Legacy Report & Summary Report on Committee's oversight: Content Advisor's briefing

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

30 July 2014
Chairperson: Ms E Prins (Western Cape, ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Content Advisor briefed the Select Committee on the Legacy Report of the Select Committee’s predecessor in the Fourth Parliament, and explained that this Legacy Report was intended to inform the incoming Committee of the scope of work, oversight visits and set out recommendations on various topics or departments overseen. The previous Committee had overseen the Department of Communications (DOC),  Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), and Department of Labour, and their entities. This new Committee would be overseeing the DOC, the DPE, the new Department of Telecommunications and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and their respective entities. For this reason, matters in the Legacy Report highlighting legislation of the Department of Labour were no longer relevant to the Committee.

He went briefly through the oversight responsibilities of the Committee. He then described the purpose and main work of the Department of Communications and its entities. The main issues here were the process of digital migration, which had been delayed as a result of a court dispute, the funding of the process, the need to increase e-skills through the National E-Skills Plan of 2013, and the need for South Africa to reclaim its position as the leading ICT country in Africa. The Department of Public Enterprises was primarily concerned with driving investment, productivity and transformation in the State Owned Companies (SOCs), customers and suppliers so as to unlock growth, drive industrialisation, create jobs and develop skills. The DPE provided direction to the SOCs to ensure that their businesses were aligned with policy and growth strategies. Some of the major challenges and issues requiring further follow up were described for its entities Alexkor, Broadband Infraco,  Denel, Eskom, Safcol, South African Airways, SA Express and Transnet. It was then explained that the Department of Science and Technology must develop, coordinate and manage a national system of innovation that would bring about maximum human capital, sustainable economic growth that will improve the quality of life for all. The main focus was to develop the innovation capacity to contribute to socio-economic development, and enhance South Africa’s knowledge generation capacity in order to produce world class research outputs. Specific attention needed to be paid by the Committee to following up on the Ten-year Innovation Plan, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), biotechnology and health, the ICT roadmap implementation, the social impact and technology localisation. Finally, the Content Advisor listed the bills that would have to be considered by the Committee, introduced by the DOC. A brief summary was given of the oversight visits, and items that the Fourth Parliament had recommended must be followed up by this new Committee, including ensuring that PostBank did not become privatised, that the costs of communication were brought down, and that new legislation specified a role for “Parliament” rather than “The National Assembly”.

Members of the Committee expressed dissatisfaction with such a long presentation and said that it would have been more useful had the actual Legacy Report been provided to Members so that they were able to read and study it for themselves. Furthermore, they commented that it was unfortunate that the detailed information on the departments being overseen had not been provided prior to those departments presenting their strategic plans, as it would have been useful to correlate recommendations in the Legacy Report with specific aspects of the strategic plans. Members asked that they, as had happened in other committees, should be given a toolkit containing all relevant legislation of each department and its entities, and a summary of the frameworks and links to the National Development Plan, State of the Nation Address and other policies. The Chairperson confirmed that the timing had been unfortunate, and this presentation should ideally have been given earlier, but confirmed that this would be done.
 

Meeting report

Legacy Report of the Fourth Parliament, and entities overseen by this Committee: Content Advisor’s
briefing
Mr Eric Boskati, Content Adviser to the Committee, said that his presentation would focus on the purpose of the Legacy Report of the Committee in the Fourth Parliament (the Legacy Report), the role of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), and oversight responsibilities of the Committee. He would also outline the nature of the oversight that this Committee exercised over the Department of Communications (DOC) and its entities the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and its entities and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and its entities, the issues for consideration for each of these departments, the legislatives challenges and recommendations on issues needing to be followed up.

Mr Boskati said that the purpose of the Legacy Report was to give an account of the Committee’s activities during the Fourth Parliament, and to inform new Members of key issues for follow up in the Fifth Parliament. In the Fourth Parliament this Committee had overseen the DOC, DPE and the Department of Labour, as distinct from its current role to oversee the DOC, the new Department of Department of Telecommunication and Postal Services, DPE, and DST.

