The Department of the Premier appeared before the Standing Committee to present its 2017/2018 annual report. By the end of the financial year under review, the Department had implemented broadband at 1 875 Western Cape government sites. It had had a constrained budget, and had encountered challenges in filling staff vacancies. As a result, existing personnel had had to shoulder additional tasks and responsibilities, which had had an impact on service delivery. The Department had spent 97.17% of its budget, and had been able to achieve 92% of its targets.
This was the last annual report for Ms Helen Zille as the Premier of the Western Cape. Members were interested in whether she had any regrets regarding the decisions she had made during her term of office. They specifically asked her to reflect on the mismatch between the racial composition of her Department and the demographics of the Western Cape. The Premier responded she had no regrets at all, but had changed her position on issues when the circumstances had changed. Most rational people did that. One could form a conclusion and a position on a set of circumstances. When those circumstances changed, one reevaluated and reached another conclusion.
Members said there seemed to be a regression in the performance of the Department, and asked why this was the case. Of major concern was the prevalence of vacancies, as well as increased absenteeism and sick leave, and a high level of staff turnover. More young people were leaving than their older colleagues, and the Department was asked if this was due to factors such as salary levels and a lack of promotion opportunities. What measures were in place to retain young workers?
Other matters attracting the attention of Members included the high levels of crime and vandalism of infrastructure; measures to deal with the water crisis in the province; the success of the Western Cape in creating more jobs than any other province; the challenges delaying the rollout of broadband; the latest situation regarding the Children’s Commission bill; and the Department’s involvement in the forensic investigations at the George municipality.
Ms Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape, said that the Department was pleased to present its annual report for the 2017/18 financial year. By the end of the period, broadband had been implemented in 1 875 Western Cape government sites. Plans were currently being finalised to extend broadband to municipalities. Austerity measures had been in place in the Department of the Premier (DotP) for some years now. The year 2017/18 was the year of constrained budget. Existing staff had to take on additional responsibilities and had strived to maintain the high standard of service that was expected of the Department. In the year 2017/18, the Department had spent 97.17% of its budget and achieved 92% of its indicators.
Mr R Mackenzie (DA) said reference was made to an innovative initiative during the year under review. What was the innovative initiative and what was the cost to the government?
He asked if the Head of Department (HOD) had been working with other HODs to ensure that there was a behavioral change in government employees when it came to water saving, and the water saving measures that had been introduced.
What was the impact of the shortage of staff on the Department?
Mr Mackenzie referred to the budget challenges and the impact of the rand/dollar exchange rate, and asked for clarity on the exact rand amount.
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) said the report talked about imbedding good governance principles in the Western Cape, and that had been a central theme. He asked the Premier to reflect on any issues that had happened in the province and in the municipalities, which she believed had impacted negatively on that good governance principle.
In her foreword, the Premier referred to the fact that the Department had achieved 94% of its targets. He asked why there appeared to be a regression in the year under review, in the sense that that figure had dropped to 92%.
In the foreword, reference was made to the Premier's Advancement of Youth (PAY) project as a project that had continued to contribute to youth job opportunities. What specific skills had these interns gained after participating in the project? How had the Department dealt with large number of unsuccessful applicants who had attempted to be part of the project?
Mr Dugmore said that the Premier had indicated that this was her final annual report. He asked the Premier to reflect on whether there were any decisions that she had taken, or decisions that she had failed to take over this term which she regretted.
Ms Zille said that the drought was so severe and the predictions of rain for the winter of 2017 had been so erroneous, that the Department hadhad to switch many of its budgets to ensure sufficient water resilience. Particularly in education, the Department had to ensure that schools would be able to survive Day Zero if it arrived. Also, health facilities had to be able to continue functioning. The business continuity programme had taken a lot of resources, but it had been extraordinarily successful. Most of the health facilities and certainly the large hospitals could function almost entirely autonomously as far as water was concerned. That was a huge improvement and the same could be said for many schools. Several schools had installed their own boreholes and tanks. This was a great step in the right direction to become sufficiently climate resilient. Obviously, this had significant financial implications.
Ms Zille said the important thing to understand about the South African constitution was that while spheres of government had a predominant mandate under the constitution, no sphere of government could have a 100% clear run on the mandate. All the mandates require cooperative governance with other spheres of government. Regarding the areas where the Department had been mostly impacted in good governance, they had been where there were difficulties of cooperative governance.
