The Standing Committee met to be briefed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), and Audit committees of the WCED.
The WCED serves to provide public education in the province from Grade R to Grade 12. The Department aims to improve learners’ performance in English Language and Mathematics. It also aims to qualitatively and quantitatively enhance learners’ outcomes in National Senior Certificate (NSC) Examination. The Department formulates measures to ensure the delivery of quality education in poorer communities. The Department continues to strive for effective service delivery in all its programmes. The Department witnessed increased academic performance during the year under review. It is, however, noteworthy that the Department needs money to implement programmes and to adjust to changes caused by increased number of learners.
The Department spent R20.57 billion out of a budget of R20.72 billion, which gives an overall under-spending of R156 million. The Department achieved a clean audit opinion, which means there were no findings in terms of compliance with law and regulations as well as performance of predetermined objectives. Identified emerging risks include new regulations in terms of Modified Cash Standard (MCS) and inventory register. New legislation in terms of Treasury’s regulation also represents an emerging risk. Treasury’s regulations are currently being revised, which may introduce a number of new requirements once effective.
The AGSA said they investigates the credibility and validity of reports in terms of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The AGSA also investigates the accuracy of information, especially in terms of schedules and sheet numbers. The AGSA also embarks on school visits to confirm the actual number of students in classrooms. The audit committee ensures that the Department functions according to good governance principles, comply with accounting and audit standards and ensures that appropriate risk management arrangements are in place. The audit committee monitors the adequacy and reliability of the financial information provided to all users of such information. The audit committee continues to assist management in discharging its accountability and responsibilities to safeguard assets, operate adequate systems and controls as well as prepare annual financial statements. Internal audit focuses on particular audit areas that were approved in the Annual Plan. Internal audit ensures that controls are tightened in terms of predetermined objectives and provides assurance to management so that findings do not reoccur in the current financial year.
Committee Members expressed concern about material misstatements in a number of classrooms with no greater than 45 learners. Classrooms with more than the specified number of learners could impact negatively on teacher engagement with learners, and ultimately learners’ performance. Attention was also pointed at the adverse effects associated with misrepresentation of learners’ number for funding. Schools with surplus number of students can result in under-funding. The Standing Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the vagueness of virements documented in Annual Report of the Department. It is important to know the reason for virements and the programmes affected. Also, virements must be done timeously and properly planned ahead of time. National School Nutrition Programme was another matter that caught the attention of Committee Members. School Nutrition Programme really needs improvement, and learners must feed properly to enhance performance in class. Members urged the Department and all relevant stakeholders to tighten control in order to ensure effective service delivery in the nutrition programme.
The Standing Committee urged the Department to maintain integrity in marking process, with particular focus on Life Orientation (LO). Marking of LO is susceptible to flaws since the control is not as tight as other subjects that are marked at specified centres under strict monitoring. Members pointed to the importance of internal control unit as a unit that facilitates good governance and accountability in the Department. Internal control function must be strengthened to ensure that action plans and recommendations are implemented within agreed timeframes. Other matters that attracted the attention of the Committee included effectiveness of school evaluation programmes; equitable share from the National Treasury to augment the finances of the Department; measures to improve safety of learners, teachers, visitors and government infrastructure; as well as Department’s scholarship programmes for staff and how the Department plans to retain sponsored beneficiaries.
Members expressed displeasure about the disparity in the AGSA’s and the Department’s data on number of classrooms with no more than 45 learners. The AGSA and the Department must develop SOPs to avoid discrepancies in the interrogation and interpretation of data from the Central Education Management Information System.
The Committee appreciated the work of the Department and urged parents to contribute their quota to sustain acceptable learners’ outcomes.
Presentation by the Western Cape Education Department
Mr Leon Ely, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Western Cape Education Department (WCED) said the purpose of the Annual Report is to provide audit outcomes of financial audits, audit of performance information and compliance with laws and regulations of the WCED for the financial year 2017/18.
The WCED is responsible for public schooling in the province from Grade R to Grade 12. Key strategic goals/priorities of the Department include improvement in the level of language and mathematics in all schools; increase in number and quality of passes in National Senior Certificate (NSC); and increase in quality of education provision in poorer communities.
Mr Ely said the Department almost spent all its funds in the last financial year. The WCED spent R20.57 billion of a budget of R20.72 billion, which resulted in an overall under-spending of R156 million as can be found on page 12 of the Department’s Annual Report. He said the Department achieved a clean audit. It meant that there were no findings on compliance with laws and regulations as well as Predetermined Objectives (PDO).
Necessary adjustments were made to PDO in terms of reported performance information in accordance with criteria developed from the performance management and reporting framework, as defined in the general notice for the following programmes:
- Programme two: Public Secondary School Education found on pages 47-68 of Annual Report
- Programme five: Early Childhood Development (ECD) found on pages 81-85 of Annual Report
- Programme six: Infrastructure Development found on pages 86-90 of Annual Report and
- Programme seven: Examination and Education-Related Services found on pages 91-95 of Annual Report.
