The Committee met with the Department of Basic Education (DBE), accompanied by the Deputy Minister, and the Auditor-General of SA (AGSA) to consider progress made with the action plan to address the audit outcomes and findings of the 2016/17 financial year. The AGSA presented the reviewed draft 2018/19 Annual Performance Plan (APP) of the Department. The presentation looked at criteria used to measure performance targets and the AGSA’s identified findings communicated to DBE. The findings related to usefulness of the programmes, missing indicators, alignment, annual vs. quarterly targets, implementation of targets and inclusion of targets in the APPs of Provincial Education Departments (PEDs).
Members discussed the inclusion of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) in the APP, signing off of competency tests, concurrent functions and repeat findings.
DBE then presented the 2017/18 Audit Action Plan which comprehensively covered improvements made on audit outcomes and progress made on alignment between the APP and Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF).
The Committee questioned the confirmed database from the provinces, original contracts, what was meant by “debit balance” and how many Memoranda of Understanding would be extended beyond March 2018. There was further discussion on turnaround time for the filling of posts, falsified qualifications, employees doing work outside of the Department and special needs learners completing the curriculum. Members were concerned about learners from neighboring countries who were unable to provide birth certificates, the affect this had on admission to schools and writing Matric and if the Department was engaging the Department of Home Affairs on this. Members questioned inadequate budgets for meeting some targets, completed risk assessment, retention of payments for guarantees and performance agreements vs. job descriptions especially for principals. Other matters raised were reclaiming fruitless and wasteful expenditure, internal control deficiencies, school visits, learners funded at minimum level, transferring of the equitable share and learner transport. The Committee remarked that the meeting was a good base to move to the 2018/19 APP and to begin engaging on the budget of the Department.
The Chairperson remarked that there is a crisis in education due to the surge in violence at schools - in this regard she cited the incident in Gauteng which resulted in a viral video on social media. It is only one of many cases on violence which still needs to be fixed as a Committee and a Department. Previous meetings of the Committee on quarterly reports have been moved but this one could not be moved as it involves the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA). She reminded Members of the meeting taking place on Friday, 16 March 2018.
Mr I Ollis (DA) suggested that the Committee consult on the meeting scheduled for Friday to accommodate those Members attending the funeral of a recently deceased colleague.
The Chairperson agreed that the meeting will have to be moved and details will be provided at a later stage. She appreciated engaging with the Office of the AG on targets and audit outcomes and the comments the AG provides. This will feed into the Departmental Action Plan.
Deputy Minister of Basic Education, Mr Enver Surty, said it is important for the Department to work very closely with the Office of the AGSA to achieve outcomes the Department sets. He tendered the apology of the Minister due to a medical appointment. On the matter of the vital incident, it was discussed with the MEC who is dealing with it but the issue does require broader discussion. A good standard is not set in Parliament where there is undignified behaviour and this is where the youth receives this message. The election of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) at this time could be used. Discipline should be part of the induction of all SGBs. SGBs play an important role in the interface between the school and the community. Some initiatives on sex education and substance abuse have been implemented in SGBs to take place universally. This requires dedicated discussion.
AGSA Review of the draft 2018-19 Annual Performance Plan of the Department of Basic Education
Mr Eugene De Haan, AGSA Senior Manager, explained that the AGSA looked at the Draft Annual Performance Plan (APP) of the national and provincial departments of Basic Education for the following year so as to provide recommendations to the Department and the Committee to ensure the APPs are relevant and measurable. Basic education was looked at at national and provincial level to determine if provinces are aligned with the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). This helps the Committee with oversight, accountability and good governance. Four different areas are looked at when examining APP targets, namely, measurability, relevance to the department mandate, consistency between the department strategic plan and APP and presentation for national curriculum requirements. Consistency and presentation are excluded from this analysis because it is still a draft report. Findings for the draft report 2018/19 will reflect in the Management Report but not in the audit for 2017/18 because the plan is still in draft form for 2018/19. The 2018/19 APP was reviewed and comments were submitted to management which has taken corrective measures. The AGSA has however not received the final APP to ensure its comments are incorporated.
