Government employee housing; Pension payout fast tracking; Distressed mining towns: DPME report; Labour court orders non-implementation by departments: PSC report

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

29 November 2017
Chairperson: Ms R Lesoma (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

The Public Service Commission (PSC) briefed the Committee on the non-implementation of arbitration and labour-related court orders by government departments, and said it held the view that this had negative implications for labour relations in the work place and caused distress and bankruptcy for affected employees. The Commission’s study showed that during the 2013/2014 to 2015/2016 financial years, 784 (75%) of the 1 044 arbitration awards, and 108 (82%) of the 131 Labour Court orders, were implemented were implemented. 32 cases were taken on appeal to the Labour Appeal Court, where nine were dismissed and five upheld, while 18 remained pending.

The nature of disputes related to promotion, benefits, unfair suspension, dismissals, interpretation and application of collective agreements related to salary upgrades, and the performance monitoring development systems. The departments cited many reasons for non-implementation of orders, such as financial considerations, gross irregularity or unfair labour practice, and review for substantive and procedural reasons. The unions held the view that departments did not give reasons for non-implementation due to ignorance and a lack of monitoring systems to keep track of the status of all awards issued against them. In addition, unions believed that “departments deliberately do not implement awards to frustrate the union and affected member(s)”.

Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, departments spent approximately R94 million on compensation, of which R57.1 million (61%) was for arbitration awards, R32.2 million for Labour Court orders, and R4.7 million for Labour Court appeal orders. Another financial cost was the R8.1 million in interest being paid on non-implemented arbitration awards, which was avoidable.

The Committee asked if departments had significant reasons for not using the State Attorney’s office for legal proceedings instead of using private law firms; who monitored to ensure employees were fairly treated, and what the legal implications of departments ignoring labour court orders were.

The Department of Public Service and Administration described the progress made with regard to the Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS), and the financial injection towards housing for employees.

Its service programmes included a housing allowance, affordable housing finance, rental housing, and housing supply management. Key achievements were a housing allowance increase from R 1 200 to R1 276; implementation of an individual-linked savings facility; establishment of the GEHS customer care and employee support facility; and engaging with banks and lenders to facilitate housing supply. Its biggest challenge was insufficient funding. It had received R59 million from the National Treasury, which would be spent over the 2018/19 and 2020/2021 financial years. Since the implementation of the GEHS housing allowance in July 2015, there had been an increase in the number of public servants who had become home owners -- from 335 000 to 553 378 employees. In comparison, the number of employees in rented houses had decreased from 569 000 to 485 395 employees.

Members asked for details of how the GEHS coped with complications like spouses in government service both seeking housing assistance, who retained the house if there was a divorce, and what happened to an employee’s family if the employee died. Had the Department considered available land owned by the government to address the problem of suitable housing locations?

The Government Employee Pension Fund (GPEF) and the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) briefed the Committee on its strategies for improving the pay-outs of claims to pensioners. A key GPAA innovation was the self-service portal, which allowed members to manage their data and electronically receive their benefit statements, tax certificates and payment advice letters. The Agency acknowledged that not all members would appreciate the paperless system, and aimed to accommodate them.

Members asked for an assurance that the GEPF was protecting employees’ pensions against its funds being used for bailing out government entities. How did the GPAA aim to improve its national footprint and ensure the inclusivity of its operations and services? What was its new turnaround time for services?

Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). briefed that the Committee on the progress made with regard to the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities project. The project aimed to achieve the following development outcomes:

  • To integrate sustainable human settlements;
  • To improve socio-economic conditions;
  • To improve the working conditions of mine workers;
  • To ensure decent living conditions for mine workers; and
  • To provide ameaningful contribution to the development trajectory of mining towns and labour sending areas.

Currently, the project addressed the development concerns of 25 distressed mining communities.

The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) said it its main objectives for the revitalisation project were to upgrade the informal settlements in mining areas, which were rapidly growing and posed socio-economic risks; to put in bulk infrastructure in order to support municipalities -- over the past three financial years, the DHS had spent R3 billion to support municipalities in addressing the large influx of households to the mining towns; and to work with mining companies to coordinate development in the mining areas.

The DPME was cautioned about entering relationships with the Housing Development Agency, as the Agency had faced allegations over price manipulation. Members asked if the mining companies tracked miners after their retirement. What was the role of mining companies in providing quality and relevant education to mining communities? 

Meeting report

Public Service Commission: arbitration and labour related court orders

Ms Moira Marais-Martin, Commissioner:Public Service Commission (PSC), said that the PSC's study looked at the non-implementation of arbitration awards and Labour Court orders by government departments over the period of 2013/2014 to 2015/2016. The PSC held the view that non-implementation had negative implications on labour relations at the work place and undermined the rule of law. The study had several objectives, such as establishing the reasons for non-implementation of arbitration awards and Labour Court orders, determining the implications of non-implementation of arbitration awards and Labour Court orders on labour relations, financial and other related issues, making recommendations with regard to the implementation of arbitration awards and Labour Court orders, and others. The study faced limitations, such as certain departments not responding to the PSC's requests, and poor databases held by government departments. The study received responses from the following stakeholders: 150 government departments, bargaining councils, state offices of attorney and organised labour.

During the 2013/2014 to 2015/2016 financial years, 784 (75%) arbitration awards were implemented, and 260 (25%) were not implemented. At a national level, 150 (26%) arbitration awards given against government departments were not implemented, while in the Northern Cape, 10 (50%) awards were not implemented. The PSC cross-checked the status of the implementation of awards by government departments with bargaining councils. One of the challenges with the verification process was that bargaining councils did not have tracking systems which could assess whether the awards were implemented or not by government departments.

The PSC also verified the status of the implementation of awards with representatives of organised labour. Labour held the view that partial implementation of arbitration awards occurred in instances in which employees were re-instated into positions that had already been filled by new employees, and alleged that non-implementation of arbitration awards occurred because of employers’ vindictive nature.

A total of 61 Labour Court orders were issued against departments between 2013/14 and 2015/16. However, during the same period, 108 (82%) Labour Court orders were implemented by departments, while 23 (18%) were not implemented. A total of 32 cases were taken on appeal to the Labour Appeal Court between 2013/14 and 2015/16, of which nine were dismissed and five were upheld, while 18 remained pending. None of the departments which participated in the study had labour-related cases taken to the Constitutional Court, nor did the department take their matters on appeal to the Constitutional Court.

