Department of Basic Education, Umalusi, SACE 2017/18 Annual Reports; with Deputy Minister

Basic Education

10 October 2018
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

 

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education was briefed by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi),  and the South African Council of Educators (SACE) on their annual reports.

The Deputy Minister for Education highlighted some items that the DBE could take pride in as a result of their efforts, which were not in its written report. These included the digitisation of textbooks, although one of the challenges they faced was connectivity at the schools’ level. Development training was needed for teachers to embrace information communication technology (ICT) and keep ahead of the learners. The certification of infrastructure completion was needed to meet the needs of the Auditor General (AG). A challenge in respect of the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) was the delivery was being accelerated beyond their ability to pay contractors, and they had had to slow down. He emphasized on the need to foster social cohesion and to promote dialogue on embracing the constitutional values of ubuntu, tolerance, respect, equality, equity and human rights. He also stressed the importance of teaching African Indigenous languages.

The DBE then took Members through the audit of its performance, pointing out key aspects such as the support of the register, the under-statement of accruals, the execution of the memorandums of agreement (MOAs), and non- compliance with supply change management (SCM) processes. They also mentioned the vacant positions which were to be filled, the policies which had been reviewed and the fact that the team would draw lessons from the Kha Ri Gude project..

Members raised concerns about financial impropriety, especially irregular expenditure. They asked about the disciplinary measures taken, the need for blacklisting and whether the Kha Ri Gude project should be ended. Other matters raised touched on the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS), information communication technology (ICT), school drop outs, poor performance and the benefits of centralised procurement.

Umalusi described its legislative, guidance and financial role, and took Members through its three programmes where there were only slight instances of under-performance on the role of quality assurance. An item that attracted attention involved a tender for renovation which had been awarded to a joint venture which had later been cancelled owing to issues of fraud, but only after R10.9 had already been dispensed. Umalusi indicated that the matter was being handled and efforts were being made to recover the money lost.

The SACE presentation focused on its Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) programme. They said that for the first time, the team had professional standards, something they greatly celebrated. Another key area was its role in dealing with incidents of misconduct and abuse against learners, where they had concluded 147 cases. The cases had mainly involved corporal punishment, sexual misconduct, unprofessional conduct, fraud, theft and financial mismanagement, and negligence.

Members wanted to know why so many cases were being carried forward from previous years, and were told disciplinary matters involved an elaborate process. Both SACE and the Committee were unanimous that corporal punishment should be non-existent.

Meeting report

Department of Basic Education: Annual Report

Deputy Minister’s introduction

Mr Enver Surty, Deputy Minister: Department of Basic Education (DBE), said that the role of the DBE was to achieve stability in education environment and that the DBE had by and large met the set targets, and all the details were indeed in the report.

He said that one key matter had to do with the Fourth Industrial Revolution with respect to artificial intelligence and technology. As a result of their collaborative efforts, one of the DBE’s achievements in which they took great pride included the digitisation of the contents of text books from Grade 1 to 4. This they had done without taking from the taxpayers’ money. They had entered into agreements with service providers which would make it possible for resources, information and data to be shared by all and sundry. The biggest challenge in this respect had to do with connectivity, but nonetheless they had achieved and exceeded a 65% connectivity rate and were hoping to achieve a 100% rate at least by the end of the financial year so that every child had access to information communication technology (ICT) and benefited from it.

He emphasised that there was a need to employ teacher development to complement ICT, because if teachers did not integrate ICT to the curriculum and learn to use the tools that were available, the opportunities that ICT presented may turn out to be counterproductive. The reality was that children were quicker and swifter to learn ICT matters and it was important that teachers were able to learn ICT as well. Teachers who did not embrace ICT may be disadvantaged and may not be able to convey information in a powerful manner. To this end, the 145 teacher resource centres, most of which were well equipped with highly sophisticated ICT facilities, should be utilised for teacher development.

On infrastructure, he said that he would talk about the challenges rather than the achievements, since the narratives of the achievements would be outlined by the Director General (DG) for which there was a report that they could be proud of, because of the progress made in that environment, which was very encouraging. Infrastructure had to be looked at through a different lens because when the Auditor General (AG) audited infrastructure, the audit team could not regard a school as complete unless a certificate of completion was provided. There were cases where, say, out of 13 schools which were completed, only a few had certificates of completion issued. This was because the schools may be completed, were safe for occupation and had even been occupied for many months before the AG looked at the environment, but the contractor was yet to issue certificates of completion. This was an item which Members would want to reflect on when looking at the report. Because of the non-performance of the Department of Public Works (DPW) in this respect, the Department, in consultation with other relevant departments and the Ministry, had made a decision to take over some schools and handed them over to the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). Agreements were then entered into with various service providers to work on the schools. There had been significant improvement in infrastructure delivery as a result. He emphasised that the Department did not just look at the reports, but also engaged the departments and stakeholders personally as a Ministry. There had been a positive impact even on other matters such as sanitation, water provision and electricity.

With regard to infrastructure, with respect to the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI) itself, the Department was faced with the reality of accelerated delivery to the extent that they did not have sufficient resources to pay for it. They literally had to slow down because unless they did so, they would still have a lot to do in the next financial year, but without the money to pay for it. They had made an appeal to the Treasury, indicating that they had financial constraints and asking for assistance. Should they get support from the Treasury, they would be able to achieve their targets and even possibly exceed those targets. In a nutshell, should they get the support, they would be able to deliver more than what they had projected for the financial year. The President himself had taken the responsibility of driving this process and they were able to convince stakeholders who, in general, had been very magnanimous, and in a fundraising exercise they had been able to raise a little more than R100 million in cash and in kind for the project.

They had dedicated resources from a provincial perspective as well as from a national perspective, and quite a considerate amount of work had been done, as would be seen in the report. The difficulty in the report was that it speaks of the 2017/2018 financial year, but there was a blank about the current year. The inclusion in the blanks, albeit just for a few months, would colour the report in a very positive way because it would show that actual work had indeed been done that did not require the intervention of the President. He urged that when the DG presented the report, he should reflect on what had been done up to now, including that work done for the months between the end of the financial year and now, to give Members a clear picture of the work done.

He then made reference to an event of the National Executive, where T-shirts were issued and photographs taken to commemorate the legacies of Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu. (The Chairperson, on a light note, suggested he should have brought some T-shirts for Members).  In the same vein, he emphasised the need to promote social cohesion, non-racialism and centralisation. He criticised the tendency, particularly in the education environment, to polarise rather than integrate and going by past practices, they had to confirm the reality on the ground. The efforts being made were in fact a constitutional responsibility to promote the values of ubuntu, tolerance, respect, equality, equity and human rights. These could be fostered, as students participated in activities such as moot court competitions, songs dedicated to the heroes and heroines of year to year, and tried to foster cohesion in a very serious way. These astounding events were hardly attended by or participated in by the minorities.

Members had to question why, despite the huge population of learners in the country, and given the extraordinary qualities of what it had seen, there were parallel structures for other minorities. In South Africa’s education dialogue, there was need to speak about decolonisation, non-racialism, equality and equity. It was a collective responsibility, as political parties and colleagues, to foster cohesion and integration through dialogue in accordance with the legs on which education stood, namely knowledge, skills and values and attitudes.

He also talked about the importance of promoting indigenous African languages. He pointed out that the DG would speak about how the Ministry had tried to work on this issue and that there would be no further delay in the application of it because it was critical and necessary that it was done.

Finally, he said there was an exciting opportunity embodied in the value of having a three-stream system of education. For the first time last year, grade 12 students had had the opportunity of electing their vocational studies from among structural, mechanical, electrical and technological engineering. The 27 choices for vocational training would be increased incrementally from next year. In light of this, what was reflected upon not long ago was indeed a reality right now. This was something to celebrate as an important step forward towards attaining inclusive education.

Audit of annual report

Ms Mulelekwa, DBE, said she would highlight the progress made by the Department from March last year to date. She made reference to the ASIDI commitment register, and said that the register was fully supported by the contracts with the service providers. She reminded Members of the issue of documentation previously, and said that the issue had now been resolved fully and all documentation was available.

She moved on to the issue of the under-statement of accruals, and said that in order to achieve competency and completeness of accruals, implementation agents were required to provide the authorised certificates by accredited professional service providers twice a year, for the interim.

Regarding guarantees, she said that implementing agents, through the DG’s infrastructure meeting, were required to provide the DBE with a report on the possible disputes with contractors/professional service providers (PSPs) that may result in contingent guarantees. The issue of contingent assets and liabilities had been resolved through engagement with the providers of legal services for various implementing agents.

All memorandums of agreement (MOAs) had been properly authorised by both implementing agents and the DBE. The dates when all the MOAs were signed and the dates when they would expire, were indicated.

An issue was that the Department took a long time to transfer the assets completed in terms of Section 42. The reconciliation of projects with approved final accounts to the basic accounting system (BAS) was performed before the transfer of the assets. The ASIDI unit was continually in the process of engaging the custodian at the provincial Department to accept the completed assets.

Regarding the reconciliation or update of immovable assets, a report on the asset/work in progress (WIP) split had been prepared and the asset register updated on a monthly basis.

There was an issue regarding the limitation and scope of ASIDI projects for which archived information was availed to AGSA, who were also permitted to audit some of the required information at the affected implementing agent sites.

There had been an overstatement of recoverable expenditure and non-compliance with National Treasury Regulation 11.2.1 for claims recoverable on European Union (EU) donor projects. In March, it had been reported that four projects which were incorrectly processed as donor projects had been moved to departmental appropriation funds. The EU donor funding contract had come to an end and there were no new projects related thereto.

The other problem was non-compliance with the supply chain management (SCM) process by various implementing agents. In addition to DBE officials being part of implementing agents’ (IAs’) procurement processes, the DBE was considering ways of holding IAs accountable for non-compliance to SCM prescripts.

There had been an under-statement of intangible assets of the Learner Unit Record Information and Tracking System (LURITS), the SA-School Administration and Management System (SA-SAMS), the National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) and the NSC. Invoices from the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) were split between development and maintenance costs as and when these were received and processed.

There were vacant positions in the SCM, and other organogram-related matters. Interviews for the position of Director: SCM, had been held but had not yielded suitable candidates, and the post had been re-advertised in July. Interviews took place on 4 October and appointments would be approved shortly. The chief financial officer (CFO) position had been upgraded to Deputy Director General (DDG) and was filled on 6 August. The posts of DDG Infrastructure, Chief Engineer and Quantity Surveyor had also been advertised and should be filled during the third quarter of 2018/19.

Regarding non-compliance with Public Service regulations, the DBE relied on verification reports from the State Security Agency (SSA), and these were often delayed because of the heavy workload at the Agency. The DBE followed up on requests to SSA, but this had not helped accelerate processes.

The report indicated that Departmental policies and procedures had not been reviewed. The policies had now been reviewed and this was reflected, even in the audit report. Some were reviewed annually and some were reviewed every second year according to what had been prescribed. The Department had also reviewed the petty cash policy to align with the increase in value added tax (VAT).

