National School of Government Breaking Barriers to Entry (BB2E); NYDA Grant and Scholarship Funds; Deputy Minister present

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

13 March 2019
Chairperson: Mr J Maswanganyi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee, in the presence of the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, met to be briefed on the National School of Government’s (NSG) Breaking Barriers to Entry (BB2E) program and the impact thereof. The presentation addressed where the BB2E program had its roots, targets groups and evaluation of the program. 

Members asked whether the NSG ever assed the value or actual skills developed in the public sector interships where the NSG sources enrolment from, including drivers licence opportunities for the beneficiaries, tracking of labour absorption of NSG graduates and timeframes for the immediate improvements mentioned in the presentation. Members recommended the NSG training includes handling of employer exploitation and harassment. There was brief discussion on the use of the word “cadre” in reference to youth trained in the program. The Committee questioned the percentage of youth that have undergone NSG training currently fully employed, if the NGS is adequately preparing the youth for the workplace and highlighted the need to call out the government departments who were not complying with the call to participate in the training and employment schemes of the NSG.

The Committee was then briefed by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on an evaluation of the Grant Porgram and Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund (SMSF). The presentation looked at the purpose of the Grant Program, key findings of the evaluation exercise and cost-benefit analysis.  The presentation also spoke to the purpose of the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund.

Members were concerned with the announcement that funds will be reallocated from the NYDA’s grant program to salary and administration. Questioned posed related to the yearly amounts of the grant program’s available funds from 2016 to date, the NYDA’s adjudication process and the perception of partisanship, current backlog of grants and if credence is given to people with disabilities. Members wanted to know if feedback was provided to applicants who were not successful, why students dropped out from the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund and how many grant funding applications were approved as opposed to rejections.

As this is the final meeting of the Committee for the Fifth Parliament, the Chairperson thanked Members for their hard work these past years and wishes them all the best in their future endeavours.

Meeting report

The Chairperson acknowledged this is the Committee’s last meeting for the Fifth Parliament and thanked everyone for their hard work. He says they have been a great team and have had many vibrant discussions.

Briefing by the National School of Government on the orientation of the unemployed youth graduates and interns on the Breaking Barriers to Entry (BB2E) course
Mr Sipho Manama, Acting Principal of the National School of Government (NSG), briefed the Committee on the status of unemployed youth graduates and interns undergoing the Breaking Barriers to Entry (BB2E) program and the impact thereof. He explained the BB2E course emanated from the Budget Vote Speech of 2009/10, to develop a course/programme “meant to enhance the employment potential of (unemployed) graduates”. The current curriculum aims to develop 15 feeder competencies for salary level 6-10 jobs which are where most public sector vacancies lie. The course design integrates 23 NSG skill objectives into a single five-day programme.

Looking at target groups, the NSG will utilise the extensive National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) database to source trainees for this course. With interns in the public service, the NSG annually sends a call to departments to enroll interns into the BB2E course. Government enrolls roughly 13 411 unemployed youth on Internship programmes per year. The BB2E aims to train 2 750 of these interns per annum. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) approached the NSG seeking collaboration on a Political Education Programme for its National Rural Youth Services Corps (NARYSEC) youth. This programme enabled unemployed youth in, especially rural villages and communities, to develop leadership skills to play a role in ensuring government achieved its intended goals.

In terms of evaluation of the BB2E, the NSG secured funding for a comprehensive independent evaluation of the BB2E from the European Union (EU). The evaluation will be completed in June 2019. The project aims to determine the value of BB2E training and consequent successes or challenges of the programme. One of the key activities for the NSG is the development of a tracking system that allows the NSG to report on the successful absorption of youth that attend NSG training into the public service, private sector, or own employment. This project is envisaged to align BB2E with the Formal Graduate Recruitment Scheme.

Mr Manama concluded that while there is still a lot to be improved on, the Committeee should note the work of the NSG in rolling out the BB2E programme. Any help the Committee can provide galvanising government departments, who are not contributing to youth development and not sending their interns for BB2E training, would be appreciated.