Ms Marais-Martin said that a majority of employees who were involved in arbitration awards and court orders were in income levels which ranged from R48 000 and R390 000, although the biggest number were concentrated between R121 000 and R290 000. The nature of disputes related to promotion, benefits, unfair suspension, dismissals, interpretation and application of collective agreements related to salary upgrades, and the performance monitoring development systems. The departments cited many reasons for non-implementation of orders, such as financial considerations, gross irregularity or unfair labour practice, and review for substantive and procedural reasons. The unions held the view that departments did not give reasons for non-implementation due to ignorance and a lack of monitoring systems to keep track of the status of all awards issued against them. In addition, unions believed that “departments deliberately do not implement awards to frustrate the union and affected member(s)”.

Some employees found themselves in a maze of legality, and were not in a position to defend themselves adequately. While government departments were meant to use the State Attorney, some departments were using private attorneys. The departments that participated in the study spent just over R166 million on litigation costs on labour-related matters during the 2013/14 and 2015/16 financial years. It was, however, not clear why up to R143.5 million (85%) would be spent at arbitration, when most departments reported that they were mostly represented by labour relations officials during the arbitration process. The only plausible explanation was that departments did, in fact, engage the services of private attorneys during arbitration processes. Labour unions had spent at least R9 million, while individual employees have spent between R500 and R 40 000. However, the PSC held the view that individual employee had spent more on litigation costs to defend themselves against unfair labour practices.

The PSC study indicated that when an award of compensation was ruled against a government department, the state may order the department to pay out to the affected employee, or re-instate the employee to public service. The PSC noted an upward trend in financial costs for compensation, and recommended that government had to look at how to bring this figure down and hold officials accountable. It held the view that this recommendation was especially important for situations where there was malicious review of a case by an official, when the state did not have a high chance of winning a case and when there were no substantive reasons for taking matters for review.

Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, departments spent approximately R94 million on compensation, of which R57.1 million (61%) was for arbitration awards, R32.2 million for Labour Court orders, and R4.7 million for Labour Court appeal orders.

Another financial cost was interest being paid on non-implemented arbitration awards. The amount ordered for arbitration awards earns interest from the date it is awarded, and by the interest stipulated by the relevant legislation. Departments that participated in the survey paid more than R8.1 million in interest, of which R5.7 million was paid for arbitration awards, while just over R1,2 million of interest was paid for Labour Court orders. The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Correctional Services paid more interest than all other departments.

Ms Marais-Martin lamented that interest payable was an avoidable cost, and said that departments must give substantive reasons for taking matters out on review and delaying implementation of arbitration awards and labour court orders, as stated by the Labour Relations Amendment Act ( LRA).

Section 145 of the LRA stated that “any party to the dispute who alleges a defect in any arbitration proceedings may apply to the Labour Court within six weeks for an order setting aside the award. The Labour Court may stay the enforcement of the award pending its decision.” The PSC held the view that departments must take matters for review within the specified timeframe, in order to reduce the financial costs and tense labour relations within the workplace. It believed that state resources should not be used to bankrupt or frustrate state employees.

The PSC recommended that a policy should be developed to guide departments on the implementation of arbitration awards, to improve communication between departments, such as the legal services and labour practices offices, and to assists employees to understand the processes and resources available to them. The PSC had designed a pamphlet to guide employees on the processes to follow once an arbitration awards had been issued in their favour.

The PSC stated that challenges for implementation of arbitration awards and labour court orders include late delivery of documents;  labour court delays in scheduling and finalising matters that have been taken on review or appeal; rigid internal departmental processes which result in delayed approval by approving authorities for the implementation of awards within specified timeframes; poor crafting of arbitration awards and capacity challenges in some departments.

The PSC recommended that:

  • Executive Authorities should put in place a policy and an accompanying implementation guide/procedure to ensure the effective management of disputes and the timeous implementation of awards and court orders;
  • State Attorneys should have an electronic system to facilitate the speedy recovery of information from provincial departments;
  • Dispute adjudication bodies should ensure that arbitration awards were enforceable and implemented;
  • The Labour Court and Labour Appeal Court develop a case management database to monitor trends and evaluate the efficiency of the Labour Courts;
  • Bargaining councils develop mechanisms to monitor implementation of arbitration awards;
  • Unions proactively follow-up on the implementation or non-implementation of arbitration awards and court orders that affect their members and that employees should empower themselves and seek the assistance of unions and fellow employees on the processes to be followed to enforce arbitration awards and Labour Court orders.

In addition, the PSC stated that departments had to know that the Constitutional Court had ruled that arbitration awards did not prescribe for purposes of the Prescription Act. Therefore, departments could no longer rest on the legal principle that orders were valid for only three years.

Ms Marais-Martin said that the PSC had requested the Department of Public Service and Administration to ensure that there was a policy guideline to assist in the implementation of arbitration awards once they had been ordered against government departments.

Discussion

Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC) asked if the PSC knew why departments used private attorneys. Why did departments not use state attorneys to represent their cases? Departments were willing to pay for private legal services but were not willing to pay out their employees when arbitration awards or court orders were given against them. She asked if the PSC knew who monitored the vindictive actions and unprofessional behaviour of the departments. Who monitored to ensure that employees were treated fairly? She was concerned about the unfair treatment of low income employees. The presentation had emphasised that South Africa was striving towards becoming a caring developmental state, but government departments treated low income employees unfairly. Work should be done to ensure that this behaviour did not continue. She asked if the PSC had developed the policy guide, or if it would assist the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to develop this guide for the implementation of arbitration awards and labour court order issues against government departments. Would the PSC monitor the timelines stipulated in the policy?

Ms D van der Walt (DA) said that the figures from the 2016/2017 financial year would give the Committee a better indication of the current problem at hand. She asked if the PSC had these figures, as it would highlight whether there had been an increase or decrease in the figures. She was very concerned that government departments could ignore labour cases, and added that such matters should be raised with the unions during the current wage negotiations led by the DPSA. There could not be an increasing amount of money spent on arbitration awards not being settled while the government agrees or contests on increasing benefits as demanded by labour during negotiations.

Ms Z Jongbloed (DA) asked what happened with Labour Court cases that were not implemented. Were there any legal consequences when a court order was ignored, or time was taken implement the order? The presentation had indicated that departments did not do well in court matters. The litigation was extremely costly, and she asked if the PSC and DPSA were doing anything to reduce these actions. How were the two departments containing the problem? The presentation had also revealed that departments were not always truthful about ligation costs. How did the PSC deal with departments lying about litigation costs?

