The Committee met to consider the Budgetary Review Recommendations Report for the Department of Basic Education. Some members at the outset of the meeting expressed their disappointment that they had only received report the previous day or in some instances just about two days before the scheduled meeting to consider it. The concern was that members were not given sufficient time to peruse the report along with supporting documentation. To make matters worse members were expected to make inputs on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statements (MTBPS) the following week based on what was contained in the BRRR. Members felt that they had too little time to make meaningful contributions to the MTBPS. In as much as the concerns by members were valid the fact of the matter was that the entire process was according to the programme of Parliament. The Committee agreed that the issue needed to be brought to the attention of the powers that be in Parliament.
Members went through the BRRR page by page and for the most part did not affect many substantive changes to it since most of the changes were of a grammatical and technical nature. A fair amount of discussion ensued over a recommendation made by the Committee over targets that were set by the Department of Basic Education. Members wished it to be reflected in the BRRR that when targets were set they should not be overly ambitious and that targets should be monitored. In addition in the event that targets were not met steps needed to be taken to address why targets were not met. Committee drafters were tasked with coming up with a recommendation in this regard. The Committee also agreed that there should be a recommendation directed towards the Minister of Finance which would state that funds should be allocated towards schools with infrastructure needs like water, sanitation and electricity. Lengthy discussion took place over a recommendation made by Mr G Davis (DA) that was along the lines that the Minister of Basic Education should provide Parliament with an action plan to prevent unions and other organisations from dominating SA’s education system. The issue had emanated from a finding made by the Ministerial Task Team in its “final” report. Members argued to and fro as to whether the Ministerial Task Team’s report could be considered “final”. The point of contention was that investigations had been initiated based on the findings of the report and that the report was perhaps not final. The outcomes of investigations were yet to be presented to the Committee. Consensus could not be reached by members firstly as to whether the Ministerial Task Team’s report could be considered “final” and secondly on whether the recommendation made by Mr Davis would be included in the BRRR. The DA wished it to be placed on record that if the recommendation made by Mr Davis ie the DA was not to be included in the BRRR then the party would not give its support to it. The recommendation was not included in the BRRR and the DA withheld its support. The Committee nevertheless adopted the BRRR as amended.
The Chairperson said that the Committee’s Budgetary Review Recommendations Report (BRRR) was before members for consideration. Members were supposed to have received the BRRR earlier than they did but it was something which the Committee Staff could not help due to their immense work load.
Mr G Davis (DA) noted that he had only received the BRRR on Sunday 16 October 2016 at 5:37pm. He was aware of challenges that the Committee Staff experienced but was not sure where the problem lied. Was it with the Committee or was it in the manner Parliament operated? If things were better then Members could be doing their oversight duties more effectively. Were members given sufficient time to go through the BRRR? The concern that he had was that the MTBPS was scheduled for the following week on Wednesday 26 October 2016 and Members were expected to make inputs on it. It seemed to be a superfluous exercise as the budget was most probably already adjusted and decided. He asked whether what the Committee was going through was simply a tick the box exercise.
Ms H Boshoff (DA) pointed out that she had only received the BRRR the day before, Monday 17 October 2016 at 1:10pm.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) felt that it was unfair of members to state that everything had already been decided on the MTBPS. The connotation was that the recommendations of the Committee in the BRRR would be of no effect.
The Chairperson noted the points made by Members and conceded that there was little time to make contributions by Wednesday the following week. However, she did point out that the Committee was in a much better position than many other committees who would only be adopting their BRRRs on Monday or Tuesday the following week just before the due date. Perhaps the issue needed to be brought to the attention of the leaders of Parliament. The entire process ran according to the schedule of Parliament. For now things could not be changed. She agreed that things were being rushed but that was how matters stood.
Mr Davis appreciated the comments made by the Chairperson. It was nevertheless unacceptable to expect Members to apply their minds to a 38-page document plus supporting documents within such a short space of time. He asked what suggestions the Chairperson had to resolve the matter.
The Chairperson clarified that she was not saying that the processes were flawed. It was the programme which Parliament followed. Members might feel that the timeframes were limited but it was nevertheless the programme of Parliament. The Committee had engaged on the issues contained in the BRRR.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) stated that he had gone through the BRRR and that it contained issues that the Committee had dealt with. There was nothing new. The problem did not lie with the Committee but rather with the programme of Parliament. It was however a matter which could be addressed. It could however not be resolved at present. Things were as they were.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) agreed that most of the issues covered in the BRRR were things that the Department of Basic Education had presented to the Committee during the year in question. The process problem was beyond the Committee and all that it could do was to continue its work.
The Chairperson noted that the issue would be raised with the powers that be.