Mr Boskati said that the mandate of the DOC was to create a vibrant ICT sector that ensured all South Africans had access to reliable, affordable and secure ICT services, in order to advance socio-economic development goals and support the Africa agenda. The objectives of the DOC were to develop ICT policies that positively impacted, in a sustainable way, on the well-being of all South Africans, to contribute to an inclusive information society, and to contribute to e-skilling the nation for an equitable society.

Mr Boskati noted that entities under DOC included the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Sentech, the National Electronic Media Institute of SA, the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA), South African Post Office (SAPO), Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA), and ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA).

Mr Boskati said that continuing issues that for consideration by this Committee in respect of the DOC included the digital migration process. There had been delays as a result of a court dispute and the funding of the digital migration process was a challenge. DOC was still developing a broadband policy to reduce costs and increase access. With regard to community radio stations, there was a challenge of infrastructure support to community radio stations across several provinces. In respect of ICT rural development, there should be an implementation of the business plan that had identified 61 rural sites. There was a need to increase the level of e-skills in the country through the National E-Skills Plan (NeSPA 2013). In respect of international forums, South Africa needed to reclaim its position as the leading ICT country in Africa.

Mr Boskati said that the mandate of the DPE was to drive investment, productivity and transformation in the department’s State Owned Companies (SOCs), their customers and suppliers, so as to unlock growth, drive industrialisation, create jobs and develop skills. The objective was to provide direction to the SOCs, so that their businesses were aligned with the growth strategies arising out of the New Growth Plan (NGP) and the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP).

He then outlined the main issues for consideration around the State Owned Companies. In Alexkor there should be identification and funding of new mining ventures for future sustainability of the entity. Broadband Infraco needed to be recapitalised to enable it to fulfil its mandate of making broadband services accessible to under-serviced and underdeveloped areas. In respect of Denel, the Committee would have to monitor the implementation of the company’s turn-around strategy. The main issue for Eskom was this entity’s ability to maintain adequate energy supply to meet demand. This included considerations around the restructuring of the electricity industry, as contemplated in the Independent System and Market Operator’s Bill (not yet in operation). With regard to Safcol, the land claims against the entity’s plantations had affected the company’s future investments. The main challenges with South African Airways (SAA) were around the airline’s balance sheet, resolving the Airbus deal and the implementation of the company’s turn-around strategy. In South African Express (SAX) there were weak internal controls that had resulted in inability to account for expenditure, which had delayed the tabling of the company’s 2012 Annual Report. In respect of Transnet the Committee should monitor the company’s infrastructure build programme and the completion of the Multi-Product Pipeline.

Mr Boskati said that the mandate of DST was to develop, coordinate and manage a national system of innovation that would bring about maximum human capital, sustainable economic growth, and improvements in the quality of life for all. The objectives were to develop the innovation capacity of the National Science Institute (NSI) and thereby contribute to the socio-economic development. It was also to enhance South Africa’s knowledge generation capacity in order to produce world class research outputs.

Mr Boskati said that issues to be considered in respect of DST were the Ten-Year Innovation Plan (TYIP),; the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), Biotechnology and Health (CAPRISA), Implementation of the ICT Roadmap, Science and Technology for social impact, and the Technology Localisation Programme.

Mr Boskati said that Bills to be considered by the Committee in respect of the DOC included the SA PostBank Amendment Bill [B14B-2009]; SA PostBank Amendment Bill [B2B-2010]; SA Post Office Amendment Bill [B24B-2013]; ICASA Amendment Bill [B18B-2013]; and the Electronic Communication Amendment Bill [B17B-2013].

