The meeting started with a briefing by the Deputy Minister of Communications, Ms Stella Ndabeni Abrahams who told the Select Committee that engaging with citizens was a top priority as it gave citizens an opportunity to give feedback to the government. She said the policies of the Department “were very good” with 62% of the population [based on votes] confirming that the government was being driven forward. However, there was a communication breakdown in the implementation of these policies. The Department of Communications came into existence to ensure that government communicated with the citizens.
The Chief Executive Officer: Intergovernmental Coordination at the Department of Communication (DOC) presented Department's strategic plan. The 2014 - 2017 strategic priorities of the DOC were to professionalise the communication system, maintain and strengthen a well-functioning communication system, provide efficient communication services, enhance image of government as well as providing a responsive, cost effective, compliant and business focussed corporate services. In the 2013/14 financial year, the DOC had managed to publish the first edition of South Africa’s Yearbook, 12 editions of Vuk’uzenzele translating into 20.4 million copies and 12 editions of the Public Sector Manager among others.
The Committee members were concerned that the programs and achievements did not represent the distribution in provinces as the NCOP represented provinces.
The Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services (TPS), Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, told the Committee that the priorities of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Service (DTPS) were to increase broadband roll out, reduce of cost to communicate, digital migration, corporatisation of the Post bank, improving e-government, cyber security, South Africa Competitiveness and oversight. She assured the Committee that the DTPS will be disciplined in terms of objectives and plans.
Questions from Committee Members centered on the corporatisation of Postbank urging DTPS to ensure that it did not operate like other commercial banks but operated in line with the objectives of the developmental state of South Africa by serving the unbanked and those side-lined by commercial banks.
Officials from DTPS said the corporatisation of the Postbank was now on the implementation stage with members to serve the board currently being identified. DTPS envisaged that the Postbank will be the bank of first choice and a bank that operated in markets currently untapped by commercial banks.
Introduction by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed Members and all participants to the meeting.
Briefing by the Deputy Minister of Communications
The Deputy Minister (DM) of Communications, Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, told the Committee that the President saw it necessary to reconfigure Departments because the government was not doing enough to communicate with its citizens except during elections. This was too late for the government to identify gaps in policies from citizens input. Engaging with citizens therefore became a number one priority for citizens to give feedback to the government. She said the policies “were very good” with 62% of the population [based on votes] confirming that the government was being driven forward. There was however a communication breakdown in the implementation of these policies. The DOC had a responsibility to brand and market South Africa by inviting everybody to the revolution of communication by ensuring that every citizen participated in government programs and government responded to citizen challenges. DOC was replacing what was previously known as Government Communication and Information System. The regulator and the Media Diversity and Development Agency (MDDA) were put under Communications. This did not compromise the independence of the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (ICASA).
Department of Communication Briefing on its Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan (2014/15)
Ms Nebo Legoambe, DOC Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Intergovernmental Coordination presented the DOC strategic plan. She said the plan was for the previously known Government Communications and Information Systems as functions had not yet been fully transferred following the reconfiguration of the departments into Telecommunications and Communications. She referred to DOC as GCIS to avoid confusion. The strategic priorities of GCIS (2014/17) were to professionalise the communication system, maintain and strengthen a well-functioning communication system, provide efficient communication services, enhance image of government as well as providing a responsive, cost effective, compliant and business focussed corporate services.
Mr Harold Maloka, Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Content Processing and Dissemination, GCIS, said GCIS was responsible for ensuring that government spoke with one voice to all levels of people, the young and old. In the 2013/14 financial year, the Content Processing and Dissemination division of GCIS managed to publish the first edition of South Africa’s Yearbook, 12 editions Vuk’uzenzele translating into 20.4 million copies and 12 editions of the Public Sector Manager among others. GCIS alerted citizens on breaking local and international news on social media platforms, print, radio, television for a better coordinated response. It also monitored the perceptions on government performance especially on key performance areas for interventions. It also ensured functional government internal communication systems.
