Department of Communications & GCIS on their Annual Performance Plan

NCOP Public Enterprises and Communication

10 May 2017
Chairperson: Ms E Prins (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Government Communication and Information System briefed the Committee on their Annual Performance plan (2017/18 -2019/20). The overarching strategic objective of the organisation was to provide adequate and effective Corporate Services functions in pursuit of good governance.

Challenges included:

  • Limited fiscal resources in constrained budget environment;
  • Increased demand for government communication in a dynamic democracy;
  • Contested communication environment; and
  • Public perception of government performance.

The Department of Communications briefed the Committee on their Annual Performance Plan 2017/18 – 2019/20.

The Committee was concerned that both departments had vacant posts. While this would seem like a normal concern, the posts were vacant for a few years which prompted the Committee to even ask if these posts were necessary. Due to problems with the appointment of a Director General, the Minister had decided to take over the process of head-hunting a candidate. Members heard that the Government Communications and Information Systems had decided to have costs deducted from employees’ salaries where negligent behaviour resulted in property loss.  Both departments had firm plans in place to fill vacant posts.

When the Committee expressed concern about the poor in rural areas and their lack of access to information, the Government Communications and Information Systems explained their intervention in deep rural areas with provincial liaison units.

The Committee commended the Departments because they had managed to operate under trying conditions with budgetary constraints and the Government Communications and Information Systems even received a clean audit. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson announced that apologies were received from the Minister and Deputy Minister.

Government Communication and Information System’s on its Annual Performance Plan 2017/18-2019/20

Mr Keitumetse Semakane, Acting DDG, GCIS, said the Strategic Objectives of the organisation were as follows: Pro adequate and effective Corporate Services functions in pursuit of good governance

  • Provide adequate and effective Corporate Services functions in pursuit of good governance;
  • Provide efficient and effective communication services; and empowered citizenry policies, plans, programmes and achievements to increase public participation in government;
  • An informed and empowered citizenry on government’s policies, plans, programmes and achievements to increase public participation in government
  • Improve interdepartmental coordination by joint planning and sharing of messages across the three spheres of government to ensure coherence and alignment of government messages; b
  • Implement a proactive and reactive media engagement system by building, maintaining and improving relations with the media and drive the government communication;
  • Produce government’s communication products and services to grow the share of voice of government messages in the public arena; and
  • Provide strategic leadership and support in government communication through public opinion research and analysis of media coverage to understand the communication environment and inform government messages.

Challenges included:

1    Limited fiscal resources in constrained budget environment;

2    Increased demand for government communication in a dynamic democracy;

3    Contested communication environment; and

4    Public perception of government performance.

Ms Geraldine Thopps, Acting Chief Director, GCIS said Programme 3 dealt with three areas: Media Engagement, Cluster Communication and Provincial and Local Liaison. The Strategic Objectives that informed these programmes were to:

  • Implement a proactive and reactive media engagement system by building, maintaining and improving relations with the media and drive the government communication agenda;
  • Improve interdepartmental coordination by joint planning and sharing of messages across the three spheres of government to ensure coherence and alignment of government messages; and
  • An informed and empowered citizenry on government’s policies, plans, programmes and achievements to increase participation in government.

Ms Karabo Sebati, Director, GCIS highlighted three of the key Strategic Risks:

  • Inability to provide relevant information to targeted audiences;
  • Inability to lead and influence the issues in the environment timeously; and
  • Failure to effectively support the execution of the GCIS mandate.

Mr Zweli Momeka, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) reported that the

Total expenditure estimates for 2018/19 were R431 267 million, and for 2019/20  460 456 million

(See attached Annual Report)

The Committee decided that it would be best to proceed with the briefing from the Department of Communication have both the discussion sessions afterwards.

Briefing by the Department of Communications on its Annual Performance Plan (2017/18 – 2019/20)

Ms Basani Baloyi, Acting Director-General (DG) Department Communications, said tithe Department had the following strategic goals:

  • Effective and efficient strategic leadership, governance, governance and administration;
  • A responsive communications policy, regulatory environment and improved country branding; and
  • A transformed communications sector.

