Legacy Report & Sectoral Overview, Department & PSC Quarterly Performance Reports

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Meeting Summary

The Committee Content Adviser and the Researcher presented on the Fifth Parliament legacy report. The previous Portfolio Committee had only processed one Bill, the Public Service Commission Amendment Bill. There had been four oversight trips by the previous Committee, which was not enough. Working conditions of frontline service delivery officials had been assessed and Parliament had to lead the discussion on how to professionalise the public service. The Public Administration Management Act, the Government Employees Housing Scheme, the Integrated Financial Management System and the Public Service Commission Amendment Bill had to be implemented. There had to be follow-up on the Steinhoff debacle. A development-oriented public service had to be built.

In discussion, Members had remarks and questions about the finalising of regulations, and the need to workshop the Committee mandate and oversight, professionalisation of the public service, and lifestyle audits.

The National School of Government presented a report on the First Quarter performance. The School had achieved 80 percent of its targets. A review of its strategy, structure and mandate was scheduled for September. 152 trainees from the Department of Arts and Culture had received performance management training. Debt collection times had come down from 40 days to 19 days. All suppliers had been paid within 30 days. The vacancy rate in the School stood at 10.9 percent. There was no fruitless and wasteful or irregular expenditure. Ethics and anti-corruption courses had been offered to 203 officials.

In discussion, Members had remarked on and questioned targets, vacancies, low spending and unfunded posts. Timeously paid invoices and the absence of fruitless and wasteful and irregular expenditure was applauded.

The Centre for Public Service Innovation presented on first quarter performance. The Centre achieved 100 percent of its targets. 16.45 percent of the total budget had been spent in the First Quarter. There had been no unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful or irregular expenditure. The vacancy rate was 10.5 percent. The Centre had worked with five innovation teams to develop solutions for health and civic services. The Eastern Cape Treasury had been given support to prepare a five-year strategic plan.

Members had remarks and questions about vacancies, spending, and support to the Eastern Cape.

The Public Service Commission presented a report on its First Quarter performance. The Commission had achieved all nine of its targets. 100 percent of valid invoices had been paid. 86 percent of grievances had been finalised. The Centre had produced a research report on rural development and land reform. A submission had been made to the Presidency on the reconfiguration of government. The vacancy rate in the Commission stood at six percent. Irregular expenditure had amounted to R15.5 million.

There were remarks and questions about the status of the Commission in the provinces, grievances, and appointment of Commissioners.

The Department of Public Service and Administration presented its report on its First Quarter performance. The Department had achieved 84 percent of its targets. Public service productivity training was given to the Kenya School of Government. The Presidency had been given support on the review of the machinery of government. There were reports on the implementation of the Government Employees Housing Scheme, and a financial solution. The Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health were supported in the development of ICT strategic alignment with the Digital strategy. Provinces had been engaged on the implementation of the Community Development Works Programme.

There were remarks and questions from Members about restructuring and retrenchment, lifestyle audits, abuse of sick leave, outsourcing of infrastructure projects, training and litigation. The Deputy Minister participated in the discussion.

Meeting report

Introduction by the Chairperson

The Chairperson stated that the purpose of the briefing on the Fifth Parliament Legacy Report was to empower the Committee and to help it understand where it came from, and where it wished to go.

Briefing by the Content Adviser and Researcher on the Fifth Parliament Legacy Report

The briefing was presented by Mr Julius Ngoepe, Content Adviser, and Mr Mlungisi Biyela, Researcher. The briefing on the legacy report of the Fifth Parliament focused on achievements, lessons learnt and challenges, and spelled out focus areas for the Sixth Parliament. The previous Portfolio Committee (PC) processed only one Bill, the Public Service Commission Amendment Bill. There were four oversight trips, which had not been enough. Working conditions of frontline service delivery officials had been assessed and Parliament had to lead the discussion on how to professionalise the Public Service. The Public Administration Management Act (PAMA), the Government Employees Housing Scheme (GEHS), the Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMS) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) Amendment Bill had to be implemented. There had to be a follow-up on the Steinhoff debacle. A development-oriented public service had to be built in accordance with the government plan of action.

