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 annual performance plans. The presentation spoke to the alignment of the Department’s priorities with those of the government, gave a summary of its priorities for 2016/17 and provided a financial breakdown of how the budget would be spent.
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 had been identified. The Committee was also briefed on the development of the “My Parliament” application (app), which seeks to make the legislative business less paper dependent.
Members asked questions about the funding and the financial position of the Post Office, cyber security, capacity building and the stabilisation of the Post Office.
Presentation: Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS)
Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister, DTPS, said she was particularly happy that the Department had made significant progress since the last time it appeared before the Select Committee. She also briefly talked about the support the Department was giving to the municipalities in its attempt to establish wi-fi hot spots across the country to give people access to affordable internet connections.
Mr Sipho Mjwara, Acting Director General: DTPS, gave a brief overview of the presentation, which indicated the alignment of the Department’s priorities with government policies, and provided a summary of the DTPS priorities for 2016/2017 and the financial information for 20116/17. Since the last meeting with the Committee, several issues had been raised and the lack of performance was the result of too many strategic priorities which had not been met. The Department had reviewed its priorities because it had had too many strategic goals, so it had consolidated and decreased its goals. The strategic priorities were based on alignment with the National Development Plan (NDP), the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA). Based on this, four strategic high impact focus areas had been developed within the annual performance plan. These focus areas were:
- Information Communication Technology (ICT) policy review.
- National E-strategy.
The Annual Performance Plan (APP) took into consideration the short to medium-term focus areas stemming from the NDP, the MTSF and the 2016 SONA. Specific interventions had been prioritised for the 2016/17 financial year, taking into consideration available resources and identified risks.
The strategic alignment (1) under the NDP focused on the urgent need for a full policy review, and the MTSF period would see a focus on developing a new policy framework for ICT. The APP would prioritise the finalisation of the White Paper on a national integrated ICT policy.
The strategic alignment (2) under the NDP focused on ensuring 100% broadband penetration and its extension during the MTSF period. 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 the field of broadband.
The Department would monitor and evaluate SOC compliance against its strategic plans. The strategic goal (1) of the DTPS was broadband connectivity that provided secure and affordable access for all citizens to education, health and other government services, and which stimulated socio-economic development. The strategic objective (1) was to coordinate the broadband connectivity to achieve 100% population coverage by 2020. Broadband was crucial for economic development and must be extended to rural and under-serviced areas so as to improve access, uptake and usage of ICT in order to address the digital divide.
The strategic objective (2) sought to ensure South Africa had a modern, sustainable and competitive postal and telecommunications sector with the objective of developing and implementing ICT policy and legislation which was aimed at improving access and affordability of ICT. South Africa currently had in place distinct and separate policy frameworks for addressing the various ICT sub-sectors. Hence, the review of all ICT policies to establish a national ICT policy was both a necessity and an opportunity to accelerate the development of the economy, which would also provide a global competitiveness edge for South Africa.
There was a need to increase South Africa’s presence in the ICT international sphere so as to influence the global ICT agenda in favour of South Africa’s domestic ICT policies and developmental agenda. There was also a need to leverage its presence in the ICT global governance institutions, as well as to seek to expand such presence in additional identified structures.
The strategic goal (3) sought to develop an inclusive information society and knowledge economy driven through a comprehensive e-strategy and access to government services. There was an urgent need to focus on the development of a national e-Strategy that would take into account the review of the Information Society and Development (ISAD) plan, to be aligned with present global conditions. At the same time, South Africa as a country had witnessed a global decline with regard to its international ranking by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Economic Forum (WEF) and others. To address this external challenge, there was a need for the Department to develop an e-Strategy that would harmonise the fragmented information society initiatives taking place within South Africa and to encapsulate the e-Government initiatives that would drive service delivery imperatives.
The strategic objective (4) sought to create an optimally functional Department and SOCs that effectively delivered on their respective mandates. Some of the SOCs within the portfolio were experiencing financial and operational distress and therefore needed to be monitored closely and pro-actively to ensure that they stabilised and prospered, so that service delivery was not compromised. To this end, the Department would exercise pro-active and stringent oversight to ensure the growth and sustainability of all its SOCs. The DTPS also aimed to create a high performing organisation to enable achievement of the Department’s mandate.
Ms Joy Masemola, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): DTPS, gave a breakdown of the budgetary allocation to the Department. The total sum received in the financial year was R2 417 412 000.
