Innovations for Improving Local Government Service Delivery: Armscor, CSIR, SALGA, MISA briefing

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

08 November 2017
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with ARMSCOR, CSIR, SALGA, MISA and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to receive a briefing on innovations from the institutions and its opinion on how the innovations could assist with improving service delivery in local government. Presentations were received from ARMSCOR, CSIR, and DST, while SALGA was invited as an observer.

Highlights of the brief from ARMSCOR were a background on services of ARMSCOR, collaborations with other Departments, its intergovernmental relations framework, its value proposition and public information on the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). The briefing also included the Auditor-General South Africa’s (AGSA’s) opinion on COGTA and MISA, ARMSCOR’s understating of the present situation of COGTA, the benefits of collaborating with COGTA and how ARMSCOR could collaborate with COGTA.

The Committee engaged ARMSCOR in a robust discussion and observed that most of ARMSCOR’s collaborations would be on a project management basis. The Committee asked ARMSCOR questions on its readiness to assist with service delivery challenges at the local government level; the cost of assisting local government; programmes to reduce unemployment in municipalities; innovation technologies that could solve the challenges faced by informal settlements; strategies to assist rural areas that were facing a lack of water; strategies to replace ailing infrastructure in old towns; ideas to address unemployment due to changes in technology and clarity on the working relationship between ARMSCOR and MISA.

Highlights of the brief from CSIR were its role in the in the national system of innovation, the response of research, development and innovation to local government needs and specific examples of innovative technology offerings to local government. The DST’s brief included the focus of the back to basics programme, examples of basic services developed in municipalities by applying technology through research, the Corrective Action Request and Report System, a tool used to manage the complaints of Municipalities, and progress on a European Union (EU) proposal made by DST for the delivery of basic services.

The Committee observed that agencies had rich technology, but local government was not assisted in terms of disaster management. The Committee also observed that state agencies had cost effective solutions while service providers executed incomplete contracts. The Committee asked the state agencies questions on the employment of skilled trainees, cost of service level agreements, visibility of technology in rural areas and the criteria used to select the municipalities for technology intervention. The Committee observed that centralising procurement led to bottle-necks, and asked ARMSCOR to confirm if its mandate allowed it to work on local government projects. They also asked if SALGA was aware of the technologies presented to the Committee. The Committee expressed the need to present the information on technology innovation to SALGA because municipalities had serious service delivery challenges. The Committee also expressed concerns on why SALGA and municipalities did not adopt the innovative technologies presented during the brief.

The DST observed that challenges in procurement processes were one of the reasons that it did not allow municipalities to adopt service delivery technology, even when it accepted it. Hence, the DST recommended a preferential procurement approach for adopting innovative technology.

SALGA attended the meeting as an observer but responded to the concerns of the Committee by stating that it was covered by the response of DST. SALGA indicated that both agencies were already working together to improve service delivery challenges using innovative technology. SALGA indicated that apart from procurement process challenge to adopt innovation technology, other challenges were management of the system to receive all technologies, awareness, internal capacity, culture within and outside the public service, trust and quality assurance and this would be presented to the Committee by SALGA when invited.

The Committee proposed further engagements between ARMSCOR, CSIR, DST, SALGA, MISA and local government in Parliament. The Committee also requested briefings from SALGA on issues that affected the implementation of innovative technologies to solve service delivery problems.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson welcomed Members and the team from Armaments Corporation of South Africa (ARMSCOR), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). He remarked that the Committee invited colleagues from the Committee on Science and Technology to assist with the meeting.

He also observed that although institutions were doing a good job on innovating technologies, the Committee did not invite any of the institutions before to have a briefing on how its innovations could assist with improving service delivery in local government. The purpose of the meeting was to receive a briefing on innovations from the institutions and its opinion on how the innovations could assist with improving service delivery in local government. He invited ARMSCOR to brief the Committee on what it could do to assist in improving service delivery in local government.

ARMSCOR

Mr Kevin Wakeford, CEO, ARMSCOR, stated that it did not come to prescribe solutions but to support, assist where it could and propose solutions to challenges faced by local government on service delivery. Highlights of his brief included a background on services of ARMSCOR, collaborations with other Departments, its intergovernmental relations framework, its value proposition and public information on Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). He also highlighted the AGSA’s opinion on COGTA and MISA, ARMSCOR’s understating of the present situation of COGTA, the benefits of collaborating with COGTA and how it could collaborate with COGTA.

