White Paper on Arts, Culture and Heritage review; state of legacy projects & infrastructure maintenance: briefing by Department of Arts and Culture

Arts and Culture

17 March 2015
Chairperson: Tom, Ms XS
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Meeting Summary

The Committee expressed its condolences and observed a moment of silence on the passing of Minister Collins Chabane.

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) briefed the Portfolio Committee on the state of the legacy projects and infrastructure maintenance. Despite having succeeded in completing a number of projects and in performing well in recent years, the Department of Arts and Culture had, in this year, experienced some challenges with capital expenditure and project management. Being aware that the demands always exceeded availability of funding, it tried to balance the needs and performance of the various projects. Spending had remained positive over the preceding four years but in this year only 9% of funding was utilised. In 2014, 254 jobs were created on construction projects related to the National Legacy Projects (NLPs). Eleven legacy projects had been completed, in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape, and 29 were still in the pipeline, which would also achieve a better provincial spread. Challenges included labour disputes leading to work stoppages, and inclement weather resulting in construction delays, contractors abandoning site, slow remedial action, protracted engagement with stakeholders and unsatisfactory implementation by the Department of Public Works and  Independent Development Trust. The Department lacked capacity to determine value for money, especially when there were cost escalations. Challenges in expenditure were further affected by changes in leadership, administrative delays, and capacity challenges within the Department of Arts and Culture itself.

Members wanted to know how many people with disabilities were employed on these projects and were disappointed at the response that the Department was unable to extract these figures. They wanted more detail on who exactly failed to manage projects properly, why there was no monitoring and verification of work, and where the exact shortcomings lay. One Member said that the problems highlighted were exactly the same as the previous year, and questioned the assertion that change of leadership had affected spending. One Member did not find the pictures of sites helpful without narrative and more details were requested on the location of sites, how exactly money was spent, whether in constructing libraries all eleven languages would be taken into account, why there was not a general reference to other libraries, to explain media reports about large allocations. They were disappointed about the imbalance in provincial spread. They were particularly critical of the low spending and doubted that National Treasury would grant a rollover. Members insisted upon time-lines for proposals being made, and more detail on the plans of action, liaison and input from stakeholders and communities. The Department conceded that there needed to be a complete reworking of the planning, implementation and capacity capabilities of the Department.

The Department then presented the White Paper for Arts and Culture.

Members asked if sufficient provision was made for consultation, and whether time frames were set. Again, they were critical of the uneven provincial spread and urged the Department to pay more attention to disadvantaged sectors.

Meeting report

Chairperson's Introduction
The Chairperson noted that every meeting was important because of the oversight mandate the Portfolio Committee had to discharge over the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC or the Department) and its entities. Oversight was about asking the right questions and she commended Members on their work. The Committee had to open a window for the Department to do its work properly, not only for the benefit of the Committee, but for all the people they are serving. The Committee must actually, and be seen to discharge its mandate, and the people it was serving must be satisfied.

She noted the Committee's great sadness at the passing of Minister Collins Chabane, and asked Members to rise and observe a moment of silence in his honour.

Infrastructure programme for the state of legacy projects, and infrastructure maintenance: Department of Arts and Culture briefing
Ms Monica Newton, Deputy Director General, Department of Arts and Culture, tendered the apology of the Acting Director General.

Ms Newton noted that trends showed that, from 2011 to 2014, demands made from the Capital Works Fund always exceeded supply. The DAC sought to compensate for this by balancing the priorities of different projects carefully. Those that were not limited by funding were placed in a project pipeline until sufficient capital was available. If the approved project was under-performing, it was reviewed and those funds would be redirected to other projects in the pipeline.

Ms Newton mentioned that allocations and expenditure trends showed that spending over the last four years had remained relatively and consistently positive. However, the quarterly capital expenditure for the first quarter of 2014 was particularly challenged, with only 9% of the allocated funding being utilised.

Ms Newton highlighted that in 2014, 254 jobs were created on construction projects related to the National Legacy Projects (NLPs). by this year, eleven legacy projects had been completed, with seven being in Gauteng Province, two in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), one in the Free State and one n the Eastern Cape. 29 projects were still in the pipeline, bringing the figure to a total of 40 overall projects, spread throughout the nine provinces, which would eventually see a more representative depiction of the whole country.