Mr Ely said all SCOPA’s resolution and matters of concern were properly addressed as seen on pages 116-119 of Annual Report.
He said new pronouncements in Modified Cash Standard (MCS) represent an emerging risk in the Department. In terms of componentisation of assets, the Department was encouraged to componentise all assets in the asset register as this would become a future requirement. The effective date to componentise assets is not fixed yet. In terms of inventory, the Department is encouraged to develop its inventory management systems as inventory disclosure note will be a requirement in the future. The effective date to disclose inventory will be determined by the Accountant–General.
New legislation in terms of Treasury’s regulation also represents an emerging risk. Treasury’s regulations are currently being revised, which could introduce a number of new requirements once effective.
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) asked if the Department has the right to charge interest on deduction.
Ms C Beerwinkel (ANC) asked for the corrected misstatements. She asked what the audit opinion could be if material misstatements were not corrected, and why were virements not picked up before adjustments.
Mr Tyatyam (ANC) asked for clarity on how virements are done, and where they end up.
Mr Ely said the Department is required to charge interest on outstanding debts. He said Departments collect commission on insurance and emoluments. In terms of material misstatements on predetermined objectives, he said there would have been material findings in relation to specific targets that were misstated if the misstatements were not corrected. He said the audit committee found that the information on Programme two in terms of the percentage of learners in classrooms was not appropriately calculated and reported. He said another factor that was misstated is the percentage of learners provided with the right textbooks.
Ms Beerwinkel asked for clarity on the number of students in classrooms. She asked if classrooms were overcrowded as opposed to the reported scenarios.
An official of the WCED said that they reported less than 45, but it was more than 45 in reality. He said authorities in charge of schools reported that 152 000 classrooms had less than 45 students in each classroom. However, an annual survey did show that only 140 000 classrooms had less than 45 students. This represents a difference of twelve thousand classrooms, which means overcrowding occurred in certain classrooms.
Mr Tyatyam remarked that Minister Debbie Schafer earlier complained about this problem as there was a significant increase in number of learners in certain classrooms. He expressed satisfaction that the National Treasury accepted to resolve this problem through the equitable share.
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) said that the planned target of 87% of classrooms with no more than 45 learners in a classroom was set. He told the Committee that the Auditor-General (AG) had earlier said that 140 000 classrooms had less than 45 learners in each classroom.
Ms Beerwinkel sought clarity on how the problem was corrected, and why the auditors allowed school authorities to correct the misstatement. She asked if the school authorities corrected the figures on the system.
Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of Department (HOD), WCED said that auditors try to tighten controls in order to have reliable information. He said the Department did have problems with a proposed correction. The correction was effected by appropriate calculation of the data collected from schools.
The Chairperson said that there must be a process to ensure that the Department does the right thing. There should be a way to tighten the system in the WCED to avoid a reoccurrence of the matter.
Ms Sharonne Adams, Business Executive, AGSA said that there is a comprehensive review process that helps to determine the authenticity of information. This acts as checks and balances to ensure effective control within the Department.
Ms Beerwinkel sought to know how material misstatement eluded the internal and external auditors as well as the audit committee. She asked how the AGSA managed to detect the problem, and what did they see.
Ms Adams said that the audit committee should have detected the problem but there were no underlining information to support the finding.
The Chairperson sought to understand the role of the audit committee and AGSA as well as the distinction in the roles of both entities. He asked if the audit committee is only interested in internal controls, or do they detect inadequacies within the system and ensure appropriate corrections.
Ms Adams said AGSA investigates the credibility and validity of reports in terms of the SOPs. The AGSA also investigates the accuracy of information, especially in terms of schedules and sheet numbers. They embark on school visits to confirm the actual number of students in classrooms. The AGSA also investigates the completeness of information contained in reports submitted to it. They work on selected samples to confirm validity, credibility and completeness of information.
Ms Rozan Jafta, Audit committee member, WCED said internal audit focuses on particular audit areas that were approved in the annual plan. She said that areas covered by internal audit for the 2017/18 financial year were reported in the briefing documents. Performance information cycle did not form part of the annual plan for the Department as resources were prioritised on key focus areas that did not include performance information. She said the audit committee instructed the internal audit to include performance information cycle in the 2018/19 annual plan before the AG detected the matter. She said the internal audit will ensure that controls are tightened in terms of predetermined objectives and that internal audit will provide assurance to management so that the finding does not reoccur in the current financial year.
The Chairperson sought to know what the reaction of the audit committee would be if the AGSA did not detect weakness in performance information.
Ms Jafta said the audit committee ensures that internal audit tightens control in order to mitigate risks. She said this helped internal audit to detect and control risk in prior financial year.
Ms M Maseko (DA) expressed concern about the inconsistency in the function of audit committee. She noted that the audit committee should replicate the same performance in the 2017/18 financial year. The audit committee should not have waited for the AGSA to detect the weakness.