He said that ARMSCOR’s value proposition was based on its expertise which was divided into the requirement definition, its procurements and the commissioning of lifecycle management. He analysed its approach on its requirement definition, its procurements and the commissioning of lifecycle management. He indicated that ARMSCOR’s core expertise was in purifying poisoned, dirty and contaminated water and detecting cracks on railways and roads. Also, expertise was in defense which could be exploited in security. Challenges of COGTA included under-spending, lack of critical skills in key areas, segmented and uncoordinated planning and monitoring capacity. Challenges also included poor project management as well as inter and intra governmental co-ordination. He indicated that ARMSCOR had a pool of skilled young black graduates that could assist with the design and implementation of projects to avoid service delivery challenges. The benefits of collaborating with ARMSCOR were:

  • a secured environment;
  • expertise in managing complex projects;
  • ability to fulfill user’s requirements;
  • ability to develop and transfer skills;
  • provide cost effective solutions;
  • a clean audit opinion;
  • quality assurance;
  • management of services through service level agreements; and
  • intergovernmental relations.

He said that it could collaborate with COGTA only on requests through SLA’s as stated in its value proposition.

Discussion

Mr K Mileham (DA) observed that most of ARMSCOR’s collaborations would be on a project management basis. Hence, he asked the CEO to confirm if ARMSCOR worked with local government in the past. He remarked that ARMSCR’s brief showed single sourcing in procurements but observed that single sourcing resulted in corruption claims. He congratulated ARMSCOR on having skilled capability and asked if it would be able to deploy staff to assist with service delivery challenges at the local government level. He also asked if the local government could afford the services of ARMSCOR.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) asked ARMSCOR to state the cost of assisting local government.

Mr N Masondo (ANC) asked if ARMSCOR could use its innovation technologies to solve the challenges faced by informal settlements. He asked ARMSCOR to state strategies to bring innovation to small towns which were hubs for commercial activities. He welcomed the use of SLA’s for projects but asked for interventions to stop unfinished projects. He asked ARMSCOR if it had ideas to address unemployment in South Africa which arose due to changes in technology based on the fourth revolution.

Ms N Ndongeni (ANC), Member of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology (CST), asked if ARMSCOR had any programmes to reduce unemployment in municipalities. She also asked ARMSCOR if it had any strategies to assist municipalities and local government to achieve clean audits.

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) asked if ARMSCOR had a strategy that it used to monitor projects to ensure it did not end up incomplete. She asked how ARMSCOR ensured that whatever product was delivered did not have any defects. She also asked how ARMSCOR addressed accountability on projects.

Mr J Dube (ANC) asked ARMSCOR for strategies to assist in replacing ailing infrastructure in old towns.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) asked for clarity on the working relationship between MISA and ARMSCOR employed engineers if both engineers worked on a project. He congratulated ARMSCOR on its clean audit and asked for its audit firm.

Mr C Matsepe (ANC) asked for strategies to assist rural areas that were facing lack of water.

The Chairperson observed that he believed that ARMSCOR had the mandate to work on arms alone but from the brief he noted that it had expertise in other areas. Hence, he asked why ARMSCOR did not assist local government which was also a state entity.

Mr Wakeford stated that ARMSCOR was set up during the apartheid area on an 11% GDP funding to produce armaments, however, its role diminished over the years due to 1% GDP funding. He indicated that it would be difficult to answer why ARMSCOR did not assist local governments, but it had to diversify due to its challenges. It chose not to retrench people but found a way to retain skilled staff. ARMSCOR was good at complex acquisition and had expert knowledge in technologies which it used for its partners. Technologies innovated for defense purposes in the past were now commercially used to assist people. ARMSCOR was not involved with local governments but the principles used for managing projects were the same. It would not propose to build toilets, but it would go into sole procurements in areas that it had expertise in and that were not contested. Its services would be affordable because it works was based on economies of scale and was prudent in managing budgets. ARMSCOR’s charter which involved using local output, employing the services of women, local people as well as retired service men which would soon be gazette, would be followed in executing projects.

He said that ARMSCOR had capabilities to roll-out interim water and sanitation plans for dams, energy generation and building houses and infrastructure for informal settlements. Towns existed for economic reasons and ARMSCOR researched social implications before it initiated projects. Presently, a lot of towns were abandoned but these old towns could be turned into “old peoples’ towns” where people with low income could live and spend money. Technical developments by ARMSCOR could assist with piping systems that could endure the kind of pressure that pipes needed. Very good technologies could also be evolved to replace broken pipes at half the cost. Quality assurance and monitoring and evaluation of contracts were incorporated into ARMSCOR project management systems when contracts were initiated. ARMSCOR had contractual development milestones and there were penalties on contractors if it defaulted. He emphasized that it was not the role of ARMSCOR to replace MISA engineers. ARMSCOR engineers would only support until support was no longer needed. The audit firm of ARMSCOR was the Auditor General South Africa because of legislation. He added that if South Africa’s rural areas were well developed, the country would be well developed.

