Interim Management Team Report: Eastern Cape: Consideration

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LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
11 September 2003
INTERIM MANAGEMENT TEAM REPORT: EASTERN CAPE: CONSIDERATION

Chairperson:
Mr B Mkhaliphi (ANC) [Mpumalanga]

Relevant document
Briefing by Department of Public Service and Administration
Summary of Interim Management Team Report on Eastern Cape

SUMMARY
The Department outlined the Interim Management Team mandate in the Eastern Cape province, the challenges facing the province and the IMT, the IMT's proposed solutions to the challenges faced and the lessons learnt from the intervention. During the discussion on the presentation Members sought clarity on the reasons for the extensive use of consultants in the intervention, whether the interim government and the IMT itself was yielding results, the measures taken to bring ill-disciplined officials to book and the reasons for the low number of finalised disciplinary and corruption cases.

MINUTES
The Chair noted that no members of the actual Interim Management Team (IMT) in the Eastern Cape were present at the meeting, but the presentation would be made on their behalf.

Presentation by Department of Public Service and Administration
Mr Khaya Ngema, DPSA Executive Director: Service Delivery Improvement, outlined the IMT mandate, the summary of the challenges facing that government and the IMT, the solution proposed by the IMT and the lessons learnt from the rehabilitation process.

Discussion
Ms J Kgoali (ANC) [Gauteng] asked the Department to explain why it had taken on so many consultants when it had departmental staff that could have performed the same tasks. How would the Eastern Cape government then sustain the work done by those consultants when their work came to an end?

Furthermore, Ms Kgoali asked what portion of the budget had been absorbed by these consultants. It appeared that the bulk of the funds had been spent on consultants, and that only a minimal amount had been spent on establishing the necessary infrastructure

Mr Ngema replied that approximately a year ago the Department compiled a document on the extent to which consultants were used in the public service. This document also identified those sectors in which consultants tended to be used more extensively than others. The Department had taken a principled position that it would not accept that consultants could replace the capacity currently available in the public service.

It had to be borne in mind that some Departments could not avoid the use of consultants for certain functions. The extent to which they were used does become a problem, as well as the extent to which the department's managerial structures exercise over those consultants. The Department did therefore not object to the use of consultants by government departments. The Department had found that consultants were used in the IT operation especially, because budgets do not allow large allocations for IT. Consultants add value to the department and its operations if they are used correctly.

Kgoshi M Mokoena (ANC) [Limpopo] asked whether, in all honesty, there was still a government in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Ngema said that there was definitely a government in the Eastern Cape, and the IMT was currently in the process of migrating the work it had done over to that government. The process was thus sustainable. Whatever was achieved by this process it had to be remembered that there were many good people in that government, and this sort of excellence existed before the IMT intervened.

Kgoshi Mokoena asked whether it could honestly be said that the interim arrangement in the Eastern Cape was bearing fruits, because the IMT not only discovered problems with officials but also with the leadership structures of that provincial government. Had officials in the Eastern Cape government shown any willingness or readiness to improve the situation?

Mr Ngema replied that, as stated earlier in the presentation, a Joint Task Team had been established to drive the process forward, which consisted of members of the Eastern Cape government as well. The Department was thus confident that all these measures indicated that a turnaround could be achieved.

Mr P Maloyi (ANC) [North West] asked whether the fact that the intervention taken in the Eastern Cape was not of a legal nature meant that it was not an intervention in terms of Section 100 or 154 of the Constitution. If so, what were the possible limitations in those interventions, and what could this Committee do to assist matters?

Mr Ruan Kitshoff, DPSA Manager: Anti-Corruption and High Profile Cases, replied that this was done at the request of the Premier of the Eastern Cape, and had been done with the co-operation of the Eastern Cape government. It is not a Section 100 or Section 154 problem, but legislation is needed that would give effect to the options provided in those sections. This legislation simply had to state the direct assistance that had to be provided to that province and its local government structures, the method of the intervention and when it would take place.

