Presidential Hotline Report; Budget cuts impact; Public sector salary negotiations

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

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

The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) briefed the Committee on the operation, successes and challenges faced by the Presidential Hotline. The Hotline was part of the government’s monitoring tools, and allowed it to feed citizen-collected data into the policy system, to change programmes and monitor the quality of frontline services. The Department aimed improve the customer satisfaction target from 66.2% to 70%, as it was a medium-term impact indicator for the Presidential Hotline interventions.

The Hotline had revealed that the resolution of cases depended on an effective inter-governmental relations system. The Department therefore aimed to strengthen the centre of government and re-engineer how it addressed service delivery improvements and responded to the complaints of citizens. The successes of the Hotline included catalysing service delivery blockages due to executive and political support at the highest level; contributing to the resolution of short term queries within the required 25-day turnaround time; giving citizens an opportunity to monitor government on service delivery; and providing capacity building and skills transfers on government prescripts such as Batho Pele.

The challenges included weak complaints management by provincial and municipal hotlines, and reliance on the Presidential Hotline. Another challenge was that the heads of departments in provinces did not regard the Presidential Hotline as a management tool to deal with managers who did not take responsibility for their work. The Department had drafted an institutionalisation of monitoring in government concept paper, which aimed to address these challenges and the entire service delivery framework.

The Committee asked the Department about the effectiveness of Izimbizos, and if it had informed people how best to take advantage of the programme and the Presidential Hotline. Did it keep complainants in the feedback loop? Did it monitor and assist the Department of Basic Education? Had the DPME received any appreciation or thank you notes from complainants whose queries had been resolved? What strategy did it have to ensure that public servants did what they were supposed to do?

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) briefed the Committee on the progress on salary negotiations in the Public Service. It described the functions and composition of the Committee of Ministers responsible for matters pertaining to salaries and other conditions of service in the public service. The Committee had adopted the Negotiation Implementation Protocol on 20 July and had the following objectives:

  • To establish appropriate intergovernmental structures, both at a technical and executive level, to consider and guide the mandating process within Government;
  • To identify appropriate participation of employer representation in various committees;
  • To define the process to be followed in obtaining a mandate, or revised mandate;
  • To define the process to be followed by the employer representative prior to signing binding collective agreements; and
  • To define the roles and responsibilities of the various intergovernmental committees.

The Department also described the composition, function and responsibilities of Department of Public Service and National Treasury technical working group, the Technical Consultative Committee (TCS), the Executive Consultative Committee and Committee of Ministers. The wage negotiations were guided by the Negotiation Protocol Agreement, the purpose of which was to set out parties’ joint commitment to conduct effective, interest-based negotiations; set out the parties’ joint commitment to certain shared objectives; and to establish a process framework and timetable for each identified cycle of negotiations.

The Department’s wage negotiation schedule began on 6 October, and the negotiation stage between the parties was from 7 November to 15 December. The demands presented to government negotiators by public servants covered the terms of the agreement, the review of resolution 3 of 2009; general salary increases, housing allowances, leave, danger allowances, pay progression, lifting of the moratorium on the filling of vacant posts and outstanding agreements. The National Treasury and the DPSA had calculated that the total cost of labour's demands amounted to R282.1 billion.

The Committee said that the Department should ensure that there was no protest-related disruption to public services during the negotiation process. It asked if labour had given reasons for demanding the scrapping of levels one to three, whether there was a difference between housing allowances and subsidies; if government considered the consumer price index as its starting point for negotiations; whether public servants received benefits for their adult children with disabilities; and if the Department had considered looking at funding models developed for public servants during 2009/2010 negotiating period.

Meeting report

Presidential Hotline: DPME report

Dr Neeta Behari, Head: Frontline Service Delivery, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) said that Frontline Service Delivery (FLSD) had two monitoring approaches, which measured the quality of services given to communities. The first monitoring approach was citizens monitoring the government, and included the Presidential Hotline, citizen-based monitoring, Presidential special projects and Izimbizos . The second approach was government monitoring the government, and included Frontline Service Delivery monitoring and the Presidential Siyahlola programme.

The Presidential Hotline enabled the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) to feed citizen-collected data into the policy system, change programmes and monitor the quality of frontline services. It had become an impact indicator in the medium-term strategic framework, as the percentage of citizen's satisfaction on the resolution of cases reported to the Hotline was measured. The DPME aimed to achieve a 70% target for citizen satisfaction.

