Electoral Commission and Government Printing Works on 2016/17 Annual Performance Plans

Home Affairs

05 April 2016
Chairperson: Mr B Mashile (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Government Printings Works (GPW) and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefed the Committee on their annual performance plans and budgets for the 2016/17 financial year, as well as their strategic plans for the near future.

The GPW said that it produced passports, identity documents, examination books and official gazettes. One of the strategic outcome oriented goals for 2015 to 2020 was to optimise processes and facilities, and to become a state-owned enterprise, but operating as an independent entity. To achieve this, a State Printer’s Bill ought to be passed. The Bill had been drawn up, stipulating that all government security printing would be done by the GPW unless the Minister of Home Affairs and State Security granted exemption, and that the government would be the sole shareholder of the company.

Three security challenges had been identified. These were related to the GPW’s intention to become an independent company, the recruitment and retrenchment of staff, and ensuring quality printing work. As a government component, the GPW was governed by the Public Service Act (PSA) and thus salaries had to be in line with the PSA regulations. The GPW had applied for special compensation dispensation in terms of public administration, but the request had been declined two years ago. As a result, the GPW had opted to adopt the strategy of becoming a state-owned company. As a company, the GPW would be governed by the Companies Act, in tandem with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Therefore, it would be possible to pay market related salaries.

Members sought clarity on issues related to ensuring the security of identity documents, on measures that were being taken to guard against subtle corruption tactics that could be used to go through security systems undetected, and on succession planning. The GPW was asked to explain why it would be efficient and effective once it had become a state-owned enterprise, and why some workers would be retrenched in the process.

The IEC went through performance indicators and quarterly targets for 2017 in respect of three strategic goals. These 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; and
  • Strengthening electoral democracy.

Members asked the IEC to provide updated information on the issue surrounding the need for physical addresses for voter registration. They sought clarity regarding a number of contracted voting stations, most of which were houses of ANC members, and asked how the Commission made sure that these contracted voting stations were neutral. Why was the target for registered voters persistently around two-thirds of the population, representing 50% of the voting age population? Concern was expressed about the manner in which the credibility of the results of elections would be ensured, as it was common for results to be contested. There were worries about the high level of corruption in the form of fraud. Why was the Commission targeting only an unqualified audit, rather than a clean one? A Member contested the Commission’s figures, which indicated that 63% of voters did not have a physical address, pointing out that everyone had to provide a physical address to obtain an ID document, or receive a welfare grant, or obtain a cell phone. 

Meeting report

Briefing by Government Printing Works (GPW)

Prof Anthony Mbewu, Chief Executive Officer, GPW, focussed on the entity’s strategic plan for 2017 to 2021, its annual performance plan for 2016-2017, and its detailed strategic objectives.

He said the GPW produced passports, identity documents, examination books and official gazettes. Among the strategic outcome oriented goals for 2015 to 2020 were to optimise processes and facilities, and to become a state-owned enterprise, but operating as an independent entity. To achieve this, a State Printer’s Bill ought to be passed. The Bill had been drawn up, stipulating that all government security printing would be done by the GPW unless the Minister of Home Affairs and State Security granted exemption, and that the government would be the sole shareholder of the company. This development was part of the formation of a capable and developmental state, as described by the National Development Plan (NDP). The Bill would enable a Control Council for Security Printing (CCSP) to be established, which would regulate security printing and accredit security printers.

The GPW’s campus at 81 Visagie Street would be developed. A site development plan had been completed in 2015 and the total project would cost R788 160 678. The tender for a contractor would be issued in 2016. Pavilion Seven was being converted into a dispatch centre for passports and smart ID cards. It was due for completion by the end of 2017. Both Pavilion Seven and the Visagie Street campus were being converted into a high-speed printing and examination papers factory. Two facility systems had been launched in 2012 -- the electronic government gazette, or e-gazette, and the enterprise resources planning system.

The GPW had completed its journey, begun in 2009, from a sub-department of Home Affairs to a government component. It had doubled its budget since 2009, and was operating on business principles, defraying all its operational expenses from revenue generated.

For the 2016/17 financial year, the GPW would continue to strive towards achieving the strategic outcome–oriented goals set out in the 2017-2021 strategic plan, thereby contributing to national outcomes of government and the objectives set out in the NDP. Priorities for 2016/17 were outlined, including strategic objectives, the objective statement, key performance indicators and targets. A clean audit was among targets.

Discussion

Mr D Gumede (ANC) sought clarity about issues on the security of identity documents (IDs), asking about risks that had been prioritised to be addressed, to ensure that IDs were secured in future. What measures were being taken to guard against subtle corruption tactics that could be used to go through the security system undetected? Referring to the succession plan, he felt that there was no clear plan illustrating how managers could be replaced. Was there any succession plan? If not, why?