These goals would be achieved through the following strategies:

  • Developing and reviewing communications & broadcasting policies and legislation that ensure growth & development of the communications sector;
  • Improving communications systems in order to inform & disseminate information to the public and marketing the country abroad;
  • Strengthening capacity of the Dept. & that of its state-owned companies to effectively deliver on their public mandates; and
  • Broadening participation in the communications & broadcasting sectors to promote economic development and transformation.

The deliverables that would be implemented in the provinces were:

  • Five stakeholder consultations on the White Paper on Audio-Visual and Digital Content;
  • Five provincial consultations on the Media Transformation and Diversity Policy;
  • 10 Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) awareness programmes will be coordinated in all nine provinces; and
  • Analogue signal switched-off in 88 borderline towns within 7 provinces.

The Department had 4 Programmes:

Programme 1: Administration
Programme 2: Communications Policy, Research and Development
Programme 3: Industry and Capacity Development and
Programme 4: Entity oversight.

Ms Dikeledi Thindisa, CFO reported on the budget allocation for 2017/18 per programme and economic classification:                                                 

Compensation of employees                   R    76 700 000

Goods and services                                R    23 500 000

Transfers and Subsidies                         R1 324 900 000

Payment for Capital Assets                    R0

Total                                                     R1 425 100 000

Ms Thindisa said transfers to their entities appeared deceptive because it made the Department seem as if it had a lot of money. However, the Committee had made a commitment to speak with the National Treasury to see how this matter could be sorted out.

 (See attached Report)

Discussion

Mr E Mlambo (ANC, Gauteng) GCIS found it worrisome that posts had been vacant for three years now, so how was the Department supposed to run properly? The Minister had also encouraged the Department to fill the posts; however, nothing was said about the time frames attached to this undertaking.

Mr Semakane, on the number of vacant posts, said the post of a DG took three years to fill since it became vacant in 2012, and was still vacant. The other posts were also vacant for an unreasonably long period. The unfilled DG post has been acted in since 2012. The person who was acting in it for two years has since left and has been replaced. This vacant post had been advertised about four times. The current Minister has asked that it not be advertised but rather head-hunted. She has taken responsibility for this process.  

Mr Mlambo raised the issue, also raised by the CFO, regarding ill-discipline around the property of the Department. A laptop from the Department had been lost. The Department had taken a position that in the future it would deduct the costs from employees in situations where there was negligence regarding departmental property. He asked if there were any cases of theft with the police, and if yes how many. He asked further if there were any police investigations currently in progress regarding theft in the Department.

Mr Momeka said the Committee might have misunderstood him regarding his use of the term ‘ill-discipline’. He meant to say there was a very strict system in place in the Department, and the tax payer could not be expected to replace items lost due to the negligence of staff members.

Ms C Labuschagne (DA, Western Cape) asked about the structure and Senior Management Staff members like the two Deputy Directors, two Chief Director vacancies’ and one Acting Chief Director vacancy.

Mr Semakane replied that with regard to SMS members the Ministers would like to make decisions as this was not an administrative thing left to Deputy Director-Generals and the like. The Minister has asked that all the SMS posts be re-advertised, and this was being done. There was a great need for these high-level posts.

Mr O Sefako (ANC, North West) commended the Department that it had still managed to operate even under such trying conditions as budgetary constraints, and then still received a clean audit.

Mr Sefako referred to page 23 which dealt with strategic risks and their root causes. He referred especially to the point on ‘ineffective HR policies’, and asked for a clear explanation of ‘ineffective recruitment’ and the issue of criminal records. He asked further how this was a challenge to the Department.

Mr Semakane replied that this could be the cause of, for example, not getting proper skills. Regarding criminal records, the Department was saying that if it was not very vigilant in making criminal checks the wrong people would land up in the Department; hence one should proceed with caution.

Mr Sefako was concerned about support in community broadcasting. He felt that whoever provided support might end up dictating the terms and influencing matters unfairly. Communities might end up without a of sense of independence and political favouritism might be the order of the day.

Mr Sefako asked for more information about the ‘switch off’ challenges regarding switching off along the border line.