Discussion
Mr Y Cassim (DA) asked whether the NSG has ever assessed the value or actual skills developed in these public service internships where the NSG sources enrolment from. How does one know the candidates are not relegated to unskilled, menial tasks in these internships? Regarding the BB2E curriculum, Mr Cassim enquired about the possibility of including a driver’s licence opportunity for beneficiaries – a driver’s licence is an asset in any sphere of employment and a necessity in some. Such certification can be a lifelong asset for NSG graduates who can use the licence not only in the scope of public sector jobs, for which they are being trained, but in any line of work. Would such an addition be financially viable for the NGS? Mr Cassim wanted to know when the tracking system of labour absorption of NSG graduates will be implemented - if concrete dates are not confirmed, plans like these will not materialise. Mr Cassim also suggested that part of the NSG training include how to handle employer exploitation and harassment. Particularly female employees are at risk of being exploited. Mr Cassim cites the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC who alleges that there exists a culture of sexual misconduct even in Luthuli House. Matters like these are not simply a Human Resources matter as experiences of exploitation can severely affect mental health and the youth must know how to deal with such.

Mr S Motau (DA) asks about the immediate improvements mentioned in the presentation - is there a timeframe for these improvements? He noted the poverty statistics referenced in the presentation are from 2013 - are there not newer figures? This would help us better understand if we are improving or not.

Ms D Van Der Walt (DA) asked what the plan was for deploying new NSG graduates in the public sector. She recalls a previous meeting where the PEC said it did not have the manpower to extend some programs to further provinces. It was then mentioned in the Committee that these graduates could assist the PEC in its programs. The Committee has been a good team and it adhered well to the National Development Plan (NDP). She is therefore not in favour of referring to the youth being trained in these programs as ‘cadres’ – this is a word historically associated with militaristic, socialist revolutionary terminology. She appealed to the Committee to change it to a more unifying term in the spirit of the multiparty agreement which this youth employment program is.

Mr D Khosa (ANC) said the word ‘cadre’ has no such connotations and the word is not being used for any political statement. With regards to the BB2E briefing, Mr Khosa noted the comment by Mr Manama that many youth exit jobs after roughly three months because they do not have the confidence and experience to continue - does this mean the NGS is inadequately preparing the youth for the workplace?  What percentage of those that have undergone NGS training are currently fully employed?

Mr M Ntombela (ANC) said the NGS is a policy matter of government. This means the departments have a mandate to carry out and support these types of youth development programs. Yet in previously meetings, and as echoed by Mr Manama, it was concerning to see some departments are reluctant to participate in these training and employment schemes. Mr Ntombela thought the department who are dragging their feet in this respect must be identified and addressed. Furthermore, there should be consequences in place for such departmental non-compliance.

Responses
Dr Chana Pilane-Majake, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, responded to the question of Mr Cassim on drivers licence training in the NSG noting this initiative is allocated to a different government body. The MEC for Education in Gauteng recently announced a driver’s licence program targeted at Grade 11 learners. If the program is successful, it will then be introduced in other provinces. This is therefore a matter the NSG should not concern itself with. She agreed a tracking system is very important as it is essential to evaluate the number of beneficiaries helped and see if the training has proved beneficial in the search for jobs

Regarding sexual harassment, Deputy Minister Pilane-Majake said she is a gender activist herself and has worked extensively on gender awareness matters. She cautions against using this serious matter as a political tool. She said this in light of Mr Cassim’s comment on sexual misconduct in Luthuli House. Such generalising comments are not helpful. It is unfair to woman who face so many challenges in society and government as a whole must work together to combat these matters.  

Mr Cassim clarified that he was quoting the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC who made the allegations of sexual misconduct - it was not an allegation Mr Cassim, was making in his personal capacity.

The Deputy Minister said that when one thinks of barriers to entry, one must keep in mind the Graduate Recruitment Program, which necessitates that we look at improving the synergy and cooperation among the various youth unemployment programs to ensure a better rate of success.

To answer Mr Cassim’s question, Mr Manama said the NSG will be using the NYDA system and Graduate Recruitment system to track past trainees. The process is made more difficult when people get jobs in different provinces to where they did their training. The NSG is working with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) to sift through first time employees that have gone through the training program. The implementation date is in April 2019. This tracking is an expansive activity and the NSG hopes to do it itself instead of outsourcing as this will be expensive – it is preferred that the money goes toward more pressing costs.

