Department of Premier 2019/20 budget: briefing, with Premier

Premier & Constitutional Matters (WCPP)

06 March 2019
Chairperson: Mr D Mitchell (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of the Premier appeared before the Committee to discuss the budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

In her opening remarks, the Premier said that the Department’s main budget for 2019/20 was R1.571 billion, an increase of 5% compared to the 2018/19 adjusted budget. In line with the global data agenda, the Western Cape government was moving towards a data-driven organization for better evidence and decision-making. The province-wide data governance was a transversal and strategic intervention to respond to the high demand for coherence in the production and use of data and information to inform evidence-based decision making.

During the 2019 MTEF period, the Department would continue to invest in phase two of the provincial broad band programme by increasing the minimum network speed to 100 MB per second. The premier informed the Department did not believe in representivity, because representivity was social engineering that put people into boxes according to their race, and judged people according to a racial criterion which would mean bringing back the hated Population Registration Act, which was the foundation of apartheid. The Western Cape Government’s policies were based on the concept of the whole of society and ensuring diversity, but competence.

Members were interested in obtaining more information about many issues, including the Department’s plans to achieve representivity in the public service according to provincial demographics, the effectiveness of the “whole society” approach, problems associated with the e-learning game changer affecting schools, the mindset intervention programme, the Western Cape leadership philosophy and the decreasing number of personnel in the Department.

The Committee requested the Department to provide the Committee with a summary of the findings obtained from the research on citizen media behaviour.

The Chairperson noted for the record that the Parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Services Office concurred with the Committee on the postponement of the public hearings on the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Amendment Bill to the Sixth Parliament. 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks`

The Chairperson welcomed everyone. After introductions, he indicated that the meeting would go straight into the briefing on the 2019/20 budget of the Premier. He invited the Premier to brief the Committee.

Presentation of the Premier’s budget for 2019/20

Premier’s Opening Remarks

Ms Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape said the Department of the Premier’s main budget for 2019/20 was R1.571 billion. Compared to the 2018/19 adjusted budget, the aggregate budget allocation represents a baseline increase of about five percent. Despite the increase in overall budget, the Department had provided for increase in conditions of service for 2019/20 of 8.3%. That meant that the budget for goods and services remained very stringently under pressure. The main risks the Department would face going forward was the impact of inflation on the current and future wage agreements, as well as the impact of the rand-dollar exchange rate on licensing and capital expenditure in the Centre for e-Innovation. The Department had gone to great lengths to ensure that future national negotiations stay within the parameters that were mandated before those negotiations began.

In line with the global data agenda, the Western Cape government is moving towards a data-driven organization for better evidence and decision making. For that reason, province-wide data governance had been embarked upon as a transversal and strategic intervention to respond to the high demand for coherence in the production and use of data and information to inform evidence-based decision-making. Essential to the digital governance strategy, province-wide data governance includes the management, usability, availability, integrity and security of data assets. Funds had been allocated towards that priority for the 2019 MTEF period.

During the 2019 MTEF period, the Department would  continue to invest in phase two of the provincial Broad Band Programme by increasing the minimum network speed to 100 MB per second. It did not help if the Department had 100 MB per second but SITA did not upgrade its link to the cloud to 10 GB. At the moment, SITA had only one gigabyte. If SITA did not upgrade, then the government would not have the speed which made those applications possible.

The Department would also intensify efforts to derive consequent value from the broadband network by increasing the number of public WIFI hot-spots to 1 600 and to continue making savings by migrating more corporate sites to the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) platform.

The centre for e-innovation (Ce-I) was providing enabling services to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDAT), Department of Social Development (DSD) and Department of Community Safety(DOCS) to ensure that the key outcomes of the e-learning, e-skill and after school game changers were met. However, there was still a long way to go, and the core problem was reliability and speed of connectivity.

Through the digital governance strategy, the Ce-I aimed to coordinate and direct all provincial ICT Initiatives towards optimizing transforming existing public services and to create new public services for citizens of the Western Cape through digital empowerment of residents and employees.  The Department would be developing a digital transformation plan, which would be the implementation plan for the data governance system. In recent years, the global cyber security environment had evolved significantly with the drastic increase in the volume and complexity of threat actors and attack methods used. There is need to protect in excess of 24 500 work stations, over 350 key business applications and an extensive data environment of three networks consisting of over 2 000 sites. Sufficient funding had been allocated for that purpose.

