Department of Higher Education 2016/17 Annual Report; Response to NCOP 2016 Eastern Cape Higher Education Site Report, with Deputy Minister

NCOP Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture

01 November 2017
Chairperson: Ms L Zwane (ANC, Kwazulu Natal)
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Meeting Summary

Annual Reports 2016/17

The Select Committee met with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for a briefing on the Department’s 2016/17 annual performance report, and to be briefed on the responses to the resolutions and recommendations of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) 2016 Eastern Cape Higher Education site report. The meeting was attended by the newly appointed Deputy Minister, Mr Kgwaridi Manamela.

The DHET said that its annual performance plan had first been presented in April 2016, where it had undertaken to deliver on 70 Departmental performance targets, and monitor and report on the performance of the post-school education and training (PSET) system in relation to 34 performance indicators across the four delivery programmes of the Department. Of  the 70 targets, the Department had managed to achieve 56 (80%). This was a 5% improvement from the 2015/16 financial year. Sixteen of the of the 34 targets (47%) relating to universities, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, community education and training (CET) colleges, and sector education and training authorities (SETAs) had been achieved. Deviations found in the financial statements were primarily due to posts that became vacant during the year which could not be filled as projected, as well as vacant funded posts that were advertised as part of the TVET and CET function shift process during 2015/16 that were filled only in mid-2016/17, due to the large volume of applications received.

Members asked why five months had elapsed since the closing date for the Deputy Director General vacancy applications, an no appointments had been made; why funds had been re-prioritised; whether the Department could account for the comments made by the Auditor General regarding the unauthorised, wasteful and fruitless expenditure of approximately R63 million; why there had been a delay in finalising the national curriculum policy; why the target for TVET students qualifying for bursaries was set at 200 000, when the headcount target for enrolment was 829 000; whether the DHET was ready for funding in 2018 without delays; why the pass rate for the trade tests was targeted at only 52%; and whether the DHET had considered public-private partnerships to help resolve the acute student accommodation shortage.

With regard to the NCOP’s 2016 Eastern Cape Higher Education site report,  the DHET said an overlapping seemed to have occurred, because a number of the issues raised pertained to funding and the consequences of the shortage of funding, and the DG had earlier addressed the context of a number of areas. The DHET was applying immense pressure on National Treasury. To date, escalated enrolment growth had occurred without additional funding. Admittedly, there had been a zero budget allocation for the development of infrastructure in the TVET college sector. The Select Committee had raised a number of issues about infrastructure. Colleges were deviating money that they would have used for maintenance to cover the shortfalls of under-funding. The consequences of heightened enrolment without increased funding, was that there was less money per capita per student. One of the issues that had become apparent was that the higher education institutions (HEIs) did not suffer monetary concerns, but were battling with work ethics and the attitude of staff members. If these fundamental aspects were not addressed for what they were, continual changes would not result in productivity or proper improvement.

Meeting report

Mr Gwebs Qonde, Director General: Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), said that when the Department’s presented its 2016/17 annual performance plan in April 2016, it had undertaken to deliver on 70 performance targets, and monitor and report on the performance of the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system in relation to 34 performance indicators across the four delivery programmes of the Department. Of the 70 targets, the Department had managed to achieve 80% (56). This was a 5% improvement from the 2015/16 financial year. 47% (16) of the 34 targets relating to Universities, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, Community Education and Training (CET) colleges, and Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) had been achieved. The achievements against targets were:

  • Programme 1 (Administration) had five targets, of which three were achieved. The other two were achieved, but after 31 March 2017.
  • Programme 2 (Planning, Policy and Strategy) had nine targets, all of which were achieved.
  • Programme 3 (University Education) had 22 targets, of which seven were not achieved.
  • Programme 4 (echnical and Vocational Education and Training) had 12 targets, of which only one was achieved.
  • Programme 5 (Skills Development) had nine targets which were fully achieved.
  • Programme 6 (Community Education and Training) had seven targets, of which five were successfully achieved.