She asked for clarity on how departments could pay more or less that had been awarded. How could a department deviate from a specific court order? She asked what happened when a labour court order had not been implemented and an employee had either died or retired.

Mr D Khosa (ANC) asked for the PSC to comment on the labour union's allegations that departments did not give reasons for not implementing arbitration awards. What did the PSC recommend? Did it and the DPSA not think it was fair for the unions to be constantly updated on such issues? He asked how the budget was affected by instances where an employee was re-instated to a position that had already been filled by another employee. How was such a situation handled? Had the PSC developed a strategy to ensure that such situations did not occur in future?

The Chairperson believed that the DPSA should be the project leader for developing the policy, as recommended by the PSC. She asked what the yearly role of the DPSA had been on the issue presented by the PSC. The Committee had constantly raised the concern that the DPSA spent money on cases it would lose. The continuous actions by the DPSA were perceived as an "I don't care” attitude, as legal fees were not paid from the personal pockets of the state officials. The DPSA had been meant to set up a panel of senior officials who would address this particular problem. She asked the DSPA to inform the Committee on the status of, and reports given by, this body.

Had there been any challenges on cases elevated to the Executive Authorities? How had the Commission dealt with these challenges? The Committee had previously debated whether the PSC had “teeth" or not, but had come to the conclusion that the PSC had power. When the authorities were not respected, the PSC must inform the Committee so that Members could assist and ensure that the rules were followed. She asked the DPSA when the policy, as recommended by the PSC, would be developed.

PSC’s response

Ms Marais-Martin replied that the issue of government departments using private litigation and not being truthful about litigation costs had also been raised by the office of the State Attorney, as in terms of the legal framework, government departments must start with the State Attorney. The Office of the State Attorney had raised the concern that when government departments used its services, departments instructed it to use private counsel. The PSC held the view that government departments should use the State Attorney and if the department had concerns about the capacity of the State Attorney, it should raise this with the Department of Justice.

Officials had recourse to the various structures the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and others. The PSC held the view that there should be accountability and consequences for officials who trampled on the rights of employees. The Commission had informed departments that it was a government worker's right to be treated according to fair labour practices. Therefore, government must stop treating its employees as enemies of the state when employees took departments on over unfair labour practices.

It was not the PSC’s duty to develop a policy for the DPSA to ensure the implementation of arbitration awards. However, its reports stated what ideally should be contained in the guideline policy.

At the time of writing the report, the 2016/2017 data on the implementation of arbitration awards was not yet available. However, the PSC was conducting follow-up reports to assess if there was a downward trend. In addition, it would track the implementation of arbitration awards and labour court orders against government departments by assessing the labour relations section of department's annual reports.

Ms Marais-Martin said that the Labour Relations Amendment Act (LRA) had tightened the criteria for taking labour court orders and arbitration awards for review. In the event a government department could not meet the criteria stipulated by the LRA, the review was regarded as a malicious review. The PSC believed that consequences should be taken against officials who made recommendations for malicious reviews. There should be consequences against labour relations advisors for allowing wasted expenditure. She added that the Prescription Act was no longer applicable to cases relating to arbitration awards and labour court orders.

The PSC would monitor and report such issues to structures such as the Committee and executive authorities. It could impose directives on departments and ensure that departments acted in the correct manner.

The partial implementation of awards was problematic, as a department would re-instate an employee in a position, but may not give this employee work or a job description due to the position being filled by another employee. In such a situation, executive authorities would have to reverse the decision of employing the new person, who had acquired rights of employment. The PSC did advise the Executive Authorities on how to navigate this complex legal issue, and was currently designing a guide to assist them on this matter.

In some cases, labour unions had brought forward evidence to substantiate the allegations of an employer’s vindictive behaviour. She gave an example of a female employee from the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison in the Northern Cape, whose services had been terminated and who later died. The department had refused to pay out her pension to her beneficiaries on the pretext that the deceased employee still owed the department money.

The PSC was very clear on making recommendations to the DPSA, as it believed that the Department guided other departments on this matter and should develop the required policy. Once such a policy was developed, the PSC would assess to what extent the DPSA had addressed the issues highlighted in its report.

Mr Willie Vukela, Acting Director General: DPSA said that the Department would develop the suggested policy by the end of the financial year. It would need assistance in establishing parameters for its proposed policy from both the Committee and the PSC.

The Chairperson said the DPSA should liaise with the National School of Government and ensure that issues raised formed part of the curriculum for members of the incoming administration. She asked the DPSA to highlight the following issues during its presentation: who accrued the interest paid by public servants for the housing scheme; blockages of access to the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme faced by public servants; and remedies available to public servants who were blacklisted.

DPSA: Government Employees’ Housing Scheme

Mr Vukela said that the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme was a negotiated settlement issue and was part of the conditions of employment.

Mr Victor Sakala, Acting Deputy Director General: Employment Conditions and Service, DPSA briefed the Committee on the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme (GEHS), which aimed to address the barriers faced by employees in accessing housing on a sustainable basis. The GEHS service programmes included a housing allowance, affordable housing finance, rental housing, and housing supply management.

The GEHS had achieved the following:

  • A housing allowance increase from R 1 200 to R1 276;
  • Implementation of the individual-linked savings facility;
  • Establishment of the GEHS customer care and employee support facility;
  • Establishment of the enrolment system and support call centre;
  • Creation of the GEHS website;
  • Providing housing advisory services and financial capability;
  • Providing active housing finance access Service, such as loans and subsidies;
  • Engaging with banks and lenders to facilitate housing supply.

The GEHS’s biggest challenge was insufficient funding. It had received R59 million from the National Treasury, which would be spent over the 2018/19 and 2020/2021 financial years.

Since the implementation of the GEHS housing allowance in July 2015, there had been an increase in the number of public servants who had become home owners -- from 335 000 to 553 378 employees. In comparison, the number of employees in rented houses had decreased from 569 000 to 485 395 employees. R4 billion had been accumulated by the second group of employees under the GEHS savings facility. The average savings per employee was R40 000, and an employee could use these savings to put a deposit down on a house, or use it for transfer costs.

The GEHS had developed several strategies and partnerships to arrange housing finance for employees and facilitate access to finance. The DPSA and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) had partnered to provide home finance opportunities for employees on affordable terms. The PIC had invested R11bn in SA Home Loans to enable the delivery of affordable housing finance. Employees could apply for either mortgage home loans or non-mortgage home loans from SA Home Loans, which had approved to date R2.9 billion worth of mortgage home loans, while since May 2017, it had approved R6.6 million worth of loan applications. The interest on the non-mortgage home loans was lower than that given to employees by conventional banks.