The Western Cape government aimed to improve the citizen satisfaction levels by listening and reacting to citizen’s needs, addressing the service levels of quality of front-line service delivery facilities, increasing the information of service access channels and strengthening those programmes that were able to take services to the people in order to address the challenges holistically, the service interface strategy would focus on four service delivery areas: Service experience research and monitoring and evaluation; Front-line service delivery improvement; Digital governance enhancement and increases in access to services and information; Increased security and eradication of corruption.

The Department currently has 70 Cape access centres in the province. Some are located in rural municipalities. Cape Access is one for the key programmes for improving access to ICTs and increasing digital literacy within the rural areas of the Western Cape Province. At those centres, Communities have free access to computers, printing and scanning facilities. Due to severely restrained resources, the Department in collaboration with the municipalities, will only be rolling out five new Cape Access centres during the 2019/20 financial year, but that remained absolutely crucial.

Discussion on the Premier's Opening Remarks

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) said that in 2009/10 financial year, there were 40 African males in the senior positions of the province, and 21 African females. In 2017/18, that number of African males had dropped from 40 to 23 and the number of African Females had dropped from 21 to 17. Part of the whole of society approach was about an inclusive public service for the province which was attuned to the issues in the province. What were the plans to achieve representativity according to the provincial demographics?

Mr Dugmore asked the Premier to elaborate on the problems, regarding broadband infrastructure. Issues of substance abuse, gangsterism and drugs had been worsening. In the past ten years, there had been a decline in the safety of the majority of people in the Western Cape. Was the whole of society approach not working?

Ms Zille responded that social engineering, known otherwise as representivity, was a policy that was first clearly articulated in NAZI Germany. It started from the premise that Jews should not be more represented in the professions and in business than their numbers in the population warranted. According to representivity, if your demographic numbers in the population number a certain amount, that puts a ceiling on what you are allowed in various categories of professions. That was the tenet of Nazism which ultimately resulted in the holocaust.

The next articulation of representivity was apartheid. Demography was the base of separate nationhoods and governance in South Africa. The English and the Jews were not allowed more representatives in any of the professions or in business than their numbers in the population warranted. There were eleven black nations who also had their own nationhoods in their own countries.  So demographic representivity had a long and very evil history. When you break people down into the sum of their biological parts, or cultural attributes, then you are defining them as a category and denying them their right as individuals.

Representivity had been ruled unconstitutional in the Constitutional Court. So, the Department did not believe in representivity, because representivity meant social engineering that put people into boxes according to their race, and judged people according to a racial criterion which would mean bringing back the hated Population Registration Act, which had been the foundation of apartheid.

The Western Cape government focused on delivering the best possible services to the most people. ESKOM was no longer demographically representative because they still had to get rid of another 11 000 white engineers, because there were too many white engineers in ESKOM. It was complete goal displacement to say that the only thing that mattered was demographic representivity. The only thing that mattered was that coal was being bought from various suppliers that needed the demographic representivity requirement. That was legalised corruption because it provided a thin veneer for employment and for crony enrichment. The Department would not indulge in goal displacement.

Mr K Magaxa (ANC) hoped that the Premier was not consciously defending Nazism and Apartheid. Africans were marginalised, not only from the land, but also from the administration. It was not only Afrikaners who benefitted from Apartheid but also the same Jewish people who had run away from Hitler that had benefitted from Apartheid. If the Premier could at least acknowledge the injustices done to the African people in the country, it would show a conscience. The Premier had presented her position and he was responding.

The Chairperson repeatedly asked him to get to his question but he asked the Chairperson to calm down and not intimidate him.

Mr Magaxa said that her government continuously insulted him by rejecting black people in the Administration. She was wrong in the way she was treating black people. He was insulted by the Premier who would not recognise that she had excluded blacks from the Administration.

He noted that the initial target had been 2 000 sites. He asked the Premier for an explanation as to why the target had now been reduced to 1 875. How many sites were connected to 10 GB and when could all sites be expected to be connected to 10 GB?