Ms Beerwinkel expressed concern about the quality of education given to learners that attend public schools in the province. She noted that certain classrooms had more than 45 learners. She expressed concern about the credibility and accuracy of information given by educational authority in the province. She asked how they could expect the learners to receive quality education, and how the educational authority expects the teachers to deliver services with the required enthusiasm and passion.
In response to the question on the number of students provided with quality text books in all grades and subject matter per annum, the auditor said that the audit entity found that the reported 99.7% of learners was inaccurate. Based on sampling, internal audit function found that 100% of schools had quality text books.
Ms Beerwinkel sought to know if the internal audit sampled identical schools as it did for the number of learners in a classroom to arrive at a conclusion that 100% of schools had quality textbooks.
The Chairperson sought to know if findings on sampled schools could be generalised to all the schools in the province. He asked if the schools where the percentage of learners with access to quality textbooks was less than 100%
Mr Ely said that findings resulted from incorrect review of data. He said programme six dealt with additionally built classrooms in existing schools that were provided for. There were schedules that were not taken into account under this programme. There was a flaw in the process of identifying additionally built classrooms. The auditors had findings with the number of additional classrooms that was not captured in the report and the number of invalid additional classrooms that were reported.
Ms Adams said the AGSA had issues with classrooms built in the current financial year but were not part of the reported information, as well as classrooms built in prior financial years but was reported in the current financial year.
Mr Ely said that the law permits virements in accordance with the provision of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The Chairperson sought to know why the virements were not planned for before the adjustment budget.
Ms Beerwinkel expressed concern on virements. She denounced the lack of motivation in the virement process.
Mr Tyatyam expressed concern about the vague manner in which the virements were reported. She said the Committee sought to know exactly how virements were done. She asked which of the programmes had savings and where the money transferred to. She asked when the money was transferred, and for what purpose.
Ms Adams said it is important to consider virements in the adjustment budget. She said the money was shifted to public schools. She noted that funds were taken from special-needs schools according to the information on page 167 of the Annual Report. She said virements and shifting of funds usually undergo the Provincial Treasury’s scrutiny before approval can be granted. According to the information on page 168 there are two adjustment budgets. She said both virements and shifting can occur after the adjustment budget in order to address certain priorities. However, succinct explanation must be given to justify the adjustments.
Ms Beerwinkel presumed that the Department shifted money from certain programmes to prevent the appearance of under-spending in the Annual Report.
Mr Tyatyam frowned at shifting of funds from ECD and special-needs schools. He lamented the conditions in these schools and urged the Department to take proactive steps to revamp the schools.
Ms Adams said R207 million was given to public schools as seen on page 169 of Annual Report. She said that R140 million was spent on salaries and wages. She recommended that additional information on virements can be obtained from the Department.
Presentation by the audit committee
According to Ms Jafta, the role of the audit committee is to ensure that the Department functions according to good governance principles, comply with accounting and audit standards and ensures that appropriate risk management arrangements are in place. The audit committee monitors the adequacy and reliability of the financial information provided to all users of such information. The audit committee continues to assist management in discharging its accountability and responsibilities to safeguard assets, operate adequate systems and controls as well as prepare annual financial statements.
The audit committee on a quarterly basis looked at the report from internal auditors and audit report on the financial statement provided by the AG as well as the management report of the AG. There were no unresolved matters relating to operational compliance and controls. However, weaknesses were identified in certain components of internal control, particularly on performance information. Ms Jafta said the audit committee continues to monitor the action plans to address the matters raised by the AG. She said the internal audit will give special consideration to the system that supports the generation of performance information in the current financial year. The audit committee complied with the responsibilities arising from section 38(1) (a) of the PFMA and Treasury Regulation 3.1. Members of the audit committee are independent and have displayed the requisite skills expected of them as set out in the regulations. The audit committee terms of reference were approved by Cabinet in July of 2015.
In terms of evaluation of the annual financial statements, the audit committee concurs and accepts the AG’s opinion regarding the annual financial statements and proposes that the audited annual financial statements be accepted and read together with the report of the AG. The audit committee has obtained explanations for all significant variances as compared to the appropriated budget and the prior year. No outstanding investigations were noted other than those reported by the AG, of which have been handed over to the Forensic Investigation Unit (FIU).
Ms Jafta said that the audit committee discussed management reports with the AG and the Management team, and management’s response was carefully considered. The audit committee noted that although there was progress in following up previously reported items by the Department, this remains a challenge, and the audit committee will monitor this aspect closely.
The audit committee deliberated findings on control areas for improvement highlighted by the AG. The audit committee noted that there were no unresolved matters and those reported in management report will be followed up on a quarterly basis to ensure timeous resolve. Ms Jafta said that the audit committee regularly receives reports on control areas for improvement from internal audit based on risks identified by management. She said that lack of monitoring and review was a major finding in most of the audit areas. The audit committee continues to monitor progress with the implementation of action plans in response to internal audit findings on a quarterly basis. The implementation rate for the 2017/18 financial year was 47% as reported by the internal audit committee. The audit committee expressed concern with this low performance information. The audit committee makes recommendation for improvement in identified areas and the Department is aware that the audit committee keeps track of the implementation of action plans. She said that the internal audit unit reports functionally to the audit committee. She noted that a risk-based annual internal audit plan containing 26 risk areas with significant impact which required coverage, of which 18 were covered by other assurance providers, and five were included in the internal audit plan approved by the audit committee.