Written quotations had not been obtained when procuring goods and services with respect to the Kha Ri Gude project, which came to an end in the 2017/2018 financial year. Lessons learnt from this project would be implemented in future projects of the Department.

In human resources, approval was not obtained for performing remunerative work outside the employment of the Department. The recommended declaration already formed part of the "Letter of Acceptance of Post and Assumption of Duty" documentation, and a circular informing officials of the legislation and rules related to this issue had been re-sent to staff.

With SCM, it had been found that there were suppliers at which persons in the service of other state institutions had an interest. The Central Supplier Database (CSD) had been used, but it was not foolproof. Discussions had been held with the AG and they had advised that the Treasury should be approached to consider better ways of dealing with this matter. Discussions with Treasury were pending.

The consolidated risk report for strategic and operational risk had been approved by the DG, and all branches had submitted first quarter progress reports towards the action plan to mitigate the risk exposure.

The next issue was the proportion of principals who had signed performance agreements. An agreement had not been finalised by the Education Labour Relations Council. Job descriptions were currently used for reporting purposes and the DBE had provided provincial education departments (PEDs) with a template for recording principals who had signed job descriptions.

Curriculum coverage tools for mathematics and English First Additional Language for Grades 3,6, and 12 had been developed. Sampling guidelines were being developed to assist PEDs with the implementation of the indicator.

She pointed out that those were the performance indicators and the progress attained so far. She would now hand over to Ms Mula to take over.

Ms Mula highlighted the responsibilities of the audit committee, which included conducting oversight over internal and external audit during the year. It made recommendations in terms of improvement and conformity. It also served as the risk committee, because during the year they make a full risk assessment, directorate by directorate, and update the risk register wherein they highlight the different levels.

The activities that the audit committee and internal audit conducted throughout the year, as already indicated, included:

  • The risk committee met with the external chairperson.
  • It held three meetings during the year to review risk policies, strategies to ensure that managers owned the risk, and looked into communication in terms of the understanding of the risk management.
  • Monitoring of the risk action plans was done on a quarterly basis and internal audit validates reported process.
  • The audit committee held a workshop with the management and with AGSA where they reviewed the action plans and findings of the last audit.
  • The committee did an oversight with respect to the quarterly meetings that were held to review the internal quarterly report. The information was reviewed for the Department for all four quarters.
  • The committee also conducted reviews of the supply chain process and implementation agencies. This financial year, they would also be looking at ICT issues.
  • The committee also looked at the ASIDI procurement/SCM process at implementing agents, followed up on previous AGSA findings and internal audits, compliance with the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) on transfers to PEDs, the Second Chance Matric programme, the National Examination Assessment, and the distribution of exam papers. There was a review of the compliance tender process at the Technical Evaluation Committee for new ASIDI projects.
  • The committee held six meetings, and that this year two meetings had already taken place and one was coming up at the end of October.
  • The Audit Committee chairperson had held a follow up meeting with the ASIDI team on the audit action plans.

Challenges that had been identified included leadership oversight from the DDG level, and chief directors (CDs) and directors still needed to be strengthened for effective quality assurance;  capacity and leadership in finance and the supply chain had been enhanced by elevating the CFO to DDG level; prior audit findings had not beenaddressed fully; and effective follow up with IAs needed to be strengthened.

The internal audit also sat in monthly meetings, where the implementing agents provide quarterly reports and follow up was done, and questions were asked where control gaps were identified.

With respect to irregularities, the Department had a committee that looked into the investigations. One of the challenges faced in this respect included the late submissions.

With regard to ASIDI action, they intended to strengthen the risk management process, and an internal control questionnaire had already been issued for purposes of assessing the extent of controls that were in place. They would do a monthly reconciliation and monitoring in terms of the audit plan.

The Chairperson highlighted to Members that that was the end of the audit action plan emanating from 2016/2017, and they were now going into the annual report of the DBE for the 2017/2018 financial year.

DBE presentation: Annual report

Mr Hubert Mweli, DG: DBE, said the report confirmed that in terms of numbers, there was an upward trajectory in the DBE’s performance. He referred to the overview of the service delivery environment and context, and said the legislative mandate would isolate the National Educational Policy Act as the paramount legislation that guided policy, in particular Sections 3 and 8 thereof.

The DBE had looked at six areas, including:

  • Improving the quality of teaching and learning through development, supply and effective utilization of teachers.
  • Improving the quality of teaching and learning through the provision of adequate, quality infrastructure and learning and teaching support materials.
  • Improving assessments for learning to ensure quality and efficiency in academic achievement.
  • Expanded access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) and improvement in the quality of Grade R, with support for pre-Grade R provision.
  • Strengthening accountability and improving management at the school, community and district level.
  • Partnerships for education, reform and improved quality.

The number of bursaries awarded had increased from 14 343 to 15 134. Regarding the quality co-coordinating team, it continued to monitor the situation and support the other stakeholders who had helped the DBE to harvest order and stability. 100% of Grade R workbooks had been delivered to 100% of public schools, and for the workbooks, they had managed to increase the number from 56 million to 59 million. The number of employees who had attended training had also increased from 242 to 319. The number of promissory letters issued to students had increased from 951 to 1 216. The number of graduates who were placed in posts had increased from 67% to 89%. The number of young and qualified educators appointed had increased from 14 835 to 15 087. The number of teacher education programmes which were evaluated had dropped from 180 to 95. The number of educators signed up for participation in the Continuing Professional Teacher Development Management System had increased from 177 019 to 221 690. In terms of the Professional Learning Community (PLC), the number had remained the same from the previous to the current year. Teacher union collaboration through the training of teachers had increased from 89% to 90%. He emphasised that this was related to the problem of teacher development, and the five teacher unions in the Department had been doing well to supplement the teacher development programme.

The number of schools which had been supplied with ICT resources had increased from 44 to 704. The number of workshops supplied with equipment had increased from 223 to 236. The number of physical science laboratories supplied with consumables had increased from 296 to 1 020. The number of candidates had decreased from 610 178 to 534 484 for full time, and increased from 107 793 to 117 223 for part time.

The overall results for 2016, including supplementary exams, had increased from 70.7% to 72.1% and the results for 2017 had increased from 75.1% to 76.3%. The number of schools that the DBE provided with nutritious meals had increased from 20 300 to 21 227, and the average learners in those schools had also increased from 9 045 049 to 9 247 359.

Regarding the challenges and remedial measures, the DBE continued to pursue the policy on succession planning with respect to increasing the number of female official members, and also prioritising the appointment of female colleagues. This was an area that they were not doing so well in, but they intended to improve on it, and NGOs had been assisting in other activities in curriculum development.

Mr Mweli said the Free State (FS), KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and North West (NW) had not trained the ECD practitioners towards the national qualifications framework (NQF) Level 4 as required, and letters were sent to heads of departments (HODs) to address this anomaly. In the Second Chance Matric Programme, there had been delays in the rollout of devices, as indicated in the report. The Department was committed to ensure that the weaknesses which had been identified were addressed in the 2018/2019 financial year. Regarding teachers who should not be taken out of class for other activities, the time for capacitating teachers was still an issue affecting the number of teachers trained. The matter was being handled with the PEDs and teacher unions, with three months’ notice for programmes during school vacations so that the teachers would be made available. Collaboration and strengthening of partnerships would be intensified.

The performance programme was about providing administrative support to the other problems of the Department that were focused on the core business. The summary was in the report and the details of how the Department had progressed were all in there. It contained details of how the Department dealt with invoices and he would leave it to Members to interrogate the report. They had had an impact from Mpumalanga all the way to the North West, and there were interesting findings shared by the Portfolio Committee as they looked at the roles played by parents, coaching and training. Research had found that coaching made a greater impact, compared to the other two.

Programme 2 dealt with curriculum policy, support and monitoring. Communication played a very important role, including responding to inquiries, engagement with media advisers, interviews that were undertaken, and discussions in which some issues coming from the general public were addressed. The basic education sector quota had provided pictures as evidence in this regard, capturing the Minister and the Deputy Minister. These items would come in handy in terms of portfolio evidence.

He was very excited that the DBE and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) were beginning to find each other. They had had a number of engagements and there were very good efforts from both sides to begin to find each other. This was all to the benefit of the education and training system. Although they were two separate sectors, there was only one education sector for the country.

The core business of the programme was to develop curriculum and assessment policies, and to monitor and support their implementation. Most targets had been met, with only a few with slight under-achievements. A lot had happened in terms of improving education, and this included matters of the provision of ICT resources and the development of digital content, as evidenced by the opening remarks of the Deputy Minister.

Programme 3 was about promoting quality teaching and institutional performance through the effective supply, development and utilisation of human resources. The target on self diagnostic tests had not been achieved because certain unions had taken a hard stance, given the involvement of a particular company, which stance was taken up by Educational International, with which all the five teacher unions were involved.  Going forward, the DBE had developed its own self diagnostic tools, with help from a foundation. This had been communicated to the unions which had indicated their willingness to work together with the Department.

Almost all training activities had been carried out, either by the DBE or the provinces. This information had been accepted by the Auditor General, with certain recommendations. Teachers were encouraged to remain anonymous in order to encourage more and more participation from their end. For the next targets, there was no major deviation and the major achievements had been summarised in the report.

Programme 4 was about promoting quality and effective service delivery in the basic education system through planning, implementation and assessment. There had been a slight partial achievement which had to do with the provincial data warehouse having been rejected by LURITS. This was one area which had been qualified by the performance indication of progress. The DBE used the data on learner numbers to inform every other thing in the system.

For the national assessment of public examinations, what was of importance was that they had concluded the evaluation study on the diagnostic assessment, working with teacher unions. For the setting and moderation of question papers, they had presented extensive information in this regard. One area that continued to haunt them was the achievement of targets. He attributed this to the fact that historically, their targets were not properly informed. The difficulty was that the targets may be changed only after the medium term strategic plan. One could tamper with the technical indicators, but the targets remained the same. They were looking at changing the targets in 2019/2020, for which he hoped they would be to better informed.

He reiterated that more progress in ASIDI activity had been made compared to the previous years, despite the variances indicated in the report. After the five years, they would be able to work out targets with numbers that were better informed.

He highlighted the details of the report on matters of inappropriate schools, water, sanitation and electricity. Reflecting on the progress in terms of the different stages of each of the projects, they could report that out of the 367 projects that were to be implemented, 67 were at 24%, 64 were at 25% 10 were at 25% to 49%, six were at 50-74%, 20 were at 75%, and projects which were in construction were 100. The number of projects completed was 210. There were two schools in Limpopo which had been completed.

Programme 5 was about developing policies and programmes to improve the quality of learning in schools -- in other words, supporting the implementation of the curriculum. That was where what had historically been termed as ‘soft issues’ were found. However, these had now become hard issues, mainly because not enough attention had been given to them. Such issues included social cohesion and enrichment programmes.

He highlighted some of the activities that had been undertaken towards this programme, including the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools’ Cup national championships, mooting competitions, protocol for the prevention and management of corporal punishment incidents in public schools, and anti-bullying activities. There were care and support projects, including health promotion and comprehensive sexuality activities.

