The Committee was briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration, Performance and Monitoring on the Public Service Graduate Recruitment Scheme Framework (GRSF) and Developmental Programmes. This was an initiative from the Presidency’s Office as a response to the plight of the unemployed graduates and youth within the public and private sectors. The Committee heard the Minister’s report that the GRSF was the President’s call for the removal of barriers which denied entry to jobs for graduates without work experience.
Members heard that the National Development Plan (NDP) in their vision for 2030 had observed severe shortages of staff with specialised skills. Further, graduates and youth with potential were finding it difficult to identify how they could start a career in the public service. As a result they proposed the GRSF as a solution to this problem. The hope is that fragmentation, weak coordination and poor reporting would be addressed by this all-encompassing framework. The GRSF thus hoped to improve on programmes to make the public service a career of choice for the unemployed youth and graduates.
Members raised pertinent questions as to what happened to candidates who were not retained and whether the skills they trained for went to waste. Concerns were also raised over the cuts in the Compensation Budgets which lead to a lower number accepting interns for the GRSF programme. Members also asked what level of work opportunities the GRSF programme offered; why so few municipalities chose to become involved; why there was a decline in the numbers from 13 000 down to 9 000 from 2014-2015 until 2016-2018; why the Department in Mpumalanga only responded as a partner in the Health Sector and not in Education; how would one ensure that these people continued to use their skills; and what happened to the people who underwent training as in where were they placed.
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Public Works Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) on their 30 Days Payments for December 2018 strategy. This was in order to address the delays in payments and the negative impact it has especially on Small Medium Micro Enterprise businesses.
Members raised concerns as to why the Department of Public Works seemed incapable of meeting payment deadlines and that the Department had the highest number of unpaid invoices. Members were also concerned about unqualified staff in the Department and felt this could be the reason for the backlog in unpaid invoices. The unpaid invoices also incurred legal cases and costs to the Department. Members also raised the concern that the Department of Public Works was far from being user-friendly to people with disabilities, resulting in many of them quitting their jobs.
The Committee urged the Department to be aware of when payment to Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMME) failed to take place within 30 days, and further urged them to be aware that the late payment of invoices might lead to legal action being taken against the Department. Members asked why there is a centralised budget for the Department of Justice and Correctional Services; Why should the Department “close shop” in the month of November as SMMEs incurred many expenses and needed payments on time; and if the Department took steps against a business or blacklisted it for submitting double claims for payments.
The Deputy Minister said that said that sometimes failure to pay was a symptom of corruption and that was why there had to be strong effective monitoring and processing of invoices. The Committee was especially concerned about the Department not being user-friendly to people with disabilities, causing them to quit their jobs and also not to visit the Department. Areas such as Pretoria, the Western Cape and Johannesburg were singled out as having the highest backlog in unpaid invoices.
The Minister said that to combat fraud, the Department created a unit called the Governance Risk & Compliance Unit to deal with internal investigations. Members suggested that there should be a central point for the receiving of invoices, invoices should be submitted electronically and there should be more training for existing staff as possible solutions to the problem.
Briefing by the DPSA on observations by the NDP (National Development Plan) for a proposed strategy to make the Public Service a career of choice for skilled graduates and unemployed youth
Mr Richard Levin, Director-General (DG): DPSA said that the strategy aimed to:
- Attract highly skilled graduates and young persons with potential by retaining and binding them;
- To instill a sense of professional common purpose and commitment to working towards developmental goals.
An important factor was to ensure that the public service had a well-defined, transparent and shared strategy for recruiting dedicated young people, and that their skills were developed and accompanied with career progression. This would lead to them being retained in the service and in the specialised areas they are qualified in.
Approval was obtained for the areas below:
- Cabinet Approval – December 2017;
- Launch by the Marketing Practitioner SA (MPSA) – July 2018;
- Approval by MPSA – December 2018;
- Issued to departments – January 2019; and
- Implementation Phase Commenced – January 2019
It must be noted that the public service programmes delivered the largest contribution towards youth development and creation of employment.
The DG said that employees would be expected to encourage workers to participate in learnerships and other training programmes and to improve employment prospects of previously disadvantaged persons.
- A monthly stipend or allowances;
- Targeted training for candidates offered by National School of Government and other institutions;
- Personal and/or Further Development Programmes;
- Reasonable accommodation and assistive devices for employees with disabilities in the public service (2015)
- Pre-employment verification as prescribed in Section 57 (3) of the Public Service Regulations 2016; and
- Possible extension of contracts due to approved leave taken during the internship contract because of incapacity or leave for occupational injuries and diseases, paternity and maternity leave.