The Presidential Hotline functioned at both a strategic and operational level. At the strategic level, the Presidential Hotline had revealed that the resolution of cases depended on an effective inter-governmental relations system. The DPME aimed to use the Presidential Hotline as an oversight monitoring tool for government so as to re-engineer how government addressed service delivery improvements and responded to the complaints of citizens.

Dr Behari said that the Presidential Hotline was strategically located and could catalyse service delivery blockage due to executive and political support at the highest level. The data collected from the Hotline allowed for data coming from lower levels of government to be broken down to facility, ward and local government level, which assisted in evidence-based decision making.

The Hotline had contributed to short term queries, such as water issues and replacement of electricity meters, being resolved within the required 25 days’ turnaround time. The Hotline also received long term queries, such as the need to build bridges, which required the DPME to look at the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of the affected community. She added that while the DPME may not be able to immediately resolve the query, it did maintain contact with the complainant and gave information on how the Department would resolve the issue.

The Presidential Hotline had given citizens an opportunity to monitor government on service delivery across government daily, as the citizens stated their expectations of, and responses to, lower government. Through Hotline intervention, some citizen’s lives and livelihoods had improved, such as government suppliers who had not been paid within the 30-day period, who had received payment after calling the Presidential Hotline.

She added that while the Presidential Hotline was an established participatory forum for all spheres of government to resolve service delivery blockages, it could be a better forum. The Hotline had improved and provided capacity building and skills transfer on government prescripts, such as Batho Pele.

Challenges facing the Hotline included the weak complaints management of provincial and municipality hotlines, and the reliance on the Presidential Hotline. In comparison to the information technology (IT) computerised system of the Presidential Hotline, some municipalities’ complaints management was manually operated. There was a challenge of non-functioning hotlines at the Offices of the Premiers (OTPs) and municipalities, but the DPME was working with various OTPs to improve and strengthen their systems. There was a lack of accountability by responsible mangers at provincial and municipality levels, even though the Presidential Hotline formed a part of the annual performance plans of OTPs. The DPME aimed to develop a consequence management policy for OTPs who were not accountable.

Dr Baheri said that Heads of Departments (HoDs) in the provinces did not regard the Presidential Hotline as a management tool to deal with managers who did not take responsibility for their work. However, the DPME was changing the attitudes of the HoDs, as it highlighted how the Hotline was a management tool for frontline service delivery. The change in departments' attitudes came from the DPME's 2016/2018 reports, which stated that the top ten concerns of citizens reported to the Hotline included housing, water for household use, employment, road, education, health and sanitation, social benefits and information from government. She added that many of the problems reported to the Hotline were located at the local government level, and the DPME aimed to work with the Department of Co-Operative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA).

Regarding progress to date, the DPME aims to improve its methodology for measuring and assessing the resolution of complaints, customer satisfaction and readdressing mechanisms which operate close to the point of delivery. The DPME had identified the gaps for improving customer satisfaction, as the Department aimed to increase it from 66.2% to 70%. During the DPME's Izimbizo visits, it had been able to track the process of complaints from the Presidential Hotline up until the resolution of the queries through its IT system.

The DPME had developed a draft concept paper for the institutionalisation of frontline monitoring in government. In collaboration with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), it was looking at strategies to strengthen the coordination between the centres of government to address complaints management. At an operational level of the Presidential Hotline, the DPME was working on an enhancement plan for the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) system to keep pace with technology and use the information collected from the Hotline to improve government.

She said that the DPME was working towards a communication plan for lower levels in government and stakeholder management to ensure that there was regular feedback to communities which had reported to the President Hotline. She added that COGTA was the DMPE’s most important partner in achieving its communication plan for lower levels of government, and aimed to align the Presidential Hotline with the “Back To Basics” programme.

Dr Baheri concluded that the resolution of complaints referred to departments by the Hotline required an interrogation of the whole service delivery chain across the three spheres of government. The resolution of complaints required strong leadership from the DMPE, the OTPs, the DPSA and COGTA to gain an effective, responsive and accountable public service through a comprehensive complaints management and integrated service delivery system.

