Independent Electoral Commission & Government Printing Works on their 2015/16 Annual Performance Plan

Home Affairs

24 March 2015
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)
One of the main challenges faced by the IEC was office accommodation. Municipalities were increasingly no longer in a position to provide (free or paid) accommodation to Electoral Commission staff since they had no spare capacity. Also due to the maturing of South Africa’s democracy and the sophistication of political parties, the Electoral Commission has experienced challenges from an increasingly litigious environment over the past few years. The IEC continued its research to establish what the implications of e-voting on the IEC were likely to be.

The IEC’s strategic goals were:
• Strengthening governance, institutional excellence, professionalism and enabling business processes, at all levels of the organisation
• Achieving pre-eminence in the area of managing elections and referenda, including the strengthening of a cooperative relationship with political parties
• Strengthening electoral democracy

The IEC allocated R 1 582 329 000 for 2015/16, R 1 642 063 000 for 2016/17 and R 1 149 887 000 for the 2017/18 financial year.

Questions raised by Members included: How measurable were the IEC targets? How practical where they? Why were there no quarterly targets? What measures were in place to get more people to participate in local government elections? Could the Committee be provided with a progress report on upgrading of infrastructure? What countries had the IEC studied on implementation of e-voting? Was South Africa ready for this system? What plans did the IEC have in place to promote voter education? What provisions have been made for 2016 to protect the elections from load shedding? How much did the IEC depend on the Municipal Demarcation Board? Could a report be provided to the Committee when the IEC would finish reviewing its legislation? Why was the country still experiencing such a low turnout during by-elections? What major disputes was the IEC still adjudicating on? What assistance was provided to other African countries which were hampered by outdated voters’ rolls?

Government Printing Works (GPW)
The clientele of the GPW were state departments and other organs of state. The GPW has the sole mandate of producing South African passports and identification documents, thus making the GPW a strategic partner of the Department of Home Affairs. The GPW was also securing work from the rest of Africa, however this still remained difficult. GPW still continued to print the African Union passport.

The GPW’s Annual Performance Plan priorities for 2015/15 were:
• Smart ID card – increasing production rate from 200 000 per month to 300 000 per month
• Interactive E-Gazette – going live in March 2015
• Implementation of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system
• Development of a R1 billion facility at Visage Street
• Construction of an examination printing division and Dispatch Centre
• Conversion to a State Owned Company.

A draft “State Printers’ Bill” has been produced and the Minister of Home Affairs has included this Bill as one of the three Bills to be for the legislative process. The intent was for GPW to transform from a Government Component to a State Owned Company. All assets would be ploughed back into asset recapitalization and development of the facilities. This development was part of the formation of a “capable and developmental state” as the National Development Plan puts it.

With regard to production statistics, during 2013/14, GPW produced 656 600 passport booklets, over 1.8 million identity document booklets, over 21 million examination booklets, 2 573 government gazette editions and 109 250 government gazettes. Smart ID card production began on 15 October 2013. So far, two million smart ID cards have been produced. Another 36 million smart ID cards would be produced over the next six years to replace the current ID booklets (plus 5 million smart ID cards for those turning 16 each year). Gradually, printing of green ID would be replaced by smart ID card production. The new smart ID cannot be forged. The launch of the smart ID card as a GPW flagship project has been a great success. The R400 million asset recapitalization project was also on track for completion by 2018.

Some of the questions raised by Members were: What was the expected introduction date of the State Printers’ Bill? Would GPW be receiving a budget allocation from the Department of Home Affairs when the entity becomes a State Owned Company? Would all GPW current staff be absorbed during the staff skills updates or would there be some retrenchments? Was the type of machinery being used at GPW going to replace staff, has GPW spoken to unions about this? What mechanisms were in place to check that staff did not engage in fraudulent activity in the production of smart IDs and other corruption, were lie detector tests an option which the GPW would consider exploring? What other countries was the GPW looking to do business with in Africa?