Mr Sakala said that employees faced several barriers to accessing housing financing from conventional banks, which included low credit scores, poor credit records and low incomes. The GEHS savings facility, established by Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) Res 7/2015, enabled employees to save a portion of the housing allowance. While the savings facility was administered by the GEHS office, the funds were managed by the National Treasury. The GEHS had conducted various employee information sessions for national and provincial departments, and had established an employee enrolment system and support call centre. The GEHS had entered into partnerships with the Department of Human Settlements (DHS), the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the RISIMA Housing Finance Corporation in Limpopo province, and ITHALA Limited in KwaZulu-Natal. One of the challenges facing employees was the uncertainty over available locations for building their homes. The GEHS had engaged with property developers and informed the developers that public servants would like affordable and accessible housing. Currently, there were about 1.2 million housing opportunities available to employees in the public service.

The main activities for the GEHS in the 2017/2016 financial year included up-scaling the capacity of GEHS's project management office (PMO), activating and implementing the GEHS's service programme, and establishing a dedicated GEHS entity. The GEHS had tabled a motion with the PSCB to ensure an agreement between organised labour and government, which stated how the GEHS should be structured and operated in the future. In the future, the GEHS aimed to achieve an employees’ outreach programme, to mobilise and support employee enrolment, to resolve housing allowance exceptions and anomalies, to open customer walk-in centres, widen the housing finance access service, and finalise GEHS institutional arrangements beyond the project office. The GEHS benefits for employees included access to housing support services, affordable finance, and improved socio-economic benefits from home ownership, while the state as an employer gained a more stable and secure workforce with the social benefits of home ownership and security.

The GEHS had identified risks, which included partnerships with conventional banks which might not want to assist the government employees with housing finance. In addition, residential property developers may not heed the housing requests as preferred by employees.

Discussion

Mr Khosa said that at the previous meeting for clarity on the issue of subsides and housing allowance, he had asked if the beneficiaries were receiving subsides or housing allowances. He asked the DPSA about their partnerships with public bodies such as RISIMA Housing Finance Corporation and ITHALA Development Finance Corporation, and where these bodies received their money. He added that it might be better to receive money directly from the conventional banks to give mortgage loans to public servants, as it would be a cheaper and easier process.

Ms Jongbloed asked. if two public servants were married, they both qualified for housing assistance. Were the 1.2 million housing opportunities part of the government housing scheme or the general housing stock in South Africa?

Ms Van der Walt said that one would always support the ownership of property, as it granted an individual mobility in the economy and security. Anyone who received a loan for property would want a sustainable loan, as there were negative implications over the loss of property, and government officials should not be subjected to this under the housing scheme. She asked if the DPSA had considered available land owned by the government to address the problem of housing location. This land could be used to make housing more affordable for officials.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen asked if the GEHS included staff of the Department of Basic Education.

The Chairperson said that every day government officials went to apply for housing support, and this had resulted in such high demand that a GEHS office had to be established. The presentation showed that the GEHS office had trained provincial labour offices and human resource units in all government departments on the scheme’s implementation.

The Committee had previously raised concerns over the very bloated structure of the public service, which was heavy loaded at the senior level. In addition, it was concerned that government tended to pay people to come to work, and not do what they were required to do. This concern had resulted in the perception of “”paper pushers within public service. She appreciated that Treasury had given the GEHS funding to establish the office, but was concerned about the existing human resources officials who had been allocated to do this work. She raised caution over the potential spillover of GEHS offices in the provinces, as provincial departments may hold the view that they also required GEHS offices with new personnel.

She asked if there was any protection net for retrenched employees who may have gained access to the GEHS while they were employed. She referred to Ms Jongbloed’s question about the married public servants, and asked who serviced the bond for the house in the event that one member died, or the couple got divorced.

She said that there were departments and spheres of government which owned flats that government employees stayed in. In the event of the employee’s death or retrenchment, would the department ask the family to move out of the flat?

GEHS’s responses

Mr Vukela replied that the GEHS was for all government employees, so employees of the Department of Basic Education would receive the benefits of this housing scheme. He agreed with Ms Van der Walt that land was a scare resource, and that the bulk of government land was owned by municipalities. There needed to be innovative approaches to engage municipalities to gain access to land for the housing scheme. Some of the issues raised by the Committee were part of labour’s demands in the negotiation process, so he did not want to be accused of discussing these issues in Parliament before the labour representatives or the media.

The DPSA did not have to employ new people to operate the GEHS offices, but had given training to existing officials to accommodate the function of this office and programme. However, in the future there may be a need for the establishment of a GEHS advisory body to develop a long-term strategy for the housing scheme.

Mr Sakala said that the GEHS dealt with housing allowances, and employees received R1 276. The DPSA had partnership with RISMA and ITHALA because these organisations had housing stock and could assist employees to gain access to housing. The Department had asked these bodies to reduce their criteria for government employees so that public servants could gain access to housing, and that the loan must be sustainable. These organisations offered government employees housing opportunities which may have been denied by conventional banks, as some did not meet the criteria stipulated by banks.                                                                                                  

He said that if two employees were married and were staying in a house together, only one of the employees enjoyed the housing benefits. This issue had formed part of labour’s demands in the negotiation proceedings between government and labour. The DPSA was engaging on the matter and hoped to see if both employees could benefit from the housing allowance.

There were 1.2 million housing opportunities across the country and employees, could apply for such opportunities in any province.

Some departments, such as Correctional Services and the South African Police Service (SAPS), had flats for their employees. The departments which offered such housing opportunities determined their own housing policy. He was aware that in the event of an employee dying, the relevant department did give the family a specific time frame to vacate the flat.

In the event of an employee's retrenchment, it was the responsibility of the employee to ensure that they had the means to sustain their house. The employee should ensure that they had a safety net to guard against the loss of property.

The Chairperson said that there needed to be communication between the DPSA and public servants on the issue of a "safety net”. Currently, there was a gap in communication, and this defeated the notion of a caring government. The DPSA should be worried about departments asking families to vacate their homes, as it was unfortunate that an employee could be employed by SAPS for 35 years, and suddenly became homeless. These policies were developed by human beings, and could be changed.