The Committee was then taken through the findings of Department of Basic Education (DBE) in terms of the number of usefulness findings per programme. Specifically in terms of the framework for strategic plans and annual performance, “each objective should be written as a performance statement that is SMART and must set a performance target the institution can achieve by the end of the period of the Strategic Plan. The baseline and targets must be expressed in terms of numbers. If a percentage is used, then the absolute numbers must be presented as well. Through our review of the draft annual performance plan, we noted that the targets that are expressed in percentages did not have the absolute values as required by the framework”. Further findings relate to indicators relating to HIV and Aids and DORA conditional grant not included in the APP such as number of educators trained to implement Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) programmes for learners and number of Learning and Teacher Support Materials (LTSM) on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) distributed to schools. Through the inspection of the APP for the 2018/19 financial year, the AGSA noted that some of the indicators are indicated as cumulative but the targets are not listed as cumulative under the MTSF period. Therefore, it is recommended that targets that are cumulative per quarter are clearly indicated in the Technical Indicator Description (TID).
Further findings were that DBE have been in discussions with Provincial Education Departments (PEDs) throughout the year and have started standardising some of the MTSF indicators and including them as customised indicators for 2018/19. PEDs have started aligning their annual performance plan to MTSF indicators but not all indicators are included. Some 2014-2019 MTSF indicator cannot be implemented as yet by the PEDs. This is because DBE is remodelling Annual National Assessments (ANA). In this regard, key milestones are not included in the APP of the DBE and therefore MTSF indicators are not measured for performance within the education sector. Performance measures in the National Development Plan (NDP) and MTSF are not translated into performance indicators resulting in poor alignment between the national and provincial departments of education.
Mr De Haan then touched on the MTSF indicators not included in the APP. Considerations for the Committee when reviewing the DBE 2018/19 APP included:
- Does the APP align with the MTSF?
- Is there a logical link between objectives, indicators and targets?
- Does the APP include all programme performance targets?
- Is each performance indicator well defined and verifiable?
- Are there technical indicator descriptions for all indicators?
- Are quarterly targets included for indicators hat need to be reported quarterly?
- Is there clear and reliable baseline information for targets?
- Is there overall alignment between the budget and APP? Is it evident and clear?
- Is each performance target specific, measurable and time-bound?
The Chairperson asked why ANA is included if it is not completely resolved.
Mr De Haan replied that the aim was to make a comprehensive presentation that included everything in the MTSF requirements for comparison purposes but if the Committee agrees ANA can be excluded until it is remodelled.
Mr Ollis said the difficulty in looking at statistics as a Committee is that the AGSA said ANA indicators cannot currently be implemented by PEDs – this was however contradicted later in the presentation where it was said none of the provinces or national department have included all indicators in the APPs. Those two facts affect each other. With the removal of ANA, it is difficult to see if PEDs have complied with some or all of the other indicators. The presentation was a high-level summary when the Committee required the detailed information. He noted the final APP was tabled yesterday – were all issues raised in the presented addressed in the final APP? He requested a copy of the final APP. He asked the Department whether principals and District managers have signed off on competency tests and if they have been included in the final report. It could cause conflict if the unions contested these tests.
The Chairperson said the APP will be presented to the Committee at a later date.
Ms N Mokoto (ANC) said that some issues raised in the presentation are recurring points. She agreed that percentages did not always give a clear indication of the targets. The Department should focus on its core function and put less emphasis on peripheral issues such as infrastructure. On the matter of concurrent function, she asked the AGSA how it expected the Department to respond to issues beyond its reach.
Ms J Basson (ANC) asked if there is a timeframe for corrections to be done. Did the provincial departments agree with the findings on the usefulness of their programmes? Did the AGSA report on findings made repeatedly? What support is given to the provinces when it is found that not all MTSF indicators are included in the APP?
The Chairperson noted that many of the matters Members touched on would be included in the presentation to be made by DBE.