Mr Qonde said that budget allocations for TVET colleges, by province, had been:

  • Gauteng:           R1.515 billion (23.43%)
  • KwaZulu-Natal:  R1.150 billion (17.79%)
  •  Eastern Cape:  R920.7 million (14.24%)
  •  Western Cape: R799.6 million (12.37%)
  •  Limpopo:          R734.7 million (11.36%)
  • Mpumalanga:     R460.3 million (7.12%)
  •  Free State:       R429.9 million (6.65%)
  •  North West:      R350.3 million (5.42%)
  •  Northern Cape: R105.1 million (1.63%)
  • Total:                R6.466 billion

There were 10 592 lecturers and 737 880 students at 50 TVET colleges in 2015. KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had the highest number of lecturers, contributing about 42.5% (4 498) of the total lecturers in public TVET colleges. These provinces also recorded the highest number of students (321 330, or 43.5%). Northern Cape had the least number of lecturers and students (172 and 12 906 respectively).

Regarding Programme 5 (Skills Development), the average lead-time from trade test applications received until the trade test was conducted at INDLELA had improved from 169 days in 2015/16, to 120 days in 2016/17. The target of 120 days had been achieved. The national artisan learners’ trade test pass rate at INDLELA had improved from 54% in 2015/16, to 55% in 2016/17. The 52% target in 2016/17 had been surpassed.

The budget allocations by provincial regional offices  for Programme 6 (Community Education and Training) were:

  • Eastern Cape    R874 000
  • Free State         R2 987 000
  • Gauteng            R6 702 000
  • KwaZulu-Natal   R3 284 000
  • Limpopo            R3 941 000
  • Mpumalanga      R3 795 000
  • Northern Cape   R218 000
  • North West        R1 679 000
  • Western Cape   R1 707 000
  • Total:                R25 187 000

Mr Qonde provided reasons for the deviations found in the financial statements. These were primarily due to posts that became during the year which could not be filled as projected, as well as vacant funded posts that were advertised as part of the TVET and CET function shift process during 2015/16 that were filled only in mid-2016/17 due to the large volume of applications received.  In Programme 6 (CET) R10.6 million was for claims in respect of Community Education and Training lecturers which were not received on time, as well as because of uncertainties on the division of posts and regional offices, and the post provisioning norms of the various payrolls that were transferred to the Department.     

Irregular expenditure for the 2016/17 financial year had amounted to R63.817 million.  


Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) queried three issues. Firstly, within Programme 1: Administration, when the Department had convened on 14 June 2017, it had indicated that the closing date for two DDG posts had been 12 May 2017- what was the progress to date, as five months had elapsed since the closing date? Secondly, regarding Programme 5: Skills Development, the annual report reflected the reprioritisation of funds. What were the reasons that informed the reprioritization of funds? Thirdly, could the Department account for the comments made by the AGSA regarding the unauthorised, wasteful and fruitless expenditure of approximately R63 million+? The Committee was aware of the introduction of “fake news” and would not want to become suspicious of the Department as a result of the fabrications. The Committee was also cognisant of and conversant with the reality that in most instances, irregular or unauthorised expenditure was not as a result of failing to spend the money for the right purpose overall, but that the expenditure was unbudgeted in the short term, such as emergency expenses. Fourthly, within Programme 5, there had been a delay around the National Curriculum Policy – what had caused this? Was the Department slow in its submission or had the delay occurred between the communication with the Department and the Minister?

Mr M Khawula (IFP, Kwazulu-Natal questioned why the target for TVET students qualifying for bursaries was targeted at 200 000 when the headcount target for enrolment was 829 000? Why was the discrepancy between the targets for enrolments and qualifying bursaries as large as it was? How was it determined that merely 200 000 TVET students could qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursaries? Could the Department revise what had informed the qualifying target for bursaries, as it was unrealistic in nature? Additionally, this was one of the issues that the former Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Nzimande, had been particularly concerned about. The TVET college sector was under-funded. He referred to the backlog of the certification process within the TVET college sector, and said it would have been better if totals were cited, as opposed to percentages. The significance could not be grasped without knowing the total that it pertained to.

Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA, Western Cape) asked the Director General if it was possible to give South African students free higher education and training. The student uprisings at UCT and other tertiary institutions were a profound concern, especially due to the timing of the year, as they took place annually right before final examinations. Secondly, the NSFAS experienced funding problems at the beginning of each year, and this should be addressed by the Department. Was the DHET ready for funding in 2018 without delays? How far was the Department regarding funding of the “missing middle?”