Regarding the water situation, the fact was that the clearing and maintaining of canals was the national government's mandate. National government was responsible for major water infrastructure, or the raising of the dam wall that was supposed to have been completed by June 2018, which could have made an enormous difference in saving water that was currently being wasted. The province had lost a lot of water through cracked and unmaintained canals. The Department had had to divert much of its own budget to maintain the infrastructure that should have been national government's responsibility.
Another area was the small hubs. The small hubs should be driving economic growth in the province, and this was one of the Department's great regrets. The small hubs should be little gold mines of job creation and economic development and tourism attraction. However, the Department had tried to get the cooperative governance needed to regenerate those hubs. It was local government's mandate and local government was very pleased to assist the Department.
The Department also had to deal with national Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Public Works, which owns quite a lot of the infrastructure. It proved impossible to get any mandate for continuity in those departments, with a frequent change of ministers. It was equally difficult to get people to come to meetings and to get them to have any continuity in coming to those meetings. It had dragged on for years until the Department went to the Technical Assistance Committee of the National Treasury, which committed to helping the Department. The National Treasury saw exactly the potential of what the Department had been trying to do, so they did their best to assist it. The biggest blockage to the Department doing things that it would love to do, and that would have had a major impact on economic growth and other factors of the province, was the extraordinary instability and often incapacity in the spheres of government where the Department needed to make cooperative governance work to make any impact.
Ms Zille said that another big frustration, especially as far as local government was concerned, was that when the Department did forensic investigations and then handed over the results to the Hawks, it literally took years for anything to happen. People tended to continue in office instead of being suspended. There was intense frustration about the efficiency of follow-up and the lack of report back on whether something had been done. The Department could not interfere in any criminal justice processes, but it needed to know whether something was happening or not, or if any investigation was proceeding or not. It was frustrating, because the Department had to continue with inter-governmental cooperation often with people who had very significant clouds hanging over their heads in terms of the outcomes of forensic reports that needed further follow up through the criminal justice system, which did not happen.
Ms Zille responded that that the skills that people had acquired in the PAY programme were going to differ in terms of the specific placements of interns in the programme. There was a lot of potential for placement, and the skills that they would acquire depended on that particular placement.
One of her greatest regrets was that the Department did not get the small harbours buzzing in the form of a job-creating hub. It had not managed to resolve the issues it was required to handle through inter-governmental cooperation.
Ms Zille said that she had no regrets at all, but had changed her position on issues when the circumstances had changed. Most rational people did that. One could form a conclusion and a position on a set of circumstances. When those circumstances changed, one reevaluated and reached another conclusion. As far as the Children's Commission was concerned, factors that pertained when that clause was put into the constitution had fundamentally changed. There had been extraordinary changes brought about by the various laws in the interim, and all the institutions and forums had been set up to do precisely what the Children's Commission was intended to do and much more, and it seemed it would be sensible not to duplicate those resources.
Adv Brent Gerber, Director General, said that with regard to water saving, the Department was playing a role in putting the responses together. The responsibility for the management of water lay with the Department of Local Government and the Department of Public Works. The Department had an amount of about R2 million in the budget which was intended for the water framework plan.
He said the Department was sitting with an imposed compensation of employment (CoE) ceiling which the Department had to reach. It had to balance the process very delicately to make certain that it had the right people in the right places. There was a need to make a choice between doing something in two days and not filling a post, as opposed to filling it with someone less efficient. It was a balancing act that the Department continued to perform. The Department had appointed a committee of officials who evaluate every position to be filled. If a vacancy occurred, it was not automatically filled. It first goes to the committee, which considers the strategic nature of the post and the long-term impact on the budget of filling it or not filling it. So there was a whole process continuously happening in terms of how the staff were managed. If there was a vacancy in one area, but there was a possible impact on service delivery in another area, the post would not be filled in the area where the vacancy had occurred -- the funding would be allocated to fill a post in the area which had service delivery impact. That was how the Department was managing it.
Regarding fruitless and wasteful expenditure, in all instances value for money had been received.
Regarding regression in the permission to occupy (PTO) targets, all four of them had been partly achieved, and the Department could provide the details.
The skills that the Department had given to the young people through the PAY programme included licence training, life skills, introduction to project management, introduction to office management, introduction to written communication, and many more subjects.