Mr De Haan replied that ANA relates mainly to the national department. Where the presentation said the indicator was not included in the MTSF or APP, this referred mainly to the provinces. Because the implementation was actually done by the provinces, it was important for the provinces to have the indicators in their APPs. Issues such as infrastructure, although it is not the core function of the Department, were covered in grants received but there should be a report on this work. If other departments were functioning well, DBE would not have to build schools. This also ties in with why it is important to look at the DORA grant since both form a large portion of the Department’s budget. On concurrent function, there is a section on the Framework for Strategic Planning that includes concurrent functions and which is legislation imposed by the National Treasury. The DBE DG does not have any say over provinces but is encouraged to influence them so there is alignment to the MTSF. As to the timeframe for submitting corrections, providing recommendations on draft reports is a value added service therefore the AGSA must stay objective since the final APP still needed to be audited. It is up to the Department to incorporate AGSA recommendations although they are advised that if they do not follow through with the recommendations, it could lead to a finding in the audited report of the following year or it lead to the indicator not being measurable. The only matter that is repeated from last year is the exclusion of the MTSF indicators as well as the ANA process. Targets that are not measurable are a repeat finding. Provinces are notified upfront about recommendations made once the APP is reviewed – this strengthens provincial compliance with the strategic framework. It is then up to the provinces to comply and adjust the APP. When the Annual Performance Report (APR) is brought forward, the AGSA will criticise where necessary.
The Chairperson said that the onus is on the departments to use the recommendations of the AGSA – repeat findings show that the recommendations are not always taken on board. This is being addressed in Parliament. Repeat findings and departments not heeding the call of the AGSA, was problematic.
Mr Surty agreed with the Chairperson and said one way to deal with the issue she raised is to realise that for provincial offices, where budget oversight happens, the directive is issued through the province by means of a circular by the DG as an enforcement mechanism. This does not exonerate the DBE from conducting oversight but promotes cooperation between the AGSA and Department. The role the Districts were playing, and their evolution, was remarkable. Districts were divided in unfair ways with some having more schools than others, some having more responsibilities than others and no job description for District and Circuit Managers. However the Districts were able to evolve different policies and documents through meetings between District Directors and the national Department every quarter. District Directors have developed shared best practices and a network of support between each other. With regard to the principals’ competencies and the performance agreement, issues include the refusal of the biggest union to sign the agreement. Gauteng and the Western Cape have signed the performance agreements. In the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, there are chief criteria for principals which, when signed into law, will be binding to all. With regards to infrastructure he agreed with the AGSA and said it is a battle to get requisite agents with the ability to develop infrastructure. There also has to be consequences for inefficiencies. The Deputy Minister receives a narrative on a weekly basis to keep up to date with what is happening in provincial departments. Education is a concurrent competency but it is worth celebrating that it is more about education and less about politics and there is cooperation between MECs and the Department regardless of political affiliation. ANA is an important instrument for reporting back to the Presidency on progress and he had expressed his disappointment to all unions involved. The model has, however, been adopted and new indicators for this model must now be devised. The government as a whole needs a web-based system to provide reliable data so that the AGSA can remain up to date at all times.
Mr Hubert Mweli, DBE DG, noted responses to some of the questions of Members are comprehensively covered in the Action Plan presentation. It is important to remember the challenges at the nexus of concurrent functions. Despite writing circulars and letters, it needs to be considered that provinces do not report to the DG. It should also be taken into account that South Africa was still a developmental state which means that it is still working towards its goals. Performance audits are new to the AGSA and to the Department. He respectfully and humbly advised the Committee that the AGSA should not be made something it was not intended to be – he was worried about questions such as those relating to the “teeth” of the AGSA. He highlighted the case of the AGSA finding on fruitless and wasteful expenditure where the Department found the figure was in fact incorrect after an audit firm investigated – if the audit firm reached the same conclusion as the AGSA, the DG would have been personally liable for the costs. The AGSA was made up of human beings and so there would also be room for human error. He cautioned against losing the value of correction in the case of not being able to differ with the AGSA.
Department of Basic Education 2017/18 Audit Action Plan
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Chief Financial Officer, DBE, said the Department has addressed the audit outcomes of the Regularity Audit by developing the Audit Action Plan, which is revised by the Audit Committee and AGSA. Adjustments were suggested and made to the original document. Monthly meetings are also held with Implementing Agents (IAs) while the Deputy Minister also holds meetings beyond these with IAs. The Strategic Planning and Reporting and Internal Audit units work with all performance information reported and on verification, which happens continuously, to ensure information is correct. Recommendations in the presentation reflect the recommendations made by the AGSA.