The approved five risk areas contained in the annual internal audit plan were effectively completed. Management confirmed that the internal audit reports contributed to improvement of operations and management relies on its internal controls for the remaining three areas. The audit committee continues to encourage increased assurance over all significant risk areas by overseeing the implementation of combined assurance principles. Ms Jafta said the audit committee is satisfied with the content and quality of quarterly reports prepared and issued by the Accounting Officer of the Department during the year under review. According to Ms Jafta, the AG had no material findings on predetermined objectives. The audit committee continues to monitor performance against agreed objectives on a quarterly basis. Further progress was made with the roll-out of Enterprise Wide Risk Management (ERM) and alignment to the key risks of the Department.
The leadership of the Accounting Officer was fundamental to the progress made during the year. The audit committee continues to meet annually with the Executive Authority, and quarterly with the Accounting Officer to discuss progress with the oversight role of the audit committee and to follow up on agreed actions. The audit committee recognises the need to promote sound relationships among all assurance providers and management. Ms Jafta said that the chairs of the audit committees have convened collectively and regularly engage with internal audit, AGSA, top management, and any other key role players with a view of resolving any transversal issues that may arise, to encourage proactive problem resolution, and to promote combined assurance in each of their audit committees.
The audit committee notes the emerging risks as presented by the AGSA and will ensure that the risks are included in the risk profile of the Department. Attention will be paid to the impact of applying the MCS reporting standards with respect to the componentisation of assets and inventory, and any other impact resulting from the current review of Treasury Regulations.
The audit committee acknowledges that the Department received an unqualified audit opinion without findings for the year. The audit committee continues to monitor and support the Department to improve audit outcomes.
Ms Maseko, addressing herself as a community member, counsellor and a mother, expressed concern about certain programmes run by the Department. She said there are some matters that need immediate attention, especially the National School Nutrition Programme. Such matters should be prioritised and cannot be suspended till the end of the financial year. She said the School Nutrition Programme really needs improvement, and learners must feed properly to enhance performance in class. She wanted to know the plans of the audit committee and the Department to improve the nutrition programme.
Mr Mackenzie expressed concern with the low implementation of action plans for the 2017/18 financial year. He said 47% performance is not acceptable. He asked what is responsible for such low levels of performance, should meetings be held more regularly, is there deficiency in the implementation of action plans by the Department, and if there are any lapses in the internal control function. He noted that matters could get worse if appropriate measures are not taken. He asked what the stumbling block to progress is. The Standing Committee sought clarity from the audit committee to formulate resolutions that will assist the Department in tackling some of the challenges going forward.
Ms Tyatyam expressed concern with the integrity of marking in certain subjects, especially Life Orientation (LO). He noted that LO is not marked like other subjects, where marking is closely monitored at a centre. He sought clarity on how exactly LO is marked. He said lack of monitoring can embolden some markers to take examination materials out of the stipulated area. He also expressed concern about the misrepresentation of the number of learners for funding. In particular, schools with surplus number of learners stand the risk of being underfunded. He asked how the audit committee intends to resolve this matter in collaboration with the Department. He wanted to know the areas that were identified for improvement with respect to transfer payment in ECD. He wanted to know the details of componentisation of assets, especially in terms of its onset. He asked what the current status of componentisation of assets is, and if the Department is ready for AGSA’s action on componentisation of assets to become effective.
Ms Beerwinkel expressed concern about material misstatement in terms of PDOs. She acknowledged that the audit committee identified material misstatement and allowed the Department to correct it. However, she complained about the grammatical construction of the sentence that included “lack of material findings”. She pointed to the inadequacy of the word “lack” and urged the audit committee to replace it with an appropriate word or phrase. She wanted an explanation on why the audit committee allowed material misstatement to be corrected, knowing full well that material misstatements could have significant effect on audit opinion. She asked how the audit committee determines the materiality of a finding and if it needs to be corrected. She sought clarity on the 47% performance in terms of the implementation of action plans.
Ms Jafta said the findings resulted from lapses in monitoring of service providers in charge of the programme and signing of contracts of employees responsible for the implementation of the programme. She said the internal audit focuses on control in the process. It is not the role of internal audit to ensure that children are fed.
Ms Maseko sought to know if the audit committee in any way advices the Department on appropriate implementation of action plans in order to ensure that learners are properly fed.
The Chairperson said it is important that the audit committee ensures that appropriate controls are in place to ensure the success of the programme.
Ms Jafta said that the audit committee had findings on the implementation of action plans. She said that the internal audit interacts with management after each audit process. The internal audit makes recommendations to management to address areas identified for improvement. Management is expected to formulate action plans to effect the recommendation within an acceptable timeframe. The internal audit monitors implementation of action plans and provides appropriate feedback to the audit committee on a quarterly basis.