He said the intergovernmental coordination and stakeholder management hold 486 events to market Thusong Service Centres, 44 editions of My District today, 2410 community and stakeholder liaison visits. Total expenditure for the 2014/15 annual year was R413.1 million, with R141.4 going towards administration, R99.9 million content processing and dissemination, R121.7 million intergovernmental coordination and stakeholder management, and R50,1million going to the communication service agency.
Mr C Smit (DA, Limpopo) said it appeared like GCIS was a one way communication system from government to the people. He wanted to know more about communication from the people to the government to avoid it being a propaganda machinery of the state.
Mr J Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked how DOC was going to deal with vacancies for strategic leadership in government communication. He asked if the programs outline were measurable and clear, or more than enough that they should be reduced. He said the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) represented the interests of provinces; he urged DOC to give a breakdown of offices in provinces for easier oversight. He asked about the distribution of Thusong centres in provinces so that they are not populated in metropolitan cities. He reiterated that when the DOC came to present to the Select Committee, it must reflect what was happening in provinces so as to have constructive engagement.
Mr A Singh (ANC, Kwa-Zulu Natal) asked if there were crucial vacancies within the institution.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM, Eastern Cape) asked the strategy used in circulation and distribution of newspapers and the Public Sector Manager Magazine. He asked any distribution targeting the civil society who represents the voiceless. He said in the Eastern Cape, the provincial newspaper was distributed all over the place including filling stations, supermarkets and beer halls. He urged DOC to consider doing the same so that its’ publications reached all people in South Africa. He said he only knew about the Public Sector Manager when he started serving Parliament.
Mr Gaehler said it was disappointing that the SABC was not broadcasting parliamentary proceedings and asked if any measures were being put in place to rectify this.
Ms B Masango (DA, Gauteng) said since GCIS was using a different platform to communicate with the public, she assumed that it covered the whole of South Africa. She asked for the distribution networks used to distribute magazines in rural areas.
The Chairperson asked if community and stakeholder visits helped impact the relationship between community and government.
In response, Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said she welcomed the Committees comments and advice. She said the DOC was ensuring two way communication through a programme known as Talk to Your Minister and the intention was to have the programme running everyday hourly to engage with community. She will invite Members to the Izimbizos to experience their effectiveness in communicating with citizens. She said 468 community radio stations in the country were for dialogue with citizens.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said for work done in parliament to be communicated to communities, she will ensure that the SABC 24 hour news channel was available to everybody.
Vacant positions will be filled after complete reconfiguration.
She said everybody knew there was SABC and GCIS therefore government was communicating with citizens.
The DOC always invited South Africans to effectively engage in Thusong Centres but sometimes the people did not participate which gave unexpected results.
The Deputy Minister said she took note of provincial representation and assured the Committee that next time programs will be show distribution in provinces.
She said the reason for utilising all media platforms was to get reach to the 54million South Africans with information.
Finally, the Deputy Minister said the budget of the DOC was inadequate to communicate and make an impact to the people.
Ms Legoamba said the DOC had good relations with community development workers, non-governmental organisations, traditional, leaders and ward councillors. These relationships were efficient to the extent that they sniff potential public protests. She said the NGOs were its’ major stakeholders.
Mr Maloka said the use of all platform initiatives was to ensure that the DOC had an integrated 360 degrees communication. For example, to mobilise people to clean South Africa on a Mandela day, it used the plurality of voices and media platforms to ensure every South African participated.
Mr Gaehler said there were certain programmes that run on SABC during the day when most people were at work for example, Ilungelo lakho. The program was very informative particularly with regards to legal issues, but the timing of the programme need to be changed so that people will be able to watch it at night. He was concerned with the post of Chief Executive Officer who had been acting for two years.
Mr Nyambi was happy that Department had been given to women at a time the print media was male dominated. He wanted to know how DOC was going to transform the media landscape to be gender balanced.
He said that since the NCOP represents provinces, he was looking forward to establish a working relationship with the Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator so that they could assist each other achieve the goals.
Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said SABC raised 97% for its revenue through commercials for its operations which minimized DOCs influence over matters of content. DOC’s responsibility was to ensure that SABC delivered on its public mandate and to dictate programme times at SABC meant increasing budget. The Ministry ensured that SABC puts everything in order before dictating issues of content. She said the acting CEO position will be replaced as Director General when reconfiguration was complete.
On media transformation, she looked forward to be invited by the Committee to discuss the challenges and ensure that Members become communication ambassadors as representatives of the country.
The Chairperson hoped that Ms Ndabeni-Abrahams will succeed with Thusong Centres as some of them were disasters. The previous Committee visited centres in Worcester and Stellenbosch and they were in a total mess. She wished DOC good luck for the tasks ahead and assured them that the Committee will collaborate on improving the situation.
Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services Briefing on Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan
The Deputy Minister of Telecommunications, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize made a briefing on the strategic objective of DTPS with regards to broadband roll out, reduction of cost to communicate, digital migration, corporatisation of the Post bank, improving e-government, cyber security, South Africa Competitiveness and oversight. She assured the Committee that DTPS will be disciplined in terms of objectives and plans (see the document for the introductory remarks about 8-10 pages).
Ms Rosey Sekese, Director General DTPS said while the reconfiguration of the departments were still in process, things were not going to fall in crack as it was to continue working closely with DOC pending finalisation of transfer of functions. The main priorities in the 2014/15 APP were to publish Draft a White Paper on National Integrated ICT Policy, having an e-Strategy gazetted extending broadband penetration to 100%, establishment of ICT BEE Council, increasing the affordability of information communication infrastructure, increasing SABC audience share to 53% and 67% for television and radio respectively, facilitating and coordinating the corporatisation of the Postbank and promoting e-literacy and among others. Strategic risks include not meeting the 2015 Digital Broadcasting Migration deadline, inability to achieve universal service and affordable access to broadband by 2020 and ineffective oversight of state owned companies. The total budget allocation in the 2014/15 financial year is R1, 59 billion. She said part of the budget was to be transferred to DOC as the reconfiguration process unbundles. On the corporatisation of the Post Bank, the DTPS was currently identifying board members in line with the Banking Act.
The Chairperson said the DTPS needed to come back on the 17 September to present the new turn around strategic plans when reconfiguration was complete.
Mr J Parkies (ANC, Free State) asked the nature of donor funding if any in the DTPS. He asked if any comparative studies were done on how other African countries managed to lower mobile rates.
He said the Post Bank must not operate like a commercial bank by making its services available, accessible and smart to the poor.
Mr Gaehler commended the presentation from the Deputy Minister and the Director General (DG) which was well structured and informative. He was impressed that the Deputy Minister and the DG spoke of the strategic risks it might encounter and mitigation strategies.
He asked if there were any vacancies at senior management levels.
He said figures for the medium term expenditure framework on broadband roll out should not be limited to one financial year and must be broken into provinces.
Mr Gaehler said DTPS must encourage other government department to use the Postbank for its sustainability. He said the Members of Parliament must use the Postbank and social grants must be distributed through the Postbank. Nevertheless, it must not operate like a commercial bank but in must operate in line with the developmental state of South Africa.
He said there was uncertainty on mobile termination rates and asked the DTPS how other African countries were able to lower the cost to communicate.
Mr Nyambi said in celebrating 20 years of democracy, the NCOP had declared that it will be business unusual.
He asked who was responsible for broadcasting between DOC and DTPS to avoid unintended consequences like what happened when Economic Development was created from Public Enterprises.
He asked when the functions were going to be fully transferred, who was delaying and what factors were delaying.
He wanted an assurance that there was enough human capacity in the DTPS to avoid over reliance on consultancy.
The Chairperson said the DTPS must give a breakdown of ICT connectivity in provinces.
In response, Ms Sekese said the transfer of function was dependent on National Treasury allocation to move money.
Mr Themba Phiri, Deputy Director General: ICT Policy and Strategy DTPS said the Postbank came a long way starting with passing of the Postbank Act in 2010. He said the banking environment in the country was regulated by the Reserve Bank.