The departments who have showed interest in implementing the GRSF Framework are:
- National Treasury
- KZN Provincial Treasury
- Western Cape Provincial Treasury
- National Department of Public Works
- KZN Provincial Department of Human Settlements
- Mpumalanga Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) & Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA)
- Mpumalanga Department
Other matters pertaining to the GRSF Programme, included: Duration of the Programme; Exit Management; Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting; GRSF Implementation Road Map; Current and Planned Projects of Partners; Challenges and Resource Allocation.
Mr Y Cassim (DA) asked what level of work opportunities the GRSF programme offered.
He said that with regard to partnership with the GRSF, many Provinces and different departments have joined, but only some municipalities responded. He asked why so few municipalities chose to become involved.
Mr Cassim said that the fact that the National Development Plan (NDP) is involved in this GRSF programme, many people would like to contribute to South Africa, but they were not necessarily politically active and since they were not connected to party politics, they might not stand a chance for employment.
Ms D Van der Walt (DA) welcomed the GRSF programme although it still needed evaluation for the hiccups and should be amended. She expressed concern about the decline in programmes as outlined on page 7 in the document and asked why there was a decline in the numbers from 13 000 down to 9 000 from 2014-2015 until 2016-2018.
She asked how the Department determined the budget per province/department as to what could be accommodated; what were the phases for advertisements in departments, as Members should be able to see what applications looked like, if they were online, printed, etcetera and if it empowered people with disabilities.
Ms Van der Walt said that in some provinces people were expected to show party political membership cards or what race they are before being accepted into the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). She asked why the Department in Mpumalanga only responded as a partner in the Health Sector and not in Education.
Ms Van der Walt said that people do not understand the urgency of carrying out a job and training is needed. People should be properly informed about the programme and should be taken on a full tour of the whole Department. This is a simple basic foundation which people must be introduced to. She questioned the placement and retention of candidates for a specific period and what happened to those people afterwards; and asked further given that there was a cost to the company, how would one ensure that these people continued to use their skills.
Mr S Motau (DA) expressed his appreciation to the Department with what it aimed to achieve with the programme. One recognises a fundamental problem with the point under ‘Challenges’ on page 35 in the document under “Cuts in Compensation budgets leading to reduction of intake”. The Department should remain bloated and not have any reductions. He asked what happened to the people who underwent training, where were they placed.
He said despite vacancies within the teaching, health, policing sectors, positions were not filled as there was no budget. As an 18 year-old school leaver in 1962, he could find a job as a bookkeeper without being questioned for experience. Yet now there are people with degrees but there are no jobs for them.
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchem (ANC) asked why there was a total drop in candidates to 28 153 in 2017-2018 and why was there a 43 645 drop in candidates in 2014-2015.
She said that placement of candidates in 2014-2018 was 79 244 and asked why only a number as small as 3 000 about 4% were placed.
She said that some departments had a 10% higher vacancy rate than others which could offer placements. The breakdown of the ‘Overview on Key Sector Implementation’ on page eight of the document should be more specific to identify scarce skills. She asked why local government was not involved in the ‘Key Sector Implementation Overview’ as indicated on page 8 in the document.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchem asked why there was a 0% Retention by the Department of Health in 2015-2016, yet clinics and hospitals remained understaffed; whether the Department carried out an evaluation on the programme with candidates before they left to get their opinions on how they found the programme, if there were any shortcomings or if the mentoring was sufficient.
She said that according to posts on Face Book, people with disabilities said they attended one learnership programme after another without the prospects of permanent employment. The Department should attempt to prevent fake SMS messages about training aimed at people with disabilities.
Mr M Ntombela (ANC) commented on the Honourable Cassim’s statement that some municipalities chose not to enter into partnership with the GRSF on political grounds. He said that any ruling party had its own way of doing things. It would not work well for any political party to employ a Municipal Manager from another political party who would not implement the policies of other parties.
Mr M Khosa (ANC) called on the Department to address the issue of ‘centralisation’ and ‘decentralisation’. He also asked what was happening to those provinces that have not joined as partners in the GRSF programme. Migration was caused by centralisation as all activities were taking place at one particular area. He said the Department could overcome the Challenges (mentioned on page 35 in the document) in national and provincial departments to accommodate interns with a plan by addressing them.
Replying to Mr Motau’s concern on cuts in Compensation budgets, the DG said that the vacancy rates at 10% was a compensation ceiling which was set by the National Treasury. The compensation ceilings managed the Wage Bill which the Department currently has. It is having an effect on the head count which is reflected in the ability of the Department to fill vacancies. Human resources management was under constraints and there were departments struggling and those departments relied on critical skills.