A Department official said that there had been 2 228 applicants in the previous round of the PAY project, of which 608 had been placed, with 96 of them in the DotP. With regard to the exit strategy for the project, the students were encouraged to go and do further studies. Some were appointed by contract within the Western Cape Government (WCG). All the applicants were on a database which was made available to big employers that approached the Department, like Old Mutual or Sanlam, for them to be able to contact them. Whether the person was successful or not, they would be on that database.
Mr Drikus Basson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) said that page 17 talked about budget challenges and what the impact was on the budget. The impact that was the clearest was the one on the software licensing, which was denominated in dollars. When the Department budgeted for this a couple of year ago, the exchange rate had been at R10.50. Currently, the dollar was at R14.30. In the year under review, it had been roughly R12.50. The impact was R32 million per annum. That was the impact of the rand/dollar exchange rate on the licensing cost.
Regarding the fruitless and wasteful expenditure, there had been ten cases, and the total amount involved was R3 384.98. Of the ten cases, the Department had already found that six were valid expenses, because they did not meet the definition for being fruitless and wasteful. Fruitless and wasteful was expenditure made in vain which would have not occurred had reasonable care been exercised. Most of these cases related to what was called "no show fees" for travel. If someone in Johannesburg goes to the airport and there is an accident on the major road that leads to the airport and cannot make it for the flight, there was a “no show fee" of R399. No reasonable care could have prevented that expenditure -- it was an unforeseen circumstance. All of these cases were small amounts that made up the R3 000. All were related to travel and were not necessarily the Department's employees, but candidates for interviews.
Mr Dugmore said that the Western Cape had an unprecedented situation regarding water. DA leader Mmusi Maimane had got directly involved in the governance issue affecting a sphere of government in the Western Cape. He asked the Premier if she thought that doing so contributed to good governance, because clearly that kind of intervention did not appear in any way to conform with what was said in the foreword about the issue of good governance.
Ms Zille responded that she was satisfied with everything the province had to do to help manage the drought disaster and impending Day Zero. The Department had pre-empted many things because of the excellent officials who worked in this area. Whatever the Department was doing was within its mandate for disaster management. On a broader scale, if the national government had fulfilled its role as far as water and sanitation was concerned, no intervention by anybody else would have been necessary.
Mr K Magaxa (ANC) asked for clarity regarding the 92% regression. Had the formulation on paragraph three been a deliberate attempt to hide or not take responsibility for the regress? The formulation had just said that on average, the Department annually achieved 94% of its targets but did not refer to the 92%, which was a regression. Was that an attempt to hide the real issues?
He asked for clarity on the Department’s response to ad hoc demand, especially in the corporate service centre space. Did this include the challenge of the Knysna and Imizamo Yethu fires?
He asked for more information on the implementation of the broadband strategy and the implementation plan progress. What were the challenges it faced, and how did the Department deal with those challenges?
Why had the Department lowered the targets from 2 000 to 1 875?
Mr Magaxa referred to the Western Cape demographics, and said that 81.8% of people residing in the Western Cape were black, and only 15.7% were white. One could break that down into the 58.8% of blacks were colored, and 32.8% were Africans. The people who had been historically challenged by the apartheid government were around 82% in the Western Cape. However, looking at the organisational structure, was there any attempt to run a representative government by taking into consideration that those people would have to participate and fill the difference between the pre-94 and post-94 democratic breakthrough?
Ms D Gopie (ANC) asked why there were so many vacancies. Had they been caused by resignations, and for how long had these posts been vacant? What was the impact of these vacancies on the work of the Department?
Mr M Wiley (DA) commented that the Premier had not mentioned the incredible impact that crime had had on this province. He asked the Premier whether her lack of mentioning crime was because it had become almost second nature that they just accepted that it was a completely failed environment in that regard. As a province, they would have been able to achieve a tremendous amount more, had the crime situation not been what it was in the Western Cape now.
Ms Zille responded that the average performance against target over the years had been 94%. In the DG's introduction, one was informed of what happened in the year under review, which was the 92%. Perhaps the foreword might have been amended to say it was 92% this year, and the average had been 94% over the period.