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that if an individual applied and received a job in government, the housing allowance formed part of their salary benefits. She asked for clarity on whether the DPSA took the housing allowance away if it discovered that an employee was married to another employee. She also asked if a divorced public servant had to apply for a housing allowance if their former partner had received the housing benefits during their marriage.

The Chairperson asked the DPSA if it was training on GEHS implementation for the entire public service system. Did the training aim to capacitate government officials?

Mr Mpfariseni Phophi, Chief Negotiator: DPSA, said that the GEHS catered for all sectors of the public service. The concerns raised by the Committee were full of motivations for demands as stated by labour, and engaging in these motivations would render the government acting in bad faith at the bargaining council level. On 23 November, the government as the employer had signed a collective agreement, and after 21 days the council would inform the negotiating parties whether the agreement had received the majority vote or not. He would be at liberty to discuss matters pertaining to spouses and land only after the process had been completed.

Mr Sakala said that housing allowances were structured for employees on salary scales from Levels One to Ten, while employees on salary scales from Level 11 to Director General structured their own housing allowances. In the event of a divorce, an employee on salary level 11 to Director General would retain the benefits stated in their package. However, an employee at the lower levels, who did not have housing benefits during the marriage, would have to apply for a housing allowance.

Training on GEHS implementation aimed to address the problem of “warm bodies.” The DPSA training was a benefit to other departments’ human resources personnel, as they gained knowledge on assisting employees with their applications for housing.

Government Employees Pension Fund

Mr Abel Sithole, Principal Executive Officer: Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), briefed the Committee on the role and function of the Fund. It provides services for 1.3 million public servants and had R1.7 billion in assets. It was an independent body, which partnered with government bodies such as the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), to provide government employees with pension services.

Mr Jay Morar, General Manager: Employee Benefits, GPAA, briefed the Committee on the how the GPAA and the GEPF provide pension services, and its strategies for improving services. Its goals and objectives were centred on paying pensions out effectively, and the modernisation and administering of funds at the right cost. The GPAA administered the pensions fund held by the GEPF and the National Treasury. In order to achieve its objectives, it had developed six innovation strategies. These were decreasing the payment turnaround time from 60 days to 30 days, creating a paperless environment, implementing a self-service system, automating the benefit payment process end to end, and enhancing the client experience through innovation.

The Pension Case Management (PCM) and Benefits Payment Automation (BPA) projects assisted the GPAA with service delivery. These systems enabled government departments to submit benefit claims to the GPAA electronically, which it processed and paid out to the member. The PCM allowed government departments to pre-validate their information, which reduced the possibility of the GPAA rejecting the claim. The PCM project had an automated back-end system that ensured limited human intervention and quick online validations. This system had resulted in the GPAA improving its turnaround time for pay outs of pensions to members and increasing the number of employer institutions on the PCM system, from three employer institutions in 2015, to 813 employer institutions in 2017. In addition, 82% of the resignation claims logged on the PCM system had been paid out, and 76% of discharge cases logged on the system had been paid out to members.

Ms Kedibone Madiehe, General Manager: Client Relations Management, GPAA, briefed the Committee on the Agency's queue management and call centre management. It had walk-in centres across the country and served 98% of its members there. The queue management system had been implemented in 2017 and had reduced the waiting time of members. The GPAA call centres had integrated voice responses, which allowed a member to interact with an agent and conduct self-services over the phone. It placed a strong emphasis on the quality of services provided by its call agents, as these officials were key to ensuring smooth service delivery. She said that 92% of the calls received at the call centre were resolved by the GPAA and its agents.

Dr Cliff Ferguson, Head of Modernisation: GPAA briefed the Committee on the GPAA's self-service portal. The portal was driven by the “push and expectation” approach, which sees the GPAA sending out information to members via emails, while members provide information and interact with the GPAA. The benefits of the portal included improved service delivery, improved data quality, effective campaigns, cost cutting on printing and direct communication with clients. In the next financial year, the GPAA aimed to have self-service portals at the walk-in centres.

It acknowledged that not all pensioners liked to receive their benefit statements, tax certificates and payment advice letters via email. However, the new crop of pensioners were tech-savvy and were effectively using the paperless system. The GPAA was determined to reconcile these two pensioner preferences, and ensure that services were provided to both. The portal allowed pensioners to manage data and receive advice on how to manage their pensions. He gave the Committee a graphical representation of the self-service portal and demonstrated how members used the system.

Ms Madiehe said that the GPAA had main branches in all the provinces, and satellite branches in certain areas. During the 2016/2017 financial year, it had received 482 908 branch visits and 13 217 employer department visits. Its service delivery milestones included a 95% client satisfaction achievement, and the hosting of 818 pre-retirement workshops for members. In addition, the GPAA had achieved 761 mobile site visits, which had seen the mobile offices reaching members in rural areas. It had engaged with the Deputy Minister and the National Treasury to further improve its service delivery. In addition, it had worked with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to increase its co-location strategies. The GPAA had used various forms of media to drive its communication campaign and inform the public of its available services

Dr Ferguson briefed the Committee on the GPAA's anti-corruption campaign and its strategies to deal with hard and soft corruption. With regard to soft corruption, its system was able to detect and locate where data violations had occurred, and it conducted forensic investigations when data violations were detected. He gave a break down on its newly implemented data refinement process, which enhanced the quality of data received by government departments, call centres and at walk-in centres.

Mr Morar said that the GPAA's biggest administration hurdles included incorrect and insufficient documentation, client errors on the Personnel Administration System (PERSAL), the literacy of pensioners, technological challenges in implementing the new GPAA system, and client care turnaround times. The GPAA aimed to address these challenge through partnerships with government bodies such as the Office of the Premiers, and the Directors General of government departments.

Discussion

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that at a previous meeting, the PSC had revealed that the staff from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) reported unfair labour practices to another entity. Her constituency was the deaf community, and deaf teachers and teaching assistants faced particular challenges. She asked if the GEPF and GPAA covered staff from the DBE.

She asked if the GEPF reported it performance and operations to the National Treasury. She congratulated the GPAA for going paperless, but was concerned about pensioners and members in the rural areas. These people may not have constant access to the internet or computers. Did it assist members to retrieve information from departments which may face particular blockages? She was happy to hear that the GPAA had an sms platform, as it made the Agency accessible to the deaf community.

Ms Van der Walt asked for reassurance over the safety of members’ pensions, or whether the pension funds would be used to bail out government entities.