Discussion

Ms R Lesoma ( ANC) said the figures on the Presidential Hotline had provided a broader picture for the Committee. She asked if the DPME had made a deliberate assessment of the Izimbizos to assess if they added value. She was concerned that the DMPE may tend to speak to the same audience and not acknowledge the wide landscape for communication, as Izimbizos tended to be class-orientated. Most of the people attending Izimbizos may not use phones and emails. She asked how the DPME would ensure that these individuals took advantage of this programme. Stakeholders who had been used to sensitise the programme, should re-launch the programme in the public space to create awareness and inform the public that the programme did make changes to the public service. This re-launch would assist the DPME to better measure its impact.

Improving the IT system for the Presidential Hotline could assist the DPME to track specific issues better within the municipalities. In future presentations, the DPME should categorise issues brought to the Hotline, into provincial, municipal and district levels, in order to locate the problem areas. This would help the DPME to better quantify its successes and challenges. This analysis may reveal that problems were operational and could be resolved. Such an approach would enable government to better understand service delivery challenges and may prevent service delivery protests, like those held in 2016.

She recommended that that the Director General of the DPME should liaise with the DPSA and provincial Directors General of both departments to increase the appreciation and appetite for the Presidential Hotline programme.

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchem (ANC) asked that the DPME email the updated presentation to her, as it contained new figures and the progress up to date. She asked if the Hotline’s tracking system existed only at the national level. Did provinces have tracking systems for their provinces and municipalities? She observed that eventually the provinces would have to do their own tracking on complaints reported to the Presidential Hotline.

In the previous DPME presentation, she had asked the Department for an email address, which she had contacted and received a response. She was happy with the communication received from the DPME. However, the constituency she served was deaf and may not always have access to email, but members of her constituency could text. She asked if the Presidential Hotline had an sms number. Could this number be used for texts? Was it toll-free? She said she did not expect deaf school children who wanted to make a complaint to the Presidential Hotline, to pay for this service as they may not be able to afford it.

She was concerned that people in the deaf community either did not know about the Presidential Hotline or do not have access to it. She gave an example of a deaf school in the Eastern Cape which, for the third time, did not have food over the weekend. The school had contacted other people within the deaf community and the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSa) for assistance. However, the school should be able to contact the Presidential Hotline or a government official, as it was a government-funded and operated school. The children should not be allowed to go hungry. The deaf school in the Eastern Cape had received food assistance from several private actors, such as a deaf school from another province, by DeafSa, which got McDonalds in the Eastern Cape to send food, and by Gift of the Givers. It was very embarrassing that such a situation should arise, as the school should be able to run properly and have food for the weekends and long weekends. She gave another example of a deaf school in the North West Province, which had its hostels burnt down. The children could not sms any government officials, but could only inform their parents that there was a fire. If the children had access to the Presidential Hotline, they could have informed government offices about the situation.

She was very worried about the number of deaf children who could not write their matric, as they were adding to existing high number of youths without a matric, as cited by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). It was a struggle to get a matric, and for deaf people it was even worse. The deaf children should have access to the highest level, which was the Presidential Hotline, to inform the government officials that they could not write their matric. What resolutions were available to these children? She said that deaf children should be able to call the Hotline and say that that they could not write their matric. They should have access, to make their complaints and get a resolution. She asked if the DPME monitored and evaluated the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on these issues, as it was a recurring problem. The Committee was unsure of what was happening in schools for the deaf and children with special needs, and the parents of these schools did not know where else they could go. The DPME should monitor, evaluate and assist the DBE.

During last week’s presentations on the progress of implementing the Committee's recommendations in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, she had asked the DMPE a question and was yet to receive a written response. The Limpopo member of the Health Committee had said that the Limpopo province aimed to implement a filing system which had patients’ records attached to an identity document (ID) number system. She asked the DPME if this ID system could be rolled out in other provinces as well. The use of an ID number system was good idea and there was no need to repeat the same test in each province and waste money.

Mr S Motau (DA) said he agreed with Ms Lesoma about a comprehensive and detailed feedback on what the DPME had done with the Presidential Hotline. He was concerned that in monitoring and evaluation, there was a need for strong leadership, as stated in the DPME's presentation. This problem demonstrated that people were still not doing what they were supposed to do. Government officials were paid for their work, yet they were not doing what they ought to do. While these individuals were held accountable for their acts, there were no consequences. He came from a world where if employees wanted bonuses, they were evaluated against all the targets sets. He asked the DPME why it had not set its customer satisfaction target at 100%

He had never given any of his managers a five out five score, because if employees were given this, what would the employee give him the next month? There always needed to be improvement. While the DPME had called for strong leadership, it needed consequential action for those who did not fulfil their tasks. A major problem with the DPME was that it had not shown employees that when they had not done their jobs, there were consequences. The Presidential Hotline was there because government employees were not doing what needed to be done.