She said the most critical factor if one compared1994 to today was the level of unemployment. In 1994, there had been about four million South Africans unemployed -- now there were about nine million South Africans unemployed. In the last ten years, this province had created 60% of all jobs in the entire country. Every single theorist and analyst would tell one that whether there was investment or growth in jobs, it depended on the governance environment. There must be clean governance, infrastructure that works, and confidence in the stability of the policy direction. The reason that so many black people had come to the Western Cape was so that they could feel socially included by getting a job. While the population had grown by about 680 000, the jobs created were in the order of 640 000 over that period, so there was a net loss -- but far less of a net loss than in all the other provinces. The unemployment was not a function of the amount of melanin in the skin, but rather a function of a completely different factor. The team in the Department was impressive, with their hard work and the dedication that they showed, and that that was the function of their race. If this government was elected by the people, the Department would not do quotas and would not do racial bean counting. The Department would look for ethics, competence, commitment, capacity, talent and the ability to work together as a team, which this team reflected
Adv Gerber said that the targets on the broadband were necessitated by some sites on the regional list. Some departments had been excluded at a later stage, and did not want broad band there. Some sites were moved due to relocation and renovation. More details could be provided to the Committee on the sites that were moved because of that.
He said a couple of posts had already been filled. The one vacancy that was yet to be filled was the one related to international relations, and this was mainly due to the fact that the Department was busy looking at the restructuring of the Department.
If one looked all the appointments, very few white males were appointed in this government. Secondly, the focus was on training all designated groups to a large extent. The statistics on training showed that there was a lot of focus on training the members of the designated groups to skill them up to make certain that they were available for positions when they applied for them. Thirdly, during interviews, it was standard procedure to take a candidate from the designated group unless there was very good motivation for why it did not happen. Steps were being taken to make certain that the Department addressed the issue of both skills and the quality of personnel, as well as addressing the gap that needed to be addressed in terms of employment equity.
Ms Zille said that if one looked at everything the Department sets out to do in terms of its oversight mandate -- everything from the commission of inquiry, to the neighbourhood watches, to the watching briefs to the community police forums (CPFs), to the partnerships, all of those sorts of things -- the Department had gone as far as it could in setting up an oversight infrastructure. What needed to be done further was to maximise the impact of those partnerships in various contexts, and that was certainly going to be the focus in trying to reduce crime. One of the biggest frustrations was that the Department did not have more direct power. The South African constitution was one of the very few in the world that did not give direct policing powers in a decentralised way either to regions or to local governments. The Department had eventually established a very productive relationship with the provincial police under General Jula, which was significant progress. The province now had the anti-gang unit and hopefully that would start to have an impact. The Department had also managed to achieve the establishment of base camps in some of the worst affected areas. However, crime still had to be faced with all the power in criminal justice system, which resided at the national government level.
Mr Dugmore observed that the Premier had mentioned that 60% of jobs created in South Africa since 2010 had been created in the Western Cape, and had mentioned a figure of 640 000. Did that mean only just over one million jobs had been created in South Africa?
Ms Zille responded that she was not talking about the number of jobs created, but about the net difference between loss and gain.
Mr Dugmore commented on the reference to the fifth strategic goal and the outcomes thereof. He asked the DG to rate the performance of the Department with regards to those outcomes, taking into account the community protests and the divisions in the province around issues of social cohesion and some of the social delivery protests.
He asked for clarification on the CoE restraints. In what way had they impacted on the Department’s budget?
What were the budget challenges in respect to the roll out of the broadband strategy, and how was the Department dealing with them? What was he total amount spent on the rollout of the broadband strategy. Was any money spent on security for the roll out of broadband?
Adv Gerber responded that strategy five consisted of the Departments of Local Government, the Premier, Treasury and Development and Planning. The DotP played a supporting role in terms of enabling the other departments to do their work.
With respect to service delivery, the DotP had several projects running with other departments. For example, the queuing systems in Michells Plein were driven by the Department of the Premier.
He said National Treasury had imposed a CoE ceiling on all Departments. The budget could not grow. It decreases on an annual basis in relation to the Department's expenditure on employees. That was forcing the Department to not fill certain posts. It was requiring the Department to work much harder in the areas where the posts were not being filled.
Mr Basson responded that the challenges relating to the rollout of broadband were related mainly to the building of the infrastructure across the province. It took a very long time to do that, given the amount of work that went into this type of activity. It also required approvals from municipalities. The Department could submit the information on phase one of the expenditure on broadband to the Committee.