Mr Mweli moved to the financial appropriation. The DBE had been appropriated with R22.9 billion, of which all but R61.6 million had been spent, which amounted to a total of 99.7%, which was one of their highest performances. Some of what was under-spent had been in Programme 1 on administration, where R35.2 million was under-spent on the Kha Ri Gude project. He reminded Members that following investigations, payments to volunteers had been stopped, and savings had been secured. Programme 3 had been under-spent by R6.8 million, which they did not view as material. Programme 4 was under-spent by R15.6 million, and Programme 5 by R4.4 million. Overall, there had been healthy spending through economic activities. If he were to do a comparison, their performance this year was the highest in three years in terms of expenditure.

Regarding conditional grants for learners with profound intellectual disabilities, he reiterated that the major challenge was to do with appointment of multi-disciplinary teams of psychology where it was difficult to attract suitably qualified specialists, and it had taken a while before Treasury could agree with them that going forward, they could look at this matter differently and advise provinces to have a relook at their organizational structure. This was the main reason that accounted for under-performances. Certain activities were under-weighted and there had been budget cuts, yet they still had to pay for activities that were carried out although the budget had been reduced.

He reminded Members that over the medium term strategic framework (MTSF) they had lost about R7 billion from the money that had been allocated to infrastructure, which had had a severe impact on the Department. He acknowledged that Treasury would say that in the past they had not spent all that had been allocated, but they had now demonstrated the ability to spend and even gone beyond. He specifically mentioned that they had gone over 1.8% in ASIDI, thereby exceeding the money that was allocated, the reason being that projects which were not carried out in the prior years were continuing and they still had the responsibility to execute the programmes of the current financial year. These projects had been uploaded into the subsequent financial year and this created the ongoing financial trend. The expenditure of education infrastructure grants had a nice performance. Free State had over- performed and Mpumalanga had under-performed.

On the school nutrition programme, there had been a slight under-performance for which the main culprit was Limpopo, which had under-performed by more than 2% compared to the other provinces. On HIV/AIDS, he said that there had been a slight under-performance and they should have done much better. On technology, they had dropped from the previous year, the culprits being the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, and North West. The other challenge on ASIDI was owing to their inability to properly account for assets leading to accruals that were very difficult to confirm, and the rest of it had been explained in the recommendations of the BRRR.

As indicated in the BRRR, their weaknesses were around the built industry specialists. The ASIDI had been carried out on an ad hoc basis in the Department, and they were happy to announce that they had now taken a long term and permanent view in providing the requisite expertise towards infrastructure. By some divine intervention, the Treasury had allowed them to identify money from somewhere to appoint a DDG to oversee infrastructure, and had made available a chief quantity surveyor and a chief engineer. He was happy to announce that last Friday, they had interviewed for the post of a quantity surveyor and they had two specialists that they were recommending to the Minister for appointment. Unfortunately, they could not get people who were suitably qualified for the post of a chief engineer, and they thus had had to readvertise.

He was happy to announce that there had been a 75% reduction in irregular expenditure, and the reason was that they had exercised stringent fiscal prudence to the extent that if on did not follow the PFMA, the activity would not be carried out. The R154 million indicated came from multi-year projects, but if one looked at the last two years, no new activities were coming in and that was why irregular expenditure had been reduced by 75%.

For fruitless and wasteful expenditure, they had also exercised fiscal prudence, reducing that to almost zero. The R495,000 that was there was owing to the fees of engaging a legal firm on a matter relating to the award of a tender, where they had needed to get an instructing attorney to instruct a Senior Counsel to represent them. They had been of the view that that amount could be reallocated as irregular expenditure rather than as fruitless and wasteful, because it did not practically meet the definition of fruitless and wasteful expenditure because it was a legitimate activity. The Treasury had been of the view that this should be classified as fruitless and wasteful, but the DBE had maintained that the activity had been carried out, and the court had ruled in their favour.

Regarding performance information, programmes 2 and 3 were unqualified, but 4 had been qualified owing to LURITS and the number of district directors who had gone through assessment under that programme.

The Chairperson thanked the DG for summarizing and giving the Members a clear picture of how the Department had performed in the financial year. She commended it on its achievements. She indicated, however, that the DG’s tone had changed when talking about ASIDI. They would find ways to handle it. It pained even the DBE themselves to talk about all the other items positively, but differently on ASIDI, and she emphasised that everyone could feel that this was a huge task.

Discussion

Mr A Botes (ANC) made reference to the National Development Plan (NDP) programme, which indicated that by 2030 there were supposed to be 450 000 Bachelor degree passes, and the DG had broken this down to 300 000 by 2024. He pointed that in the previous day’s presentation, the DBE had indicated that they had not been able to upscale the number of fulltime – with the emphasis on “fulltime” -- capability of learners who sit for the National Senior Examination. This situation worried him because one of the issues that the Portfolio Committee needed to look at very carefully was how to prevent further bleeding of those who entered primary education and disappeared without finishing. Perhaps there was a need to formalise the early childhood education streams. There should be some form of a strategy to consider that the qualitative arm of basic education at the secondary level had been able to stabilize in the last five years. The performance of the DBE had been consistent and they now needed to upscale the completion rate for grade 12.

His second issue was on education grants for development with respect to the construction of new schools. There was a deficit in terms of funds that followed that function. Where funds were allocated for infrastructure, there was also an amount in addition which was allocated to operationalise the school. He therefore asked whether this function of constructing new schools followed or required new money in terms of the staff complement.

He also referred to professionl service providers (PSPs). A PSP in infrastructure presupposes some sort of engineering company, as it was a qualified and serious professional enterprise with a defined mandate to provide services that one was not able to contract through a normal supply chain process. However, where a situation presented itself where the mandate of the PSP in various provinces had been expanded to provide soft services, what were the services that did not fall within the core of a PSP mandate? For instance, no PSP should procure stationery services in any education department. There were soft services outside of the professional services that were being procured. There were some sister departments in provinces that were abusing PSP services for other irrelevant issues. It was important that when the DBE’s internal audit team did the DBE’s sampling, they should look at PSPs and the services that were being procured, because the issue of ‘after the fact’ investigations would not help, and it was important to prevent it.

The presentation had indicated that poorly performing contractors were either being put on terms or were being terminated. He said seriousness could be displayed only by blacklisting people. He pointed to the directive that said that where companies had defaulted, they were supposed to be blacklisted on the National Treasury database. When he was in Social Development, they had had the same dilemma, in that the sexual register was not updated. The DBE must make examples of those who did not take the government’s examples seriously. This followed from the Auditor General’s report and the Financial and Fiscal Commission’s presentation, where the example indicated that a grant had been 100% spent, but with only 29% deliverables. There should be no excuses accepted because at the time of budgeting, all these variables were in place, and this required the Committee to have an eagle eye so that they could assess whether this was a typical example of a rotten potato, or what the specific issue was.

He also said that he was happy to hear about the dialogue between the DBEt and the DHET.

His last issue was on what he termed “the triplets of financial impropriety,” of which the least serious was unauthorised expenditure, and he was happy that it had not been reported on, as it meant that it had not occurred. What concerned him was the move to institute disciplinary action over irregular expenditure. In his view, wasteful expenditure should be considered as a more serious transgression in terms of the PMFA than irregular expenditure, and should thus attract a heftier disciplinary or remedial action. However, irregular expenditure involved engaging in actions due to emergency and peculiar circumstances.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) said that the system loses about one million learners year after year. She was disappointed the DBE had received a qualified audit over a lack of documents and not being able to seek clarity on what it had achieved on the ASIDI project. She also expressed concern over the level of irregular expenditure, which stood at R1.7 billion. According to the AG’s report of the previous day, out of the four targets set, none was achieved, and she asked for an explanation. She asked about the procurement of textbooks, particularly for the North West Province. Why did the North West use central procurement? There could be all possible explanations, including that of economies of scale, but she pointed out that when a supplier in any procurement process hears that Government is involved, fees are escalated. She asked about the difference between the services procured by central procurement and other direct procurements, and which one worked better. She also asked why, if North West used central procurement and it was not working, there had been no change. It worried her that there were learners who were faced with examinations, yet they had not received their textbooks and were expected to achieve, even without resources such as desks and furniture.

She also asked about the teachers who were not trained using the self diagnostic tool, at a level way below the target set of 20 000 teachers.

Ms J Basson (ANC) said that even though there had been improvement and progress, performance was still an issue. The mere fact that for programmes 2, 3, 4 and 5, targets had not been fully achieved, pointed to something. When they got the report from the Auditor General the previous day, she had asked about the Kha Ri Gude issue and whether it was time to close it and let it rest because it was always ending up in a negative report. She asked whether it was still possible to get the 0.5% that was still outstanding. She asked whether it was time to consider making peace with living with irregular and wasteful expenditure. Was the any time that they would reach a clean audit? She referred to Programme 3, where the indicators shown under the diagnostics test with respect to physical education were attributed to teachers who were not participating. What measures or steps were being taken against those teachers that were not participating in a programme that was there to empower them?

The DG had mentioned that there had been remarkable progress on ASIDI, which was contradictory to what the AG had said yesterday. The AG put emphasis on ASIDI having a record of poor performance, including a mismatch of spending and service delivery; lack of an effective system for monitoring and controlling service providers; and inadequate management capacities. This was why the programme was performing so poorly. She was glad the DG had mentioned the appointment of directors.

She said that LURITS, which was part of ICT, was an area which the AG mentioned had been totally neglected. Even at the district level, the capacity was not there to monitor or to assist, and this led her to ask about exam readiness. Since it was clear that there was only one person tasked to monitor the whole district, was there any plan to capacitate the districts in this respect? There was no point in having the provinces filled with all the managers and directors, and the districts only had junior administrators that were not well capacitated, but had rather just been taken on because they were Grade 12s. Service delivery lay at the district level, and there was need to look at the quality of appointees who could assist at this level. This should be implemented by the end of this financial year on account of the huge backlog in the districts and regions.

Money had indeed been recovered on Kha Ri Gude, and this was commendable. However, she asked about the irregularities that had happened within the Department. One day, the people responsible for the irregularities must be named and shamed. She expressed concern that the report had not mentioned the culprits. This would have gone a long way in addressing the issue of the supply chain for which the irregularities had taken place, to question about how many culprits had been criminally charged and how much the Department had recovered.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) said the Deputy Minister’s (DM’s)opening remarks had referred to the fourth industrial revolution, and her concern was with connectivity. She asked whether the Committee could be given a report to indicate how many of the 15 000 schools that had been given access to broadband were in rural areas and how many other schools that had not been identified would be identified. She also expressed concern that there were not enough trained educators. She reiterated the DM’s sentiments that learners absorb more quickly because they were brought up with technology and they needed to ensure that teachers were on a par. She reiterated that effective learning could take place only in a safe environment, and referred to the strike seen recently with respect to violence involving teachers on teachers, teachers on learners, learners on learners, etc. There was need to see how the Department had reached out to stakeholders to address this issue, because if it was not addressed there would be more and more of it. The DBE had indicated it had met with the chairperson of the Child Protection Register to discuss ways in which educators who committed unwanted acts against children were listed on the register. She asked what these unwanted acts constituted, or whether this was to suggest that the DBE envisaged some form of consensual relationship between a learner and teacher as being acceptable. She also asked about what problems had been identified in getting the names of the perpetrators on to the register, and whether they had attached a timeline to correcting these issues.