Mr Maloyi asked whether the Department had any early warning systems in place so that it could implement Section 154-type interventions timeously.

Mr Kitshoff replied that the Department of Provincial and Local Government's Municipal Systems Act framework had a in-built warning system, but he was not sure of the exact nature of this mechanism.

Ms Kgoali asked the Department to explain how it had engaged the Trade Unions to ensure that, at the end of the day, government officials were committed to perform the work they were supposed to be performing so that the "culture of entitlement" was done away with..

Mr Kitshoff stated that the claims put in by government officials were put through a rigorous evaluation process, and the Department would not pay any claim that had not been verified by an internal function. Claims would no longer be paid out arbitrarily.

Ms Kgoali asked whether the principle of Batho Pele is being exercised in the Eastern Cape province. Furthermore, what can this Committee do to enhance the good work already being done in that province?

Mr Kitshoff replied that the IMT has designed a range of training initiatives, and an awareness programme is linked to the revitalisation of Batho Pele in the Eastern Cape. The success of the ethics and anti-corruption drive hinges on the Batho Pele campaign.

Ms C Botha (DA) [Free State] stated that the IMT has been appointed "to diagnose chronic administration problems" in the Eastern Cape, but the problem is that the solutions to remedy the problem will be presented back to the structure that has caused the current problems. Surely the culprit is supposed to be corrected, but this does not seem to be the case. How will the matter proceed from this point onwards?

Mr Kitshoff responded that this would be implemented by redeploying existing managers from a national level or from other provinces or institutions, and includes a management strategy. Action will be taken against officials that have committed offences of gross misconduct. There are also those officials who have not committed such offences but who do lack the necessary capacity, and dedicated programmes will be introduced to resolve their weaknesses.

A range of mechanisms have been designed to ensure the success of the rehabilitation. These include ongoing monitoring of the situation, evaluations of the implementation of the remedial steps as well as a mechanism for reporting in the progress made. The Department is convinced that the impetus for the turnaround strategy is much more focused.

Kgoshi Mokoena stated that approximately two weeks ago teachers in the Eastern Cape stated that they had not been paid in a while, and asked whether this matter has since been resolved.

Mr Kitshoff replied that he is not certain what the decision of the Eastern Cape MEC for Education is in this regard. It is expected that a solution to the problem will be found by the end of the month.

Kgoshi Mokoena sought clarity on the measures that have been taken to bring the ill-disciplined officials to book.

Mr Ngema replied that the restructuring exercise highlighted significant reskilling that had to take place, and it also had to be considered whether it would be cost effective to uproot them from their current positions. Thus a balance essentially had to be struck between what would benefit the organisation and what would benefit the individual official. Furthermore, labour fairness dictates the order in which officials are to be retrained, and this is thus not being reinvented for the public service.

Kgoshi Mokoena asked whether the Department is on track to implement Resolution 7 by the stated deadline, 12 September 2003.

Mr Kitshoff responded that these dates apply nationally, and thus all national and provincial departments have to comply. The Department is on track to meet deadline.

Kgoshi Mokoena stated that the IMT seems to be in favour of the early retirement of those officials, but is this really the answer to the situation.

Mr Ngema replied that these officials will not simply be displaced, but the strength and excellence currently existing within that provincial government will be retained and developed.

Kgoshi Mokoena requested a progress report on the follow-up action taken on the high levels of corruption that took place in the Eastern Cape.

Mr P Matthee (NNP) [Kwazulu-Natal] sought clarity on the figures for number of disciplinary cases being processed by the Disciplinary Cases Task Team (DCTT). The figures indicate that only 467 of the total 1098 cases are currently active, and only 172 of the cases have been finalised. Furthermore, only 18 of the 374 cases being dealt with by the Joint Anti-Corruption Task Team (JACTT) have resulted in convictions. This inability to prosecute seems to be at the heart of the problem, because officials are led to believe that they can act with impunity.

