Department of Public Works on Phase Three of Expanded Public Works Programme, with Deputy Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

09 September 2014
Chairperson: Mr Martins B (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The presentation described the aims and objectives of the third phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which was designed to address the issues of unemployment and poverty, specifically among women and young people.   It sought to train millions of unemployed people across different sectors through various Public Employment Projects (PEPs) conducted mainly in conjunction with relevant municipalities.  These programmes were focused on both rural and urban areas, and would also cater for men, which was an issue of concern raised by a Member of the Committee.

The application of PEPs had achieved notable success, particularly in environmental services, where the Working for Water programme had saved as much as R400 billion and cleared over two million hectares of alien invasive plants.  The Eco-Furniture programme had used the wood from the alien invasives to make 500 000 school desks for disadvantaged schools. South Africa was the only country in the world that had a wide range of PEPs in the social sector.

A background of EPWP phases one and two was provided. The aim of phase one had been to provide training to all beneficiaries to be exited into the labour mainstream, and to create one million work opportunities by 2008/9.  This had been achieved a year ahead of schedule. Phase two had been launched with the aim of creating 4.5 million work opportunities across all EPWP sectors in all spheres of government and non-state sectors.

The presentation provided insight into the key lessons learnt from both phases, which included having too many objectives and that increasing labour intensity in infrastructure required a long-term perspective.  In phase two, there had been too much focus on employment targets and inadequate funding to skill all EPWP participants.  Potential difficulties were identified in the fact that there were three outcomes -- social protection (income), employment and the provision of assets and services -- and if there were efforts to maximise one, there would have to be trade-offs.  This could be to the detriment of the other outcomes.

The design of the EPWP phase three was outlined.  It was aligned to the two main objectives of the National Development Plan (NDP), which were to contribute to employment by being responsive to the number of the unemployed, and to contribute to the social protection of the unemployed by providing them with income.

Issues raised during the discussion included the duration of EPWP training, the amount of wages paid, as well times of payment.  Concern was expressed with regard to the age of 16 that was given in the presentation.  Members felt that this was a tender age for youths to be working, but it was pointed out that this was the legal age for work in South Africa, and the Department did not encourage working at this age. The targeted involvement for disabled persons was only 2%, and this was brought into question.  The Department admitted that this was too low, and it was still not being met.

Another issue of importance was the alleged use of political affiliation by some ANC members to secure participation in some EPWP projects, such as in Hammanskraal. The Department stated that it would require notification of such situations, and needed to make the public aware of the illegality of such conduct.

Meeting report

Briefing by Department of Public Works on Expanded Public Works Programme Phase 3
Mr Jeremy Cronin, Deputy Minister: Department of Public Works, briefly explained the origins of the programme, which was to address the socio-economic challenges of unemployment, poverty, a low skills base and poor social services.   At the Growth Development Summit in 2003, government, business and labour had committed to a range of interventions and pursuant to this, the Cabinet had approved the conceptual framework for the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in November 2003. The programme aimed at drawing significant numbers of the unemployed into productive work and skills training and to lift them out of the marginalised pool.

Implementation was done through Public Employment Programmes (PEPs), which had a long history of being used to address labour market disruptions and recession.  Internationally, PEPs were seen as part of ongoing employment and social protection policies which were used to create short to medium-term employment opportunities for vulnerable groups in society. The scale and innovative achievements of SA’s PEPs had attracted international interest, but the achievements had not been sufficiently communicated at home.  South Africa’s PEPs cut across several sectors and were championed through different line departments, provinces and municipalities.  They had both a rural and urban focus. Labour intensive methods were mainstreamed into government infrastructure contracts, rather than having PEPs operating in separate silos.

Notable achievements in the application of PEPs had been seen in environmental services, through programmes such as Working for Water, which had possibly saved as much as R400 billion -- according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) -- cleared over two million hectares of alien invasive plants and prevented the loss of 71% of grazing.   This was connected to the Eco-Furniture Programme, in which wood from alien invasives would be used to make 500 000 school desks for disadvantaged schools by the end of the 2014/15 financial year. The Working on Fire programme in 2007/2008 had saved the forestry industry R3.7 billion on a budget of R123 million.
He said that South Africa was still the only country in the world with a wide range of PEPs in the social sector. Through the EPWP, the Department was working closely with non-state sector programmes such as the Community Work Programme (CWP) and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), and he stressed that this was an important counter-weight to dangers of excessive bureaucratisation of PEPs.