She also made reference to the report where it was indicated that there were 47 schools that were monitored with respect to the implementation of the learning support system framework (LSSF). She asked about how many schools were still yet to implement this framework, because last year when the same question was asked, it was indicated that 40.5% of the approximately 25 000 public schools had not been trained. She asked whether this figure had changed. With respect to the LSSF, had the Department gone through it again to see if there could be gaps in the framework so that the challenges that could still be facing them could be addressed?

On the self diagnostic tests, she said that the low teacher training attendance was of concern and she asked what measures the Department had put in place in this respect. They could not allow teachers to get away without participating in this activity, as it impacted on the fourth industrial revolution. She said that the problem of the reading glasses must be taken to the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSMs), because many schools were not given enough support in this respect.

She said that while doing oversight, it was noticed that in the foundation classes, the teachers would sit with a book but the learners would not have books. She emphasised the need to ensure that every single learner was given a book or a copy thereof in the event there were insufficient text books. She asked about what would be done to curb the high rate of repetition among the male learners. There had been a significant progress with regard to the National Senior Certificate (NSC) and this commendable. However, of concern was the fact that so many first year students in varsities either dropped out they just did not complete the degree that they were studying for. She asked whether it could be that the low pass rate at the matric level was a contributing factor. The DG had spoken about a visit to Turkey and that they had entered into an agreement to focus inter alia on the curriculum. However, Turkey was taking away evolution from the curriculum from 2019. She said she hoped that they were not going to remove it from their curriculum because scientific knowledge was crucial and if removed, it would be to their detriment.

She said that the national curriculum framework had been versioned into 10 official languages and Braille, but there had been no mention of large print books and she asked for feedback on that. The report had indicated that there was lack of capacity to print Braille material, and she asked whether anything had been done to address the issue, including entering into an agreement with Pioneer printers.

The training of 31 deaf teaching assistants was a step in the right direction, but she would like to urge the Department to provide longer training sessions, because a week or two-week did not capacitate the teachers properly. She asked whether there were any such Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CTPD) programmes that had been developed. When would the second chance matric be offered to learners with disabilities? Noting that the DBE had only collaborated with the SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) to train teachers on multigrade teaching and multigrade toolkits, she asked why there was collaboration only with SADTU, yet there were many other unions. There were 15 000 young educators who had entered the profession. She asked where were they deployed, and what their fields of expertise were. She asked about the non-delivery in KwaZulu-Natal, and what the situation was of the dispute that they had with the supplier, and if it had been resolved.

She asked about the safety cases and made reference to a Bloemfontain secondary school where bricks had been plastered on to an asbestos structure, and only after photos had been given to the Gauteng Minister had they actually agreed that there was a problem. She asked who had authorised the repair or development of the school and whether anyone had been held accountable because of the dangers attached to asbestos buildings. If this happened once, it could happen again. She asked about the money allocated for the primary school in Massudi village in Limpopo. She said that considering it was an issue flowing from eight years ago, it was important to know what had happened to the children in the school as well as what happened to the budget.

Ms N Mokoto (ANC) commended the team for having improved on matters to do with the audit, and highlighted that the DBE had been able to make savings. Even for the irregular expenditure, there had been accountability in terms of looking at where the funds were going, which she appreciated. However, the action plan did not have timelines and going forward, timelines were needed because the programmes were overloaded with activities and without packaging work properly with timelines there were going to be problems like over-targeting. The Committee would continue to walk with and support the DBE to deal with the challenges that were there.

On accountability, she asked what actions had been taken against directors. Even if criminality was not involved, what action was taken? Had they been reprimanded, and did they receive bonus cheques, and if they did, what was the reason? There should be enough measures to ensure that people who were involved in this were properly disciplined. She referred to the underperformance of the implementing agents, which had been an issue in previous years and now.  What was the Department doing with respect to this challenge? Both the AG and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) had mentioned that this hurdle was preventing the Department from performing up to expectations. The FFC had talked about the need of Department to streamline accountability. Consultants in municipalities would do work, and when it was time to seek accountability they would be nowhere to be found. Had the Department considered the need to do away with the implementing agents and rather deal with the contractors directly so that they could have a hold on them?

She referred to the 3 558 schools which do not offer African languages, and asked why this situation existed. She previously thought that it was only because of a shortage of teachers. She asked about capacity constraints and poor monitoring which both the FFC and AG had spoken about, and what was in the pipeline to address this concern. While the Department had moved forward, there were those little things which made the Department regress with respect to unqualified audits. She also asked for an explanation as to why some schools were using an old version of LURITS instead of the latest version.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked whether there were any implementing agents that had been blacklisted and what it meant when they had been blacklisted. Did it mean they could not enter into any further contracts with the Government, or was it just blacklisting? She knew that the 20% retention fee had been increased, and she asked how far back they had gone on that percentage. What steps had been taken against those who had transgressed in terms of irregular expenditure, to ensure that the same did not happened again.

The Chairperson started by making reference to the renewed MOAs with the implementing agents, and asked what they entailed if they were to last until 2021. Looking at them, It was an indication that there was a problem with the implementation agents. Were these MOAs putting the DBE in a position that would not allow them to even change the contents, since they were compelling the parties to have them until 2021?

Regarding the digitisation of books, it was worthy to commend the Department. However, her worry informed by oversight proved that teachers in schools were not aware of these resources, even though the information was on the website. What could be done to make sure that the recipients were aware of these resources? The same applied to connectivity, in that there were some schools where despite them having the gadgets, they were not able to utilise them due to connectivity issues. She said that it was good to come up with a way to maintain and build on the 65% that had been achieved.

She then made reference to the presentation, where it was indicated that there was 98% coverage of SA-SAMS to the students, and pointed out that the Western Cape province was not utilizing SA-SAMS. She asked how this could be resolved, and how one could see that one tool or instrument was being used throughout the country. The same applied for PLC, as out of all the provinces it was only the Western Cape that had not done it.

On social cohesion, she said that indeed much had been done and done very well with respect to what had been targeted, but there was need to build up on that as such issues, soft as they may be, were denting the image of the society. On the training and development of teachers, she said that this was one of the imperatives of the NDP, and she emphasised that teachers needed to engage in the developmental programmes. She hoped the issue of ownership of tools for which teachers were not agreeing upon would be addressed. The NTSF was targeting 34% of Bachelors with respect to matric results, and they deserved to be congratulated over this since this was an improvement and an indication that the targets would be reached anytime soon.

She mentioned that the AG’s office had talked to Members about the issue of curriculum coverage and it had painted the DBE in bad light. Curriculum coverage was the core function of the DBE, and she asked the DG to address the issue. On the issue of the classification of wasteful and fruitless expenditure, she highlighted the issue of the DBE contracting the law firm, and said that they would like to see the office of the AG and DBE work together so that the reports issued would be issued with the confidence that the challenges being faced were being addressed together. To emphasize this point, she made reference to the previous day when the AG’s office had given an example given of a school built but not utilised was alarming, because the school was from her province of KwaZulu-Natal, and was in fact one of the best in the province. She emphasised that reports made and issued by whatever office should be accurate and informative, and that in future there should be no contradicting information in the reports.

DBE’s response

Deputy Minister Surty referred to the issues of tender, and said the DBE worked well worked well with the office of the AG. The task of the AG in relation to the audit was twofold -- monitoring the financial and fiscal rules that the DBE abides by and monitoring its performance and achievements in accordance with the performance indicators. It was in the performance aspect where the problem lay, because unless one understood the context, they tended to become very mechanical about it. He gave an example of the Eastern Cape and identified some of the unique elements about it, including that it had more unsafe schools than all the other provinces and that it had hundreds of schools with very low enrolments, and the reality as of now was that more than 1 000 schools had to be rationalised or merged.

Following their oversight process, they had discovered that there were certain ASIDI schools which should have been merged rather than having two separate schools within almost immediate proximity of each other so that the DBE would be able to provide better quality. The issue of merging and the closure of schools was one to be taken seriously, and Members were aware of the fact that these were not processes that occurred on the basis of an arbitrary decision by the DBE. Both the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape had learnt that the courts had directed that certain procedures had to be followed, including wide consultation. All stakeholders had to be informed and provision had to be made with regard to teachers and transport had to be made available. To this end, the Department had developed guidelines not only in the Eastern Cape but also in the Western Cape in order to ensure that when mergers and closures took place or when rationalisation occurred, this should be done in a way that was compliant with the framework provided by the courts. This in itself resulted in delays and therefore a decision to build had to be implemented immediately rather than waiting, which resulted in redundancy. The Department had sent out a dedicated team to assist the Eastern Cape in its rationalisation. That had been unique for that financial year, as contrasted with the previous financial years, which had been characterised by lapses in the execution of projects purely as a result of demergers, as well as, for instance, the implementation agencies.

There had been an increase in development. If the Department had folded its arms and done nothing about this reality, then parties or Members would be warranted to ask the DBE to be more proactive and exercise the oversight responsibility in a much more positive way. The Department had engaged at the ministerial level and at the Director General level with the DPW to see where the Independent Development Trust (IDT) was not performing. They could not continue to tolerate them making promises which they in fact did deliver on. They had been able to persuade and to reach mutual agreements to take away projects for sanitation and for the building of new schools from the IDT following a decision made at a meeting held with the Minister of Public Works. As for the outcome of the decision, he said that in the Free State, each one of the schools that had been taken over was now under construction.

Following this intervention, the other question to ask was whether there was a legitimate basis to accompany this extension of time, or if it had been because of the inability of the Department to fulfil its targets. He did not think the extension was being done maliciously. He gave another example of the issues of practical completion in terms of when the certificate of completion was handed over to the entity that was responsible. The certificate of completion was usually handed over at the end of the day when all the segments were completed, either by the quantity surveyor, the engineer or the supervising architect. However, the reality was that many schools were occupied for months and years after they were completed, but the contractor was yet to provide a certificate of practical completion. He said that the question arose as to why this happened, and he said that it was because the retention rate was so poor (5%). The Department had then made a directive that the retention rate be increased to 10% so that the parties realised that unless they completed, they stood to lose 10% of the amount that was due. The second directive that they gave was that where a contractor had not fulfilled its obligation in terms of issuing a certificate of completion, that contractor should not be allowed to build any other school in any other part of the country. Ever since, within a very short time, suddenly the certificates started coming as a result of the intervention. They now wished to appeal that the AG’s office take note of this reality and assess whether the intervention was correct, and whether any positive outcomes had been yielded and what the impact of this reality had been.

The DM also pointed out that the DBE would be able to achieve the target set of 50 schools, provided they had the resources, but without the resources, it would be difficult to achieve. The constraints the Department was facing were either financial or backlog matters. The solution here would not be to put the blame on the office of the AG, but for the DBE to inform the Auditor General of the challenges and proposals and written explanations as to the delays and for any inability to achieve the targets.

