The Committee met to receive an update from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) on the developments since the President visited Vuwani on 7 May 2017, and to consider the annual performance report of the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) on its 2016/17 Annual Report.
COGTA reported the suspension of the shutdown in Vuwani. It had had been working with the Minister of Arts and Culture to conduct a study to address the underlying causes of the ongoing protest action. It continued to face challenges with the non-cooperation of the Pro-Makhado team, the non-cooperation of the LIM 345 municipality, traditional leaders’ failure to take responsibility for the instability in Vuwani, and the threat of another possible shutdown.
The Limpopo provincial government presented the support plan for Vuwani schools post-September 2017, to ensure that the learners could catch up on lost time and most importantly, that the Grade 12 learners could write their final examinations. The provincial government had been able to anticipate the crisis, so the curriculum had been covered by June, and learners were currently focused only on revision. The provincial government acknowledged the tight schedule of the Grade 12 trial exam timetable, which would grant students little time to study.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) briefed the Committee on the status of safety and security in Vuwani. A total of 125 cases had been opened in 2016 and seven in 2017. Since the announcement of the suspension of the shutdown, SAPS had been providing visibility where necessary and acknowledged the need to devise a plan for 17 October, the date the suspension was expected to be lifted. The security cluster had also developed a four-pillar approach as a response to the situation in Vuwani.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented a report on the impact of protest-related action on the right to a basic education in South Africa, giving details of how it had communicated the findings of the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC’s) report to the education sector so far. It had developed a strategy to communicate the findings more broadly and to inform the sector and the wider public on the negative impact of community protests on schooling, and how they restricted the right to a basic education.
The Committee asked what plans were in place to ensure that the Grade 12 learners would successfully write their exams. Members asked about the stance of traditional leaders on the situation -- whether the leaders agreed with the government’s position, or whether they supported the shutdown. They also asked what role parents were playing in this situation and what their response was to schools being a target of the protests. They wanted to why the SAPS could not prevent the 29 schools from being burnt, and why there had been no court appearances from the number of people that had been arrested.
The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) reported on its 2016/17 annual report, and said it had received its 16th unqualified audit opinion from the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) since 2001. It provided the Committee with a comprehensive overview of its programmes and achievements against targets for the period under review.
The report noted that Umalusi’s vacancy rate had been reduced from 24% to 13% by the end of March 2017, with 36 being appointments made. There had been nine resignations which was a huge improvement on the previous year, when there had been 25 terminations. Umalusi had appointed a supply chain management (SCM) specialist to ensure its SCM policies and processes complied with legislation, that policies and procedures were implemented, and compliance was monitored.
Members asked about the entity’s unqualified audit opinion, urging it to strive for a clean audit. There was also extensive discussion on tax compliance by suppliers, payments within 30 days, the decline in Umalusi’s financial controls, collaboration with the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the vacancies and terminations within the organisation, and the evaluation of the qualifications of teachers in private educational institutions.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would receive a report from various stakeholders involved in the inter-ministerial committee that had been set up by the Presidency. The Committee had adopted a report following an investigation by the South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) with regard to protest-related action and its impact on the delivery of education, particularly on the issue of Vuwani. The situation in Vuwani had resulted in schools being burnt, children being unable to attend school, and service delivery blockages in the area of Limpopo. The Committee appreciated the SAHRC’s investigation and welcomed the findings, though it had reservations about some of the aspects of the report.
Progress made in Vuwani: COGTA input
Mr David Van Rooyen, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), presented an update on the developments in LIM345 since the President visited Vuwani on 7 May 2017. The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) consisted of four sector departments. The departments would make additions where necessary, because the report that was presented was an inclusive report.
Mr Mpho Mogale, Executive Manager: COGTA, said the impasse in Vuwani had emanated from a decision taken in 2015 by the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) to demarcate eight wards into the new municipality. Members of Vuwani had taken the matter to court, but the court had dismissed the application, resulting in a shut down in May 2016.
The provincial government had implemented measures to mitigate the shutdown. There had been engagement with communities led by the Minister. Security was established to maintain law and order and the Department of Education had implemented a recovery plan to allow learners to catch up. On 28 July 2016, an agreement was signed between the Minister, the IMC and traditional leaders in Vuwani.
The traditional leaders had placed a request before the demarcation board. The board had responded on 23 March 2017 with the determination that LIM345 would remain unchanged. Following the rejection by the demarcation board, the second shutdown had commenced in April 2017. The President had subsequently visited and engaged with stakeholders on 7 May 2017. The commitment made by the President was that the Vhembe District Municipality would render services in Vuwani as an interim measure. This commitment must be consented by the LIM 345municipality.
Mr Mogale said there was agreement by the government to use Section 154 of the Constitution as an instrument to render services in the Vuwani area. He reiterated that any services rendered must receive the consent of LIM345. So far, they had not been approved. There had been efforts between the provincial and national governments to provide support to the Pro-Makhado team and the Malamulele task team to have a dialogue, but there had been challenges in that regard.
