The Department of Correctional Services briefed the Committee on the progress made with its organisational restructuring and improved management. The controversial '10x4' shift system was addressed which left the facilities understaffed on Mondays and Fridays, however due to the disagreement with employees on the issue, this system was preferred to be left in place. The other contentious issue was the high vacancy rate of 8.5% that the DCS experiences as well as the high volumes of resignations by employees looking better remuneration, employment environment or career development. The new HIRA policy looks make appointments to decrease the vacancy rate and as of the end of January 2016, 175 new appointments countrywide were made out of 13371 appointments. The organisational structure looked to redress the macro and micro structures and following approval from the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the DCS would move ahead in restructuring its organisational plans.
Other such strategies, like the turnaround strategy dealing with increased employment, deal with learnership programmes to absorb those learners into the DCS once they have been certified as competent. Two programmes are underway with the third starting on 27 March 2016 with 1032 learners. In addition to this, effective 1 April 2016 the DCS will implement a further Recruitment Plan and a Retirement Plan to make sure that vacancies will be filled before retirement takes place to fill the strategic void.
Members asked the Department to provide clarification on why half of its employees were not at work on Mondays and Fridays, what was the criteria for employing people and why the Department was not employing former convicts. They also questioned the high vacany rate, the Department’s recruitment strategy and the shift sytem.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members, asked that the agenda be followed for the day and called on the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) to present its organisational restructuring report.
Mr Zach Modise, National Commissioner, DCS, apologised for the late submissions of the correct documents to the Committee and indicated that it would not happen again. The structure of the DCS needed to be improved upon to create mechanisms that allow for critiquing. He handed over the presentation duties to his colleague.
Briefing by Department of Correctional Services (DCS)
Mr Emmanuel Khoza, Human Resources Manager, DCS, addressed the mechanism used by the DCS for its shift system, which made Saturdays and Sundays working days to increase the capacity to up to 45 hours a week. Problems arose with the DCS employees and the matter was taken to the Labour Court and the Court ruled in favour of the DCS that no shifts would be amended. The DCS decided to amend the shift system nonetheless to the current '10x4' system, which gave employees four days off after having worked for ten days consecutively for twelve hours a day. This system was problematic because it was very costly and it required extra staff to be hired where there was a shortage of staff daily.
Mr Khoza said the DCS needed to look at the provisions of the structures in place to comply with the basic conditions of employment, reduce the high costs of overtime employment and to make sure there is proper implementation of its policies. The main concern for the DCS was the high vacancy rate, which was 8.5% at the end of January 2016. Of 42006 vacancies, 38452 positions were filled yet the question remained about how the DCS would fill the remaining vacancies. The terminations occurred for different reasons such as voluntary termination, retirement, ill-health retirement, dismissals and death yet the main problem remained with voluntary resignation.
The vast majority of resignations were recorded at salary level eight, and across all levels, retirement and voluntary resignation remained problematic. The reasons for this might be due to better remuneration elsewhere or for career development. The highest number of employment terminations was for those working as custodians, office clerks and administrative staff. The problem was that as vacant positions were filled, more vacancies became available. The Department would need to create a retention strategy that would deal with these high levels of resignations in various positions.
The retention strategy Operation HIRA was where the Department would attempt to attract scarce skills by calling for the submission of curriculum vitas (CVs). This is aimed to attract critical and scarce skills to correctional centres. Of the 13 371 applications, 1 224 were shortlisted and the appointments began mostly in February 2016, totalling at 175 new appointments. The improvements would enhance the rehabilitation function of the DCS and increase the amount of learners coming into the DCS through the leadership programmes. 960 learners were certified as competent and were absorbed into the DCS. A group of 1032 learners had been approved to commence on the 27th of March 2016, who would then be absorbed into the structure. The purpose of HIRA was to attract potential employees for scarce and critical skills.
From 1 April 2016, the DCS would adopt a Recruitment Plan as well as a Retirement Plan whilst increasing its capacity to deal with these issues. The DCS had made progress with the development of its organisational structures through addressing the micro and macro structures. The plans for micro and macro structures had been completed for six regions out of the nine provinces where Limpopo and Mpumalanga formed one region and the Free State and the Northern Cape formed another. These plans were under consideration by Minister Michael Masutha, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, and they should be finalised soon.
