The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) briefed the Committee on the review of identified programmes and spending areas at risk in the execution of budgets. The purpose of the brief was to reflect on key areas of progress towards the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030, implemented through the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTFS) 2014-2019; to reflect on the review of identified programmes and spending areas at risk in terms of budget execution; to highlight key findings from the DPME’s evaluation system and to reflect the high impact interventions for 2017-2019.
The DPME provided highlights of progress as they pertained to the capabilities of South Africans, the economy and the capable state. Key challenges in the NDP 2030 included the eradication of absolute poverty, a reduction of the unemployment rate and a reduction in inequality. Specific programmes and spending areas most at risk with regard to budget execution included learning and culture, health, social development, peace and security, general public services, economic development and community development. High impact interventions for 2017-2019 were focused on a strong and inclusive economy, a capable state and active citizenry, and developing human capabilities.
Members welcomed the brief, describing it as informative and as something that would help the Committee to conduct its oversight. They asked the DPME to elaborate on what the broader health risks were as a result of not filling posts in provincial health departments; on the statement that the Department of Basic Education had moved on a three streams approach, but its policy and impact was not clear; on the findings that 25% of children under five years old were stunted; on the key evaluations of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF); on the role of the BRICS bank; and on employment parity for women in terms of gender equality.
Opening and welcome
The Chairperson said that the briefing was important because it would strengthen the Committee’s oversight and therefore Members should listen attentively and carefully to everything that was said. This would help them to engage robustly with departments and entities when presenting. The presentation was important because it would speak to allocations of the budgets, and it was the Committee that approved the departmental budgets. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had become a partner to help the Committee to become effective.
The main concern was for the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) also to intervene timeously to make things work in terms of deepening or realising social transformation. The question of transformation dated back to 1994, and it was time to work for the realisation of real transformation. Such realisation was dependent on the acceleration of the National Development Plan (NDP). The Committee wanted to ensure that the acceleration was inclusive and created decent work, promoted investment in a competitive way and finally bridged the gaps between the haves and have-nots. Social gaps were worrying as they were becoming bigger and bigger. In the Committee’s oversight, it should be emphasised that these wide social gaps should be narrowed down.
Progress towards NDP 2030: Briefing by DPME
Mr Thulani Masilela, Acting Deputy Director General: Outcomes Monitoring and Evaluation: DPME, said that the purpose of presentation was to reflect briefly on key areas of progress towards the National Development Plan 2030, implemented through the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTFS) 2014-2019. It would also reflect on the review of identified programmes and spending areas at risk in terms of budget execution, highlight key findings from the DPME’s evaluation system, and identify high impact interventions for 2017-2019.
He provided highlights of progress as they pertained to the capabilities of South Africans, the economy and the capable state. Key challenges in respect of the National Development Plan 2030 included the eradication of absolute poverty, a reduction of the unemployment rate and a reduction in inequality.
Mr Masilela referred to specific programmes and spending areas most at risk with regard to budget execution. These included learning and culture, health, social development, peace and security, general public services, economic development and community development.
He highlighted emerging results from evaluations and links to the budget. Overall, 59 national evaluations were either completed or under way, covering R143 billion of government expenditure. 36 National Evaluation Plan (NEP) evaluations had approved reports, 24 had improved plans being monitored by the DPME and 19 served at Cabinet. Seven provinces and 68 departments had evaluations, which was up from 29 in the previous year. Evaluation outcomes were highlighted in terms of education, health, safety, employment, skills, rural development, human settlements, local government, environment, public service and social protection. High impact interventions for 2017-2019 were focused on a strong and inclusive economy, a capable state and active citizenry, and developing human capabilities.
Mr Masilela concluded that the review had highlighted key areas of progress towards the NDP 2030 implemented through the MTSF 2014-2019. The review also reflected progress with specific programmes and spending areas. Overall progress towards impact indicators during 2014-2016 reflected a need to accelerate progress during 2017-2019. A set of high impact interventions was proposed for improvement of performance against the NDP 2030 targets for the remainder of the electoral term, and the utilisation of appropriated funds by government departments.
Ms M Manana (ANC) commented that the presentation was informative. She asked for more details on what the broader risks were in not filling posts in provincial health departments. It had been stated that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) had moved on the three streams approach, but its policy and impact was not clear. She asked about the findings that 25% of children under the age of five were stunted, and on the key evaluations of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). She commented that little had been said on the lessons learnt from working with non-profit organisations (NPOs).
Ms S Shope-Sithole (ANC) remarked that presentation was helpful for conducting oversight. It was very difficult to ask questions without that kind of information. She asked why no department had talked about the BRICS Bank. Those who wrote in the media were negative about it and did not present it as positively as the DPME did. South Africa would remember President Jacob Zuma as a president who took the country to BRICS and saved it from the cruelty of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that other African countries were suffering from.
On the issue of gender equality, she said that she was a gender activist more than anything else. Promotion of gender equality was her passion. Regardless of their skills and talents, women were suffering from poverty. The Department should advise the Minister of Women in the Presidency to come up with legislation that obligated a 50/50 balance in work place. There were more women than men, and women were the poorest in society.
Ms D Senokoanyane (ANC) asked for elaboration on the budgets dealing with community development.
Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) expressed his concern on unemployment and the emerging trend of jobs being lost. He referred to the huge chicken companies, and asked how the loss of jobs in this sector could be addressed. He said that the number of persons convicted of corruption in cases involving R5 million and above had doubled between 2013/14 and 2016/17, from 52 to 110. The number was not satisfactory, because there had been no process to accelerate the prosecution of those involved in fraud and corruption, so something needed to be done. A lot of corrupt acts were taking place in the municipalities.