Discussion

Ms M Mokause (EFF) remarked that regulations had to be finalised. Timeframes had to be set for that, and duplication had to be avoided.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) recommended that there be a workshop to develop an action plan and to define what kind of activities were expected from the Committee.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) opined that the briefing was informative, especially for first timers. She agreed with Ms Lesoma that there had to be an urgent workshop to go through the issues. The report spoke to the oversight work of the Committee. The PC needed to be more empowered for that, so that its teeth might be sharpened to deal with the Department. The Department had to be informed about issues as observed by the Fifth Parliament.

Ms M Clarke (DA) observed that the Tusong centres were not functional. Information was needed about operating costs, budgets and terms of reference. To professionalise the public service, it had to be ensured that people were properly skilled for the work they had to do. It emerged from the Auditor-General (AG) report that senior management was not complying with legislation, rules and regulations. She asked how successful the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had been with anti-corruption measures. Lifestyle audits had to be done as there were officials who owned five houses, which could not be afforded on the salaries they were earning. She had taken the matter to the Premier, but there had been no response. How successful was lifestyle auditing?

Mr Ngoepe responded that a workshop would be held to develop a strategic plan for the Committee. The process had been delayed and would have to wait until the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) for the new administration had been published. The Portfolio Committee (PC) Strategic Plan would be informed by the MTSF and aligned to it. A two-day workshop could be held.

Mr Biyela replied that Public Service regulations were currently in the second phase. The Department still had to consult with other departments. The Tusong centres, anti-corruption measures and professionalising of the public service would be attended to in the Committee programme.

Briefing by the National School of Government on First Quarter Performance

The briefing was presented by Ms Phindile Mkwanazi, Acting Principal. For the two National School of Government (NSG) programmes, the overall quarterly achievement of targets was 80 percent. The NSG would undertake a review of its strategy, structure and mandate in September 2019. Uptake of compulsory performance management training had begun with the training of 152 trainees from the Department of Arts and Culture. The number of days for debt collection had decreased from 40 to 19 days. All suppliers were paid within 30 days. The vacancy rate stood at 10.9 percent as at 30 June 2019. The First Quarter saw a lower training uptake, which had impacted on revenue generation. 60 percent of NSG officials were women. There had been no fruitless and wasteful or irregular expenditure. Ethics and anti-corruption courses had been offered to 203 officials.

Discussion

Ms B Maluleke (ANC) remarked that there were only two programmes and yet targets were not achieved and without valid reasons. The School would probably declare in the next term that it was doing well. She commended the prompt paying of suppliers.

Ms Ntuli remarked that where the School was not doing well, and a turnaround strategy had to be determined. Vacancies would jeopardise the work of the School. The issue of unfunded posts was a stumbling block. She asked about an approach to fast-track the matter, and whether the PC would have to intervene. The School would not have failed to meet the target of trainees if working relations had been tightened. She applauded the paying of invoices, and the absence of fruitless and wasteful and irregular expenditure. There would be a public outcry if officials were not fully trained. It was important to instil patriotism in officials.

Dr L Schreiber (DA) referred to vacancies. There had been 25 vacant posts, of which eight were abolished. Of the 18 posts to be filled, eight were at senior management level. How was it decided which posts to fill? The ratio was top heavy, and management posts were being filled at the expense of service delivery posts.

Ms Mokause stated that the matter of unfunded posts had to be attended to. There were unfunded and vacant posts and some posts had been abolished. Why was it decided to abolish posts, instead of funding them?