A Department official said that the Central Supplier Database (CSD) offered about 84 services to the 13 departments of the Province. The nature of the departments’ requirements was often influenced by difficult factors. For example, in the national sectors, a new legislative requirement may demand even new processes or structural implementation in the province. That would put pressure on the department because it was unplanned. This would lead to the possibility of recruitment, which puts pressure on another section in the people management space. The department also had a very unpredictable environment in legal services. There would be a requirement for litigation and for the department to act in that space. That was not always predictable, and it was not always possible to plan it up to the level of perfection that the department would require. Another example would be when there was a need for expansion that required network expansion. There could be an ad hoc demand the puts pressure in the infrastructure space. To mitigate against the nature of all these ad hoc responses, the Department had for the past three years embarked on a process referred to as “demand planning,” which was attempting to get greater accuracy in the articulation of the departments’ demand for the 84 services. `
Mr Dugmore referred to Departmental receipts on the sale of goods and services, and commented that there was quite a difference between 2016 and 2017, of about R2.9 million. He asked for an explanation. There was reference to bad debts that were written off in terms of the debt management policy. What were the debts about? Which capital assets had been sold?
There was reference to better than anticipated performance. This had been mainly due to the refund received from the City of Cape Town, which was related to the unspent grant payment. What were the details of that, and why was the grant not spent?
Mr Dugmore noted that the Department would be reviewing its international relations strategy, and asked if the Committee could get a summary of the process. When could it expect the reviewed strategy to be available?
A member of the delegation said the R2.9 million difference in the receipts on the sale of goods and services between 2016/ 17 and 2017/ 18 was related to two major items. The first was the rental of venues or facilities at the Kromme Rhee provincial training institute in Stellenbosch. In 2017 the Department had received R725 000 in rentals. In the previous year, it had been R1.3 million. It was entirely demand-driven. The Department gets requests for the use of the venues. The second item was the sale of the Government Gazette. In the year under review, it was R1.22 million, and in the previous year, R1.466 million. This explained the difference. It was also the reason why the Department had not adjusted its revenue budget significantly over time, because it did not control how much revenue it would get in a year.
The debt of R6 300 related to matters such as the loss of the duty vehicle keys. The debts were small amounts and become uneconomical to source from the debtors, and it gets written off in terms of the policy.
The assets sold were the assets where the Department gets technical reports, for example, on an old laptop that breaks down. That laptop gets replaced, and the person who uses it puts in an offer to purchase it. To the Department, it has zero value, so it would determine in the disposal Committee whether to accept the offer to purchase.
He explained that before the Department had started with the broadband roll out, there had been an agreement with City that it would work with them. They were rolling out their own broadband. There were amounts under payments transferred to the City of about R55 million over three to four years. The R1.26 million was the amount that was left after the Department cut over to the Newtel or Liquid Telecoms service.
Regarding Kromme Rhee, the Committee should indicate what was required in the requested report, and the Department would provide the information.
The Committee was told that the Department was hiring out the venues at Kromme Rhee to local government and provincial departments. The Department had 43 courses on the prospectus, and there was a schedule of programmes that the Department offered throughout the year. Most of the courses involved cost recovery. The Committee would be supplied with a full report of everything that had been done in the year in question.
A member of the delegation said that the Department was currently doing quarterly monitoring of the implementation of its strategy, looking at where the province was going in terms of geographical areas. It had focus areas in terms of the geographical areas which were expressed in its international relations strategy. The Department was considering whether departments, when undertaking visits, should focus on those areas that were prioritised in terms of the international relations strategy. There were also specific strategic goals that the Department was looking at, like skills development, the promotion of trade tourism and investment, as well as green economy or climate change.
Ms Gopie was concerned about the failure to fill vacancies. It would be difficult for the Department to extend its services without being able to increase the number of people required to add more value. How many vacancies were affected and what was impact on the performance of the Department?
She asked why it had taken the Department nine years to draft the Children Commission’s draft bill.
For more than a year, none of the chief directorates had been permanently appointed. What was the reason for not filling the vacancies?
Despite the constraints, the chief director had delivered on his mandate -- and even beyond. She asked for more details about this.
Ms Gopie said that the Centre for Innovation user base had grown by 28 600 in the Western Cape. Who were these users? What was the reason for the growth?
