The Department of Military Veterans and State Information Technology Agency presented a joint report to the Committee which highlighted both the challenges and progress made thus far with regard to the call centre and military veterans’ database.
The call centre was being handled as a top priority for both the Department and the Agency Dissatisfaction of the military veterans regarding the standards of the callcentre which were escalated to the Agency’s CEO and the Department’s Accounting Officer was noted. A meeting between the Agency and Department was held on 20 February, 2017 and the issues discussed.
Some of the challenges highlighted by the Department with regard to the veterans’ database were: unreliable database information, unsecured database and manual processing of applications which led to mistakes and fraud. Another non-related Information Technology challenge was the verification of persons on the database to ascertain if these people are really military veterans. This issue would not be solved by setting up a database or computer systems.
Recommendations from both the Agency and Department on these challengeswere as follows;
- Department and Agencywork together to establish the requirements for setting up anin-house call centre;
- Department should implement an optimal structure that ensures that military veterans’ needs are well understood and addressed;
- Department and Agency should fast-track the enablement of the Department’s Information Technology infrastructure to manage the call centre in house by the first quarter of the 2017/2018 financial year.
- The Agency should fast track the completion of work already done to implement the database, provide a service to Department that will prevent current problems from reoccurring
- The Agency should urgently conduct a thorough analysis of the outstanding work to migrate the database into a secured environment.
The Department identified progress made so far on the issues identified in the Dashboard dated November 23, 2016. Some of these include the establishment of a Financial Misconduct Panel of which plans had been put in place to ensure spending on budget etc.
The Committeewas not impressed with progress made so far with regard to the call centre and the veterans’ database. It noted that despite the progress the Agency had made in other government departments, it seemed not to have achieved similar milestones with regards to the Department of Military Veterans and the veterans’ database in particular.Members suggested that urgent actions must be taken to ensure that the database and the call centre were finalised promptly. The Committee also noted that the registration on the database must not be stopped because of the lingering issue of verification of information, as this would be viewed negatively by the public.
DMV and SITA Report.
Mr. Max Ozinsky, Acting Director General; DMV, said the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and DMV had agreed to give a joint presentation on the challenges with the DMV call centre and Military Veterans Database, and how SITA would resolve these issues.
The DMV had entered into a business agreement and also a Service Level Agreement (SLA-1203-001) with SITA. Through this agreement, a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) was sourced and resources for implementation of a database management system was sourced through the LAN and Desktop service. The dissatisfaction of the military veterans regarding the level of service at the call centre had been escalated to the SITA CEO and the DMV Accounting Officer had also contacted the SITA CEO to discuss the challenges identified in implementing the military veterans’ database. A meeting between DMV and SITA was held on 20 February, 2017 where these issues were discussed. The main issues were the inability of military veterans to get real-time information due to non-integrated systems and non-provision of information to the SITA call centre agents by DMV.
Onfinalisation of the military veterans’ database, the issues highlighted by the Departments were: unreliable database information, unsecured database and manual processing of applications which led to mistakes and fraud. An issue not IT related was the verification of persons on the database to ascertain if these people are really military veterans. This issue would not be solved by setting up a database or computer systems.
Recommendations from both SITA and DMV on the challenges with the call centre were that the two departments should work together to establish the requirements for set up of in house call centre; DMV should also implement an optimal structure that ensures that military veterans’ needs are well understood and addressed optimally and that DMV and SITA should fast-track the enablement of the DMV ICT infrastructure to manage the call centre in house by the first quarter of the 2017/2018 financial year.
Other recommendations were that SITA should also fast track the completion of the work already done to implement the database; provide a service to DMV that will prevent current problems from reoccurring and SITA should also urgently do a thorough analysis of the work that still needs to be done to migrate the database into a secured environment.
Presentation by the Department of Military Veterans
Mr Ozinsky said the Department has made some progress on the issues identified in the Dashboard dated November 23, 2016. On the MPAT progress report, the Department had received the final moderated scores of MPAT 1.5 and had also received the moderation report from the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). The KPA managers are also currently working on the pre-implementation plan for MPAT 1.6.
On the Skills Audit Training for vacancies and skills gaps in the service delivery programme, the Department is currently working on the structure to close the gaps identified and is engaging with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and National Treasury(NT) for finalisation. They had currently sourced out temporary workers from the Department of Defence (DOD) who are assisting the SES branch.
On strengthening the Department’s Consequence Management Regime, the Department has established a Financial Misconduct Panel who met to discuss and finalise 105 cases.
The number of employees at the DMV including the contract staff had been communicated to the Committee.
On the Department’s under-spending and under-performance through the TSI, the Department had put plans in place to ensure spending on budget and would brief the Committee on March 8, 2017.
The Department would also communicate its responses to the Committee with its 2nd Quarterly Performance Report the status of the progress made with provincial offices in order to reach out to all the veterans all over the country, its recruitment processes so far and progress in overhauling the supply chain management (SCM) and procurement processes.
The Chairperson thanked SITA and DMV for the presentation and asked the DMV to confirm if there were any issues with technology as regards processing of information on the database.
