Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) on its challenges, structures, procedures & management
NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture
27 May 2015
Chairperson: Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal)
The Select Committee on Education and Recreation received a progress report from the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). The presentation outline looked at the purpose of the report, PanSALB’s Mandate; prescribed functions of PanSALB; and progress since the last meeting with the Select Committee on Education and Recreation.
The Committee was told that the organization was created by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996. In terms of section 6(5) of the said Constitution, it stated that a Pan South African Language Board be established by national legislation. PanSALB was established as an independent statutory body by an Act of Parliament (Act 59 of 1995) as amended. When the new board took over challenges that were identified at the last meeting included the vacant executive leadership, underperformance, bloated and un-mandated organisational structure, a financially-compromised organisation, irrelevant Strategic Plan, litigation problems, and low staff morale and infighting.
The report explained that the first challenge was the vacant positions of both the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Board appointed acting CEOs as there were no funds to appoint a permanent CEO. The Board resolved at its meeting of 4-5 February 2015 to kick-start the process of the appointment of the CEO of the Board.
In terms of the second challenge - a bloated organisational structure, the Board sought legal opinion to address the problem of the bloated un-mandated organizational structure. The Board took a resolution to disregard the contracts of individuals appointed by Mr Mxolisi Zwane as advised by the Legal opinion. The matter had been to court several times. The Board was currently engaged in a CCMA dispute regarding the individuals whose contracts have been disregarded. The matter had reached arbitration stage and parties met on 20 may 2015 and the matter was postponed to Tuesday 27 May 2015 for a possible settlement.
On challenge number 3 which was underperformance, the current acting CEO has put several measures in place to develop staff critical capabilities and improve performance and productivity. The Board has also established committees to assist the organisation with some expertise.
On the fourth challenge which was financial problems, the acting CEO had since his appointment adopted various measures to stop financial bleeding in the organisation. Processes were put in place to curb or eliminate irregular; fruitless and wasteful expenditure which amounted to about R28 million during the past three years. The Board inherited an organization with a debt burden of more than R16 million occasioned by the appointment of contractors for services which were not budgeted for and some of the debts were not serviced.
In terms of litigation which was the fifth challenge, the acting CEO’s can add on the steps taken to deal with litigation and other related issues.
In terms of challenge 6, the Pan South African Language Board never had an approved Strategic plan document. Upon the current board’s appointment, a Strategic plan dubbed “the Turnaround strategy” was presented to the Board and the Board rejected it and referred it back to management.
Members of the Select Committee asked questions of clarity with regard to the challenges the facing the Board, clarity as to why the position of the CEO was not budgeted for, how they were paying the acting CEO, was it not an unauthorized expenditure, how do they account for that money if it was not budgeted for, how they’ve determined their budget if there was no strategic plan and no Annual Performance Plan, why they needed a private consultancy to draw up a strategic plan, concerned about the relationship between the PanSALB and the Department, how the Board has promoted multi-lingualism in terms of the radio stations and what they’ve done with the promotion of sign language, etc.
The Chairperson noted that the purpose of the meeting was for the Committee to be briefed by the Pan South African Language Board on its progress report.
Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) Presentation
Prof. Mbulungeni Madiba, PanSALB Chairperson said the presentation will focus on the Purpose; PanSALB’s Mandate; Prescribed functions of PanSALB; Progress since the last meeting with the Select Committee on Education and Recreation; and Conclusion.
Prof Madiba said the purpose of the presentation was to give progress report since the last meeting with the Select Committee on Education and Recreation in October 2014.