He said that during the presentation, the DPME had explained the feedback loop for the Presidential Hotline. Even if the DPME had not solved the complaints issues, it was good at the customer satisfaction level if the complainant said that the official cared about the problem they had raised. He asked the DPME if complainants ever called the Presidential Hotline back to say that their query had been resolved and that they were grateful for the assistance.

He said that while the DPME was developing a policy, this would not address the problem of employees doing their jobs. During the presentation, the DPME had said that the Committee's oversights had forced the Department to change its strategy. The Committee should not have to force the DPME to do what was expected of the Department. He was bothered by this issue, and said there seemed to be no sense in why DPME employees got paid, and why they got up in morning to go to work. Until the DPME addressed these issues, their presentations would remain the same.

The Chairperson said that during the presentation, the DPME had indicated to a large extent that the resolution of complaints depended on intergovernmental relations. He asked the DPME to what extent these relations were having an impact on the resolution of problems reported to the Presidential Hotline. The DPME had highlighted that not all of the premiers' hotlines were functioning. He asked how many hotlines were functioning.

He asked if the DPME had developed strategies to ensure that HODs viewed the Presidential Hotline as a management tool for their managers. He added to Mr Motau’s questions about complainants calling the Presidential Hotline back, asking if the DPME communicated with complainants and informed them that their issues had been resolved.

DPME response

Dr Behari replied that the DPME was interrogating the effectiveness of Izimbizos. It had integrated its monitoring with the Izimbizos so that it was not just an event, but a conscious activity. Two Izimbizos had recently been held by the DPME, after which it had gone back to the relevant communities to report on commitments made to them. The DPME goes out with COTGA, to ensure that the feedback accountability was not limited to the Department. It had nine provincial coordinators in the frontline unit to ensure that the Izimbizos were not just events, and that processes were involved. She added that there was an increase of tracking commitments through the IT system of the Presidential Hotline. The DPME had tried out the tracking system in two places, but there was room for improvement.

For communication of the Izimbizos, the DPME encouraged the use of the Presidential hotline. It gives out documents and its pamphlets. The proposed Institutionalisation of Frontline Monitoring document looks at the DPME's communication strategy with different stakeholders and their different needs. The DPME was working with SITA on its dashboards, but was considering integrating data at the DPME, as it had a knowledge hub. The DPME aimed to integrate Frontline Services with its other monitoring system.  

Dr Behari said that the DPME could categorise the Presidential Hotline successes down to a lower municipality and facility level. It was working the Gauteng provincial government, which had put the Presidential Hotline on the provincial Executive Council meeting agenda. Gauteng province had maintained regular contact with the DPME, to monitor Gauteng in detail. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government was another province which had a high level of complaints on the Presidential Hotline.

Through the Institutionalisation concept document, the DPME was looking at the whole reporting framework. The DPME had informed COTGA that issues raised through the Presidential Hotline should go through the municipal councils as well. She gave an example of the Siyaqhola programme, and said that the DPME was working with the municipal councils to ensure that the report framework was top-down and bottom-up,

She apologised for the new presentation, saying the DPME realised that it needed to add on new issues, with qualitative and quantitative information. The DPME would email the presentation to Committee Members.

She said that the DPME did track the resolution of complaints. If a water complaint was made to the Presidential Hotline, it was tracked on the IT system at SITA. The system also recorded each time feedback was given to a complaint, and when a department had made an intervention. The DPME was working on improving the quality of the input by officials to the system, as the Presidential Hotline was not a call centre, but must be viewed in a community development paradigm.

She said that the Presidential Hotline did not have access to an SMS system, but it was a toll free number. She would engage SITA on developing SMS access for the Hotline. She added that Committee Members had given the DPME food for thought on including vulnerable groups, such as the deaf community, as stakeholders and to improve its stakeholder management. The DPME was considering civil society as stakeholders, and would in future consider DeafSa and other associations in the disabled community as key stakeholders. She admitted that when the DPME developed its framework, it had not been completely inclusive, and it would resolve this issue.

She said that the Frontline Services Unit did monitors schools across provinces, while the DPME monitored the Department of Basic Education schools from an outcome 2 perspective as well.