The Chairperson responded that the Department’s targets had been set with full knowledge of the resources that were available, and thereby limited resources should not be used as an excuse by the Department. The targets set could not be for R50 million if the Department knew that they had only R1 million.

The DM pointed out that despite the fact that targets were set with a full knowledge of the resources available, there was the other problem of a backlog which could not be escaped. The issue of the backlog had led to the Department exceeding its target. For instance, if 100 schools were under construction and the target was 50, the possibility was that out of the 100, they would be able to build only 75 schools provided they had the resources to pay. In order to address this, they had engaged the Treasury over the matter. These were matters which, going forward, the AG’s office had to take into consideration. The AG and the DBE had good working relations and while the AG’s office did not intend to undermine the DBE, the DBE also had a responsibility to draw such matters to the attention of the AG.

Regarding the issue of LURITS, he said that the AG would confirm that the DBE had not used any data other than that provided to the DBE through LURITS, which was the most credible source of determining what amount of resources were needed. It was a credible and reliable instrument which even the Treasury used for allocation. If, for example, the Western Cape said that their enrolment in the Province for Grade 1 had increased by 38 000, this information would be checked by LURITS. Through LURITS, it was possible to determine the learners, the schools in which they were, and the data that had been verified with the Department. All information was available through LURITS, making it a very reliable source.

The key challenge with LURITS was that of connectivity. He pointed out that in the Eastern Cape, in just four years, the connectivity rate had escalated to over 90%. They were working extremely hard with the Department of Telecommunications to ensure that connectivity became a reality in the education environment. They might be at 65%, but the problem was manifested in issues to do with bundles, speed and cost of data. They had made an appeal to Treasury to say that there should be no fee levied to the schools for education purposes. Digitization did not involve only digitized textbooks, but also multimedia voice over internet and that this content could be downloaded if data was available to all, and then the reality of a laptop being used as a textbook was real. He asked about the benefits of the connectivity, and said that there was a time when provinces could determine what textbooks they could use and there could be a range of textbooks in the Western Cape, in Limpopo, in Gauteng and so forth.

He said that the fact that migration took place from rural to urban areas and from urban to rural areas, a child who transferred schools at grade 6, going to grade 7, and who found him/herself with different textbooks and different curriculum, would be highly disadvantaged. The benefit of a uniform content was great and it was cheap. If one went through the country, one would find that the textbooks for science and technology for grades 5, 6 and 7 were universally used, and this could be attributed to the DBE. Another example was that one would find that textbooks for mathematics for grades 10, 11 and 12 were all uniform across the country, which was similarly attributed to the DBE. The provinces provided the quality of those textbooks, and the benefit of this was that it saved on costs.

Regarding the benefit of central procurement, the Western Cape engaged in central procurement and they benefited. The National Treasury had not taken away the savings from the Western Cape, but the North West, which was also going to do the same did not do so, had ended up paying more and providing less. In the provinces, the benefits of centralised procurement were huge. The Eastern Cape used centralised procurement which resulted in lower costs and more provision of books for the benefit of the schools.

Mr Surty said that the training rate with regard to teacher development was critical. He could not understand why educators were not undergoing training. They were looking into creating applications to allow teachers to conduct assessments of their content knowledge by themselves in all areas, ranging from mathematics to languages, and through this it would be possible to know what they could do to improve their content knowledge. It was encouraging to know that more than a quarter of a million teachers were now also undertaking the CTPD training.

With the implementing agencies, normally neither the Minister nor the Deputy Minister would get involved until an issue of under-performance arose. It was the contractors and the lawyers who were accountable for under-performance, and he would meet both of these in a bid to find out the cause of the under-performance. He gave an example of an implementing agent which they had interrogated five years ago, and the company today was one of the most reliable implementing agents. It had been able to engage with the civil engineer, the quantity surveyor, and today they were able to take on the responsibility which five years ago they could not do. He added that if a contractor was blacklisted by the DBE, such blacklisting applied to all other government departments.

On the issue of capacity, he said that the core function of the Department was to provide the curriculum as opposed to dealing with infrastructure. However, it was only because of the Department’s legacy that it was forced to look at areas that were not close to their core function. It had been providing assistance to the North West Province without remuneration to help it to get its system on track. They had had to utilise their own human and financial resources for this purpose. They had done so with Limpopo as well as the Eastern Cape. This did not happen gradually, and he pointed out that in fact the Eastern Cape had resisted and had been unhappy about the intervention.

On the issue of the Western Cape Province and the School Administration and Management System (SAMS), he said that they had come to the realisation that in order to have a uniform system and to access all the benefits therefrom, there had to be an alignment. It was only through this alignment of the system that the Western Cape would be able to access and benefit from what had been developed for the entire country. He said that education was politicised to such an extent that it did not matter whether one was from the Northern Cape or Gauteng or Limpopo. These were their children and their responsibility. Education was for all, and it did not matter where they came from or which party they belonged to.

Director General Mweli said it was rather worrisome that for two hours, the Committee had invested in posing questions on infrastructure, whereas the core business of the Department was on learning and understanding. However, although the matter of infrastructure was not the core business of the Department, he was not suggesting that the matter should escape the Committee’s radar.

The Chairperson responded pointed out that the Committee was simply posing relevant questions as per the Department’s set targets and the contents of the Department’s annual report. She indicated that the Department could not escape matters on ASIDI, and asked the DG to withdraw the statement.

After discussion, Mr Mweli withdrew his prior comment. He then pointed out that in the past, the Department had had similar problems with connectivity. The Committee had liaised with the Committee on Telecommunications and got all the role players under one roof. The Committee may want to consider going this route.

On the issue of irregular expenditure, the DG pointed that this had been as a result of unsigned MOAs. All contracts for which the MOAs were unsigned would be rendered as irregular expenditure. He outlined the procedure of handling such matters, which involved the conduct of investigations and thereafter making a determination. This determination included responding to questions such as whether the Government got value for money, and whether there was anyone to whom an undue benefit had accrued. After this, the reports of the investigations would then be forwarded to the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), after which action could be taken.

If expenditure was proven to be fruitless and wasteful, then recovery would have to be done as per the PMFA. He pointed out that of the R11 million, R5.9 million in stipends to volunteers had been recovered. The rest had been handed over to the Hawks and the Asset Recovery Unit to handle. In this case, the officials who had participated in not signing the MOAs had not gained anything and neither had the state lost any money, so the action taken against them involved issuing them with final warnings. There were various reasons which could result in irregular expenditure, including fraud, and the issue of unsigned MOAs was just a minor one.

On the question of fruitless and wasteful expenditure of about R400 000, the DG said that the Department had made a decision to procure the services of a legal firm or attorney, who were later to instruct a Senior Counsel to handle a legal dispute. It had been necessary to procure the services of the firm which had worked for the Department for a long time, and they enjoyed a strong, consistent working relationship. Even though the court had ruled in favour of the Department, the matter was now at the appeal level. Although the Treasury was of the view the R 400 000 paid as legal fees was fruitless and wasteful, this was not the case because it was necessary to engage the legal firm for purposes of consistency, as opposed to using internal lawyers. The DBE’s view was that the internal legal team would not have been able to deal with that matter. In his view, the funds should be moved to irregular expenditure, not fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

A lot of mishaps had happened during the audit process which had manifested themselves as irregularities in the report, and there was a realisation that the sector report had not been properly processed. He understood the role of the AG very well in this regard. However, before reports were processed, it was crucial to get word from the management on the issues raised before finalising them. They had even committed to getting back to the DBE to share the final version of the report before forwarding it, but this had not happened.

On the questions of who had been held accountable, he indicated that they would furnish details of actions taken, and against whom. He did not want to discuss matters of discipline in public because they had undesirable consequences. Previously, final written warnings had been issued.

For the Action Plan Review, he reiterated that the Department’s targets had been set at the beginning of the five years, and in between the five years they could not be changed. He pointed out that in the five years, a total of R7 billion had been lost from the money that had informed the targets at the start of the five years. The changes to the targets would happen only in the 2019/20 year.

The DBE was trying to improve in the area of expenditure and accountability. He knew of many departments where the Minister, Deputy Minister and HODs were trying to deal with implementing agents. The reason why the DBE had started implementing some of the projects on its own was because some of the agents could not perform. This was not the DBE’s place because they should ordinarily be focused on teaching and learning, because there were contractors that they had engaged.

The Provinces were generally committed to schools. He gave an example, of the Free State which was implementing its own schools. The Western Cape was the least implementing province and had the least number of schools. Part of the challenge was about the concurrent function of the constitution.

The MOA which the Department had included in the presentation provided better leverage to give the implementing agents authority over non-performing agents. They now had an avenue to even terminate services of the agent. The challenge was that in other provinces and with respect to matters outside ASIDI, the provincial executive council had taken a stand that only one implementing agent in the province was the DPW, and this pposed a threat of continued under-performance.

The DBE would be dealing with the issue of timelines in their annual performance plan.

They would get details on the school in Limpopo mentioned by Ms Boshoff, and would follow up on that and get details and intervene. The same applied to the school in Bloemfontain.

They would provide a progress report on the state of the printed books. Some of the core text books which were being referred to -- for example, the Maths and Science series  -- had been developed and printed through the state, and they were looking into improving that going forward. On the capacity to print in Braille, he said that there were two issues they were looking at, including the deployment of ICT and also to increase capacity. The Minister of Basic Education, together with the Minister of Agriculture, had put up a team together to look into this matter. To the best of his knowledge, the same had been done on the printing of large print books.

Mr Surty said that the Department worked with countries in other parts of the world, and he talked of a team that went to Finland and that there was a team going to the US next week.

Ms Basson added that in the Northern Cape, the DG had forgotten to mention that the DM had adopted and oral history competition amongst the learners. She was aware that the district director was in France and that he had received an award because of coming out top in maths and physics. She asked why France, and whether France was the donor.

Mr Mweli responded that the team was indeed in France. They had previously been to the UK last year, and had been to Finland the year before that. This was a strategy to incentivize by exposing the top performing district managers to other systems in the world that were working.

In response to Ms Boshoff’s question, he said that research had been conducted that had proved that the National Senior Examination (NSE) was a better predictor of performance than the National Benchmark Test, which was generally used by UMALUSI. There were many reasons why learners dropped out of school, including a lack of support and a lack of proper career guidance. Universities also had their own requirements in this regard. The DG pointed out that there was no reason why learners had to be subjected to the cut off marks regime (NSE), only to be required to do a further additional test in order to secure a place at university, and this was a reasonable concern.

The DBE accepted that the issue of LTSM remained a challenge in terms of 100% coverage. He reiterated the benefits of central procurement and said part of the problem with LTSM was to do with the question of whether it was really cost effective, looking at the economies of scale. The PFMA required that if one did not procure in a cost effective measure, an explanation ought to be given.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked about the spending rate in the North West, and questioned whether there were really no instances of people taking advantage on account of the government being involved in the procurement process.

