SA Weather Services Board performance & interface with senior management

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

18 April 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Mapulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The briefing by the South African Weather Services Board was postponed to a later date. The following reasons were furnished. Among others, it was conclude that the board members were given sufficient notice to attend. It was also concluded that, if the meeting were to go ahead, it would not achieve its own purpose as scheduled. The Committee would like to have a conversation with the board of the South African Weather Services, assess the performance of the board, and to understand its interface with management, so that the Committee can come to certain conclusions. With only one board member present, it would be difficult to proceed with the meeting.

The Chairperson expressed his extreme unhappiness with the board. Since the Committee has started interacting with the board, it has picked up a number of instances which do not engender confidence. This is why the Committee agreed to interact with the board. The Committee will try to have this meeting again. If it does not work, and apologies are received that are not satisfactory, the Committee may have to subpoena the board. The Committee will assess the situation between now and the date that the meeting will be set. If there is the indication that the Committee will have problems, the Committee must then empower the Chairperson to liaise with the Speaker to issue subpoenas so that the board must come. For now, the Committee will just issue a normal invitation to the board and ask them to come to the meeting. A date will be identified in the programme, next week or the week thereafter.

The Chairperson continued that it is quite sad that time is being wasted when the Committee should be assessing the actual performance of the entity. The Committee gets diverted by the board, which was brought in to enhance the performance of the organisation. They have become a law unto themselves and intransigent.

Concerning the psychometric tests of Ms Julia Mphafudi, the Committee commented, it is not clear why the information is not shared to the Committee. The Committee is asking for information that was used by management to effect the appointment. It is management which asked for the psychometric tests, which was a requirement for further processing of the appointment. The allegation is that those results were ignored by the panel. The Committee would like to satisfy itself about this allegation that there were psychometric results which were commissioned by the organisation and they were given to the panel members. The allegation is that these results were ignored. The last time the Committee engaged with the board this question was not sufficiently answered.
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. There are three apologies that were received, namely, from the Minister, Deputy Minister and the Director-General. There is also an apology from Ms Ntsoaki Mngomezulu, Chairperson of the Board: SAWS, who is unable to attend the meeting because she is still recuperating from a surgical operation that she underwent the previous week. There is a list of apologies communicated by Ms Portia Matsane, Company Secretary: SAWS.

The Chairperson read the letter to the Committee. The following apologies and reasons were provided. The Chairperson could not make it for the above reasons, Ms Nani Mpamadiba, who will be in Switzerland, Mr Rowan Nicholls, board member: SAWS, who has a pre-scheduled business commitment, advocate Derek Bloch, board member: SAWS, who has a pre-scheduled medical appointment for 18 April, Prof. Elizabeth Mokotong, board member: SAWS, who has a pre-scheduled business commitment, and Mr David Lefutso, board member: SAWS, who has a pre-scheduled business commitment. The board and staff members who are attending the PC meeting is Ms Judy Beaumont, DEA Representative: SAWS, Ms Sally Mudly-Padayachie, board member: SAWS, Mr Jerry Lengoasa: Chief Executive Officer: SAWS, Ms Busisiwe Shongwe, Chief Financial Officer: SAWS, Ms Matsane, and Mr Loyolo Geza, Head of Human Resources: SAWS. Essentially, the meeting is being attended by one board member. Ms Beaumont is representing DEA in the Board. She is a board member, but technically she is part of the DEA contingent. Mr Lengoasa is a board member also, technically for this discussion he is part of management.

The Chairperson also highlighted that there is also an apology from one member of the Portfolio Committee, Ms H Nyambi (ANC).

Mr Z Makhubele (ANC) indicated that Ms H Kekana (ANC) had said that she would be at the meetings this week. However; last Friday, her children were involved in some accident. She will be joining the Committee next week.

The Chairperson highlighted, however, that there was no formal apology from Ms Kekana. 

The Chairperson continued that the Committee’s last discussion addressed allegations made by a whistle-blower about the SAWS board. This was dealt with extensively with the board. Out of that engagement, the Committee picked up there were serious issues with the board. Essentially, today’s meeting was to have a discussion between the Portfolio Committee and the entire board. Based on the above apologies, it is difficult to know how the meeting will proceed. A letter has also been received from the Minister regarding today’s appearance of the board. The Chairperson of the Committee was intending have a discussion with the Minister but this was not possible because she is travelling now. The Committee will proceed as it originally intended today and then as soon as the Minister returns the Chairperson will have a discussion with her. The Committee members need to indicate how best to proceed from here.

The second thing that the Committee needed to do was to follow-up on the outstanding issues that it asked from the board regarding the adjustment of the salary packages of managers, which is one of the allegations; and there was outstanding information regarding the psychometric tests of the person against whom there were allegations. The Committee asked to be furnished with this information so that it can satisfy itself completely about the issue. Members could pick up in the last discussion that there were some nuances that seem to suggest that the ‘smoke was not without any fire.’ The only way to get to the bottom of this is to consider a more elaborate process, which is something that the Committee will not consider at the present moment. Some of the issues arising were not without any merit. The Committee would like to close that chapter.