Mr C Hattingh (DA, North West) commented that over the years, annual reports had evolved from purely technical documents comprising of cold facts. What was missing was the reality “on the ground level,” which denoted the annual report of DHET as a showcase document, since the challenges faced by the Department, yet encountered at the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) or TVET colleges, had been omitted. For instance, the Committee had conducted an oversight visit at Thekwini TVET College in Melbourne, Durban, in September 2017, yet classes for the academic year had not started. Challenges as these were actually fruitless and wasteful expenditure, but were not described accordingly in the annual report. It was both a financial waste and loss of a year of the students’ lives, and should any of them pass the quality of the pass was questionable. Those types of challenges were being omitted during the evolution and formulation of the annual report. For this reason, oversight visits were paramount, but each and every HEI and TVET college could not be visited in person, because it was physically impossible.

Under Programme 5 (Skills Development), it was stated that the average lead time for a trade test was 169 days, which was almost six months. An improvement from six months to four months had occurred, but how was it possible to take up to four months to arrange for a trade test? Additionally, why was the pass rate for the trade tests targeted at 52%? Moreover, the achievement of 54% had been celebrated. Was this indicative of an acceptable level of passing? Another concern was the deviation of SETAs, such as the financial mismanagement and poor management. Notwithstanding that, the Parliamentary committees did not deliberate directly with the SETAs, and this was a concern.

He said the response to the AGSA audit outcomes report by the Department was missing, especially since there had been repeat findings. Effective steps had not been taken to prevent the irregular expenditure that amounted R63 million. All of the findings of the AGSA required a brief line citing the acknowledgment of remedial action by the Department. Similarly, disciplinary actions taken against officials, criminal charges in progress and investigations inherited as means of remedial action from the prior years, had been omitted. When its progress or final consequences of action were queried, the Department perpetually answered that the matters were still being investigated. The lack of remedial action follow-up in subsequent years contributed to showcasing, as the Department might have been of the view that the citation of initiating criminal charges would be a negative reflection on it. If an audit outcome indicated that the PFMA was transgressed, how had the Department handled it? Could a report of those transgressions from last year be submitted?

Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) emphasised that the TVET college sector was indeed under-funded. Moreover, during an oversight visit to the Thekwini TVET College, many allegations of corruption were discovered. However, a common concern across the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) sector was access to NFSAS funding, because the lack of a manual system proved troublesome when the Internet services were down. It was advisable that the Department reviewed models from other countries. For instance, the Select Committee had noted in Indonesia that the total holistic building of a student was done, as opposed to just academic teaching. At the end of the tertiary studies, an assessment of the quality of the person was made. It was a commendable culture of learning.

Regarding the notion of free tertiary education, a distinction should be made fairly among those who could afford to pay, but felt entitled to sponsorship, and those who circumstantially were unable to afford payment. Why should the government take responsibility for those who should be liable for their children?

Lastly, the CFO had said that the performance of the Department should not be linked to the 99% expenditure of the budget. Did the targets not inform the budget? If so, why was it difficult to link the expenditure with the performance? As funds were spent, they were spent on a vote that was comprised of targets - it should not be aimless expenditure. Therefore, what was the challenge?

The Chairperson queried the problem of outstanding student housing accommodation which was required nationally. Examples of this were found at Limpopo University and the University of Mpumalanga. Did the Department consider private-public partnership (PPP) arrangements, as it could not fully afford the load of accommodation necessary? Additionally, the Department would not have all of the funds required for student accommodation nationally, so the involvement of the private sector was paramount. He asked if the Department could account for the problem of the National Certificate Vocational (NCV) courses at TVET colleges. There appeared to be a discrepancy in relation to entry requirements and the ability of students to perform within the NCV courses, since the entry requirements were much too low in comparison to the standard of competence needed for passing. As a result, the success rate within the NCV courses was quite low. This was a concern, because the Government was investing much money by way of NSFAS, but was experiencing much too little return on its investment.

He asked why the Select Committee on Education and Recreation was not invited when the DHET had an Imbizo about the TVET college sector, since the Select Committee had been responsible for suggesting it, and the Minister had sanctioned it. It was not appreciated that that the very Committee that suggested it was not welcomed at the function.