The Chairperson also added that there had been an argument with the Department of Water and Sanitation, where the discussion had been about the Department having had to spend much more than they would spend in direct procurement.

In response, the DG said that the inverse was true. If procurement was done by individual provinces, this would be more costly on account of the economies of scale. Even in India and China, the government would tell providers what goods and services they wanted because they had the economic value. Buying in bulk was more effective, and it was not true that if one went individually one would pay a cheaper price.

To the best of his knowledge, the school safety framework had not been changed, but it could change in the future. 

On the steps taken against teachers who were not participating in the self diagnostic tests, he reminded Members that this was voluntary. However, from his engagements with official and the 5 teacher unions, he gathered that a company had developed a tool which it was administering. The unions had a problem with this company because of its involvement with private or independent institutions of education. With any organisation which was involved in privatizing education as a commodity that could be sold, Education International had taken a stand and influenced their numbers not to go for it. This had given them an opportunity to develop their own tools which would be owned by the Department so that they dealt with issues of who was involved and the relationships involved with the unions.

The DG said he accepted that the DBE should have reduced irregular expenditure by 100%. He identified the weaknesses in this regard as failure to properly account for assets, with some of them being uploaded late and some not being uploaded at all. The problems with the register had been accounted for by the AG. However, they were determined to get to a clean audit.

He begged to differ on the statement that the learner dropout rate was about 1 million yearly. The major problem as a Department was not the drop out rate, but repetition. The logic was that if learners did not finish schooling within 12 years, they were trapped within the system. This was why even through the progression policy, learners were able to move. There was empirical evidence showing that the drop out rate was between 12% and 14 %, and therefore the problem was repetition and not drop out. They would follow up on professional service providers.  The Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) did not make provision for teaching and learning, but rather for built environment experts such as quantity surveyors and engineers. He said that the three-stream model would help deal with the issue of dropout rate.

Another representative from the DBE responded to the Chairperson’s question on the contents and standing of the MOA. He said that the MOA was the document that guided the relationship between the two parties, including matters of payment, problem management, etc. The issue raised by the AG had been that the MOAs were not extended on time, so everything that was done during that time when the MOAs were not in place was considered irregular expenditure. When projects which, for example, were taken away from the IDT but were on retention, there might money that would be spent on those projects. If an MOA was not renewed, any transaction done under the MOA would be covered as irregular expenditure, and this was covered to ensure that they were not found guilty.

Another representative responded to Ms Boshoff’s question about what would constitute unwanted acts, and about the register. He said that the main problem with registers were that they were manual, and were thus very difficult to access. Efforts were in place and the CFO had been working closely with the DBE and the Department of Justice to ensure that the registers were easily accessible.

On the question of whether there was an implication that the DBE accepted relationships between teachers and learners, he said that this called for an obvious response. He acknowledged, however, that the question highlighted one of the gaps in the Education Act, in that it made it misconduct if one had a relationship with a child at the school, but in terms of the Children Act, if a child who had attained the age of 16 consented to sex, then it was not. This was an issue which they would look into.

Ms Boshoff asked whether educators who committed unwanted acts would be listed in the offences register. She also asked what the determination by the Department of unwanted acts was, and did this suggest that the DBE would say that consensual sex was acceptable.

Ms Basson asked for clarification on whether a teacher had a right to have a relationship with a child from another school, and what about if the child was underage. She also mentioned of a case where a teacher had a relationship with a child at a school, and because the child had been transferred to another school, the case had disappeared.

The DG pointed out that on Friday, the Minister had convened a summit of school heads to look at what had been happening and to come up with measures to address the issues.

Ms Boshoff asked whether the Minister would also look at the fact that teachers were being attacked as well, and there needed to be a mechanism for protection, because every disciplinary act had been taken away from them. Teachers had to be protected because they were looking after the future generation.

The DM mentioned that any sexual assault, sexual abuse, rape -- all these were unwanted sex. He said that the term “unwanted” had no legal definition, and he agreed that the nature of the act that was termed as unwanted should be defined, and it should either be a criminal or a disciplinary offence. He said that for instance, if one had sexual relations with a learner, they may not necessarily be criminally liable, but may be liable for having committed a disciplinary offence. Rather than use of the term “unwanted act,” they could use “illegal” or “prohibited.”

The DBE’s representative said that they would go back and get proper legal advice, and would then respond. The advice they had was that one could not have sexual relations with a child. However, if one was 16 years and older, they could consent to sex with anybody. He also acknowledged that Ms Boshoff’s question on the definition of unwanted sex showed that there was indeed a gap in the legislation that needed to be dealt with.

The Chairperson said that they were capable of staying with the Department for even two days and that they could never be able to exhaust all the issues in one meeting. She thanked the Department for the presentation and said that they would continue to advise and do their best to ensure that there was quality education, and said that there was room for improvement.

 

Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education (UMALUSI): Annual report

Prof John Volmink, Chairperson: UMALUSI, said the new Umalusi council had been appointed by the Minister of Education on 8 June 2018 for to serve for a four year term. He had confidence in the new council to take over and take the work of the organisation to greater heights.

He said that this year, Umalusi had worked very hard in meeting its legislative, governance and financial mandate. He was delighted to report that Umalusi had once again obtained a nonqualified audit for the financial year and this way, it continued to be a reliable quality assurance body for basic education in the country. The council would work very hard in collaboration with the management to ensure that set targets were attained.

Dr Mafu Rakometsi, Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi, explained the role of the council, which included responsibility for qualifications registered in the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Framework. The mandate included developing and managing a sub-framework of qualifications in collaboration with SAQA and the other two quality councils. The organisation had achieved its 17th unqualified audit opinion since its establishment in 2001, and were committing to working hard towards a clean audit.

The 67% performance in Progamme 1 had been as a result of late submission of performance management documents due to tight deadlines, and ineffective monitoring of internal control.

In Programme 2 (Qualifications and Research) an 86% performance was recorded. Umalusi conducts research and analysis and reports on quality within the General and Further Education and Training Qualifications Sub-Framework (GFETQSF). The reason for underperformance was because of challenges with quality assurance checks to finalise the datasets on time, which challenge they addressed by revising the description of the indicators to specify the final stage of datasets created within the prescribed timeframe. The 21 days had been redefined to exclude ‘waiting time’ for assessment bodies to provide supporting documentation.

In Programme 3 (quality assurance and monitoring), all targets were achieved. Its sub-programmes on quality assurance of assessment and evaluation and accreditation allow education and training institutions to apply to Umalusi to be accredited, and Umalusi determines whether they have what it takes to implement and assess their qualifications.

Regarding human resources, there were 131 employees against approved posts of 138. The seven vacancies (5%) were an improvement from last year’s 13%.  From a financial perspective, there were some prior year adjustments made involving a restatement for the year 2017; a correction of an error relating to post-retirement medical aid benefits; and accounting for retrospectively corrected comparative figures. For the current year, Umalusi had current assets of R61.6 million and non-current assets of R42.6 million.

The tender for the renovation of building 41 had been awarded to a joint venture with three separate entities. The project had started in May 2017 and payments worth R10.9 million had been made. Umalusi had become aware of allegations of fraud in the tender documents submitted, and upon getting advice from legal counsel, the contract had been cancelled. The matter had been reported to the relevant authorities, and they had engaged the services of counsel to advise and institute a civil claim against the joint venture.

Umalusi had an accumulated surplus of R42 million, and a revised budget for the four projects for 2018/2019 had been submitted to the DBE. The irregular expenditure was attributed to the building renovation tender not being in full compliance with the regulations. Upon investigation it had been found that no official was liable in terms of the law for the irregular expenditure, but a process of progressive disciplinary steps would be followed by management. Some SCM issues had been identified and recorded and would be monitored in terms of the continuous improvement plan.

Current issues raised by the external auditors included accreditation income recognition touching on reconciliation, irregular expenditure monitoring, contract management monitoring, and internal controls regarding the management of performance reporting. Management was already in the process of addressing these findings in the current financial year.

  •  

Ms Basson expressed concern that the supply chain was not following the correct procedures. She also asked about the quotation and issues of contract-management monitoring, and whether this was the role of the accounting officers. She asked why this problem was repeating itself. There were some internal concerns regarding management control. She asked whether the money lost was going to be recovered. Was the reason for the surplus R42 million because of under-spending, or because the budget was mismatched with service delivery? Were the irregular activities condoned by the Council actually permitted, and was this in contravention of the supply chain regulations?

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said she was unaware that there was a new council in place, and asked for clarity on this issue. She also asked about who appoints a new council. She was concerned about the unqualified report and budget inflation. On the issue of renewing contracts without following due process, she asked who had done this and what kind of reprimands had been carried out. Although the list of vacancies had been given, the roles were not very clear.

Ms C King (DA) referred to the funding which came from grants and the DBE, and asked whether there was any public private funding. Who was going to be held accountable for the R10.9 million irregular expenditure, or was it going to be condoned as well?

Ms Mokoto commended the team for their consistency in achieving an unqualified audit and even exceeding their set targets for the past 17 years. Going forward, the Committee wanted them to achieve a clean audit. However, she asked about the team funding additional activities that had not been planned for. She pointed out that for the first time, the Auditor General had questioned the financial statement, and asked about where the money had come from to fund the additional activities. Upon receiving the budget cut, had they adjusted the targets to match the funds available for the current financial year in order to find out whether the budget was realistic? She said that the AG on the previous day had for the first time questioned Umalusi’s financial statement.

Umalusi’s response

Ms Jacomien Rousseau, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Umalusi, addressing the question on the management supply chain issue, said that they had updated their policies last year and were now at the policy and improvement phase where they were asking where the gaps were, and where must they improve. With respect to the monitoring role, they had been were able to identify that one submission did not meet the requirement of National Treasury to be a deviation because of the lack of in-depth knowledge in SCM, which she said needed to be strengthened in the organisation. She emphasised that the finding on irregular expenditure had been that no official had been found liable in terms of law.

She said that there were a couple of steps which had to be followed in terms of condonation of irregular expenditure. First, an investigation must be launched by management to conduct an assessment to establish the root cause of the problem, which employee was responsible, and if the entity had suffered any loss in terms of value for money. For one of the contracts in the current financial year, everything was done correctly except that when the contract was signed, the provider was non-compliant, which act was an oversight. She pointed out that if nobody was liable in terms of the law, and if no loss was suffered, they could not take the money back from the employees. In respect of the joint venture matter, they were positive that they would be able to recover the money from the JV members. The court matter would be constituted not only against the JV member responsible for the fraud, but as well in the director’s personal capacity.

Regarding condoning, there were matters which the Treasury said was not in their power to condone and had sent them back to the council. Staff members had been called in to iron out some issues arising from supply chain processes and it was confirmed that nobody was liable in terms of the law and there had been no financial kickback arising from those transactions. They were working on strengthening their monitoring and contract processes.

Regarding the budget cut, last year a 2.5% budget cut was done at a lot of the Departments. At Umalusi, there was a R10.9 million budget cut over the MTSF period, and this amount was approved by the Cabinet. She pointed out the Umalusi was not registered for VAT, and the extra 1% was affecting their pockets. A couple of projects for the current financial year had not been done, and one of the capital projects being done in the current year was for the previous financial year. They would look into accommodating projects and how to be more economical and effective with the budget that they had.