Ms Jongbloed asked if the GPAA and GPEF were protecting the employees’ pensions. She asked for clarity about divorce court orders for employee’s pensions, giving the example of an individual in her constituency who had recently got divorced and had been ordered to give half of his pension to his former spouse. The order gave him 100 days to carry out this task. Unfortunately, the individual was not able to fulfil his duty because the pension office lost his documents four times. The member had asked Ms Jongbloed to intervene in the matter, and she had sent an email to Mr Morar and other officials at the GPAA. She lamented that she had not received any communication over this pressing matter, and that the matter should be resolved quickly.

Mr Khosa asked if the electronic submission of claims had negatively affected employees. The presentation had indicated that the GPAA submission system usually affected employers, but had not highlighted any challenges faced by employees. Was there the capacity to overcome this hurdle? He asked for clarity over the GEPF and Municipal Pension Fund (MPF), as some employees did not know where their money was. He had received complaints from individuals in his constituency over this matter, as they did not know whether their pensions were with the GEPF or the MPF. He said that if the GEPF was not in a position to respond to this question, the organisation must relay the message to the MPF.

He commented that some provinces only had main branches, and suggested that the GPAA should consider putting more satellite offices in provinces such as Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

The Chairperson said that the GPAA and GEPF were both government entities, as they were accountable to government structures. While the GEPF had a board, it was still a government-related body. She said that for future presentations, the Committee should supply the GPAA with key questions, so that the presentation addressed its concerns. This would enable the Committee to measure if its recommendations were taken seriously. She was concerned over the language used by the GPAA system, as it appeared to have made the assumption that everyone was fluent in English. The GPAA should have reported on innovations relating to language. She asked if the sms system allowed the member to text back to the GPAA or the call centre.

During the presentation, the GPAA had stated that it had improved its turnaround time. However, the Committee had not been informed of its previous turnaround time. She asked it for its specific turnaround time target and added that this target must factor in its duty to serve both affluent and non-affluent areas.

She asked for clarity over the pension of employees who were unfairly dismissed and later re-instated. How did the GPAA manage the pension of this person?

Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that the PSC presentation had indicated that in some instances, a pension pay-out was not given to an employee or the beneficiaries because the employee owed a department money. She suggested that the Pension Fund should pay out the claim, as it was a neutral party. It should not be subject to the influence of departments. She asked why the GPAA would withhold people's pensions in such situations.

GEPF responses

Mr Sithole replied that the GEPF covered all public servants who were employed in terms of the Public Service Act. Its governance and administration was regulated by law, and it existed as a juristic entity. The GEPF had a board of 16 members, of which eight members represented the employer, while the other eight members represented the employees. The employer representatives comprised of major employers in government, such as the Departments of Health and Police. In addition, two specialists who were appointed by the Minister, formed part of the employer collective. The employee representatives consisted of individuals appointed by labour organisations, an individual directly voted for by pensioners, and individuals elected by members of the armed forces.

As juristic body, the GEPF owned and managed a fund R1.7 billion, and no government entity could influence how it managed its assets. While the government owned the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), the GEPF instructed the PIC on how to manage its investments. The GEPF could not receive instructions from the government to invest in entities such as South African Airways. The GEPF currently had no interest in investing in SAA. However, if in the future, SAA was in a better position and requested the GEPF to invest in it, the Fund would independently assess whether it should do so.

He said that parties in divorce proceedings had to decide how the pension would be shared. The role of the GEPF was to implement the court order presented in the divorce proceedings. In the past, it had addressed this issue through the national treasury, which aimed to replenish the reduced benefit of divorced pensioners. However, there was confusion over the implementation of the system, and the GEPF aimed to change the legal framework for this order.

He said that the GEPF only dealt with one old municipality through the Soweto Council Pension Fund, and did not provide benefits for employees of other municipalities.

Mr Morar said that the GPAA aimed to implement a self-portal function on an sms platform by early 2018, in order to give members who did not have internet access or smart phones access to service. It assisted departments to address their blockages through offices visits and human resource forums. These activities were conducted through the client liaison office, which aimed to educate the various government departments' human resources personnel on the GPAA system and processes.

He would personally assist the member identified by Ms Jongbloed.

The GPAA had processes that allowed for communication between former spouses.

He agreed that there were some shortcomings with the GPAA’s national footprint, and the Agency was engaging the Ministry on improving its co-location strategy. It would prefer to enter into partnerships with existing government departments in the various provinces to increase its reach across the country. It aimed to have offices within the existing government departments or entities, as opposed to opening new offices. He added that the GPAA had 12 mobile offices, which provided satellite services.

He said that the GPAA did recalculate benefits for employees who were unfairly dismissed and later re-instated.

Ms Madiehe said that the GPAA had sign language interpreters for its road shows, to ensure that members of the deaf community got information about the GPAA’s services. It acknowledged that it needed more strategies to reach out to the blind community, as the current engagement strategies were focused at the one-to-one level. It had deployed engagement officers and client liaison offices to each government department to ensure that the needs of blind members were addressed. In addition, it advertised its

dates for deploying its mobile offices in the various provinces so as to raise awareness in the communities.

Mr Morar added that the GPAA had a complete benefit guideline in Braille for its blind members, and copies were available at the Walk-in Centre.

Dr Ferguson said that the interactive self-service system was still being developed. However, there were some options on the service self-portal which could be accessed and replied to via sms.

Mr Morar replied that the GPAA continued to work on the language used by its systems, as the only ones available were English and Afrikaans. However, its media campaigns were carried out in all official languages. In addition, all the documents prepared by the Fund were translated into all eleven official languages. He acknowledged that the GPAA had not complied with the Committee’s previous request for wider use of languages, and would in the future do so.

DPME: Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities

Mr Mpho Ndaba, Director of Mining Towns: Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). briefed that the Committee on the progress made with regards to the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities project. The project aimed to achieve the following development integrated outcomes:

  • To integrate sustainable human settlements;
  • To improve socio-economic conditions;
  • To improve the working conditions of mine workers;
  • To ensure decent living conditions for mine workers; and
  • To provide ameaningful contribution to the development trajectory of mining towns and labour sending areas.

Currently, the project addressed the development concerns of 25 distressed mining communities.

Integrated and sustainable human settlements

He described the progress with regard to. The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) and the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) were developing a human settlements housing and living conditions framework for the minerals and mining industry. For the current financial year (2017/18), approximately R900 million had been ring-fenced for informal settlements upgrading and human settlements delivery in mining towns. The DPME held the view that upgrading informal settlements was key to ensuring that basic services were given to communities while they waited for proper housing. Through public-private partnerships, these communities would be provided with water. sanitation and housing.