What was the actual challenge at the SETAs? Was it a matter of a lack of monitoring of good governance? Why was 55% set as a target under Programme 5? Why was the target as low as it was? Was the probability of students passing their trade tests much too low? Councils were in control of Community Education and Training (CET) centres -- could clarification about this be given? What was the capacity of the Councils to bear such responsibility? Finally, there had to be consequence management for the officials who were ‘non- compliant’ to National Treasury regulations insofar as financial management was concerned, and there should not be repeat findings. Even though the DHET was doing better than some of the other departments, if consequence management was exercised according to legislation, the errors of misappropriation would cease to exist.

DHET response

Mr Qonde answered that some of the questions regarding funding related to the Department, but others could merely be accounted for by NSFAS itself. In respect to the filling of DDG posts that were advertised, the matter had been forwarded to the new Minister, whose final response was awaited, but commitment had been indicated. Within the TVET college sector, many problems were cited for NSFAS. It was acknowledged that the TVET college sector was grossly under-funded, irrespective of subsidy and NSFAS. At the beginning of the year, the ratio per student for funding was meant to have been a ratio of 80% from subsidy and 20% funding by means of fees. However, due to the exponential enrolment that was unprecedented, the funding was not in proportion, and the Department could afford to fund only 67% of the fees, as opposed to the planned 80%. The remaining 33% was left to colleges to decide their own means of closing the financial gap.

NSFAS had had its own administrative challenges within its head office in Wynberg, which the Department had tried to address, as well as improve the centralised model. However, the TVET college sector was impacted the most by NSFAS’s inability to transfer funds to it. Subsequently, the DHET had placed pressure on NSFAS to resolve the situation. When certain funds were made available in 2015 and 2016 to fund historical debt from 2013- 2015, the total had amounted to R2.543 billion in 2016. The new debt generated and funded in 2015 was R2.039 billion. Additionally, the TVET college sector’s funding was R5.2 billion. Subsequently, funding to universities had increased by 40%; while funding to the TVET colleges had increased by 5.2%.

The question of integrity could be explained by this funding problem, and many colleges other than Thekwini were in a similar position. In some instances, there were challenges that related to governance, which eventually impacted on the financial aspects. For instance, student protests chased away campus managers, principals and deputy principals, and had prevented the posts being executed by anyone else. Consequently, the management either took refuge at home or within a district head office. The Department had resolved to deploy an official on a full-time basis to the campuses that were chasing their management away. It was a fluctuating occurrence, but from the standpoint of the government, some stability and focus had been achieved.

Was free education possible? The cap on NSFAS funding was currently at R122 000 per household income per annum, but the Scheme itself was usually in a battle to fund adequately, resulting in a shortfall year-on-year. The current shortfalls for university funding were R4.3 billion, and R2.8 billion for TVET colleges. However, the Government had taken a decision to revise the cap to R150 000 per household for the grant, and from R151 000 to R600 000, both of which affected the amount of the expected family contribution (EFC). However, the purview of free education should be answered directly by the President, as his presidential report had contained the particulars on this matter. Thus, the Department was not in a position to answer the concern.

As a Department, it reported on five strategic plans and year-on-year annual reports with pre-determined objectives that were worked out for the particular year. Some challenges that the TVET colleges encountered were due to their internal operational activities that the Department did not report on. However, if there were issues that were imminent that required intervention, briefing on it could be made, but their inclusion in the annual report would serve no purpose. Hence, the question of concerns at the institutional level would not be reflected in the annual report. Therefore, the management of the finances by the TVET colleges, for instance, would be omitted too. This included queries about what the AGSA was saying about the TVET colleges, and what their status was. TVET colleges were autonomous regarding their strategic and annual performance plans, apart from their eventual accountability to the oversight function of the Department and the audit function of the AGSA.

Student accommodation was a major challenge. In 2013/14 a ministerial report was released that indicated that only 20% of the university population was housed in university-owned accommodation, whilst 80% resided in private accommodation through personal arrangements. The Committee was correct that the resources regarding student accommodation were insufficient. Communication with the private sector was under way for means to mobilise strategies, such as building new residences at the rate of 30 000 residences per annum. Currently, the Department could merely build 1 300 to 3 000 residences. To be able to provide 30 000 residences, the Department needed over R7 billion per annum. Regarding this matter, the Department could provide the Select Committee with a memo that outlined the kind of work done.

