Government Communication Information System & Independent Communication Authority of South Africa on their Third Quarter Performance Reports

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Communications and Digital Technologies

02 September 2014
Chairperson: Mr H Nkoana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Government Communication Information System (GCIS) and Independent Commission Authority of South Africa presented their third quarter performance reports.

Most of the achievements of GCIS rested on its contribution to the state funeral of the former Head of State Nelson Mandela among them included providing media centres to cater for the accredited 5000 broadcasters, photographers, and print journalists facilitating the dissemination to four billion people around the world, distributing memorial service programmes and publishing key messages related to the funeral. The unexpected departure of Nelson Mandela led to a budget overrun of R3 million. Some of the key achievements of GCIS in the third quarter included producing 48 000 public sector magazines, 5.1 million copies of Vuk’uzenzele, 1350 copied in Braille, 14 000 GovComms, publishing 1133 daily news updates on key government activities, 148 posts on facebook with 316 454 views, 69 videos for You Tube page, added 151 photos on flickr and 19 links for web streaming and 12 electronic My District Today newsletters published among others.

Members were concerned with the criteria in which GCIS measures the effectiveness of its programmes, the fake sign language interpreter, effectiveness of Izimbizos and who gets breaking news synopsis. An EFF member said he was unhappy that the current Deputy President and the Speaker of Parliament chaired proceedings of the state funeral of Nelson Mandela yet both who were not playing any role in government at that time.
GCIS replied that it conducted research on people’s perceptions on government activities. GCIS was not responsible for the fake sign language interpreter and an inquiry was underway.

The Minister and Deputy Minister of Communications urged Members not to ask officials questions that were not within their jurisdiction.

ICASA presented its third quarter performance report which was focussed on the cost to communicate which resulted in a court case by MTN and Vodacom, local loop unbundling phase 2, digital Terrestrial Television readiness but it was hamstrung by set-top boxes, spectrum licensing of 800MHz and 2.6GHz and access to broadband services. Key challenges included understaffed compliance department does not have sufficient staff to discharge functions of monitoring and ensuring compliance as well as handling of complaints, ICASA submitted a request for additional funding to Department of Communications (DOC) but it was unlikely to be successful it currently spends 65% of its budget on staff, difficulty in appointing consultants for the frequency migration plan and its performance was 41% up from 31% in the 2012/13 financial year.

Concerns were raised by Members on whether the functions of ICASA fall under DOC or they should have fallen under Telecommunication and Postal Services. Other concerns were the use of consultants, consumer complaints turn around and procurement of equipment overseas at the expense of local companies at a time South Africa had unemployment.
ICASA replied that it was put under DOC by the Presidency but it was willing to appear before any Committee when need arise. Some of the equipment it needed was only produced by two companies in the world which were not found in South Africa and was therefore forced to procure abroad. The consumer turnaround time was 30 days but it was imperative for the complainant to do a follow up lest it may be forgotten. Minister of DOC urged members to refrain from asking officials awkward questions or they had an ulterior motive they were trying to pursue.


Meeting report

An apology was tendered on behalf of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Ms J Moloi-Moropa (ANC) who was recovering from a surgery. In her absence, the Committee had to elect an Acting Chairperson. Mr M Kekana (ANC) nominated Mr H Nkoana (ANC). This nomination was seconded by Ms N Ndongeni (ANC).

Briefing by Government Communication Information System

Ms Phumla Williams, Acting CEO of GCIS, presented the third quarterly performance report from 01 October to 31 December 2013.

Ms Williams told the Committee that the GCIS contributed to the State Funeral of former Head of State Nelson Mandela in the following ways:

- Providing media centres to cater for the accredited 5000 broadcasters, photographers, and print journalists facilitating the dissemination to four billion people around the world;

- Managed and operated a media centre from 6am to 10pm daily;

- Operated 24 hour Joint Media Operating Centre  comprising communicators from various government departments;

- Conducted site visits to determine and provide for communication services;

- Developed communication guidelines and protocols to direct all communication activities during the state funeral;

- Developed a blueprint for executing the communication work stream for the state funeral;

- Published key messages and relevant content for the various activities related to the funeral;

- Distributed 5500 State Funeral programmes and 8500 copies of Memorial Service programme;