Socio-economic development

A support programme for local economic development practitioners had been developed by the Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD). The purpose of this programme was to assist practitioners to create alternative development programmes and provide employment opportunities. In addition, partnerships between the Department of Trade and Industry (Dti) and the Department of Rural Land Reform (DRDLR) had resulted in a clearing house model which assisted in the review of government funding applications for economic development projects.

Mine and health safety

He said that ex- miners were previously unable to receive their employment records from the Employment Bureau of Africa (TEBA), as they had to purchase these documents. This negatively impacted former miners, as they were unable to receive compensation for occupational diseases due to the lack of employment documents. The Inter Ministerial Committee for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities had decided to take TEBA to court over this matter. However, the court process was stopped, as TEBA had decided to freely release the information to the miners. TEBA’s action resulted in mine workers receiving compensation for occupational health diseases such silicosis, and gaining access to unclaimed pension and provident funds, which currently amounted R41 billion.

The DPME and the Chamber of Mines were working towards fast-tracking the pay out of unclaimed pension and provident funds to miners. In addition, the DPME had hosted consultative workshops for the fast-tracking of payments of unclaimed financial benefits to ex-mineworkers on 15 and 16 August 2017 to find innovative ways to ensure that payments to ex-mineworkers were effected speedily.

Integrated Sustainable Human Settlements

A total of 338 projects had been implemented in municipalities with mining towns. 187 501 sites and 265 271 units had been completed between the 2014/15 financial year and the period ending 31 March 2017, at a total expenditure of R4 billion. The DHS had contributed a large amount of money to ring-fenced funding. However, the DHS faced challenges in service delivery due to the lack of bulk reticulation infrastructure in the distressed mining towns.

Mr Joseph Leshabane , Deputy Director General: Programmes and Project Management, DHS, said that the Department had four objectives for the revitalisation project. The first objective was to upgrade the informal settlement in mining areas, which were rapidly growing and posed socio-economic risks. Secondly, the DHS aimed to put in bulk infrastructure in order to support municipalities. Over the past three financial years, the DHS had spent R3 billion to support municipalities in addressing the large influx of households to the mining towns. Thirdly, the DHS was working with mining companies to coordinate how to frame development in the mining areas. Lastly, it aimed to assist municipalities develop an area-wide human settlements plan.

Social development

Mr Ndaba said that numerous private-public partnerships had been established to provide alternative employment opportunities to people living in the municipalities of the distressed mining towns. These projects covered areas of retailing, agro processing, mining and services. In addition to the public-private partnerships, the DPME used the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) to improve the living and infrastructural conditions of municipalities such as the Matjhabeng Local Municipality. The DPME had been tasked by the Minister in the Presidency to intervene in the Mogalekwena Local Municipality due to the impact of the Anglo Platinum mine operations on the community. The mine was an open pit platinum mine and was surrounded by various small villages. The communities were affected by air and water pollution. The DPME had brought all the relevant stakeholders together to develop better relations between the mining houses and community members, to ensure safer living conditions.

Mr Rudi Dicks, Outcomes Facilitator: Economy Infrastructure, DPME, said that this platinum mine was a young mine and that future strategies needed to be developed for the possible relocation of the 32 surrounding villages, and for the diversification of the economic activities in the area.. These strategies would require consultation between all affected stakeholders, to ensure a positive result for all parties.

Working conditions and community health

The role of the DPME was to co-ordinatestakeholder support in ensuring health services, products and retirement benefits were made easily accessible to ex-mineworkers.

Dr Barry Kistnasamy, Compensation Commissioner for Occupational Diseases (CCOD), Department of Health, briefed the Committee on the services provided by the CCOD to former miners. The Commission was guided by occupational health laws and Workmen’s Compensation laws. Occupational health diseases in ex-miners workers included silicosis, and they were also affected by HIV and tuberculosis.

From 2010, the Commission had embarked on a transformation of its compensation system. The system had collapsed 30 years ago due to poor filing management and limited auditing of the Commission. It had developed an evidence-based system, reformed legislation and built consensus on approaches and interventions for miners’ compensation.

One in three ex-mineworkers were migrants, and the Commission provided health services for migrant workers in their home countries. The CCOD had established one-stop service centres in Mthatha and Mafikeng, and had satellite offices in Botswana and Mozambique. In addition, it had computerised systems, which allowed it to assess if a miner had a claim with the Commission.

Through partnerships with the DPME and private actors, the Department of Health aimed to retrieve unclaimed pension benefits for ex-mineworkers, as billions of rands in unclaimed pensions were yet to be paid out. In addition, the Commission had developed strategies to get ex-mineworkers into the financial system by deploying mobile bank services in South Africa and neighbouring countries. There were extensive tracking and tracing systems to monitor and locate migrant and local ex-mineworkers. The Commission aimed to use these systems to ensure that former miners received their compensation and pensions.

Dr Kistnasamy asked the Committee to allow the DPME to convene a joint meeting between the Departments of Health, Labour, Mineral Resources and the National Treasury. This would assist the Commission to gain access to data from all the departments.

He added that the CCOD had a programme, which included unemployed youths becoming tracking and tracing agents for ex-mineworkers in rural areas. In order to upscale this programme, the CCOD aimed to partner with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to get more youth trackers in various areas. The CCOD needed assistance to reform legislation and grant ex-mineworkers access to finance services. It also required the Committee to assist in gaining access to shared databases in government.

Decent living conditions for mine workers

Mr Ndaba said that the role of the DPME was to ensure regulatory compliance and to steer the mining industry towards a sustainable development trajectory. It was guided by the principles set out in the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill and the Mining Charter. The implementation of the 2017 Mining Charter had been put on hold due to the pending court case between the Chamber of Mines and the Department, which was scheduled to be heard in early February 2018.

Mr Nikisi Lesufi, Senior Executive: Environment, Health and Legacies, Chamber of Mines, said that the Chamber of Mines had taken a conscious decision to improve the lives of those who had dedicated their efforts towards the mining industry.

Discussion

Ms Van der Walt said that Mogalekwena was previously her municipality, and that she was aware of the living standards of people in Mamojela Park, who were currently living on Public Works land. She asked if the proposed 600 units for the area were for the Public Works land, or for other pieces of land. She added that there was another emerging mine in the surrounding areas which had communities in close proximity, and this was affecting the health of households. Some children were dying because of the mining activity.