Ms Maseko wanted to know if the implementation referred to by Ms Jafta pertains to remedial actions or the school nutrition programme.
The Chairperson wanted to know what would happen if recommendations of the audit committee are not implemented by management.
Ms Jafta said the implementation refers to the action plans that management agrees to in response to the findings. She said that the audit committee engages with the Accounting Officer in cases of non-implementation or weak implementation of action plans. The internal audit has a process to monitor the appropriateness of implementation. This involves the list of action plans and the corresponding timeframe of implementation. She said the audit committee recommends that implementation of action plans should be worked into the performance contract so that implementation is monitored at the level where action plans are supposed to be implemented. This facilitates timeous implementation of action plans.
Ms Beerwinkel expressed frustration at how the school nutrition programme is handled. She wanted to know if the children are properly fed, and if there are measures in place to address lapses in the school nutrition programme.
Ms Jafta said that the audit committee ensures that lapses in the review and monitoring of implementation of action plans are detected and timeously addressed to ensure success of the nutrition programme.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted to know the reason for under-spending in the school nutrition programme. She asked if it means that food supplies did not get to school, and therefore learners are not properly fed.
Ms Jafta said that the Department is in a better position to give an answer to the questions on under-spending and the quality of marking. She said the audit committee focuses on National Senior Certificate (NSC) results and not marking in general.
In terms of the number of learners reported by schools, Ms Jafta said that the Department is ready to perform a headcount to verify the number reported by schools. She said the Department is ready to respond to changes in accounting standards. She agreed to use a better word in place of “lack” to address materiality of findings in terms of PDOs. She said the internal audit of the Department was able to correct the AG’s findings without significant effort. Thus, misstatements are immaterial. It means timeous correction of findings leads to no findings and vice-versa.
Mr Mackenzie wanted to know in which quarter of the financial year were lapses detected, and what the audit committee did to address non-implementation of action plans.
Ms Jafta said the internal audit of the Department closely monitors the due dates associated with each action plan. The internal audit usually demands evidence of implementation from management at the due date.
Mr Tyatyam wanted to know the consequence management in terms of substantiated allocation documented on page 115 of the Department’s Annual Report.
The Chairperson urged Mr Tyatyam to always refer to the appropriate document. This will facilitate appropriate responses from the Department.
Discussion with the Department on governance
Ms Debbie Schafer, Member of the Executive Council (MEC): Education thanked her team for the achievement of a clean audit outcome for three consecutive years and she aims for the same feat for the 2018/19 financial year. This is a rare achievement for an education department in the country, and the world at large. Such an outcome with respect to financial management in an education department can only be achieved if all employees played their roles effectively.
Referring to Ms Beerwinkel’s position, The MEC said the clean audit outcome was not a yardstick for effective service delivery. However, she said the Department continues to strive for effective service delivery in all its programmes. She added that the Department witnessed increased academic performance during the year under review. However, the MEC complained about insufficient funds in the Department. The Department needs money to implement programmes and to adjust to changes caused by an increased number of learners.
Mr Tyatyam sought clarity on risks and measures to mitigate provincial education policy. He asked what the Department’s plan to ensure policy implementation in the face of current economic realities is. He also asked for clarity on the substantial allocation and associated consequence management. He expressed concern about the quality of marking, especially as it relates to tracking of scripts and examination materials. He asked what the Department’s plan is to ensure integrity, especially in the marking of LO.
Mr D Mitchell (DA) sought clarity on the number of forensic investigations referred to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for criminal transgressions.
Mr Mackenzie wanted to know who took over from the former Chief Audit Executive, Mr Jeff Radebe. He wanted to know if the current arrangement where the Chief Internal Auditor meets with the Executive once a year is enough to address the myriads of emerging risks in the Department. He asked if this is the standard practice country-wide. He cited a case where a bank failed due to inefficient internal audit function, and people went away with stolen funds without any consequence. He argued for more engagements between the internal audit and the Executive in order to address the emerging risks and to prevent them from getting out of control. He wanted clarity on the role of internal audit in relation to controls, recommendations, action plans and implementation.
Mr Mackenzie asked in which quarter risks were identified, and does internal audit make recommendations to management, does management implement action plans within agreed timeframe, and is implementation of action plans worked into performance agreements of employees at all levels.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted to know why the school evaluation program was limited to only 68 schools in the province. She expressed concern about the quality of education in poor communities. She said 68 is a miniscule amount when one considers the number of schools in the province. She asked what the criteria for selection is, and what are the findings and how did the audit committee intervene in areas identified for improvement.
Ms Beerwinkel asked the MEC interacts with top management in charge of education in the province to know their specific problems. She noted that the Standing Committee bridges the gap between the people and upper echelon of education in the province. She asked if Head Office informs the MEC about the problems in each district, area and municipality.
