Missing Documents: Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services 2016 Annual Performance Plan
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) on its strategic and anuual performance plans. The presentation spoke to the alignment of the DTPS priorities with government’s priorities, gave a summary of its priorities for 2016/17 and provided a financial breakdown of how the budget would be spent.
The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services said the key priority for the Department was to make the Department function better. It had reported some difficulties in the functionality of the DTPS in June 2015 and of mismanagement of the disciplinary process, which had created paralysis at the higher levels of the Department. Some progress had been made since then and in the current year the organisational structure would be looked at again, because this was a new Department with new priorities and new entities. A review had already started. Another issue was the working climate and environment of the Department and how to move to greater professionalism and optimised business processes.
The four strategic priority focus areas for the Department were broadband, the information communication technology (ICT) policy review, the national e-strategy and e-government. All departmental branches had to see how they could contribute to the four priority areas that hade been identified.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) report was intended for the Department to intervene and take corrective measures. He had accepted the extensive report and its recommendations. Because there were many affected stakeholders, the Department was giving the stakeholders an opportunity to engage with the report and raise any concerns before making it accessible to other stakeholders.
Members said the Department had reduced its strategic outcome goals from five to four between 2015 and 2016 -- what had happened to the other goal, and also why was there a large reduction in the key performance indicators (KPIs), from 35 to 15? How was ICT policy split between the Departments of Postal Services and Communications? Members said they were confused about the cost of SA Connect, and asked for it to be explained. Could clarity be given over a possible merger or buyout of Broadband Infraco and Telkom? Was any legal action being taken regarding the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reports, especially with regard to the DG and other DDGs?
Members were concerned at whether there would be money available for international affairs, and whether that would affect how the Department was able to raise its profile. There had been no mention of the security hub -- was the Department funding it? Regarding the white paper on ICT, would it be given in June as it appeared it would be finalised only in 2018? There had been talk of liaison with inter-governmental departments -- what structures were in place for this to happen, as it appeared this was still only getting off the ground?
Members asked if the current payments addressed the staggered salaries of Post Office staff. Was there a strategy regarding salary negotiations, going forward? The Department should be driving the issue of cyber security. Regarding the situational analysis of the performance plan, there was little or no specific mention of fibre to the home. The Department had said it would coordinate between national, provincial and local government, but given the separation of powers what shape would it take, and did the Department have the authority to do this? Expenditure on outside consultants was high, at approximately R1.5m per post. Members asked how the Department would realign the budget based on the restructuring of the organisation and the revised strategic plan. What were the timeframes for these processes? Had budget cutting measures been taken into account?
Regarding SA Connect, Members asked whether the management allocation was used for management issues or for setting out networks. Was the R650m SAPO recapitalisation being used for the normalisation of labour matters or the settlement of creditors? Regarding the disciplinary matter of the PSC report, Members asked when the Committee would be seeing the report. They said their oversight duties were frustrated by the inability to have access to the report and the SIU report on SAPO.
Briefing by Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services
Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), said the key priority for the Department was to make it function better. It had reported some difficulties in the functionality of the Department in June 2015, and of the mismanagement of the disciplinary processes which had created a paralysis at the higher levels of the DTPS. Some progress had been made since then and in the current year the organisational structure would be looked at again, because this was a new department with new priorities and new entities. A review had already started. Another issue was the working climate and environment of the Department, and how to move to more professionalism and optimised business processes.
He said three new officials had been appointed to vacant posts. They were Mr Omega Shelembe, Deputy Director General (DDG): ICT Oversight; Ms Thulisile Manzini, DDG: Administration; and Ms Joy Masemola: Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The four strategic priority focus areas for the Department were broadband, the ICT policy review, the national e -strategy and e- government. All departmental branches had to see how they could contribute to the four priority areas that had been identified.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) report was intended for the Department to intervene and take corrective measures. He had accepted the extensive report and recommendations. Because there were many affected stakeholders, the Department was giving them an opportunity to engage with the report and raise any concerns before making the report accessible to other stakeholders.
Mr Sipho Mjwara, Acting DG, DTPS, said the Department had aligned its priorities to those of the government. It had relooked at its priorities because it had had too many strategic goals, so it had consolidated and decreased its goals.