The Chairperson said he would have loved a situation where the entire board was present. It is going to be unfair that all the questions are directed to Ms Mudly-Padayachie as the sole board representative at the meeting. The ideal situation is to have the entire board present, so that the Committee can engage with the board. One of the questions which the Chairperson would have wanted to asked the board is why it is destabilising the organisation. The board is destabilising the South African Weather Services.

The Chairperson asked the Committee members whether the meeting should proceed under the current circumstances? There is a report of the salary structure which management can present. The Committee does not have the results of the psychometric tests because the person involved has declined to make that information available. Was the information for the individual or for the organisation? If it is the organisation that requested that process, the results must go to the organisation unless if that process was not an organisational process, it was for the individual’s own evaluation.

Mr RK Purdon (DA) asked when the board members were notified about the meeting? Before the Committee tears into them, did they get fair notification? Many of the apologies stress a prior business commitment that the board member in question had.

Mr T Hadebe (DA) commented that this interface was called to have a discussion with the board because of the allegations that were brought to the attention of the Portfolio Committee. It would have made sense to have the board shed some light on these allegations that were levelled, especially because it points to the board’s interference in the stability of the entity. Not having the board here to be able to account and respond to the questions the Committee will be raising defeats the purpose of having this meeting with one or a sole member of the board. It would be unfair for Ms Mudly-Padayachie to answer for the other members who are not present, especially if the chairperson of the board is not present. The latter is the person who must be accountable to the board. Not only the Chairperson, but all the board members needed to be here. There is a problem in dealing only with one individual. It is also very strange that the individual does not want to disclose the records of the psychometric tests. It is likely the information was shared not only with the panel that did the interview, but also with the board. Moreover, that information was paid for by the taxpayers of this country. She cannot say she does not want the information disclosed if it was paid for by the South African Weather Services. We are the employer as well. Therefore, the Committee is entitled to that information. 


The Committee, Mr Hadebe remarked, is given powers by the Constitution (section 167) and the National Assembly rules (section 56), which gives it the power to summon any person to appear or to give documents that the Committee might require to carry out its oversight role. This is the main concern about the whole issue. If there was an issue that was raised that there is a storm brewing over the entity, a spotlight needs to be shone on the issue to find out exactly what is happening. This entity has a lot of integrity and it renders such valuable services to the aviation as well as to the agricultural sector. Individuals who are appointed to senior positions have to have the requisite expertise and skills so that there is no negative perception of the entity’s role. The board needs to be requested to appear before the Portfolio Committee so that this issue is dealt with once and for all. There have been numerous allegations that were levelled and the investigations that were conducted by the entities were never even brought to the attention of the Portfolio Committee.

Mr Makhubele commented that a meeting is postponed usually on the basis of three reasons. Firstly, the people from whom the apologies were received were able to know that this meeting would go ahead or not. This is so as to prevent incurring unnecessary costs and expenses. Secondly, what assists the Committee to know whether the meeting goes ahead or not is whether the meeting will achieve its own purpose as scheduled. If it will not achieve that then there is no use in proceeding with the meeting. Thirdly, when the meeting itself is unable to achieve the purpose after having been sat as per the expectation, that is, if the report that was given during the course of the meeting did not satisfy the Committee, the Committee is bound to inform those who brief the Committee to go back and redo the presentation and come back. This Committee is mainly faced with whether this meeting will achieve its purpose or not, namely, the second reason. Even if the board said collectively that the representative can present the second point, as per the agenda, the issue becomes whether that individual will be able to account as an individual for all of that. The issue becomes, after the presentation, will it be fair for one person to be accountable for that entire report or not. The person is likely to be subjective. As members of Parliament, part of what Committee members do is search for objectivity. Some will falter in this regard while others will assist the Committee to arrive at an objective basis, whether what the Committee is looking for has some merit or not. If it is one individual, as is the case at present, it will be difficult to understand whether there is some subjectivity or objectivity in this regard.

Mr Makhubele further stressed that, if the meeting goes ahead, when the meeting will not achieve the purpose for which it was set, then it will have to change its status. The Committee can proceed with discussing the salary structure, but this will no longer be interacting with the board. Some of the questions, however, management, which is present at this meeting, do not have ultimate or sole authority to conclude on. The board may need to indicate whether they gave authorisation. In general, there have been instances where management and administrators will sit and think that they deserve bonuses and even pay themselves bonuses even before they present to the board. The board may later say that it did not sanction it and there is some trouble between management and the board. If management was to say that salaries have been adjusted and this is how and why it was done, in the end the board must agree with what has happened. Therefore, it is important to assess, first and foremost, whether the meeting will achieve the reason for which it was set. It is unlikely that the meeting will achieve the purpose for which it was set. Therefore, if it is to proceed, its status must change. The originally intended meeting will still have to take place with the board which addresses all the issues as set out in the agenda.