Mr Kitshoff responded to these two questions by stating that it has to be remembered that the disciplinary cases do not deal with corruption alone, but instead range between transgressions such as being intoxicated at work to the disciplinary cases. The disciplinary process within the Department does not allow legal practitioners to represent the offending officials, because the spirit of the process is to avoid any sort of legal procedure. Approximately 25 persons are currently dealing with the corruption cases, and officials in the legal departments involved could be included in the process if necessary.

The 172 cases indicated have been concluded, but they have to be followed up to ensure that the decision taken has been implemented. The 467 cases refers to those cases in which the disciplinary process is in place, but a final sanction is awaited. The aim here is to follow through with the cases with a view to ultimately capacitating the province to carry its own cases.

The same principle applies to the figures provided on the cases being dealt with by the JACTT. The corruption cases are more difficult to handle though because it is a criminal charge, and the burden of proof which has to be discharged is thus higher. Significant process has been made by the JACTT.

Mr Matthee asked whether there is a difference between the cases that have been concluded and those whose hearings have been finalised, because it still appears that something is wrong.

Mr Kitshoff responded that when the JACTT commenced its task it was presented with a stack of finalised disciplinary cases which it thought had been completed, yet upon further investigation it became evident that the sanctions imposed had not been implemented at all. The JACTT is thus currently busy verifying the outcomes of those cases. The distinction to be drawn here is thus that the hearings have been finalised by the JACTT, and the other half of the cases are those cases from the Department that the JACTT is currently following up.

Mr Matthee asked whether any assessment has been made of the costs of these cases for both the province and the taxpayer.

Mr Kitshoff replied that this assessment has been done, but he unfortunately does not have the figures with him. The costs do not include the disciplinary cases though.

Ms N Kondlo (ANC) [Eastern Cape] sought clarity on when exactly the IMT foresees its intervention will yield benefits.

Mr Ngema responded that one has to be quite careful when dealing with this, because it cannot truly be said that the IMT itself improves service delivery. Instead, the role of the IMT is to support the government departments in the Eastern Cape so that the departments themselves can be capacitated to improve service delivery. The role of the IMT is to identify problem areas in the specific government department, and to correct these problems so that the department delivers. There has definitely been improvement since the IMT intervened, such as the progress made in the Social Development and Health Departments, but there remain problems that have to be corrected. Mr Ngema reiterated that the progress made is an achievement by the specific department itself, and not the IMT.

Ms Kondlo asked the Department to explain when it foresees the migration of officials from the IMT to the government departments in the Eastern Cape.

Mr Ngema answered in the affirmative, especially if it relates to the provision of scarce skills. If this exercise is a success, it will be implemented further across different provinces. It is true that some of the problems are not unique to the Eastern Cape province, and the Department "is in this intervention for the long haul".

Ms Kondlo asked the Department to explain the processes it has initiated to ensure the public service buys into the rehabilitation programme, so that the sustainability of the initiatives will persist beyond the lifespan of the IMT.

Mr Ngema replied that the a programme has been initiated which involves managers in a number of government departments in the form of a road show. The Department is thus busy engaging the public service in different ways.

Ms Kondlo sought further clarity on the "Roads and Public Works turnaround" in the presentation , especially the move towards relocating this mandate.

Mr Ngema responded that he does not have the full details on this matter, but stated that other provincial Public Works Departments have been engaged.

Mr Maloyi asked the Department to indicate any other shortcomings which the IMT is discovering in the Eastern Cape. He asked whether the IMT has the necessary capacity to complete its evaluation by March 2004.

Mr Ngema replied that the willingness of the Eastern Cape government to drive this process forward has to be noted. The IMT could, in hindsight, have done with additional resources. But the most critical point to note is the willingness of that government to have the responsibility transferred to it.

The meeting was adjourned.

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