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) asked why the GPW had indicated that it would be efficient and effective once it had become a state-owned enterprise, and why some workers would need to be retrenched in the process. Her concern was that the GPW was losing competent workers.

Prof Mbewu responded that there were three security challenges that had been identified. These were related to the GPW’s intention to become an independent company, the recruitment and retrenchment of staff, and ensuring quality printing work. As a government component, the GPW was governed by the Public Service Act (PSA) and thus salaries had to be in line with the PSA regulations. The GPW had applied for special compensation dispensation in terms of public administration, but the request had been declined two years ago. As a result, the GPW had opted to adopt the strategy of becoming a state-owned company. As a company, the GPW would be governed by the Companies Act, in tandem with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Therefore, it would be possible to pay market related salaries.

The machine that was being used to produce IDs was old. Under the recapitalisation programme which had started five years ago, all old equipment would be replaced, including the ID book machinery. In terms of security risks, the GPW had worked towards mitigating these risks. However, certain workers could be bribed to get particular information.

Prof Mbewu said that a succession plan existed.

Mr Rassie Barnard, Chief Financial Officer: GPW, added that there were different types of products and different types of security measures taken during the production of its products.

The Chairperson commented that what the Committee wanted was for the GPW to have the right people in the workforce, to be upfront with regard to security issues, and to try to expand its business so that it could deliver on various fronts. The GPW should grow accordingly in a manner that was manageable. The Committee was not, however, asking it to bite off more than it could chew. More focus should be on producing documents that could not copied by anyone else.

Briefing by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)

Ms Fiona Rowley-Withey, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, IEC, said that both the strategic plan for 2014/15 to 2018/19 and the 2016/17 annual performance plan had been drafted after a consultative process and in terms of the framework for strategic plans and annual performance plans. The plans had been adopted by the Commission.

She went through performance indicators and quarterly targets for 2017 in respect of the three strategic goals. These 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; and
  • Strengthening electoral democracy.

Working towards achieving the above-mentioned strategic goals, R1,6 billion would be spent for the 2016/17 financial year. For the 2017/18 financial year, the budget is projected to be R1,1 billion and R1,8 billion in 2018/19.

Discussion

Ms O Hlophe (EFF) thought the presentation should have covered a hot issue which was strongly reflected in political debates, concerning the physical addresses of voters for registration purposes. She sought clarity regarding a number of contracted voting stations, most of which were houses of ANC members. How did the Commission make sure that these contracted voting stations were neutral? She asked how the issue of networks would be addressed, what aspects were looked at to conclude that an election was free and fair, and why it should take the Commission seven days to declare the result of election.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked about the number of electoral staff recruited and trained per annum. The annual target was 263 454 staff. What was a quarterly target?

Mr A Figlan (DA) expressed his concern about the presidential election, if by-elections were to be postponed for the third time. Why was the target for registered voters persistently around two-thirds of the population, representing 50% of the voting age population? What could be done to encourage people to register to vote? With improvement around security of the smart ID card, would it possible to allow all people with either smart ID cards or ID books to vote?

Mr Gumede expressed his concern about the manner in which the credibility of the results of elections would be ensured. He remarked that it was common to contest the results. What measures were being taken to educate people on aspects that were taken into consideration when coming to the conclusion that an election was free and fair? People should clearly be educated about eligibility to vote, or reasons why some people were not eligible to vote. Other countries adopted the measure of using transparent ballot boxes, for everyone to see that a ballot box was empty. Would a transparent ballot box be used?

Mr B Nesi (ANC) expressed his worries about the high level of corruption in the form of fraud. Was there a monitoring mechanism to see whether money which had been released was used for its intended purpose? As an example of fraud, he said that staff of the Commission would lie that they had hired certain equipment, such as a tent, and thus claim money. He also sought clarity on what would happen to people who had to walk a long distance to vote in their old constituencies merely because they were now living in a new constituency due to the demarcation of boundaries.

The Chairperson asked why the Commission was targeting an unqualified audit, instead of a clean audit. The annual target of registered voters reflected on the voters’ roll for 2016/17 was 26 139 122, but why was the target not spelt out in four separate quarters? The Committee would not wait for the annual performance report to see whether the Committee had achieved the said target. There was a need of clarity with regard to the number of 38 000 programmable bar code scanner units, planned to be procured between seven and ten years. Nothing had been said on the current situation or how many scanners would be procured quarterly or annually. Since this information was missing, it was difficult to know annual target. The Committee was aware that the old scanners would be used in this election for the last time, but the presentation had not revealed how soon they would be replaced – in fact, it indicated that there would be no procurement of scanners in 2016/17 financial year. Finally, clarity was sought on the four research and thought leadership initiatives.

