Minister & Director-General Absence; Public Service Commission on Jan-Jun 2017 performance

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Meeting Summary

The Committee was supposed to be briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration, the National School of Government, Centre for Public Service Innovation and the Public Service Commission on their fourth quarter’s performance of 2016/17 financial year and first quarter performance of 2017/18 financial year. The Minister of Public Service and Administration and the Department’s Director-General were also expected to attend.

However, only the Public Service Commission appeared to report on its performance. Looking at the fourth quarter performance for 2016/17, the Commission mentioned that 95% of planned targets were achieved in that period. Adjustments to the workplan and non-achievement were mostly as a result of financial and capacity constraints experienced by the Commission. Key achievements in the 4th quarter include: an increase in the finalisation of grievances and complaints, ability to maintain the vacancy rate below 10%, establishment of the Data Warehouse and establishment of an On-line Grievance and Complaints Management System. The Commission spent 99.91% out of the final budget of R229.2 million, thereby leaving surplus funds of R194 000. The surplus funds will be surrendered back to the National Revenue Fund.

Looking at the first quarter performance for 2017/18, the Commission highlighted that 91% of planned quarterly targets were achieved in this period. Key achievements in the first quarter finalisation of the Draft report on the Investigation into the implementation of labour court orders and arbitration awards by departments and implications for labour relations and -Consolidated report on Learner Teacher Support Material. The PSC started with a shortfall of R9.5 million. During the 1st quarter, there were 25 vacancies which generated savings of R3.9 million thus reducing the shortfall in the approved work plan.

Following the briefing, the Committee noted that the Minister and the Director-General had failed to attend the meeting and submit apologies.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that a DA Member written to request that the Minister answer questions about alleged misuse of funds and nepotism. The Minister had undertaken to present a verbal response to these allegations today but had snubbed the meeting instead.

Members of the Committee were aggrieved by the Minister and Director-General’s absence and agreed to subpoena them to appear before the Committee.

They also concluded that the Minister and DG must pay out of the own pocket for the costs of the meeting.

Concern was also raised that five ANC MP’s had boycotted the meeting because they refused to be chaired by the Chairperson.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson asked alternate Members to indicate which committee members they were representing.

Mr M Ndlozi (EFF) said he was representing the EFF on the day, in place for Ms M Mokause (EFF).

The Chairperson welcomed everyone and confirmed that the meeting was quorate and there were enough members to take decisions. 

The Chairperson announced the apologies from members who would not be in attendance. She said she was expecting the Minister of Public Service and Administration as she had seen her earlier that day. She asked that minutes be considered at the end and that the Public Service Commission (PSC) be allowed to deliver its presentation.

Briefing by Public Service Commission

Dr Dovhani Mamphiswana, Director-General (DG), PSC, said the PSC had combined the performance for the 4th quarter of the 2016/17 Financial Year and the 1st Quarter 2017/18 Financial Years into one presentation.

Quarter 4 Performance 2016/17

Overall, 95% of planned targets were achieved in the 2016/17 financial year. Adjustments to the workplan and non-achievement were mostly as a result of financial and capacity constraints experienced by the PSC.

Key achievements in the 4th quarter include:

  • Increase in the finalisation of grievances and complaints
  • Ability to maintain the vacancy rate below 10%
  • Establishment of the Data Warehouse
  • Establishment of an On-line Grievance and Complaints Management System
  • Migration and in-house management of the National Anti-Corruption Hotline
  • Inspections in all provinces on the availability of Learner and Teacher Support Material
  • Various research reports were completed:
  • Report on the assessment of the verification of qualifications of SMS members in the Eastern Cape Province
  • Report on the assessment of Emergency Medical Services in Mpumalanga
  • Report on the investigation into the management of the Department of Health: Western Cape: Policy on Incapacity Leave and Ill-health Retirement application process

The PSC spent 99.91% out of the final budget of R229.2 million, thereby leaving surplus funds of R194 000. The surplus funds will be surrendered back to the National Revenue Fund.

A breakdown was given on the performance of each programme.

Under Programme 1: Administration, two of the highlights include:

  • Payment exception reports submitted to NT on a monthly basis. Out of 5235 payments processed, 14 (0.3%) was processed later than 30 days.