Ms Newton pointed out some of the challenges that the Department had faced. These had included labour disputes leading to work stoppages, and inclement weather resulting in construction delays. Other issues had been found with contractors abandoning site and slow remedial action being taken. Sometimes there was protracted stakeholder engagement, less than satisfactory rates of implementation by the Independent Development Trust (IDT) and a lack of internal expertise to determine value for money, especially when there were cost escalations.

Ms Newton explained the challenges experienced with capital expenditure in 2015 as caused by changes in leadership, administrative delays, challenges with the Department’s implementing partners the Department of Public Works (DPW) and IDT, and capacity challenges within the Department and its entities.

Mr M Rabotapi (DA) asked how many people with disabilities were employed on the projects being presented.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) asked the Department to clarify on whose part there had been poor project management; whether it was the Department itself, DPW or the IDT. Further clarification was also requested on why no monitoring and verification of work had been done. She wanted more detail on the shortcomings in this regard.

Mr L Mahlangu (ANC) asked who the Director of Infrastructure Development was and how long she had been with the Department.  He said that a change of leadership was not a sufficient reason for the under-expenditure of the Department and asked for further explanation on this point. He also asked which particular change of leadership the Department was referring to as a challenge.

Mr Mahlangu requested exact coordinates for the sites mentioned, so as to be able to obtain a live feed, using ICT to zoom in on any properties to view their status live. He referred to the presentation and a picture of OR Tambo Memorial Site and asked what its relevance was, as it was not very helpful. Referring to expenditure spent on the Winnie Mandela House Project, he asked for further clarification where and how the R6   million was utilised. He also asked for more information on the Nelson Mandela House being built in Houghton. He asked what exactly the Department was planning to do in Vlakplaas to commemorate the history of the area. Referring to the construction of the New National English Literary Museum, he asked if the Department had plans to accommodate all eleven official languages in South Africa. He made mention of media reports of a huge amount of money being allocated last year to a project in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and to a project in Windybrow Library in Johannesburg and asks why they had been omitted from this presentation. He also asked why the Department has not raised anything about libraries. He also expressed disapproval at the uneven spread of legacy projects throughout all the provinces, with some provinces being more represented than others.

Mr T Makondo (ANC) referred to the reasons given for the Department's under-performance on these projects. These were exactly the same reasons advanced last year, and this was unsatisfactory. He also did not agree with the Department's assertion that a change of leadership had been a challenge unless it involved projects currently already under way. He asked for further reasons for the Departments under performance in this year.

Mr Makondo referred to the National Heritage Monument that was being erected and asked what would happen to the project if the Department's underperformance continued. He asked what caused the under-spending of 9% and expressed doubt as to whether the National Treasury would approve a roll over to give the Department more time to correct its spending.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) also expressed concern as to the Department's ability to obtain a rollover from the National Treasury and asked if it was in negotiations with the National Treasury to this effect. She asked where Bram Fischer House and Moroka House were located, and for details about these projects. She asked whether the Winnie Mandela Project was a provincial or national initiative and expressed concern at its slow progress. Lastly she asked what remained to be done with the Wesleyan Project.

Ms Newton replied that the number of legacy projects had grown exponentially over the last few years, and increasing each year. While the Department's work had grown, the number of staff had not grown in line with it. Acknowledging the Committee's concern with the Department's performance, she agreed that there needed to be an increase in technical and management capacity, internally as well as externally. This was also problematic when it came to project management and monitoring and verification. The Department did not currently have any data or statistics on what percentage of employees were persons with disability. There was also a need for the restructuring of the Department's relationship with DPW and IDT.

She added that the reason that the Windybrow Project and libraries were not in the presentation was that the Department had focused on heritage-related infrastructure for the purposes of this presentation.  A further report on performing arts infrastructure projects would be drawn up and presented to the Committee at the earliest opportunity.

Ms Paula Mabizela, Chief Director: Heritage Preservation and Promotion, Department of Arts and Culture, added that the number of jobs created came up to 430, and did not reach the goal that the Department had set, so there was a need to verify, at the end of the quarter, the number of jobs that had been created.