Adv Gerber responded that the Department would provide the Committee with a full report giving details on the vacancies.
A member of the delegation said that the moment the vacancies stood at 0.9%. The actual numbers were detailed in part D of the report.
Adv Gerber said the post of Chief Director: Policy and Strategy, had now been filled on a contract basis by Mr Anthony Issac. The delay with regard to the appointment had been due to the debate between about the possible restructuring of the unit. That was also the reason why the position was on a contract basis as opposed to a permanent basis.
A member of the delegation referred to the Children’s Commission, and said that the draft policy guideline had been approved at the end of the 2016/17 financial year. It had been approved by the Cabinet in August 2017, after which it was published for public comments. It had to go through the public comment process and public participation process. A team in the DotP had received all the comments, and after a rigorous review process in March of 2018, the bill had been amended and introduced in Parliament. The Department was currently in the second round of the public hearings that were taking place in November. There were another two to take place.
Regarding the 286 000 users, they were all computer users spread across the entire province in all the departments including hospitals. They were all computer users that were connected to the Department's network.
Ms Gopie commented that the Department had achieved a compliance rate of 91%, which was lower than the previous rating achieved during 2016/17 financial year. She asked the Department to provide more clarity about this achievement. She also asked for an explanation of the increased under-expenditure in the DotP.
A member of the delegation responded that the underspending in the Office of the Premier was largely due to less travel being undertaken than anticipated.
Ms Gopie asked the Department to provide more information on the consolidated reports submitted on strategic international engagements..
A member of the delegation responded that those were the trips undertaken for international engagements. Those engagements were consolidated into a report, and they were compiled on a quarterly basis.
Mr Dugmore was concerned about areas of underperformance. He asked the Department to provide details on the broadband service providers and the expenditure during this period.
Mr Dugmore asked if the DotP had been involved in any forensic investigations in the George municipality. What was the nature and progress of those investigations?
A member of the delegation responded that the provincial forensics services had not been tasked with investigations at the George municipality, although it had assisted the Department of Local Government with some preliminary assessment. The matter was being investigated by the Hawks and SAPS.
Mr Dugmore asked why the issues in the George municipality had required the DotP forensic services to assist the local government?
A member of the delegation responded that the Department of Local Government had received some allegations and had requested the provincial forensic services to assist in investigating those allegations.
Ms L Botha (DA) noted that for the period under review, there had been 2 222 requests for legal advice. What was the type of legal advice that had to be given in response to those requests?
A member of the delegation responded that the allegations involved irregularities at the George municipality, including aspects of economic crime.
The 2 222 requests had been for legal services. There had been 626 requests for legal opinions, 730 requests for contracts to be drafted or edited, and 560 new litigation matters were opened. There were about nine requests for new provincial laws to be drafted. There were 50 requests for some old regulations that would involve regulations, notices and other legislative instruments. Most of it was taken up under the legal advisory discipline, because that was where all the legal opinions and contracts were dealt with.
Ms Botha asked if any of the litigation came from the municipalities.
A member of the delegation responded that the municipalities were autonomous entities, and had their own legal services. The state attorney was the attorney for the state, and represented the provincial and national departments free of charge, but did not represent municipalities. They handle their own litigation matters. The Department does not get involved, other than in cases where a municipality struggles with capacity. The Department might then render some support based on its general oversight and support role in relation to the local sphere of government.
Mr Dugmore wanted to know how many requests had been outsourced. What percentage was the Department able to handle internally? If there was outsourcing, what was the process and how did one go about that?
A member of the delegation responded that out of the 626 legal opinions, the Department had outsourced only 12 matters. About 97 to 98% of the work was done in-house. The Department was not in the business of outsourcing, except in circumstances where one had matters that were really very complex or specialised or urgent, or had major implications, where one would often at the request of a client brief counsel for a confirmatory opinion once one had already give an internal opinion.
Mr Dugmore asked the Department to provide the Committee with a list of the matters or opinions that were outsourced.
Ms Gopie asked for an explanation for the under-expenditure on the vacancies
Ms Botha asked how many posts had been filled by people from other provinces
A member of the delegation responded that the under-spending on vacancies was related to the time taken to fill a vacancy. After the decision was made to fund the post, there was a specific committee that looked at how to fund posts. All requests to fund a post go to that Committee, so there was a bit of a delay in the time to fill a post, which leads to under-spending.
