The Committee met to consider its report on the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services Budget. The report highlighted that the tabled Strategic Plan 2015-2020 had been revised with targets that were measurable and achievable.
A few suggestions were made with regard to the rewording of some parts of the reports and fixing grammatical and numeral errors. Other major observations and recommendations made to the report included the need for the Department to provide clarity on the media reports about the possible “merger” between Broadband Infraco (BBI) and Telkom. The Committee also noted that the amount that was spent by the Department on consultant fees was extremely high and wanted to know if there were plans in place in to resolve the bloated budget for this. The Department was asked to provide feedback on the Special Investigation Unit investigations and what steps that had been taken to discipline and criminally charge those implicated in the investigation within 3 months of the adoption of the report. The Department was requested to provide clarity on the amount to be given to South African Post Office in the 2016/17 financial year in order to conclude the past obligations and position SAPO for recovery and growth. Eventhough the DA reserved its right to adopt the report; it was approved by the majority of Members.
Committee Report on Telecommunications and Postal Services Budget
The Chairperson indicated that the Minister had highlighted that the tabled Strategic Plan 2015-2020 had been revised with targets that were measurable and achievable. The revised Strategic Plan was to ensure that it was aligned with the National Development Plan (NDP), Nine Point Plan and the Medium Term Strategic Plan. The Department had stated that the plans for the broadband rollout in eight districts had been finalised. The review of the National Radio Frequency Plan would also be a priority to ensure that the most needed spectrum was re-allocated to expedite the broadband rollout. The rationalisation of State-Owned Companies (SOCs) would also be accelerated. The Department had also noted that the biggest challenge in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was the local and economic difficulties and as a result phase 2 had not been appropriated.
Ms M Shinn (DA) noted that the report needed to be free from grammatical and numeral errors as this was the report to be discussed in the National Assembly.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee was concerned about the media reports around the “merger” between Broadband Infraco (BBI) and Telkom and requested the Department to provide clarity on the matter. The Committee also noted that the amount that was still spent on consultant fees was extremely high and wanted to know if there were plans in place to resolve the bloated budget for consultants. The Department was asked to provide feedback on the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigations and what steps had been taken to discipline and criminally charge those implicated in the investigation within 3 months of the adoption of the report. Members had urged the Department to finalise the rationalisation of the SOCs as this had an impact on the effectiveness of the entity. The Committee had raised concerns about the governance issues with some entities with acting chairpersons of the board, the Department was asked to fill the vacant positions with competent and relevant expertise.
The Committee Content Adviser noted that the Committee had urged the Minister to urgently finalise the establishment of the new entity iNesi so that the uncertainties could be resolved and report to Parliament the progress within 3 months of the adoption of the report. In relation to South African Post Office (SAPO), the Committee highlighted the need to closely monitor the performance of the entity. The Committee also wanted to know about the financial impact of SAPO if the revenue generated from Post Bank was taken into consideration. Members also wanted to know the cost to SAPO due to the Universal Service Obligations and the report to be submitted within 3 months of the adoption of the report.
Mr C Mackenzie (DA) corrected that SAPO had requested R1.5 billion in the 2016/17 financial year and another R1.5 billion in the 2017/18 financial year instead of the whole amount in one financial year. This amount was to be used to conclude the past obligations and position SAPO for recovery and growth.
The Chairperson said she could not recall exactly what the Department had said around the amount of money to be allocated to SAPO in the 2016/17 financial. The exact figure would need to be verified from the Department.
Mr Mackenzie added that it would also be better for the Committee to be guided by the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan that had been presented by SAPO.
Members agreed with the suggestions.
The Committee Content Adviser stated that SAPO had highlighted that there would be a continuous engagement with Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to conclude the complaint lodged about the reserved postal services which are being serviced by private companies. However, Members had complained that the process was taking long and needed to be expedited.
The Chairperson requested Members to adopt the report.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) moved for the adoption of the report and was seconded by Ms N Ndongeni (ANC).
Ms Shinn said that the DA still needed to caucus its position regarding the Budget Vote 32 Report of the Department.
The report was adopted with amendments.
The Chairperson thanked everyone in the meeting and then indicated that the Committee would adopt all the outstanding minutes in the next meeting.
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