He said the Department looked at interest rather than obligations, as obligations could not be true when targets were looked at. The Compensation Budget must be viewed to see how the Department came up with an approach to meet its target. As the Department started with these phases, other departments approached them, to which they responded. He said many of these departments were under sever constraints, and this could be overcome by establishing a closer collaborative relationship with the National School of Government.
Replying to the issue of “cadre employment” he said that the Department only worked within the confines of the law and refrained from causing any problems. Both China and the United States of America have a system based on political appointments. The Department’s programmes involved the entire public service and whether its programmes were casting stones, evidence would be required to evaluate the matter, as it was not always possible to track people down who have left the public service.
He said to roll back decentralisation was difficult in many areas as Human Resource Management required fundamental revision of the Public Service Administration’s legal and regulation framework. There would be advantages and disadvantages. There was challenges of basic compliance which militated against decentralisation. Within this programme the Department was confronted with the reality to decentralise recruitment as opposed to the more centralised system which existed before, a colonial inheritance. The National Development Plan (NDP) has made recommendations on the impact the public incurred and how it could make a more centralised approach to ensure professionalism and to liaise with the Public Service Commission.
Deputy Minister Pilane-Majake said that national and provincial governments were part of the GRSF recruitment process. She said no “cadre” employment or recruitment takes place, but political employment as decided by the ruling party took place. The Deputy Minister said that the Revised Recruitment Programme with internship and learnership is more focused on the implementation in the already vacant positions. The Department is also trying to reduce too much training, which is a waste of government money. She agreed that there is a need to confer with candidates for evaluation of the programme, as the Department was not sure about the outcomes. It was policy to remove the barriers of entry to the programme and employment.
In conclusion, the Chairperson said that as a responsible government, it is creating opportunities for skills development and job creation. Job creation for the youth was critical as the country would like the youth to flourish and to envisage a vibrant future for them. The Chairperson said that every municipality had its own salary levels and terms for job opportunities. The issue of creating a “cleaner” public service, should be discussed on another day. Municipalities have many challenges and by the time a “cleaner” public service was created, it would be difficult for municipalities to integrate in terms of salary levels and grading. The GRSF programmes would be functioning better once they reached local government level.
The Committee concluded its engagement with the Department.
Introductory remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Public Work, Mr Thulas Nxesi, the Deputy Minister Mr Jeremy Cronin and their delegation to present their evaluation on the 30-Days Payments For December 2018. The Chairperson said that there were many pertinent issues which were raised on the Department’s failure to execute payments to service providers on time. This he said, caused a huge and negative impact on the businesses especially of SMMEs (Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises). Many of those businesses had to close down due to government’s failure to pay them on time. The issues raised about the Department’s buildings which are not user-friendly to people with disabilities would be discussed in another meeting.
Remarks by the Minister
The Minister said that the government gave assurances that the problems and issues within the Department of Public Service had been taken very seriously. Employees have already been briefed to adhere to the need of compliance. The Department had once again adopted a zero tolerance to fraud and corruption.
Briefing by the Department of Public Works on the 30 Days Payments For December 2018
Mr Sithole outlined the Improved Payment Targets as:
- Management reporting, Centralised registry, Enhance capturing capabilities, Entrenching responsibility; Tracking; Effective process; Problem detection and Reliable data.
These improvements worked hand in hand with Improvement Initiatives on:
- Data cleansing, prioritising of long outstanding invoices; weekly update meetings and the enforced consequence management.
PMT Age Analysis of Unpaid Invoices – December 2018:
The month of August 2018 had the highest number of unpaid invoices (8 937) to the value of R788, 875; this was followed by July 2018 with 7 727 unpaid invoices to the value of R717,541.
The PMTE 30 Day Payments – December 2018:
The number of invoices paid within 30 days were 120 663 and invoices paid after 30 days were 20 896 and 4 537 remained unpaid of which 3 319 invoices are current.
PMTE Unpaid Aged Invoice Analysis – December 2018
3 319 (73%) invoices remained unpaid for less than 30 days.
1 218 (27%) invoices remained unpaid older than 30 days.
Invoices on the invoice tracking system are continuously updated with payments made on the SAGE Payment system to ensure accurate monthly reporting.
The focus of these updates is the Cape Town and Pretoria regional offices as they accounted for 51% of the unpaid invoices.
