Services SETA, Energy and Water SETA, Local Government SETA on their Annual Performance Plan, with Deputy Minister present

Higher Education, Science and Technology

24 May 2017
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Three organs of the Sector Education Training Authority presented their annual performance plans (APPs) for 2017/18 and strategic plans for 2015/16-2019/20.

The Service SETA (SSETSA) said its strategic plan was based on five priority areas. These were promoting access to skills development, providing expansion and capacitation, improving the relevance of qualifications, a focus on vocational training, and work-based training and mentorship. The four main priorities of the APP were comprised of administration, skills planning, learning programmes and quality assurance. Some of the achievements, such as the funding of 600 learners to the tune of R27 million were acknowledged, and projects such as the construction of a skills development centre and community colleges in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo were also mentioned. Targets had been set for enterprise development, with an increase in non-governmental organization (NGO) assistance and support for 207 cooperatives and 300 micro-enterprises. Priority targets had also been set for learning enrolments, with the aim of getting 10 300 learners into the system. Emphasis would also be laid on quality assurance.

The Energy and Water SETA (EWSETA) outlined the various components which informed its strategic plan, and said the strategic issues to be pursued were the shift towards renewable energy, the Green Agenda,  the nuclear build programme, Operation Phakisa, strategic infrastructure projects and sustainable resource development.

The Local Government SETA (LGSETA) explained what they had done since implementing a turnaround strategy, as the organisation had been put under administration in 2015. It said 83% of South Africans lived on 2% of national land, indicating that its population was spatially concentrated. The strategic initiatives of LGSETA included more training at the local level, such as training councillors, traditional and union leaders, and subsequently putting them on a single database. Management training would focus on the areas of financial and technical services, as well as on the coordination of special projects.

Members asked EWSETA whether it intended to obtain a clean audit this financial year. How would they obtain the skills needed to carry out some of the strategic initiatives, such as the nuclear roll out programme and Operation Phakisa? The LGSETA was generally commended for the turnaround strategy it had implemented in the aftermath of administration. It was asked whether the institution had conflict management structures in place to resolve disputes which might arise between councillors. The issue of high councillor turnover was also raised, and the LGSETA was asked how they would be able to overcome this problem, because they ended up having to train councillors who did not remain in those positions for long. The LGSETA delegation was also questioned on how they could provide stipends for the Adult Education Training programme without creating a culture of dependency. Lastly, the SSETA was warned that their activities might lead to mission creep and patronage, as they were soliciting the services of too many non-governmental and community-based organisations instead of helping learners.

 

Meeting report

Service SETA

Mr Andile Nongogo, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Service SETA (SSETA) said the sector skills plan was based on five priorities:

  • Promoting access to skills development;
  • Providing expansion and capacitation;
  • Improving the relevance of qualification;
  • Focusing on vocational training;
  • Work-based training and mentorship.

The key drivers of the sector skills plan were scarce skills -- skills where there was a lack of qualified people at present or there was the anticipation of such a shortage in the future. Scarce skills such as business management, quality assurance, health and safety, as well as marketing and public relations, had been identified by SSETA. Critical skills included business management and real estate service, while pivotal skills entailed specific occupations prioritised in response to sectoral and national priorities.

The Annual Performance Plan’s (APP’s) main priorities were administration, skills planning, learning programmes and quality assurance. It had set targets to establish partnerships between colleges, universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions. Targets had been set for enterprise development, with an increase in non-governmental organization (NGO) assistance and support for 207 cooperatives and 300 micro-enterprises. Priority targets had also been set for learning enrolments, with the aim of getting 10 300 into the system. Emphasis would also be laid on quality assurance.

The Chairperson intervened and asked if a reference could be made to the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), which had stated that it funded 600 learners by the amount of R27 million.

Mr Nongolo then highlighted projects such as the construction of community colleges in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. These would be constructed in areas which did not have such institutions, with the hope they would grow into full-fledged TVET colleges.