Improvement on audit outcomes
-A recommendation on the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) commitment register not being reviewed regular enough was made. The Department is not yet where it wants to be in this regard. The reason for this issue is that the commitments were not captured per school and some projects were clustered. There are still indications of negative balances that are being worked on.
-Another recommendation was the monthly reconciliation of accruals which is now done. This was a standing item on the agenda of meetings between the Department and IAs. With accruals, IAs provide details of accruals at the end of the quarter. The process was initiated before 31 March 2017 and, although there are some errors, the system is improving. IAs have been requested to submit all the payment certificates issued by their professional service providers. This is a test for the matching invoice for said certificate to reduce errors in accruals.
-Another area of progress is in guarantees which will always be in the form of a policy paid for by the contractor or a retention package withheld on each payment made to the contractor. Shortcomings were identified and instructions were issued to IAs to provide additional detail such as proof that the guarantee is still active. IAs report on a monthly basis and follow-ups are made if information is outstanding.
-All MOAs were updated and extended and existing MOAs will be expiring on 31 March 2018. The Department is aiming to ensure it did not encounter the same problems.
-The Department was also found to take a long time to transfer assets completed in terms of section 42. This has been addressed through monthly meetings with IAs and action plans followed up and monitored. On section 42, the Department completed the final accounts for some projects while others are in the process of being finalised. The problem of wrong allocations is delaying the progress in schools but the matter will be resolved.
-The reconciliation of immovable assets is addressed by monthly reports of the IAs reviewed by the ASIDI PSU team leaders who then submit them to the ASIDI Project Managers for approval. Limitation of the scope on ASIDI projects was addressed by arranging with IAs to avail tender documents for audit purposes as well as the implementation of a document management system – the system is being finalised.
-Overstatement of recoverable expenditure and non-compliance with National Treasury regulation 11.2.1 were caused by four projects, incorrectly processed as donor projects, moved to departmental appropriation funds.
-Non-compliance with Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes by IA was addressed by appointing the departmental infrastructure officials to the IAs BID committees to ensure they follow the SCM prescripts. Supply chain policies are being reviewed to verify alignment with National Treasury prescripts.
-Understatement of intangible assets were addressed by all invoices received from SITA reviewed before processing to ensure a split between development costs and maintenance costs.
-Vacant key positions in the SCM, and other organogram related matters, mainly about the SCM Director, were addressed by completing the short listing process for the SCM Director’s post. Interviews will be held soon.
-Non-compliance with the requirements of Public Service Regulations during the appointment of employees was addressed by the Department drafting letters of appointment indicating that officials who falsified qualifications will be summarily dismissed and charges of fraud may be instituted against them. Requested verification reports from the State Security Agency (SSA) and SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) are often delayed because of the heavy workload at these institutions.
-Departmental policies and procedures not reviewed were reviewed during the current financial year
-Written quotations were not obtained when procuring for goods and services – DBE is confident this will not reoccur as proper procedures in procuring foods and services are being monitored and adhered to.
-Approval not obtained for performing remunerative work outside the employment of the Department was addressed through letters sent to newly appointed staff have whereby officials are requested to declare any outside remunerative work engaged in, even before they are appointed at the DBE. The DG has issued letters to officials concerned informing them of the need to declare any outside remunerative work.
-There was a finding of suppliers in which persons in service of other state institutions have an interest. DBE addressed this by allowing SCM practitioners access to the Department of Trade and Industry website (CIPRO Database) and Central Supplier Database by SCM practitioners to check if the owner/director of the company is employed by the state.
-In terms of risk management, risk assessment per Branch was conducted for the 2017/18 financial year. Risk Registers were updated and three risk committee meetings were held in the financial year for monitoring progress made and the process of risk management.
