The National Planning Commission (NPC) said the National Development Plan (NDP) goals for 2030 were to eradicate absolute poverty from the 39% of people living below the poverty line to zero, to reduce the unemployment rate to 6% by creating 11 million more jobs, and to significantly reduce inequality through a range of policy interventions. Poverty levels in South Africa had declined between 2006 and 2011, but had subsequently increased between 2011 and 2015, with the proportion of the population living below the lower bound poverty line increasing from 36.4% to 40%. However, the percentage of youths obtaining a National Senior Certificate had increased from 45% in 2014 to 56% in 2016. Life expectancy had increased, and infant and maternal mortality levels had dropped. The NPC’s current priorities included social protection reform, youth empowerment, the strengthening of rural and township economies, corruption, crime and justice, as well as proposals to revitalise the economy.
The Committee asked how the Commission did its planning, because there seemed to be no collaboration between it and other departments. What strategies were in place to ensure that the cost of living was reduced? They asked if the Commission would ever meet all the NDP targets, because the percentage of poverty and unemployment was rising, and there were concerns about it losing its credibility.
The Public Service Commission reported back on the request for it to conduct an assessment to establish the factors preventing government departments from achieving the employment target levels of 2% for persons with disability, and 50% for women in senior management service (SMS) posts. The reasons for failure to achieve the 2% target had been identified as being because the office accommodation was not conducive for persons with autism, and there was a lack of ramps and ablution facilities for persons with physical disabilities. No budgets were set aside for disability management and therefore no provision for assistive devices. Adverts were not drafted in Braille, the print media did not cover blind people, and government websites were not accessible to people who depended on “voice” to access electronic information. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) should take a leading role in ensuring that all existing frameworks were reviewed for purposes of ensuring alignment and success in the institutionalisation of succession planning, especially with regard to the representation of women and persons with disability.
The Committee asked why people with albinism were overlooked, because they had never worked, and got pensions, and they were employable. How was implementation monitored? What was the expected loss in productivity when reasonable accommodation was not given? A hotel group allowed 30 people with disabilities to be appointed and some of them worked better than abled persons, so there was nothing preventing the public service from appointing disabled persons.
National Planning Commission briefing
Mr Themba Dlamini, Commissioner: National Planning Commission (NPC) said the Commission was involved in key changes to introduce long-term planning in South Africa, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The first NPC had been established in May 2010 to produce a National Development Plan, based on a long-term vision of the future of the country (NDP: Vision 2030). It had taken a broad, independent and critical view of SA, consulted with, and drawn on the skills and expertise of, multiple stakeholders to build consensus and find solutions to key challenges facing South Africa. It had produced a comprehensive diagnosis of SA’s developmental challenges, and then compiled the NDP.
The NDP goals for 2030 were to eradicate absolute poverty from 39% of people living below the poverty line of R419 (at 2009 prices) to zero, to reduce the unemployment rate to 6% by creating 11 million more jobs by 2030, and to significantly reduce inequality from 0.69 to 0.60 Gini coefficient through a range of policy interventions.
Poverty levels in South Africa had declined between 2006 and 2011, but had subsequently increased between 2011 and 2015. The proportion of the South African population living below the lower bound poverty line increased from 36.4% in 2011 (18.7 million people) to 40.0% in 2015 (21.9 million people). The proportion of people living below the upper bound poverty line initially decreased from 66.6% in 2006 to 53.2% in 2011. However, by 2015 it had increased to 55.5%.
Economic growth had been sluggish, lagging behind the NDP target of 5% growth per annum by far, although growth projections for 2018 were optimistic. The unemployment rate had increased to 27.2% in Q2 of 2018, from 26.7% in Q1 of 2018. Unemployment was highest amongst the youth.
The basic education system was on an upward trend. The matric pass rate had improved to 72.5% in 2016, up from 70.7% in 2015. Trends in Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Southern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) scores were also on the increase. Bachelor passes had increased to 153 610 in 2017, from 150 752 in 2014.
The percentage of youths who obtained a National Senior Certificate increased from 45% in 2014 to 56% in 2016. Learner performance and retention were improving.