The DPME was considering the ID number system programme, as initiated by the Limpopo province. She said that the DPME would look at the work of the Centre for Service Delivery Innovation, and would take it forward. She informed the Committee that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had also produced a report, with research on a common ID system for the Health Department. The DPME would collaborate with both institutions to investigate how to transfer this system to other departments.

Dr Behari said the DPME was looking at how staff could be held accountable, and how to develop consequences for the entire institution, for planning, monitoring and evaluation. The DPME was pushing for leadership at the political and administration level. The Frontline Services Delivery was led by executive support and political leadership in South Africa. Each time Ministers went out on oversight visits, they made sure that frontline service delivery was integrated in their programmes. The DPME did give feedback for political leadership to monitor the progress. Even though this occurrence formed part of oversight, these visits demonstrated that there was leadership, and that frontline service delivery was at the centre of government. The DPME was getting more invitations from departments and provinces, and this indicated a change from previously non-responsive departments.

She did not think that the oversight visits had forced the DPME to think, but had rather extended its thinking. It had taken the Department to a new level of thinking, as the oversight had shown a new approach to monitoring.

With regard to inter-governmental relations (IGR), the DPME had received a complaint from a disgruntled citizen, who had wanted a dam to be built. The citizen had phoned the Presidential Hotline and Dr Behari to complain about their need for the dam in their area. The DPME had had to look at the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) of the relevant department. The important part of this experience was that the DPME had explained the processes for resolution and had kept the complainant in the loop about their query.

She said that the Department had received a note of thanks from a school, where a complaint had been made to the Presidential Hotline about its serious infrastructural challenges, and the Hotline’s intervention had led to the school being rebuilt. The DPME had also received a thank note from another school principal, which had faced serious infrastructural issues, where the Hotline Intervention had led to Eskom becoming the school’s partner and had assisted in building the school. While the DPME was happy about the infrastructural improvements, the Department needed to monitor the quality of education provided at the schools.

The hotlines in the Offices of the Premiers were now all functional. The challenge was that the hotline was not viewed as a management tool, but was seen as something on the side. The DPME had informed OTPs that the Presidential Hotline was part of their APPs, and the OTPS were now driving towards resolving complaints given through the Hotline. The DPME needed to strengthen the monitoring capacity of the OTP, and use the information gathered from the Hotline more analytically in order to drive the change process towards public service improvement.

Dr Behari said that the DPME did communicate feedback and encouraged the call centre agents to ensure that the complainants did get feedback, especially if complaints and resolutions were made in writing.

Mr Tshediso Matona, Director General: DPME, replied that public servants knew and understood how to conduct themselves, as early on in the democratic dispensation, the government had developed a set of norms and values on how public servants should conduct themselves. However, in reality not all public servants had conducted themselves in this manner. There were thousands of public servants who were responsible for delivery services, but who did not fulfil this task. The DPME’s and DPSA's monitoring of public servants had shown that there was a need to intervene in order to forge the ideal public servant. To achieve this ideal, the DPME had needed to put in place a set of mechanisms, which included the Presidential Hotline. He agreed with Mr Motau that the Presidential Hotline and its feedback would not take the DPME to where it needed to go. It needed to be supported by other interventions, such as performance monitoring and performance management.

The ultimate framework for the accountability of public servants was performance agreements, which stated their roles and their commitments. This framework had not worked well, as there were some public servants who had not signed the performance agreements, while some performance agreements were not evaluated after public servants signed them. He acknowledged that the system was not functioning optimally, as there were serious gaps such as ensuring that performance agreements were signed, and that these agreements were evaluated, that public servants were held accountable and that there was consequence management.

He said that the DPME had learnt that service delivery was an activity of the whole of government. The incidents reported in the presentation involved failure at the local level, which was escalated to the Presidential Hotline, and the Hotline activated other spheres of governments so that if there was failure in a municipality, the province must also share responsibility. The DPME had learnt that the municipality may not always be able to take the lead and be responsible for its failure, but there was a collective responsibility. There was need for the centre of government to create a line of sight for service delivery which cuts across all spheres of government and identifies the linkages and connections around making service delivery seamless.

Follow up discussion

Ms Newhoudt-Druchem asked if the Presidential Hotline had a Twitter account. She said that Twitter was very effective, because when she made a complaint to someone, she received a direct message, and she could give additional details about her issues. If the DPME did not have a Twitter account, it should consider this, as it was a direct method of communication.