Prof Madiba told the Committee that PanSALB was established as an independent statutory body by an Act of Parliament (Act 59 of 1995) as amended with the following explicit aim (Section 8 of the Act): (a) make recommendations with regard to any proposed or existing legislation, practice or policy dealing directly or indirectly with language matters at any level of government, and with regard to any proposed amendments to or the repeal or replacement of such legislation, practice or policy; (b) make recommendations to organs of state at all levels of government where it considers such action advisable for the adoption of measures aimed at the promotion of multilingualism within the framework of the Constitution; (c) actively promote an awareness of multilingualism as a national resource; (d) actively promote the development of the previously marginalized languages; (e) initiate studies and research aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development and use of (i) all the official languages of South Africa, (ii) the Khoi and San languages and (iii) South African Sign Language; (f) promote and ensure respect for all other languages commonly used by communities in South Africa; (g) advise on the coordination of language planning in South Africa; (h) facilitate cooperation with language planning agencies outside South Africa; (i) establish provincial language committees and national language bodies to advise it on any language matter affecting a province or a specific language; and (j) establish national lexicography units to operate as companies limited by guarantee under section 21 of the Companies Act (No. 61 of 1973), and to allocate funds to the units for the fulfilment of their functions.
Prof Madiba said when the new board took over challenges identified at the last meeting included the vacant executive leadership, underperformance, bloated and un-mandated organisational structure, a financially-compromised organisation, irrelevant Strategic Plan, litigation problems, and low staff morale and infighting.
The first challenge was the vacant positions of both the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The Board appointed acting CEOs as there were no funds to appoint a permanent CEO. The Board resolved at its meeting of 4-5 February 2015 to kick-start the process of the appointment of the CEO of the Board. The position of the CEO was advertised in the beginning of April 2015 and the closing date was 5 May 2015. On 14 May 2015, the Board met to do the grading and shortlisting of candidates. Interviews are scheduled to take place on 29 may 2015 and the CEO is expected to start anytime thereafter. After the appointment of the CEO, the process of identifying and appointing the CFO will begin.
Prof Madiba said in terms of the second challenge which was a bloated organisational structure, the position of the CEO was advertised in the beginning of April 2015 and the closing date was 5 May 2015. On 14 May 2015, the Board met to do the grading and shortlisting of candidates. Interviews are scheduled to take place on 29 May 2015 and the CEO is expected to start anytime thereafter. After the appointment of the CEO, the process of identifying and appointing the CFO will begin. The Board sought legal opinion to address the problem of the bloated un-mandated organisational structure. The Board took a resolution to disregard the contracts of individuals appointed by Mr Mxolisi Zwane as advised by the legal opinion. The matter has been to court several times. The Board is currently engaged in a CCMA dispute regarding the individuals whose contracts have been disregarded. The matter has reached arbitration stage and parties met on 20 may 2015 and the matter was postponed to Tuesday 27 May 2015 for a possible settlement. The Board was doing everything it can to resolve the matter so that the organization can concentrate on the execution of its mandate and not litigation. A meeting is also envisaged between the department of Arts and Culture to look at ways of resolving the matter.
On the third challenge which was underperformance, the current Acting CEO has put several measures in place to develop staff critical capabilities and improve performance and productivity. The Board has also established committees to assist the organisation with some expertise. On challenge number 4, financial problems the acting CEO has since his appointment adopted various measures to stop financial bleeding in the organisation. Ever since the new Board took over and dealt with the question of the bloated staff complement and irregular appointments, the organization began to stabilize. The Board was able to meet some of its financial obligations and the cash flow problems are much improved. Contracts which did not add value were cancelled and the service providers who were paid in the past when there were no contractual obligations were reviewed. Processes were put in place to curb or eliminate irregular; fruitless and wasteful expenditure which amounted to about R28 million during the past three years.
The Board inherited an organization with a debt burden of more than R16 million occasioned by the appointment of contractors for services which were not budgeted for and some of the debts were not serviced. As a result even those service providers which were contracted before the arrival of Mr. Zwane were not serviced resulting in the withdrawal of vital services which they were rendering to the Board. The organization was blacklisted and some of the companies severed ties with the organization cutting services they were providing to the Board to the extent that for some time the organization did not even have emails and internet which made it difficult to function. The debt has been serviced and now stands at less than R8 million and attempts are being made to reduce it further.