Overall, the health of South Africans was improving. Life expectancy had increased by six years, to 63.3 years in 2015. The population-based maternal mortality ratio had decreased from 158 deaths per 100 000 in 2015, to 154 per 100 000 live births in 2014. The institutional maternal mortality ratio had decreased to 138 per 100 000. The child mortality rate (under five) had improved from 41 deaths per 1 000 live births in 2014, to 37/1 000 live births in 2016. Over four million people living with HIV were receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy. 331 000 housing units had been delivered during 2014-2016, which was 45% of the 2019 target. Over 17 million beneficiaries were receiving social assistance. A total of 1.7 million children were accessing registered early childhood development (ECD) services.
Priorities of the NPC include:
- Defining fewer, sharper priorities in implementing the NDP -- from thousands in the government plans, reduced to 54 – to enable focus, measurement and accountability;
- Strategies to reduce the cost of living and the cost of doing business
- Social protection reforms;
- Proposals to revitalise the economy;
- Strengthening township and rural economies, and small businesses;
- Proposals on core infrastructure and state-owned entities (SOEs) in the fields of energy, water and transport;
- Youth policy;
- Transition to a low-carbon economy;
- Spatial development planning;
- Crime, corruption and justice.
Mr M Ntombela (ANC) asked how the Commission did its planning, because there seemed to be no collaboration between it and other departments. What causes this disjuncture? What causes the non-participation by labour? Since the NDP was the agreed formula to addressing the woes of South Africa, were there people who had been held accountable for not doing their jobs through consequence management? On crime, corruption and justice, had any justice been served thus far?
Mr D Khoza (ANC) asked what challenges the government had, and the priorities for each. On unemployment, what strategies were in place to ensure that the cost of living was reduced, and what had caused the instability in the public service? What was the PSC doing to ensure that NDP stakeholders were not left out?
Mr D Motau (DA) said that the NPC document could not lose its credibility, but the Commission did not have power. In instances where something was planned by one party and executed by another, it did not work out. The NPC was just a think tank that had no real power, and this was problematic. If the unemployment target was not got right, the country would be dead in the water. The government must find a way to ensure that the Commission was involved in implementation.
Ms W Newhoust-Druchen (ANC) asked how the Commission did its work. How did the work of the NPC feed into other departments? The Commission needed to devise a plan that went beyond 2030. Was there a year by year strategy of what would be done? On the percentage of reduction of poverty there was no major improvement -- was the population growth considered? Another concern was that the public did not know about the Commission. The NDP 2030 says that the disabled would be seen as equal citizens -- did the current Commission know about this document?
The Chairperson said it had been eight years since the Commission had been established, and it was left with 11 years. Would it ever meet all of these targets, because the percentage of poverty and unemployment was rising. The cost of living was very high, even for the middle classes. The performance of the rand was concerning, and the price of fuel was also rising.
Dr Chana Pilane-Majeke, Deputy Minister, Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), said that the Commission must remember that the country was faced with poverty and inequality. The apparent population explosion was frustrating systems like education, and the Commission needed to help the government with that. Also, how could one manage rising prices, because the people were suffering?
Mr Dlamini responded that non-participation was in the Energy Department. The Commission had to regroup and find out what had gone wrong, and organised labour had been used as an intervention. On accountability, the Commission was an advisory body, so consequence management was dependent upon the Cabinet, the President and the various departments.
Investors had an impact on the economy, so the confidence they had in South Africa needed to be uplifted at all times. However, the level of confidence was quite low. The key challenge rested with investor confidence. Local businesses did not invest in the economy.
The instability was caused mostly by the new leadership, because when there was new leadership there was a breakdown of relationships. The tenure of leadership needed to be extended.
On unemployment, South Africa was also affected by the global economy, so that if the international sphere went down, the rand reacted accordingly.
Population growth affected economic growth, so it was best to look at specific indicators such as mortality and the immigration rate to ensure that population growth did not supersede economic growth.
The targets would be met. All that was required was for all stakeholders to participate.
Mr Ntombela asked about the creation of sustainable jobs, and clarity on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), because people were trained but after three months of employment, their contacts expired.
Ms Z Dubazana (ANC) said that there was no alignment between the Commission and the medium term strategic framework (MTSF). Now that the problem had been identified scientifically, a way had to be devised.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen asked whether the Commission would compile a report its achievements thus far.