He extended an apology on behalf of the Department for not inviting the Select Committee to the imbizo, because the assumption was that Parliament was represented present by means of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training. Therefore in future, the Committees from both the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) would be invited.

Mr Firoz Patel, Deputy Director General: Technical and Vocational Education and Training, DHET, addressed questions regarding the TVET college sector, and referred to the delay in the curriculum review. He said that unlike the Council of Higher Education (CHE), Umalusi took responsibility for curriculum development since it was strongly related to assessment. Umalusi had completed the change of curriculum, submitted it for public comment and had received the public comments, and the final completion of the process was pending. Sometimes the consultations had not been meaningful, but there were always attempts to package input into legislation. If there were comebacks -- which was likely because the review of the curriculum was quite a sensitive and long-term issue -- a delay would occur around the public comments. Subsequently, and contingent to the law, Umalusi had handed over the amendments to the policy to the Minister. For example, a consideration had been made whether NCV levels 2, 3 and 4 should have an exit examination for each year, or upon exit in the third year. The submission of the documentation had occurred when there had been a change of executive authorities. The newly appointed executive authorities would have to revise it and then present their commentary to the Department. It was the prerogative of the Minister to release the documentation as the final version, which would be on 25 November 2017.

The number of students that would actually qualify for funding in terms of the means test would be considerably more than the 200 000. The amount had been applicable at the time that the target was devised, but it had since been discovered that 60% to 70% of the current student pool would qualify for funding through the means test. However, there was insufficient funding to cover them all, so the word ‘qualifying’ should be removed. It should read that NSFAS funding was ‘allocated’ to 200 000 students.

Regarding the 65% referred to in the presentation, this was the certification rate, which was a measure of students that underwent examination and would qualify to get certificates. If the 35% had passed their examinations, they would have qualified for certification. Although the APP showed percentages rather than the numbers, in future the numerate quantity would be reflected. It was recognised that sometimes the percentages hid the exact totals.

What was the problem with the NCV courses? Admittedly, there was a big problem with the NCV courses. The challenge that it posed was primarily curriculum transformation. Firstly, there were no admission requirements, which meant that TVET colleges became a ‘free-for-all’ for everyone. It was designed for students who had passed their compulsory schooling until Grade 9. Thus, the complaint was that the NCV was academically much too difficult. There were students that liked the NCV, especially the business stream. The other issue was that many students studying the NCV courses were those who had passed Grade 12 and had matriculated, as opposed to studying for the NCV as a matriculation equivalent. The problem was, therefore, that the structure of the qualifications required review. N1 to N3 should have been phased out with the introduction of the NCV courses. A problem within the NCV was that enrolment had dropped from 400 000 to 200 000. The DHET had engaged with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to revise the entrance requirements. A suggestion was that the DBE should tke over the NCV courses, whilst the TVET college sector would start at level N5 and N6. However, its finality was yet under discussion.

Mr Mabuza Ngubane, Director: Skills Development, DHET, addressed the queries around Programme 5. regarding financial management across the SETAs. He said the Department, in terms of Section 14 of the National Skills Development Act, could probe a particular SETA’s action plan regarding a challenge that was brought to its attention, but it could not interfere with the financial management of SETAs. The Department could also put a SETA under administration.

Mr Qonde interrupted that it was important to share with the Committee that in the financial year under review, 13 of the SETAs had received unqualified audits and eight had received clean audits, so not a single SETA had received a qualified audit outcome. This was an improvement in respect of the financial management.

Mr Ngubane continued with the query about what the actual challenge was to ensure good governance. It was expected that SETAs presented quarterly performance reports to the Department, and each SETA had claimed that it had met the standard of governance 100%. Only when DHET had conducted the validation and verification of information had it been discovered that governance was at 71%. During the review of the actual details, some of the SETAs did not want to provide documents of evidence for purposes of verification, claiming that some of the information in their reports was classified. This had posed a challenge with regard to monitoring.

