NSG, CPSI Quarter 2 performance, with Minister

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

01 November 2017
Chairperson: Mr C Mathale (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The National School of Governance (NSG) said it played a strategic role in building the capacity of public servants to deliver effective services. It continued to roll out training in the four streams of leadership, management, administration and induction. It was also active in the international sphere, where it supported the African management development institute network. It had concluded a partnership with the Chinese Academy of Governance, with the objective of training South African public servants and also to develop similar programmes. The partnership had resulted in 25 public servants being placed on the China training programme from September to October 2017. It had also participated in the BRICS seminar on governance.

Members asked how the NSG planned to improve its revenue collection; why its E-training was still at a low level; what links existed between the NSG and the “Fees Must Fall” protests; how it was overcoming the challenges of distance and connectivity with students in rural areas; and what the reason was for the entity’s high vacancy rate.

The Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) reviewed the projects that it had successfully implemented, such as the “smart” identity cards, working in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs. It had also introduced a system to deal with reducing hospital queues, which was currently being implemented at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. The organisation had funding challenges, and also had to rely heavily on the departments they were dealing with, as the extent of a department’s cooperation and project management usually determined the progress of the CPSI. The targets that were not achieved were usually affected by the externalities that came from the departments. Stakeholder engagement tended to be difficult, as services in some departments were full of ‘red tape,’ and this hindered the time frame of the projects.

The Committee wanted to know if the CPSI systematically reviewed the success and impact of the projects and programmes it implemented; whether the shortage of project managers was affecting its progress; what plans were in place to overcome the lack of capacity; and whether it was prepared for the rapid onset of digital migration.

Meeting report

National School of Government: 2nd Quarter performance

Mr Richard Levin. Principal: National School of Governance, said that the Department continued to play a strategic role in building the capacity of public servants to deliver effective services. It continued to roll out training in the four streams of leadership, management, administration and induction. It was also active in the international sphere, where it supported the African management development institute network and other partnership agreements that had recently been signed.

During the first quarter, the executive committee counsel had held its general annual meeting which dealt with constitutional matters in Ghana. The Department had finalised all the preparations for the hosting of the 19th public sector training forum, which took place on 19 October 2017. During the second quarter, it had trained 12 391 learners against the target of 14 311 learners, which represented an 87 % achievement against the training target. The revenue generated from training activities from April to September amounted to R42.8 million against the projection of R58 million, making it a 74% achievement.

The NSG had concluded a partnership with the Chinese Academy of Governance, with the objective of training South African public servants and also to develop similar programmes. The partnership had resulted in 25 public servants being placed on the China training programme from September to October 2017. It had also participated in the BRICS seminar on governance, and held bilateral discussions with the Chinese Academy of Governance and the Fujian Academy of Governance to create a curriculum to improve the planning and implementation culture of South African public servants.

The Department was also implementing the Rutanang Ma-Africa campaign, which was recruiting both serving and former public servants as trainers, and then training them as well. 550 individuals had been enrolled as well as 130 organisations, including universities, non-government organisations (NGOs) and private enterprises. The recruitment process closed on 31 August 2017, and it was in the technical evaluation stage of identifying suitable trainers from those who had put forward their portfolios.

The National School of Governance (NSG) had concluded a partnership with the Financial Services Board (FSB) for the design, development and implementation of a customised ethics online course. This included a face to face component at the end. The purpose of the course was to equip employees with the skills and competencies to make ethical decisions to uphold the organisation’s integrity. It was envisioned through this intervention that there would be a better understanding of the values of ethical standards, how to apply them in the work place, and identify and respond to ethical dilemmas. During the first quarter, the Department had completed the research through in-depth interviews for content and case study development. The course was made compulsory for all FSB employees, and was officially launched on 12 September 2017 by the FSB leadership. The NSG had assisted in developing the FSB’s code of ethics, which was launched on the same day. At the end of this quarter, 530 FSB individuals had completed the course and the feedback from the officials had been positive, including statements like “the course had taught me ethical standards I was not aware of”. This was highlighted due to the course being a very important intervention, which saw the NSG going beyond the traditional public service and into the public sector more broadly. The blending of the online courses with the face to face aspect was a form of innovation for the FSB and the NSG.