He said there was a need for broadband to reach all South Africans and to create an open access environment. The specific interventions for 2016/17 were to develop integrated information communication technology (ICT) legislation after a full policy review and the development of a new policy framework for ICT. The Department sought to develop a comprehensive and integrated national e-strategy to facilitate the growth of all related sectors. The Department would develop a three-year e–services program to allow township and rural access and also offer government, school and health connectivity. The Department would implement phase 1 of the broadband roll out to 2 700 sites, review the national radio frequency plan, develop an ICT small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) support strategy to unlock SMME potential and consider state-owned company (SOC) rationalisation to boost the role of SOCs in broadband. The Department would monitor and evaluate SOC compliance against strategic plans.
He said the issue of women in ICT was a problem needing the Department’s critical attention. The Department would be conducting a working climate and business culture survey to identify and optimise core processes to automate business processes.
Ms Masemola said R2.4 bn had been allocated. 49% would go on infrastructural support and 37% on shareholder oversight, while in terms of economic classification, transfers accounted for 44%.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) said the Department had revised its strategic outcome goals down from five to four between 2015 and 2016. What had happened to the other goal? Also, why was there a huge reduction from 35 to 15 key performance indicators (KPIs)? On the policy and regulatory environment, how was ICT policy split between the Departments of Postal Services and Communications?
Ms M Shinn (DA) said she was confused about the cost of SA Connect, and asked if it could be explained. She said R1.5bn had been allocated to SA Connect for three years, which had to account for approximately 8 000 sites -- could this be done, as it had previously been mentioned that R60bn would be required? Could clarity be given over a possible merger or buyout of Broadband Infraco and Telkom? Was any legal action being taken regarding the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) reports, especially with regard to the DG and other DDGs? She was concerned whether there would be money available for international affairs and its effect on how the Department would be able to raise its profile. There had been no mention of the security hub. Was the Department funding it? Regarding the white paper on ICT, would it be given in June, as it appeared it would be finalised only in 2018? There was talk of liaison with inter-governmental departments -- what structures were in place for this to happen, as it appeared this was still only getting off the ground?
Ms L Maseko (ANC) asked if the current payments addressed the staggered salaries of Post Office staff.
Was there a strategy regarding salary negotiations going forward? The Department should be driving the issue of cyber security.
Mr C Mackenzie (DA) referred to the situational analysis of the performance plan, and said there had been little or no specific mention of fibre to the home. What was the definition of government anchor tenant role? The Department had said it would coordinate between national, provincial and local government -- given the separation of powers, what shape would that take and did the Department have the authority to do this? He said expenditure on outside consultants was high, at approximately R1.5m per post.
The Chairperson asked how the Department would realign the budget based on the restructuring of the organisation and the revised strategic plan. What were the timeframes for these processes? Had budget cutting measures been taken into account?
On the issue of cost measures in terms of budget, Mr Cwele replied that all departments needed to justify the filling of any posts.
Regarding policy, Mr Cwele said the delay was being caused by on-going work on integration so as to ensure no disjuncture between the Department and the Department of Communications.
On the metro wi-fi issue, Mr Cwele said the Department had not shifted the funds, but had reprioritised other funds in agreement with Treasury. Funds had been transferred to metro municipalities and the aim was to assist and stimulate municipalities because of the huge demand. What was given to municipalities was far less than what municipalities spent. Most municipalities were moving to have a cap on the data provided. There had been some research done on the wi-fi services. The service was being used to look for jobs and to access educational material.
The funding model for the rest of the broadband was R67bn, and the Department still working with Treasury on this. However, the Department was looking at the private sector and companies in the ICT and banking industry locally and co-investing in this, mobilising funds internationally. SOCs would be encouraged to invest also.
The SIU investigation was still not complete, but the Department had been given progress reports the previous year. SIU recommendations were being implemented. Some senior officials were being disciplined and the process to discipline the DG had started the previous year. No disciplinary procedures would be swept under the carpet.
The rationalisation was informed by the Presidential Commission’s review on state-owned enterprises and the National Development Plan. At the appropriate time, the Department would announce what would be rationalised. There had been no funding transfer to Broadband Infraco.
The finalisation of the integrated white paper was the Department’s priority, and thereafter the drafting of draft legislation. The Department did not need to have legislation on all the measures. It was looking at a coordinating forum at a national level. The biggest cost to some of the operators was the delay and the challenges of putting up just the infrastructure. All the provinces and municipalities were cooperating with the Department. Some provinces were already trying to implement such policies. There was even a willingness to coordinate the funding.
The issue of fibre to the home was not a priority for government.