Ms Zille responded that no site was connected to 10 GB by the government. The Department was focusing on the 10 GB link to the cloud for the system as a whole, that was supposed to be provided by SITA. The ultimate goal was to ensure that every site was linked to a gigabyte, but that would take time - at least seven years. The next target was a 100 MB. That was what the Department was trying to achieve currently because 10 MB was far too little on the system with multiple simultaneous users.

Ms Zille stated that the target had been reduced to 1 875 sites because some schools were too remote to get fibre solutions to them, so the Department was looking at other mechanisms to achieve that and to ensure that gap was bridged.

Ms Zille stated that she believed in redress but in competent people who could ensure good government. How were things better when the black people were involved in corruption. She stated that the government did not understand redress. The government believed in representivity that would never work. The Administration believed in diversity but would never support demographic representivity.

Mr Dugmore said that according to the Premier's logic, there were no competent African people to fill the posts. In terms of white males in same year when the Premier started out, there were 65 white males in senior positions and now there were 73. There had been 30 white females and now there were 62. That was not a reflection on the competency of anyone. By attempting to discredit a representative public service, the Premier was saying that there were not enough competent people to fulfil those posts. The Constitution, in terms of redress, said that there should be measures to promote people who had been historically discriminated against by apartheid. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) did not have a plan to achieve a more representative public service. In essence, the Premier was saying there were not enough good African people, and therefore the Department did not have a target to achieve a more representative public service.

Ms Zille said that that life expectancy had significantly increased, education outcomes had increased, access and connectivity had increased, health services have improved. All of those were the most important tools of redress. Redress could only be achieved at scale across the society with a capable state. An incapable state was the worst thing one could do if one were serious about redress. The Department went for diversity and redress in a serious real way. Representivity required a look at the qualifications required to be in a senior position in public service, which were tough. Those requirements were set by the national Department. The Department did not go in for social engineering. According the Constitution, all South Africans were equal, and free to contribute. The Constitutional Court had said that one could not define people and exclude them from opportunity because of their race or gender. Representivity would lead to a complete collapse of the country and the oppression of minorities.

Ms Zille said that the whole of society approach was an approach to society where everyone took their responsibility and their duties seriously. That was what the Department was trying to entrench with the whole of society approach. Of all the Department’s approaches, it had been the least successful because it was very hard to get patience to comply the medication regime fully. It was very difficult in the whole of society approach to get people to return for further therapy. It is hard ensuring that people used the services that they could access at the clinic. The Department had a huge way to go to get the culture of personal responsibility that will enable the whole of society approach to work.

Ms Zille said that, in terms of gangsterism, things had become bad when Jacob Zuma had the meetings with gangsters at his official residence and started building networks with the gangsters of the Western Cape through his son Duduzani Zuma, so that they could destabilize the Western Cape. He had also started withdrawing all the police from the Western Cape. Those were very serious issues.

Ms D Gopie (ANC) said that the Premier’s foreword spoke about the availability of free WIFI to the citizens of the province, and that there be 175 WIFI hot-spots. In 2014, the Premier promised connection to 384 WIFI hot-spots. How did the Department end up with 175 WIFI hot-spots? According the foreword, the target of increasing the broadband was supposed to have been achieved in August 2018. She asked for an explanation as to why the Premier failed to meet the target.

Mr Ivan Alexander, Chief Director at the Centre of Innovation, replied that the broadband had been divided into three phases. The Department was in phase two at the moment. The phase had started on 1 October 2017, and during that phase of the project, the Department was upgrading the 1 875 sites which were connected at a minimum network speed of 10 MB per second. The Department was now upgrading that to 100 MB per second. It was a five-year phase. The Department had been given a 50% milestone delivery target from the service provider, that by the end of June 2019, they would have completed 50% of the upgrades. The Department had started negotiations with the service providers for them to commit to a 75% and 100% milestone delivery target for phase two, which was the 100 MB per second upgrade.

Mr Dugmore asked for more information regarding the problems associated with the e-learning game changer affecting schools.

