Parliament’s Policy Unit: progress report; Human Resources: Acting Secretary to Parliament on outstanding challenges
Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament
30 August 2017
Chairperson: Mr V Smith (ANC)
The Policy Unit and Human Resources division of Parliament briefed the Joint Standing Committee on policies reviewed and outstanding issue within the institution. Members heard of the successful implementation of all HR initiatives which required involvement and genuine commitment by all stakeholders. Parliament management and employees, through organised labour, were the key participants driving achievement of the goal of creating a capable and productive environment marked by high levels of engagement and morale.
The strategic plan for the Fifth Parliament gave recognition to the role and value of employees in successfully implementing the strategy. The emphasis was placed on ensuring the institution was able to attract the best people, develop current employees, and free their potential, and retain employees whose competencies were critical to the organisation and create an environment that enabled excellent performance.
The Committee heard that over the years the organisation had posts that it never filled because some of the posts were not considered critical in the implementation of organisational objectives. Another critical reason for not filling the vacancies was the issue of funding - due to the deficit in the compensation budget and National Treasury-imposed austerity measures on Parliament, the organisation did not activate recruitment campaigns for the filling of all vacant posts.
The HR division also informed the Committee that Parliament was offering learning and development opportunities as part of its integrated talent management strategy. The Personal Development Plans were used as a basis for all learning interventions and an integral part of the performance management process. More efforts were made to identify and close performance and skills gaps of individual employees from all divisions to influence achievement of overall institutional targets.
The HR division introduced the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) system to improve performance of the institution. It was a framework used to identify the organisation's key value drivers and integrate their contribution for driving organisational performance. It was a framework for translating an organisation's vision into a set of objectives and performance indicators. It supported an outcomes-based approach to performance through its focus on results. Management and employees agreed to roll out the system with extensive training and awareness was conducted across all levels.
The need to align HR policies with the demands of the Fifth Parliament was identified. Part of the challenge experienced with existing policies was their fragmentation. The policy review was intended to deal with this issue by integrating policies to ensure there was no fragmentation and the policies were not contradictory. The policy review was underway and policies were being consulted among employees including organised labour.
Members asked how many people who had received bursaries were still in the employ of Parliament and how many completed their programmes. The Committee questioned how the vacancy rate was impacting Parliament’s performance and why there was a drop in the uptake of bursaries between 2014 and 2017. It was remarked that the figures presented for talent retention did not justify the reasons and asked for explanation of what was meant by people leaving because of the “unfriendly and toxic environment”. Members wanted to understand why the NCOP, in terms of the 2017/18 performance agreements, was doing better than the National Assembly and asked for clarity on the Fraud and Corruption Prevention Policy because it was reported to be approved yet the final draft was still to be submitted to the Executive Authority.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 14 June 2017 were adopted with minor amendments.
Human Resources Report
Mr Lizo Makele, Human Resources Executive, Parliament, informed the Committee the strategic plan for the Fifth Parliament gave recognition to the role and value of employees in successfully implementing the strategy. Emphasis was placed on ensuring the institution was able to attract the best people, develop current employees, and free their potential, retain employees whose competencies were critical to the organisation and create an environment that enabled excellent performance.
With regard to talent organisation, the focus was to ensure availability of required talent as well as monitoring the vacancy rate to ensure it remained within predefined levels. Employee retention was one of the strategies of maintaining the vacancy rate at acceptable levels. Some posts were not considered critical in implementation of organisational objectives. There was scarcity and unavailability of skills in the market in certain roles or vacancies. There was reluctance by candidates to accept offers due to their fixed term nature. The decrease in fiscal allocation for Compensation of Employees led to a deficit in salaries. The vacancy rate was at 6, 19% and was calculated on funded vacancies. The process to fill funded positions was underway. Concerning talent retention, the staff turnover rate was kept low over the years due to the strong brand of the institution. There, however, had been a slight rise at the professional and management categories due to the following reasons:
- fixed-term contracts of employment
- expensive accommodation in Cape Town
- unfriendly and toxic working environment
- working conditions that were not conducive
Parliament conducted an Employee Engagement survey in 2015 - results indicated a need for focused intervention for improvement. Recommendations included:
- launching a values campaign and articulation of values behaviours
- sufficient communication channels
- leadership and management development
- personal development
- team-based non-monetary staff recognition
Pertaining to talent growth and development, Mr Makele stated the institution set aside a minimum of 1% of its payroll for training and submitted a training plan and report to Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) as expected by law. Training plans for the institution were used to roll out training interventions. Individual employees signed Personal Development Plans with their managers. In addition, the institution was offering bursaries to support professional and personal development goals. Parliament was also running an Internship Programme to contribute to the creation of employment opportunities for the youth.