On the matter of human resources, Mr Manama said the DPSA Minister has asked the NSG to investigate the public service recommendation on the matter of workplace bullying and exploitation such as managers who undermine vulnerable employees. Dealing with these types of matters will therefore form part of the compulsory training for senior management members.

In response to Ms Van der Walt’s question on NSG graduates deployment plans, Mr Manama said most graduates will join longer term projects like NARYSEC. To answer Mr Motau’s question, the timeframe for the courses mentioned under immediate improvements in the presentation is the first quarter of the next administration. There were initial funding problems but with funding from the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA), it can soon be implemented. He added that the poverty statistics referenced in the presentation were taken from a popular statistics site but there is probably newer information available, so the point is taken. The question to find out what percentage of the 24 000 youth graduates are currently employed will be ascertained when the tracking progress is finalised.

NYDA Evaluation of the Grant Program and Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund (SMSF)
Mr Waseem Carrim, NYDA CEO, informed the Committee that the Grant Program sought to create a conducive environment for youth entrepreneurs to grow their business by quipping them with financial support services. The NYDA is the biggest funding agency for youth in the country. In the evaluation of the grant program, some the key findings were that:
-Majority of businesses (58.2%) have no more than three employees
-74.8% (122) of businesses indicated the number of employees would increase in the next 12 months with only 1.2% indicating the number of employees would decrease
-All businesses have made at least R30 000 profit indicating that it can indeed be a reliable source of income for beneficiaries
-35% of businesses reported a turnover of more than R60 001 in the previous fiscal year
-92% found the grant received to have had very valuable impact on the business
-92% of respondents indicated that without the grant, it would have been nearly impossible for their businesses to grow

A cost-benefit analysis that considered the costs expended by the grant program and future multiplicative gains from these entrepreneurial grants indicates a factor of 5.18. This shows a positive return to value in the future. Mr Carrim explains that, basically, for every Rand the NYDA invests in the grants, it is potentially getting five times that Rand value back in the form of economic activity. It also shown there are positive socio-economic externalities from the grant system. Successful grantees enrich and invest in their communities and prove good role models to the youth.

Mr Carrim explained the purpose of the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund is to provide financial assistance to youth in order to facilitate and enhance their education opportunities at higher education level. To date the program has supported 787 candidates in various academic fields, the biggest being engineering and health sciences.

In light of the announcement of fee free higher education to be implemented in a phased in approach for households of incomes below R350 000, the following amendments have been made:
-NYDA would continue to support the current students on program as the new policy applied to first year students
-New applicants would be in the sectors of postgraduate studies given the low number of youth black postgraduate students and the need to create more research
-New applicants would also be in the sector of creative arts given the importance of this sector in the NDP and its lack of coverage within the free education policy
-Applicants would also be considered for artisanal training not otherwise covered by free higher education

Discussion
Mr Cassim was concerned with the announcement that funds will be reallocated from the NYDA’s grant program to salary and administration. He requests the statistics about the grant programs available funds from 2016-2019 and if there is a decrease in the yearly amounts, what impact would this entail? How many less beneficiaries will be helped? Mr Cassim enquires about the NYDA’s adjudication process. He says there is scepticism from the public about the grant application admission process due to the political makeup of the NYDA management. The NYDA is non-political yet most board members are members of the ANC Youth League and many office employees are ANC members. Even if there is no conflict of interest, there can be an impression of partisanship. Are the admission processes open to the public so people can see how grant admission decisions are made?  Also, what are the criteria of these grants? Mr Cassim also wanted to know what the current backlog on grants is - how many people have been approved for funding but still awaiting the grants? Lastly, in terms of beneficiaries, Mr Cassim asks if credence is given to people with disabilities and if feedback is given to those who are denied grant application. He thinks that if people are not successful, they must be informed of why they are not successful.

Mr Motau agrees the SMSF is very important and seconds Mr Cassim with regard to the importance of the NYDA’s political impartiality and perception thereof. This is essential for the NYDP’s mandate and credibility.