Two case studies illustrated innovation in the PEPs.   The first was the Gauteng Extra School Support, in which the Gauteng Department of Education identified a series of challenges in schools, such as a lack of support for learners on homework, which was attributed to socio-economic conditions at home, the parents’ levels of literacy and child-headed families.  An EPWP response had then been rolled out from 2011 for homework and sport supervisors for grades 1-3, 4-6 and 7-12 on a half day basis, and this had resulted in 8 200 work opportunities at 911 schools. The other case study was on the impact of Working for Water, which had managed to save billions of rands in water losses due to alien invasive plants.

Mr Cronin provided the background for EPWP phases one and two, and mentioned that the objective of phase one was to create one million work opportunities by 2008/9, and to provide training for all beneficiaries to be exited into the mainstream economy, and this target had been achieved a year ahead of schedule. Phase 2 had been launched in 2009 with a target of 4.5 million work opportunities across all EPWP sectors in all spheres of government and non-state sectors.

The key lessons from both phases were that there were too many objectives, and that increasing labour intensity in infrastructure required a long-term perspective.  The effects showed that even though the programme achieved its targets within a year, there was scope to increase the average duration of employment.  Also, in areas where there was a high need for work opportunities, there were relatively few.  This had led to “job rotation” and a smaller impact per beneficiary.

In phase two, there had been too much focus on employment targets and inadequate funding to skill all EPWP participants. Labour intensity was improving, but there was potential for further improvement.  Potential synergies within the existing programmes could not be realised.  There had also been inadequate resource deployment by public bodies, and a duplication of effort by implementing bodies/sectors.

He indicated there was a ‘trilemma’ facing the EPWP.  This was embedded in the three outcomes -- social protection (income), employment and the provision of assets and services.   The trilemma was in the fact that EPWP’s development contribution came through providing all three of these, but there were trade-offs when one tried to maximise one of them.  Increasing one output resulted in a decrease in the others.  The nature of these trade-offs differed between sectors and sub-programmes.  Despite efforts taken by the government, unemployment in South Africa had remained high and the global economic downturn had made this worse and raised the need for the EPWP further.

Mr Cronin then outlined the design of EPWP phase three.   The National Development Plan (NDP) had outlined two key objectives for EPWP in that context, which were to contribute to employment by being responsive to the number of the unemployed, and to contribute to social protection for the unemployed by providing them with income.   He explained that there had been a paradigm shift from phases one and two to phase three.   This would see increased community participation for more visibility and ownership in poor communities, an increase in the scope of infrastructure maintenance, and more emphasis placedon the quality of implementation and developmental impact.  Lastly, the objective of EPWP phase three was to provide work opportunities and income support to poor and unemployed people through labour-intensive delivery of public and community assets and services.

Mr Stanley Henderson, Deputy Director General: EPWP, presented on the business plan of phase three of the EPWP.  He said that phase three would have universal principles, including adherence to the minimum wage and employment conditions under the Ministerial Determination and the selection of workers based on a clearly defined process and defined criteria.   This phase would target vulnerable groups, mainly women and youth, both at 55%, and persons with disabilities at 2%.  The youth target of 55% would progressively increase towards 80% for new entrants into the EPWP. The poor and unemployed would be targeted through a combination of geographical and community-based targeting, as well as self-targeting through the wage rate.

For all EPWP sectors, project-based training aimed capacitating participants remained an important aspect.  Strong collaboration with the National Skills Fund and Skills Education and Training Agencies (SETA’s) would be continued, to source funding for the training of participants. Where possible, the graduation of EPWP beneficiaries into formal employment would be promoted through various initiatives, including cooperatives and small enterprise development.

As the EWPW kept growing, both in terms of overall scale and the number of sub-programmes, concerns of possible areas of overlap and duplication had increased. These concerns were prominent between CWP and sector programmes, and the social sector and NPO programmes. To address this, there must be systems of convergence between all EPWP sectors and where duplication remained a concern, boundaries would be established between all sectors in EPWP, but in particular the social sector and NPOs.
There would be a monitoring and evaluation framework which would be enhanced to measure various indicators, including the number of opportunities disaggregated by women, youth and the disabled, the average duration of work provided to beneficiaries, and the minimum and average wage rate paid per day of work. The main focus of phase three would be to increase the EPWP contribution to development through improving the targeting of participants through community participation and improving the strategic and operational aspects of the EPWP.
To achieve better synergy, a Presidential Public Employment Inter-Ministerial Committee (PPE-IMC) to address strategic issues related to job creation and poverty had been approved. It would assist to ensure greater harmonisation and compliance across PEPs and also to resolve different challenges. The PPE-IMC would be supported by a technical secretariat made up of senior officials from the existing lead EPWP sector departments -- the Departments of Public Works (DPW), Environmental Affairs (DEA) and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). The technical secretariat would be convened by the Director General of the DPW.