In endeavours to improve performance of the institution, the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) system was introduced. It was used to align business activities to the vision and strategy of the organisation, monitor performance against objectives and improve communication of the strategy. It was a framework for translating an organisation's vision into a set of objectives and performance indicators.
Regarding employee relations, declining economic conditions and the resultant reduction of budget allocations to Parliament by National Treasury, had a negative spin on Parliament’s labour relations situation. Despite the reduced budget, pressure mounted to settle salary increases at above inflation rate and for payment of guaranteed performance bonuses.
Initiatives to improve employee relations included, amongst others:
- settling outstanding disputes arising from old agreements
- reviewing the Recognition Agreement
- developing a Labour Relations strategy and policy
- concluding the Minimum Service Agreement
- resuscitating the monthly management/union meetings
Mr Makele said Parliament had an integrated wellness programme whose objectives were to improve health and wellbeing of the Members of Parliament and employees, promote sound employment relations and improve levels of engagement amongst employees. The current wellness model was premised on the following pillars:
- Member and Employee Assistance Programme (MEAP)
- Healthy Lifestyle Programme
- Disease Management
- Occupational Health
In his conclusion, Mr Makele reported that part of the mandate of the HR division was to facilitate interventions to improve effectiveness of the institution. Some interventions included:
- provision of change management advice and support in the implementation of strategic institutional interventions
- facilitate institutional transformation initiatives
- lead business process optimisation initiatives in the institution
- lead the development and implementation of organisational design initiatives in the institution
Examples of recent projects included:
- Reconfiguration of the HR division
- Organisational Re-alignment Project
- I-Recruitment: automation of recruitment processes of Parliament
- Performance Management System Automation
- HR support in the Integrated and Seamless Members Services Design Framework
Successful implementation of all HR initiatives required involvement and genuine commitment by all stakeholders. Parliament management and employees, through organised labour, were the key participants driving achievement of the goal of creating a capable and productive environment marked by high levels of engagement and morale.
(Tables were shown to illustrate talent acquisition, performance agreements for the 2017/18 cycle, past salary settlements, employee relations cases, staff turnover rate, and number of current bursary holders)
Progress on Policy Review:
Ms P Tyawa, Acting Secretary of Parliament, said Parliament’s Policy Committee took a resolution to analyse policies in order to determine its usefulness to the operations of Parliament and to ensure these policies assist in the achievement of strategic objectives of Parliament. 11 policies were reviewed but were never implemented. Most of the policies in the system were old and the Committee created a compendium of policies. She updated the Committee on the following policies:
- The ICT Policy: ensured provision of accessible, secure and reliable information and communication technologies, services and infrastructure to all authorised users, for official use. The policy was submitted to the Executive Authority and would be signed end of September 2017.
- Heritage Policy: its purpose was to regulate, control and monitor use of the heritage objects of Parliament. The policy was consulted upon with the SA Heritage Resources Agency and was submitted to the Executive Authority for approval.
- Fleet Management Policy: this was a new policy which was taken through legal security and submitted to the Executive Authority. It regulated, controlled and monitored the use of the parliamentary fleet to ensure proper utilisation, control and safeguarding of the fleet.
- Security Policy: the policy gave mandate and responsibilities for the provision of security services in Parliament by Protection Services. The policy was submitted to the Constitutional and Legal Services Office for their opinions and advice and recommendations were effected in the policy. The Policy was submitted to the Executive Authority for approval.
- Records Management Policy: this policy ensured Parliament managed its records in line with the National Archives and Record Service of South Africa Act, No 43 of 1996, and other applicable legislation so that records were available and accessible when required. The policy was not yet submitted to the Executive Authority for approval.
- Fraud and Corruption Prevention Policy: this policy was established to create an environment that prevented, detected and investigated fraud and corruption. It protected resources, assets, property and the reputation of Parliament. The policy was approved by the Executive Authority.