Energy and Water SETA

Mr Frans Baleni, Chairperson:  Energy and Water SETA (EWSETA), gave an outline of the governance programme which it was working on. The parameters included ensuring a system of accountability was in place and resources were available to let it function, making sure all community members were trained and that checks and balances for monitoring had been established, and promoting compliance in reporting.

He said artisans were being trained how to make repairs to water leakages, with the aim of preventing water loss. This was part of the revitalisation plan to take place in rural areas and townships.

Mr Errol Gradwell: CEO, said the challenges faced by the organisation included poor financial administration, a skills gap amongst employees and a leadership vacuum in some areas of the department.  However, systems were now being put in place to resolve these issues. A low revenue base and limited funding capacity were also challenges EWSETA faced. Stakeholder challenges were mentioned, but he suggested that improved sectoral collaboration and stakeholder engagement would improve this scenario. A perception of poor performance was a problem, but this had improved since the appointment of a new executive.

EWSETA had created an organisational structure which was value-chain based. A review of 81 policies had been done to make sure they were in line with national  legislation, standard operating procedures had been developed, and legal due diligence instilled.

The EWSETA strategic plan, which was aligned with the Government strategic plan from 2014-2019, was informed by the National Development Plan (NDP), the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), the Medium Terms Strategic Framework (MTEF)  and EWSETA’s Sector Skills Plan (SSP).

The strategic issues to be pursued by EWSETA were the shift towards renewable energy, the Green Agenda,  the nuclear build programme, Operation Phakisa, strategic infrastructure projects and sustainable resource development

Mr M Molefe: Chief Operating Officer (COO), said the outcome oriented goals of EWSETA were effective and efficient services, and improving skills amongst employees. The strategic objectives were the promotion of good corporate governance and management practices, attracting the right people to the right places, optimal utilization of information and communication technology (ICT), and marketing and promoting the work of the organisation to stakeholders.

The sector’s skills planning was explained, in which EWSETA would make use of Masters and Doctoral researchers and candidates to maximise their activities in the energy and water domain. It would also entail conducting research, planning and skills development in the energy and water sector, as well as carrying out workplace learning exercises through grant provision. These interventions would allow the projects to be better implemented,

Ms Mpho Maphuti, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) said that from 2013-2015 there had been an increase in the labour force and salary bill. Higher expenditure had also been allocated towards hiring consultants in a bid to correct the mistakes of the past administration.

Mr Gradwell concluded that monitoring and evaluation was very important, and they would now carry out monthly internal reports, and quarterly external and internal reports, and conduct risk management assessments. EWSETA had supported initiatives at the African Energy Indaba and African Utility Week, whereby they had emerged second and first in the respective competitions.

He then made a plea for industry and big business to assist them in their objective of improving skills, especially as this would benefit black African children in the country. He alluded to the example of how in Germany, innovation and skills development had been driven by the combination of industry and big business. EWSETA had contributed towards helping 518 students who were in the “missing middle” category of people affected by the national fees crisis.

The Chairperson invited the next delegation to present, and acknowledged the presence of the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana.

Local Government SETA

Dr Michael Sutcliffe, Chairperson: Local Government SETA (LGSETA), described the spatial distribution of South Africa’s population. He said 83% of South Africans live on 2% of national land, indicating that its population was spatially concentrated. The strategic initiatives of LGSETA included more training at the local level, such as training councillors, traditional and union leaders, and subsequently putting them on a single database. Management training would focus on the areas of financial and technical services, as well as on the coordination of special projects, which would be followed by a review of the impact of the training done. The strategic initiatives would allow LGSETA to address issues such as how they could put all those trained under one database, the impact of those who had been trained, and how to build management capacity.

Ms Gugu Dlamini, CEO: described the LGSETA turnaround plan. The current executive had been appointed in the middle of the 2015 financial year. The current executive had been able to in-source internal audits and other financial functions. A review of legacy projects had been done in order to assess if the projects were in line with the national vision of promoting nation-building. A review of staff members had also been done to examine their overall impact.