The MEC said several her officials work in the field every day and there are a number of interventions from the Department to address areas identified for improvement. 68 schools formed part of a pilot project, but the current Departmental model will allow the Department to visit more schools. The MEC added that the Department has interactions with schools on a regular basis. She meets with the HOD once a week and meets with other MECs once every two to three months. The MEC gets regular reports on issues, and her office is open for the public to freely discuss issues. Learners write to her regularly on what goes on at their schools.
Mr Schreuder noted that the WCED is the largest employer of labour in the province. The management of such an organisation requires a system that works. There is an effective district system. The Department does several things to obtain reliable information from schools. He visits schools once a quarter, along with other executives, and action plans as well as progress of implementation are evaluated. The Department has a policy that every Executive Committee member (Exco) must visit at least two schools in a quarter. This way, about 120 visits are conducted each year. This keeps the Department abreast of information in terms of what happens in schools. The Department has active engagement with Districts, and identified matters are discussed after visits. There are also head office staff responsible for institutional development and coordination. He noted that the official responsible for institutional development and coordination spends more time in the field than in the office.
Mr Schreuder said robust engagements exist between the WCED and the Standing Committee. The Department also meets with the unions on a quarterly basis. There is open engagement with all stakeholders. The Department aims to sustain programmes targeted towards poorer communities in the province. He however warns that the Department is under financial constraint as allocated funds do not keep up with growth in the number of learners. Thus, the Department is forced to cut costs in certain programmes. Demography has changed considerably, and a significant amount of poor schools do not have appropriate financial provision.
Mr Tyatyam informed the Department that the National Treasury gave leverage to Northwest, Gauteng and Western Cape province in terms of equitable share to compensate for growth in number of learners.
Mr Schreuder noted that this is still a promise, and the Department will be satisfied with its implementation. He noted that the Western Cape now surpasses Eastern Cape as the third largest province for the past two years. Yet, funding does not increase. Both North West and Gauteng also have significant boost in number of learners, and other provinces are not willing to give away their funds as they claim to be increasing as well. Funds for learners take time to materialise and the Department must find proactive means to manage its financial affairs, especially in terms of compensation of employees. He warned about financial constraints and its impacts on the Department. The ability of the Department to sustain programmes intended for poor communities and quality of learners’ outcomes is under pressure.
According to the Mr Schreuder, the internal audit is the audit assurance mechanism of the Department. Management engages with the internal audit on areas that need improvement. The internal audit then investigates and submits findings to management. The internal audit makes sure action plans are formulated in consultation and collaboration with management. The internal audit monitors implementation of action plans based on agreed timeframes. This helps the Department to plan effectively.
Mr Schreuder said the quality of marking in the Western Cape province is the best in the country. The Department conducts competency assessment for markers to test their ability before approval to mark is given. The Department works with tolerance range, which is monitored by senior markers and moderators to determine the competency of markers. Markers who consistently fall outside the tolerance range have their contracts terminated summarily. One of the audit findings on marking was the number of markers allocated to a moderator. Seven markers are currently allocated to a moderator, but some argue that it should be five markers to a moderator in an ideal case. The Department constantly monitors the marking of Life Orientation. Life orientation is done year-round and teachers are responsible for marking. Mr Schreuder added that there is an external component of the examination, which forms 25% of the final score. This is one of the quality assurance mechanisms for the examination. The examination is also moderated. Statistical moderation is conducted for all aspects of Life Orientation examination.
Concerning the number of forensic investigations in terms of substantiated allegations, Mr Ely said that 12 staff members were interrogated, out of whom 10 were fully charged, but there was not enough evidence against two of the employees. The 10 employees charged were disciplined based on the offence they committed. 19 cases were reported to SAPS in the year under review. Only one case is closed, and the remainder are still open with SAPS.
Ms Maseko sought clarity on the plan of the Department to address risks identified in the National Nutrition Programme. She asked if the audit committee ensures implementation of the action plans within agreed timeframes.
Mr Ely said the Department works with relevant authorities to ensure appropriate funding for the School Nutrition Programme. He said lack of funding remains a major risk for the Department. The Department approaches the Provincial Treasury and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) for more funding. The Department can also supplement funding with equitable share or cut down on the menu, subject to the approval of the DBE. Other risks include lack of service providers and costly tenders. There are internal controls to ensure proper feeding of learners.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Department needs to tighten control to ensure the sustainability of the nutrition programme. It is important that contracts are signed timeously.
In response to the question on school evaluation procedure, Mr Abrahams , Internal Audit committee member, WCED said that there is a well-established procedure that allows the Department to evaluate up to 100 schools annually for the past ten years. The Department tests new methodologies on pilot schools in a way that outcome can be generalised to the entirety of schools in the province. The Department aims to reform school evaluation processes based on the peculiarity of schools in terms of social and historical backgrounds that shape their realities, particularly under-resourced schools. He said the quality of marking and practical recommendations helps management, school authorities, and other stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. The focus areas of school evaluation programmes are quality of teaching and teacher engagement with learners. He posed the questions, are there active engagement between teachers and learners in classrooms? Are learners well-behaved? He said school management helps in the delivery of qualitative education and appropriate documentation of events. The pilot study revealed that teacher’s engagement with learners is a more serious issue compared with learners’ behaviour in classrooms.