Ms Molalekoa noted that during the 2015/16 financial year, the AGSA found fruitless and wasteful expenditure on payment of stipends for volunteers to the amount of R44.333 million. During the 2016/17 financial year, the Department appointed an independent audit service provider to investigate the expenditure. It was discovered that from R44 million declared as fruitless and wasteful expenditure in 2015/16 financial year, R1.578 million was fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The report was presented and discussed with the AGSA. It was agreed that the R44.333 million be adjusted by R42.755 million. From the R1.578 million, R282 000 was recovered. Volunteers implicated in the matter did not participate in the 2016/17 financial year. In the last quarter of the 2016/17 financial year, the DG appointed an Internal Investigation Committee to look into the matter of fruitless and wasteful expenditure. The committee identified fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R11.157 million. From the R11.157 million, R7.208 million has been recovered to date. The matter is currently under investigation.
Progress on the alignment between APP and MTSF
A DBE official took the Committee through this portion of the presentation for the following MTSF indicators that were not included in the approved APPs for DBE/PEDs:
-proportion of principals who have signed performance agreements: an agreement has not been finalised but job descriptions are currently used for reporting purposes. The Department provided PEDs with a template for recording principals who have signed job descriptions
-percentage of learners who completed the whole curriculum: development of a new MTSF aligned PPM for inclusion in the APPs of PDEs for 2018/19. DBE is currently collaborating with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to develop a standardised Curriculum Coverage Solution to address this indicator.
-percentage of learners in schools that are funded at a minimum level: the indicator was now included in the DBE APP
-percentage of schools with full set financial management responsibility on the basis of assessment: the indicator was crafted for inclusion in the PEDs APPs
-percentage of schools visited at least twice a year by District officials (including subject advisors) for monitoring and support purposes: the indicator was crafted for inclusion within the PEDs APPs
-complete and consistent post provisioning policy and regulation being in place and proceeding with implementation and monitoring: the indicator is included in the DBE APP
-percentage of school principals rating the support service as being satisfactory: this indicator is based on an Improvement Plan. For 2018/19, the MTSF indicator is included. It is also crafted for inclusion in the PED APPs.
-percentage of District managers whose competency has been assessed against criteria: the indicator is included in the DBE APP
-clear roles and functions for District offices and minimum competencies for District officials: Collective Agreement No. 4 of 2017 has been signed in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) clarifying the job descriptions of office-based educators. The roles and responsibilities and recruitment and selection criteria for District Officials will now be used as a guide by provinces.
-inadequate monitoring control: DBE has strengthened or built validation controls (rules) to identify exceptions. Exceptions identified were communicated PEDs to strengthen them in terms of quality. PEDs report quarterly on the quality of data.
It is recommended that the Committee discusses the progress report on the implementation of the 2018/18 Audit Action Plan.
The Chairperson questioned the confirmed database from the provinces.
A DBE official replied that the database was received from the provinces. This served to strengthen and ensure what the national Department received from the provinces was a true reflection of the sector.
Mr Ollis asked what is meant by “debit balance” and why the National Department does not have the original contracts for 94 schools? What will be done in future to prevent IAs from signing contracts that the Department does not have copies of?
Ms H Boshoff (DA) asked how many IAs there are and how many MOAs will be renewed beyond March 2018? She was interested in seeing the progress report of the IAs to determine what has and has not been done. The limitation of scope on ASIDI projects speaks to tender documents that are not with the Department - what is the reason for that? What is the turnaround time for filling of posts? How many officials have been found to have falsified their qualifications? While all newly appointed staff sign letters of post assumption of duty, how many current staff have already signed these? She asked if it can be determined how the work of those employees who have signed but still do work outside of the Department was affected. . She suggested volunteers involved in the fruitless and wasteful expenditure case should be captured on a database so that those individuals are never appointed in the Department or provincial government again. How many special needs learners completed the curriculum? She asked to see that the process of alignment of the APP and the MTSF is being done for special needs as well. What is the possibility of engaging further with Home Affairs since parents from neighbouring countries are unable to provide birth certificates and these learners are not admitted into schools and cannot write Matric?
Ms N Mashabela (EFF) noted the budget is sometimes inadequate to meet targets - what is done to make sure that the following year’s expenses are covered such as transporting learners? Can more money be requested from Treasury? She asked for the scope of the LURITS and if it, being web-based, was able to be expanded it to the point where information can be conveyed immediately.