Mr Henderson elaborated on the roll-out and launch of phase three, which had different activities and objectives to be carried out in stipulated periods. The objectives of the draft plan for the launch were to raise understanding of EPWP phase three, to generate support for the programme among key stakeholders and to mobilise the stakeholders to take ownership of the programme.  A task team comprised of EPWP officials had been established to work on the roll-out and the launch event to be held in the Eastern Cape.

Mr S Masango (DA) said the presentation had indicated there should be a balance, but he was concerned about training, in that skills were not being transferred, so the people were not benefiting or getting jobs. He asked how the Department was engaging with municipalities in terms of infrastructure.   Was there enough encouragement for people to get what they needed?  Should timeous payments to the beneficiary impact indicators not be included?   Did the EPWP have the capacity to ensure that all the aspects presented at the meeting were being complied with?

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) said the presentation had not talked about the challenges that the programme was facing in provinces and districts, even though it was a working programme.  She wanted to know about the relationship between the different departments involved.  She asked if there was a way to deal with the issue of 16-year-olds going to work, and also indicated that the disability percentage was too low, at 2%.

Mr M Filtane (UDM) asked if municipalities prescribed the type of work that would be done and that if municipalities could pick and choose, this might not result in adherence to the principles. He asked what was the average length and amount of wages in the programme, as this would allow the Committee to know the extent of the programme’s impact.   What was the link between the programme and the private sector, as the private sector could have space for participation?  What were the reasons for non-compliance with the minimum wages and what were the remedies for this? He asked if it was possible for participants to come into the programme at early stages, such as the production phase of bricks, instead of buying ready-made products.  

Mr K Mubu (DA) noted that poverty should not be politicised, but there was a perception that EPWP jobs were reserved for members of certain political parties only, in particular the ANC.  There had been instances in which people had been asked to produce their party cards in order to get jobs, as was the case in Hammanskraal, and he wanted to know what could be done in such cases.  Cape Town had a good track record for implementing the programme, and he asked if there were some notable lessons that could be learnt from its implementation. He criticised the manner of implementation, stating that it provided a short term solution to long term problems, and asked what was being done to ensure sustainability. He asked why there were disparities between the age groups provided for in the programme. There had been destruction of projects through protests, and he wanted to know if there were examples of this, and whether the EPWP had helped people to galvanise themselves around projects that they had been part of.  He noted that there had been no proper monitoring or supervision, and asked what was being done to ensure that money was being used in time.
Ms P Adams (ANC) asked what was going to be done with the issue of under-reporting. She asked what the criteria were for minimising patronage, and mentioned that youths at the age of 16 should be at school and not at work.  The impact of the programme was dearly felt in rural areas such as the Kalahari area.  She was concerned about the delays in payments which ended up causing unanticipated costs for the poor.   As a result of its success, the programme should be linked to the department responsible for small businesses.

Ms E Masehela (ANC) asked about the issue of adequate monitoring.  At times people did work and left it unfinished, and she wanted to know what the Department was doing to curb this. The Department needed to polish up on the issue of training and skills.  She asked about job rotation and whether one community could have more than one programme, as one programme did not address the problem of unemployment.

Ms N Sonti (EFF) said that the EPWP was good, but it would be better if people were employed on a permanent basis, paid timeously and received proper training.

Mr Cronin responded to the issue of training.  At times the training was accredited, such as the National Youth Service (NYS) programme, but it did not have many participants because of its cost. The Department, however, insisted that there must be some level of rudimentary training throughout all programmes.  He said that it must not be assumed that a certificate would guarantee formal employment.  The problems extended further than the Department.  There was a programme to integrate different departments on different projects.  

On engagement, he said that all municipalities reported unevenly through the Department and there was an incentive grant for which the department was responsible, but it wanted part of the programme to be unfunded.  Many things should not be done through a municipal programme.  He gave an example of a programme in George, in which unemployed people who owned bakkies were identified for a waste collection programme, which had been developed by the relevant municipality. On this point, he said that the Department must include participation by municipalities.  At the same time, the Department did not want to over-prescribe, but municipalities must develop their own capacity for running public works programmes.

He disagreed that the programmes were focused on rural areas, as they were both rural and urban. The Department of Rural Development was running a programme for employment which should be integrated.