Mr David Mabusela, Chief Director: Skills Development, DHET, answered the query about lead-time. He said the amount of assessors was a fixed limitation, yet the demand for certain programmes -- for instance, electricians -- had escalated. This had caused a stress on the system. In those circumstances, the Department would adjust the ratio of the number of assessors to the candidates. Normally, the ratio was 1:4, which was one assessor for four candidates. To meet the high demand, the assessor ratio had been adjusted to accommodate six candidates, i.e. 1:6. The lead-time had actually been 169 days, but it had improved to less than 90 days. The other challenge posed was within the formula itself, because weekends and public holidays were also counted within the lead-time. Given the reduced lead time, coupled with a revised formula, about 25% of the target of 21 110 new qualified artisans per annum had been extracted by INDLELA, which was unique in that it catered for walk-in candidates who had the opportunity to acquire an apprentice contract. These particular candidates would attend a TVET college, subsequently acquire knowledge and practical experience, but did not necessarily have a workplace thereafter. After their personal searches for work, they would be trained in their respective fields, but in the meantime they would register with private providers. INDLELA was also responsible for quality assurance centres to guarantee the quality of artisans. The INDLELA walk-ins did not necessarily have formal apprenticeship training. Conversely, the other 75% acquired formal apprenticeship training, which was of a higher quality, particularly due to the intervention of theory and practical training that equipped the students with readiness to pass their trade tests. Within the 25% walk-ins, the rate of success was approximately 55%. Yet the pass rate of those given informal apprenticeship training had improved over the three years from 25%.

Mr Qonde suggested that the official should clarify what the ideal lead-time was, and what the Department was doing to improve it.

Mr Mabusela answered that ideally the normal lead-time should not be beyond two months from the date that the application was made up the point that the candidate was assessed. It was followed by the period of certification.

The Chairperson noted that it was a concern that the target had focused on INDLELA, but interrogating it was a matter for another day.

Mr Theuns Tredoux, Chief Financial Officer, DHET, answered the concern around the reprioritisation of funding, which was the shifting of funds related to Programme 5: Skills Development. Firstly, the Department had experienced a shifting of funds, or the application of virements, across all programmes. National Treasury (NT) had allowed these virement in terms of the regulations, as this was provided for. Regarding Programme 5, the shift was between minor assets and inventories, and amounted to more than R1 million. It specifically took place at INDLELA, due to a discrepancy of assets that had been wrongly classified as minor assets, as opposed to inventory. Therefore, at the stage of spending it became necessary to count the funds correctly, and at the closing of the books at the end of the financial year money, was shifted around.

Regarding the irregular expenditure, it had been queried why the Department prioritised funds and then spends the money on other matters that seemed irregular. In all cases, the spending that was identified as irregular expenditure involved actual budgeted funds for specific services. It was not the case that the Department had decided to do something, and then it became irregular. Within the majority of cases, the irregular expenditure was identified as such due to non-compliance with certain SCM procedures, according to the Auditor-General. Thus, the irregular expenditure was within the normal activities of the Department.

Upon review of the Accounting Notes, the Committee had expressed concern that the information provided was insufficient. A possible problem was that a template had been provided to the Department and it could not be deviated from. For this purpose, additional information was included in the presentation, which accounted for the status of the irregular expenditure of 2015/16, as well as the stand of the Department on the respective investigations. The DHET had provided the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training with a report that entailed additional financial explanations, and this could be forwarded to the Select Committee as well.

Mr David Diale, Director: Community Education and Training, DHET, answered the query about the regulations of the PFMA. Basically, the issue was about interpretation, because the developers of the initial regulation had interpreted the PFMA in a particular manner. However, the legal services had advised that regulation should be developed along with policy, because the Minister had no authority to develop regulation for substructures in the TVET college sector. In other words, a TVET college was a juristic institution; the campuses were the satellites in demarcated areas, and the Councils presided over them in their various areas.

Dr Diane Parker, Deputy Director General: University Education, DHET, answered the query about the need to create experiences and exchanges amongst universities. Through the university development programme, the Department was implementing a process of development for young academics, such as the N-Gap Programme. All of the young academics would receive an experience of mobility through exchange programmes with institutions overseas.

NCOP 2016 Eastern Cape Higher Education Site Report: DHET response
The DHET’s briefing was a response to the resolution and recommendations of the NCOP 2016 Eastern Cape Higher Education site report which had been referred to the Committee on 8 August 2017 for consideration.