The Chairperson appreciated ARMSCOR for its presentation and invited CSIR for its brief.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Mr Johan Le Roux, Executive Director: Implementation Unit, CSIR, introduced members of his team and stated that he would be presenting jointly with Ms Zanele Tshwete. Highlights of his brief included the mandate of CSIR, its role in the in the national system of innovation, the response of research, development and innovation to local government needs and the Deputy Minister’s statement in 2015 on how the multidisciplinary operations of CSIR could assist in improving service delivery in local government. The presentation also looked at the response of CSIR to service delivery challenges in local government. He said that CSIR’s response to service delivery challenges in local government included knowledge generation and application support. He invited Ms Zanele Tshwete to give specific examples of offerings to local government.

Ms Zanele Tshwete, Implementation Unit: Local Government, CSIR, highlighted CSIR interventions to service delivery challenges in local government. She stated that CSIR intervened in service delivery challenges in local government, but the local government had to seek CSIR’s assistance. She analysed 19 of CSIR’s interventions based on the challenge, the response and the outcomes.

The Chairperson invited Department of Science and Technology to brief the Committee.

Brief by Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Ms Nhlanhla Mkhize, Chief Director, DST, stated that the DST worked with Universities to assist with communication of innovation to municipalities. She highlighted the DST back to basics programme which focused on innovating technical solutions to address service delivery problems in municipalities and assisted in serving communities better. She outlined examples of basic services developed in municipalities by applying technology through research. The DST developed a tool to manage the complaints of municipalities with the Corrective Action Request and Report System (CARRS). The tool was used to source innovative technologies, however, experience showed that providing a technology for a municipality was a part of the solution. The service delivery policy had to be responsive to support service delivery because some of the municipalities had knowledge of innovative technologies but were not sure of how to use it. Hence, DST also looked at:

  • the culture of the municipality in using innovations to reward it,
  • ensured that the municipality had access to timely information on innovative technology,
  • provided access to innovative funding to scale-up pilot programs,
  • measured innovation maturity and
  • accessed the knowledge infrastructure available to improve service delivery.

She highlighted the progress on an EU proposal made by DST for the delivery of basic services that was aligned to the Phase II of the back to basics programme. She stated that the DST was still expecting a response from EU on the concept document.

The Chairperson invited Members to interrogate both presentations

Discussion

Mr Masondo observed that with the onset of the new government, some assets of small towns could not be traced because asset registers disappeared. Hence, he asked how local government assets of small towns could be traced in other to address service delivery problems.

Mr Mthethwa observed that from the briefs, agencies had rich technology, but local government was not assisted in terms of disaster management. Hence, he asked if ARMSCOR worked with the disaster management Committee. He observed that agencies had cost effective solutions while service providers executed incomplete contracts. He suggested that the Committee needed to convene a workshop to address service delivery challenges in municipalities and asked the agencies to come-up with proposals to assist the Committee.

Ms A Mfulo (ANC), Member of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, asked if ARMSCOR could pilot one project in a municipality to ensure that the improved service delivery in that municipality could be used as a benchmark of a successful project. She sought clarity on why trainees that had their skills developed were not gainfully employed. She remarked that encouraging single source procurements could lead to neglect of local service providers. She asked for clarity on the cost of SLA’s. She asked the agencies to state how it would ensure that municipalities collaborated with other state agencies. She advised that the strong agencies assist agencies that experienced challenges.

Ms A Tuck (ANC), Member of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, asked the agencies why the technologies were not visible in rural areas were the technology was most needed.

Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) remarked that strikes would be avoided if municipalities considered that communities played a determining role in service delivery. She observed that that the three presentations showed that government had to avoid parallel lines of accountability, hence, the agency of government to account for service delivery had to be identified. She observed that CSIR and DST discussed very nice technology interventions to service delivery challenges but only intervened in some municipalities. Hence, she asked both agencies what criteria it used to select the municipalities it directed intervention efforts to.

Ms C King (DA), Member of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, asked if DST and CSIR guided municipalities at the project design stage and remarked that the discussions should have included the municipalities. She remarked that centralising procurements led to bottle-necks and asked how it was feasible to centralise procurements. She asked ARMSCOR to confirm if its mandate allowed it to work on local government projects.