Ms Zille said that there was someone doing audit from school to school to understand what the problems were at different schools. Some schools with a 10 MB line operated very well because they have good management that enabled a caretaker to go into the computer room before a lesson began and log every student on so that they did not have to spend half an hour of the lesson trying to log on. But, that did not apply in every school. So, there was a need to find ways to short-cut the time needed for large numbers of people to log on at the same time. That was one of the problems. Another problem was that SITA had said that there was a need to do local economic development instead of making sure that there was reliable connectivity. A lot of off-net service providers had to be procured who often could not meet the standards and it had broken down over the last months. The stealing of the cable was another huge problem. People did not understand the fibre cable has no resale value.

Ms Zille added that another big problem in certain areas was that the gangsters wanted to be paid protection money to allow the service provider to put in the infrastructure. The Department would not pay bribes like that, and the service providers had been told not to pay bribes like that. There had been a need to get the police to protect the service providers while they were putting in the infrastructure. That was hardly sustainable across a wide area. Those were examples of some of the problems.

Mr Dugmore said that the experience at different schools varied. There were some teachers across both fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools that were not able to troubleshoot. There seemed to be a concern that the response time, by Ce-I to address problems of slow connectivity, took too long. He asked if the Premier was aware of some of the complaints from schools about response times.

Ms Zille responded that the Ce-I response times had been extraordinary and, in many cases, the schools were informed by the Ce-I and the school's monitoring desk that the problems had been addressed before the schools even realized that the problem was solved. That was from feedback data systems that have been developed. There were times when the response was slow. There were many points in the chain where these things broke down, unless there was really good leadership in the school. E-learning required an e-culture at schools. It required a lot of things and it also required SITA to get its role right instead of letting the Department down time and time again.

Ms Zille and Mr Dugmore engaged in a dialogue as she believed that Mr Dugmore was putting words in her mouth.

Mr Mackenzie asked that the discussion be focussed on the document on hand and not become a general debate.

The Chairperson stated that that was the conclusion of discussion relating to the introduction to the Premier’s Vote. He referred Members to pages 1 to 10 of the Blue Book and invited Members to ask question on those pages.

Discussion on the Annual Performance Plan (APP)

Mr Dugmore said that according to the APP, a key benefit that would be derived from the provincial broadband platform was the provision of three GB of data per person per month that would be accessible free of charge at the 1 600 public spots that the Western cape Government (WCG) would be rolling out in the next few years.  He asked if the 1 600 sites included a site for every ward and for every voting district? If one needed to reach a lot of people, the argument was that wards and voting districts were ideal. 

Mr Dugmore said that the APP referred to the number of sites that had increased from 360 to 2000. He asked if the jump from 360 to 2000 was referring to government buildings. He asked for an update on the current functionality of the business suite. Were there any IT consultants that had helped in developing that particular suite of platforms? Regarding the migration to the cloud, could he have an explanation of the kind of options available to the province? Was it possible for the province to develop its own cloud capacity or could the province just contract out the services? 

Ms Gopie noted that according to the APP, the organizational structure of the corporate insurance programme was not ideal. What was meant by "not ideal"?  Ms Gopie noted that there were certain posts that were not funded. Was there a plan to address the issue? She asked if there were any vacant funded posts.

Mr R Mackenzie (DA) asked, regarding data integrity, for an explanation of how the Department was going to monitor the integrity of the information that people would be downloading to ensure that it was for work purposes and not for watching TV shows. 

Ms L Botha (DA) asked for an understanding on how communities were informed of the free data.

Mr Magaxa said that the Auditor-General had found irregular expenditure had increased from R23 million to R44 million. What was happening there?

Mr Dugmore said that in the last ten years the safety position had deteriorated.  He asked for clarity on what the Department was planning to do different in the next five years to make sure that people were and felt safe.

Ms Gopie noted that a number of posts were not funded due to budget constraints. She asked for the number of posts that was being referred to. What had the impact of that been on the Department's work?

Response by the Department of the Premier

Adv Brent Gerber, Director General: Department of the Premier, said that, regarding the 3 GB data per month, that there will be a WIFI alert and that would follow the roll-out of broadband to 100 MB per second.

At the moment, every government building was covered by the connectivity. The Department could not say that it was in each ward or each voting district. However, where there no was government building in a ward, the Department would provide a WIFI site in that area. At the moment, the WIFI follows the roll-out of broadband to government buildings and schools.