Prof Madiba said in terms of challenge number 5, litigation the acting CEO’s can add on the steps taken to deal with litigation and other related issues. In terms of challenge 6, irrelevant the Pan South African Language Board never had an approved Strategic plan document. Upon the current board’s appointment, a Strategic plan dubbed “the Turnaround strategy” was presented to the Board and the Board rejected it and referred it back to management. As there were problems in the organization at the time relating to the absence of the Strategic plan and the issue of irregular appointments, an understanding was reached between the Board and the Department of Arts and Culture that a Task team would be established to deal with both matters. In this regard, DAC “the Turnaround strategy” draft document which I hope was even tabled here in Parliament and it was also aimed at dealing with the issues alluded to above. It is worth mentioning that at PanSALB it was not possible to develop the Strategic plan purely because of lack of capacity inside the organization and that there were no funds to commission a service provider to develop it as substantial amount of the allocation went to staff compensation. Around February 2015, as it became apparent that the idea of the Task team was not materialising as it failed to get off the ground, the Acting CEO was mandated to facilitate the process of developing the Strategic plan of the Board. As the internal procurement processes had to be followed to source a suitable service provider, the process took longer than anticipated which resulted in the service provider starting towards the end of April 2015. The withholding of PanSALB grant by DAC also delayed the appointment of service providers.
Prof Madiba concluded by noting that this is an organization which not long ago was facing an uncertain future and the tide was turned when bold decisions were taken by the Board and they are making steady progress in resuscitating the fortunes of the organization as the debt trap is also coming down. On 15 October 2014, after a meeting of the Select Committee on Sport and Recreation, they were encouraged by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture who encouraged them to stop the bleeding of the organization putting various cost- saving measures in place. He can now confidently say that they are on course to resuscitating the organization.
Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) welcomed the presentation from the Chairperson of the Board of PanSALB. Given the challenges the Board was facing, it was important that they moved swiftly. But was not sure why the position of the CEO was not budgeted for because it was not a new position, and if it was a new position it had to be budgeted for. If it was not budgeted for how they were paying the acting CEO, was it not an unauthorised expenditure, how do they account for that money if it was not budgeted for. Ms Dlamini asked if there was no strategic plan and no Annual Performance Plan how they’ve determined their budget in terms of the operational plan because that was informed by their strategy. What informed the figures they’ve got because those figures should be informed by the strategy?
Ms Dlamini said she was concerned about the relationship between the Department and the Board of PanSALB hence there were such problems. There was nothing difficult about drawing a strategic plan because it indicated what one was going to do, how much money they were going to use. Why it was difficult to draw up a strategic plan for an organisation of PanSALB, even though they were plan for a bigger organisation the principles were still the same. Out of the 70 staff members of PanSALB there was no one who could do the strategic planning, what level were they, what they were doing there? How were they appointed? Because strategic plan was a basic document and without a strategy there was no organisation to run. Ms Dlamini agreed with the Department that it withheld transferring money to PanSALB because they had to account for the money they’ve spent. PanSALB acquired the services of a private consultant like Price Water Coopers (PWC) to draw up a strategic plan which were very expensive. The Department could’ve used one of its units to draw up a strategic plan for PanSALB at no cost even if it meant paying for accommodation for the staff that was drawing up the strategy.
Ms Dlamini said PanSALB was working with local municipalities but she has never seen their officials in those municipalities even in provinces for that matter. She asked where they are because in all the gatherings she had never seen them.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) said in terms of the Languages Act as promulgated in 2012, stipulating that all Government Departments, Public Enterprises, and entities needed to establish language units and all these must have language policy within 18 months. The structure that was overseeing the implementation of this act was both the Department and the Board. He asked for the report on that in terms of how far that has gone and has the implementation taken place, and if it has not happen what the problems are, and what they were monitoring.
Dr G Grootboom (DA) asked why they needed a consultancy to draw up a strategic plan because it meant that all the staff in the organisation should not have been appointed in the first place.
Dr Grootboom asked who was going to take responsibility for the appointment of the CEO and the CFO since they were unfunded positions.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) asked how the Board has promoted multi-lingualism in terms of the radio stations and what they’ve done with the promotion of sign language.