The non-financial quarter performance highlight was the number of people trained. The leadership stream was performing very well, and had exceeded 50% of the target for the first two quarters. During the second quarter, the target had been exceeded by 21%. The management stream had also been doing well, at 92% of the target, and the accumulative two quarters were standing at 47%. Administration had exceeded the target as well; but the unemployed youth was under target. For the quarter, the NSG had achieved 87% of the target and accumulatively 40% of the target. This left a large gap to be filled in the third and fourth quarters to fulfil the rest of the number of students to be trained.

17 out of the 21 performance targets (87%) in the annual performance plan (APP) were achieved. In programme 1, a highlight was that the debt collection had been reduced to 27 days at the end of September, which was down from 48 days in the previous financial year. All payments to suppliers had been made within the prescribed dates, a disaster test had been conducted, and a memorandum of understanding had been submitted to the chief law state advisor.

The projected revenue had been R58 million by the end of September, but they had collected in the region of R43 million, which meant the NSG needed to continue marketing and strengthen their sales capabilities. A draft Cabinet memo had been presented for the Minister, which was still in discussion, in the hope the budget would be increased. The vacancy rate had increased, as there had been a loss of staff.

In programme two, there had been the implementation of four training needs analysis interventions for the Department of Basic Education, and the production of a report for Gauteng’s Department of Health. The NSG had hosted two research studies focusing on the “Fees must Fall,” and the role of internal communication in employing engagements. 15 evaluation reports had been completed and four reports on the status of the application of learning studies. The reports had been discussed with the Select Committee, and the NSG hoped to go in detail with the Committee soon.

Discussion

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) was concerned about the revenue collection strategy. It had been brought up in the previous meeting, but it had not yet been concluded. She suggested that the Minister should intervene to ensure the Committee’s requests were fulfilled. When would the Minister come back with her 100 days of financial modelling for Treasury? What was the progress on the training service assessment improvement matter? E-training seemed like it was still at a low rate -- the Department was communicating only with itself. The programmes needed to be widespread to the citizens of the country at large to gain more participation, which would increase the uptake rate.

The Chairperson asked if there were hindrances in the collection of revenue. What turnaround strategies would be implemented by the NSG to deal with the issue in the upcoming quarters? How was the Department planning to decrease the rising vacancy rate.

Mr M Ntombela (ANC) firstly congratulated the NSG on the achievements highlighted in the report, specifically the average debt collection days which had been reduced from the previous financial year. He was interested in knowing the links between the NSG and the “Fees must Fall” campaign.

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) referred to the completion of courses, asking if the employees wrote a formal test as a means of assessment to determine the success of a course. The review indicated a low rate of youth induction, and she asked why this was an issue. She was curious as to why the employees were leaving, and the reason behind the NSG’s decision to privatise the evaluation of vacancies. Why was the model in dealing with the increasing vacancy rate being changed -- what was wrong with the existing model?

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) was concerned mainly about how the students accessed the online services, since data prices were so high in the country. She questioned if there was wi-fi or internet access on campus, and how they connected if some students from rural areas were facing financial or technological marginalisation.

Mr S Motau (DA) asked if the level of professionalism among new employees was at same the standard as that of the outgoing employees. Should the Committee be made aware of the incoming skills level dropping? Why was there a lag in the induction training, and what the steps were in place to combat the setback?

Ms D van der Walt (DA) asked how many of the trainees were new employees and how many were existing employees, to show the success rate of the training programmes.

The Chairperson asked if the NSG was well recognised throughout the country, compared to other popular institutions.

NSG’s response

Mr Levin said he believed the NSG was building a reputation with partnerships that offered leadership training with universities through high niche executive development programmes. The NSG had forged partnerships that would increase the scarce skills of the country, such as with the Chinese Academy of Governance, where there were customised programmes that answered internationally related needs.

Regarding the change in model to address the vacancy rate, he said there had been a lot of global bench marking. The results showed that the NSG must have an adequately designed model to gain funding and participation. The use of compulsory courses would aid the model to do better, as they would be merged with face to face workshops and online platforms. He addressed the cost recovery in the international market by stating that the more face to face workshops occurred, the higher the costs were, and if the NSG changed the model to be more online and less face to face, the revenue returns would increase.

Mr Levin referred to the breaking of barriers to entry, and requesting the Minister to communicate with her colleagues to making the course compulsory for interns, as this would enhance their employability in the public and private sector. He also commented on the success of the roll-out of the programme in the rural and township areas, with the aid of the Minister and in partnership with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Revenue collection had been improving at a rapid rate ever since he had joined, which was an indication of growth and progress. The pressure of the Committee and their suggestions regarding prepayments and debt collection had yielded these successful results.

