The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training deliberated the Higher Education and Training Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR).
Members were not happy that the Report was not sent in advance to peruse and the Committee was given an hour to go through the report.
There were some grammatical errors and the Department noted some mistakes with some of the figures.
Members wanted clarity whether three campuses have indeed been built and also interrogated the role of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) on the records of learners and examinations data.
The report was adopted.
The Chairperson announces apologies from Mr M Mbatha (EFF), Ms S Mchunu (ANC) and the Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande. She said one of the main difficulties surrounding the report is that Members have not had an opportunity to read through it prior to the meeting.
Prof B Bozzoli (DA) remarked that some Members are only present at meetings that created travel opportunities and neglect local meetings.
Ms J Kilian (ANC) proposed that the mMmbers take an hour to read through the report.
Prof Bozzoli questioned why the report was late.
Mr C Kekana (ANC), in agreement with Prof Bozzoli, asked why the report was not given to Members in advance.
The Chairperson says that the late report was due to the capacity of the staff members that are available. Members were given an hour to go through the report and the meeting was suspended until then.
Ms Kilian referred to page 2, paragraph 1.4 and suggested that subsection (e) be removed as it was a repetition of a line contained within the previous paragraph. She also referred to paragraph 1.5, titled ‘Method’, where she highlighted the need for clarity regarding the section 32 reports mentioned in the last line which read, ‘… the Committee’s 2016/17 financial year in-year monitoring through section 32 Reports.’
The Chairperson agreed with this.
Ms Kilian further noted some minor grammatical errors which included substituting the word ’succeed’ for ‘success’ in the final line of page 2.
Prof Bozzoli, on page 5, questioned whether colleges have the capacity to report against any Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) requirements. To this end, she considered whether the Committee should place this as a comment on the overall report, or note outright that the capacity of colleges needed to be enhanced to allow them to do this.
The Chairperson instructed the Committee to look at the recommendations after reviewing the report.
In terms of 3.2.1 page 7, Ms Kilian proposed swapping the word expansion for ‘increase’,
Mr Theuns Tredoux CFO, DHET, said total revenue in the last line should read R65.561 billion as opposed to R64.560 billion. In addition, the last row in table 1, labeled ‘Total Revenue’ should be ‘Total Expenditure’. He made further corrections on page 10 of the report, which placed University Education expenditure at 80.4% (R39.515 billion) of the Department’s total budget, as opposed to R39.516 billion. Additionally, the 2015/16 Appropriation and Expenditure amount was different from the Expenditure Report. Actual expenditure was R32 billion and was erroneously reflected as R52 billion.
Mr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director-General, DHET, referred to table 2 and noted that although the rest of the figures are measured in thousands, Final Appropriation is measured in hundreds. Mr Patel also pointed out that paragraph 4.1.2 repeated the reference to expenditure spent and therefore the first sentence of the second paragraph must be removed.
Mr Tredoux said, on page 13 where it stated that the ‘Department awarded contracts to the value of R1.190 million – the figure should be s …’, a figure which was meant to read R493 371.
Ms Kilian noted the vagueness on page 16 where it was claimed that one of the contributing factors to the low spending in the Department was the ‘outstanding invoices for litigation matters that were not received on time and a saving on transfer to the India-Brazil-South Africa Trilateral Commission as no invoice were received from services rendered during the financial year and favourable Rand/Dollar exchange rate. She was particularly concerned with whether the costs were simple added on to the next financial year should the receipts had been submitted later thus resulting in no real saving at all.
Mr Tredoux responds that there were no invoiced issues so no payments will be made and thus the saving claimed is legitimate.
On page 18, Prof Bozzoli asked if he SETAs did not contribute to the cost and if not, should they not.
Mr Tredoux responded that the SETAS did not contribute to the cost and that according the terns of the Act they should not contribute to it. He further pointed out that in paragraph 4.4 of page 21, the under spending at the end of the financial year must be disclosed in brackets as a percentage to show how the proportion of under spending was so low.
Prof Bozzoli referred to page 30 and asked the Department whether three campuses have indeed been built and whether it was in fact only one campus that has been completed out of the 12 campuses.
Mr Patel notes that the Department began with the construction of three college campuses and that out of those three, only one has been completed and the two were still under construction. However, the other 12 contracts are going forward which are anticipated to be completed by 2020.
Mr C Kekana (ANC) asked if the two college campuses were functional.
Mr Patel responded that only one out of the three was functional.
Mr Kekana said completion was not the most important factor but rather whether the students are learning or not.
The Chairperson agreed with Mr Kekana and said a structure with no use was as good as an incomplete one.
Prof Bozzoli requested that the Committee be sent a specific report on the building of the 12 colleges.
The Chairperson responded that the issue Prof Bozzoli brought up should be raised in the second quarter.
Ms Kilian, referred to page 31 that stated the Department lacked current data. She asked whether specific reference was made to the examination or if the Department was holding the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) accountable for the capturing of data on behalf of the Department.
M Patel responded that there was no triple-baseline because SITA has been unable to do calculations due to backlog.
Ms Kilian, speaking on page 44, noted the Department has not convinced her me that failure to implement can be the sole responsibility of SITA.
Mr Patel responded that the issue was on the reporting of examination information. The Department relied on SITA because it kept records of every student. Since it has issues with records not being clean, it was only when they clean the records that data will be able to be extracted automatically. SITA was involved only in terms of the examination data.
Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) noted that the department needed an information system far wider than examination data. Exam enrollment and enrollment for study are not necessarily the same. There are also non-national assessments and a system was needed that will give information about the full picture of what was happening in public colleges.
Ms Kilian suggested that the Committee delete the words ‘data management for both’ and emphasised that data management was not SITA’s responsibility, but the responsibility of the Department. The Department has indicated that they are busy with the development of the system with the systems from SITA and no department can delegate the management of information to another.
Mr Van der Westhuizen said the Committee must give input on what Members would like to see in the budget. The syllabi are completely outdated and the examination admin is under-resourced. In addition, asking for an additional 1000 beds while a number of campuses had empty beds because the colleges could not finance students. College principals are lacking medium term support in terms of planning; there was a serious problem in terms of remuneration to attract competent staff. Greater flexibility was needed to bridge programs to historically disadvantaged learners; as well as community education and training delivery sites, because adults are not given enough of an opportunity to improve their skills.
Ms Kilian said these were good points and if it was already formulated, should be submitted to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson said the thrust of Mr Van der Westhuizen’s points are supported and must recommend that sufficient funds must be allocated for these areas otherwise the issues would just get lost.
The report was adopted.