Ms M Kibi (ANC) applauded the state of the finances. The legacy report identified the NSG as a training academy for government. It was a tool for the professionalisation of the public service. Training budgets in all departments had to be consolidated. Departments were outsourcing learners to entities other than the NSG. There had to be budgeting for priorities and for budgets of the future to be supported.

Ms Lesoma noted that there was an informal document that described a new business model for the NSG. All departments had training budgets, but courses that the NSG provided, were outsourced to other entities. It could be that it was necessary to remove unfunded posts, and to review the job descriptions of other posts. The question was how to get the work done when there was no money. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had to look into the question of how services were contracted but culminated in non-valid invoices.

Ms Kibi opined that it was not possible to employ more people if there was no budget. The NSG had to focus on employing more women and disabled persons. She commended the savings, but it was not to be at the expense of service delivery.

The Chairperson remarked that there had been problems around the release of funding.

Response

Ms Mkwanazi responded that the NSG would reposition its activities by September 2019. When a mandate had to be delivered with less money, care had to be taken not to overwork people. The Minister had to be informed about the impact of the budget pressure. The post of Principal was vacant, but advertisements had been sent out, and the Principal would be in place by the end of the Third Quarter. The DDG: Training and Management was a crucial position, and had to be filled, along with some Chief Director positions. There were sufficient people in place at the lower, core-business levels. The NSG was engaging with departments and the Treasury to review funding models. Cabinet had granted approval to implement compulsory programmes in departments, but departments could not be forced to use NSG programmes. The Treasury had made money available to implement compulsory programmes. Together with the Premier, work had been done to implement programmes in North West. Concerning patriotism, there were reorientation programmes. There was also retraining according to Batho Pele principles.

Briefing by the Centre for Public Serve Innovation (CPSI) on First Quarter Performance

The briefing was presented by Mr Lindani Mthetwa, Executive Director. The two CPSI targets were fully achieved. 16.45 percent of the total budget was spent in the First Quarter. There was no unauthorised, fruitless and wasteful or irregular expenditure. There was a 10.5 percent vacancy rate. At SMS levels 13-16, 66.7 percent of officials were female. The CPSI was working with five innovation teams to develop solutions for health and civic services. Support had been granted to the Eastern Cape Treasury for the preparation of the five-year strategic plan.

Discussion

Ms Ntuli remarked that there was no elaboration about vacancies, unfunded or not. Was the spending of R6 million in the First Quarter according to target? There was a tendency to not spend in the first quarter, which led to money being spent haphazardly at the end of the financial year. The holding of elections was not a valid excuse. Expenditure targets had to be kept track of.

Ms Kibi asked about support to the Eastern Cape, and whether other provinces were also supported. Could the CPSI assist at municipal level? Municipalities were struggling with finances. Officials there had to be assisted to manage finances.

Response

Mr Mthetwa responded that vacancies were funded. The post of Africa Director had been finalised with the Executive. The contract had come to an end, and the post had to be re-advertised. Advertising for other posts had started. Expenditure had been affected by the lease coming to an end, and CPSI moving to a facility supplied by Public Works. The funds saved had been used for progress. The Treasury had requested that departments reduce spending. Support given to the Eastern Cape was also part of a CPSI initiative for testing training for government. Support would be extended to other provinces. The CPSI had been approached by municipalities and had been able to partly assist.

Briefing by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on First Quarter Performance

The briefing was presented by Mr Dovhani Mamphiswana, Director-General. The PSC had achieved all nine targets due in the First Quarter. 100 percent of valid invoices had been paid within 30 days of receipt. 86 percent of grievance cases had been finalised. A research report on rural development and land reform had been produced. The PSC had made a submission on the reconfiguration of government to the Presidency. 86 percent of anti-corruption cases were finalised within three months. There was a vacancy rate of six percent. Irregular expenditure amounted to R15.5 million.