- Provided branding at the memorial service lying in state, Nelson Mandela Museum, Qunu homestead, Mandela family residence and State Funeral service;

Key Achievements
The following points were listed as the key achievements of the GCIS:

- Maintained a vacancy rate below 8% target;

- 99.9% of payments were processed within 30 days;

- Implemented the communication programme approved for the 2012/13 annual report

- Monitored and implemented risk mitigation plans

- The second quarter 2013/14 financial reports were submitted to National Treasury by 31 October 2013

- GCIS facilitated three training sessions for government communicators

- GCIS partnered with Lead SA, Proudly SA and Department of Arts and Culture to launch 20 years of freedom campaign

- GCIS held a mid-term review session of the implementation of the annual performance plan and to plan for the 2014/15 financial year

- Produced 48 000 public sector magazines

- 5.1 million copies of Vuk’uzenzele were produced

- 1350 copied of Braille copies were produced

- Produced 14 000 GovComms

- Published 1133 daily news updates on key government activities

- 148 posts on facebook with 316 454 views, 69 videos for You Tube page, added 151 photos on flickr and 19 links for web streaming

- 12 electronic My district today newsletters published  

- 114 Thusong marketing events among others

1) There was an increased in demand for communication services;

2) Postponement of milestones due to other work demand especially during the days of the state funeral which resulted in a budget overrun of R3 million

3) Fewer requests were received for other services  

Ms Ndongeni asked the status of fraud prevention management that was supposed to be communicated in the third quarter. She asked the ability of GCIS to pay leases for all its buildings for Thusong service centres. She asked the turnaround strategy for the circulation of Vuk’uzenzele in rural areas.

Mr G Davies (DA) asked where the work of GCIS and communication directorate of each government department begins and end. He wanted clarity on the training of government communicators. He asked for the effectiveness of social medium as knowledge forum since the Tell Your Story campaign launched on 29 August had only 86 followers on Twitter against a 3 million Twitter users in South Africa. He asked who was present for the Communications Cluster Meeting in Nkandla and what was discussed there. He commended GCIS for the role it played on the funeral of Nelson Mandela, but it was marred by the booing of the President and a fake sign language interpreter. He asked the progress and outcome in the inquiry of the fake sign language interpreter and who was responsible for the fake sign language interpreter. He asked the Minister and Deputy Minister of Communications as to when a permanent Chief Executive Officer for GCIS was to be appointed given that the current had been acting since 2012.

Mr Kekana applauded the sterling job done in compiling the report. GCIS had vacant posts which were against the President promises of making sure that people work, eradicate unemployment and fight corruption. He asked the number of vacant posts, when GCIS intends to fill them and where they advertise them. He asked if GCIS had any litigation and if so, what happened.

Mr R Tseli (ANC) asked who gets breaking news of sms synopses. He asked the extent to which Izimbizos respond to issues raised by communities.

Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) said GCIS should have planned ahead of the Nelson Mandela funeral as it shifted resources to cater for the funeral given that there were talks of his possible departure in previous years. He was concerned that the funeral was chaired by the current Deputy President and the Speaker of Parliament both who were not playing any role in government at that time. He asked if there were any efforts to move to inclusive ways. He asked the extent to which GCIS build interactive communication with media beyond the elite media. He asked how GCIS envisages transformation as it assumed a bigger role after reconfiguration of departments after elections. He said Marikana was an important event never seen in post 1994. GCIS paid important focus on the funeral of Madiba, 20 years of democracy and soccer. He asked if there any thoughts on annual work being done around Marikana in relation that GCIS was doing important work on events of that proportion.

Mr W Madisha (COPE) said GCIS overspent but it had not filled vacant posts.

Ms V Van Dyk (DA) said there was a huge demand for content and she asked the target market for content and the measurement in place to ensure that it reaches its desired beneficiaries.  In the Northern Cape for instance, 56% of the population speak Afrikaans, 23% Tswana and 3% English, but only English content was distributed.

Ms Williams replied that while it was known that the funeral of Mandela was to take place, it was difficult to plan when he was going to die. Nevertheless, when the announcement was made, GCIS was ready to accredit journalists. The sign language issue was not a responsibility of GCIS. GCIS was only responsible for disseminating information. It has agreed with the Department of Arts and Culture will be responsible in future for sign language interpreter. The funeral of Nelson Mandela was a three legged; the family, the ANC and government as former Head of State. Every month GCIS convene ministers in clusters to get an understanding of what they were doing. Any vacancy in GCIS did not run for more than 2 months. However, in December even vacancies that were on interview stage were suspended.