In response to Ms King’s question, she said that they got their funds from the DBE, and they were not involved in any public private partnerships. Once a year, they looked to see if there was any unit that was under-spending and they factor in any accumulated surpluses, most of which go to the capital projects. Most of these projects had been put on hold last year when the budget cut came through with the understanding that if the same came through, they could be used for that without affecting their current operations.

She said that there had been a material adjustment in the financial statement from 31 May to 31 July. Revenue journals had been posted in the wrong period, as those which were supposed to be posted for April in the new financial year were posted for last year April, and this had had a huge influence on their revenue budget, and about R9 million had had to be corrected. This was because of a systems error which had been corrected. This was the first time that something like that had happened, and it had been reported in their annual report. The correct figure was in the annual report.

Umalusi aspired to get a clean audit, and as a quality assurance body had to lead by example and that despite the mishaps, people had to account.  It had no reason to have a record of unqualified audits for 17 years without moving to a clean audit. She urged the Committee to understand that despite the mishaps, there was still order and accountability at Umalusi.

Dr Rakometsi said that there were no links between Umalusi and the members of the JV. They were not co-operating, and that was why the matter had been taken to Treasury and their lawyers in a bid to reclaim the money which belonged to the South African public.

Their surplus was not because some of their projects were stuck or because of under delivery, but it was because they were frugal and not extravagant as an organisation. The building which was the subject of the JV matter had been paid for out of their reserves, and that they also wanted to renovate out of their reserves, so Treasury had allowed them to keep the surplus for those purposes.

In response to Ms Tarabella-Marchesi’s question, he said that the council was appointed by the Minister for Education. The Minister seeks nominations for persons with the requisite skills to come and serve on the council, through notices in the Gazette and advertising in the national newspapers. Those who meet the criteria in the Act in terms of the set of skills and competencies that were needed in Council are chosen, and thereafter the Minister appoints the members of council for a four-year term. This was a public process which everybody would know about.

Umalusi had suffered due to budget cuts, but even without the budget cuts, it was getting a pittance in relation to the systems that it had to quality assure. On exams alone, there were 600 000 to 800 000 candidates countrywide who they had to quality assure, which did not include only the DBE but also the Independent Examination Board (IEB), SAQA, and benchmark assessment agents. Examinations were not the only function that they fulfilled, as the system was big yet the quality assurance body was small and the pronouncements had to be made whereas the samples they had looked at was sometimes very small because of the budget that they got. He stressed that they had to expand their budget and their samples, so that their pronouncements could be made with authority. He added that private bodies did pay for the services offered by Umalusi as a constitutional requirement.

Prof Volmink said that as the new council was appointed to serve for four years, there would be some degree of continuity. More than half of the new council were new and they were very well respected people in their field. They had provided the new council with a handover report and had impressed on them the need to get a clean audit. He made reference to Ms Mokoto’s point, when she said that the council had been consistent but stagnant, and said the council would have to take steps to make sure that the officials were held accountable.

South African Council for Educators (SACE): Annual Report

Ms Ella Mokgalane, Chief Executive Officer: SACE, said that one of the things they were adhering to was their NDP Vision 2030 in terms of ensuring that there were professional standards within the country and also ensuring quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provisioning. Part of their responsibility was ensuring that they monitor and evaluate professional development and deal with certification matters. She pointed out that they do not work in isolation but with the Ministry for Higher Education.

 

Mr Michele de Capitani, CFO: SACE, said they had increased their assets by 21% due to a retained surplus and an increase in subscriptions, which also affected the cash equivalent in the organisation. Current liabilities had increased by 81% due to unspent grants, and the travel and accommodation account. There was an accumulated surplus of 18% due to increased subscriptions and the provincial building reserve fund, which had a retrospective effect of four months. The financial position of SACE was positive. Revenue from operating transactions had increased by 16%, and there had been an increase of 15% on Continuing Professional Teacher Development subsidy spending.

 

Expenditure on personnel had decreased by 2%. Last year, the council had embarked on a job evaluation process in order to determine the suitable resources and human capital in the organisation. During this process the council had taken a decision not to fill the positions, four of which were at a senior level, and they had remained vacant. Currently they wanted to fill them, however, because the job evaluation had been concluded.

 

Operating expenditure had increased by 15%, and total expenditure by 5% due to an increase in operations. They had a surplus of R19 million, for which approval was obtained from Treasury to improve ICT infrastructure and increase provincial client contact points. This process was under way.

Some misstatements had been identified in the auditors’ report, but these had been corrected.

 

Ms Mokgalane referred to Programme 1 (Registration of Teachers), where the indicators included the number of new registered educators, the number of registration documents updated and the vetting and verification processes. The first two indicators had positive deviations, but the vetting and verification processes had had a negative deviation in the first quarter, which had some challenges on the numbers that were supposed to be recorded because some processes were underweighted. She said that they were outlining what was meant by full registration, provisional registration, conditional registration and foreign registration.

For the new registrations, it was clear that the majority of their registrations were coming from higher education institutions. There were not many who were practising, and there had also been some registrations of foreign teachers, but not much on conditional registration. On the vetting and verification indicator, for which they had partial achievements, the numbers indicated were not necessarily done in terms of the register they had, but were from the child protection register, and the Departments of Social Development, Justice and Constitutional Development registers. They had some individual mandatory processes, as the application form allowed them an opportunity to check whether the applicant had been convicted of any misconduct. For foreign teacher registration, they had implemented the police clearance requirement, and the Department of Home Affairs helps in the verification of travel documents. Some teachers were given money in order to attend their graduation ceremonies and collect certificates. She said that they were looking into coming up with a protocol between SACE, the DBE and the Department of Justice to address issues that were hampering them from accessing the register for sexual offenders.

In programme 2 (ethics), the two indicators were partially achieved. Last year, 248 cases had been carried over to the 2017/18 financial year, and for the 2017/18 financial year, they had carried over 182 cases. For 2016/17, they had managed to deal with 102 cases and for 2017/18, they had concluded 147. The top five of their cases involved corporal punishment, sexual misconduct, unprofessional conduct, fraud, theft and financial mismanagement, and negligence.

In programme 3, (CPTD management system), the first three indicators were seeking to monitor the uptake of the three systems of professional development. The first two were partially achieved, but the first indicator was very poorly performed.  The other three indicators were more about the approval quality assurance processes. The framework for professional standards was still being developed.

Discussion

The Chairperson commended the SACE team for their positive report. She asked if the amount of surplus had been calculated well, and whether there was a need for increasing the subscription, yet teachers were paying.

Ms Boshoff asked why it had taken so long to ask for access to the sex offenders register. It had taken 10 years to do this, but had it been done much earlier, the situation would have been better. She asked whether the issue of getting clearance certificates was going to affect the current teachers. She asked about the nature of questions that would be asked to obtain clearance certificates. She emphasised the need to ensure that teachers were fit for purpose. She asked whether there were enough competent persons in the ethics departments, and whether the post of Chief Operating Officer had been filled. She said that Western Cape was the only province with a safe school hotline, and asked whether SACE could be the driver for this to happen in the eight other provinces. She expressed concern over the fact that 52% of the budget went to the salary bill. Making reference to page 25 of the report on the issue of corporal punishment, she asked how it was possible to determine whether one or two lashes could be acceptable, and said that no corporal punishment should take place. What was being done to those provinces that did not report, because at the end of the day the number of cases could be much higher? She asked about the educators who did not sign up for CPTD, and if She asked if there would be any consequences for this. She said that 7 430 uncaptured forms should have been looked at more strictly. She urged that by next year they ensured that at least two or three provincial offices were up and running. She referred to the MOU between SACE and DBE for purposes of having data conveyed, and asked how this would capacitate them for the capturing of data. Was there any figure for unregistered educators in South Africa? What measures were in place to ensure that the internal processes were adequate to eradicate the financial misstatements?

Ms Basson asked what the relationship of SACE and the provinces was on registering educators in order to get the correct data of educators. She was always concerned about districts that were not capacitated and teachers having to travel far away to the offices some of which were 400 km away. This capacitation would allow for cases to be reported as they arose. She asked to whom unqualified teachers were accountable, as they also committed misconduct. She was concerned about the slow pace of solving cases and asked if they were running short of staff or if they were under-capacitated. She reiterated that there should be no corporate punishment. She asked whether producing the anticipated booklet would solve the issue of the “war” between learners and teachers. She asked about the procedure when a child had committed unacceptable conduct. This involved the process of calling the parents, and suspension for 14 or 28 days. She asked if there was any relevance in this process because at the end of the day, this child would be out of school without the case being addressed. What was the problem leading to unresolved cases?

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi asked whether the vacancies that the SACE intended to fill had been costed, whether there was a budget for this purpose, and whether advertisements had been put out for those positions. SACE had previously indicated that as from January, they would require teachers to complete affidavits to swear that they had never abused a child, contrary to what had been indicated now concerning teachers getting clearance certificates. She asked for clarity on whether the decision to require teachers to get clearance certificates would be upheld, and in turn they would abandon the affidavits. She asked about the staffing of the offices, and whether there was an intention to expand those offices despite the limited budget. Would the offices would be accessible by the teachers? She asked about the steps taken towards achieving the clean audit, saying that SACE, being a small department with a small budget, should strive for a clean audit. She asked whether it was possible to have a committee, say, in the North West to deal with transgressions at the provincial level without SACE having to get involved in every case. She gave an example of a case where a teacher had made an advance to a learner, and said that a case like that did not have to end up in SACE.

Ms King asked about the senior management positions. How far were they with the evaluations and were the four vacant posts funded? Had they ever considered entering into an MoU with the Department of Justice in order to link their ICT systems and make it pick up quicker and minimise the processes, since they were moving into a digital era?

Ms Mokoto said that she wanted to join her colleagues in making an effort to correct the perceptions there were about SACE. She hoped the good performance would be maintained. She had noticed an improvement. She asked about the self-initiated registration and the diagnostic tests, and pointed out that there was an improvement -- how had they been able to do that? She said that teachers were required to register with SACE for them to practice, and she wanted to check if teachers attended CPTD, and proposed that the issue of registration and attendance of CPTD be linked. Teachers should be encouraged to attend CTPD trainings, as they were not voluntary.

The Chairperson asked whether the de-registering process had been applied. She said that there were so many cases which were not being reported. Was there room to consider a teacher to teacher form of violence and abuse? She was delighted that for the first time there were professional standards. She asked what they had in mind when they talked of “positive discipline.” She said there was need to guard against the very same culprits being employed in another school or province.

SACE’s response

Ms Mokgalane referred to the issue of striking off, and said that counsel had issued a legal opinion on the matter and advised that they could not publish the names on their website because there was no such provision in the Act. They were seeking to amend the Act, but the process was taking a long time.

Positive discipline was more about self introspection in terms of looking at how to deal with their own anger management best and embracing a positive way of discipline, and how to focus on ethical matters. There were a number of programmes in place in this respect.