Meeting report

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) – Annual Performance Plan 2015/16
Rev Courtney Sampson, IEC Western Cape Provincial Electoral Officer, indicated that one of the main challenges faced by the IEC was office accommodation. Municipalities were increasingly no longer in a position to provide (free or paid) accommodation to IEC staff since they had no spare capacity. Also due to the maturing of South Africa’s democracy and the sophistication of political parties, the Electoral Commission has experienced challenges resulting from an increasingly litigious environment over the past few years.

The introduction of smart card technology in respect of identity documents was being implemented by the Department of Home Affairs. The IEC continued its research to establish what the implications of e-voting on the IEC were likely to be. He indicated that the Electoral Commission was often requested to assist with undertaking electoral assistance to other countries.

Strategic Plan 2014/15 – 2018/19
Ms Fiona Rowley-Withey, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer: Corporate Services, IEC said procedures would be established for quarterly reporting to the executive authority to facilitate effective performance monitoring, evaluation and corrective action. The IEC’s strategic goals were:
• Strengthening governance, institutional excellence, professionalism and enabling business processes, at all levels of the organisation
• Achieving pre-eminence in the area of managing elections and referenda, including the strengthening of a cooperative relationship with political parties
• Strengthening electoral democracy.

The IEC’s reporting period for most of its targets and indicators was quarterly; however the IEC had a target of offering 80 bursaries annually and filling all its 980 permanent staff positions annually. As at 31 March 2015/16 IEC had the target of having 25,600.000 registered voters. The IEC had a target of recruiting and training 50 092 electoral staff in 2015/16. The IEC had a responsibility to provide and maintain a stable, secure and scalable Information and Communications Technology environment that met the functional needs of the IEC, and to ensure the credibility of electronic processes. The IEC objective was maintaining an accurate national common voters’ roll to ensure the credibility of elections and to ensure infrastructure and logistical resources to meet operational demands for main electoral events. The IEC was striving for excellence at voting stations, and to achieve a low rate of spoilt ballots as a measure of effectiveness of civic and democracy programmes.

The IEC allocated R 1 582 329 000 for 2015/16, R 1 642 063 000 for 2016/17 and R 1 149 887 000 for the 2017/18 financial year.

Discussion:
Chairperson Mashile asked about the achievability, practicality and measurability of the targets. Why were there no quarterly targets?

Ms O Maxon (EFF) asked what was some of the legislative amendments which would be tabled for local government elections? Parliament would support these. She said people at local government level were not eager to participate in local government processes; what measures were in place to get more people to participate in local government elections? The presentation indicated that office accommodation was problematic; when did the IEC realise that? Could the Committee be provided with a progress report on the work the IEC was doing on the upgrading of infrastructure? What countries had the IEC studied around the implementation of e-voting? Was South Africa ready for this system?

Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked about the strategies in place to protect the IEC from future litigation. She asked about by-elections; what plans did the IEC have in place to promote voter education? The majority of people still did not understand by-elections, thus resulting in low voter turnout. What provisions have been made for 2016 to protect the elections from load shedding? Why did the IEC only have one bi-annual target for the 2015/16 financial year?

Ms S Nkomo (IFP) thanked the IEC for outstanding input. When was the election date? How much did the IEC depend on the Municipal Demarcation Board? Could a report be provided to the Committee on when the IEC would finish its review on legislation? She applauded the IEC for finalizing the electronic transfer of money for political parties. How much research had been done on local municipalities to better promote knowledge of sound and democratic processes? What measures have been put in place to measure success of voter education? Why was the country still experiencing such a low turnout during by-elections? What major disputes was the IEC still adjudicating on? She said zip zip machines have been problematic; what system was in place to replace these? According to reports, courts were still reviewing the procurement of the Riverside Office Park; how far was the process? The IEC has received an unqualified audit; what was the audit opinion for the last two years? According to the IEC's performance indicators, 75% of the targets were neutral, what did that mean?