- Risk Management Policy: the policy was developed to address a system of internal and external risk management affecting strategic and operational activities. The policy was presented to the Risk Management Committee for approval and was endorsed by the Audit Committee. The Executive Authority approved the policy
The Chairperson wanted to know if the 313 vacancies, which need to be filled to meet capacity requirements, were informed by what Parliament needed to help Members in terms of Committee Assistants, Researchers, Secretaries, and Content Advisors etc.
Mr Makele stated that some of the vacancies were not in the core business of Parliament i.e. supporting Committees.
Mr M Shaik Emam (NFP) asked how many people who received bursaries were still in the employ of Parliament and how many have completed their programmes. He also wanted to establish how the vacancy rate impacted Parliament’s performance.
Mr Makele, on bursaries, said some left the organisation while others were still with Parliament. Figures would be forwarded to the Committee. Retention of these people remained a challenge. Regarding the impact of the vacancy rate, the performance of Parliament was at 49% - the vacancy rate was affecting everything.
Mr J Steenhuisen (DA) wanted to know why there was a drop in the uptake of bursaries between 2014 and 2017 and asked who the two executive managers were that were awarded bursaries and if the one studying overseas was funded by Parliament. On performance agreements, he asked why there was a low uptake in other offices as compared to the Speaker’s Office which was sitting at 35%.
Mr Makele indicated budget cuts were the cause for the low uptake of bursaries. On the employee registered with an overseas university, people just applied for bursaries to study at any university. The fees were limited to what one wanted to study. For overseas studies, the fees were benchmarked to local universities and Parliament only paid for tuition. The employee was based locally and went overseas using his or her own money. In terms of performance bonuses, the labour union decided not to participate in discussions. All outstanding issues were resolved in June 2017.
Ms Tyawa stated that before the Balanced Scorecard system was introduced, managers had to motivate performance. When the system was introduced, managers had to be trained to monitor performance against objectives and strategy of the organisation. There was resistance but it had since been reduced. This explained why the numbers for bursaries dropped because people were awarded bursaries not related to the kind of work they were doing.
Mr Steenhuisen wanted to establish if rules were followed to the letter when the bursary was awarded to the now suspended Secretary to Parliament.
Ms Tyawa responded that those matters were being investigated by the Audit Committee. Another weakness was that Parliament did not have a probation period and when one was employed, one received all the benefits – this was something that did not happen in other state institutions. These weaknesses in the policies were being reviewed.
The Chairperson commented that he received correspondence from the Audit Committee that the investigation into the suspended Secretary to Parliament would be finalised soon and would be sent to the Committee.
The Chairperson asked if the question from Mr Steenhuisen formed part of the Terms of Reference for the investigation about the suspended Secretary to Parliament.
Ms Tyawa agreed in the affirmative.
Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) asked what the plan was for filling vacant posts and if the current salary settlements were year-on-year or multi-term agreements.
Ms Tyawa replied that everything was a result of the budget cuts and that was why critical posts to be filled were identified for the functioning of Parliament. The agreements on salaries were multi-year-term.
Mr M Waters (DA) remarked that when the investigation report was available, the Committee had to meet urgently and not wait for three months. With regard to the organogram of the Speaker’s Office, there was at times success but at other times it had not been there. What the Committee was given did not dwell on the nitty-gritties. The Committee needed to look at the defects and pay attention to under-staffed and over-staffed units so that resources were allocated fairly. The Committee needed to be given a proper breakdown of the organogram. Concerning performance agreements, he assumed the team with the Acting Secretary had signed their performance agreements even though there were other officials which had not signed yet due to resistance from the unions.
Ms Tyawa agreed in the affirmative.
Mr C De Beer (ANC) remarked that Parliament’s Human Resource Unit should develop itself internally so that it did not rely on KPMG. He suggested the Unit read success stories of top SA companies. He asked if Parliament received donor funding or if the donor funding was allocated to the programmes.
Mr Makele stated that the HR Unit did not get any donor funding for its work.
Mr N Singh (IFP) stated the figures presented for talent retention did not justify the reasons and asked the panel to explain what it meant when it said people were leaving because of the “unfriendly and toxic environment”. He further wanted to establish how many employees were from outside the Western Cape so that the institution could look into some kind of an accommodation that could be built which was similar to that for MPs – this was in light of the finding of the panel that most people did not want to come to Cape Town or leave Parliament because accommodation in Cape Town was expensive. Lastly, he asked for comment on the number of outstanding disciplinary cases.