Ms Baloyi said that she did not want to alarm the Committee, but there were serious issues regarding the DTT. If only the Department of Communication had its own risk management team, then the problems could have been picked up. The implementation was housed with the DoC, but the procurement and funding was done by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USASA) which was entity with the Ministry of Communications. One of the problems that the Department had was when they procured the setup boxes; it was in the absence of a policy on digital migration. They appointed 27 companies who they planned to have in three cycles; they also only allocated the work to three companies. The DoC also became suspicious and when they requested information they did not want to divulge it. Then the Communication Ministry instituted an investigation through the National Treasury procurement office. This investigation revealed irregularities in the procurement of setup boxes. The report from Treasury was shared with the Ministry of Telecommunications and USASA. The recommendations from the Treasury were not implemented. Then USASA had requested representation from the Auditor-General and their findings were the same as those from the National Treasury. Now they have decided to suspend and even cancelled some of the contracts. Some of the manufacturers have even taken matters to the arbitration process. USASA wanted to go to court by the end of next week. This was the biggest administrative challenge for the Department at the moment.

Ms Baloyi said the second challenge was that of funding and the Department had approached Treasury about this. Other entities who were also implementing digital migration have been approached. The third challenge was currently in the Constitutional Court where a ruling was awaited regarding setup boxes. The fourth challenge was around the lack of content at the SABC and if this process was delayed, there might be a situation where ICASA was not licensing service providers. One of the biggest problems today was that ICASA has put a moratorium on licensing. At the moment, there was a shortfall of satellite boxes which would mainly affect the borderline areas that needed the satellite dishes more desperately to avoid conflicts with other countries. This was needed urgently because of moving into the phase of connecting borderline areas. A stakeholder meeting was due in the next few weeks, where even National Treasury was invited to try to sort this out.

Ms N Mokgosi (EF, Northern Cape) agreed with Members about the vacancies and acting positions. The duration of the acting positions was too long.

Mr Semakane said the filling of vacant posts at GCIS was based on the prerogative of the Minister. When one acted in a position, one acted with full responsibilities. Acting posts were counted as vacant posts.

Ms Baloyi replied that the DG position at the Department of Communication was re-advertised for the third time, to close on the 31 March. One application was received which was inadequate. With the DDG posts, the one on policy only had three applicants and with the other portfolio the applicant withdrew. The DG GCIS position was at cabinet level, but the applicant did not pass the test. The DoC had only three funded positions for this financial year which was the DG and the two DDG posts.

Ms Mokgosi highlighted the plight of people in rural areas where some of them did not even have television sets or radios. This limited their access to information rather severely. There was a need to do more about the access to information for the rural community.

Ms Thopps replied that in their communication office they had communicators in the districts whose focus was on the development communication approach where the community was informed through mediated communication which was done door to door and even through taxi ranks. The GCIS’s focus was more on the deep rural areas in the provincial local liaison units.

Ms Baloyi replied that the National Community Forum was the body that most of the radio stations were affiliated to. The Department of Communication would be participating in their national conference towards the end of the month. The Department was also going to engage with the National Association of Broadcasters which was a body that the Department of Communication was affiliated to so there was a collective approach in the area of radio media and governance. The Department of Communication was geared towards facing the issue of governance.

In rural areas with digital migration and access to radio through setup box, people had access to about 19 radio stations. The big challenge here was that the people who qualified for setup box, could not even afford a television set.

Mr A Singh (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) queried the issue of vacancies and asked if these positions were really necessary if they remained vacant for as long as two years.

Mr Momeka agreed that it was important to fill vacant post and added that National Treasury in the 2016/17 financial year has ring-fenced the budget for compensation of employers; so if posts were not filled, then the Department would lose the money. There was some pressure to ensure that Departments do honour the minimum period that they could have vacant posts. The Department has lost - from its unaudited expenditure - round about R5.1 million even though it did not have money.

Mr Singh said research was important and asked if the Department had considered outsourcing this portfolio given that there were budgetary constraints. In-house research was another option for the Department.

Mr Semakane said the Department would definitely look into this and advise the Branch Head about this today.

Mr Momeka said the Department would meet with the Research Unit to look at better ways of spending public money.

The Chairperson asked the DoC about the 90 posts.

Ms Mathope Thusi, Chief Director, DoC replied that of the 90 posts 14 were vacant. The Department was only able to fill five of these posts. These were the three that had been mentioned by Ms Baloyi, the internal audit post and the asset management post. This Department relied on the GCIS for the internal audit function. The GCIS had raised concerns about their capacity and the strain on their resources.

The meeting was adjourned.

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