Discussion

Ms Ntuli remarked that it had to be understood what was expected from the PSC in the provinces. There had to be a strategy for filling vacancies. It could not be an overnight thing. Measures had to be put in place, working with Commissioners in the provinces. She applauded the paying of invoices within 30 days. The Commission was not intended to only work at the national level. There was much work to be done in the provinces, around outstanding payments of invoices that had not been paid within 30 days. The PSC was the mouth and ears and eyes of the public service. What was to be the strategy for the provinces? She referred to service demonstrations and asked what the PSC strategy was.

Ms Lesoma noted that the Public Service Act determined criteria for the appointment of Commissioners. She asked that the Chairperson write a letter on behalf of the Committee to expedite the process of filling a vacancy at national level. Who monitored the unending suspension of senior managers, and non-finalisation of HR cases? Was it the PSC or the DPSA? Who monitored provincial Commissioners? There were mandatory activities that were not being implemented. The PSC had to lead by example. She was happy to hear that the PSC had managed to induct the Executive. The details of a position were not always known to the incumbent. Legally there was a thin line between the Minister and the DG in terms of accountability.

Ms Maluleke asked what type of grievances had been registered. Was it about working conditions and salaries?

Response

Mr Mthembu replied that many grievances were related to unfair transfers, with due process not being followed. The provisions for transfer were in the Public Service Act. There were grievances related to scoring in performance management assessments. Performance was linked to reward, and scores were reduced to not pay more. Grievances were substantiated. There was engagement with the DPSA to look into the matter, and the unions were also involved. No agreement had been reached as yet. There was an emerging trend of bullying and harassment, and some of the cases were serious.

Concerning the appointment of a Commissioner in Mpumalanga, Mr Mthembu noted that he himself had been asked to fulfil a caretaker role in Mpumalanga. In terms of the Act, there was only one Commission. Five provinces did not have Commissioners. The PSC worked as a single Commission and had held a quarterly plenary. Advertising had been done and interviews conducted for the appointment of a Commissioner in Mpumalanga. The vacancy had occurred on the verge of the ending of the Fifth Parliament. At the end of July 2019, the recommended candidate had declined the offer of the post. The Premier had been asked to fast-track the process. The Legislature and the Speaker’s office were cooperating with the PSC.

Mr Mthembu agreed with Ms Maluleke that it was the mandate of the PSC to be the eyes and mouth of the public service. It was concerned to ensure effective public service. The prevalence of demonstrations showed that the public service was doing something wrong. The impact and contribution of the PSC was to make recommendations and advise departments. All stakeholders were brought into projects in the provinces. The previous Commissioner in Mpumalanga had been resourced by the Provincial Legislature. The PSC had to work with limited resources and a small budget. The PSC had an activist approach that relied on innovation.

The Chairperson asked the Deputy Minister to comment.

Comments by the Deputy Chairperson

Ms Sindi Chikunga, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, remarked that it was the month of women, and September would be public service month. Activities were directed at strengthening awareness, not only among government officials, but also amongst the public. There would be both announced and unannounced visits to the frontline of service delivery. There was a focus on the implementation of Batho Pele principles and the Public Service Charter. The public service had to be stabilised. The Wage Bill, the cost of doing business, the war on corruption, and training and skills development had to be attended to. Entities supported the DPSA towards stronger oversight. Most targets had been achieved, and AG issues had been prioritised. The DPSA had participated in the reconfiguration of government. Money spent on litigation by departments was a challenge.

Briefing by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on First Quarter Performance

The briefing was presented by Prof Richard Levin, Director-General. 89% of targets had been achieved. DPSA had attended a Ministerial round-table meeting on governance and public administration in Palestine, and public service productivity training had been offered to the Kenya School of Government. DPSA supported the Presidency on the review of the machinery of government. Reports on implementation of the GEHS, and a financial solution for it, had been completed. The Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health were supported in the development of an ICT strategy to align with the Digital Strategy. Six national departments had received support to implement Batho Pele programmes. DPSA had engaged with several provinces on the implementation of the Community Development Works Programme.