Mr Magaxa asked the Department to provide the reasons for not upgrading any of the posts, as well as the reasons for down grading a post.
A member of the delegation explained that filling a post goes through a process where motivation must be provided to the committee on why the filling of that post was important. There were several criteria that the committee had to look at. Before a post was advertised, its job evaluation level was confirmed. They look at the job requirement and depending on what was required, there was a prescribed job evaluation process to determine whether what one required the person to do was at that level.
Mr Mackenzie asked the Department to provide the reason for insufficient progression possibilities. How did it assist when there was a possibility for progression?
Ms Gopie asked the Department to explain why there was a high turnover of personnel, and to provide information on the age groups of staff members whose contracts had expired.
Ms Botha asked for clarity on the transfers to other public service departments. Had these been within the province?
A member of the delegation responded regarding staff leaving and insufficient progression opportunities, and said that currently there were no promotions in the Department. People would apply for posts as they became vacant. However, the Department encouraged its staff to ensure that they satisfied the minimum requirement for the posts. It did not reserve positions for internal persons.
The Committee was told the turnover rate referred to critical occupations. When a contract comes to an end, the regulations state that one cannot extend contracts for persons occupying the positions. The Department therefore has to go through a process to recruit, and the person may get re-employed in that particular contract. Secondly, when it comes to critical occupations, one could have a situation where the structure has been finalised and the persons who were on contracts were now on the permanent structure. It would still be recorded as staff leaving because the contract had come to an end.
Regarding transfers, the Department does not report where the person is coming from or going to. However, the Department could also provide the Committee with information on the specifics of who was transferred out and to which department.
Ms Botha commented that the 26 staff members had provided no reason for resignation. Did it mean the Department did not know the reasons why they were leaving the Department?
Mr Mackenzie wanted to know if the human resources (HR) department offered courses or training that could assist internal staff to qualify for positions when they become vacant. For instance, if an individual had been a deputy director for 15 years, and the director position became available, was there some sort of succession plan as opposed to hiring someone from outside?
A member of the delegations said that when it came to senior management posts, the regulations specifically required that that the Department should advertise outside -- nationally and on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) circular. Secondly, one would also want to test one’s own staff against whoever was out there, otherwise if one had a more internalised process one would never be sure how good one was until one tested oneself. The recruitment process was such that whoever was more suitable for that post would come through in that process. The Department had now started a pilot project which involved the development of an annual people planner, in terms of which the DotP would work with the line departments to determine the current status of all the employees in terms of age, and whether there was a succession plan for critical occupations. The Department was piloting in only six departments this year. So there was a plan in process to manage the issue of succession.
Ms Botha asked whether the reason for absenteeism of the 26 staff had been due to ill health. When did the Department conduct an exit interview after someone decides to leave the job?
A member of the delegation responded that discharge due to ill health was not the same as resignation. One may have a case where someone does not provide a specific reason. The exit interview was conducted in the last month of the employee with the Department. The reason was given voluntarily -- the Department could not force them to provide a reason. In this case, the 26 did not give a reason and the Department must respect that. It was working on an online exit process to make it easier for people to participate in the exit process.
The Chairperson commented that the biggest percentage of resignations was among young people between the ages of 30-34. This was an annual observation. Was there any particular reason why that percentage was significantly higher than the percentage of resignations in that group and the group thereafter, where the older one gets, the lower it becomes? Was there no potential for growth, or career planning?
Ms Gopie asked if the Department was not concerned about the young people who were leaving. What was it doing to retain young people?
Mr Dugmore noted that it was only in the lower skilled level where there was a figure of below 50% in terms of progression to a higher notch. In all the other categories, from skilled to senior management, the figure was above 50%. He asked for explanation.
A member of the delegation responded that young people were building careers, so they were searching for promotion opportunities, and if a promotion opportunity did not present itself in the Department, they searched for one in other national and provincial departments.
A member of the delegation added that one could qualify for notch increments only 24 months after one was appointed to a post. So that was why the number was lower.
Mr Mackenzie observed that there was a huge discrepancy between terminations and promotions. The Department offered many skills development opportunities and training. However, the report showed 49 terminations and only seven promotions. Did the training and skills development opportunities speak to future development?