Ms Dlamini said that when she was appointed, there had been no performance management system in place and that there was a disparity in salaries being paid. Corrections therefore had to be made in order to improve the organisational structure and performance of LGSETA.  Service excellence had been a goal of the current executive, and the staff were now required to provide a response to any inquiry within 48 hours. Subsequently, she had given an overview of their performances, and in 2015/16 the audited performance score had been 83%, while in 2016/17 -- the first year in which they had applied the APP and SSP -- they had achieved a 91% score under the current management team. LGSETA wished to lead by example in the areas of accountability and performance, but there were some areas in which the organisation could have done better.

Ms Dlamini said LGSETA had not done well in the area of employability, due in part to political squabbles at the local level, and she suggested that mayors, municipal managers and councillors be more engaged in this area. Only 76% of unemployed persons had been provided with learnerships, while the Adult Education Training (AET) programme appeared to be under-utilised due to the absence of a stipend for participants, resulting in a lack of interest.

The objectives of the 2016/17 financial year included a performance management policy, a revised remuneration policy, streamlined operations and an increased national presence, with the opening of a Mpumalanga office. Nation-building from the bottom to the top would be pursued and the number of programmes would be reduced from five to four.

The outcome-oriented goals established by LGSETA were the strengthening of governance, ensuring effective service delivery, improving the capability of LGSETA, building an integrated skills development planning agenda, facilitating stronger stakeholder relations to drive a local government skills agenda, and improving municipal oversight.

Dr Sutcliffe asked Members to help LGSETA achieve its goals by visiting their various constituencies.

Discussion

Mr E Siwela (ANC) asked the EWSETA if they were going to get a clean audit for this financial year, and was also concerned about the high legal fees which they had incurred. He asked the LGSETA delegation about the impact of the high turnover of councillors on service delivery, as the organisation ended up training people who did not remain in their functions for long. Why had the target of 1 500 participants in the Adult Education Training programme not been met, and would providing a stipend actually be a solution? What skills support would be given to consistently under-performing municipalities?

Ms J Killian (ANC) wanted to know what criteria EWSETA would use in order to select people for skills development. She expressed concern about how the skills needed for Operation Phakisa would be obtained. She was worried about how South Africa would recover skills from the nuclear domain as many professionals in this domain had emigrated. She was also concerned about the rise in legal fees from R22 million in 2016/17 to R51 million in 2017/18. She wanted to know if there were municipalities which were not paying levies to EWSETA.  She commended LGSETA for building their in-house capacity and reducing outsourcing, and asked if they had established conflict management mechanisms, which would help resolve matters such as was happening in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Ms M Nkadimeng (ANC) wanted more clarification from the LGSETA on vocational and artisanal training, and asked how the organisation could attract the right people to attain their strategic objectives. SSETA was asked about the progress of rural development projects in Limpopo Province, as well as in other traditional councils in other provinces. She asked EWSETA if the “War on Water Leaks” programme had skills development collaboration with their Department, as it appeared they had similar objectives. Had skills development had been developed in the area of financial management? She was concerned about the high legal fees allocated by the department. Lastly, she complimented LGSETA for training councillors in the areas of public administration and financial management, as many were not qualified.

Ms H Bucwa (DA) appreciated the progress made by the various organizations, but said more progress needed to be made. SSETA had an outdated curriculum, so what was the relationship between the curriculum and skills development? She referred to the challenge of students consistently changing their courses and the need to keep students in fields about which they were passionate. Did the various SETA organs collaborate with each other in order to streamline functions? EWSETA was questioned on how they would curb unqualified audits, what they were doing to combat contemporary challenges like drought in the Western Cape, and commended for being the only SETA organ which had helped the “missing middle” students. Ms Bucwa concluded by asking LGSETA what skills development support they provided to local councillors.