Appropriate action was taken against managers who failed to deal with invoices within the stipulated timeframe

  • The OPSC had 19 vacancies as at 31 March 2017 (Vacancy rate: 6.8%)

Under Programme 2: Leadership and Management Practice, two of the highlights include:

  • As at 31 March 2017, from the 709 grievances registered on the PSC’s database, 615 (87%) were concluded
  • -55 of the 615 concluded cases were for members of the Senior Management Service, of which 51 (93%) were concluded within 45 working days of receipt of relevant information

Under Programme 3: Monitoring and Evaluation, two of the highlights include:

  • The Warehouse for complaints, grievances, financial misconduct, financial disclosure, National Anti-Corruption Hotline and Section 196(4)(e) established
  • 3 Pilot assessments in the Departments of Correctional Services, Water and Sanitation, and Economy Enterprise and Development in the North West Province commenced

Under Programme 4: Integrity and Anti-Corruption, two of the highlights include:

  • 360 complaints were lodged with the PSC of which 303 (84%) were concluded
  • Of the 61 cases finalised through investigations, 49 (80%) were finalised within 3 months of receipt of all relevant documentation.

Quarter 1 Performance 2017/18

Dr Mamphiswana said 91% of planned quarterly targets were achieved in the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial year.

Key achievements in the first quarter :

  • Finalisation of the following reports:
  • Draft report on the Investigation into the implementation of labour court orders and arbitration awards by departments and implications for labour relations
  • Consolidated report on Learner Teacher Support Material
  • Overview of the Implementation of the FDF for the 2015/2016
  • Inspections were conducted in hospitals in KZN Province and libraries in rural areas in Limpopo
  • Work on various research reports commenced

The PSC started with a shortfall of R9.5 million. During the 1st quarter, there were 25 vacancies which generated savings of R3.9 million thus reducing the shortfall in the approved work plan.

Included in the expenditure to date (14 July 2017), was a total payment of R6.6 million for invoices relating to the services that were rendered in the previous financial year (accruals).

The actual and projected expenditure totals R252.5 million against the allocated budget of R245.6 million. Included in the projected spending is relocation costs for National and Free State Provincial Office. In the event that National Treasury does not increase the PSC’s budget, there is a possible overspending of 2.79% or R6.8 million

A breakdown was given on the performance of each programme.

Under Programme 1: Administration, three of the highlights include:

  • As at 30 June 2017, the vacancy rate was 8.9%
  • OPSC has 22 women out of 43 filled posts, which translates to 51.2% of the total staff establishment.
  • 15 Service Level Agreements were signed within 3 months of contract award by June 2017

Under Programme 2: Leadership and Management Practice, one of the highlights include:

  • Overall a total of 187 cases were registered on the two databases. Of the 187 cases, 121 (65%) were concluded and 66 (35%) remain pending.

Under Programme 3: Monitoring and Evaluation, two of the highlights include:

  • Development of Data Management Plan in progress 
  • Inspections were conducted in hospitals in KZN Province and libraries in rural areas in Limpopo

Under Programme 4: Integrity and Anti-Corruption, one of the highlights include:

  • As at 30 June 2017, there were 116 complaints on the database, of which 43 (37%) were finalised/ closed.

The presentation also included a breakdown of the outputs with specific provincial focus.

Discussion

The Chairperson said the Minister and the Department’s DG were both absent while the PSC was reporting a shortfall in trying to achieve its target. The PSCs budget had been revised downwards, that meant that it would be hamstrung in achieving its target. The entity’s slice was quite small and one of its programme which dealt with corruption (programme 4), would then be compromised.

The Chairperson asked for guidance of the Committee concerning the absence of the Executive Authority (EA) and the accounting officer without any apologies or reasons given for their absenteeism.

The Chairperson mentioned that Ms D Van der Walt (DA) had written a letter to her outlining her concerns about the widely circulated media reports and allegations in relation to Minister Faith Muthambi. She had then written to Minister Muthambi to request a written submission to respond to Ms Van der Walt’s concern; however she would be allowed to present the report orally to the Committee. The Minister had undertaken to present a verbal response to Ms Van der Walt but she had arrived at the meeting.