Mr Modise said that the new system worked on a seven day week system but now, the overtime costs were higher than they were before due to the shortage of staff. The concern lied with the safety of the staff and officials so the aim was to create a system that ensured that. The service terminations impacted on the ability of the DCS to deliver services and therefore, Mr Modise highlighted how important it is for them to engage with staff, particularly custodial staff and professionals to make sure their environment was safe. The challenges were immense but HIRA was a sufficient turnaround strategy and the upcoming Retention Plan would be very important in keeping staff in their positions. The DCS was looking at transforming the environment's within institutions to deliver on Section 111 of the Correctional Services Act of 1998 and as far as the National Development Plan (NDP) is concerned, too.
The Department has adopted a number of strategies to improve the overall vacancy rate and fast track the filling of vacancies and these included the following the use of use of a learnership as instrumental in the recruitment of entry level posts. A total 906 learners who were certified competent have been appointed permanently within the department. Two learnership groups have been processed with a total of 2043 candidates recruited and are currently undergoing training. A third learnership group of 1032 learners is envisaged to commence on 27 March 2016.The department has in November and December 2015 rolled out Job fairs / Operation Hira in different Regions to attract candidates for scares and critical skills. The Job Fair / Operation Hira had dual purpose: To attract candidates for the filling of all funded vacant post for the 2015/2016 financial year and ensure there is a database of suitable candidates for the filling of posts which will be vacated with effect from 01 April 2016 to ensure that all posts are filled as soon as vacate
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) thanked the DCS for its contribution and endeavours but asked for clarification on the matter where half of the employees were not at work on Mondays and Fridays. The DCS needed to question what it was doing if employees felt the need to resign. He asked what the criteria for employment was and why employees would need a Matric certificate for that. A part of the DCS's job was to help those released from prison to find jobs yet there were criticisms that the DCS would not employ those who were formerly imprisoned. It was disturbing to see that the Department was not employing the ex-convicts and yet expected other government departments to employ them in various positions as a form of rehabilitation. Did the Department employ psychologists and social workers to help with the employers? He asked finally if the DCS had installed cameras into every cell because this might be able to help the institutions with the shortage of staff and provide better monitoring.
Mr W Horn (DA) questioned the vacancy rate and the proposed Recruitment Plan and asked how so few people were being appointed for so many vacancies. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, of 165 shortlisted candidates, none were appointed. This was worrying given the high unemployment rate and it spoke to the competency of the DCS to fill those vacancies when so many were unemployed.
Mr M Maila (ANC) asked what learnership programmes were being undertaken and whether learners could to be absorbed into the Department. He commented on the combined regions of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and the Free State and the Northern Cape as being unmanageable because they were too large. It was encouraging to hear that the Department had a proper analysis of the situation on the ground and the Committee should provide support the Department in trying to remedy the situation going forward.
Mr B Bongo (ANC) also reiterated that despite all the challenges in the Department, there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. The main concern was on the implications of the '10x4' shift system and asked what the response of the stakeholders had been to that so far. It was also unclear as to whether there could be an applicable legislation that could be implemented to deal with that system. The Committee should be provided with information on the employees that were employed in terms of the Public Services Act and Correctional Services Act, on the existing bottlenecks and ways to bring about stability. The overtime system was problematic as it lead to high unbudgeted expenditure as well as the high vacancy rate. With regard to high vacancy rate, the Department needed to find out why people were leaving and find solutions to this. There was a general feeling that the Department was not moving in the right speed in addressing the issue of high vacancy rate. He agreed with his colleague on the size of the combined regions and then questioned why so few appointments were made when considering the applications for the various posts that had been advertised.
Mr Bongo asked for clarity on the security for employees and stakeholders: and asked that the steps taken to ensure that be outlined. The Memorandums of Understanding signed with universities needed to be expanded upon and he suggested that final year nursing students, social workers or psychology students do their service at the institutions.
Co-Chairperson Pilane-Majake asked if the DCS had observed hospitals as they used shift systems too and it might be useful to compare the two. She mentioned section 111 of the Correctional Services Act and how it related to shift systems and asked whether the Public Service Act would come into play there, too. There were too many dismissals and resignations at level eight salary level and she asked if the DCS conducted exit interviews or followed up on why people left the service. She conceded that the work environment for the DCS was very challenging and she suggested that staff programmes needed to ensure that they were mentally and physically well. She suggested that with respect to career-pathing, the DCS should try to match skills to jobs to make sure that people enjoyed their jobs and had greater performance levels. The problem of high vacancy rate was likely to lead to the underutilisation of the allocated budget and this was something that the Department needed to prioritise at the moment.