The cyber security hub was an important national structure between government and civil society. It was growing, but did not have many resources at the moment. The key was to have resources for awareness programmes because if public was unaware it could not utilise the structures.
On the reduction of performance goals and indicators, Mr Mjwara said the first goal which had been dropped related to the regulatory framework. This was not a stand alone goal and had been incorporated and consolidated into the goals that the Department now had. The Department had had too many goals and with scarce resources, it had been spread too thin and therefore not able to operate at an optimum level. The aim of the rationalisation was to ensure the organisation was much more focussed.
Mr Farhad Osman, Chief Director: Planning and Monitoring, DTPS, said that in terms of the reprioritisation of the targets down to 15, the targets were high impact and had been made in line with available resources and were within the Department’s control. The fact that many indicators previously were dependant on external inputs had been the key reason why the Department had not achieved targets previously.
Mr Mjwara said that the cyber security hub had an allocation of R11m in the budget.
Regarding raising the international profile, he said the Department had wanted to place people in international organisations, rather than fly them to meetings. However cost cutting measures had kicked in.
Regarding current payments and whether it included SA Post Office (SAPO) payments, he said that it would be raised when SAPO came to Committee.
Regarding consultants and fees, he said that the Department had tried to address the issue internally. One initiative had been to appoint people to join the Department on short term contracts. The classification of consultants included all areas, such as the audit committee, project management, qualification verifications, advisory services, legal contracting and the new survey on the climate and culture within the organisation. All of these had resulted in an increase in the consultancy budget.
Regarding SAPO funding, Mr Shelembe said there had been a capital injection into the Post Office of R650m in recapitalisation funds to revitalise the entity.
On the allocation to SA Connect on phase one and phase two, a Departmental official said that it was important to note that the focus was to procure services, rather than infrastructure. The infrastructure was done by a service provider and would be significant. What had been allocated in 2015 had had a shortfall of 50% for phase one, but the amount for phase two had been increased to complete the phase one sites, and what was left would be used to start phase two.
Regarding the inter-governmental framework coordination, Dr Cwele said the Deputy Minister had chaired the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council (PICC) meeting where key departments had been present.
Ms Shinn asked where the wi-fi funding came from and to whom it was given. Regarding SA Connect, she asked whether the management allocation was used for management issues or for setting out networks.
Regarding the disciplinary matter of the Public Service Commission (PSC) report, Mr Mackenzie asked when the Committee would be seeing the report. He asked if the R650m SAPO recapitalisation money was used for the normalisation of labour matters or the settlement of creditors.
Dr Cwele said SAPO had needed R3bn. It had received R600m, but had been allowed to borrow in the market to cover the shortfall. Salaries were part of the settlement of creditors. The funds were needed to implement the SAPO turnaround.
Regarding money transfers, it was not from Broadband -- it was money rolled over for a call centre. The Department was not usurping the creativity of municipalities, but the money was to assist municipalities. It was a small amount compared to what municipalities spent. Treasury had had to agree to the transfer of funds. The figures were modest, varying from between R4.6m to R8m per municipality. This was guided by what municipalities were investing, where there were no facilities, and was also given to libraries. It was a once-off grant, not a national project.
The R1.5bn was for both services and network. This was a pilot, so while the focus was on service there was also an obligation to roll out infrastructure.
The PSC report dealt with internal Departmental HR problems. It was not a secret report, but legal advice was that time and space had to be given for the people mentioned in the report to be able to respond before the publicising of the report, so he could not say when it would be released.
Mr Mackenzie said his oversight duties were frustrated by his inability to have access to the report, as well as the SIU report on SAPO, and he was stumbling along in the dark.
Ms Shinn asked if the fact that money had been taken from the emergency number call centre funds meant that the emergency number had been abandoned.
Dr Cwele said the President had considered the SIU report, and had referred the report to him to pass on to the SAPO Board for its recommendations to be implemented urgently. Some recommendations talked about public issues, and to take certain entities to court to nullify decisions that had been taken. SAPO supported the report and secondly, it was to discipline some employees. The board needed to respond to these two issues. Only then could the Minister go to the President and thereafter allow the report to be considered for public release. There had been some level of corruption by the Department’s own officials and entities, caused by bad procurement processes, corruption and kickbacks. The investigation had covered ten years of activities and had helped to identify systemic problems within the Department.
Mr Mjwara said there was no programme focussing on the emergency number call centre. Other departments had raised the issue of the call centre and the Department would relook at it, as it was part of the Department’s mandate.
The meeting was adjourned
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