The reason why they wanted an affidavit was that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development at the moment said that in the absence of the register being functional, in addition to whatever one did, an affidavit was required so that by the time the system was up and running, SACE could submit to them the names of the people who had declared that they had not done anything. Should it be found that any of them was lying under oath, the criminal justice system would then take over. They could not have automated systems because all the registers were manually operated. The Department of Justice wanted fingerprints, not electronics.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi pointed out that there was now an affidavit, the clearance certificate and then the register, all of which would be doing the same thing. The affidavit should have some guidelines of its own. She said that if someone committed themself, it was different from than just having a police clearance.

Ms Basson said that she had experience with fingerprints and they were quicker, as they could detect matters involving crime was to whether a case was pending or whether someone did it. Fingerprints were more secure than having an affidavit. She emphasized on the need for SACE to get their own screening instruments as soon as possible to ensure that people did not enjoy employment illegally. Fingerprints were a double assurance.

Ms Mokgalane responded that this issue was linked to Ms Boshoff’s question, where she had asked why they had taken so long to adopt the three measures, whereas Ms Tarabella-Marchesi seemed to be suggesting they should focus on one strategy. She said the three registers served different purposes. The Justice one had people convicted for sexual offenses. If one was struck off and not convicted, one could get away with that, but they still had an obligation, in terms of the criminal sexual offences-related matters, to report the same. The child protection register determined the unsuitability to work with children, and it could be conviction for sexual abuse or physical assault. The register for the Department of Justice was for any criminal act committed, and she gave the example of drinking and driving.

Ms Boshoff commented that as a matter of urgency, the Committee needed to sit down with stakeholders such as SACE in a bid to ensure that the registers were maintained to allow them to take it further as the gap was addressed.

The Chair said that if an employer had access, then SACE should have a relationship with the employer.

A representative from the DBE said that enforcing discipline was a dual responsibility, in that SACE dealt with infringements to its code of conduct whereas the DBE relied on Sections 17 and 18 of the Employment of Educators Act, whereby if an educator commits an offence, they could be liable for disciplinary action. What they were trying to do, where there had been a gap, involved the issue of reporting. For example, if a provincial Education Department as an employer invoked disciplinary measures against an educator, there was a requirement that SACE needed to be aware that there was a particular educator who had infringed and was being disciplined by the Department. There had been a gap in the sense that such reporting had not been consistent, and it was for this reason that they were signing a protocol with SACE to address these issues relating to the relationship between DBE and SACE, and matters relating to the employment of persons who had been struck off the roll, and departments that employed unregistered teachers. This would ensure there was synergy between the DBE and SACE.

Ms Boshoff said that if they were going to take the protocol to the provincial level, why did they not take it a step further to the school as well, because a school was also an employer and often protocols tended to sweep things under the carpet.

The Chairperson asked for clarification on whether a school was indeed considered an employer.

The representative from the DBE clarified that the employer was the school governing body. While private schools were legal entities, when it came to matters involving the protection of children, the DBE also had a responsibility in that respect. They were also responsible for registering schools, and would also look at ensuring that the schools were compliant in terms of reporting. If a principal swept anything under the carpet or failed to report, that was considered misconduct.

Ms Mokoto asked about teachers who were found at fault in a school and instead of their being dealt with, the district or province would choose to transfer them to another school. She asked whether there were such incidences, and how had it impacted on their activities.

Ms Mokgopane said that they already had two cases where they had charged the principals who were refusing to cooperate. The provincial offices, especially the Kwa Zulu Natal one, were very busy with registration issues. Registration was in line with NDP recertification, and this would require registration, certification and recertification, and the issue of the CPTD was what would make one to qualify for re-certification.

She said that upon launching the national framework for education, it was clear that implementation had to be done for the first six years and then one could learn from the processes, but after that they had to look at the issue of recertification. They were now in the fifth year and were finalising and consulting with stakeholders. They were coming back on 23 October, and would really have to look at the issues thoroughly. They were currently registering students from the third and fourth years, but with the new teacher professional processes, they wanted to start from year one, and when they came back they would be able to share how they planned to deliver on the processes. If they did not deal with the provinces that had too many teachers, such as Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, they all stood to suffer.

In response to Ms Tarabella-Marchesi’s question, she said that currently they were registering ECD practitioners from grade R, but there had been a Cabinet decision of the DBE moving from zero to basic. There had been discussions between the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), DBE, SACE and other partners, looking into ways of professionalising the other sectors.

On the mechanisms for clean audit, she said that for the job evaluation process they needed to have a planning instrument which would be able them to monitor across and allow for clean quarterly reports. If the quarterly reports were not clean, this was not good from a financial and performance point of view.

She emphasised the need to have well capacitated senior management officials. For the vacancies following the job evaluation process, all the posts had been advertised and they were hoping that in the next two to three weeks, they should be able to do the interviews that finalised the contracts and that by the end of the year, the entire recruitment process should be concluded and the people on board.

With respect to school based violence, one of the things they were dealing with was intergovernmental processes which would responsible for dealing with such acts of violence by learners and also teachers through the Department of Justice, because of the perception that they allowed children to get away with what they did. They would also bring on board the National Prosecution Authority. Most of the cases of corporal punishment were already coming from the provincial Education Departments, and they were also looking at the issue of double jeopardy, but they were giving them advisory letters that should they continue, the situation would change and they would be struck off.

She said that the reporting was correct from all provinces and that currently they were getting reports from the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, and Limpopo was coming on board. The protocol mentioned earlier would be able to deal with that issue to make sure that all the provinces were reporting.

Regarding the 7 334 uncaptured forms, she said that provinces such as KZN in particular were not warming up to the electronic way of doing things, and they sent the forms two to three weeks before the end of the financial year and even if they came before the end of the financial year, they could not be counted because they were not captured. If they were not captured, it meant that there was no form of verification from an audit point of view.

One of the things that had contributed to the carrying over of cases it was the lack of capacity, but council had reflected and an additional five posts had been created. They had been advertised and would be filled soon and strengthened through the retired educators’ ad hoc support system. Before looking at a disciplinary hearing, they needed to deal with investigation so that a team of investigators would go out to check on both the accused and the complainant. They would  then come back to council and take the whole issue to the ethics committee who would decide whether there should be a charge or not on the basis of the disciplinary evidence. If charged, then the disciplinary process would take place and depending on the availability of witnesses, it could take two to three months. In the sexual harassment cases, they would mostly find witnesses who despite committing to testify in two or three days, would communicate the night before -- either themselves or through the parents -- to say that they were not coming because the teacher would bribe them. The matter would then go back to council for it to make a decision, based on what the panellists were submitting. However, they would never stop a process of carry overs, and that if they got a case in February, they were likely not to conclude the whole process that she had outlined. However, they could work to reduce the backlog.

She said that the senior management position of COO had been advertised.

Mr De Capitani said that once they had surplus, this changed their financial position. Part of the surplus was planned to be used to start provincial offices and had been put in a reserve account because they never had cash at one time to start the offices -- a situation which warranted them planning to allow them to make a move. On the issue of creating space for the provincial offices, he said that had been the first option which seemed cheaper, but was not so and they had written letters to the provincial departments and even met with some, but none of them had responded to the letters, except for the few that they had seen, and the processes were being treated as outsiders wanting to get a space in government. The DPW was involved and communication was very difficult, and this process would take the council way longer than if it had straight away invested in its own properties. The council would therefore have to consider whether they would acquire their own buildings or get them from the government.

Regarding the surplus, a decision had been made to increase the levies with effect from November 2017, but the process of implementation had taken a little bit longer, so it had taken place in March when the financial year was being concluded, and there was nothing they could do with that money. One of the intentions of increasing the levy was to boost SACE’s organisational capacity, as well as creating a contact point in the provinces, and that intention was still part of the original idea of council.

On the 52% budget salary bill, he said that SACE was a service organisation and for them to deliver, they needed to have human capital to deliver services. To increase the capacity, they had to increase the salary bill and arising from the job evaluations as well, they had increased the number of positions over 20, and this would have an effect on the budget. For the provincial contact point, they had budgeted for the staff complement to ensure that the services were carried out immediately, and they were ready. The reason for delay had been because of the bidding processes. Most of the buildings there barely suited their needs, and they would have to revamp them. However, the bidding processes were on and next week they would be considering the assessments.

Regarding internal control improvements SACE had built its own internal capacity in 2007/2008, and during the past ten years they had responded to this issue by instituting a job evaluation process which gave rise to the positions they were now taking about. Part of the deficiency in capacity was now being addressed. With the current capacity and considering what SACE could afford, they had to start from the provincial level. They had representatives in the provinces who helped to ensure that the services of SACE were taken care of.

To strengthen the financial management, they were reviewing the business control of the entire organisation to ensure that some the new units were able to play their role. They were currently reviewing their business rules to ensure that they manage and minimize the errors that could take place.

A SACE representative said that for a teacher who was struck off the roll, if one went into the SACE website, one would be able to punch in the identity (ID) number of an educator and it would inform if the person had been struck off and should therefore not be employed. Together with the DBE, they were working to cascade this information down and make sure that this reached all schools so as to avoid transgressions. On how far they had gone with the provincial processes, he said that so far two had been done and a third would be coming soon.

The Chairperson said that when she heard there were cases where learners were abused, she sought out of interest sake to understand what these cases of abuse were.

Ms Boshoff asked about what was done on the issue of appointment of teachers if they transgressed, as she did not think that SACE had the mandate to intervene or take the case further. She asked who was going to take the mandate to ensure that school governing body (SGB) appointees followed the same steps as a teacher who was being appointed by the Department.

Ms Mokgapane said that currently, they had more than 6 000 unregistered practising teachers on their database. This data was drawn from the money that they received on a monthly basis from National Treasury. They had taken the data and sent it to the provincial Heads of Department, because they were violating the Act.

Regarding the Chairperson’s concern over learner abuse, she said that the trend they were beginning to see was that 97% to 98% of the cases involved male educators on female learners, and about 2% of female teachers on younger male learners. There was also a North West case of a female educator who penetrated a young girl with a vibrator and threatened the learner that if she told her parents, she would be cut eight times with a razor blade. She said that female teachers would get hold of the boys on the pretext of giving them one on one lessons in maths, and then line them up and rape them.

A Member commented that such culprits were psychopaths, and referred to a newspaper article where a stepfather had raped a daughter 900 times.

Ms Mokgapane told Ms Boshoff that SACE indeed had jurisdiction to register educators by virtue of Section 3 of the SACE Act.

Ms Boshoff asked if that was the case, whether SACE would be able to give them a report on the number of SGB appointees who had been found guilty of any offences in comparison with provincially appointed teachers.

The CEO said that she was going to check if that was possible, because it depended on how they collected data as well.

The Chair thanked SACE very much for the good work they had seen of late and said that they wished that they could keep up the momentum and even improve.

She informed Members that next week they would be meeting the energy team to get a brief on their programme. She said that they were being given money and they therefore needed to be briefed by them, as their work would be part of the Committee’s report.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

Share this page: