Correctional Services human resource management

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Justice and Correctional Services

13 June 2017
Chairperson: Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) referred to the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) for correctional officers where the General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) Resolution 2 of 2009 gave effect to the centre base and non-centre based salary structure. The resolution had been implemented partially due to challenges in clause 11.1 and 11.2 of the Resolution which dealt with the years of experience for officials. The matter was further delayed with litigation in court and it was only on 21 November 2016 that a settlement agreement was signed between DCS and the labour organization.

Thereafter, DSC had to place 8147 qualifying officials on the notches they would have been on as at 1 October 2016 as per the agreement. The outstanding back-payments were effected in February 2017 due to challenges from un-updated salary records which had omitted some of the officials. There was an agreement to pay 30% as a one-off payment for the outstanding payments since 2009, staggered into three years. In the first year, DSC paid the 17% of the basic salary back pay for the period 1 April 2010-30 September 2016 to 12 535 officials. In cases where officials were incorrectly paid, DCS managed to recover the money from officers incorrectly paid due to a technical error. The Resolution also proposed the payment of 6 871 cases of officials, who had terminated their services prior to 1 October 2016, no later than 30 June 2017. However, DCS will not be able to comply with the deadline and was negotiating with the unions for 31 July.

On vacancies, there is an approved establishment of 41,994 positions of which 39 266 are filled, 2 728 remaining vacant and a 6.5% vacancy rate. The senior management staff (SMS) as of 2 May 2017 stands at 215 approved positions of which 188 are filled, 27 remain vacant, and a vacancy rate of 12.6%. The national vacancy rate breakdown was: Artisans at a 42% vacancy rate, Centre Based officials at 3.5%, Medical officers at 44.5% among others, giving a total vacancy rate of 4.97%. The high vacancy rate was attributed to deaths, mass retirement or forced retirement due to occupational injuries, and competition from the private sector which offers better salaries and opportunities.

On the status of the shift system, DCS was previously operating under a 2-person-per-12 hour system, however, this become unsustainable since it needed additional staff to operate the system. DCS has therefore reverted to the shift system with 8 hour shifts in day with night shifts. Presently, DCS is in consultation with the labour unions with the last meeting held on 17 May 2017.

DCS is currently reviewing the implementation of its retention strategy to curb the number of officials exiting. It is considering increasing their notches. It will continue to draw from its Operation Hira database which assists them to outsource and collect resumes which help in filling vacancies faster. However, due to some of the applicants’ job hopping, they never stay long in DCS. A dedicated recruitment drive to maintain the database has also been finalised. The absorption of learners upon certification by the Safety and Security, Sector Education and Training authority (SASSETA) absorbed 1 690 leaving room for 149 more to be absorbed. However, the high volume of applications negatively impacts on DCS turnaround time in filling the vacant positions since the resumes received are yet to be placed in a digital database.

The filling of general vacancies had to be halted due to cost containment measures which necessitated the funds to be channeled to other priority areas. DCS had engaged National Treasury to pay off the OSD but could not get additional funding.

On its future plans, DCS is in the process of starting its learnership recruitment program which targets 2 064 candidates to be trained and absorbed into vacant posts.

On the abuse of sick leave, every employee is entitled to 36 working days sick leave over a 3-year cycle. Any unused sick leave lapses at the expiry of the cycle. The present sick leave cycle begun from 1 January 2016 and ends on 31 December 2018. However, it has been observed that some of the employees file for sick leave even when they are not sick. A total of 402 844 days have been lost, in the present cycle, due to sick leave from a total of 37 532 officials which constitutes 95.58% of the workforce. A further 1 576 officials had exhausted their sick leave and are therefore prospective candidates for temporary incapacity leave. It has been observed that most employees apply for sick leave mostly before or after public holidays so as to lengthen their absence from work. A total of 6 107 have been recorded for pre and post holiday leave taken. The overall cost of sick leave taken for FY2016/17 is about R489 million.

The Committee requested a detailed follow up presentation report on the DCS plan for filling vacancies. The report should indicate which vacancies, above Level 15 requiring ministerial approval, needed further action. DCS should adopt exit interviews as a measure of analyzing the ‘rotating door syndrome’ and ensuring that its employee welfare program builds morale despite the high vacancy rate. It was recommended that in reporting grievances, the officers should make written statements and sign affidavits to avoid backtracking.