The Parliamentary Manager for the “My Parliament” application, gave an update on the progress made in the development of the application for Members of Parliament. The application had been developed to reduce the volume of paper being carried out by MPs, and to encourage less reliance on paper communications.
Mr J Julius (DA, Gauteng) asked if special login details were required to log on to the “My Parliament” application, and if the application had provision for a distinction between the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) was happy with the development of the application and said it was a welcome alternative to the website of Parliament. He said that most people depended on the reports from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) to get updated information on Committee meetings at Parliament.
The Parliamentary Manager replied that there would be login detail requirements for the application which would entail a password, and there would be special filters to differentiate between the National Assembly meetings and that of the NCOPs. His office was working closely with the secretaries of Committees to ensure that updated information on all MPs was available.
Mr E Mlambo (ANC, Gauteng) asked for specific timelines for the Department’s targets. On the issue of cyber security, he asked if there had been collaboration with the state security services for the purpose of combating cyber-crimes. Specific mention was made of the R300 million cyber crime committed against Standard Bank by a specialised syndicate in Japan.
Mr Rayi was not sure if the documents relating to the strategic and annual performance plans had been received by Members of the Committee, because the presentation had been a summary and he was not impressed with that. He was not happy the presentation had no target indicators or target timelines. Some of the issues mentioned had also been mentioned in the previous year .This made it difficult to actually point out the achievements of the Department.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM, Eastern Cape) asked for clarity regarding the financial position of the post offices. He wanted to know the status quo as regards the suspended managers, and also what was being done to ensure better service delivery in the rural areas.
Mr Julius disagreed with the position of the Acting DG, who said that the post offices in the rural areas were readily accessible to the people. What was the impact of the renting of properties on the financial position of the post offices? He asked about the wage bill of the SOCs and the impact of the current strike action on the post offices. He raised concerns about capacity building and wanted a definite answer on the turnaround plans for the post offices. He also asked why there was a large allocation to consultancy, because it impacted negatively.
Mr O Sefako (ANC, North West) asked what could be done by the South African government to control internet content.
The Chairperson asked how many municipalities were in the South African Connect project. Commenting on the 2015/15 report of the Department, she said that the Auditor General had told the Department that its report was unreliable with reference to the performance indicators, and she wanted to know what was being done to correct that.
Mr Mjwara told the Committee that the documents which explained the annual performance of the Department had been sent earlier, and the reason the strategic goals looked alike was because they were long term goals. The difference was in the strategies and the implementation developed over the period of time, and he was happy the Department had made quite reasonable progress from the last year.
On the issue of cyber security, he said the Department was in collaboration with state security services, to combat cybercrimes. 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 the public was unaware, it could not use the structures.
On the funding of the South African post offices, the government had allocated R650 million to assist the Post Office, and negotiations are in place to ensure that it received access to all funds that would ensure its total turnaround. On the turnaround measures being put in place, a new board had been inaugurated and an executive committee put in place to ensure its stabilisation. A new CEO had also been appointed. All of this had been done to ensure that the implementation plans were moving in the right direction for the stabilisation of the Post Office. A new CFO had also been appointed.
Regarding the wage bill, the Department had put in place measures to ensure that it honoured all the undertakings it had entered into, and also to pay all the staff to which it owed money. The Department was happy with the wage bill and discussions were ongoing between the Department and the unions as regards the issues surrounding the post office.
Ms Masemola responded on the issue of consultants and fees, and 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 and legal contracting. All of these had resulted in an increase in the consultancy budget. There were also measures in place to ensure a transfer of skills.
With respect to the renting of properties, Mr Mjwara said that the Post Office tried to rationalise its office space to avoid unnecessary spending and a process had been put in place to tackle this. An additional sum of R52 million had been approved for the national address system.
He said the Postbank had a critical role in the financial service environment of South Africa, especially as it concerned economically marginalised citizens, and those who were not in reach of the banking sector. Within this broader theme of universal service and access, the Postbank would lead the expansion of access to banking services to the majority of citizens, mainly in rural South Africa. The Postbank had a formidable customer base to launch new transactional services, including lending facilities, thus providing much needed financial services especially to the currently un-banked communities.
On the SA Connect programmes, eight districts would be connected this year and the target was to connect the entire country.
With respect to internet control, the target was to ensure that South Africa became a cyber-hub and encouraged investment in this direction.
The meeting was adjourned