Regarding migration to the cloud, Adv Gerber stated that the Department was busy in the process of doing that. However, the Department would not do it by on its own as it was a very expensive exercise. SITA was working on safeguarding some government information before rolling-out on the cloud.

Adv Gerber said that most of the Departments are involved in the issues of safety. There were joint outcomes that needed to be achieved. The Department would be mostly involved the connectivity part and making sure that the free WIFI sites were available.

Adv Gerber added that the corporate insurance structure was not ideal in terms of the number of people that the Department had. There was an employment ceiling that the government needed to implement in trying to prevent the growth in expenditure. A committee looked at what posts could be filled given the funds available. DEDAT played a role in terms of economic development and informing the communities in terms of the roll-out and training the people how to access the WIFI and to utilise 3 GB.

Mr Drikus Basson, CFO: Department of the Premier, clarified that the Department's irregular expenditure the previous year had been roughly R3 000 to R4 000. The R23 million and R44 million was not in the Department's space. The Department addressed all the irregular expenditure found and disciplined staff members to make sure that it did not happen again.

Mr Basson said that the number of active posts was 1047 and the number of posts filled was 989. The difference was 58 posts. Some of those posts would be funded and some would be unfunded. However, the number was not easily determinable but the Department has a funding Committee that sat when a post became vacant. The post was unfunded immediately until the committee made a recommendation to fill either the same post `or to fill another post. His guess was that 30 posts could be unfunded. The impact on the service delivery was minimized because the Department just worked the remaining staff harder to gain the same benefit.

Mr Hilton Arendse, DDG: Department of the Premier, said that the Department did not use consultants. Via SITA, the Department procured venders or companies to do work for the Department in terms of providing services.

Mr Augi de Freitas, Chief Director: CMS, said that as far as the migration to the cloud was concerned, the Department's primary quality stage was provided by SITA. The Department had not used the ordinary commercial clouds provided by the Amazon, Google etc. The Department's main cloud was an in-government cloud that had been developed specifically for Western Cape by SITA and the Department had been using it for the past three years. There was also a private cloud for health space, which was provided in-house. The Department also used the Microsoft cloud. Microsoft was moving both their clouds into the South African space.

Mr de Freitas said that the employees did not have automatic access to the internet. The Department provided limited access during office hours to everyone and only to safe sites. If one wanted an open access to the internet which included social media, one had to apply for that through the normal structures within the Department. Undesirable sites were blocked. After hours, the Department allowed all its employees to have access to the internet primarily for those who were studying.

Mr Dugmore asked for a summary of the key findings of the research on citizen media behaviour and asked for a copy of the research. He asked the Department to provide the Committee with a background to the mind set intervention programme at school. What was the cost of that and what are the plans going forward?

What were the community engagement programmes? What did they entail, and when and where did they happen?

Mr Dugmore asked for an understanding of what it entailed to prepare officials to be future fit. Were there courses for that? He asked for a resolution on the approved Western Cape leadership philosophy. If the proof concept on the e-expertise was procured externally, how much would it cost?

Mr Andre Joemat, Head: Corporate Services Centre, said that FCB advertising agency was one of the service providers that made up for the Department's lack of certain specialist capacity and capability within the communications environment. Some of the work they did for the Department was about research on citizen media behaviour. That had been a detailed report. The findings would be summarized and sent to the Committee.  It looked at the extent to which in certain geographical areas and various age cohorts would respond to different media platforms. That informed the Department in the way in which a particular media campaign was constructed.

Ms Louise Esterhuyse, Chief Director: People Management Practices, said that the future-fit guide was on specific levels. The Department identified trends in the future in terms of what was happening and changing in the world at large. The trends were identified and possible initiatives. From the people management space, the Department was in the process of developing an action plan on how to address those specific initiatives. The whole idea was getting the people management environment and also the organization with its leadership and people fit for the future.

Mr Joemat said that the leadership philosophy was an extension of the culture journey which the Department had initiated years ago. It included the adoption of the values which had led to specific activities like the Barrett Survey. One of the last initiatives of the Department's culture journey was the Leadership Development Framework which ultimately led to the philosophy. It was built on the extent to which the WCG leadership embraced the values of the organization.