Mr Dlamini responded that every Commission writes a handover report of things it had done.
Public sector employment issues: PSC briefing
Ms Moira Martin: Commissioner, Public Service Commission (PSC), said that in March 2017, the Portfolio Committee had requested the PSC to conduct an assessment to establish the factors preventing government departments from achieving the employment target levels of 2% for persons with disability, and 50% for women in senior management service (SMS) posts.
In conducting the assessment, the PSC had collected information from national and provincial departments through a survey instrument, had a brief meeting with representatives of the South African Disability Alliance (SADA) in November 2017 to solicit inputs, and written inputs had been solicited from Disabled People South Africa (DPSA).
The reasons for failure to achieve the 2% target was because the office accommodation was not conducive for persons with autism, and the lack of ramps and ablution facilities for persons with physical disabilities. No budgets were set aside for disability management and therefore there was no provision for assistive devices. This resulted in persons with disability not being gainfully employed and capacitated through ongoing training. Adverts werenot drafted in Braille, print media did not cover blind people, and government websites were not accessible to people who depended on “voice” to access electronic information.
Officials were not mainstreaming disability into departmental plans, programmes and budgets of the government. There was a lack of understanding of the complex nature of disability areas, to the extent that invisible disability needs, such as for autism and other mental and emotional disabilities, were not recognised, understood and provided for in the work environment. There was a non-disclosure of disabilities by existing employees. Information from the Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) showed that in 2016/17, 44 273 officials using GEMS were on chronic medication for mental health issues, and this translated to 3.07%. The lack of disclosure, in some instances, resulted in some employees with disabilities being unable to perform their duties effectively, thus resulting in disciplinary processes and/or dismissals, whereas disclosure could have resulted in the employer -- with the assistance of qualified occupational assessment therapists -- assessing the capacity of the affected employee to work in different jobs or occupational categories.
There was a need to deal with the identified challenges at a systemic level and to shift the focus from ‘nominal’ representation to address entrenched and institutionalised forms of exclusion. To achieve this, the following recommendation was made:
A task team should be formed, comprised of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) as custodian of the human resources management framework in the public service, the Departments of Women, Labour and Social Development, and organizations for persons with disability, to develop a framework that would formalise the utilisation of organizations representing persons with disability to recruit, train and prepare persons with disability for the world of work. Once such a framework was approved, all departments should be compelled to use organizations for persons with disability in the recruitment process, as well as the training and broader empowerment of persons with disabilities to meet the equity targets, as well as enhance their ability to compete for jobs in the public sector.
The DPSA should take a leading role in ensuring that all existing frameworks were reviewed for purposes of ensuring alignment and success in the institutionalisation of succession planning, especially with respect to the representation of women and persons with disability.
Mr Khosa asked why people with albinism were overlooked, because they had never worked, and they got pensions and were actually employable.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen said that she was passionate about disability matters, and highlighted that there were a lot of good documents and policies, but something was hindering progress. The PSC 2002 and 2017 documents were exactly the same, so progress was not being made. How far was the Department with the directives issued in 2015? Since transport was an issue, could the provinces not be used to get people where they needed to be? How did one monitor implementation? What was the expected loss in productivity when reasonable accommodation was not given? Radisson Hotels allowed 30 people with disabilities to be appointed, and some of them worked better than abled persons so there was nothing preventing the public service from appointing disabled persons. The system had to accommodate such persons.
The Deputy Minister said that the disabled, the youth and children should never be forgotten. Gender machinery should not be excluded from the Commission’s reports. Issues of gender should be taken seriously and should be infused into the Director General’s (DG’s) key performance areas (KPAs). The President had removed the stringent requirements from the job applications of graduates. The youth should not be unemployed.
Ms Martin responded that based on what the Deputy Minister had said, recommendations should be strengthened and there must be sanctions for non-compliance. The people who needed to implement these recommendations must be pressured.
The Chairperson said that the Commission had not been created to implement, and if it were to do so, it would be stepping on another departments’ terrain. The Committee had to write to Ministers to find out why they did not participate. The Commission did not need to form a lot of task teams, because this matter needed DGs and Ministers. The DPSA needed to account for the 149 vacancies.
The meeting was adjourned.
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