Ms Z Dlamini-Dubazana (ANC) said that when the DPME was established, it was meant to ensure that all departments had performance contracts that were signed by public servants. The DPME was meant to ensure that people who signed the performance agreements understood and adhered to the terms and conditions of the contracts. She asked if performance agreements were being signed and evaluated, but that no consequential action was being taken.

Mr Matona replied that performance agreements for HODs were lodged at the DMPE, as the Department aimed to see if the content of the performance agreements reflected the priorities and strategies of government. It checked if the targets in the performance agreements were clear and measureable and if the targets met certain standards. After this process, the DPME gives feedback to the Director General or Head of Department. The management and enforcement of the performance agreements were the responsibility of the relevant department's Minister and Director General. The DPME did not have the capacity to intervene in this role, but through the Parliamentary process, gives a report on how many Directors Generals had and had not concluded their performance agreements.

The DPSA had revised its policy to make the system effective, as there had been complicated processes such as the performance evaluation panel, which required three Minister to conduct the evaluation. This led to many DGs not being evaluated for long periods of time, as it was difficult to get all three Ministers present.

Ms Behari replied that the Presidential Hotline does not have a twitter account but the DPME does and citizens could contact the Department via twitter. The DPME would consider the suggestion.

Department of Public Service and Administration:  Negotiation Implementation Protocol

Mr Willie Vukela, Acting Director General:Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) said that Section 2(2A) of the Public Service Amendment Act states the functions and composition of the Committee of Ministers responsible for matters pertaining to salaries and other conditions of service in the public service. The Committee of Ministers includes the Ministers of Public Service and Administration (Chairperson); Basic Education; Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Defence and Military Veterans; Finance; Justice and Correctional Services; Health; Higher Education and Training; Home Affairs; Labour; Police; the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; Social Development; and State Security.

The Committee of Ministers adopted the Negotiation Implementation Protocol on 20 July 2017, and this was presented to the President Zuma on 22nd August. The objectives of the protocol are:

To establish appropriate intergovernmental structures, both at a technical and executive level, to consider and guide the mandating process within government;

  • To identify appropriate participation of employer representation in various committees;
  • To define the process to be followed in obtaining a mandate/revised mandate;
  • To define the process to be followed by the employer representative prior to signing binding collective agreements; and
  • To define the roles and responsibilities of the various intergovernmental committees.

The DPSA and National Treasury technical working group was comprised of the Deputy Directors from the DPSA and National Treasury, and other officials. The working group’s responsibilities include joint responsibility for the analysis of proposals presented for consideration, which must include impact and implications; ensure proposals were costed; an analysis of the trade union environment; and preparing and presenting proposals to the Technical Consultative Committee.  

The Technical Consultative Committee (TCS) was comprised of the Director General (DG) of the DPSA and DGs of departments attached to ministers who were members of the Committee of Ministers. The TCS had an array of responsibilities, which were centred on DGs advising the ministers on how to address proposals presented to the TCS by employees.

The Executive Consultative Committee (ECC) was comprised of the Ministers for Public Service and Administration (Chairperson); Basic Education; Defence and Military Veterans; Finance; Health; Justice and Correctional Services; Police; State Security; Premiers; and the Directors-General of the DPSA and NT. The responsibilities included providing executive oversight to the negotiation process and finalising formal recommendations to the Committee of Ministers.

The functions and responsibilities of the Committee of Ministers included receiving and considering proposals/recommendations, providing parameters to the negotiation team, and ensuring the financial implications were considered. The negotiating team may include the Chief Negotiator, nominated representatives (one per department, at director level or higher), and representatives nominated by Premiers (one per province at director level or higher). The number of representatives within the negotiating team may be limited by the provisions of the Constitution and or/by a decision of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Chamber (PSCBC).

Mr Vukela said that the Chief Negotiator’s responsibilities included attending meetings of the TCS, the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC) and the Committee of Ministers. In addition, the Chief Negotiator would brief these committees as and when requested.

He said that wage negotiations were guided by the principles set out in the Negotiations Protocol Agreement. The purpose of this agreement was to set out parties’ joint commitment to conduct effective and interest-based negotiations, to share certain objectives, and to establish a process framework and timetable for each identified cycle of negotiations.

The wage negotiations process began on 6 October with the process of agreement on the time frames for pre-negotiations. The Department aimed to end the negotiation stage with labour on 15 December 2017.

He said that labour demands covered the areas of the terms of agreement, the review of Resolution 3 of 2009; general salary increase, housing allowance, leave, danger allowance, pay progression, lifting of the moratorium on the filling of vacant posts, and outstanding agreements. National Treasury and the DPSA had calculated the total cost of labour's demands would be R282.1 billion.

Discussion

Ms Lesoma said she was happy that the Acting DG had stated that no negotiations would occur outside the stipulated negotiation framework. The DPSA should ensure that there would be no disruption to public services during the negotiation process. The wage negotiations must take into consideration the financial standing of the government, which was not good. She said the DPSA should in future present to the Committee on how it intended to deal with the outstanding agreements between employers and employees.

Mr Khosa said the DPSA presentation provided that the protocol of engagement included the inter-ministerial committees. He asked where organised labour had been when the DPSA and these committees set the ground rules. Had organised labour accepted these rules and come for engagement? He said that the labour unions had not given reasons for scrapping levels one to three, and asked if the DPSA had received reasons for this demand.

Ms D dan der Walt (DA) said she agreed with Ms Lesoma that there should be avoidance of disruptions to public service. She said labour demands came to R282.1 billion, and asked whether the DPSA’s budget had made provision for these costs. In 2016, the Minister of Finance had said that the Department would work on a R25 billion cut in order to get a slimmer wage bill. Had this been achieved over the third year period? She added that the in 2017, the Minister of Finance had said that a Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1% increase would “raise the national shortfall in 2018/2019 by R8.2 billion, with a gap in provincial compensation budgets amounting to R4 billion rand." She asked the DPSA how this would affect government expenditure.

The DPSA had said that the negotiating team “may” include the Chief Negotiator and the other parties. However, it also stated that the Chief Negotiator “must” attend the meetings of the various committees. She asked for clarification.

She understood the demand that funded vacant posts must be filled. However, the DPSA had to look at all vacant posts in the public sector, as there were some posts which had not been filled for three to four years. She asked if it would be crucial for all these posts to be filled, as the departments had functioned without these posts for a long time.

She was concerned about the housing allowance, as it was moving from R1 250 to R 2 500 per employee. She asked if the DPSA could clarify the situation on religious leave, which was part of the employees’ demands.

The DPSA would have to convince her that the one-year agreement of the term would have no additional costs. There must be a guarantee that there would be no additional demands or strikes. She was not favouring one or three-year agreements, questioned the guarantees. With levels 11 and level 12 being at the highest salary levels, she was worried that the proposed 10 % increase for these levels may widen the gap between the highest and lowest levels of employees.

Ms Z Dlamini-Dubazana (ANC) said that the problems and demands which were raised had existed for years. She had been a Member of the Portfolio Committee on Finance in 2010, which had considered the economic outlook and fiscus of the country. After these considerations, the Finance Committee had come to the conclusion that government departments would not be able to meet the demands of labour. The Finance Committee had developed some models which sought to meet the demands for public servants. It was surprising that the DPSA acted as though these models had never been developed and that it appeared to have started these negotiations from scratch.

She said gave an example of one of the models developed, which included the Finance Committee declaring that the money at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) belonged to the public servants. The National Treasury and its partners were to develop a model, which would assist the public servants to purchase their own houses with their own money via the PIC. The Finance Committee sought to have public servants use this fund before the state used the PIC to invest in infrastructure outside of South Africa. She said it seemed this proposal had not been taken up, as nothing had happened.

She said that the Finance Committee had proposed three days’ leave, with two days being a family responsibility leave and one day of leave, for which the employee did not need to account. She said that perhaps legislators had not ensured that the Labour Act tallied with the Tax Amendment Act. She asserted that there was no way that public servants would not strike, given the situation. The Committee should request the Treasury, the DPSA and labour representatives to inform the Committee about what the collective aimed to do. She lamented that while the money may not be there to meet all the demands, there were models which had been developed to address the problems.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen asked if there was a difference between housing allowances and housing subsidies. Were they the same thing? She was very concerned about public servants being able to have only their children aged 18 and below covered by medical aid. She gave an example of a parent who was a public servant and had a child with a disability, who was over the age of 30. The public servant may not have disclosed their child's disability to the employer, but the child was still a dependent. The age of 18 concerned her very much, as parents did have adult child dependants. She asked if the benefits covered these children.

Ms Van der Walt asked if the Consumer Price Index was the government’s starting point for negotiations, or not.

DPSA’s response

Mr Vukela replied on the role of the Chief Negotiator. In the event the he was busy with the Council and required research, he may access this information from his team. He added that the Chief Negotiator must attend meetings held by the Ministers’ Committee.