Mr J Skosana (ANC) said the Departments cannot merely discuss the strategy of implementing technology and linking information to the technology infrastructure, the Committee was more interested in the finalisation of the database and actions DMVis taking with regards to the military veterans’ benefits. On registration, he said since military veterans are from the provinces, it would be easy to get data that would be remitted to the head office.It would not be proper to add any new matters on the dashboard for the DMV that was currently being reviewed.
Mr S Esau (DA) said SITA and the DMV had not been very successful with regard to the call centreand the database despite the complaint made about the lack of progress. Services rendered so far to the veterans has been very poor. Manipulation of the database needs to be stopped immediately. However, the suspension of the registration due to verification of information furnished by the veterans must be handled carefully in order not to send out wrong information to the public, and registration process must not stop while the verification issue is being sorted out. He also noted the issue of house invasion in Kwazulu-Natalwhere it was discovered that that many people on the database were not military veterans. The ineffectiveness of the call centre must be addressed immediately. He asked the specific challenges being faced by SITA, who had successfully handled the database of other government departments but seems to struggle with the finalisation of the DMV database He asked the DMV to commit to a realistic target for this financial year.
Mr D Gamede (ANC) said that from the report given by the Departments, there were no provisions for the disability sector and that SITA and DMV should also consider employing veterans in the call centres to ensure effectiveness. Veterans now call Committee Members for enquiries when they are unable to reach the call centre, which indicates the ineffectiveness of the call centre. On the establishment of the in-house call centre, there had not been much progress despite the fact that this issue was raised in 2014. A timeline of end of March, 2017 would help in finalising this lingering issue. He asked the departments the current status of the database. He also asked the DMV the impact and success of the roadshow that took place in 2016. He noted that there is a family in his constituency that required DMV’s help in identifying the graveside of one of the members of the family and his bones brought home but this family had not been able to contact DMV on this request. He also asked the challenges that SITA had in concluding the database for the veterans considering their capacity and pedigree
Ms N Mnisi (ANC) asked if the SITA involvement would help with a speedy finalisation of the database and the specific services SITA offers the DMV.
Ms N Dambuza (ANC) asked for DMV’s explanation when it stated that SITA provides a service and not sourcing resources to the DMV. She requested for clarification and some background on the content of the proposal submitted by SITA to DMV in 2016. She also expressed her scepticism on DMV’s undertaking to process the invoices submitted by SITA within 30 days since these invoices need to be verified and confirmed that work had actually been done before being processed.
Mr S Theola (EFF) asked the DMV on the action being taken in respect of inadequate staffing since it was clear that it is affecting the effectiveness of the Department.
The Chairperson asked for clarification on the custodian of the Consolidated Personal Register (CPR).
Mr Ozinsky, responded that the CPR is the basis of the database but there are also other names that have been included in the CPR. The database is also housed and managed at the DMV.
On the issue of managing the database, there are two vacant senior management positions that urgently need to be filled in order to ensure proper management and accountability of the information added to the database. Due to this challenge, there was a temporary decision not to add further names to the database without proper verification until this issue was sorted out. DMV is currently creating a procedure for adding further names into the database as there was no procedure in place. This procedure is at the heart of the issue with regard to the database.
Mr Mboneli Ndlangisa, Deputy CEO; SITA,responded that SITA provides call centre services, LAN and desktop.Onprocessing of information on the database, there was a bit of an integrity issue with the data that they are linking, as SITA only provides the software and hardware for the database while the information is provided by DMV.The available software lacks the ability to carry out all the functions that the DMV database requires.
Mr Pieter Coertze, Acting Executive, Operations; SITA, said SITA further provides internet services, printing services, payroll services, transversal applications for the DMV and service information management.
Mr M Musi, ADDG/HOC; DMV, said that the Department was not fully prepared to provide complete information on the KZN house invasion but had established a special task force to fast-track the delivery of houses to the veterans. The Department had also met with the concerned group involved in the house invasion towards an amicable resolution of the issue. The Department had also undertaken to ensure that 1000 houses were delivered before the end of the financial year and would furnish the Committee with a detailed report soon.
On the roadshow and communication strategies, the Department would have 8 roadshows before the end of 2017.
Staffing is handled as top priority by DMV especially for the call centre and the database.The military veterans and their dependents arealso being considered for roles in the call centre.
Mr Ozinsky, said the DMV did not intend to rewrite the dashboard but would address the issues already raised on the dashboard.
The Chairperson said that DMV was not clear on what roles they want SITA to play. He requested details on the number of verified veterans and unverified veterans at the next meeting. This information must also include the number of new veterans that have been added to the database. He emphasised that the ongoing process must not be stopped before of the pending verifications. The DMV must come up with a clear outsourcing and value chain strategies.
The issues raised on the dashboard are very important and the DMV must always give feedback on them. Due to the importance of the issue,Members of the Committee are willing to support the DMV. He advised that for matters of urgent clarification and feedback, DMV would also be called to furnish the Committee with the required information.
The Chairperson informed the Committee of the passing of Colonel Moses Thekiso, staff of SADF, who had frequently attended the meetings of the Committee and requested that a minute of silence be observed in honour of the deceased, afterwards, a letter of condolence would be sent to his family from the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.