He said that the presentation had not elaborated on how the eradication of poverty should take place. He asked why 39% of the population were still poor and living below the poverty line of R419, as per 2009 prices. Who set out the price to measure poverty, and how was such a price arrived at? He expressed his concern about the fact that 17 million people were beneficiaries of social grants. There was a need to reduce unemployment, but despite this, the presentation had not touched on the question of the radical economic transformation. He said that the protection of women and children was essential. Accordingly, the state ought to get to the source of drugs and trace and arrest drug lords, in addition to outlawing ownership of private guns.
The Chairperson, referring to the peace and security budget and risk, asked what a possible solution could be to avoid the decline in the budget of the Departments of Home Affairs and Defence. What had the Department of Defence done in order to deal with issues of overspending on staff, and why was there no transparent strategy to reduce the headcount? The Minister of Finance had indicated the allocation on the administration programme should be cut down by 6%. She stressed that overspending was a crime, and that crime put the country at a high risk.
She was hearing for the first time that the Early Childhood Development (ECD) evaluation had indicated the need to widen services, targeting poor children and children from conception to age two, and that a new policy had been approved with a conditional grant. She asked whether a conditional grant had indeed been granted. Her worry was that the ECD centres were struggling, and reports submitted to the Committee included children being burnt in the centres. Reports showed that the ECD lacked capacity. She also raised her concern over drugs and corruption, and remarked that there needed to be a good record in fighting against these social pathologies.
Mr Masilela said that medical legal claims were a growing problem. The National Treasury estimated that the health sector was facing R57 billion in contingent liabilities. The DPME recognised the intervention of the Department of Health. It had developed a strategy which included encouraging all players in health sector to first seek mediation between the claimant and the Department prior to defending the matter in a court of law. A judge was helping the Department to develop the mediation strategy. The strategy was based on the natural justice approach, and there was an insistence on addressing issues rather than punishing those involved. Mpumalanga was a province that had dealt well with litigation and had set the best practices. It dealt proactively with litigants and settled disputes out of court, whereas in other provinces litigation was dragged on and on. The DPME had talked to the Department of Health, and had pointed out that R57 billion was a lot of money. The development of the new strategy in the health sector followed the reduction in litigation involving the Road Accident Fund (RAF).
He referred to the provinces that were not part of the monitoring and evaluation system, and said that it was an issue of capacity in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. The issue of evaluation should be prioritised, even if it was not mandated. There was no piece of legislation that forced a department to conduct an evaluation. Internal capacity was needed to carry out effective evaluations.
On the link between child mortality and the issue of stunting, Mr Masilela said that stunting did not kill. Although the level of stunting was going up, child mortality was going down. This was an indication of the status of nutrition. The study had shown that in South Africa, the focus was on the quantity of food, and not its quality. In South Africa, there was no dietary diversity. Breastfeeding in South Africa was very low, and that was the reason why many children were found to be stunted. The rate of child mortality was lower because children had previously been dying from HIV/AIDS.
On the gender equality, he apologised for bringing a male-dominated delegation. He said that the question of legislation that would promote gender parity would be considered. On the question of unemployment, he said that departments were not sufficiently funded, and commented that there was a need to rationalise the funding in terms of skills development.
Dr Thabo Mabogoane, Outcomes Facilitator: DPME, talked about the DBE’s three streams. He said the concern of the DPME was that there was no policy. There had been no debate about this taking place in the public domain. There was duplication in the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education that needed to be dealt with. The curriculum was being changed, and the DPME was not aware of its progress.
Mr Masilela said that he fully agreed that BRICS was a legacy that the current administration would leave. It had liberated the country from the IMF and World Bank, and the country was no longer captured by the West.
On the question of rural development, he said that this was not assigned solely to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Referring to Outcome 7, he pointed out that one could see that many departments were concerned with rural development.
On the question of the free market and who regulated the prices in South Africa, Mr Masilela said that these questions were concerns of the NDP. There were a lot of factors that were taken into consideration. However, the DPME was in a support of the National Planning Commission (NPC) to do a survey on the cost of living in South Africa.
On the question of radical economic transformation, he said that the DPME was thinking about how to contextualise it so it could be incorporated in the current NDP.
Regarding the decline in the budget at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the problem of security had been flagged. The DHA was facing human resources incapacity owing to insufficient funding. The same problem was shared by the Department of Defence.
On the question of drugs, Mr Masilela responded that a national drug master plan had been adopted in order to respond to the drug problem. The challenge was coordination, and whether such coordination had adequate funding.
On the question of TVET colleges, he said that there was a problem in recruiting those who graduated from these institutions, which had been established in order to address the gaps in the engineering sector and to address the inherited problems of unskilled youth. More funding was needed.
Ms Manana said that the TVET colleges should not fail, for the sake of education. She felt that people were not taking those colleges that were situated in the rural areas seriously. Graduates were not being recruited.
Mr Masilela responded that the government should change its mind-set by changing the manner in which advertisements were communicated. Requirements should include those who held qualifications awarded by the TVET colleges.
The Chairperson asked the DPME to explain the expenditure of R30 million.
Mr Masilela responded that they were still waiting for the report on this expenditure, and had no information available to share with the Committee. The problem with the TVET colleges might be poor quality training which might reduce the opportunities of graduates to find placements.
The meeting was adjourned.