Mr Qonde explained that a detailed memo was in the narrative, since the Select Committee had raised substantial issues. Yet these concerns echoed the sentiment of Committee Member, Mr C Hattingh (DA) regarding the need to address operational concerns at the level of the institution. What was good, bad or not working etc? The memo before the Committee, which was not yet for public perusal, had detailed the issues, but a brief explanation would be given by the delegation. Merely an overview of answers would be given to the list of questions that had been submitted already.

Mr Patel said that an overlapping seemed to have occurred, because a number of the issues raised pertained to funding and the consequences of the shortage of funding, and the DG had earlier addressed the context of a number of areas. The DHET was applying immense pressure on National Treasury. To date, escalated enrolment growth had occurred without additional funding. Admittedly, there had been a zero budget allocation for the development of infrastructure in the TVET college sector. There had not been even R1 as a token on the budget. The Select Committee had raised a number of issues about infrastructure. Colleges were deviating money that they would have used for maintenance to cover the shortfalls of under- funding. The consequences of heightened enrolment without increased funding, was that there was less money per capita per student. Year-on-year, the students themselves were receiving less for travel expenses and less for boarding.

With regard to the question about the human resources, the Committee should remain cognisant that the budget had been inherited from the provincial governments, which entailed a very different way of management. Additionally, the colleges employed staff members, but the Department had taken over that responsibility after the migration. Subsequently, the Minister by law had had to allocate budget for the staff. When projects were being done, the TVET colleges would employ their own external staff members or consultants for the purposes of the project. In order for the Minister and the Department not to incur irregular or unauthorised expenditure, they had to manage colleges within 63% of the budgeted vote. Some colleges had surely felt some pressures along the way. Although the Buffalo City campus was below 63%, a number of issues were delegated to the college, and improvements were made. The Department also warranted the colleges to make proposals up to a particular level.

The DG had explained the issues around NSFAS, and the outdated curriculum was discussed earlier as well. Re-examinations could be assessed either by the Higher/Standard grade passing of 1991, or by the Bachelors’ passing of 2007. The issue was that the colleges themselves were not taking responsibility for signing off of marks. What was expected was that as soon as the colleges submitted data, the computer systems could submit the results immediately. Processes had been put in place and the principals were now held accountable to sign off every candidate as a means of tracking that system. The Imbizo Declaration would be sent to the Chairperson of the Select Committee, because it had taken into account the views of all the stakeholders and the problems cited. Admittedly, there were gaps in the system. As a result, from April 2016, the Department was ensuring financial management, which entailed that a number areas of policy were being improved.

Dr Parker said that at the two institutions that had been visited -- Fort Hare University and Walter Sisulu University (WSU), the issues that had been highlighted were concerns that the Department was well aware of. The Department had had a grant for previously disadvantaged universities, which was a development grant made available by National Treasury. Upon review of the university processes, a decision had been made to provide a specific grant for dealing with legacy problems that institutions were still carrying, such as issues of management and ethos that were restricting the higher education institutions (HEIs) from operating at the same level as other HEIs. Once Treasury made the grant available, institutions were asked to conduct introspection of their processes, and then formulate a business plan for the next five years identifying the key challenges. Although infrastructure challenges posed a concern within the system, these particular HEIs faced key challenges of management. The HEIs had forwarded plans that were analysed by the Department and funding was made available. However, both HEIs had put systems in place. The Department had visited each for two days with a focus on all of the challenges as well as identifying critical aspects for turnaround, such as the ethos on campus.

It was essential to recognise that the Department had provided substantial funding to those HEIs over the past while. Yet it had been discovered that due to poor management, new student housing was already in a poor condition due to security that was not in place. While the outside of the building was refurbished the inside had not been adequately refurbished. Therefore, the Department had requested plans on the improvement of those particular issues by the HEIs. The DHET had provided more than a R1 billion in funding on infrastructure development from 2007 to 2015. Yet, when some of the conditions of the buildings were revised, it raised interest in utilisation and management.

Mr Qonde noted that one of the issues that became apparent was that the HEIs did not suffer monetary concerns, but were battling with work ethics and the attitude of staff members. If these fundamental aspects were not addressed for what they were, continual changes would not result in productivity or proper improvement. A range of other issues would then cloud accountability. For instance, when management was called in to account for their workload, they would use the excuse that they were ‘historically disadvantaged institutions.’ This posed the question, what did being historically disadvantaged have to do with performing their duties? At times, these were accepted as relevant explanations and excuses. Why was this? The quality of provision in many respects was not honoured, which was something that the Department felt that Parliamentarians, as lawmakers, really needed to be firm on. Parliament should ensure that value for money was acquired, with the list of outcomes achieved against the investments made. If someone was employed to do a particular job, he or she should fulfil the job requirements and do so diligently. The Department was of the view that accountability for the work ethic should be demanded by Parliament, particularly in respect of what the country was expecting considering the funds it was making available.