Mr Khosa asks about the 48 students that dropped out from the SMSF. Does the NYDA know why they dropped out? As shown, most youth in rural areas were reportedly not aware of NYDA funding. What interventions does the NYDA have in store to better communicate and reach these rural areas which do not have reliable access to newspapers or the internet?

Mr Ntombela noted that Mr Carrim mentioned beneficiaries were very enthusiastic about the grant and being accepted by the NYDA - this seems to imply it is big achievement and therefore very difficult to get grant acceptance from the NYDA. Mr Ntombela enquired as to how many grant funding applications were approved as opposed to rejections. Are the rejected applications given advice on how to improve their proposals?

Responses
To address Mr Cassim’s matter around the budget, Mr Carrim said the NYDA gets below inflationary increases every year. For the past four years, the budget from National Treasury has increased by only three to four percent per year. Mr Carrim read out the figures of the NYDA’s investment into the grant program for the past five years:
-2014-15: R15 million
-2016: R25 million
-2017: R28 million
-2018: R35 million plus an additional investment from National Treasury of R31 million, taking the total to R66 million
-2019-2020: the NYDA is predict to invest R56 million

This shows a consistently positive trend in investment. The NYDA is committed to fund raising across all nine provinces as the ultimate goal is to grow the grant project to R100 million.

Over the last three financial years, Mr Carrim said the NYDA has never breached the salary compensation ceiling. Even though salaries might increase, it will not breach the compensation ceiling. Sometimes there are emergency vacancies that need to be filled in order to ensure efficient service delivery.

Regarding NYDA’s grant admissions process, Mr Carrim stressed it is completely apolitical. He said he is willing to publish a list of all 220 000 beneficiaries of the grant program to show there is no political affiliation among the applicants favoured. Applicants are not asked for any party affiliation nor are expected to be affiliated to one. The only prerequisite is that the applicants are entrepreneurs of colour from rural areas. All applications are referred to the branch grant approval committee. This is the body responsible for adjudicating grant proposals up to R100 000. Grant proposals between R100 000 and R250 000 are referred to a higher level and taken to the Head Office for recommendations. The NYDA has not looked in to making these processes public but welcomes any of the Committee Members to attend these adjudications if they feel they need to.

In response to Mr Cassim’s question about funding backlogs, Mr Carrim said the additional R31 million funding from the National Treasury has helped clear the backlog and, as far as he knows, there is no current backlog on grants. Mr Carrim confirmed that funding is most certainly available for people with disabilities as well. When applicants are declined, the NYDA provides a detailed report of what the applicant needs to improve on. They are then more than welcome to reapply. 

Mr Carrim explains the NYDA’s rural development strategy has three approaches. The first one is to increase access to the NYDA. To this end, the NYDA has invested 18 new service stations around the country. Secondly to reach isolated rural areas, the NYDA has invested in mobile NYDA teams to go out and interact with and inform these communities about the NYDA. Lastly, the NYDA partners with local NGOs, newspapers and radio stations to reach targeted constituents. In response to Honourable Khosa’s concern that the process of grant acceptance is too difficult or exclusive, Mr Carrim said the training is thorough so people feel enthusiastic because of the sense of empowerment the training entitles them to.

Mr Carrim said that when working with the youth, there are always challenges and many of the dropouts from the scholarship were due to alcohol and substance abuse. The NYDA is currently working with another firm to address these matters prevalent at higher education level.

Mr Motau congratulated Mr Carrim on the success of the NYDA and said that if even half of the people the NYDA works with shares and does what has been said is being done, these programs will definitely be a success.  

Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Committee adopted its minutes dated 27 February 2019 and 6 March 2019 with no amendments.

Mr Motau informed the Committee that he will not be returning to Parliament in its sixth iteration. He believed it was time to give up his seat to a new, younger Member of Parliament that can champion the mandate. He wishes all the Committee Members the best in their future endeavours.  

The Chairperson wished Mr Motau all the best and closed off by thanking the Committee for its hard work in the Fifth Parliament. This was a vibrant Committee that encouraged expression by all Members. He also thanked the staff and Committee Secretary who have done a great job.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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