He said that the 2% target for disabled people was too low and was not even being met, because people tended to think that EPWP programmes were only about construction, which was not disability friendly. There were other programmes, like the environmental programme, in which disabled persons could participate, and there were also workshops for the blind.   They could engage with disability structures, but he agreed that more had to be done.   There were different types of disabilities, including mental disabilities, and a lot could be done to incorporate all aspects of disability.

Mr Henderson responded to the Hammanskraal issue, and said that the Department would like to know where such incidents were occurring.  If the ANC was guilty of doing this, there was a need to monitor the situation and spread the message that this was illegal. He gave the example of India, where projects were advertised and the participants were named, and saidd that this might be done locally in order to ensure community involvement.  He added that municipalities were responsible for the selections.   In Cape Town, the Department ensured that the contractor advertised the jobs and skills required as widely as possible, and a lottery system was used to select participants in the presence of invited community members.  He also referred to the Sambasonke project, which was centred on rural road maintenance by female-headed households that were situated in front of the roads.  This was a permanent job, but the same project had collapsed in Limpopo.

He said that the Department did not encourage 16-year-olds to be working.   However, it was the legal age for one to be employed, although people of that age should indeed be at school.

On the issue of percentages, he said that there was 55% youth and 55% women because most of the youth to be represented must be women and the 55% of women would be realised through the youth percentage.  Women were the targets of these programmes.  They were aiming to scale up to 80% youth, but most people in the EPWP programmes were above the age of 35, which did not fall within the youth definition. Another issue was that the R71 being paid to most participants was not very attractive to younger participant,s but there were many other programmes.

The Chairperson called for a ten minute break.

Mr Thembelani Nxesi, Minister: Department of Public Works, said that there was no need to politicise the issue regarding preference being given to ANC members to participate in EPWP programmes.   There had also been complaints of bad performance in the Western Cape.
In relation to the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE), the Committee should give the Department space to come and present on this and its objectives. He said that it was about creating a government component.  The Department had certain objectives and wanted to closely monitor the process.

The Chairperson said that this issue would be slotted into the programme of the Committee for the sake of clarity on certain issues.

Mr Henderson responded to the issue of training and said that there had been good training but there were programmes in the Northern Cape that had gone on for three years but were not cost efficient. In terms of payment, he asked the Members to stay in touch so that a follow-up could be done on this issue.  On implementation, he said that the Department made site visits and it was on these visits that it was able to pick up on many issues, such as under-reporting.  Some municipalities were not record-keeping and in this regard, it would be ideal if municipalities ran programmes on a voluntary basis.  

On the youth age limit, he added that 16 was indeed the legal age, but the Department was not encouraging working at this age.  In South Africa, the youth age went up to 35.

He said that he would engage with municipalities, as projects and programmes have to be designed extensively in order to adhere to various objectives.

The average duration of EPWP jobs would ideally be 100 days, but people ended up working more or less than the 100, depending on the nature of the project.

The Department was working on the value chain, and had already seen this in the manufacture of bricks.   It was supporting this, as involvement of the community through the various stages of production was a key value in phase three.

In terms of full time equivalents (FTEs), the programme was measured on factors such as work opportunities and these differed in duration and where they were reported.  They may be short in duration, and the FTEs were recorded for the purpose of further funding.

Ms D Mathebe (ANC) said that her concern was that the EPWP was not being implemented in her constituency in Limpopo, and that there was discrimination in terms of hiring.

Mr Filtane asked about the average wage and time spent in the programme, and said he had a problem with the targeting of vulnerable groups, as the programme specifically excluded men although the decline in jobs affected both men and women.

Mr Masango asked if there was sufficient capacity to monitor all of the programmes.

Mr Cronin responded that there had been challenges in Limpopo, but he had been there a couple of weeks back and there were some nice programmes running.  He urged MPs to engage with municipalities to ensure that there were operational programmes in their constituencies.

On the issue of men, he said that if 55% represented women it meant that the remaining 45% was representative of men.  There was no exclusion, but women were affected more as they often had to take care of families.

Mr Henderson responded that the average duration was 100 days, but in some instances it may be 60 or 70 days, or even below that, and this differed from sector to sector. It depended on the nature of the project. Wages were based on a minimum of R71 per day, but this could go up to R150 a day.

On the issue of capacity, he said that the DPW had streamlined its operations.  The Department hoped that it could be able to do what it set out to do and where there were shortfalls, they would intervene to ensure that poor people were assisted.

The Chairperson said that engagement must be ongoing, and the underlying objective was to carry out their responsibilities to best assist the people.

The meeting was adjourned.


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