Mr D Sock (ANC, Northern Cape) welcomed the presentation from the Board. But they could not shy away from the fact that it was not a good picture what they’ve presented but there was eagerness from the Board to correct some of the mistakes and the challenges that were there.
Mr Stock agreed with Ms Dlamini with regard to the strategic plan because the PanSALB Board was established in 1995 which meant that it was more than 20 years in existence. And now 20 years in existence without a strategic plan and, most of the delegation in that meeting were not there in the last 10 years and also because of the challenges the board was currently facing. But at least there should be a directive in terms of the vision and the direction the organisation wanted to pursue and what it was it wanted to achieve. And in line with that they came before the Committee to present a progress report or presentation made in terms of the challenges. And in that presentation there just board resolutions but did not tell them how far they’ve implemented those resolutions.
Mr Stock said in the provinces where they came from they were also experiencing the same challenges. For example, all the challenges experienced at national level find expression in provinces.
He asked what the relationship was between the Board and the Department, why the department allowed PanSALB not to have a strategic plan because the department should’ve done something and come up with intervention so that the department could also play a supportive role.
The Chairperson asked how PanSALB see itself, whether as an entity of the Department Arts and Culture or directly reporting to Parliament because that has a bearing in terms of the relationship it has with the department.
The Chairperson asked who was handling the application for the vacant CEO position and how the advert of the position was crafted.
Prof Madiba said with regard to the last question from the Chairperson that the act was very clear that they are an independent entity. Their budget or grant was administered by DAC but were not an entity of DAC. Their structure belonged to chapter 1, chapter 10, and chapter 13 institutions, and to the Forum of Institutions supporting Democracy and PanSALB was treated as that. But if they were part of the Department they will not qualify to be part of that Forum because the forum was there to support democracy. The relationship question was overlapping and the issues of legislation they needed to resolve. Therefore, they are an independent organisation, but not that they didn’t work with DAC because DAC administered their grant.
Ms Dlamini asked why their budget was administered by DAC because they cannot just manage a budget without a strategic plan. What the difference was between the entities that were under the Department and PanSALB if the organisation got its grant from the DAC.
The Chairperson said Ms Dlamini was correct but earlier on she has explained the disjuncture in terms of the challenges that affected PanSALB, there was legislation in terms of the presentation, there was legislation in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), there was legislation in terms of amending the PanSALB Act. All these pieces of legislation were not talking to one another as a result there is this kind of confusion which needed to be threshed out by the responsible executive authority of the Select Committee and the Portfolio Committee so that it strengthen the relationship between the PanSALB Board and DAC.
Mr Zixolifile Feni, PanSALB Acting Chief Financial Officer said the attitude question should come first because they should understand where their legislative regime put them. The PanSALB Act is clear that PanSALB shall be funded from funds appropriated by Parliament. The money that funds PanSALB was held by DAC in trust because PanSALB didn’t have a Treasury account, DAC became a conduit. The DAC did not fund PanSALB the money that came to PanSALB came directly from the fiscus. Initially before the confusion came PanSALB was getting correspondence directly from the National Treasury. But at some stage it happened that the Department instructed National Treasury not to communicate with PanSALB. Therefore, whilst the question of attitude was very important they should also understand that their legislation what it said about this relationship because it could do that.
Prof Madiba emphasised that in terms of relationships PanSALB could work with any Government Department. They needed to have good relationship with all structures and needed to be strong in terms of collaborations. They should work with all the Departments which DAC was one of them and the Department of Education was a key in driving the mandate given to them.
Prof Madiba said with regard to the issue of budget for the CEO that they were not referring to the budget of 2015/16 but rather referring to the budget of 2014/15 when the board was appointed that they were made to understand there was no budget even for the board’s meeting and there was no money budgeted for the CEO. The understanding was that the acting CEO was there seconded from the DAC which meant that the money paid to him came from the DAC. Therefore, they couldn’t understand what happened there and normally they didn’t have budget as a board for the new financial year. Sometimes they’ve asked the DAC to fund a board meeting if there was a meeting to be held, but on their own funding they didn’t have that.