Mr Keitumetse Semakane, Acting Deputy Director General GCIS, said the two months vacancies turn around had been stuck to. GCIS was the only Department known for having the shortest vacancy turn around. GCIS has a staff compliment of 430 with 30 usually vacant. The training of new government communicators was to enable them to handling media, communication strategising and issues about responding rapidly and general functions of a communication officer, crisis management and communication management. An internal person was appointed to oversee process but an external one may be used should need arise. There were no litigations. Messages on fraud prevention involves what constitutes fraud, how to detect fraud and how to report fraud.

Ms Nebo Legoabe, Deputy CEO Intergovernmental Coordination GCIS, said at the Izimbizos scribes capture questions as there were raised by communities and the questions were usually not related to present minister. GCIS takes that information and forwards it to the relevant minister.

Ms Williams said there was no advert in Sunday Times or City Press can replace the electorate talking to their political principal.

Mr Harold Maloka, Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Content Processing and Dissemination, said GCIS conducts research to understand people’s perceptions on government to deliver services. GCIS was mindful about sending the right language to the right people in provinces. Social media campaign was does not involve looking at one account as it is run with partners that include SABC, Lead SA, Vodacom, Arts and Culture and, twitter and facebook account to achieve plurality.  Sms’ were only sent to government communicators

The Acting Chairperson asked how the curriculum was developed for government communicators. Department were expected to have submitted their communication strategies and how many had done so. The Marikana question was of political nature and not for officials.

Ms William said GCIS only pays for its office on Thusong centres. She said some government communicators come with journalism qualification but struggle in understanding communication to make it understandable to an ordinary person on the street. A curriculum was developed but resides with the National School of Government.  Departments’ communication strategies mirror five years and annually they develop communication plans.

Mr Ndlozi asked if GCIS was responsible for President Speeches and how was the effective communication of the President handled and his ability to deal with the media.

Mr Davies insisted GCIS inform the Committee on the status of the sign language inquiry since Ms Williams informed the nation that there will be an inquiry.

Mr Tseli said he was happy that the Mayor Thulamela in Limpopo convened a feedback session and not an Izimbizo. He said public servants had not been taken on board on implementing issues raised in State of Provinces and Nation Address. He said it was not the correct platform to debate on presidential speeches.

Ms Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, Deputy Minister of Communications, said every day, week and month, GCIS distributed messages accordingly on actions and intentions taken by government. GCIS did not have a mandate to declare Marikana a public holiday and whoever thought that it must be declared a public holiday must motivate it. She said even EFF had a team that worked on its speeches. The President was an effective communicator as everyone in South Africa listened to him when he spoke. The status of inquiry on sign language could not be communicated as it was for those actively involved. GCIS just communicated the intention and outcomes of the inquiry.

Ms Faith Muthambi, Minister of Communications said there was a commission of inquiry in Marikana and Members were supposed to allow the commission to do its work and avoid political gimmicks. The position of the CEO was going to be replaced by a position of Director General  and this was to be done after all functions were transferred by the Presidency including the organisational structure which must be approved by end of October which will pave way for appointing of accounting officers.

Mr Davies insisted that the Ministers answer who was responsible for the fake sign language inquiry.

Briefing by the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa
Mr Pakamile Pongwana, CEO of ICASA presented its third quarterly performance report with the following five key areas:

1) Cost to communicate which resulted in a court case by MTN and Vodacom;

2) Local loop unbundling phase 2;

3) Digital Terrestrial Television readiness but it was hamstrung by set-top boxes;

4) Spectrum licensing of 800MHz and 2.6GHz;

5) Access to broadband services.

The key challenges were that organisational realignment was taking longer than expected. The merger of IBA and SATRA was done without rationalisation and as a result licensing was found in the engineering division, consumer affairs and technology division.

The compliance department did not have sufficient staff to discharge functions of monitoring and ensuring compliance as well as handling of complaints.

Compliance department was utilised services of temporary staff.