She said that the Department also had not been able to monitor the amount of expenditure that had gone through IDT. A new unit had been created, called the PSO, that took over the liaison between the line function and the implementing entity. When this entity was dissolved, coupled with the capacity problems the Department was facing, the monitoring of expenditure was not done well.

Ms Mabizela said that in addition to the number of women and youth employed, the number of persons with disabilities was not on record but would henceforth be maintained. The coordinates would be obtained and delivered to the Chairperson.

She then identified some of the sites questioned. Bram Fischer House was confirmed to be in Bloemfontein, and Moroka House was at Thaba Nchu. The picture of the OR Tambo homestead was intended to show the preliminary work that had been done at the site. It was clarified that R5 million had been set aside to purchase the Nelson Mandela House in Houghton. The Vlakplaas project was still in its conceptual phase, with plans for an indigenous garden. The structure itself would be turned into a museum, in an attempt to change the public conception of the place to one of healing, but the plans were still in process. The building of the Wesleyan Church was complete; all that remained was an approval of the exhibition to be held at the property. Finally, the name of the New National English Literary museum was to be changed to include all 11 official languages.

The Department was unable to comment on the amount of money that had been allocated to a project in KZN as it was a matter that fell under the purview of the former Director General, and was under investigation by the current Acting Director General.

Ms Mabizela conceded that equal provincial representation was lacking and needed to be improved.

Ms Pam Ben-Mazwi, Director: Infrastructure Development, Department of Arts and Culture, replied that the infrastructure programme was in crisis and agreed that the challenges mentioned had been presented to the Committee before. Some achievements were made, including the creation of an immovable asset register and proposals as to what capacity the Department would require to achieve the required aims and expertise. She noted that there was currently no person to manage expenditure which would explain the state it was in. The Department had managed to create strategies to centralise and capacitate the unit and also to obtain the technical capacity needed, in an effort to move forward and better monitor and evaluate operations.

Ms Newton also said that the Department was in constant liaison with the National Treasury about expenditure and strategies to move forward. The depreciation in capacity was attributed to budget cuts. She also explained that the change in leadership resulted in a change of policy and strategy and a rethinking of infrastructure is under way

The Chairperson mentioned that pictures in the presentation should speak to the narrative.

Ms Mogotsi expressed disappointment with the responses given by the Department and asked for time-lines to be given on expected improvements, and for more detail to be given about its plan of action. She also asked for further clarification on who exactly had stopped work, halting the progress of projects.

Mr Makondo asked when the Department had noticed that the implementation of its projects was struggling.

Ms Newton accepted the comments of the Members and agreed that there needed to be a complete reworking of the planning, implementation and capacity capabilities of the Department.

Ms Mabizela acknowledged the Members' comments about inclement weather. The work stoppages were mainly attributed to labourers contracted to build on site.

The Chairperson asked if, in the execution of its mandate in the different provinces, the Department took part in stakeholder engagement and if this was part of the brief with IDT on the projects. The importance of public participation was strongly emphasised.

Ms Mabizela replied that this was the case, and that there was also a heavy emphasis on social cohesion and community building.

The Chairperson reiterated the need for a clear and detailed infrastructure plan and timelines for progress, so that the Committee would be able to perform its oversight function properly. She also requested a brief on the Department's procurement processes.

Mr Mahlangu agreed with the Chairperson and called for an improvement in planning and operational management.

White Paper briefing: Department of Arts and Culture


The Chairperson asked if the Department had made sufficient provision for consultation, and if had set time frames.

Ms Tsoleli expressed displeasure at the Department's neglect of certain provinces in the consultation process, speaking in isiXhosa. (Check audio  1:57:12 -1:58:04: PMG was unable to translate this).

Ms Mogotsi and Mr Mahlangu agreed with Ms Tsoleli.

Ms Newton acknowledged the Member's input and agreed that consultation, however comprehensive it attempted to be, was never enough. However, the Department had sought to achieve a balance between achieving the Department's aims and having a credible consultation process.

The Chairperson noted the comments of the Members and contributions of the Department and called for an improvement in the consultation process. She particularly called upon the Department to pay particular attention to those who are disadvantaged.

Adoption of minutes
Minutes from 5 September 2014, 24, 25 and 26 November 2014, 27, 28 and 29 January 2015, 24  February 2015 and3 March 2015 were adopted, with no amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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