Ms Basson asked who gave the contractors the original contracts if the Department does not have them. Were these contracts in fact the original ones? On guarantees, where a certain percentage will be retained from the payment, she asked how long the Department will retain that percentage of payment. On performance agreement vs. job description, according to the indicator based on PPM 107, school principals rating the support provided and performance agreements are still outstanding – how would the principal themselves be rated? Whether the principal performed or not, he or she still received a bonus. How were these principals bound to performance?
Ms Mokoto asked if the risk assessment had been completed, what its findings were and what is being done on these findings. Is there adherence to the policy in the letter sent out by the DG on financial disclosures of interest? Why could the fruitless and wasteful expenditure not be easily reclaimed from the volunteers? Many issues in the presentation relate to internal control deficiencies - how has capacity been strengthened in order to adequately respond to the challenges? Is the internal audit properly capacitated to deal with this task in terms of the number of staff? What is the approach taken to deal with the action plans? Is the process reactive or proactive?
The Chairperson noted the inclusion of a new indicator that enables learners to share the same curriculum - this is a little bit problematic since the Department is still in the process of standardising the solution. This sets up PEDs for failure because nothing is measurable. Does the visiting of schools by officials twice a year tell us that there are some schools that cannot be visited at all? On the number of learners funded at minimum level, how are the provinces funding the learners?
Ms Mokoto noted that the AGSA said that the PPM in majority of the APPs was missing. Each time this was raised, in response it was said the Department did not control the provinces. What measures will be taken to ensure the APPs have the PPM included?
Mr Surty replied that the issue is tied with concurrent competencies which needs to be referred to the Constitutional Review Committee. Funding takes place is through conditional grants which the Department can control nationally in terms of performance. There was also the equitable share. With the equitable share, National Treasury provides the provincial departments with a globular figure over which the Department has no say and therefore no leverage. A conditional grant can be moved from one province to another so if the province fails to perform according to the Department norms, the Department sends a directive in terms of Section 101 (a) - that is the constitutional mechanism. Legislation has not as yet been finalised in terms of Section 101 or Section 139 so if the province relocates funds the Department has to take it up with National Treasury. When the Minister intervenes in terms of the Constitution and takes over the function there are no resources allocated to the national Department to provide financial support.
The second phase of LURITS is active. The first phase entailed capturing learners onto the system and ensuring the information is verifiable with the Department of Home Affairs. The second phase ensures that LURITS becomes more web-based so as to monitor the absence of educators and its effects on learners, among other things.
In the matter of measuring curriculum coverage, the foundation of the curriculum is the system of outcomes-based education. Educators have freedom in lesson plans, choosing textbooks and there is no uniform approach to these. Until the full capacity was developed for this to work well, there needs to be a standard minimum for every subject in every grade. Monitoring is in the form of the performance agreement. Legislation should cover that element. Job descriptions have been accepted since late last year. The job description is linked the work plan signed by principals and determines the kind of performance expected.
As claims of fruitless and wasteful expenditure were evaluated, one should look at the value of the claim. Depending on its size, it is pursued if there is a basis to do so. Charges of fraud have been laid and when people admit to it, a condition of the sentence should be that a certain amount be paid. In that way the court becomes a collecting agent.
Ms Boshoff asked if equitable share can be transferred between departments. If LURITS is now web-based and going to do so well, was the Department still sticking to the SA-SAMS or will it fall away?
Mr Surty said LURITS itself is an application to assist and not replace other systems. It is integrated into SA-SAMS.
Ms Mashabela asked, on equitable share, if the budget to provinces can be withheld until provinces do as the Department advises.
The Chairperson said that when it comes to learner transport, only when the budget for this is provided as a conditional grant will the work will be done.
Mr Surty responded that transport and education departments deliberate on the challenges of learner transport. There is a transport policy that seems to have many other issues attached such as the competency of drivers and the roadworthiness of vehicles, for example, which lies with the Department of Transport rather than addressing the core function of the Department of Education. He agreed that leaner transport should be made part of the conditional grant and said the matter would be taken up with National Treasury.