In response to the question on school development plan, Mr Abrahams said that learners’ outcomes in terms of achievements and behaviour are being documented for sharing in a transparent manner. He said the Department monitors functionality components like attendance, lateness, assessment policy, and code of conduct. The Department attaches importance to code of conduct in both under-resourced and well-resourced schools.
In response to Mr Mackenzie’s question on frequency of meetings, Ms Jafta said that the audit committee has robust engagements with the Department. The audit committee meets with the CFO and HOD to ensure effective internal control within the Department.
Mr Mackenzie wanted to know if the composition of the Board of Education is sufficient to address all the emerging risks. He cited an example of the Western Cape Game and Racing Board that comprises of seven members.
A member of the Education Board said the composition is adequate and it is in line with the standard charter. The Board holds quarterly meetings. The Board also has three additional meetings to discuss financial and audit matters.
Ms Beerwinkel expressed concern about the findings of the Internal Audit on Districts financial modelling, directive on public administration, quality marking, misrepresentation of learner numbers for funding, ECD transfer payments and National School Nutrition programme. The 47% implementation rate for the 2017/18 financial year is unacceptable. She requested the Department to give specific information about the action plans and measures to ensure implementation to mitigate identified risks. Ms Beerwinkel spoke about the decision of the AGSA to allow the internal audit to correct material misstatement regarding the number of learners in a classroom with not greater than 45 learners. She also spoke about the misrepresentation of the number of schools built in the current and prior financial years. She expressed concern with overcrowded classrooms and its impact on the quality of teaching. She asked how the internal audit intends to correct the implication of misstatements going forward?
Mr Mackenzie sought clarity on timeous implementation of action plans and consequence management in cases of non-performance.
In response to Mr Mackenzie’s question, Mr Schreuder said that timeous implementation of action plans is a major challenge because school management has a host of issues to address at the same time. The entire audit process is considered completed only when all matters and findings are fully addressed. The Department holds the executive accountable for implementation of all audit findings. The achievement of the Department rose to 76% and he hopes that the Department improves on performance in both current and subsequent financial years. He noted that the finding of the AG in terms of the number of classrooms with greater than 45 learners is immaterial considering the size of the Department.
In response to the question on quality of marking he said all scripts are tracked electronically and scanned appropriately at all key areas. Findings resulted from movement of scripts in marking rooms when transaction occurs between markers and moderator. Scripts hardly get lost in the process.
Mr Tyatyam pointed to the fact that the level of discipline varies from school to school. He asked how the Department ensures that the quality of marking of Life Orientation is the same as what is obtained in the marking centres.
The Chairperson wanted further clarity on material misstatements in the number of classrooms with more than 45 learners.
Mr Ely said that the Department utilises the Central Education Management Information System (CEMIS) which is a live data system that captures data. The data is then forwarded to the head office. The system helps to know the number of students in a classroom, which in turn helps in management planning. He noted that the findings of the AG were based on the data supplied by the Department. The findings on misstatements resulted from discrepancies in the definition of indicators. Indicators should be properly interrogated and investigated before inclusion in Annual Reports.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted an explanation on the discrepancy in interrogation and interpretation of indicators between the AGSA and the Department regarding the number of classrooms with more than 45 learners. The information should be accurate, given the sophistry of CEMIS.
Mr Ely said that the CEMIS system has its complexity and implications due to the massive amount of data. Interpretation of data may vary depending on the analyst. The Department seeks to improve on the quality of data it supplies to the AGSA in the current and subsequent financial years. He noted that new systems have inherent risks, and misinterpretation is a possibility. The DBE currently works to review some of the indicators.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted further clarity on the materiality of misstatements identified by the AGSA.
Mr Ely said that the criteria for materiality are not the same for the Department and the AGSA. He said the AGSA does not disclose the benchmark it uses to determine materiality of misstatements.
The AGSA said that materiality of findings can be either qualitative or quantitative. Regarding the number of classrooms with more than 45 learners, the AGSA made findings and gave appropriate recommendations to the Department. Ms Adams noted that the Department fully implemented the action plans within the agreed timeframe.
Ms Beerwinkel noted that the Department could have had a different audit outcome if the findings by the AGSA were not corrected. She said the Department should have identified the problem before the AGSA noticed it. The Department and AGSA should have a standardised means to interrogate and interpret data to avoid discrepancies.
Mr Abrahams noted that some of the recommendations of the internal audit are targeted for implementation in the 2018/19 financial year.
Mr Tyatyam noted that Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras are installed in certain schools to monitor activities. He asked what measures the Department has in place to ensure safety of learners and teachers in all provincial schools.
Ms Maseko sought clarity on the criteria for selecting schools with CCTV camera. She asked how the Department prevents theft, and if cameras will be installed in all provincial schools.