Mr M Waters (DA) said it was concerning both the DG and the Minister had not arrived at the meeting and sought clarity on whether the Chairperson had received confirmation that both would be attending the meeting.

The Chairperson replied in the affirmative adding that the only qualification she had received was from the Minister about her responding orally to Ms Van der Walt’s concerns instead of submitting a report.

Mr Waters said it was unacceptable that the DG was not accounting to Parliament today. He was glad the PSC had presented but asked if the concern about dereliction of duty could be taken up with the DG.  The Minister had not been to Parliament since her appointment to this portfolio and it was concerning that after her undertaking to attend the meeting to respond to concerns from the public and many Members of Parliament (MPs) she had boycotted the meeting. He suggested that the Minister be subpoenaed to appear before the Committee so she could be engaged.

Mr Ndlozi said that the Committee was being forced to engage entities without accounting officers present, which made the entire meeting exercise futile. It was also not a secret that Minister Muthambi had run away from being held to account about the reports of nepotism and corruption under her instructions at the Department. That was also why some members of the Committee who would have wished for the Committee to be inquorate were absent; there had been a deliberate plan to collapse the functioning of Parliament to hold the Cabinet of ubaba Duduzane accountable. He agreed that Minister Muthambi be subpoenaed.

Mr M Booi (ANC) said the rules and the law were clear that the DG had no authority to undermine Parliament together with the Minister. Therefore he agreed that the two officials be summoned to Parliament.

Mr S Motau (DA) said if indeed the Minister had assured the Chairperson she would attend the meeting her non-appearance was holding the Committee and the Chairperson in contempt; therefore he supported the subpoena.

Ms O Hlophe (EFF) said it was dodgy for the Minister to simply not pitch for a meeting she had confirmed to attend. The less said about the DG the better. The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs was also bogged down by challenges at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) because that DG and Minister refused to account to Parliament. According to her recollection the House Chairperson, Mr C Frolick had communicated that matters in the public domain had to be addressed in Committees. Therefore she agreed with the subpoena.

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) said it seemed Minister Muthambi had learned nothing from her poor performance at the Department of Communications (DoC) as she had left that Department in tatters. Concerning to her was that DPSA was responsible for developing the norms and standards of the public sector ensuring that those were of the highest ethical order. She could not understand how a Minister could contemptuously treat the Committee which dealt with public servants, in the manner she had. If the Committee would be unable to proceed who would be held accountable for the wasteful expenditure seeing that the PSC and others had pitched up without accounting officers present. How would Minister Muthambi negotiate the public wage bill if she conducted herself in the manner she had?

The Chairperson said that she had been with the Minister that morning. The Minister had not indicated that she would not be attending. She was under the impression that Minister Muthambi was in Cape Town to attend the Committee meeting. She would investigate whether the DG had also came to Cape Town because it would reflect fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the Minister and the DG to simply not attend a scheduled meeting without providing reasons for absenteeism. It was tragic that the Minister had chosen to not attend as the DPSA was overseeing all State Owned Entities (SOEs) and the entire public sector in terms of setting the norms and standards and given the state of governance in most of the big entities, the more tragic the situation became. The PSC would be unable to fulfil its mandate unless it was better resourced. The Committee had been aware that 97% of the PSCs budget went to operational costs which suggested that Government was paying people for the sake of contractual agreements and not to do actual work as there remained only 3% in the PSC budget for its programmes to be rolled out. The PSC was reporting a R6 million shortfall in its first quarter performance of the 2017/18 financial year and if Government could not devote time in the fight against corruption to ensure that entities like the PSC - which in its last quarter of the 2016/17 financial year had achieved 95% of its planned targets had been very encouraging given its financial challenges – were better resourced that was concerning. It was problematic that despite the problems at the PSC, the DPSA had a Minister who was alleged to have spent on friends and family, employing friends and family but could not find money to assist the PSC.

The Chairperson added that while she agreed that all the matters raised had to be addressed she thought that the Committee needed not to be complicit in contributing to fruitless and wasteful expenditure by barring the other entities from presenting on their performance. The Committee could park all the issues it would have raised with the Minister and DG for a future meeting but having received presentation from the remaining entities. She undertook to write to Minister Muthambi and the House Chairperson advising him on the issues as they stood.

