Labour Activation Programme: briefing

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Labour

22 November 2017
Chairperson: Ms F Loliwe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commissioner of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) reported on the status of the Labour Activation Programme, with specific reference to the issues that had been raised by the Portfolio Committee during its visit. The targeted breakdown of gender and youth had been partially successful, although the implementation was still under way and successes were still being realised. Provinces monitored included Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

The findings and lessons that could be drawn from the visits were as follows:

  • Learners were struggling to get employers to take them on for workplace experience in building and civil construction.
  • The amount of the stipend was too little to cover the expenses associated with distances traveled to workplaces.
  • Learners had to incur costs or bear the burden from their pockets for the required medical check-up before placement.
  • The funding did not cover the toolkits required in building and civil construction.
  • The quantity and quality of personal protective equipment was also not sufficient.

As a result of the findings and lessons learnt, the Department recommended encouraging participants to seek opportunities with host employers in advance, and also to assist with engagement with other Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) for placement. The UIF funding would include costs of toolkits, medicals, protective equipment and project management.

Members’ discussion on the overall performance and plans of the Labour Activation Programme focused on the plans to implement the recommendations and computerisation in line with adopting the e-government systems, to catch up with the current public management wave of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in the public sector. The issue of stipends was also raised, as well as engagements with trade unions over the national minimum wage. The importance of communication at the grassroots level was stressed, with specific reference to the Free State. They also asked why the Department was unable to meet its targets in the Western Cape. 

Meeting report

Department of Labour (DoL) on Labour Activation Programme

Mr Thobile Lamati, Director General (DG): Department of Labour, apologised for not attending previous meetings due to international commitments of International Labour Organisation (ILO), saying that it was pivotal for South Africa to attend so that it could draw lessons of best international practices. He handed over the entire presentation to Mr Teboho Maruping, Commissioner: Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

Mr Maruping started on the Labour Activation Programme (LAP) status, with specific reference to the issues raised by the Portfolio Committee during their visit. Project monitoring and management had been achieved, characterised by an increase, with 20 projects visited by the LAP and 18 projects by the monitoring and evaluation team. The targeted breakdown of gender and youth had been partially successful, although the implementation was still under way and successes were still being realised. In relation to the number of learners absorbed, some successes had been recorded, with some flaws in the training of the unemployed. Cost factors appeared to be a challenge. Nevertheless, motivation for the structure had been submitted and approved, and the process to create positions in the structure had also started. Provinces monitored included Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

The findings and recommendations from the first semester report had been diverse.  The findings and lessons that could be drawn from the visits were as follows:

  • Learners were struggling to get employers to take them on for workplace experience in building and civil construction.
  • The amount of the stipend was too little to cover the expenses associated with distances traveled to workplaces.
  • Learners had to incur costs or bear the burden from their pockets for the required medical check-up before placement.
  • The funding did not cover the toolkits required in building and civil construction.
  • The quantity and quality of personal protective equipment was also not sufficient.

As a result of the abovementioned findings and lessons learnt, the Department recommended encouraging participants to seek opportunities with host employers in advance, and also to assist with engagement with other Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) for placement. The UIF had also engaged the Board and was busy with a comparative analysis study on the stipend payments on projects of the Labour Activation Programme, for consistency. The UIF funding would include costs of toolkits, medicals, protective equipment and project management.

The governance status of labour activation programmes had five active governance strategies under the training lay-off scheme, the turn around solutions and the training of the unemployed. The structures sat periodically to execute the mandates as defined in their respective terms of reference, to ensure that the labour activation programmes delivered on their targets. While the structures were sitting as and when required, it was important to determine if the structures were effective in ensuring that they were quorate when they met; that resolutions were implemented timeously; that documentation was kept for future reference; and that they adhereed to the terms of reference as defined.

A labour activation space diagnosis process had been conducted by the UIF in an endeavor to ascertain if there were further gaps that had to be addressed to bring about effectiveness and efficiency in the LAP. The results had shown that labour activation programmes or projects had been executed on high level process flows, and the systems to support the execution and reporting were inadequate. The implementation approach in the 2018/2019 targets embodied defining the policy, framework, processes, governance structures, guidelines and mechanisms to define the work done at provinces. Strategic planning, monitoring, evaluation, and target setting in consultation with implementation partners was also part and parcel of the implementation approach. Audit implementation of adherence to defined processes, and guidelines and periodic visits to projects being implemented in the provinces, also formed the basis of the implementation approach.

Discussion

Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) commended the entity for doing many things with the money in an effective and efficient manner. Nevertheless, she asked when the Department was planning to implement the recommendations. Theoretical experience was not practical experience, so there was a need to fast track the recommendations. What was the time frame for computerisation for information back up, as well as the graduation towards a totally paperless system. She asked if there were any projects which had not yet been visited.

Mr M Bagraim (DA) said he had interacted with some UIF recipients, and they had said they did not have money for bus fare to go to interviews, and did not have access to computers. He had had a group discussion with trade unions in relation to the national minimum wage, and encouraged the Department to do so as well.

Mr L Khoarai (ANC) asked why his province, Free State, was represented in the projects monitored. He encouraged the Department to improve their communication with constituency offices in the Free State province.

Ms L Theko (ANC) asked how the Department could say the amount was a stipend when it was not covering the costs associated with travel.

The Chairperson asked why the Western Cape had been unable to meet its targets. She sought clarification and interpretations on the grey areas in the diagnostic analysis results, and what had led to misalignments. Since the department was starting from scratch, how was it going to achieve or meet its targets in the long run, taking into cognisance the proposed statistics?

Department’s response

On the issue of stipends, the DG said that at the beginning of the training, learners would get their stipends. He acknowledged that the stipends were not enough and promised that the Department would effect some level of increase.

Regarding communication with constituency offices, the Department would do its best to make sure that relevant information was disseminated using all avenues, and this would be facilitated by the decentralisation of labour centres, which were made them close to offices in the provinces as opposed to congesting the head office. Communication would therefore be decentralised.

He asked Mr Khorai to inform the Department regarding the programme in the Free State if need be, or indicate when they required them in their constituency.

In respect of communication with the unions, the Department would continue to engage with them, and would encourage companies not to retrench without talking to the UIF.

Regarding any projects which had not yet been visited, the Commissioner said the existing projects in the Free State had not yet been visited. 

The DG said the Department had a disaster recovery plan to recover data at any time in case of a system failure.

Mr Bagraim commented that the stipend was still very small, for instance, to cater for clothing.

The Chairperson asked the Department to give an assurance that the projects were doing well.

The DG said the projects had nothing to do with individuals. However, the legislative framework that guided the UIF made it unable to assist work seekers in respect of clothes. Books were also not part and parcel of the stipend.

The Chairperson reminded the DG that Ms Marsha Bronkhorst, Chief Operating Officer (COO): Department of Labour, had been given a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) memorandum, and the Committee had resolved that it should go back to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). He did not want this issue to be prolonged --  the Committee did not want unfinished business.

Adoption of 15 November 2017 minutes

Mr Bagraim proposed the adoption of the Committees minutes for the meeting of 15 November. He was seconded by Ms T Tongwane (ANC), and they were adopted without amendment.
The meeting was adjourned.
 

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