Mr Dugmore said that it was very clear that those terminations did not have to do with transfers to other departments. Were people moving or being terminated because of remuneration issues?
A member of the delegation responded that the terminations could also be due to the end of contracts, and the person reapplying for the same position. The records showed termination even if the person reapplied for the post. The Department would look further into the reasons for the terminations.
Mr Dugmore asked for information on the process that was followed regarding the performance awards. Was there a central committee to oversee all of this?
A member of the delegation responded that the performance review started off between the employee and his manager. There was a first level moderation with the Chief Director. The reviews were then taken to a Departmental moderation committee which was chaired by the DG, where the outcome of the reviews was considered
Mr Dugmore noticed that even with regard to awards, there appeared to be a situation where the designated groups were also not benefiting in line with the provincial demographics.
Ms Gopie asked for an explanation on why so many employees were taking sick leave, and for details of those who had taken sick leave.
A member of the delegation said that employees could take sick leave over a three-year cycle. Normally, the average was four days. Currently, it was eight days per employee. There could be various reasons why an employee could take sick leave and did not have to provide a medical certificate if it was less than three days. Regarding the employees on incapacity leave, after a person had taken up his/her 36 days of leave, they could apply for incapacity leave, which was sick leave which required a higher level of scrutiny in terms of the reasons one could not come to work.
Ms Botha asked if there were people assigned to act in the position of those people who were incapacitated. Also, when staff applied for incapacity leave, did the Department request a second or a third medical opinion?
A member of the delegation said seven people who had taken over 50 days incapacity leave. Of those seven cases, there were two involving a big operation and a cancer case, so the Department knew exactly who the people were. The Department monitors people taking leave because they must have 10 days of leave by the end of the year and the rest of the leave must be taken before the end of June of the coming year.
Ms Botha asked the Department for data on the people taking leave on a Monday to Friday basis. Were there people who would be on sick leave after pay day? What was the intervention in terms addressing this absenteeism?
A member of the delegation responded that the Department would look at the data and see what it said regarding that information.
Ms Botha asked for information on the amount of sick leave that was attributed to stress or burn out, and in terms of the cost to the Department, what the rand value was that could be attributed to it.
A member of the delegation responded that when someone submitted a certificate for more than three days, that certificate may indicate that it was due to stress. If someone was taking leave and chose not to disclose it because he or she took leave for only one or two days, the Department could no record that as stress. Overall it was a fact that as soon as someone was absent, someone else had to take up that person’s responsibility and work. Regarding acting arrangements, acting was paid only once the post was vacant. Someone would perform those duties in addition to his or her own duties. It was not typically acting, in the sense of being paid extra, because one was paid only if the post was vacant.
Ms Gopie noted that there was reference to a couple of grievances. She asked the Department to provide some information on that issue. Also, how many of them were resolved?
A member of the delegation said eight grievances were resolved and those included leave, conduct of a supervisor, a transfer as well as performance. Ten had not been resolved, and those were related to performance management, leave, conduct of a supervisor, upgrading of a post, filling of a post, and translation in rank.
Ms Gopie noted that there were a couple of disputes. What were these disputes about?
A member of the delegation responded that the disputes were related to the failure of an application for a collective agreement. One was related to unfair dismissal, and one was a salary issue.
Ms Gopie asked the Department to provide more information on injuries on duty.
Mr Dugmore noted that there was reference to consultants who had been appointed using appropriated funds. Did that mean that there were consultants who were appointed using other funds? The understanding was that the appropriated funds were the funds in the budget.
A member of the delegation said that here had been three cases of injury on duty. One involved an official who injured him/herself while attempting to lift a computer. The second was an official busy using a punch and got injured. The third one was where a shelf broke and fell on the foot of an employee.
Mr Basson responded that as a Department, one either had appropriated funds, meaning everything in the budget, or one had donor funds. In this case, the Department had no donor funds.
Mr Mackenzie noted that the Department was developing a future guide for people to become professionals. He asked the Department to elaborate on that.
A member of the delegation said that the world of work was changing and it was the responsibility of the Department to recognise the trends out there. It therefore needed to go through a structured process to develop a guide that highlighted the main trends and involve all staff members in how to get solutions in terms of preparing for the future, looking at skills development, strengths and opportunities.
The meeting was adjourned.
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