The Committee Secretary highlighted that the programme was sent to the DEA on 29 March 2018.

Ms Limpho Makotoko, Chief Operating Officer, DEA, said that the programme was sent to the entity on 4 April because there was the Easter weekend around 29 March when the programme was received.

Ms Matsane highlighted that, without contradicting the DEA, the board received the notification on 6 April and the board was notified the same day about the request for the entire board to attend the Portfolio Committee.

The Chairperson remarked that this was more than 10 days ago. In light of the apologies and the view of the members, which is shared by the Chairperson, the meeting may not achieve the intended outcome. The Committee would like to have a conversation with the board of the South African Weather Services, assess the performance of the board, and to understand its interface with management, so that the Committee can come to certain conclusions. The board is absent. The Committee does not want to start questioning the genuineness of the apologies, but the situation as it obtains now is that there is only one board member, who is not even the Chair of the board. It will be difficult to proceed with the meeting.

The Chairperson expressed his extreme unhappiness with the board. Since the Committee has started interacting with the board, it has picked up a number of instances which do not engender confidence. This is why the Committee agreed to interact with the board. The Committee cannot proceed with that part. In terms of crafting the way forward, it is quite clear that sufficient notice was given for the board member to attend. It is about 12 days to be exact. If one adds the days since the programme left to the DEA to the entity it is 14 days in total. Yet, the Committee has received all these apologies. The Committee will try to have this meeting again. If it does not work, and apologies are received that are not satisfactory, the Committee may have to subpoena the board. The Committee will assess the situation between now and the date that the meeting will be set. If there is the indication that the Committee will have problems, the Committee must then empower the Chairperson to liaise with the Speaker to issue subpoenas so that the board must come. For now, the Committee will just issue a normal invitation to the board and ask them to come to the meeting. A date will be identified in the programme, next week or the week thereafter.

The Chairperson continued that it is quite sad that time is being wasted when the Committee should be assessing the actual performance of the entity. The Committee gets diverted by the board, which was brought in to enhance the performance of the organisation. They have become a law unto themselves and intransigent. A proper discussion will be had with the board. It would have been better for the board to do the honourable things and just resign and spare the Committee of these meetings and engagements. The board is not assisting the organisation at all. This board has been appointed in terms of an Act of Parliament. They are performing a public duty and, in the process, utilising public resources. Nobody is going to tell the Committee that it cannot engage with the board when they are performing a public duty. The board must account to the Committee on what they are doing in the organization. The report is here, which management can take the Committee through. If there are issues raised, especially in relating to the adjustment of the salary structure, these can be escalated to the board.

Concerning the psychometric tests of Ms Julia Mphafudi Executive: Corporate and Regulatory Services: SAWS, the Chairperson commented, it is not clear why the information is not shared to the Committee. The Committee is asking for information that was used by management to effect the appointment. It is management which asked for the psychometric tests, which was a requirement for further processing of the appointment. The allegation is that those results were ignored by the panel. The Committee would like to satisfy itself about this allegation that there were psychometric results which were commissioned by the organisation and they were given to the panel members. The allegation is that these results were ignored. The last time the Committee engaged with the board this question was not sufficiently answered. How does the Committee come to a conclusion as to whether the results were ignored or not when it does not have the information? It is not personal information, but information commissioned by the board. When the board sends one to have the tests, the results do not go to the individual. It goes back to the organization which had the requirement.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee is asking the organisation to make that information available. If that information cannot be published anywhere else, members can also access that information confidentially. But it cannot be said that the Committee cannot have access to that information. The Committee wants the reports of all the candidates that were sent for psychometric evaluation. It is possible that the report may say that the candidate is not suitable at all? The organisation should not have difficulties acquiring this information because it is information that belongs to the organization. If the CEO cannot give the information in advance, he can bring the information to the Committee where it can be scrutinised. Parliament is entitled to access the information.

Mr Hadebe stated that, in terms of National Assembly Rule 168 concerning the Privilege of Witnesses, this information can be disclosed to the Committee, while not being made available for public consumption or used against the individual.

The Chairperson emphasised that the information can be brought confidentially to the members of the Committee. The Committee needs access to the information. The CEO can look at the Rules of Parliament and at what the Constitution says and bring the information. The entity has paid for the information in question. The Committee wants to close this chapter of the allegations. The Committee was satisfied with the answers it had received at face value. However, there are certain issues that are outstanding. Once the Committee receives the information from the psychometric tests, this allegation can be closed. In so doing, the organization can move forward. The Committee guarantees the continued confidentiality of the information that it receives. A date will be identified for a meeting with the board, when it will be interrogated.

After a few concluding remarks, the meeting was adjourned.

 

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