The provincial government resolution had been to step up social cohesion by appointing the Department to lead an initiative to put together a social cohesion programme to implement in the area. The offers were on 7 September, when learners were still not attending school.
The Minister of COGTA had appointed a mediation panel to assist the Limpopo province to stabilise the Vuwani impasse. Despite their efforts, there was reluctance from the Pro-Makhado task team. The medication panel could not broker the matter. The IMC had decided to keep the mediation panel as a resource for any future eventuality. The provincial department had called the panel to mediate the impasse. The Minister of COGTA had also requested the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa, to conduct a study to address the underlying causes of the impasse. Minister Mthethwa had responded with a programme to conduct research through the Universities of Venda, Limpopo, Rhodes and Fort Hare.
The strategic risks identified by the Department included the traditional leaders’ failure to take responsibility for the instability in the area. Secondly, there was the non-cooperation and undermining of agreements by the Pro-Makhado task team. Thirdly, the LIM 345 non-cooperation posed a threat to the process of intergovernmental relations. Lastly, there was a possibility of another possible shutdown.
In conclusion, the shutdown had been uplifted. The SAHRC had also assisted in the upliftment of the suspension and the provincial government had appointed a director general to facilitate the development of the demarcation solution.
Limpopo Education Department: Support Plan for Vuwani Schools
Ms Beauty Mutheiwana, Head: Limpopo Department of Education, said that the shutdown had led to the loss of 19 school days and the Grade 12 trial examinations had been affected. 26 secondary and 48 primary schools were affected. The Department’s concerns were the Grade 12 learners.
The province had developed a catch-up plan for all the grades. Grades R to 8:13-30 October; Grades 9 to11: 18-30 October; Grade 12: Spring classes had started from 3 to 6 October, and the province had also implemented Saturday classes.
The provincial department had devised a timetable to cover the subjects students were not able to write and a timetable for terms three and four. The department also had an action plan in place to ensure that all the set activities were completed.
The challenge the provincial government faced was that the Grade 12 trial examination timetable was tight. Students wrote in the mornings and afternoons, which would not grant them sufficient time to study.
Ms Mutheiwana concluded by highlighting that the provincial department had anticipated the crisis, and the Grade 12 learners had managed to cover the scope of the curriculum by June, so they would only be focusing on revision.
SA Police Service (SAPS): Vuwani Status Report
The Chairperson said that the presentation by the SAPS would be a joint report, inclusive of the state security cluster.
Ms Ellen Molekane, Deputy Minister of State Security, corrected the Chairperson that the report was not inclusive of the State Security Agency (SSA), because the agency could not report to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. It became a legal problem because the security agency was accountable to the Committee on Intelligence. The SSA was present because they were members of the IMC. Rule 120 of the Joint Rules did not grant the Agency the authority to make presentations to anyone other than the Intelligence Committee.
The Chairperson said the Committee aware that most of the departments present did not report to Basic Education, hence the meeting was a joint sitting.
Ms Ellen Molekane said that in July 2015, the MDB had announced demarcations for new municipalities. By 19 July, protest action in Vuwani had commenced. In December 2015, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was not able to establish an office to prepare for local government elections in 2016 in Vuwani. This led to a culmination of violent protests commencing again on 1 May 2016.
A total number of 125 cases had been opened in 2016. 12 of these were under investigation and 75 suspects had been arrested. 87 of these cases were undetected, three were withdrawn provisionally and 23 were referred to the Senior Public Prosecutor. In 2017, seven cases had been opened, four of which had been taken to court, and three were under investigation.
On 5 September 2017, the COGTA Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs had held a meeting with the Pro-Makhado task team. The task team demanded the opening of the traffic and municipal offices. The team also demanded a stamp from the province or district. The team refused to reach a compromise with regard to LIM 345, and the shutdown commenced at that stage.
As a result of the shutdown there had been no schooling taking place in Vuwani, public transport was not accessible and the damaging of vehicles during the night continued to be a challenge. SAPS had been monitoring the area through the deployment of personnel. This was the situation between 5 and 29 September 2017.
On the 29 September 2017, a meeting was held at the fire brigade between COGTA, SAHRC and the Pro-Makhado task team, and it was agreed that as of 4 October, the shutdown would be suspended for two weeks. SAPS had to have a plan in action for 17 October, the day the suspension was expected to be lifted. SAPS was monitoring the situation by providing visibility and escorts where necessary.
In response to the situation, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster had applied a four-pillar approach. Pillar 1: Community and stakeholder engagement; Pillar 2: Legal and Regulatory framework and Intervention; Pillar 3: Safety and Security; and Pillar 4: Mass communication.
Critical to the resolution of the current situation would be the total commitment, cooperation, dedication and support from all affected departments to the intervention plan. Emphasis would be placed on:
- Maintaining public order;
- Community and stakeholders’ engagement;
- Mass communication regarding government responsibilities in order to ensure cooperation and common understanding.