Mr Modise appreciated the questions that had been asked by Members and responded that some employees were mostly not at work on Mondays and Friday. The employees are often together on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Department had divided the staff into two streams - A and B but this had created security challenge because it could be predictable. It was predictable in the sense that the offender could easily plan on anything that could be viewed as contravening with prison regulations. The current shift pattern made it difficult for the Department to implement the interventions as outlined in the Act. However, employees could not revert to the old shift pattern because of the belief that “10x4” was ideal as it gave rest days. The reasons for retirement in the Department included the misunderstanding of the new Tax Regulations that was to begin in March 2016 [and later postponed to 2018] and there were some of the employees that did not like the work treatment. The Department had created task forces in Pretoria to interview staff to look into abuse and frustrations to deal with the vast resignations. The employment criteria for recruitment was indeed a Matric certificate and a South African ID as the work was difficult and required high levels of mental cognition and as one went higher up the the professional rank, greater qualifications were needed. The DCS focused on employing young people under 34 years of age. The ex-offenders were being engaged with currently so that the DCS could find out what their challenges are and where they could be employed and used by the DCS.
Mr Modise added that the Department was really struggling to find professionals and specialists in positions like social workers and psychologists. The Department had started looking at different alternatives that could be done and the HR team was looking at sourcing in these specialists and paying them on an hourly basis and still paying them competitive salaries. The Department was remunerating based on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) guidelines. He confirmed that the Department was at an advanced stage of installing cameras but the challenge was balancing safety with the offenders' privacy. The reason for no appointments in Kwa-Zulu Natal was because that province was behind on HIRA but many appointments would have been made by the beginning of March and those would reflect soon. Learners had been given certificates of competence coming out of their programmes and those people were absorbed into entry level appointments. He agreed that the combined regions were too large and that the macro structure would be dealing with that when they received feedback from Minister Masutha.
Mr Modise said the implications of the '10x4' shift system was that on Mondays and Fridays the DCS had skeleton staff but the stakeholders were aware of this and they were looking to rectify it. The DCS was looking at other countries' shift systems for certain industries and would consider outsourcing further but it was difficult given the specific nature of some of the jobs. The employees were taken care of and participated in sports programmes, employee assistance programmes and could speak to qualified social workers and psychologists. The Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the universities worked well and sometimes the DCS recruited those final year interns to work for it. The Department had not thought about outsourcing the security as the training iwa particularly aimed at equipping security guards and allowing them to work for correctional services. The Department wanted to ensure that there was compliance on the performance agreement of Senior Management Staff (SMS) and steps should be taken for any cases of non-compliance. It was worrying that the Department had been getting a lot of qualified audit opinions and one of the areas of concern was on the financial management and performance information. All those learners that had gone through the learnership programme were absorbed internally and this was to ensure that not even a single learner was lost to the private sector. The Committee would be provided with a breakdown on the reasons for resignations in terms of provinces or regions.
Co-Chairperson Ms Pilane-Majake asked if the Department would base its shift systems on the two private institutions as these institutions had enough capacity.
Mr Khoza reiterated what Mr Modise said about the minimum requirements for employment and said that the employees need to be able to respond academically and solve problems. Administrative staff and security personnel were divided as two different types of employment; that was why both the Public Services Act and the Correctional Services Act applied. The former legislation only allowed for 40 hours of work per week and the latter Act allowed for 45 hours so this explained the discrepancies. Previously the DCS had a very high budget and could employ additional staff but now they just use overtime staff which pushes up the costs. He clarified the reasons for so many dismissals at salary level eight and said these were consequences of non-compliance.
Co-Chairperson Pilane-Majake thanked Mr Modise and Mr Khoza for their presentation. She indicated her concern for the 12 hour shifts that some may work and asked what happened to the employees who left in the middle of the night. She expressed concern for women who would leave at night and travel to get home. She asked again that the DCS compare their shift systems with other industries.
Mr Khoza addressed the co-Chairperson's questions about the 12 hour shift and said the DCS provided transport or a sleeping facility and often the latest shifts ended at 22.00 and then the next one ended at 06.00 to avoid these problems.
Co-Chairperson Motshekga said the progress was encouraging and the Committee would await any further outcomes regarding their policies.
The meeting was adjourned.