She suggested caution over the relationship and contracts established with the Housing Development Agency (HDA) for the housing development strategies in distressed mining towns. In Limpopo Province, the Democratic Alliance was taking action against the HDA, as it wanted to pay R80 million for a municipality with the valuation of just over R7 million. The DA held the view that corruption was occurring in the HDA and had assessed its contracts for the past 15 years. She warned all stakeholders that their engagements with the HDA should be approached with serious caution, as the Agency was paying irregular amounts for land and this had negative implications for access to good housing.

Mr Khosa asked if the DHS knew the minimum threshold for miners. How did mining companies track miners after their retirement? What were the successes? How many miners had not claimed their benefits? What was the strategy to address this issue? The CCOD had indicated that there were billions of rands in unclaimed pensions, but his view was that the CCOD did not know how to distribute the money to pensioners and beneficiaries. A programme in which forms were distributed to ex miners had suddenly been stopped. He suggested that the consultation process should reopen, but at a slower pace, as it had been rushed and failed. A high number of participants to the programme was inevitable, as many people were dying or had died due to mining activity. Therefore, it was important to conduct the process at a slow pace to capture information correctly. It was equally important to employ competent people to deal with the challenge effectively.

He asked how the benefits of deceased ex-mineworkers were assessed. He referred to the forms given to ex-mineworkers, and said that these forms did not acknowledge the benefit pay-outs to spouses or children. Illiteracy and technical skills were a challenge in mining industry. He asked about the role of the mining industry in the development of quality and relevant education in mining towns.

The Chairperson said that the mining industry did not need to be taken to court to be take responsibility. She replied to Ms Van der Walt’s comment on the overpricing of land, and said that one of the roles of the Committee was to monitor corruption, and the DPME must monitor the land deals and the verification process for ex-mineworkers’ pensions. The Committee had previously proposed that DPME give Members the forms for the ex-mineworkers so they could be distributed to their constituency offices. This would have assisted the DPME to have a wider reach for its programmes, as Members of Parliament had a responsibility to take care of issues in their communities.

She had expected the CCOD to have shown the Committee the transformation of its filing system. This would enable to Committee to measure what had been done, and who had been attended to. The distressed mining town project dealt with frontline services, and it was important for the Committee to know the state of frontline services in these affected towns. The Committee would try by all means to assist the departments to achieve their objectives.

Ms Van der Walt said that some of the mining towns identified by the presentation were the fastest growing towns in the country. The DPME and its partners should fight for bigger MIG grants, as these municipalities were facing a huge influx of people.

Responses

Mr Leshabana replied that the Comprehensive Human Settlement Plan (CHSP) which the DHS and municipalities were working on, ensured that the areas in which people lived were habitable, and were free and far from the dangers associated with mining operations. The CHSP also enabled municipalities to prepare spatial transformation plans and establish investment plans for infrastructure. He appreciated Ms Van der Walt’s comment on the need to get bigger MIG grants, but this was a small drop. The DHS had adjusted its minimum budget allocation to municipalities from R1.2 million to R20 million. However, the increase may not assist municipalities if they did not have an investment plan for infrastructure.

The cases in Mogalekwena Park and other areas should not be viewed through a single lens, as residents registered on the national housing needs register. When the DHS opened the register, it had found that residents had registered for housing in two areas. The Department could not allocate housing opportunities to applicants until they confirmed they no longer required housing at one of the registered locations.

The Housing Development Agency had been created in terms of the Housing Development Agency Act 2008. It was a public agency that was mandated to acquire land. Some provinces had mandated the Agency to find the best land at the best prices and to conduct technical processes. In other instances, provinces ask the Agency to conduct technical assessments of the land. Once price negotiations of the land were completed, the Agency acquired and held the land for the relevant province or municipality, and the gap in between the processes presented an opportunity for price manipulation. However, the Agency did not go out and look for inflated prices. The DHS monitored and scrutinised all transaction involving the Agency, and had developed a control system to investigate any alleged malpractices. He added that the DHS was joining the investigations into distorted land deals that cited the Agency as a party to the contract.

He said that housing subsidies were allocated to households that earned less than R3 200. Mine workers earned above this amount, and were therefore not eligible for these subsidies. However, there were other housing programmes available to employees who earned more than R3 200. The DHS continued to engage with mining companies so as to ensure that proper structured housing opportunities were available to their employees.

A DPME delegate replied that mining municipalities faced several challenges due to their low capacity to provide infrastructure, which affected their ability to develop long term infrastructure plans. In addition, it was difficult to attract and maintain infrastructural and business investment for mining municipalities. This placed a huge burden on municipalities to provide housing and bulk reticulation infrastructure. The DHS was unable to provide services due to the lack of bulk infrastructure in mining towns. The DPME was partnering with mining companies to assess the infrastructural capacities of companies, and how municipalities could feed off their infrastructure. In addition, the DPME had developed an intermediate cities programme with COGTA and the National Treasury. The programme consisted of an amalgamated fund for municipalities to address their specific problems. Municipalities had to meet the criteria for funding and were expected to report on their infrastructural developments.

Dr Kistnasamy noted the Committee’s comments on the need for integration between various departments. He said that the CCOD ran the post-retirement screening of ex-mineworkers and the programme was covered by the fiscus. Recently, the CCOD and the Chamber of Mines had come to an agreement that would see the mining industry fund this service.

He said that beneficiaries could claim from the CCOD, provided that the ex-mineworker’s details were on the CCOD system. However, he acknowledged that there were some problems with the system, particularly for migrant ex-mineworkers. By March 2018, there would be a better data capturing process for former mineworkers.

The CCOD had a computerised database, and would provide the Committee with information about its online databases.

Mr Ndaba said that programme mentioned by Mr Khosa had been stopped due to financial constraints. The programme had been underfunded and understaffed, as only three people processed the information provided by former mineworkers. The organisation which led the project had currently adopted an online database that comprised all the unclaimed pension and provident funds available in South Africa. The organisation aimed to create a centralised unclaimed pension and provident fund payouts in government so that pensioners could access their claims from one place.

Mr Dicks said that the DPME had had a workshop with the association of former mineworkers. This workshop had been the DPME's first engagement with the association, and the Department invited other stakeholders to address the problems faced by ex-mineworkers.

The DPME had learnt that the success of its interventions lay with its different partnerships and its ability to cut across government. There were specific interventions aimed at addressing the problems faced in open pit mining towns.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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