DBE on Impact of Protest-relation Action
Ms Palesa Tyobeka, Deputy Director General: Department of Basic Education (DBE) said the presentation would provide a progress update on how the SAHRC report had been processed by the DBE. When the report was released, it was clear that extensive consultations had to be conducted. The issues outlined in the report were not about the DBE. The Minister had written to the SAHRC requesting an extension, and the extension had been granted.
As advised by the Committee, the DBE had shared the SAHRC’s findings and recommendations across the sector. It had shared it with the South African Principals Association (SAPA) in May, and SAPA had advised that because the issues were not about the DBE, it required working with other government departments. The report was also presented to the National Consultative Forum (NCF), which consists of governing bodies. The Forum of District Directors was also briefed, as were the Heads of Department Committee (HEDCOM) and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).
The DBE also presented to sectors that lay outside education. It presented the report to the Social Protection, Community and Human Development (SPCHD) and the Governance and Administration Cluster. The recommendation from these structures was for the DBE to establish a national response team. The Department’s view was that the DBE could not lead a national response team that included other departments. Secondly, their recommendation was that the response team should not be a new structure -- it had to be established within an existing government structure. Thirdly, the response team should be led by COGTA.
The DBE had developed a strategy to communicate findings more broadly and to inform the sector and the wider public on the negative impact of community protests on schooling, and how they restricted the right to a basic education.
The DBE remained committed to delivering and protecting the right to a basic education.
Mr I Ollis (DA) would have liked to address some of the police matters, and expressed disappointment at the Minister of Safety and Security’s absence. The Committee needed to accept that the security cluster in Vuwani had failed because it had failed to prepare to protect people, school facilities and learners. The 29 schools that were burned down in Vuwani was a reflection of people not doing their jobs. Why was the security cluster not ready for the crisis? Secondly, the Bill of Rights and Constitution elevates the rights of children above other rights, and the presentation stated that the suspension of protests would be lifted on 17 October -- what would be done to ensure that schools would be open from the 17th until the matrics finished writing their exams? It was difficult to provide a catch-up plan for Grade 12s, and students in Vuwani might have to re-write the entire year because of continued protests. It was an offence to burn property and prevent students from writing exams, and if it meant the people committing these crimes had to be arrested, then they should be arrested. He strongly affirmed that schools should be open at all costs.
The Basic Education had set up trial exams from 9 to 20 October to allow for intervention where necessary, but the final exams commenced on 24 October. It was too late to make a final intervention three days before the final exams.
Mr Ollis asked if there was a representative from the SAHRC, and said it was unforgiveable to not have a representative. The SAHRC’s report had emphasised that educating the community on what constituted criminal action and the possible consequences was an important step. However, everything in Vuwani up until this point had been focused on meeting up with politicians, provincial leaders and traditional leaders. Educating communities was something that had not yet been done on the ground in Vuwani, and was something the SAHRC had to take charge of. There needed to be a focus on the issues on the ground.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) said she had expected more information from COGTA’s presentation. What were the pressing issues that led to the position that Vuwani found itself in? Of the wards that were against the process, how many of the traditional leaders were part of those wards? Traditional leaders were part of the initial decision to challenge the demarcation, but it seemed as though they were now distancing themselves from the situation. Traditional leaders were paid by taxpayers, and needed to be mediators in Vuwani. Why did they have the right to decide not be a part of the crisis, but continue to get paid? She asked the police how 29 schools had been burnt, but no one had been arrested. How many police were being deployed? What kind of resources had been provided to the police to deal with the situation? The area of Vhembe was a scattered rural area, but the protesters had been able to mobilise better than the police. Where was intelligence in this regard? Where were the ears of the police on the ground? How much did Limpopo pay traditional leaders per month?
Mr D Khosa (ANC) said that when the protests started, there had been buy-in from traditional leaders. What was their current view on this issue? Were they supporting the government? During the engagement with them, was there an agreement on issues they raised before, or was there a deadlock? If there was still a deadlock, when do they propose the shutdown would end? Secondly, schools were a target for disgruntled people even in matters that did not relate to education, and protestors used innocent school children to assist them in mobilising. What was the plan to avert this in future? Thirdly, when engaging with stakeholders, there might be issues that were difficult to talk about. What were the issues, and how were they being addressed? Lastly, how effective were departmental programmes on social cohesion, particularly the programmes with Arts and Culture?
Ms C Majeke (UDM) highlighted that recommendations had been made by the Committee to the Department of Education to prevent the situation from recurring. Which of these recommendations had been implemented, and was there a better response after implementation? Were there any lessons that had been learnt from the crisis in Vuwani to prevent it from happening again elsewhere? The MDB had continued finalising the demarcation, despite the community’s concerns -- was there justification to conclude the demarcation before finalising or making sure that both parties were in agreement so that there was a win-win situation? This was not an education problem, it was a demarcation issue under the municipality. The Constitution stated that the people shall govern, but how far does one let them govern? There was a lack of consultation between traditional leaders and the community. There had been a failure within the MDB.