Mr Mweli agreed that dedicated discussion needs to take place on concurrent function and its implications on service delivery. Provincial-national concurrent functions not carried out reflect badly on the national Department and the Minister. Because IAs are being used to deliver school infrastructure for ASIDI in particular, it becomes necessary to have MOU with IAs. The contract with the contractor is between the IA and the contractor but the Department is expected to ensure that the IAs have all matters in place for when the audit happens. The payment and reconciliation of records was not done per project - money was transferred in terms of the ballpark figure for the number of projects expected to be carried out. Dealing with payment per project after the fact has shown where payment was made in excess of the required amount. There are ten IAs, which includes national and provincial Departments of Public Works. Turnaround time for the filling of posts is a maximum of three months but it may be longer if there are extenuating circumstances such as the security agency taking a longer time to vet employees. With the falsification of qualifications, the penalty is immediate dismissal. There is a database of volunteers who will be charged and will have to recover fruitless and wasteful expenditure. It is agreed that it was important to include special needs learners. Foreign learners are a challenge that is being tackled with the Department of Home Affairs. In some cases, learners come from outside the country just to collect stationary and textbooks. Equitable share and meeting targets is a challenge and although provinces are trying, the targets are still not met. Between 5 and 10% retention is only paid after the completion certificate is handed over and the snag list is fulfilled. The Department was looking into retaining a larger percentage to ensure that all the necessary work gets done.
Ms Basson highlighted that when visiting some schools that are less than a year old, these schools still have many faults – what is done in the case of the contractor receiving the money while the work done was shoddy?
Mr Mweli replied that it takes a year to three years to retain the retention fee - the school is monitored for that time in which the contractor must come back and fix shoddy work. A performance agreement has Annexure A and Annexure B - Annexure A is the job description and B is a work plan. If this is signed by the school principal a written performance agreement is not necessary.
The Chairperson replied that the argument is on the indicators where there was poor performance. She asked how these indicators will be amended for the performance agreement.
Mr Mweli said risk assessments for the last financial year have been completed and gives the assurance that the same challenges will not emerge in the current financial year. All managers are subject to financial disclosures of interest at the beginning of every financial year and if they do not submit these, measures are taken. On internal control, an internal audit was done before the AGSA audit was received which the AGSA said is a good measure. The approach to the action plan is proactive but if AGSA findings are not favourable they are reactive. Risk committee meetings meet regularly to strengthen risk assessment and internal control. Indicators still missing from PEDs will be resolved with the AGSA. He agreed with the Chairperson on the Curriculum Coverage Tool and will expedite the process of finding the tool. There are some schools that are not visited at all by District officials. Dysfunctional schools need to be visited more often but those who are self-managing may not require visits as monitoring can take place electronically. On schools that were funded below the minimum, norm specific details are not available at this point but usually there is an assessment for each individual province and those who do not meet the minimum requirements are written to and monitored.
Mr Surty said the issue of foreign students is huge because last year the country received 280 000 refugees from Zimbabwe alone. Schools accommodate these learners stipulating that within 90 days the parents must come forth with relevant documents. In the Eastern Cape it has been put forward that whether a child does not have documentation is irrelevant and the principal is obliged by law to accommodate the child. This opposes the Constitution which says that a citizen may leave and return to the country. Citizens have a constitutional right whilst foreigners do not have the same right. This needs to be regulated. Additionally, a retention fee cannot be held for three years. IAs agree that 20% is retained until the project is complete since 5% is inadequate.
Ms Carol Nuga Deliwe, DBE Chief Director: Planning, Research and Coordination, said that there are emerging issues that must be incorporated, such as national assessments, but for which there was no target. In the 2018/19 financial year, benchmarks will be established. The reconciling of past experiences and eliminating further recurrences in APPs should be applied in future.
Mr Mweli mentioned the issue of the conflict of interest with departmental officials sitting in the SCM committees of IAs as was raised at a SCOPA meeting - this is being checked with National Treasury although the Department’s view is that there is no conflict of interest. The money comes from the budget of the Department and those programs could be run in the Department but IAs are doing this on their behalf.
The Chairperson noted this meeting is a good base to move to the 2018/19 APP and begin engaging on the budget of the Department. The final APPs will be sent out electronically. The Friday meeting of the Committee would be postponed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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