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) asked for an explanation around the rising numbers of ballot papers being spoilt.

Mr B Nesi (ANC) reiterated the question from Members about what strategies were in place to improve voter turnout. Political parties however also had a responsibility to mobilize local communities. What strategies were in place to ensure that voter turnout did not further deteriorate; people should be encouraged not to abstain from voting. Voter education was done by the Department of Home Affairs however many people still did not understand why they needed to vote.

Ms Maxon asked how far had the IEC gone with the implementation of the Kader Asmal Report on Chapter 9 constitutional institutions.

Ms Kenye said the IEC also took part in facilitating elections in other African countries; what assistance was provided to countries which still used old voters’ rolls?

Mr Nesi said there were claims that the political party in Matatiele, the AIC, was voted for because voters thought they were voting for the ANC. These two parties were very close on the register and they also had very similar colours. What measures did the IEC put in place to ensure that such incidents did not take place?

Chairperson Mashile asked whether zip zip machines would still be used in the upcoming elections. In the last meeting the Committee had with the IEC, the IEC committed to developing an electronic communication system for voters, with the Committee monitoring this. Was this plan still in place and how far was it from being implemented?

Mr Granville Abrahams, Senior Manager: Electoral Operations, IEC, responded to the questions about voter apathy, saying that in the last local government elections, the trend actually moved upwards. The international trend in local government elections was low. The IEC was doing everything in its endeavours to improve turnout. Political parties, media and various organisations claimed to be the contributors to the hike in voter turnout during the last elections. All were correct because voter turnout was everybody’s responsibility. The IEC has dedicated projects and plans outlined for improving turnout, and more could be done, however resources are quite limited. He agreed that the turnout for by-elections was indeed low. The IEC strategy included working with fieldworkers to educate people, and conducting door to door visits. What the Committee needed to remember that by-elections did not take place during a public holiday, as is the case with general elections. By-elections took place on a Wednesday between 7am and 9pm. In some cases there had been requests from various provinces such as the Eastern Cape to shorten the hours due to lighting and security issues. However these had been by-elections whose turnout exceeded that of general elections because contestation was high.

With regards to office accommodation, Mr Abrahams said initially the IEC in its entirety was housed within municipalities, gradually over the past few years, the IEC has found itself competing for space within municipalities. An alternative solution would be for the IEC to go commercial; however commercial property in s areas was extremely high. He said, “the election date was set for the 18 May”.

On the zip zip machines, he said the IEC was researching what system these machines would be replaced with. The zip zip machines would not give in during the elections; the machines were currently going through a periodic maintenance period, specifically looking at internal batteries and conducting diagnostic tests.

He said political parties designed their own logo for the ballot paper. On the question around the AIC he said the IEC facilitated a ballot paper draw, which would determine the order of political parties. He said if there was a party between the ANC and the AIC there would not have been any confusion. However it terms of the colours, there was not much the IEC could do in that regard, however during the application process the IEC did look at the logos to ensure that they were not too similar. Colours could not be reserved. Currently there were about 200 political parties registered. On the electronic communication with voters, one of the mechanisms the IEC was looking into was communicating with voters via SMS. The IEC was still looking at the feasibility of that as an option. He indicated that the IEC had a seminar on e-voting, all political parties and other key stakeholders were invited. The status currently was that there was a task team doing a feasibility study, and some of the countries visitied was Venezuela, Russia, Namibia. The IEC was also looking at internet voting which was currently underway in Norway.

Ms Rowley-Withey responded to the question on the Auditor-General’s audit findings and whether the targets were achievable. She said over the past few years the IEC has put in a significant amount of work to address some of the issues raised by the Auditor General and that the targets were balanced between what was appropriate and what was achievable. This was the reason some of the targets were measured annually and not quarterly. She indicated that for the past two years the IEC had received an unqualified audit report. The difference between qualified and unqualified in an organisation which employed 240 00 electoral staff during an election, with the Auditor-General selecting a sample of a few hundreds, was quite challenging. The IEC took the task of ensuring that the financial systems were up to scratch very seriously. Over the past three years the IEC has implemented a series of procurement workshops with much success. She said load shedding was an area which was identified by the IEC's risk management and it had plans in place to ensure that all of the appropriate offices had uninterrupted power supply and generators. On the question on “neutral” targets, she said these were targets which were neither positive nor negative.

Mr Abrahams responded to the question on spoilt ballots and said South Africa measured around 1.5% of spoiled ballots. The IEC would be appointing staff to facilitate voter educators, but these measures would be determined by what the budget allowed for. The Asmal Report had received a lot of attention from the IEC; the one had to do with the name of the IEC, legislation spoke about the Electoral Commission and not the IEC, and this caused a bit of confusion. The other was around the categorization of the different institutions. The IEC worked very closely with state security structures to ensure that there were safe and secure elections.

Rev Sampson added to the response on the Asmal Report and said the report was not with the IEC, it was with Parliament. The IEC was delighted when the Speaker of Parliament reported to the IEC that the Fifth Parliament was seriously engaging the report, which had been lying dormant for a number of years. On the Riverside Office Park he said the matter has been taken to court, and the IEC has asked the court to look at the procurement and to make pronouncements on it. The IEC however could not rush the process. The success of the IEC in delivering fair successful elections was dependent on the credibility of the IEC. The IEC was therefore intensifying its training for people who would be working with the IEC during elections. He said the IECs role on the continent continued, the IEC was in discussion with voters’ roll of Zimbabwe, which was not being managed by the election body; the IEC was making suggestions around the matter. Zambia also had a presidential election and people went into the election without registering voters, the IEC was also providing suggestions in that regard. He said the IEC saw litigation as a healthy exercise; it became problematic when people took matters into their own hands.

Chairperson Mashile said any person who looked at the IEC Annual Report should be able to interpret the targets. The targets needed to be measurable and self-explanatory. Some of the targets of the IEC would be very difficult for the average individual to make sense of.

Government Printing Works (GPW) – Annual Performance Plan 2015/16
Mr Anthony Mbewu, GWP Chief Executive Officer, said since 2009 the GPW has operated on regular business principles, having to defray all its expenditure from the revenue generated by services rendered. The principal clientele of the GPW are state departments and other organs of state. The GPW has the sole mandate of producing South African passports and identification documents; making the GPW a strategic partner of the Department of Home Affairs. The GPW is also securing work from the rest of Africa, although this still remained difficult. However the GPW still continued to print the African Union passport.

The GPW’s Annual Performance Plan priorities for 2015/15 were:
• Smart ID card – increasing production rate from 200 00 per month to 300 000 per month
• Interactive E-Gazette – going live in March 2015
• Implementation of the ERP system
• Development of a R1 billion facility at Visage Street
• Construction of an examination printing division and Dispatch Centre
• Conversion to a State Owned Company

On 9 October 2009 the GPW was converted to a Government Component in terms of the Public Services Act of 1999 as amended. This was always intended as a transitional phase on the way to becoming a State Owned Company. The role of the Government Printing Works was summarised in its vision: “To be the State’s Mandated Security Printer”, this has effectively been achieved over the past five years, but this has still to be ratified in legislation. A draft “State Printer’s Bill” has been produced and the Minister of Home Affairs has included this Bill as one of the three Bills to be tabled with the Deputy President for the legislative process. The intent was for GPW to transform from a Government Component to a State Owned Company. All assets would be ploughed back into asset recapitalization and development of the facilities. This development was part of the formation of a “capable and developmental state” as the National Development Plan puts it.

The Electronic Government Gazette was launched in 2012 and uptake of the system by customers of GPW has been very impressive. The Portfolio Committee in 2011 recommended a special salary dispensation for GPW in order to assist the company in recruiting and retaining skilled artisans and professional staff. The Minister supported this recommendation. In December 2014 the Minister of Public Services and Administration rejected the application by GPW for a special salary dispensation.

If GPW become a State owned company, its employees would no longer fall under the Public Service Act, and it would have greater freedom in setting salaries commensurate with market rates in the printing industry.

The GPW was increasingly using Information Technology (IT) in its business processes such as the ERP system, in the new machines it was procuring such as the smart ID machines, in the products and services it provided for smart IDs and the E-Gazette. There was therefore a need to continually train and upgrade as the machines have to be replaced as there were no longer spare parts for them. Modern machines were replacing old ones. With regard to production statistics, GPW produced 656 600 passport booklets during 2013/14, over 1.8 million identity document booklets in the same financial year, over 21 million examination booklets, 2573 government gazettes editions and 109 250 government gazettes.

Smart ID card production began on 15 October 2013. So far, 2 million smart ID cards have been produced. Another 36 million smart ID cards would be produced over the next 6 years to replace the current ID booklets (plus 5 million smart ID cards for those turning 16 each year). Gradually, printing of green cards would be replaced by smart ID card production. However service delivery at GPW has been negatively affected by human and material resource constraints. The lack of experienced and qualified senior managers, artisans and administrative personnel impacts on service delivery, resulting in the GPW being compelled to outsource certain functions.

With regard to organized crime and security products, since the introduction of the new South African passport in 2009 with enhanced security features, over 4 million passports have been printed with no single successful forgery. The new smart ID cannot be forged. The launch of the smart ID card as a GPW flagship project has been a great success. The R 400 million asset recapitalization project was also on track for completion by 2018. The R1 billion renovation of the Visagie Street campus should be completed by the end of 2019, after which the GPW would be relocated there.

Discussion
Ms Kenye asked what the targeted time for the introduction of the State Printer’s Bill was. With regards to the budget vote, would GPW be under the Department of Home Affairs, keeping in mind the GPW plans to move towards being a state owned entity? Would all the GPW current staff be absorbed during the staff skills updates or would there be some retrenchments? According to the presentation, recruitment of artisans was difficult because the salaries GPW was offering were below the market rate; what plans were in place to look at recruiting outside the country?

Ms Nkomo said a lot of money had been put aside for the upgrade of GPW. During the last meeting the Committee had with the GPW, it was indicated that there was a number of machines not being used; how much money would be needed to upgrade these, seeing that machinery lost value over time? Was the type of machinery being used at GPW going to replace staff, has GPW spoken to unions around this? On smart IDs she said where there was a human being, there was bound to be problems; forgery and fraud could not be 100% anticipated. What mechanisms were in place to periodically check that staff did not engage in fraudulent activity and corruption. Were lie detector tests an option which the GPW would consider exploring?

Mr Nesi agreed with Ms Nkomo and indicated that in the Western Cape, there was already a syndicate planning to do smart ID cards. Was the GPW aware of this? What other countries was the GPW looking to do business with within Africa? On the budget, he asked whether the GPW would still be relying on the Department of Home Affairs when it became a state owned company.

Chairperson Mashile urged GPW to investigate the matter raised by Mr Nesi. The integrity of the GPW should be protected at all times. When was GPW planning on printing the last green ID booklet? According to a presentation by the Department of Home Affairs, the department was still planning to print green ID booklets in areas where there were no facilities to print smart ID cards. The printing of smart ID cards could not go hand in hand with the printing of green ID booklets, one must die down as the other increased.

Mr Mbewu responded to the question on the State Printer’s Bill and the targeted time and said GPW helped in the drafting of the Bill but in terms of taking it through the legislative process that was something for the Minister and for the Portfolio Committee to look into. The Ministers’ Office had the draft Bill, and they have informed the Deputy President that it would be one of the three Bills to be put before Parliament. The GPW did not know what timeframe was anticipated for the Bill. The Bill was not contentious and not many challenges were anticipated during public hearings. It should progress very quickly however the Committee would need to enquire from the Minister to find out about the anticipated promulgation timeframe. On the budget vote, he said GPW as a government entity, reporting to the Department of Home Affairs, the GPW had to submit its budget within the national expenditure together with other entities which reported to the department. However GPW did not receive any vote from the Department of Home Affairs. The last time GPW received any money from government was the transfers which National Treasury provided during the early stages of the renovations of the asset recapitalization programme about three years ago. All GPW operational expenses were covered by revenue GPW generated through its products and services.