Ms J Basson (ANC) expressed concern at the Committee’s reactive approach, as opposed to being proactive. She would have appreciated the presence of the SSA to ask if they had not had the capacity to detect the Vuwani situation prior to its occurrence and inform other departments. She reiterated that this was an intergovernmental problem, and the inclusion of all the districts in the Northern Cape would be a proactive solution. The protest incidents had started in Malamulele, and had the government not set a precedent by granting Malamulele what they wanted? She said there were various other government institutions, so why were schools being burnt and students being deprived the right to education? What was the involvement of parents in this incident? What was the response to schools being targets? Based on the Committee’s recommendations, how active was the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) in schools, and how had the DBE capacitated them to be able to defend their children? Lastly, was there a problem in involving traditional leaders in the final stages of demarcation?
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said that the Department had detailed measures that had been put in place. What impact did the measures have? He asked COGTA if the department was dealing with the root causes of the problem. What was the permanent solution, not only for Vuwani but for all communities, to prevent future occurrences of the same issue? The DBE had exams scheduled to start in 14 days, and he asked if this was practical. Did this not overload teachers? SAPS had indicated that two cases were reported and nine people arrested, but there had not been any court appearances. In the recommendations, SAPS insisted that investigators go against bail applications, but how could this be implemented without court appearances? Lastly, what had been the security cluster’s role when people requested a shutdown?
The Chairperson appreciated that through the recommendations raised by the SAHRC and the report tabled in Parliament, there had been initial movement. She appreciated the integration of a government wide response, but the Committee called for more work to be done in resolving the matter. From the SAHRC report, the Committee had highlighted the areas that were responsibility of the DBE, most of which affected other departments.
Communities were rising up against municipalities due to a lack of implementation of the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). The reports presented had not addressed concurrent functions. What was the reflection of the joint IMC on this issue? The funding on IDPs did not provide support to municipalities, and the report had not addressed this. There needed to be monitoring of the performance of IDPs in municipalities. The report should have addressed the MDB. What was the possibility of reviewing the period and process of demarcation? The reports had also ignored early warning signs and systems. This issue not about Vuwani, it was about South Africa, Vuwani was a mere pilot. If it occurred again in another community, what was the plan in place? How were schools and police assisted to react to a crisis when it erupts?
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Ollis on his concern with the SAHRC, but she did want not limit it to the SAHRC, because the matter also related to the DBE. What loopholes had the various departments identified within the law? She proposed that the JMC should look into criminal law and make it illegal to burn public assets. She asked to be briefed on the envisaged amendments that the DBE had mentioned. Lastly, she addressed the security in schools, saying not all schools had security personnel. What were the security measures in place to ensure exams would not be disrupted? She concluded by requesting the strengthening of communication by using the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).
Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister Basic Education, said the DBE had been here before and had answered some of the questions that the Committee Members had posed. Its previous presentation to the Committee had highlighted that the recommendations in the report did not belong to the DBE, but they had made a commitment by presenting the report to Cabinet and to the President to set up a ministerial task team to address the issues. The DBE had also previously reported how the 29 schools had been burned, and the challenges committees had reported in monitoring the burning schools. The Department had also reported that the Vuwani issue was a demarcation issue, and that some of the things that happened were beyond the Department’s control.
The Minister addressed the question on the traditional leaders’ stance by stating that the DBE had gone to the King to inform him that the Department had a problem with their actions in the community. The King had told the Department that the people were his subjects and he was accountable to them, and he would not stand with the government. The traditional leaders had been supportive and had been clear that they stood with their communities. Kings were responsible to their subjects, but they had not as a body instructed people to burn schools.
The DBE had reported about the role of parents. Parents had been helpful by creating commissions to guard schools and protect properties, but they still faced challenges.
The Minister said it was difficult to address the problem of children being used as protestors. She did not expect the police to go into Vuwani and address demarcation issues, because some of the issues were political and not administrative. Social cohesion was not a part of this matter -- the issue was related to demarcation. The Department had met with religious groups, government groups, QLTCs and traditional leaders to try and curb the matter. Unfortunately, the Department had concentrated all its resources around the crisis and had saved the students of Vuwani at the cost of other students in other communities where resources had been removed because of their scarcity.
The Minister addressed Mr Majeke’s question by stating that the Department could not apply a one size fits all solution for all protest problems. The situation in the Northern Cape was different from Vuwani. The Department applied different measures to different problems, so it was not easy to answer what lessons could be learnt.
Lastly, the Department could not postpone national exams to accommodate Vuwani students. It acknowledged the limited time frame students had, but it had to do what it could under the desperate measures. She reiterated that most of the issues in Vuwani were out of the Department’s control, and there were limited actions it could take.
The Chairperson said that the questions raised by Members were an indication of their seeking an assurance that matters were under control. The Committee was not undermining the efforts of the departments – instead, the Members wanted to ensure that things would happen as expected.