Mr Makele reported the number of people leaving Parliament was large - last year, 50 people left the institution. It was important to know what this meant. It was work in progress. People have been engaged with when they resigned but there were no specifics. Pertaining to outstanding cases, there were three such cases. From April 2017 until August 2017, many cases were finalised. There were no big cases except where one employee was suspended for fraud.
Ms Tyawa, regarding accommodation, explained Parliament had meetings with the Department of Public Works and were told Parliament employees did not qualify for such kind of accommodation. The bulk of people from outside the province were Language Practitioners and Content Advisors. Public Works advised Parliament to state in employment advertisements the possibility of subsidy for accommodation. Currently, one was accommodated for three months and then had to make one’s own arrangements.
Mr Steenhuisen wanted to find out why there was separate mention of two executive officers that were awarded bursaries, if the bursary policy was applied to the letter and if the suspended Secretary to Parliament fell under the definition of an employee.
Ms Tyawa stated the matter was raised during the Audit Committee investigation. Everyone was an employee if he or she was an official because officials fell under the definition of employees.
Mr Steenhuisen said he would continue with the probe and had submitted information to the chairperson of the Audit Committee regarding requests the suspended Secretary to Parliament made such as blue lights, a chauffeur for his wife, family members to be ferried to and from the airport, etc.
Mr Gcwabaza suggested the male gymnasium be looked after as part of the wellness programme because certain things were in a state of neglect for a year.
Mr L Gaehler (UDM) wanted to understand why the NCOP, on the 2017/18 performance agreements, was doing better than the National Assembly.
Ms Tyawa said salaries were not subjected to the notches of the Department of Public Service and Administration. Parliament salaries were higher than any other government department or institution because it was the national legislature and it was clear it would attract a lot of attention.
The Chairperson asked who was monitoring and enforcing implementation of reviewed policies.
Ms Tyawa replied that Mr Moodley was responsible for monitoring implementation of the policies.
Mr Steenhuisen suggested policies affecting MPs should be discussed with the MPs. He wanted to know if the Fleet Management Policy was finalised.
Ms Tyawa stated they were trying to find a mixed model. No resolution was taken yet but ideas on cutting costs were on the table. She further indicated that Mr Moodley was there for policy gaps, implementation and policy updates – this was work in progress.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on the Fraud and Corruption Prevention Policy because it was reported as approved yet the final draft was still to be submitted to the Executive Authority.
Ms Tyawa indicated a communication strategy was drafted and signed off. The hotline would be managed by the internal audit unit but there was an option of it being managed by an outsider. She noted only administration policies were submitted and not policies relating to MPs or other structures as those policies would be discussed with the relevant committees.
Members also raised questions regarding policies on travelling, air tickets and party political funding which would be responded to in writing.
Adoption of Minutes
Draft Committee Minutes dated 14 June 2017 18h00
The Chairperson took the Members through the document, page by page.
Mr Waters, on matters arising, remarked that there were delays in having the Speaker appear before the Committee for Members to be briefed directly on the organogram of the Speaker's Office.
The Chairperson stated the Annual Report was not yet tabled before the Committee. He hoped the Speaker would appear before the Committee when the Report was tabled but if Members wanted the Speaker to appear before that, they should let the Committee know.
Mr Waters stated there were urgent matters that needed to be accounted for like the performances of bonuses, reasons for suspension of the Secretary to Parliament, etc. These issues did not have to wait for the tabling of the Annual Report.
Draft Minutes dated 14 June 2017, 18h00, were adopted with minor amendments.
Draft Committee Minutes dated 14 June 2017, 13h00 -15h00
The Chairperson took Members through the document, page by page.
The Committee asked Ms Tyawa to furnish the Committee with outstanding matters raised by Members within seven work days.
Draft Committee minutes dated 14 June 2017, 13h00 – 15h00, were adopted with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
De Beer, Mr CJ
Gaehler, Mr LB
Gcwabaza, Mr NE
Mohai, Mr S
Motara, Ms T
Shaik Emam, Mr AM
Singh, Mr N
Smith, Mr VG
Steenhuisen, Mr JH
Waters, Mr M
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