Ms Rowley-Withey responded that the four research and thought leadership initiatives would happen in the fourth quarter. They would be commissioned on an on-going contractual basis and it was in the fourth quarter that they would be completed. On the issue of scanner units, the Commission’s plan was to continue to use existing machines. Immediately after the election, there was a plan to conceptualise what technologically empowered scanner units would be needed, and what they would look like. That work was anticipated to be finalised by March 2017, and the procurement process would then begin. At the last Committee meeting, questions had been asked in respect of the expense of maintaining the equipment. The Commission was confident that the existing equipment would do the job.

On the issue of targeting an unqualified audit, she said it would be difficult to achieve a clean audit during the period of an election. On the issue of corruption, the areas of procurement and hiring were classified as high risk. The Commission fought against corruption through investigation and eventually imposing disciplinary measures against those who were found guilty. A zero tolerance approach was applied in that regard. On the issue of not have a quarterly target of permanent staff, she responded that there was an internal debate on whether recruitment should be a quarterly or annual target. They had concluded that a target could be achieved in the fourth quarter.

Mr Mosotho Moepya, CEO, IEC, said that the Commission faced a challenge to manage its finances because money during elections was deposited into the staff account. Despite such a managerial challenge, the Commission would work towards achieving a clean audit. Finances would be managed in manner that was auditable. On the issue of the need for physical addresses for voters, the matter had not yet been resolved by the Constitutional Court, and further clarity was being sought.

With regards to contracted voting stations, there was a process for identifying voting stations. There were, however, certain matters that had to be investigated to ensure that these voting stations were neutral. The report would be forwarded to Ms Hlophe.

On the issue of network stability and reliability, he responded that the approach adopted had been to invite all political parties to come and test the Commission system to see for themselves how it was working. The IT system could not be hacked. The Commission had additional capacity that it would bring on board to deal with the issue of security of the system. On the issue of the declaration of results, he responded that the law prescribed seven days, but results could be announced before seven days elapsed.

The issue of credibility of elections was dependent on four aspects:

  • The quality of voters’ roll;
  • The quality of logistics;
  • The quality of electoral staff; and
  • The quality of the voting environment.

Before a declaration was made, the Commission had to analyse whether these aspects had been met. In addition, the Commission, on regular basis, engaged with all political parties collectively. The Commission also cooperated with civil society, universities and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the election process was credible.

The Chairperson agreed. He commented that all political parties and civic society should work towards enhancing the credibility of elections. It needed to be noted that the Commission was merely an institution supporting democracy.

Mr Moepya explained the voter registration issue that was sitting with the Constitutional Court. There had been a judgement delivered on 23 November 2015 in which the Court had requested that a registered voter ought to have a physical address or sufficient particularities. The challenge before the Court was that the Commission did not provide the voters’ roll to political parties’ candidates, or to independent candidates. The Court had declared that the voters’ roll containing physical address of voters should be provided to all candidates. Physical addresses were subject to their availability. The Court had also said that it was important that the Commission registered a voter and recorded his or her physical address or sufficient particularities. For that reason, the Commission had established a form in which these particulars could be filled, after consultation with all political parties. These particulars had been recorded as from November. However, there were some voters who historically did not have a physical address. The voters’ roll that was handed to candidates had sufficient particulars of some voters, but others could not furnish them. In situations where a voter gave particularities, they were not recorded as physical addresses. The matter before the Electoral Court was political parties’ argument holding that where there was no physical address on the voters’ roll, this was fraudulent. According to the Constitutional Court judgment, the Commission could turn away a voter on the basis of an absence of a physical address. The Commission was therefore asking the Electoral Court to clarify the matter.

Ms Hlophe felt that a physical address could not be a problem because of the following reasons:

  • The Department of Home Affairs could not issue an ID without provision of a physical address;
  • The Department of Social Development could not grant social assistance to a person who did not provide a physical address; and
  • A cell phone could not be bought without proof of address.

She contested the Commission’s figures which indicated that 63% of voters did not have a physical address.

The Chairperson commented that people moved from one place to another, and the Commission could not rely on physical addresses that were provided when applying for an ID. Likewise, an individual could buy a phone for his or her parents, or friends or relatives. It was imperative for an individual to prove where he or she resided, but not just staying.

He thanked the Chairperson of the Commission and his team for their time and invaluable information, and the meeting was adjourned

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