Mr Joemat said, regarding the external use of consultants on the e-expertise, it was a technology platform. The Department was obliged to procure through SITA service providers to provide the Department with the external expertise required. No consultants were used in the process.

Ms M Korsten, Deputy Director-General: Provincial Strategic Management, said that the growth mindset was initiated with a pilot programme where the Policy and Strategy Unit partnered with the World Bank on a growth mindset initiative. Growth mindset was basically the belief that one’s abilities could change and improve. The Department wanted to look at it within an education system to see how learners could be changed in the way they thought about and approached problems. Based on the results of the pilot run in primary and high schools, the Department of Education had decided to upscale the work and the Policy and Strategy Unit would continue to support the Department with that particular initiative.

Ms Korten said that the community engagement programme referred to in the APP, was a learning programme. Training was taking place at the Provincial Training Institute and the focus of that training was about providing officials with the tools that promoted the citizen centric approach to service delivery. 

Ms Gopie asked for an explanation for the decrease in the provincial revenue fund, on page 22.

Mr Basson explained that the provincial revenue fund was finance from reserves with the Treasury, so that should decrease as the Department became more self-sufficient.

Ms Gopie asked which projects office of the Director-General had been affected by the budget cuts.

Why was there a decrease in the compensation of employees. Was it job losses? if so, how many?

Mr Basson responded that the Delivery Support Unit (DSU) had been budgeted for under the office of the Director General. That was the reason for the drop. The DSU was also responsible for the decrease in compensation of employees. There were no permanent jobs in the unit; they were always contract jobs.

Mr Dugmore noted, regarding the strategic management information, that the revised estimate for 2018/19 was just over R18 million and for 2019/20 it had increased to over R30 million, which was an increase of 68%. He asked for an explanation on what the expected increased expenditure would buy.

Ms Gopie asked how many households had been affected by the budget cuts.

Mr Basson said that, regarding households, when someone left, the Department paid out the person’s annual leave provision. That was the cash amount that went into that person’s bank account. By the time the person left, he or she was no longer classified as an employee, but as a household. The Department did not ordinarily budget for that because the Department did not know who was going to resign.

Mr Basson said that, regarding the increase in strategic management information, the province-wide data governance allocations that the Department received from Treasury were added to the sub-programme and that created the increase.

Ms Gopie noted that the personnel numbers were decreasing. Was the Department retrenching staff?

Mr Basson responded that the Department had a Premier that was exiting after two terms. So, the staff linked to the Premier would also exit. That explained the decrease in staff. Permanent staff would not be affected.

Mr Mackenzie asked for an explanation of the leases that the Department was paying for.

Mr Dugmore noted that there is a dramatic increase in legal costs. He asked for the reason for that increase. Was there an anticipation of expected legal challenges? There appeared to be a decrease in the budget for training and development. He asked for an explanation

Mr Basson said that additional legal resources were required for the Departments of Health and Education.

The costs associated with operating leases all referred to photocopy machines. The spending on training had consistently been above the one percent requirement. Times were getting tough, so the spending had been adjusted closer to the one percent mark.

Mr Mackenzie noted that the consultant costs had come down tremendously. He asked if it was just one contract that had come to an end.

Mr Basson responded that the Business Process Optimization (BPO) project had come to an end. That was quite significant and explained the almost R10 million drop in consultancy fees.

The Chairperson indicated that reports requested by Members would be supplied as soon as possible as that had been the last meeting of the Committee.

Minutes

Minutes of 12 February 2019: The adoption of the minutes, without amendment, was proposed by Mr Mackenzie and seconded by Ms Gopie.

Minutes of 27 February 2019: The adoption of the minutes, without amendment, was proposed by Mr Mackenzie and seconded by Ms Botha.

 

Public hearings

The Chairperson informed the Committee that he had sought legal advice from the Parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Services Office on the delay of public hearings on the Western Cape Commissioner for Children Amendment Bill. He was putting it on record that he had been advised that there were no legal consequences for postponing the public hearings to the Sixth Parliament. He had been advised that that was the most responsible course of action.

 

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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