Department of Higher Education and Training Annual Performance Plan, with AGSA input

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

14 March 2018
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee received a briefing by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) on the draft 2018-19 annual performance plan (APP) of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).

They reviewed the process for the preparation, submission and approval of strategic plans and APPs, and described how they assessed the measurability and relevance of the indicators and targets planned for each selected programme.

The various shortcomings of the DHET’s draft APP were highlighted. These mainly included the lack of technical descriptions for most indicators, the duplication of targets, and the slow pace allowed for work to be completed.

AGSA also elaborated on their findings on the various Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). They drew attention to the lack of clarity in the functioning of the SETAs, and the challenges which they faced.

Members were critical of the fact that they were being briefed on an APP which they had not yet seen. They also felt that too much emphasis was placed on indicators which contributed only to facility management, rather than those serving the core purpose of the Department, which was to increase the qualifications of individuals. They also suggested the technical language should be toned down so that it was understandable to everyone.

AGSA responded that the Committee was being briefed about the APP beforehand so that the Members would be aware of the technicalities associated with it. This was just a preliminary analysis, and the main audit report was yet to come. They gave assurances that the technical language would be toned down in further drafts, and that indicators would be chosen to ensure maximum impact.

Meeting report

Draft APP of DHET: AGSA input

Ms Kgabo Komasi, Business Executive: Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) and Mr Joshua Baganzi: Senior Manager, AGSA, briefed the Committee on the draft annual performance plan (APP) for 2018-19 of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). They said that for the 2017-18 financial year, AGSA would be releasing a sector report, particularly for the education sector. It would focus mainly on basic education, and would cover all the provinces.

AGSA had reviewed the final draft of the APP, and the observations and findings had been communicated to the DHET to ensure that the plan submitted to the Portfolio Committee was in accordance with the relevant frameworks. It had also outlined the applicable legislation that directed how an APP should be prepared and became a base for their assessment, which included the National Development Plan (NDP), the medium term strategic framework (MTSF), the Framework for Managing Programme Performance Information (FMPPI), the framework for strategic plans and APPs, and National Treasury Instruction Note No 33. They highlighted the key Committee considerations when reviewing the APP, and briefly covered the review process for the draft 2018-19 APP and the reporting that followed.

Mr Baganzi said the assessment of the APP could be understood by making a comparison between the current year and prior year’s budget. Analysis of the allocated budget would indicate whether the targets were achievable. In this instance, it was apparent that the budget for university education for 2018-19 was 41% higher than 2017-18.

The review of AGSA’s findings on the Department’s draft 2018-19 APP indicated shortcomings in some of the programmes. There were no technical indicator descriptions, which were essential to cite the source of the supporting documentation when they submitted the APP.  In some programmes, they could not find how targets had been calculated.

The indicators affected by these findings were the headcount enrolments at technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and community education and training (CET) colleges, and the certification rates for these institutions’ qualifications.

The key focus area chosen for 2017-18 had been the TVET colleges, because they fell in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the NDP 2030. The challenge areas found during the implementation had been that skills projects were concentrated at selected TVET colleges, funds were not allocated based on the needs and priorities of colleges, and struggling TVET colleges were not receiving support. The projects being looked at for the revitalisation of the TVET colleges were bursaries, learnerships, internships, skills programmes, lecturer development and so on.

SETA Findings

AGSA had also discussed the Skills Education and Training Authority’s (SETA’s) role in the revitalisation of TVET colleges and mentioned the audit approach. This included a request for information, a review of the information received and sampling of the funded TVET colleges to be visited by the audit team. AGSA expected to finish the audit by the end of June 2018.

The main findings that came out of all of the SETAs were that either the indicators or targets in the APPs were not well-defined. Sometimes, the quarterly targets did not equate to the earlier targets. They also had issues that some SETAs having duplicated targets or indicators.

For example, the strategic objective annual targets of the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) did not correspond with the strategic objective quarterly targets planned to be achieved. Also, the technical indicator description for the following performance indicator was not in line with the framework regarding the method of calculation. The same was the case with the Education, Training and Development Practices (ETDP) SETA.

In the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) SETA, the nature and required level of performance was not specified, and the term “support” was not defined to indicate what the SETA was going to do on the rural development projects.

BANKSETA included the input in their APP, but they never included what the output on the completion of the project would be. In other words, they put in an indicator without a target.

In FASSET, most of the indicators were not well-defined. Some of the indicators were duplicated.

The the Local Government (LG) SETA, the methods of collection of data were not included in the technical indicator definition. Specific targets were not clear. The Insurance (INSETA) technical indicator descriptions were missing.


Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) thanked the members of the AGSA office for raising the issues they had. He had a problem with the DHET’s performance indicators. Bearing in mind that it had been recently criticised by the AG for not being productive and not putting the money they had been allocated to good use, some core issues appeared in the indicators. For example, in the case of SETA, how could one establish how many learners had been able to achieve a full qualification one level above their previous qualification for every million rand paid over time? That would be an indication of productivity -- whether over time the Department was moving towards greater outputs with the same amount of money, or regressing. He had not found that in any of the indicators. The core issue was that AGSA was inclined towards indicators which were focused on facilities management. Headcounts lacked clarity. Did AGSA think they could replace that nonsensical indicator by one that added value and clarity and was measurable, so that one would be able to track progress against time?

Ms J Kilian (ANC) remarked that as the AG’s office was conducting the reviews, it was important not to review just in a technical manner. The presentation had almost been along the lines of a “tick box” exercise. She urged the AG’s office to move beyond explaining what the impact was of poor performance targets being set, based on indicators set to do the monitoring. She expressed concern that the programmes of the Department were exhibiting either vagueness or improper target setting. It was as though they had these programmes, but they did not know what to do with them, and as a constituent, one could not allocate more funding to them because the impact from what had already been allocated could not be measured.

With tongue in cheek, she said she found it funny that the BANKSETA was not doing its calculations, and they helped people to develop banking skills -- which just went to show that one did not get value for money from the SETAs.

She could not see any reference to economic, effective and efficient management, and suggested not going through this performance analysis each year when it was just scratching the surface and not going deep enough.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) recommended that AGSA should tone down the technical language so that it was understandable by all in the Committee. It was unacceptable that the AGSA was saying that indicators had not been clear at this stage, as they should already have been corrected in the first quarter. He said that close monitoring of the entire training process was required, because sometimes lecturers did not perform and although they were doing training, the required results were not achieved.

Dr B Bozzoli (DA) said she was not sure if the Committee was being made a fool of, because they had not yet discussed the APP. She argued that if they had not seen it, how could Members criticize it, which made the criticisms that the AG was making meaningless?

Ms S Mchunu (ANC) agreed with Dr. Bozzoli that the APP had not yet been presented to the Committee.

Ms J Kilian said that on the understanding that this was a sort of a preview that they were getting, she needed confirmation that all these comments were included in the management letter, the findings were corrected and that the SETAs had corrected them as well. From AGSA’s experience and interventions in previous previews of  the DHET’s APP, did they see a trend that the Department was in a stage of improvement or deterioration?

AGSA’s response

Ms Komape first addressed the issue of why AGSA had come to the Committee now. They had come before the APP was presented, so that when it was placed before the Committee, they could take into consideration what had been discussed today. That was how AGSA supported the Committee, by giving them the time to get hold of the technicalities around that APP, which was why the presentation sounded technical.

She understood that there was a periphery that they should not be touching on. The AG realised that they should not be telling the Committee what should be prioritised. In response to the Member’s comment that they were coming very late, it seemed to her that they had come very early, because it appeared the calculations for 2018-19 had not even started.

She added that she did not take lightly the fact that AGSA could improve on the language so that it was less technical.

Regarding the question revolving around that fact that they had a systems auditor and a performance auditor, and that in their report nothing had been found that indicated value for money, she reminded the Committee that the 2018-19 session had yet not started. AGSA had just highlighted what they were doing now, and she hoped that by the time they shared the audit report, they would have answered the question. The intention was to share the approach and the angle they were going to take, so if there was an area that the Committee thought they should reduce or add on to, they should do that now.

Regarding the targets, when they considered the actions that were being proposed, they had realised that these were inadequate and needed to be stepped up. However, they were not doing an audit right now -- this was just a preliminary assessment.

Further discussion

Dr Bozzoli thanked AGSA for clarifying, but said it was still awkward having a discussion with AGSA when the Committee had not even seen the APP, because the Members may have ideas of their own. She also pointed out that some of the SETAs’ targets were to register people for quarters, and not simply to qualify them, and that was one of thei big flaws. Lots of people registered every quarter, but it was not necessary for all of them to get certificates. She questioned if there were systems to keep a record of results? Was that the responsibility of the DHET or the SETAs? Even if changes were needed, it was very important to have that data.

AGSA responded that they did take seriously the fact the indicators could be improved. The Committee was given an assurance that the Department took care that the targets were more impactful, and that they were implemented.

Ms Mchunu expressed concern over skills development, which was essential for productivity. She questioned why, in AGSA’s view, there were still so many young people who were not able to receive vocational training.

AGSA decided that would not respond to this issue, but would consider the input, as it was related to how they could broaden the scope to include skills development.

The Chairperson remarked that it had never happened before that an APP was not there before they started discussing it. Nevertheless, she felt that this engagement had been quite constructive and informative.  

Committee minutes

She asked the Committee to adopt the pending minutes for the meetings held on 28 February and 7 March. These concerned reports on its oversight visits to the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

The minutes were adopted without major amendments.

The meeting was adjourned.


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