Basic Education Budgetary Review Recommendations Report (BRRR)
The Chairperson placed the BRRR before the Committee for consideration and took Members through the BRRR page by page. Members were urged to suggest changes or inputs where they deemed it necessary.
Members for the most part did not affect many substantive changes to the BRRR since most of the changes were of a grammatical and technical nature.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) referring to the recommendations on page 37 (third bullet point from the bottom), which stated that the Department had to take necessary steps to ensure that all set targets were reasonable and achieved. She felt the way in which the recommendation was captured was far too vast. The recommendation should instead state why targets had not been achieved and what needed to be done to rectify the situation. The Department had over the past five years in its annual reports and quarterly reports not achieved all its targets.
The Chairperson asked Ms Van der Walt what suggestion she was making in regards to the recommendation. The Minister of Basic Education was expected to take the necessary steps. She understood Ms Van der Walt was saying that there should be consequences. How should the recommendation be captured?
Ms J Basson (ANC) asked why there was non-achievement of targets in any case. Were the targets set perhaps too ambitious? She concluded that perhaps it was the very reason why the recommendation as captured in the BRRR stated that targets had to be reasonable.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) felt it important to leave consequence management in the recommendation. She proposed that the Committee should have insight into the improvement plan of the Department. It should not lie with the Minister but with the Department. She suggested that the Committee on a monthly basis should have a meeting with the Department to discuss issues that the Committee had identified. The recommendation as captured should be left as it was. The Minister would be able to understand the recommendation made by the Committee.
The Chairperson pointed out that the recommendation seemed to be an overarching recommendation over the rest of the Committee recommendations. She suggested that perhaps it should be placed at the beginning or the end of the list of recommendations.
Ms Van der Walt noted that the Auditor General of SA had said that the Committee needed to do greater oversight over the Department. She came up with the following formulation, “The Department of Basic Education should monitor all targets and take necessary steps where targets were not met.” She reiterated that the recommendation as it was captured was far too wide. She emphasised that the Committee could perform better oversight over the Department.
The Chairperson suggested that the Committee drafters look into the matter.
Mr Dennis Bandi, Committee Content Adviser, stated that he would come up with a formulation after the meeting.
Ms Van der Walt also referred to the Committee recommendation to the Minister of Finance on page 38 paragraph 8.2 and felt that the Committee could not recommend that additional funding only be provided to affected schools in Vuwani. It was far too limiting. Additional funding should also be provided to other schools that needed water, sanitation and electricity.
Ms Mokoto in relation to the recommendation to the Minister of Finance said that there was uncertainty and that a recommendation was needed. She added that a recommendation was also needed that the capacity of the Department’s audit unit needed to be strengthened.
The Chairperson asked how Members felt about the additional recommendation that the audit unit of the Department needed to be strengthened.
Mr H Khosa (ANC) stated that all provinces had infrastructure backlogs. Given the problems at Vuwani the recommendation aimed to address infrastructure shortfalls. It did not mean that schools in other areas would be disregarded. Different sectors had their own responsibilities. The Vuwani issue was being dealt with.
The Chairperson, on rules regarding processes to be followed legislatively, asked whether it was acceptable for the Committee to make a direct recommendation to the Minister of Finance or should the recommendation be made via the Minister of Basic Education to the Minister of Finance.
Mr Bandi responded that in terms of parliamentary standard practise a recommendation should be made to the Minister of Finance via the Minister of Basic Education. He added that Mr Khosa had made a valid point on the responsibility of different sectors. Different provinces had different budgets for sanitation. On the suggested recommendation of increase in capacity of the Department’s audit unit he said that it was already covered on page 37 in the fifth bullet point from the top of the page.
The Chairperson asked what the recommendation to the Minister of Finance should say.
Ms Van der Walt said that the issue was about where money was being under spent the money should be redirected to infrastructure projects. She noted that this was done with the Municipal Infrastructure Grants (MIG). She felt that where provinces and departments under spent the the funds should be shifted to infrastructure projects. The facts were that infrastructure on water, sanitation and electricity was lacking. Any unspent funds should be reallocated.
Ms Mokoto noted that the Committee had a right to make recommendations. The Committee could make a recommendation to Parliament who in turn could make a representation to the Minister of Finance. When funds were shifted from one programme to another programme then it was considered a deviation. Even when funds were shifted from national to provincial, the Committee and National Treasury needed to substantiate it.
The Chairperson asked what the Committee wished to do on the recommendation made to the Minister of Finance. Did members wish it to restrict the recommendation to Vuwani or to open it up.?
Mr Bandi referred to page 37 - the last bullet point said that the recommendation spoke to infrastructure norms and standards. There was an expectation to monitor and report on compliance. If Members so wished, the Committee could make an addition to the recommendation.
Ms Mokoto suggested that the Committee open up the recommendation so that the Department had space to move. The Committee should rather not be specific but should be generic.