The compulsory programmes would be selected by the Minister following the identification of the areas of need in the service field. The current compulsory course dealt with financial delegation, as there were too many positions of management with financial delegations, yet funds were misused in the public service sector.

The fundamental challenge with the uptake in E-learning was that not everyone had an uninterrupted connection to the internet, which was limited to the work place and selected areas of business. The issue of connectivity would have to be addressed further by either learning centres or other areas of business.

The induction programme was fully available online. The blending of face to face and online was being considered, as authentic reality was still appreciated in the areas of education and training.

The induction programme lag issue was that it was decentralised, and the departments needed to take on the material themselves to convey the information. The departments had to select their own programme directors to manage the running of the courses, which caused the indicated lag. This process had disadvantages, yet there were interventions that were being introduced to combat the lag.

Mr Levin referred to the “Fees must Fall” matter by mentioning that there was a need to raise awareness of the climate and magnitude of the occurrence, which was why there were researchers in this field. He emphasised that there was no relation between the NSG and “Fees Must Fall”, nonetheless.

Moving on to the prospect of a complete shift of the programmes being online, he said that the NSG had to leverage the use of the online platforms. For example, the spreading of information was making citizens more aware of the policies and laws of the country. The courses being online and compulsory allowed the individual to have full access to material, which would allow them to complete the courses successfully. His personal view was that blended learning could lower costs, and would also be beneficial to the individual, as they could access the information at will.

Ms Phindile Mkhwanazi, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): NSG, addressed the concerns on the vacancies, saying that the outgoing employees went through exit interviews which served as feedback to the institution. The common reasons were that some were gaining promotions to other departments, while some were pure resignations. The decision to privatise the evaluation of vacancies had proved to be a safer alternative, as the process of screening long-term former employees was beyond the capacity of the NSG.

The marketing department was intervening to improve the revenue strengths, as the targets were not being fully achieved.

Dr Dovhani Mamphiswana, Director General: Public Service Commission (PSC) answered the question on assessments that were included in the programmes, which were structured around the material. The learners received their grades after several days, which included feedback from their assessors. The courses were divided into segments -- the ones that were in-training, and the ones that were at universities which did not allow leeway from the university standards. The accreditations were then processed by the NSG, and 50% of the cost of the courses were interlinked. The accreditation was accompanied by a portfolio which was reviewed as the first step of assessment. After the induction assessment, if one was employed in the public or private sector, there were different learning packages that were specified for the public servants, customised to fit the individual’s needs, that varied in terms of tuition costs. Regarding the induction lag, the NSG wanted to zone into districts within the provinces, so that they could provide the trainers themselves.

Ms Faith Muthambi, Minister of Public Service and Administration, answered the question as to what was the niche that made public servants to feel obligated. She referred to the Public Service Act, which stated that all aspects of the Department should be utilised to the fullest. She said that the NSG should be fully supported so it could fulfil its mandates, and be well regulated to avoid any distraction. The point of data being an issue within the rural communities, as well as the low accessibility of technology in marginalised areas, was being addressed. The Department was working hard to close the gap of inequality, as both students and employees in remote locations had difficulty in accessing information.

Issues of leadership arose when reviewing who was a partner in the “Fees must Fall” campaign, and the Minister was concerned about how the student protests were being narrated. The perception of the protest was being taken out of context from the students’ perspective, and was being translated inaccurately to the citizens at large.

The Minister said that the 100-day programme had to do with international relations strategies and partnerships. The outcome was the African government post-graduate programme, which focused on the process of government within the African context.

Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI): 2nd quarter performance

Ms Thuli Radebe, Executive Director: CPSI, said the Centre focused on the culture of innovation in the public service, to ensure that institutions and departments were solution-focused. It had several programmes that yielded outcomes that could provide institutions with better and efficient solutions. There was an annual award ceremony, where the participants were celebrated in providing ground-breaking innovations for sectors in the public service.

The CPSI had achieved 16 of its19 targets, and mechanisms had been put in place to fulfil the outstanding targets in the following quarters. The research and development (R&D) sector had been hindered by a lack of capacity, as the centre had been working with two institutions -- one was the Department of Home Affairs, on front-line delivery mechanisms, and the other was the Chris Hani Hospital, to try to address the long queues in hospitals.