Mr Schreuder said one of the criteria for selection is identification of hotspots. Some schools also buy CCTV cameras from their personal funds. He said he did not have the statistics of the number of CCTV cameras installed in schools. CCTV cameras are a deterrent, but crimes sometimes occur even where CCTV cameras are installed. The Department works with the Department of Community Safety to ensure safety in school premises. The Department has increased funding for school safety. The CCTV and alarms are linked to the City of Cape Town (CCT) system to ensure effectiveness and coordination. Other security measures include access control, electronic fencing, and security guards.
Discussion on Financials
Ms Beerwinkel sought clarity on virements as documented on pages 171 and 175 of Annual Report. She expressed concern that the Department did not state the reasons for virements as well as the affected Departments. She urged the Department to give appropriate descriptions in subsequent presentations.
Mr Mitchell sought clarity on the legal services budget in relation to forensic investigations. He also sought clarity on the beneficiaries of bursaries and level of bursaries documented on page 122 of Annual Report. He wanted to know the Department’s view of employees who use Department’s facilities for personal benefits. For example, teachers that conduct extra lessons for learners and collect money in the process.
Ms Maseko wanted to know how the Department intends to get value for its bursaries. She noted that staff members may seek better opportunities after completion of programmes sponsored by the Department.
Mr Mackenzie wanted the Department to explain the reason for variance in virements.
Mr Ely noted that virements can occur within or between programmes. The biggest virements resulted from the compensation of employees. He said variances resulted from roll-overs. Roll-overs are valid expenses and are audited by the AG. He said the Department has appropriate documentation for roll-overs.
Mr Ely said that there are contractual arrangements to retain employees after completion of sponsored programmes.
Mr Ely said that costs for legal services were incurred for the forensic investigations conducted by outsourced service providers.
Mr Mitchell wanted to know the process involved in the payment of legal fees.
An official of the Department said that the beneficiaries are selected in line with the Public Service Act. The selection involves thorough analysis of areas of need like finance, Supply Chain Management (SCM), public management, and human Resource (HR) related fields. The line managers ensure that the programme contributes to employee’s career progression, and the beneficiary serves one year for every year the scholarship is enjoyed.
Mr Schreuder said that the Department does not have a policy that guides the use of provincial schools for extra academic activities by teachers. The Department does not prohibit teachers from having extra sessions on school premises, provided the learner benefits at the end of the exercise.
Mr Mitchell wanted to know the contractual number of teaching hours.
Mr Ely said that the contractual number of hours is 35 hours per week.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted to know why there were under-spending in programmes like After School Game Changer, Nutrition Programme, Intellectual Disability, and HIV grants. She expressed concern that procurement policies are not followed in certain cases. She also sought clarity on fruitless and wasteful expenditure documented on pages 219 and 220 of Annual Report. She expressed concern about the tendency of retired teachers who are re-employed by the Department, to abuse the system. She noted that a significant amount of money is spent on re-employed teachers.
Mr Ely said that under-spending in the school nutrition programme resulted from the introduction of efficiency measures into the programme. Under-spending in other programmes resulted from non-implementation in the last financial year. The Department got approval for roll-over, and some of the programmes are earmarked for implementation in the current financial year.
Mr Ely said that the internal audit goes through payment vouchers to check for compliance. The Accounting Officer then decides on whether the findings should be condoned or not following an in-depth investigation. The Accounting Officer may decide to condone wasteful or fruitless expenditure if the Department receives value for its money but there is non-compliance. However, there are certain cases where cases cannot be completed due to the departure of defaulting employees. He said other fruitless and wasteful expenditure are still under investigation. Some cases deal with service providers that were paid twice and employees who were negligent in the execution of their duties.
According to the Mr Schreuder, re-employment of retired teachers is lawful. Sometimes, teachers leave schools and retired teachers are in position to assist. Such teachers are employed on short-term basis and the Department spends the same money it spends on full-time teachers. The Department ensures that re-employed teachers do not kick out young teachers from the system.
Ms Beerwinkel wanted to know if the Department handles transportation for special-needs schools.
An official of the Department said that special-needs schools handle transportation through funds allocated by the Department. However, the Department decided to purchase vehicles for the schools in the past two years due to safety requirements from the Department of Transport and Public Works. The first set of buses was delivered in the 2016/17 financial year in collaboration with Government Motor Transport and the Department of Transport and Public Works.
Ms Beerwinkel sought clarity on the huge amount spent on travel and subsistence as documented on page 212 of Annual Report. She also asked the Department to provide the contact details of District officials. This allows Committee members to contact them directly to address areas of need. Matters that cannot be resolved can then be directed to the Department.
Mr Schreuder offered to give the contact details of District officials but said that the privacy and security of officers must be protected.
The MEC thanked Committee members for the questions, time, and effective engagement with the Department. She assumed the Committee is satisfied with the implementation of action plans to mitigate identified risks. She noted that there is room for improvement.
Votes of thanks
Ms Maseko appreciated the work of the Department. She noted that parents should contribute their quota to sustain acceptable learners’ outcomes. She appreciated the hard work and commitment of Committee Members.
The meeting was adjourned.
- We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.