He said there would be a dramatic reduction in the number of workers engaged in producing ID documents. What the GPW has done, in discussion with unions, was to ensure that no one was retrenched; that all of GPW’s 30 workers were redeployed, retrained and up-scaled within the organization. The process has been going very well. A similar process has been underway around the electronic gazette, and again, close consultations have taken place with the unions and with bargaining councils. To date, workers have been reassured that there would be no retrenchments. All workers would be retrained and up skilled. He agreed that retaining artisans was quite difficult because of salaries; the GPW did not recruit foreigners. However GPW sent its staff to countries such as Germany which manufactured some of the machinery used by GPW, to receive training. However after receiving this training, staff were poached by other organisations. He said the depreciation costs of the machines were unrecoverable.

The forgery of the smart ID cards was currently impossible, similarly with the South African passport. He explained that the security printing industry when working with the smart ID and passport, had three security levels; one was popularized to the general public, the second was not obviously visible, the third were those which the general manager of office production and the CEO would know about. Employees who worked with passports and IDs were vetted. For example in the passport factory nobody entered in their own clothes; they changed into the factory clothes first which had no pockets. If a passport was stolen or lost, then all the workers went for lie detector tests. About 88 close circuit cameras were all over the factory.

In the security industry, every 10 years one produced a mark two or mark three of an ID or passport, which had new security features to keep a few steps ahead of organized crime syndicates. One of the reasons passports and ID could not be successfully forged was that the machines used cost about R10 million each, and the companies which produced these machines had registers of every machine they have ever sold. There were all sorts of mechanisms to ensure that the syndicates in Nigeria, Pakistan, Hong Kong and China had no access to machines which would successfully print high security products. The smart ID cards allegedly being forged in the Western Cape were bound to very poor forgeries, however GPW would investigate. He said the awareness campaign on the security features of these documents needed to be improved. GPW was busy securing business in other African countries. Last month, GPW went to Ivory Coast to a conference of African Ministers responsible for civil registration statistics. There were many African countries who were keen to visit GPW and possibly get some of their security documents printed by GPW. In terms of the budget, when GPW became a state owned company, the entity would continue with funding its operational expenses through generating its own revenue through goods and services.

With regard to the ID booklet versus the smart ID, he said increasing the number of offices which could do smart ID cards remained a challenge. However it was imagined that the situation would improve once banks came on board. Banks had a large footprint. It was anticipated that over the next few years the Minister would be able to announce the demise of the green ID booklet. The reduction in green ID production has not been as rapid as had been anticipated, primarily because the syndicates within the country had a realization that their revenue streams would diminish, therefore there has been an increase in fraudulent ID booklets because the smart ID card was impenetrable.

Ms Raphuti commended the meticulous space within which the GPW operated. She was really impressed, it was clear that the facility was a tight security facility. What work was GPW doing with universities in dealing with the issue of fraudulent certificates?

Ms Nkomo said it was exciting that other African countries were looking at bringing their work to the GPW.

Mr Mbewu replied that he responded to the Minister, and the Minister had expressed the view that he wanted to have more interactions with GPW, however this had not happened yet. He hoped that the interaction would happen soon. GPW was constantly getting new business from other governments and entities such as the Department of Higher Education which is looking to GPW to produce their examination certificates and degrees which could not be forged. He indicated that many African governments did not trust African electorates to print their ballot papers, they were sent to overseas countries instead. However this was changing.

Chairperson Mashile thanked both the representatives from the GPW and from the IEC for their presentations, together with Members for their engagements with the presentations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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