Impact of Weekly Video Conference (VC) with the Regions:
The VC intervention resulted in an overall reduction of 25 049 invoices. The provinces with the highest number invoices as on 4 May 2018 in backlog were Pretoria with 3 937 invoices, Cape Town with 3 134 invoices and Mmabatho with1 315 invoices. The reduction in the backlog of invoices in these provinces was 100%.
Mr M Ntombela (ANC) asked why the Department of Public Works failed to make payments on time.
Mr Ntombela said that the Department should be aware of when payment to Small Medium Micro Enterprises (SMME) failed to take place within 30 days.
Mr M Khosa (ANC) said that two different departments were talking about two different issues and that incorrect invoices should be corrected.
Mr S Motau (DA) asked what the Department was doing about the staff who were not fully qualified for the job, and why did Pretoria have the highest number of unpaid invoices.
Mr M Figg (DA) raised the concern that late payment of invoices might lead to legal action being taken against the Department. He asked whether the Department had any costs for unpaid debts.
Mr Figg asked why there is a centralised budget for the Department of Justice and Correctional Services. There were several SMMEs who have received late payments which had a negative effect on their businesses. Why should the Department “close shop” in the month of November as SMMEs incurred many expenses and needed payments on time.
Ms Newhoudt-Druchen raised concern over the Department of Public Service not being user-friendly to people with disabilities, causing them to quit their jobs and also not to visit the Department. There is an urgent need for the Department to make its buildings accessible to people with disabilities. The conditions at special needs schools were not safe at all. A hostel at a special needs school was burnt and it was discovered that the fire alarm, made sounds instead of flickering a light.
Ms Van der Walt asked if the Department took steps against a business or blacklisted it for submitting double claims for payments. Staff should make sure that invoices were correct as it would also prevent delays in payments. Buildings not only collapsed due to being old, but also due to being neglected. There are no qualified building inspectors at the municipalities and no qualified building inspectors are being produced.
The Minister said that it was logical why Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg have the highest demand for payments as due to political activities in these provinces there is a constant need for housing development, offices, etcetera. To have a portfolio of 90 000 buildings is indeed a huge one. The Department was previously treated as a general department and with the latest technology; the Department had started to look at buildings to accommodate people with disabilities.
To combat fraud, the Department created a unit called the Governance Risk & Compliance Unit to deal with internal investigations. However, resources sometimes remained limited and the assistance of professionals had to be called in.
The building of schools and hostels are with the various departments, but the maintenance budget was with the Department and there was a need to increase the maintenance budget at schools. The biggest maintenance problem at schools now was the fixing of underground pipes.
The Chairperson said that there was a need to always look at the implementation of health and safety at all buildings. It is always cheaper to maintain the Health and Safety of buildings than having to shut it down or demolished it. The Department of Public Works catered for all departments.
To turn public and government buildings into user-friendly places as been a request from Honourable Newhoudt-Druchem for a very long time and should be looked into. Government officials are in the process of working with the SAPS to deal with fraudulent claims.
Mr Sithole, said that the training of staff had already started. A central point to receive invoices has been implemented and worked well so far. An electronic system has been activated and service providers can submit their invoices electronically.
Mr Raymond Naidoo, Acting DDG: SCM (Supply Chain Management), apologised for not being in possession of the exact cost of video recordings and undertook to provide Members with the information at another meeting.
Mr Jeremy Cronin, Deputy Minister: Department of Public Works, said that sometimes failure to pay was a symptom of corruption and that was why there had to be strong effective monitoring and processing of invoices. A big part of the work of the Department was in the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE). In this area the Department found to its horror that the largest property owning entity was in South Africa. It had some 30 000 land parcels and 90 000 buildings. This was why, quite rightly, this was a very invoice paying entity.
With regard to questions about maintenance the Department was really struggling in this area and the questions were appreciated. The area of greatest risk for the Department was that of unplanned maintenance. This was a big area of focus and covered a huge portfolio. It was important to put in place regular planned maintenance of the different structures. The Department was making progress in this regard but it should be remembered that these things took time. Irregular emergency repairs were a huge area of concern. Here the Department was picking up that it was not just about double invoiced, but it was about the same job that got repaired every two weeks. So the same service provider was then laying the basis for the next job. Service providers like these have been identified and blacklisted. This was one chronic problem that the Department had experienced. Another practice that has come to light in the area of emergency repairs is when a call comes in after hours as an emergency, but the contractor is often not credited so this service provider was then not in the books. The Department was rising to these challenges.
The Chairperson said that Members appreciated the reports and were looking forward to the Department continuously checking on areas of concern.
The meeting was adjourned.