Meeting report

Department of Correctional Services on its Human Resource Management and future plans
Mr Emmanuel Khoza, Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner: Human Resources, referred to the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) for correctional officers where the General Public Service Sectoral Bargaining Council (GPSSBC) Resolution 2 of 2009 gave effect to the centre base and non-centre based salary structure. The resolution had been implemented partially due to challenges in clause 11.1 and 11.2 of the Resolution which dealt with the years of experience for officials. The matter was litigated in court which held that the parties should resolve the matter themselves in accordance with the signed resolution. It was only on 21 November 2016 that a settlement agreement to implement the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) for correctional officials was signed between DCS and the labour organization.

Thereafter, DSC had to place 8147 qualifying officials on the notches they would have been on as at 1 October 2016 as per the agreement. The outstanding back-payments were effected in February 2017 due to challenges from un-updated salary records which had omitted some of the officials. There was an agreement to pay 30% as a one-off payment for the outstanding payments since 2009, staggered into three years. In the first year, DSC paid the 17% of the basic salary back pay for the period 1 April 2010-30 September 2016 to 12 535 officials. In cases where officials were incorrectly paid, DCS managed to recover the money from officers incorrectly paid due to a technical error. The Resolution also proposed the payment of 6 871 cases of officials, who had terminated their services prior to 1 October 2016, no later than 30 June 2017. However, DCS will not be able to comply with the deadline and was negotiating with the unions for 31 July.

On vacancies, there is an approved establishment of 41,994 positions of which 39 266 are filled, 2 728 remaining vacant and a 6.5% vacancy rate. The senior management staff (SMS) as of 2 May 2017 stands at 215 approved positions of which 188 are filled, 27 remain vacant, and a vacancy rate of 12.6%. The national vacancy rate breakdown was: Artisans at a 42% vacancy rate, Centre Based officials at 3.5%, Medical officers at 44.5% among others, giving a total vacancy rate of 4.97%. The high vacancy rate was attributed to deaths, mass retirement or forced retirement due to occupational injuries, and competition from the private sector which offers better salaries and opportunities.

On the recruitment and selection plan, the post of Minister of Correctional Services reflects as vacant since, in the current administration, the current minister is appointed within Department of Justice. DCS will therefore be abolishing the post. The posts for Chief Deputy Commissioner; Regional Commissioner for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West (LMN); Regional Commissioner Gauteng and Chief Deputy Commissioner: Human Resources are also vacant. There are 8 vacant Deputy Commissioner and 11 Director posts in the process of being filled.

DCS is currently reviewing the implementation of its retention strategy to curb the number of officials exiting. It is considering increasing their notches. It will continue to draw from its Operation Hira database which assists them to outsource and collect resumes which help in filling vacancies faster. However, due to some of the applicants’ job hopping, they never stay long in DCS. A dedicated recruitment drive to maintain the database has also been finalised. The absorption of learners upon certification by the Safety and Security, Sector Education and Training authority (SASSETA) absorbed 1 690 leaving room for 149 more to be absorbed. However, the high volume of applications negatively impacts on DCS turnaround time in filling the vacant positions since the resumes received are yet to be placed in a digital database.

The filling of general vacancies had to be halted due to cost containment measures which necessitated the funds to be channeled to other priority areas. DCS had engaged National Treasury to pay off the OSD but could not get additional funding. DCS organizational structure was audited to determine the wellness of employees. DCS also rolled out the e-Recruitment system so as to improve on its turn-around time. The system was developed internally by DCS and will allow applications to be made online once operational in the incoming financial year. It will assist in enhancing efficiency in the recruitment process by short listing applicants quickly that meet the minimum criteria.

On the abuse of sick leave, every employee is entitled to 36 working days sick leave over a 3-year cycle. Any unused sick leave lapses at the expiry of the cycle. The present sick leave cycle begun from 1 January 2016 and ends on 31 December 2018. However, it has been observed that some of the employees file for sick leave even when they are not sick. A total of 402 844 days have so far been lost, in the present cycle, due to sick leave from a total of 37 532 officials which constitutes 95.58% of the workforce. A further 1 576 officials had exhausted their sick leave and are therefore prospective candidates for temporary incapacity leave. It has been observed that most employees apply for sick leave mostly before or after public holidays so as to lengthen their absence from work. A total of 6 107 have been recorded for pre and post holiday leave taken. The overall cost of sick leave taken for FY2016/17 is about R489 million.