Discussion

Dr Schreiber asked about the restructuring process. He commended the emphasis on retooling and reskilling. There had to be a conversation about retrenchment. It had to start at the top where the big salaries were paid. He asked about progress with that. Would a lifestyle audit include Ministers and Deputy Ministers? It had been done in the Western Cape, but the progress of the tactical unit had stalled. Could the money involved in the fruitless and wasteful expenditure be recovered?

Ms Clarke referred to slide 7 that dealt with HR matters. Sick leave was being abused. Controls had to be put in place.

Ms Lesoma said that she appreciated the Deputy Minister’s remarks. She asked if the Minister could inform the Committee about her planned visits. She referred to the Wage Bill and business costs. There was an overpricing of line items and activities. The DPW had made extensive use of consultants. Outsourcing of infrastructure plans had to be avoided - government had to have its own capacity. The DPME could follow that up. She cautioned that the reconfiguration of government should not result in the creation of more entities that would have to start from scratch. How would the intended beneficiaries of the GEHS benefit from the scheme? She requested a briefing on how the Steinhoff debacle had impacted on pension funds. Was the DPSA or the National Treasury the project leader for ICT? ICT programmes were not talking to each other. The DPSA had to have a say in the Community Development Worker Programme (CDWP) and the Expanded Public Works Programme. In future, there should be a helicopter report on how much money government entities were spending on litigation, especially on cases that it knew that it would lose.

Response by Deputy Minister

The Deputy Minister replied that government reconfiguration had to be done by December 2019. The placement of staff, training and retraining would be a major activity. She herself was willing to be subjected to a lifestyle audit. The overpricing of consultants contributed to the cost of doing business in the public sector. Legislation had to be in place when new State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were created. In the interest of skills transfer, she advised that junior personnel could brief Parliament, provided that it was in the presence of the DG. She noted that staff took sick leave, sleep in a hospital for three days, and then claim money from medical aid, thus abusing medical schemes. When those people became really ill, the money would have been used up.

Response by the DG

Prof Levin responded that restructuring had to be undertake in terms of the Labour Relations Act. Concerning reskilling and retooling, the intention was for a productivity and effectiveness drive to transform The Public Service. The values of public administration were set out in chapter 10 of the Constitution and had to be applied State-wide. Duplication had to be eliminated. 80 percent of the Public Service consisted of Police, Health and Education, and it was not advisable to weed those services out.

It had become fashionable to create new agencies. In Slovenia that was counteracted by setting a state-wide wage and a common framework for all entities. The effectiveness of the State had to be enhanced. The budget could be reprioritised in terms of the PAMA, in relation to all three spheres of government. A key lever of economic transformation was the curbing of wastages through procurement. The Department of Trade and Industry promoted localisation, as well as the Treasury through the Chief Procurement Officer, but that did not solve the problem. The State cell phone bill amounted to R5 billion. There had to be value for money in transversal contracts. Behaviour in the public service had to be reconfigured to avoid paralysis. Reorganisation was possible and was driven by the Presidency. Frontline staff had to have adequate capability; it was not enough to simply have warm bodies in place. The PAMA granted opportunities as it allowed transfer of staff.

The GEHS was a macro benefit but the question was how to ensure that public services got the best rates. Some public servants needed help with debt rehabilitation to access loans. National Treasury (NT) was responsible for ICT and the Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMS). DPSA also dealt with digitalisation. DPSA engaged with Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs about CDWP. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) had been paralysed due to contestation around procurement. Legal costs were run up because of abuses and cases were kept alive. There was abuse of special leave. It was not appropriate when dealing with cases of suspension.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson announced that adoption of the Committee minutes would have to stand over until the following meeting. There were Steinhoff meetings on 4 September 2019 to which MPs were invited. He advised that all parties send one Member only, so that Committee activities would not be disturbed.

The meeting was adjourned

 

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