ICASA had submitted a request for additional funding to the Department of Communications (DOC) but it was unlikely to be successful as it currently spent 65% of its budget on staff.

There was difficulty in appointing consultants for the frequency migration plan.

Performance was 41% up from 31% in the 2012/13 financial year.

59.8 million was underspent.

Remedial actions included reprioritisation of funds for projects, the transfer of regulatory functions back to the CEO filling of critical vacancies, acceleration of organisational realignment and refining of organisational performance.

Mr Madisha asked ICASA why it was unable to procure locally by procuring some of the equipment abroad. He wanted clarity on underspending and lack of proper delivery when money was there.

Mr Davies said the strategic objectives of ICASA were wholly concerned with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and not concerned with communications. He asked if ICASA’s organisational realignment meant going back to the split of merger of IBA and SATRA. He asked how many staff was needed for compliance and asked the Ministers when they were going to approve the funding request sent to them. The expenditure of ICASA was negative R 68million and yet only delivered 52% of its targets which was an acknowledgement that ICASA was failing in its mandate.

Ms Van Dyk asked the timeline to get a radio licence, how ICASA assists community radio and how long it takes for ICASA to respond to letter sent to it for she personally wrote a letter on 16 July but had not yet been responded.

Mr Tseli asked what mechanisms put in place to ensure that functions that were once transferred from the CEO to Council and transferred back again does not happen in future.

Mr Kekana was happy that ICASA improved from where it left. He urged ICASA to stop the use of consultants by capacitating it.

Mr Rubben Mohlaoga, Councillor ICASA said the Presidential Proclamation put ICASA under Communications and if invited with other Committees, it was willing to appear before them. The turnaround of letters was 30days, but sometimes fall in cracks and it was important for the complainant to follow up.

Ms Clarinda Simpson, Chief Financial Officer ICASA, said by the end of the third quarter ICASA had a positive R65 million surplus. The negative expenditure was a sum total of the deviation from budget. ICASA had to procure postal monitoring equipment because it was not successful in trying to procure it in South Africa. The local bid was cancelled because the subcontractor was contracting 75% of services. The spectrum management software was only supplied by two suppliers in the world which were not in South Africa.

Mr Pongwana said the realignment did not entail splitting ICASA, but it was meant to avoid braches working in silos as there was licensing officer focussing on postal, telecommunications and broadcasting operating differently. ICASA must be a converged regulator which means ICASA must not work in such old structures. On 21 March 2014, the Chief Legal Officer started work for ICASA. Clean audits was a priority but sometimes ICASA get qualifications in audits because it made a target to licence five radio stations and only three applied which means that it has not achieved a target. The trick with being regulator was to know when to regulate and enable and to regulate meant to enforce. When he began work at ICASA there was a strike on bonuses and the reality was that the relationship between management and the union. The merger of IBA and SATRA created a lot of support staff which created a base for unions which could not have been antagonistic. ICASA cannot afford to retrench people but only to retrain staff to carry out their jobs while attrition will happen naturally. The type of equipment that ICASA requires was high end which sometimes was only available abroad. The condition for using that equipment was that the supplier will train people to use it.

Ms Van Dyk asked if ICASA regulated the shifting of programmes on television.

Mr Mohlaoga replied that SABC will apply for channel authorisation and any deviation would get permission from ICASA. For example during the FIFA World Cup BrazilTM, SABC applied for the shift of programmes.

Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said Mr Davies should not have asked the officials from ICASA which department they must fall.

Mr Davies said there were not officials because they belong to a Chapter 9 institution which was independent from government and must answer for them.

Deputy Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said all Chapter 9 institutions reported to government through a particular department. There were officials wherever they were. President Zuma made a proclamation that ICASA must fall under communications. Some people have phobia that ICASA was put under to drive propaganda. If Mr Davies was not happy, he was supposed to challenge the Act. In future it will be appreciated if officials were not put under awkward position.

Minister Muthambi said Section 192 of the Constitution clearly explains the mandate of ICASA. People needed to respect the Head of State and such anarchy must not be allowed to happen unless there was an ulterior motive to happen in Parliament. All Chapter 9 institutions report to government through departments and that was the reason why the Minister of Communications was involved in the appointment of Councillors at ICASA. It was high time that the opposition came with proposals that were constructive.

The meeting was adjourned.


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