Mr Dube expressed concern that municipalities had clean audits but had service delivery challenges. He asked the DST to confirm if it had a technology to detect potholes on newly commissioned roads.

Ms Maluleke observed that the information received during the briefing was not used by SALGA, municipalities or local government. Hence, she asked the DST to clarify when the collaborations with SALGA started.

Ms Ndongeni asked if SALGA was aware of the technologies presented to the Committee. She expressed the need to present the information to SALGA because municipalities had serious service delivery challenges.

Mr Wakeford stated that ARMSCOR was competent in technical solution and had project management expertise. Hence, ARMSCOR could assist based on its mandates. He however stated that municipalities might resist so the Committee had to enforce the use of the innovation technology from state agencies. ARMSCOR never worked on municipal levels; it worked on key mega projects and it might undergo a learning process, but it was ready to assist. However, if the Committee could assist with mega projects ARMSCOR would appreciate it.

Mr Johan Le Rous, CSIR, indicated that as stated by ARMSCOR, service delivery would have challenges if state agencies did not explore collaborations.  If COGTA, SALGA and municipalities could work with other state agencies innovative technologies, it would be to improve service delivery. He indicated CSIR fully supported the use of technology to address service delivery problems.

Ms Tshwete indicated that CSIR informed many municipalities of its technology innovations and the municipalities committed to using its technology. However, CSIR observed that municipalities did not respond after many engagements or indicate that CSIR had to go through a tender process after which the municipality reported that CSIR was not successful. CSIR officials joined local government officials to identify some immovable assets. In some cases, CSIR officials were chased away but some assets were verified through this process. CSIR did not select certain municipalities for technology intervention but the brief highlighted technology intervention in 27 districts to showcase working relationships with MISA. CSIR used technology to intervene in the service delivery challenges of other municipalities; the 27 showcased municipalities which were not selected.

Ms Mkhize stated that the DST was working with COGTA at local government level for some time. The 27 districts showcased were areas prioritised for government programmes. DST initiated programmes to improve access to knowledge from Universities; the process had challenges, but it was work in progress. DST observed that providing technology to municipalities was not the major issue, but the municipality had to have existing capacity. Hence, DST assessed municipality technology innovation maturity as a way of upgrading it based on the use of innovative technology. DST observed challenges in procurement processes as one of the reasons that did not allowed municipalities to adopt service delivery technology, even when it accepted it. Hence, DST recommended a preferential procurement approach for adopting innovative technology.

The Chairperson invited SALGA to respond to the concerns and challenges but remarked that SALGA was invited to observe at the meeting.

Mr Seana Nkhahle, Executive Manger: Strategic Innovation, Office of the CEO, SALGA, indicated that the DST responded to the concerns and challenges however SALGA would brief the Committee when invited. The responses given by DST covered SALGA because SALGA and DST, CSIR and other state entities were already working together. He indicated that more innovative technology was available apart from those listed during the briefing. The procurement process challenge was one of the problems. Others included the management of the system to receive all the technologies, awareness, internal capacity, culture within and outside the public service, trust and quality assurance. These would be presented to the Committee by SALGA when invited.

The Chairperson indicated that SALGA needed to identify the stumbling blocks to implement innovative technology to solve service delivery challenges. He mandated SALGA to identify issues to assist the Committee to address the specific stumbling blocks when engaging with COGTA, municipalities and local government. He invited ARMSCOR address a concern.

Mr Wakeford asked for permission to invite his colleague to answer the question on disaster management.

The Chairperson indicated that there would be many discussions in subsequent meetings to address service delivery challenges including disaster management issues. He invited ARMSCOR.

Ms Rakhee Ramgolam, Executive Manager: Sustainability Business Enablement Technology, ARMSCOR, indicated that ARMSCOR had competencies in disaster management. She highlighted what disaster recovery options were, its costs and the fact that it could be used jointly by different municipalities. She also indicated that ARMSCOR developed a water provisioning system for soldiers which extracted water from mud and underwent bottling before being flown the affected area. ARMSCOR was capable of getting business from developed countries and sourced labour from local service providers thereby bringing employment to small businesses. Developed countries were rest assured to work with ARMSCOR rather than private businesses because it was a state entity.

The Chairperson appreciated Members of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology for assisting the Committee. He remarked that stakeholders needed to identify what capacitated Chinese companies to develop state owned infrastructure while state entities could not. He proposed further engagements between ARMSCOR, CSIR, DST and SALGA, MISA and local governments in Parliament. He also stated that the Committee would receive briefings from SALGA on issues that affected the implementation of innovative technology to solve service delivery problems.

The meeting was adjourned.

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