The Parliament and NCOP in January 2014 debated the amendment of the Post bank legislation and signed by the President later to comply with the Banking Act. This was done to ensure the proper and fit process of appointing suitable members to the board of the bank who meet requirements of people serving in a financial institution. It was envisaged that the Postbank will be the bank of first choice, a bank that operates in markets currently untapped by commercial banks. It had to adhere in any case to the banking Act. DTPS was now at an implementation stage that to ensure that the bank is established
Mr Sibongile Mokopi, DDG: State Owned Companies Oversight DTPS said the government was not shy to deal with issues relating to mobile termination rates, but the telecommunications market was regulated by the ECA Act. The DTPS conducted studies as required by the ECA Act to ascertain where there are market inefficiencies and determine significant market power. The local loop unbundling programme was largely concentrated in the infrastructure of telecoms. Since DOC issued a policy directive in 2007, the market has evolved. The regulator should then conduct a new study to assess the environment and look on the economic impacts of unbundling the local loop. This will also focus on the wireless networks.
He said the broadband value chain had been done to assess the increasing levels of data pricing. Even though voice calls had decreased over the years, the data prices are still very high comparative to Kenya and Nigeria. It will follow processes determined in chapter 10 of the ECA to determine the way forward. There are efforts in place led by the Minister address as the political principal dealing with the telecoms.
Mr Mokopi said there was need for the transformation of pricing framework. There were hidden pricing practices in the industry with promotions running forever. The pricing transparency directive will assist the industry to make sure that there were transparent with regards to pricing, explain terms and conditions to the consumer and the consumer will exercise more choice with regards to the product.
He said national roaming was key to the survival of new entrance and smaller telecoms operators. He said when competition heightens, smaller players want to offer cheaper rates compared to bigger players but because of their infrastructure limitations, certain issues needed to be observed.
Home and away roaming is a program of SADC and there were a number of instruments adopted. South Africa may not be able to meet SADC protocol on roaming that is domestic calling rates comparable to calling Malawi and Botswana. The DTPS needed to conduct a study on the market inefficiencies with regards to roaming.
Mr Sam Vilakazi, DDG: Administration at the DTPS said there was a process currently with regards to transfer of functions and budgets. It involves the Presidency, National Treasury, DTPS, DOC, Department of Public Service and Administration. The deadline is 26 September 2014 for handover of all of the work.
Ms Kirtin Pillay Chief Director Human Resources at the DTPS said 92 senior managements position had been filled with 11 currently advertised. The positions were being filled on prioritisation.
Ms Nonkqubelo Jordan Chief Director: Africa at the DTPS said an internal donor funding strategy was adopted in 2012. It has just closed its books with regards to the European Union partnership. Using funds received from donors, it was able to hold a workshop on broadband implementation strategy with international advisors. South Africa is a member to the International telecommunications Union, African Telecoms Union, the Commonwealth Communications Union as well as the Pan African Postal Services Union and subscription fees are paid every year.
Mr Tinyiko Ngobeni DDG: Infrastructure Support at the DTPS said funds received for broadband infrastructure in the current financial year were for planning only to identify areas with gaps in terms of broadband penetration. The phase one implementation of broadband will be aligned to the pilot districts of the National Health Insurance.
On cyber security, the DTPS will finalise the implementation of the cyber security hub to gather security threats and find mechanisms to defend those threats.
Ms Sekese said the cyber security was headed by the State Security Agency since it was a national security issue.
Professor Mkhize said that following the proclamation on reconfiguration as a political announcement, there was a technical process separating the two departments in terms of functions and entities. The process had not yet been rounded off. She said the challenge of the Postbank was to make it competitive and true to the developmental nature of South Africa for the success of small to medium enterprises. The Postbank must be competitive without losing the fundamentals of serving the unbanked.
The Chairperson thanked the ministries and their officials, wished them good luck with their various plans and said the Committee will keep hold them accountable on the promises made during elections.
The meeting was adjourned
- Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS) Annual Performance Plan
- Government Communication and Information System Structure
- Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS) Annual Performance Plan (2014)
- Department of Communications Strategic Plan (2014-2019) and Annual Performance (2014/15)