A total of 3 826 cases of sick leave being received with 3 819 finalised. As such, there is yet to be any abuse of sick leave recorded. However, the impact of incapacity leave utilisation stands at 40 401 registered leave days taken, costing R 34.5 million.

On the status of the shift system, DCS was previously operating under a 2-person-per-12 hour system, however, this become unsustainable since it needed additional staff to operate the system. DCS has therefore reverted to the shift system with 8 hour shifts in day with night shifts. Presently, DCS is in consultation with the labour unions with the last meeting held on 17 May 2017.

On its future plans, DCS is in the process of starting its learnership recruitment program which targets 2 064 candidates to be trained and absorbed into vacant posts. It has completed consultations on a revised organizational structure which is awaiting the development of business process re-engineering. DCS will be requesting additional funding through a cabinet memo with a view to increase the funded post establishment. DCS is in the process of procuring new uniforms for the officers. There were talks concerning changing the type and material of uniforms.

Discussion
Ms C Pilane-Majake (ANC), Acting Chairperson, expressed her concern about the vacancy rate being too high especially at head office which was 25% and the Level 15 and above vacancy rate was 46%. The Committee had discouraged Department of Justice from taking interns. They earn very little money and this creates a crisis for families. Interns could be used where there are no vacant positions. Otherwise, it creates expectations and a crisis since the work demands a lot and there is inadequate pay; this may also make them susceptible to corruption.

There was notable improvement regarding DCS social workers and psychologist. She requested statistics on the number of disciplinary cases and the nature of the charges to determine if DCS was adequately prepared to deal with these challenges. The statistics should indicate the number of suspensions, the level of the appointment of those suspended and the conditions of such suspensions.

Ms G Breytenbach (DA) asked for further explanation of the reasons for the vacancy rate and why they could not be filled from within the ranks. Also, why were the salary records of DCS officials not updated and how the back pay for six years accrued for all those years without officers getting paid.

Mr W Horn (DA) requested more information on the impact the six-year accrued salaries would have on DCS financial statements. The Committee should be provided with more detailed information on how and when vacant positions were advertised and what is the projected turn around for filling in the positions.

He noted the Committee had dealt with the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill. The provisions dealt with assessment of the capabilities of awaiting-trial inmates to understand procedure, or in the alternative, to be declared state patients indefinitely. What measures has DCS undertaken to implement the amendments?

Ms Mothapo (ANC) said that on a visit to a Kgosi Mampuru correctional facility, she noted that the hot water facility was not working which had a negative impact on Programme 5 of DCS. DCS should therefore take the vacancy rate seriously.

On the allegations of corruption in the hiring process in Polokwane, the National Commissioner had promised to brief the Committee on the observed cases of nepotism in the recruitment process. However, the Committee is yet to receive any feedback.

Ms Mothapo noted that DCS indicated that they had failed to fill some positions in order to meet the OSD needs. This would in effect have a negative impact in the long run. DCS should explain when they intend to fill the positions.

The vacancies had been advertised in newspapers, however most of the people in the rural areas do not have access to newspapers. DCS should therefore adopt Department of Justice’s strategy of taking the advertisement to the municipalities and traditional council offices. DCS should also indicate how far they are in implementing the e-Recruitment service.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) stated that DCS deals with the welfare of the officers and the prisoners. Prisons were turned into correctional facilities. Previously, the grievance system, if someone had a problem with their superior officer, they had to report their grievance to the very same superior officer. Had DCS changed this grievance system?

The DCS mandate is to correct offenders, however, there are about a third of vacancies of the core personnel involved in correctional services. The parole of offenders is also affected by the high vacancy rate of medical staff since there may be a lack of psychologists to give a report in order for the inmates to be released on parole. This makes DCS susceptible to avoidable litigation that adds to its cost expenditure.

There are criminal activities in the correctional facilities including gang affiliations. There should be cameras within the prison cells so as to assist officers while conducting searches.

The Chairperson requested the DCS plan for dealing with the highlighted problems and to indicate the expected turnaround time for the vacancies.