The Chairperson interjected by asking that in other words the administrator was placed in place of the board, was the administrator taking the position of the CEO as well as the board as a result there were checks and balances.
Prof Madiba said the appointment of the acting CEO was a point of controversy. The understanding was that the appointment of the acting CEO was appointed as an executive authority, as an accounting authority and as an accounting officer. That was how they were made to understand because that person had all the powers to serve as a board.
The Chairperson asked whether that person was the board.
Prof Madiba agreed that the person was the board because they were made to understand that way.
Mr Feni said with regard to the issue of accounting authority and accounting officer that in terms of the PFMA if an entity does not have a board the accounting officer of that entity became the accounting authority in terms of the PFMA.
The Chairperson asked why the budget did not make provisions for this critical area.
Mr Feni responded that the position of the CEO was budgeted for but how the entity used that money when the CEO was not there was another matter. But it wouldn’t mean that the position was not funded. The position of the CEO had been always funded but because of the problems that money was diverted to pay the other employees of the organisation.
Prof Madiba said they were told there was no money to appoint the CEO.
Prof Madiba said on the issue of the strategic plan that it should not have happen but the reality in the organisation was that definitely there was no capacity. There was one senior manager who was appointed on a contract of 2 years to facilitate a strategy and had tried to work with him to facilitate the strategy but it was practically impossible to complete the plan.
He had attended 2 meetings with the staff and tried to encourage them to work on a strategic plan, and it was very clear they were not going to deliver. If they were to reposition the organisation since there was infighting and divisions in their structure they would not change the structure, others will prefer a new structure. He was happy that the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture was there to see the divisions and it could tell that those people will not produce anything. It would also mean that the board should have meetings because it was difficult for the board to meet since there was no money for the board to meet to iron out the issues. Therefore, they should acknowledge that the organisation was not functioning well and even now it is not capacitated enough. And without the assistance of the PWC in terms of the APP they were not going to do that, and there was no way they were going to produce a strategic plan with that kind of capacity. Normally an organisation with senior managers should be able to produce a strategic plan but this was not the case with PanSALB.
Prof Madiba said they’ve got PLCs in all the provinces but they were not fully staffed. Those structures were not functioning as they supposed to do. There was just 1 senior manager who was a Provincial Language Committee manager, but the capacity of the PLCs was not there. The PLCs were supposed to be vocal all over but those committees collapsed because there was no money going to other structures but it was going to them. Therefore, they were trying to reconstitute those committees. All the structures of PanSALB were not functioning simply because there was no staffing and no money to run them. It was only now they were reconstituting those structures and getting them to function. Therefore, he understood when Ms Dlamini said she has never seen them and never heard about them.
Prof Madiba said with regard to the use of the official languages in terms of the act that it was a very good act. But again how it has been legislated they should be responsible in overseeing the whole process. The act was very clear that it was the Minister of Arts and Culture who should oversee the whole process. All the policies should be submitted to the Minister of Arts and Culture. Their role as PanSALB in terms of admissions was very minimal, all they had to do was to raise awareness and mobilise around the whole process. If it was the evaluation of policies it was where they could assist but in consultation with the Minister in terms of evaluating the policies and also raising awareness and assisting with the implementation plan. They still need to find a space where they could work together in that regard, but as it is now it was the sole responsibility of the Minister which was why he has reported it to DAC. Therefore, they still need to discuss it with arts and culture in terms of how they will work together.
Prof Madiba said on the issue of awareness campaigns sign language was one of the languages that had been marginalised in the country. They’ve got a board member that was working with staff on how to assist in the development of sign language.
The Chairperson thanked the PanSALB delegation for the presentation and responses. The relationship between the organization and the department should be strengthening so that PanSALB can be able to stand on its own going forward.
The meeting was adjourned.
Zwane, Ms L
Dlamini, Ms L
Khawula, Mr M
Mampuru, Ms T
Mpambo-Sibhukwana, Ms T
Samka, Ms P
Stock, Mr D
Tlake, Ms MF
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