Mr Ngubane said that an issue raised had been the negative correlation between the stipends given and the amount of learners enrolled. If the stipends were increased, the number of learners enrolled would be fewer.

Mr Mabusela referred to the issue of levelling the playing field between private and public providers. Annually, the National Skills Fund (NSF) would issue a public request for proposals from private providers to tender for artisan training. The NSF would evaluate those proposals and if they met minimum standards, the funds would be assessed.

Mr Qonde said some of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had huge infrastructures that were formerly used for the training of artisans, but in some instances, they were currently being unused. As a result, the Department was funding the training of artisans at SOEs such as Eskom, South African Airways (SAA) and Transnet, to name a few. The funds were derived from the National Skills Fund.

The Chairperson expressed interest in a final report of conclusion regarding the issues that had not yet been worked on. Following each oversight visit, the Select Committee requested a report in response to the concerns that the NCOP had raised. The Committee had taken cognisance that some issues were short- term, while others needed to be resolved over the long- term.

Mr Khawula said that the Committee had assured the TVET college in the Eastern Cape of a speedy response, but to date the response had been pending, so the image of Parliament could be damaged by the delay. The responses were to have been given a week later, but it was now almost two months later.

Ms Dlamini commented that the linkage between the SOEs and the TVET colleges was noted. However, was the uptake of recruitment done by those SOEs once the training was completed?

Mr Qonde answered that recruitment from the TVET colleges into the SOEs had taken place.

The Chairperson said that when the Select Committee had done an oversight visit to the TVET College in Melbourne, KZN, it had been discovered that the students had risen up against the principal. The basis of the uprising was the misappropriation of funds. An official from the Department had accompanied the Committee. A decision had been made that either the relevant persons from the college should be flown down to Cape Town, or the Select Committee should to return to the premises. However, subsequent to the visit, it had been highlighted that the college did not have funds for the trip to Cape Town -- flights and accommodation for both the management and the students. Therefore, the Select Committee would have to revert as a means of creating the perception that Parliament was serious about their concerns. Also, there was a fine line between intervening and interfering with the administration of the DHET. The Select Committee did not want to appear as though it was interfering in administrative issues, but the concerns that Thekwini TVET College presented warranted this liberty, because the students were not at school. The principal was not on duty, because the students had prohibited his presence on campus by force. The condition of the building’s structures was quite poor. The oversight visit had taken place as a reaction to the report given by the DHET’s regional director, but could the Department do a follow-up regarding the status of the matter as well? It was not within the purview of the Select Committee to advise that the principal should be dismissed. If it was the students who were at fault, the Department should address the Student Representative Council accordingly.

Mr Qonde replied that there were some challenges that had become a trend in Kwazulu-Natal, of principals being chased away from their college campuses. Thekwini was an example of this. In some instances, it was not only the principal that was considered undesirable, but also the entire management, inclusive of the campus manager. The act of chasing the management away was done as a means of imploding the college. Cognisance should be taken about how developments such as these would manifest themselves, and the root causes should be tactfully identified. The collusions within the councils during these protests were a great source of destabilisation. As a result, some of the principals had taken refuge within the regional offices.

The Chairperson replied that nonetheless, a follow-up was still required, since the academic year had been brought to a halt. However, a further oversight visit from the Select Committee could possibly take place only at the beginning of next year. The Chairperson requested a comment from the newly appointed Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training.

Mr Kgwaridi Manamela, Deputy Minister: DHET, introduced that both himself and Mr Hlengiwe Mkhize, Minister: DHET, and said they had come in at a very interesting time. Seven days after the President had announced the appointments, students from UCT and CPUT had come to Parliament to present a memorandum of demands, which had been received. Additionally, an appointment had been made within the same period of time that the President was revising the Fees Commission Report.

The Chairperson wished the Deputy Minister well for the endeavours ahead.

The meeting was adjourned.

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