Mr Khoza, Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner: Human Resources, responded that DCS had actually made an improvement in the vacancy rate since last year. After the implementation of the necessary measures the vacancy rate improved from 13% to 6.3%. However, while the vacant positions are being filled, others are resigning to go to better opportunities elsewhere. DCS faces several challenges such as deaths, and mass retirement since DCS recruits a lot of people almost at the same time. Some, as well, apply for early retirement while others sustain occupational injuries and retire thereafter. DCS advertises the vacancies regularly, however, few meet the necessary qualifications demanded for the position. DCS is also faced with competition from the private sector which offers better salaries and opportunities. This contributes to the high vacancy rate as DCS is limited by financial constraints.

DCS is only in control of the vacancies up to Level 14. Level 15 vacancies are facilitated by the Ministry. However, the recruitment panels are not sitting due to the unavailability of ministers. The OSD payments affect DCS financial statements because it does not get any additional funding. DCS could not pay the OSD only because of the interpretation of Clause 11.1 and 11.2 and the litigation. However, it has begun the payment with six months back pay. DCS will provide the statistics requested on disciplinary cases.  

On the two x 12 hour shift, DCS had to revert back to the 8 hour shift system since the system required more personnel to run it. However, there is sufficient staff to run many of DCS programmes despite the cost containment measures. DCS is keen on creating jobs and contributing to the GDP since it will be reducing crime by giving jobs to those vulnerable to that temptation due to unemployment.

On the 30 June deadline not being met, all other deadlines have been met except this one. It had been caused by a miscalculation of the volume of the work involved in the payment of the backdated salaries. The new deadline has been set for 31 July 2017.

On the learnership programme, the closing date for the submission of applications was 2 June 2017. DCS is currently in the process of filling the list. Thereafter it will admit the learners. The first group in both colleges will be by 14 August 2017 and the second group will be admitted in November.

On the nepotism in Polokwane, the matter was taken up by DCS and the Public Service Commission and a report was drafted. The matter was finalised with the implicated officials being charged, given written warnings and barred from taking part in any recruitment process.

DCS has also taken note of the advertised vacancies and will be prioritising all care skills and the core positions needed. The e-Recruitment is capable of covering both internal and external applicants. It is currently undergoing testing and thereafter it would be implemented from 1 July 2017 and implemented fully in the next financial year.

On gang affiliation in the correctional facilities, DCS developed a gang management strategy and has trained its officers to deal with gangs in the effort of eradicating them from the facilities.

On the grievance system, there is the disciplinary procedure manual, a Departmental Investigation Unit as well as a code of enforcement. Any person may report any person with whom they are aggrieved. There are five levels of redress in the grievance system, all of which may be exhausted if need be. Each level has five days to handle the matter, or refer it to the next level. All directors may be reported to the National Commissioner, who decides on the appropriate measures to be taken. Persons below Level 13 are handled by the area commissioner as well as the assistant directors in the management areas. However, one of the challenges is that when some matters are reported, the official who reported the case becomes reluctant to give testimony.

On the installation of cameras in the correctional centres, there have been discussions on this. A few cameras have already been installed. However, it is being handled by different personnel and the Committee will be given a report on it as soon as it is available.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee will expect a detailed follow up report on the DCS plan for filling the vacancies. The report should also indicate which vacancies, above Level 15 requiring ministerial approval, needed further action. The DCS ‘rotating door syndrome’ needs to be analyzed through the conducting of exit interviews. DCS should ensure that it has an employee welfare program so as to build morale despite the vacancy rate being too high. Also, at the point of reporting grievances, the officers should make written statements and sign affidavits so as to avoid backtracking. The report should also indicate how many officers have been vetted and how many are remaining.

Ms Mothapo referred to Polokwane and asked how many leanerships had been removed. The corruption is not limited to the learnerships but also extends to full-time contracts. DCS should therefore expand its area of investigation.

Mr Mpulmwana congratulated DCS on the improvements made. However, he asked if there was a grievance system for persons above director level.

Mr Khoza, Acting Chief Deputy Commissioner: Human Resources, replied that no one who is immune to accountability. DCS has also a corruption hotline where anyone can report corruption or other criminal activity anonymously. DCS works with a team on the disciplinary cases and also involves the labour unions in some of the cases. DCS is dedicated to employee welfare and it is one of the reasons it prioritised payment of the OSD. There are employee assistant practitioners in various management areas who assist, through counselling, employees undergoing problems.

DCS will make the requested financial disclosures to the Committee

The Chairperson said that the Committee shall call upon DCS to make a presentation on the follow up report.

Meeting adjourned.

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