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director General: Department of Basic Education, acknowledged that learners did have only a three-day gap, but learners had received support prior to and during their exams. The DBE worked with what they had at their disposable. He had been in Vuwani in July and seen the work that students had covered and under the circumstances, the Department had done what was humanly possible. The responsibility of the DBE was to school governing bodies, and the Department had taken it up. It had ensured that the NSTC had moved to Vuwani to strengthen the QLTC. The scope of the South African curriculum was too wide and extra lessons were often needed. The lesson that the DBE had learned was to put in a big effort at the beginning of the year. The Department encouraged schools to follow this plan should disruptions happen.
Mr Mweli addressed Ms Basson’s question by saying that the DBE had tried to anticipate what could happen and had done what was humanly possible. He answered Mr Mnguni by explaining that the measures that the Department had taken included the acceleration of curriculum coverage, and by June the curriculum had been finished. Teachers had understood the predicaments Vuwani was in.
The Department had attempted to address loopholes in legislature through the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, which had been approved by Cabinet for public comments and at the appropriate moment it would be presented to the Portfolio Committee.
All preparations were in place to ensure learners wrote exams. The DBE would be working with SAPS and using the same structures to ensure that exams were secure.
Lastly, the Department had tried and gone as far as sending Mr Elijah Mlhanga, the DBE’s Chief Director: Media Liaison, to Vuwani to engage with the community and traditional leaders. The Department welcomed further advice from the Committee on how communication could be strengthened.
Ms Mutheiwana emphasised that the Department had been proactive. In most of the subjects, there had been 100% curriculum coverage. With the current shutdown, there had been no schools burned as opposed to the previous shutdown, which was a result of the DBE’s stakeholder engagement. She confirmed that the QLTCs were functional and the Department had various representatives in various structures within Vuwani.
Maj Gen Michael Motlhala, Acting Divisional Commissioner: Visible Policing, SAPS, said that the Justice Prevention and Security Cluster (JPSC) had adopted a four-pillar approach that SAPS implemented for any domestic instability matter across the country. Community and stakeholder engagement was happening at regular intervals and SAPS, through its police stations across the country, had been able to ensure visibility. Intimidation in Vuwani played a prominent role. In cases were suspects were arrested, testimonials were needed for a conviction. However, because of intimidation, there was a lack of people willing to testify, which had made it difficult for SAPS to secure successful prosecutions. He reassured the Committee that the JPSC was ready to support the DBE to ensure that exams would be written without disruptions. There were various structures in place, including the Joint Operative Committee operating in the Vuwani area to ensure proactive measures were in place through visibility and intelligence-driven operations.
Mr Mogale said that recently there had been public participation and dialogue conducted by the JCIS in all municipalities as part of the social cohesion programme. The MDB had a five-year cycle that accepted input from members of the public and various stakeholders. COGTA sought to solve existing problems without creating further problems. COGTA wanted to achieve a sustainable solution. They were working with other departments and the Limpopo province on a daily basis.
Deputy Minister Molekane assured the Committee that State Security had been in contact with the issue of Vuwani. It would be useful for the Chairperson to have an interaction with the Chairperson of the JCI for further information on the matter.
Minister van Rooyen appreciated the submissions made by other departments. The IMC was concerned about the issue in Vuwani. The development of the Department had been delayed because resources had been reallocated. He condemned the resorting to violence at all costs, saying it should not be shifted to other areas of the development agenda. Good work needed to be commended, because before 2016 local government elections, there had been a clear call for people to not vote. However, the presence of the security cluster had ensured that elections took place. The security cluster had also managed to facilitate last year’s examinations.
Community leaders in Vuwani had agreed that the issue was a demarcation issue. They had also highlighted that the issue had triggered certain underlying causes, one of which was the legacy of the Bantustan system in the area. The leaders had called on COGTA to conduct a study on social conflict tendencies in the area. The Minister of Arts and Culture was working with tertiary institutions to conduct the study, and dealing with the root causes of the problems. The Minister emphasised the importance of community buy-in as a critical aspect to finding a solution to the problem. The role of traditional leaders should not be undermined, as they had been helpful in the Department’s attempts to resolve the problem. Since the introduction of the Demarcation Act in 1998, it had not been reviewed. There had been a demarcation indaba and the need to review it had been identified. The review should include the thoroughness of the consultation process, the geospatial considerations when demarcating areas as well as economic reasons when making certain determinations. The process was under way to review the MDB. The Minister agreed with Minster of DBE that a one size fits all approach did not work. However, it was important to look at what the causes of service delivery protests were, and the Department looked forward to engaging with the mechanism to address nationwide protests.
The meeting was adjourned for a lunch break.
UMALUSI: 2016/17 Annual Report
The Chairperson said the purpose of the afternoon session was to be briefed by the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (UMALUSI) on its 2016/17 Annual Report.
Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): UMALUSI, said Umalusi was the quality council responsible for qualifications registered on the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework (GFETQSF) on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The Council ensured that the providers of education and training had the capacity to deliver and assess qualifications and learning programmes, and were doing so to expected standards of quality.
In summary, the mandate of the organisation was:
- To develop and manage a sub-framework of qualifications in collaboration with SAQA and the other two Quality Councils (QCs), supported by the necessary quality assurance policies and processes;
- To develop and implement the necessary quality assurance policies in respect of quality assurance of provision;
- To maintain a database of learner achievements and related matters; and submit such data in a format determined in consultation with the SAQA for recording on the national learners’ records database;
- To commission and publish research related to the development and implementation of the sub-framework of qualifications.
- The formalisation of relationships which included: advice to the relevant Minister on matters relating to the GFET sub-framework of qualifications; collaboration with the SAQA and other QCs in terms of the NQF; and advocacy of the sub-framework and its qualifications.
Dr Rakometsi said in terms of the audit report from the Auditor General, Umalusi had achieved its 16th unqualified opinion since 2001. The pre-determined objectives findings noted the usefulness of indicators.
Ms Stella Mosimege, Senior Manager: Strategic Planning, UMALUSI, said that in terms of the overall performance, Programme 1 covered the following sub-programmes: Governance and Office of the Chief Executive Officer (GOCEO); Public Relations and Communications (PR and Comms); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Finance and Supply Chain Management (F&SCM); and Human Resource Management and Development (HRM&D)
In Programme One, the indicators achieved or over-achieved included financial audit outcomes; HR performance management; communication platform utilisation; ICT infrastructure; and systems utilisation. Indicators under-achieved included the payment of service providers within 30 days, where the reason was that payments were withheld where suppliers had a non-compliant tax status at the payment stage. The future strategies included contract management policies being revised to address procedures for contract renewal. The compliance of suppliers with the Central Supplier Database (CSD) requirements, including tax compliance, should procedurally be verified upon engagement only. Standard operating procedures would be reviewed in line with advice from National Treasury.
In Programme Two, the first sub-programme was qualifications, curriculum and certification, where the role of the QCC was to ensure and enhance the status and quality of the sub-framework of qualifications which Umalusi develops, manages and reviews; evaluating curricula to ensure that these were of acceptable quality; the certification of school learner and adult student performance for all the qualifications on the GFETQSF; and verifying all qualifications that it and its predecessor, the South African Certification Council (SAFCERT) had issued since 1992.
The second sub-programme was statistical information and research. Umalusi conducts research and analysis and reports on quality within the GFETQSF. The mandate was to conduct research that was informed by the emerging needs of the education system to engage stakeholders towards innovative thinking; report on the key indicators of quality and standards in general and further education and training; establish and maintain databases; and lead research and analysis and provide statistical support and information across Umalusi.
Indicators achieved or over-achieved included registration of new qualifications; review of existing qualifications; and publication of research reports. Indicators under-achieved included certification of learner records and verification of learner achievement.
Ms Mosimege said Programme Three was also comprised of two sub-programmes.
The first was quality assurance of assessment. This function entails external moderation of question papers; external moderation of continuous assessment; verification of monitoring of the conduct, administration and management of assessment and examinations processes; management of concessions and examination irregularities; external moderation of marking; and moderation of assessment results.
The second involved evaluation and accreditation. Standards for provision were determined, maintained and strengthened; public and private assessment bodies would be monitored; quality assurance of provision, through an accreditation and monitoring process of private institutions offering the qualifications Umalusi certified; evaluates the capacity of private education and training providers, to implement registered qualifications for which they seek accreditation; monitors and evaluates the capacity of private providers and assessment bodies to conduct practical, internal and external, assessment of learner achievements that lead to the issuing of registered qualifications by Umalusi.
Indicators achieved or over-achieved included Quality Assurance of Assessment (QAA) reports and accreditation report. Indicators under-achieved included the moderation of examination question papers
Ms Mosimege concluded that errors identified on the indicators had been reported and corrections approved by the Minister. Standard operating procedures were in place. Performance outputs were verified on a quarterly basis – the systems needed to improve at the unit level. Achievement of annual performance plan (APP) targets was part of senior management service (SMS) performance agreements. The audit tracking register was adding value in reducing the number of findings raised by internal and external auditors. Umalusi had strengthened its capacity on the management of performance information – a performance information specialist had been appointed in the audit and risk committee.
Ms Jacomien Rousseau, Chief Financial Officer: Umalusi said the vacancy rate had been reduced from 24% to 13% by the end of March 2017, with 36 appointments being made. During the year under review, 22 employees had been recruited externally, 12 members had been promoted and there were two lateral movements. The vacancy rate as at 30 September was 11%. There had been nine resignations, which was a huge improvement on 2015/16, which had 25 terminations.