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) gave a warning about the dangers of patronage, mission creep and certification which might befall SSETA and EWSETA. Patronage in the form of helping non-governmental organisations was done to the detriment of helping students, and by providing contracts to unqualified service providers, mission creep was acting as a sort of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) vehicle, rather than a skills development structure. Dr Bozzoli further warned that certification syndrome meant students obtained a wide range of qualifications which were either meaningless or overlapped others, and thus made them unemployable. She suggested that EWSETA include some leaders of industry and big business on their board to ensure achieving their goals. A dashboard should be created in order to track the overall impact of SSETA programmes, as LGSETA had already done.

The Chairperson expressed appreciation for the strategic plan presentations, and gave room for comment by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Deputy Minister Mañana noted that unemployment was an overarching problem, and it should not be expected that SETAs on their own could tackle the issue.

The Chairperson asked whether LGSETA obtained the desired response for the bursaries they offered, and whether they intended to review how they provided information about such opportunities. She asked EWSETA whether the Medupi strikes had been as a result of lack of skills, and to what extent South Africans were involved in the large scale roll out of infrastructure.

Mr Baleni said that EWSETA’s targets were strictly set by the Department, but were sometimes done without taking into consideration the resources they had available. For example, they had been tasked with training 9 000 artisans, despite the fact that it cost R150 000 to train one artisan.

Mr Gradwell responded to the question about whether EWSETA would get clean audits, and affirmed that in the 2017/18 financial year, they would achieve that goal. He justified the increase in the budget for legal expenditure by explaining that the organisation had to carry out building purchases, conduct legal investigations with regard to retracted contracts from service providers, and had Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) cases to deal with. In order to obtain skills for Operation Phakisa, EWSETA had already started to work in tandem with Nelson Mandela University and enrolled the South African Research Chair for the concerned domain, in order to conduct the necessary research. He said EWSETA had to train 130 engineers for 130 projects, as well 2 800 artisans and 112 scientists to build nuclear-related skills. EWSETA was already in contact with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to get a technical adviser on this who would work with Eskom and EWSETA to draft a nuclear skills framework. He added that oil and gas training was under way at Saldhana in order to attract more competent people into the field.

Obtaining a clean audit would be achievable with the new COO and CFO. More needed to be done to root out mission creep and the issue of certification syndrome, brought up by Dr Bozzoli. Lastly, concerning the payment of money to Eskom, Mr Gradwell admitted that in the beginning mistakes had been made, but these had been remedied.

Mr M Ntemba, SSETA Chairperson, admitted that the low levels of staff education was a historical issue, as most people had been recruited through internships with only a matric certificate and had not undergone continuous professional development. This was a situation which had to be dealt with.  Investment in training in the rural areas must be equivalent to that provided in the urban areas. Addressing the issue of changing programmes brought up by Ms Bucwa, he replied that they would endeavour to provide stipends in order to curb this issue. Concerning the issue of mission creep, the infrastructure being built, especially in the rural areas, was actually important and not being built to benefit service providers. Moreover, the NGOs and community-based organizations (CBOs) were necessary to help SSETA to recruit learners, and therefore it needed to be provided with resources in order to help it to fulfill its mandate.

Ms Dlamini said that a conflict management mechanism was put in place by the LGSETA. With regard to the problem of a high turnover of trained councilors, she agreed that this was an issue. Compounding this was the fact that younger and less experienced councillors were increasingly being appointed, some of whom were also less educated. She suggested that appropriate training measures needed to be put in place to remedy this problem, and that this should be in collaboration with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the various political parties.

Mr Lwazi Kuse, CFO: LGSETA, was then given the chance to talk about standardising a stipend plan with the DHET in a manner which encouraged enrolment in the Adult Education Training programme, but prevented dependency.

At this point the Chairperson, for the sake of time, suggested that the remaining answers and follow-up questions be provided in writing.

Deputy Minister Manana thanked the three SETAs for their APPs and strategic plans. She commented on the issue of providing support to CBOs and NGOs, and said that their support could not be done away with because even the National Development Plan acknowledged their importance. She also commented on the belief that SETAs were corrupt, and said that people had to realise that they were doing a lot in relation to training and skills -- for example, the R50 million which LGSETA had given to NSFAS.

The meeting was adjourned.  

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