It was the government's view that employees should not strike. At the moment, there were no media statements from the unions and the government was containing the environment.

He said that government departments had been required to cut back on personnel to achieve the R25 billion saving as stated by the Minister of Finance in 2016. The DPSA had begun to cut personnel as required for the state to subsidise its reserves and support the policy of the Minister of Finance. He added that vacant positions which were not filled within six months were no longer funded. This formed part of savings, as the National Treasury took the money meant for the unfilled posts.

Labours’ demands were new demands. Every cycle, the DPSA negotiated new demands with employees. It did not negotiate old demands, such as those of 2010. The presentation had shown that the leave days demanded would be added to the existing allocated leave days. It was not removing any leave days, as the requests were additional to the current leave structures.

He said that the law stated that one was a child up until the age of 18 years, as stated in Children's Act. Changing the age of the child to suit the suggested approach would require an amendment of the Children's Act. The DPSA could not entertain this demand until amendments were made to the Children's Act.

Mr Mpfariseni Phophi, Chief Negotiator, DPSA, said that on 27 June, the DPSA had signed a protocol agreement, and the employer was a custodian of the agreement. A violation of the agreement meant a violation of collective bargaining. There were issues listed in the protocol agreement with which the DG had engaged. The purpose of this agreement was to ensure that engagements were conducted in good faith, to give individuals the platform to present their issues and be realistic, and to present and table an array of issues. He added that the state as an employer and signatory to the agreement, needed to be careful and not violate the agreement.

He said that the wage gap was not part of the demand. There was difference between housing allowances and housing subsidies. There was a government employee housing scheme, which the DPSA aimed to present and sign a draft paper on housing allowances and savings to the Council on 23 November. In comparison, subsidies were when the employer was assisting the employee.  

Ms Lesoma said that the Committee might need a status report on the number and duration of unfilled posts in public sector. The Committee had raised this issue with the previous DG of the DPSA and had informed him that if a post was not filled within 12 months, it automatically meant that the post was not required. The previous DG responded negatively to the Committee’s recommendation, but it was now important to address the issue so as to get closure.

She added that the engagements of the Committee tended to have a legal impact outside of the DPME and DPSA. She gave an example of the age of children. Regarding parents with adult children who had disabilities, the Department aimed to prioritise the disable community, yet from its current policy it did not seem to prioritise this consistently, and this should change going forward.

Ms Dlamini-Dubazana said that theoretically the demands were new but in reality the employees’ demands were old. She requested that the Acting DG, his team and the Minister revisit what had been proposed by the team in 2010, which had worked on the modelling proposals.

Ms Van der Walt said that while the DPSA may find an unfilled post redundant, the demands of the employees showed that labour did not view them as such. She asked if the lack of reference to the CPI by the Acting DG and Chief Negotiator was because they were not allowed to speak or comment on it.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchem said if the Department referred to the Children’s Act as defining a child as below 18, then it should look at Children’s Act in relation to adults who were dependent. It should look at what the Act said about disabled children who were adults and were dependent on their parents.

Mr Vukela said that with regard to the issue of age, the DPSA was responding to what was stated in the employees’ demands. It was not disregarding the Committee's point, but felt that this should be presented to labour during the negotiation stage. Government had to respond to what was it given. However, the it would need to cross-reference this issue to another date.

He said that there was no redundancy of unfilled posts. The demand provided that if there was a moratorium, government must lift it. He added that in government, there were no moratoriums -- there were simply unfilled posts in government which, after a certain period, became unfunded as they were not filled and not needed.

He said that government could not go back to the 2010 wage demands given by labour.

The Chairperson corrected Mr Vukela, and said that Ms Dlamini-Dubazana had suggested that the DPSA note the 2010 model plans for the demands of that year, and not for the Department to negotiate those terms.

Consideration of reports on Votes 8, 10, 12

Vote 8
 

The report on Vote 8 was adopted without any corrections.

Vote 10
 
Ms Newhoudt-Druchem pointed out a grammatical error.

Ms Van der Walt said that she was not sure if the Committee had commended the DPSA for its negotiation process, as they had started late, as stated in paragraph 4.12.

The Chairperson suggested that a sentence be inserted in that paragraph.

The report on Vote 10 was adopted, with corrections.

Vote 12 (StatsSA)
 

The report for Vote 12 were adopted without correction.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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