The accumulated surplus included committed funds, where the Council had approved a tender amounting to R36.4 million for the renovations to 41 Van Ryneveld Street, adjacent to the current building. The DBE had assisted with the request to retain surpluses and these had been granted by National Treasury. A revised budget for 2017/18 had been submitted to the DBE. Irregular expenditure had included awarding a contract extension to a supplier with a non-tax compliant status to an amount of R320 000; acquiring goods without going through a competitive process of sourcing three quotes, to the value of R141 000; and renewal of contracts without going through a competitive process of sourcing three quotes, which amounted to R37 000. Investigation had found no official liable in terms of law for the irregular expenditure. A process of progressive disciplinary steps was followed by management. Condonation to proceed as per National Treasury guideline on irregular expenditure had been issued in April 2015. SCM issues identified had been recorded and would be monitored in terms of the continuous improvement plan.
Ms Rousseau said Umalusi had appointed a Supply Chain Management (SCM) specialist to ensure SCM policies and processes were compliant with legislation and the implementation of policies and procedures. The external auditors had raised the following findings, amongst others, in the management report: accreditation incomes recognition; irregular expenditure monitoring; supply chain management policy issues; and internal controls regarding the management of performance reporting. Management was already in the process of addressing these findings in the current financial year.
Dr Rakometsi concluded that they would like to convey their sincere appreciation to their Council for its support.
Mr Khosa referred to the unqualified audit opinion, and asked when Umalusi checked compliance -- whether during the payment or on the procurement processes, since in slide 16 it was indicated that payments within 30 days were not achieved because suppliers had non-compliant tax status at the payment stage. Maybe the correct procedure would be not to appoint suppliers who did not comply. Umalusi had an opportunity of getting a clean audit because they had been getting an unqualified audit for the past 16 years. Were there any findings that were so chronic that they could not improve on them in order to achieve a clean audit?
Ms Basson asked why Umalusi had declined in their financial controls. Tax compliance was one of the criteria when giving a tender, and no official had been held liable in this regard. Who was in charge of the supply chain management, and what action had been taken against the wrongdoer? She asked how credible the services of Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo (SNG) auditors were? What action plan did Umalusi have in terms of reaching a clean audit? Also, what action plan do it have for verification? What collaboration did it have with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), since it was terminating its mandate? In terms of monitoring private institutions, how was Umalusi was going evaluate the qualifications of teachers in these private institutions. Why did it not make it compulsory for assessment bodies to submit back-up papers, because most of assessment bodies did not submit back-up papers? She asked what type of work semi-skilled and unskilled personnel were doing at Umalusi.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi asked, on Programme One, why there had been a renewal of contract management policies. Why did indicators have to be restructured in Programme Three? She asked for an explanation with regard to the outstanding nine vacancies for 2016/17 versus the 55 posts the entity intended to fill, and also the eight vacancies for semi-skilled personnel, saying the figures did not make sense, and asked whether the terminations were voluntary of not.
Mr Mnguni referred to quality assurance, and asked how Umalusi would ensure that assessment bodies complied by submitting back-up papers. Regarding irregular expenditure, what was Umalusi’s policy when due process had not been followed?
Mr Ollis asked how they would ensure that standards were not dropped at Grade12, because currently the mark had to fit the ‘bell curve’ scenario.
The Chairperson emphasised that Umalusi must go for a clean audit, because for the last 16 years it had been getting an unqualified audit opinion. She asked why Umalusi was not known at public schools, but was known at private schools, and what was it doing to address this issue?
The Chairperson asked Umalusi to explain about the issue of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) wanting examinations to be written in more than one language. Was Umalusi satisfied with the preparedness for the examinations, and what it had recommended to the DBE in this regard? She asked what the view of Umalusi was on the low enrolment of Grade 12 learners.
Ms Bella-Marchesi asked what impact the issue of Vuwani would have on the examination. She was concerned with the alarming university drop-out rate, which was something Umalusi must seriously look at so that it ensured that Grade 12 learners were ready for university going forward.
Ms Rousseau said that currently the audit opinion was not clean, but unqualified. They were working on getting a clean audit, but they needed to get their house in order. They were not sure if the Auditor General (AG) had mentioned that in future there would be three audit opinions in the audit report -- one for the financial information, the second regarding compliance to laws, regulations and legislation, and the third on performance information. Even when they gave their annual performance plan, it was an 18-months cycle and they reported against that plan. These were the indicators they were reporting currently which have been set 18 months ago, and if a mistake had been identified, they could report it in the next cycle. This meant they would not be able to correct a lot of these things in one financial year, because they had to go back to ensure that policies had been aligned and make sure processes were in place before they got to that clean audit report.
The decline in their financial controls was due to the policies not being aligned to National Treasury legislation and guidelines, so they were going back to basics in this current financial year to make sure everything was aligned.