The Chairperson noted that the recommendation would speak to infrastructure in a general way.
Ms Van der Walt said that it should reflect that needs should be prioritised as it arose.
Ms Basson agreed.
Mr Davis asked if Members could make additional recommendations to those that were in the BRRR. He wished that the Minister of Basic Education should be more proactive on corruption when it came to the issue of buying and selling of teacher posts. He also referred to the final report of the task team which revealed that the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) had control of six out of nine provinces. The problem was that teachers placed the interests of unions above that of the learners. He acknowledged the good work that was done by the Minister and the Ministerial Task Team. He stressed that unions should not be allowed to dominate government departments. How could unions dictate the delivery of education? He urged the Committee to recommend to the Minister to take the matter to the next stage.
The Chairperson pointed out that when the Committee had met with the Ministerial Task Team it was said that investigations were still to be concluded and hence its report could not be considered final. The Committee would await the final report and would not jump the gun.
Mr Khoza agreed with the Chairperson that the Committee should not jump the gun. The Committee should wait for the Ministerial Task Team’s final report and then make recommendations.
Mr Davis responded that the Committee should hold persons accountable when people were not delivering. The report on the face of it stated that it was a final report and it was dated 18 May 2016. He agreed that the report had triggered a great deal of investigations and prosecutions but it did not in any way affect the findings made in the report. He reiterated his concern that six out of nine provinces had been captured by the SADTU. He urged the Committee to take the matter further.
Ms Mokoto stated that the Committee needed to allow processes to unfold and to wait for the Ministerial Task Team’s final report. She asked if Mr Davis had received a final copy of the report before other members of the Committee.
The Chairperson responded that members had the same report which Mr Davis had but that there were 26 or 27 cases that were being investigated. She noted that the outcomes of investigations would impact upon the report. There were thus outstanding issues in the report that Mr Davis was referring to. One could not be sure whether anything would transpire from the investigations. She asked whether it was not best to let processes come to finality before making recommendations. There might be stakeholders who are impacted in the report.
Mr Davis found it puzzling that Ms Mokoto had not seen the report. The report was to be found on the website of the Department. He respectfully disagreed with the Chairperson and said that the report was final and it was headed as such. He was fully aware that parallel forensic processes were going on. He was baffled why Members could not make recommendations to the Minister based on the findings of the report. There was nothing controversial about the recommendation as it was based on a finding in the report. His recommendation was along the line that the Minister should provide Parliament with an action plan to prevent unions and other organisations from dominating SA’s education system.
The Chairperson agreed that the recommendation was not controversial but said that the issue of the impasse between unions and the Department were covered in a recommendation contained on page 37 -the fourth bullet point from the bottom of the page. If there was something more to it then the Committee would look at it.
Mr Davis said that his recommendation was an issue which he had raised with the Department and its entities. On page 2 of the BRRR mention was made that the Committee had considered various documents including the final report of the Ministerial Task Team. He therefore found it legitimate to make the recommendation in light of the findings of the final report.
Ms Basson stated that the Committee was awaiting outstanding issues and cases from the report of the Ministerial Task Team. The report was therefore considered incomplete. The Committee was waiting for the final report from the Ministerial Task Team. The Committee could make recommendations once it had the final information. To make recommendations now would be making recommendations on incomplete information.
Ms Van der Walt noted that it was a simple matter, the report of the Ministerial Task Team was a final report. Nothing would change in the report itself. The investigations that had been undertaken would go on. The investigations would not change the report.
Ms Mokoto said that procedures needed to be followed. When inputs had been called for on the BRRR then Mr Davis could have made the recommendation.
The Chairperson said that the Committee was busy with recommendations and members should feel free to make recommendations if they so wished. Whether or not the Committee agreed with it or not was another issue.
Ms Mokoto felt that the recommendation by Mr Davis was an afterthought.
The Chairperson said that the matter of Mr Davis’ recommendation had been discussed. The Committee had to decide on whether it agreed to it or not. Should the matter be put to vote?
Mr Davis appreciated the manner in which the Chairperson had handled the meeting. He responded that his recommendation was not an afterthought and that he had come to the meeting prepared. He remarked that perhaps there were members of the Committee who felt that unions should run the show and not departments. He said that the truth hurts.
The Chairperson asked on the way forward whether the Committee would be waiting for inputs by the Ministerial Task Team.
Ms Van der Walt wished it to be placed on record that if the recommendation by Mr Davis ie the DA was not accepted then the party could not give its support to the Committee’s BRRR.
The recommendation by Mr Davis was not included in the BRRR. The DA withheld its support on the BRRR.
The Chairperson placed the BRRR before the Committee for consideration and it was adopted as amended.
The meeting was adjourned.