a credible manner – 13% were implicated in leakages of examination papers.

The targets to implement monitoring, evaluation and research for the improvement of the VET subsystem were met.

Programme 5 (Skills Development)
Mr Zukile Mvalo, Acting Deputy Director-General: Skills Development, said that after the Annual Report audit process, 15 277 artisan candidates were found competent and the target was exceeded, as was the number of candidates receiving work-integrated learning. No system to secure trade test tasks was developed. All SETA-accredited trade test centres were audited and were implementing the National Skills Development Strategy. To align skills development to the needs of the workplace, SETA strategic plans were analysed. Projects funded by the National Skills Fund numbered 157, 105 less than the target but R8.83bn was spent, R6,53bn more than the target and the number of learners trained in NSF projects was also exceeded by far (95 554 as opposed to a target of 32 179).

Financial information
Mr Theuns Tredoux, DHET Chief Financial Officer, reported that the DHET had received an unqualified audit opinion with findings which he explained. There were significant uncertainties as the DHET was the defendant in several law suits. Annual financial statements did not comply with the PFMA as corresponding figures had to be restated because of a calculation error in 2011/12 and new classification requirements for revenue, cash and equivalents. These were corrected. Not all actions plans to address the root causes of previous audit findings had been implemented and there was inadequate consequence management of this. The DHET did not have policies and procedures for collating, recording and verifying reporting on achievement of targets. The DHET did not have adequate processes to ensure that financial disclosure notes were accurate and did not manage risk appropriately. Not all performance targets were specific, time bound and/or verifiable. Not all information was reliable and 39% of targets were not achieved. The DHET completed action plans regarding these audit findings which were being monitored bi-weekly and reported to the Minister, Audit Committee and senior management meetings. The DHET underspent by R3 751 000, R2.2m of which was in VCET, mainly due to claims and invoices not being received. Verification processes were not performed prior to appointments.

Ms B Ncube (ANC; Gauteng) said that it seemed that admissions criteria had not been applied – were colleges and universities opening their doors to more students? At institutions such as Walter Sisulu university, where staff had voted to give themselves a 15% increase despite the institution’s dire straits, did the DHET have the power to prohibit such increases or could it only make proposals? She mentioned a college in Ga-Rankuwa which the Committee had been encountered on an oversight visit and was owned and run by disabled people in four rooms. They offered Adult Education and Training (AET) but the teachers had no access to development and also needed containers (for use as classrooms).

When ‘engineering sciences’ were mentioned, what type of engineering was this? Gauteng province had problems in maintaining infrastructure because there were no engineers or project managers. But research showed there were qualified engineers who did not have any work placement. Also, what percentage of teachers undergoing initial teacher training were African? This used to be a field dominated by white females. She supported the goal of all FET and university councils undergoing training to prevent more going under administration.

Ms R Rasmeni (ANC; North West) asked how the 15 277 artisans found competent were recruited and where were they trained. She was favourably impressed by a recruitment advertisement that she had seen in her province and would like a progress report briefing on struggling college interventions in the future. She mentioned that students said NSFAS concerns related to unequal allocations, especially for accommodation and transport. Students in residence would be given a transport allowance but students who had to travel were not, for instance. What was the impact of the unrest at Walter Sisulu university on students and staff? What was the catch-up plan?

Mr W Faber (DA; Northern Cape) wanted to know how long the outstanding 18 106 (NCV) certificates would take to be issued. Some of the students affected had been very angry and he expected to encounter them again. He suggested that DHET performance targets were low and vague and noted that the Auditor-General had said they were not specific. Surely they should be moderated; who set the standard? What was the cost of eight colleges being under administration and 20 HR specialists being deployed? He began to say that the Presidential Hotline did not work but the Chair interjected, saying that that was a ‘political issue’. He wanted to know the progress of the supply chain management investigation. Which were the two private higher education institutions which were deregistered? He was eagerly anticipating the establishment of a university in his province.

Mr T Makunyane (Limpopo, ANC) suggested that the duration of the environmental impact assessments was not taken into account when planning - they should be conducted at the planning stage. What was the DHET’s relationship with the National Research Foundation?

Mr Qonde said that until NSFAS FET student funding was increased to R1.98 bn, the role of FET college had not been emphasised. There was a shortage of skilled workers. There was graduate unemployment because the requisite skills were lacking. The ratio between college and university students was 1:4 and it should be the other way around. The FET college sector had to be expanded but could only be expanded to those colleges with capacity. The DHET had conducted a mapping exercise and identified gaps which was how the sites of the 12 new colleges and two new universities had been decided.

About Walter Sisulu university, the assessor had found that 80% of the budget went to salaries, taking money from student support and infrastructure. That had been stopped and in October 2011 the administrator had taken over. In 2012, workers and staff demanded an increase and took industrial action when their demands were not met. At the time the university was technically bankrupt, in overdraft and creditors had not been paid. Now the situation had been regularised and staff and workers demanded an increase of 15%, but settled for 5%. Harmonisation and rationalisation of staff was going forward. Some of the issues were that some staff got ‘commuting’ and travel allowances. ‘Commuting’ was an allocation made before 1994. In some cases, an individual’s allowance was higher than his/her salary. Both the academic and financial models that had been applied meant that there were deep systemic flaws. The staff acted against the interest of the institution. He said he would investigate the institution mentioned by Ms Ncube and revert back to her.

Regarding engineering qualifications and the shortage of engineers, engineering graduates had to register with the professional council. Mr Qonde speculated that, instead of doing this, new graduates won tenders and managed projects rather than work as engineers.

He agreed that training Council members was good, but added that ‘you could not train people not to steal’.
Eight FET colleges were under administration, and this always was due to finances.

On the strike impact at Walter Sisulu university, management had developed a student catch-up programme which was working well.

It was not possible to give a time frame for issuing the outstanding FET certificates as the DHET was working with the State Information and Technology Agency.

Targets were set in collaboration with institutions. The institutions trained, the DHET facilitated and the DHET and institution worked on a strategic plan together. There was a disjuncture in that the academic year did not coincide with the financial year and the lag showed up in annual reports.

The cost of administration was far lower than the cost of dysfunctional institutions.

DHET not meeting the 30-day payment deadline for creditors was because service providers had given incorrect payment details.

Delays caused by environmental impact assessments was the DHET’s fault – they had not realised it was a continuous process and not a once-off.

A DHET representative said that the DHET had collaborated with the Department of Labour to set charges. The officials concerned were on cautionary suspension until the charges were brought and two officials had been given written warnings. Another representative said that the colleges concerned were Style Design and a commerce and computer college, both in Durban.

More than 60% of the initial teaching graduates were female.

A DHET spokesperson said that 2013 was the Year of the Artisan and 2014-2024 the Decade of the Artisan. There were two routes to artisanship, sanctioned by the Manpower and Training Act. All 50 colleges should have SETA offices by the end of the year. To qualify as an artisan, a candidate had to have N2 theory and three or four years of experience. The DHET was piloting a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) programme.

There were many engagements to ensure that claimants were not awarded duplicate payments. A task team of directors-general, their deputies and CFOs met regularly to address this and financial, research and productivity were all addressed too.

The Committee was told that a report on less-than-functional institutions would follow.

In closing the meeting, the Chairperson said that there were instabilities in colleges caused by the handover of these from provinces to the national department and something should be done. It was ‘embarrassing’ that appointments were made without qualifications. The number of resignations was also high. The causes of the resignations should be investigated and a retention strategy should be devised.

The meeting was adjourned.


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