Regarding the non-tax compliance, all of the irregular expenditure referred to was in terms of no quotes and tenders. Their human capital resources were not trained in-house on the supply chain management regulations. In the current and past year, they had tried to centralise the supply chain, but unfortunately one or two transactions had slipped through and had been done by officials who did not have the proper knowledge to ensure they were done correctly. They had not found somebody liable in terms of they could have done it, or ensured a friend or family member had scored some financial benefit, and they had that in writing from every single person who had been involved. They had gone with a policy of a proactive disciplinary process, where they get everyone together and explain all the negatives and why they want to do everything. Again, they got declarations and attendance registers, but no specific person had acted maliciously for Umalusi to have achieved those findings. It had been due to not understanding what was going on. The roles and responsibilities had now been assigned properly to hold a single person accountable if he/she had signed for something.
Regarding their auditors, they currently had external auditors conducting their audits. This was the last year SNG would be their auditors. They were currently in a tender process to get new external auditors, and were doing this in consultation with the AG. Therefore, before they made the appointment, the AG would also make a recommendation in assisting them, making sure that the risk of credibility was looked at.
Ms Rousseau said their budget had not decreased as much as they had expected, but they had accummulated surpluses that had been approved which they were pulling back into the operation, so at least they would not experience the cut in budget too severely. Half of the building they were occupying would be rented out to ensure a revenue stream for their income. As had been stated, they would like to get that clean audit, but they had to get back to basics, policies and procedures to make sure they got it.
Currently, Umalusi was trying to fill the nine vacancies as quickly as they could, but sometimes the level of remuneration offered was not sufficient, so currently they were sitting with a situation where they could not attract the level of professionals and managers they required. The proper statistics of how many staff members they had appointed would be sent to the Committee.
Ms Rousseau said Umalusi was very strict in checking tax compliance. They checked tax compliance when they were awarding a tender, but also re-checked when they paid. That was when National Treasury came back to them to say they needed to verify only upon awarding, and not hold back the payment when they were supposed to pay. It was in that instance that they had not paid within the 30 days, where they had told the supplier that its tax statement was not up to date. Therefore, it was the revision of their internal operating procedure to not verify again at payment stage but revise this to ensure they paid suppliers within 30 days.
All Umalusi’s terminations during the year were due to resignations.
Dr Rakometsi said the Members of the Committee had said Umalusi must get a clean audit, and they were committing themselves to that. They were grateful to the Council for giving them additional positions, because previously they had only a CFO, but now they had a CFO and Senior Manager for Finance, and therefore the gaps would be closed. The SCM unit, which used to run with two clerks, was now running with all the practitioners at the relevant levels of the organisation.
He said that the SNG auditors were credible, and they had heard nothing bad about them in the news. If they heard something bad about them, they would follow the example of other institutions and how they had dealt with KPMG. However, their contract was ending, and they were busy getting new a service provider.
The issue of verification had been in place since 1992, but the problem was from before 1992, when they had TBVC states, different departments of education, and self governing territories in the country. SAQA, together with Umalusi, was working on getting that data cleaned out. Some of them were on microfiche films from the old systems, and some of them were in files in the Department of Education where they were gathering dust. Pulling the documents from the TBVC states had been a nightmare. SAQA was working on that those that were before 1992. After 1992, they had the records they could assess from the times of the South African Certification Council. Indeed, there was a stalemate between SAQA and Umalusi in terms of the verification contract they had between them. SAQA was saying they should not be treated like any other service provider, but wanted to be treated differently, The debate was also around repeat verifications -- that when a person was at a particular department and had been verified, and then joined another department, he/she had to be reverified, and that they should not charge for those things. They had ultimately sat down with SAQA and found each other, and now the contract was in place.
Dr Rakometsi said when they went to private schools, one of the criteria which qualified them to be fully accredited was the qualifications of the educators and their registration with the South African Council of Educators (SACE), and they must be compliant to the Council. However there were other areas where Umalusi was not able to stick to the criteria -- for example, educators that were appointed for physical education. This was the threshold of educators which qualified because of their special skills, which allow them to fill the role of physical education teacher.
Regarding back-up papers, he said that every year all the assessment bodies, when they submit their papers, had to also submit a back-up paper so that if there was a leakage, the back-up paper must step in and be used immediately.
Dr Rakometsi said that he enjoyed Mr Ollis’s comment on standardisation, and thought that they spoke the same language on the matter. Even if they did adjust results upwards, they did so for reasons. Those reasons were debated and ventilated at a meeting, so it was a reasoned position they arrived at whether they adjusted downwards or upwards.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation from Umalusi for the presentation and their responses, and said the Committee was looking forward to strengthening the relationship they had with Umalusi in order to work harder for the benefit of education in the country.
The meeting was adjourned.
- COGTA Progress Made In Lim 345 Since the President Visited the Community of Vuwani on the 07 May 2017
- National Investigative Hearing into the Impact of Protest-related Action on the Right to a Basic Education in South Africa
- Support Plan For Vuwani Schools Post-September 2017 Strike
- Progress Report on the Impasse in Vuwani Since the Presidents Visit
- Status Report on Vuwani: SAPS presentation
- Umalusi 2016/17 Annual Report presentation