Mr Boskati summarised that the Legacy Report stated that the Committee in the Fourth Parliament had undertaken 11 oversight trips, one study tour and six international agreements. There had been visits to DOC entities ICASA, Multi-choice, SABC, MTN, Vodacom, Sentech, Neotel and Telkom. In respect of the DPE oversight, the Committee had visited Eskom’s Nuclear Power Station at Eskom, the Transnet Port of Ingqura, and the Eskom Medupi Power Plant that was under construction.

Mr Boskati summarised the issues that would have to be followed up in this Parliament. It must ensure that the SA Post Bank did not end up being privatised, as had been the case with the Japanese model. It must ensure that the DOC fulfilled its commitments, particularly ensuring that the costs of communication in the country were reduced. The tendency, in legislation and other documents, to refer to the “National Assembly” instead of to “Parliament” should be addressed.

Mr Boskati concluded that the recommendations in the Legacy Report were that more oversight visits should be done by the Committee to ensure that there was real change on the ground. The Committee should also ensure an effective implementation of Government policies (NDP, NGP, IPAP) through its oversight of the relevant portfolios.

Discussion
Mr J Nyambi (Mpumalanga, ANC) said that the first concern was that this Committee should “practice what it preached”, especially when dealing with presentations, and be consistent. He noted that this presentation had been quite substantial, taking about two hours, but most departments presented in less than 40 minutes.
           
Mr Nyambi asked where the actual Legacy Report of the Fourth Parliament was. He noted that the reason why this presentation had taken so long was that it essentially detailed what the Legacy Report said, and he thought that it would have made more sense to provide the Report to the Members, so that they could refer to it themselves. This differed from a Departmental presentation, which outlined recent developments or touched n issues not in the slides. He believed that it was very important for Members to have the Legacy Report before even discussing the presentation. It would  also explain the question of Bills that were under the Department of Labour, and he reminded Members that the Department of Labour was no longer being overseen by this Committee. He also thought that Mr Boskati had not been very clear on the distinctions between the DOC and the new Department of Telecommunications. He urged again that the Legacy Report itself must be made available, as this presentation had not given enough assistance to Members.

Mr P Parkies (Free State, ANC) appreciated the energy displayed by Mr Boskati, and said that this had been a very detailed presentation. However, he shared Mr Nyambi’s concerns saying that without the original Legacy Report being made available, the Members did not have substantial information to which to refer in the future. He agreed with Mr Nyambi that it was desirable for all Members to get the original source documents to study and analyse. Not every piece of information in the Legacy Report would have been presented. There were new Members of that Committee, who needed that background, and it was unfortunate that this information had not been provided prior to the presentations by the departments to link aspects highlighted in the Legacy Report with aspects of the Departmental Annual Performance and Strategic Plans.

Mr M Rayi (Eastern Cape, ANC) said that at a stage during Mr Boskati’s presentation, she had considered whether to ask that it be halted and for the Committee to discuss the way forward. Members of this Committee who also served on the Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources had dealt with the Legacy Report of its predecessor committee in the Fourth Parliament, and in that committee it had been decided that from the outset Members needed to get a “toolkit” that contained all the relevant legislation of the departments and their entities, so that Members had a full appreciation of the framework and workings of each department, and how they responded to the State of the Nation Address, the National Development Plan and other priorities.

Mr Rayi suggested that the Content Adviser, the Committee Secretary and the Chairperson should ensure that full reports and legislation be forwarded. He suggested that these issues could be discussed again during the strategic session that would plan the Committee priorities for 2014 to 2019.

The Chairperson apologised to Members that they had not received these documents earlier and explained that it had initially been thought that the Content Advisor would be able to give this briefing prior to the strategic meetings. She agreed that Members would receive the documents by Friday, to be able to engage with them during the recess.

She thanked the Content Adviser for his hard work, said that he should not be discouraged by the Members’ comments but accept them as an indication of the way in which Members wished to work.

Committee Minute Adoption
The Committee adopted the Minutes of 16 July 2014, without amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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