Mr Ndlozi said that the members present at the meeting knew that five members of the committee from the ANC had boycotted the committee because of the politics of the ANC. The Committee was trying to decide but was hamstrung and Members knew why.

The Chairperson interjected that the Committee quorated.

Mr Ndlozi continued that if there was a sabotage of the work of Parliament the Chairperson would have to explain to the public not only the absenteeism of the Minister but the absenteeism of some ANC MPs from the meeting who abdicated their responsibility of holding the Minister accountable. In his experience of Minister Muthambi; if she was put in charge of developing the norms and standards for the public sector, that was like putting a chief criminal or gangster to be in charge of taking care of a police station hoping that crime would decrease. That was the only perception that came to mind concerning Minister Muthambi’s appointment to lead the public sector as her performance had never been to respect any of the norms and standards and procedures of good governance ever.

The Chairperson said she had just discovered that the National School of Government and the Centre for Public Service Innovation had not attended the meeting as well. Furthermore, she pointed out that she and Mr Booi were ANC MPs and therefore it could not be said that the entire ANC was sabotaging the work of Parliament.

Mr Booi said it was unacceptable that officials entertained other things when they had been invited to Parliament therefore the DG had to be held accountable and had to pay back the fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Mr Motau said Mr Ndlozi had suggested that the absent ANC MPs had stayed away because the Chairperson was leading the Committee. Was the Chairperson aware of the letter to the chief whip of the ANC by the absent ANC members of the Committee? If she was she had to also deal with that as the implications for a future meeting meant that the Committee would have serious challenges in carrying out its work.

Mr Booi said there had been no change of leadership in the Committee therefore he saw no reason to debate a letter which did not form part of the agenda on the day as the ANC would deal with its own internal matters. She remained the Chairperson until such time that changed.

The Chairperson said she planned to communicate at the end of this meeting that a meeting originally scheduled for the following day had been moved to a future date as the entity which was supposed to have come had sent communication that it would be unable to come to Parliament.

Mr Waters, on recovering monies from the DG, said he would suggest that the Minister also had to be held liable to pay back the money. Both should pay out of their own pockets and not from the Department’s purse. It was one thing for a Minister to boycott Parliament but when public servants from the Department ignored Parliament in the manner they had, that was concerning. He asked that the Committee find out whether they had been given instructions not to come to Parliament and where such an instruction had come from; in that regard he wanted to find out from the PSC whether it had also been advised in such a way.

Adv Richard Sizani, Board Chairperson, PSC, replied that the invite from the Committee had been received and the PSC had complied.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee objected to recovering monies from the Minister and the DG; whether the accounting officers of the Centre for Public Service Innovation and the National School of Government are subpoenaed as they had boycotted the meeting without an apology.

Mr Ndlozi said the DG and Minister were the main officials that had to be subpoenaed and not the leaders of the entities just yet.

The Chairperson reminded Mr Ndlozi that in terms of the PFMA the leaders of the entities were accounting officers and were accountable to Parliament therefore she implored him that the officials also be subpoenaed as it was wrong for administrators to involve themselves in politics. Rather, if they had been instructed in a particular way, they should have informed her as the Chairperson but there had been no communication at all.

Mr Booi reiterated his point that no public servant could simply undermine Parliament therefore the officials had to be subpoenaed.

The Committee agreed to subpoena all the officials as outlined in its proposals. The Chairperson apologised to all those that had attended as the perception had been that the entities would be accounting. She also apologised to the PSC that the Committee would not be engaging it even though it had travelled to Cape Town on an already strained budget. The Committee would deal with the matters as proposed.

Ms Jongbloed asked if the Committee could not propose a turnaround time for response to the proposals which would be sent to Department and its entities.

The Chairperson asked that Ms Jongbloed propose a timeframe for that turnaround time.

Ms Jongbloed proposed that the Committee had to be advised on the outcomes of the proposals at its next meeting.

The Chairperson thanked everyone that had attended and the meeting was adjourned. 

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