The Centre had created a network for the hospitals within Mpumalanga and in Gauteng so that they could share their findings and theories to improve innovation and solution finding much more quickly. This network would also aid patients by not having to travel to and from Gauteng just for information and specialised treatment, as their status could be addressed in Mpumalanga. Information such as x-rays was being sent electronically so they could be assessed by other specialists.

The blood optimisation project had been innovated further, due to the lack of blood supplies in the country. The project had been successful in saving hospitals money, as it had created a network which communicated with one another. The Centre was taking the project to the Free State and Limpopo.

Ms Radebe said the CPSI had a multimedia innovation centre where all the equipment and experiments were housed. The Centre invited officials and public figures to review the work that had been done and solutions that had been discovered. For example, the Department of Home Affairs had worked with the Centre in developing their smart identity cards, which had been a successful rollout programme for South Africa.

The CPSI depended heavily on donors, as the budget it received from government was very limited. Some donors had pulled out, causing some of the achievements that the centre had as targets to be hindered. One of the financial support systems was the United Nations, and the Centre had returned the favour by innovating their online regional centres. The Centre uploaded the Southern African Development Community’s (SADEC’s) information to the internet, which streams the programmes operated by the United Nations. This had been a slow process, as the Centre was under-capacity, and this meant that there could be only one person left with the responsibility of uploading the information.

Ms Radebe also touched on the number of permanent staff, which was 34. The Minister had been working towards addressing the issue of under-staffing. She concluded by mentioning that there was diversity within the staff system, with a balanced mix of employees and a zero vacancy rate.

Ms Philisiwe Sithole, Deputy Director: Finance, CPSI, provided the committee with the Centre’s financial report. She reported that the expected costs of production had not been fully spent as the budget had been utilised efficiently.

Discussion

Mr Ntombela congratulated the Centre for all of its successful work, but commented that that the innovations that arose, such as the smart identity card, tended to perpetuate an easy life for those who were not financially marginalised. For example, those who were in rural areas needed to find the means to go and fetch these smart cards from long distances, and this had inconvenienced many citizens. He asked if the CPSI, after it implemented an innovation, went back to review the success and impact rate of that project or programme.

Mr D Khosa (ANC) was intrigued by the number of project managers, which negatively affected the progress of the CPSI’s performance. He wanted to know what was the plan was to overcome the lack of capacity.

Ms Lesoma made three recommendations. The first was that the submitted plans which went through parliamentary processes should be respected, and the organisation should use them as guidelines to make sure the projects went hand in hand with Parliament, especially with regard to the use of resources. How would the organisation go forward in the following quarters in dealing with their low capacity? The second recommendation referred to stakeholder funding, as the organisation needed to review their unforeseen costs and hurdles in their near future. In the next quarter, the Committee would appreciate a clear plan of how the organisation would go forward without making the same mistakes of not following their own plans submitted to Parliament. Her last recommendation involved the information communication technology (ICT) revolution that was in motion. She considered that the innovations that arose from this should deal with the factor of marginalised rural areas. She was concerned about the digital migration, and the NSG and the CPSI should also be made aware of preparing themselves for this form of evolution.

The Chairperson asked about the working relations of the CPSI with other entities of science and technology that dealt with innovation.

CPSI’s response

Ms Radebe referred to the pre-planning of the organisation, and said that the organisation relied heavily on the departments they were dealing with. The extent of a department’s cooperation and project management usually determined the progress of the CPSI. The targets that were not achieved were usually affected by the externalities that came from the departments. The stakeholder engagement tended to be difficult, as services in some departments were full of red tape, and this hindered the time frame of the projects. Besides that, the costs were all placed on the CPSI.

She acknowledged the digital migration which was taking place, and said the organisation was well informed about the technological changes. It was highly involved with considering the future, especially when it came to protecting citizen’s jobs and futures. She assured the Committee it would receive a report on the matter, as provisions were already in motion.

Regarding addressing ITC issues, the CPSI was not responsible for this sector in government, as there was already a department that focused on it. Nonetheless, it did work hand in hand with software developers and departments in government that were key role players in this space, which aided the innovation of the organisation. The Innovation Hub was a stake holder that the organisation used to go forward with integration of service delivery to the public.

Ms Radebe emphasised that the Centre did not have funding for mentors and other high end service providers that assisted the organisation, and relied mainly on the private sector to provide the skills to create the innovations desired.

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of 13 September were adopted, after Ms Newhoudt-Druchen pointed out several grammatical errors.

The minutes of 10October, 11 October and 18 October were adopted without corrections.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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