The Premier of the Western Cape emphasised the importance of maintaining the high level of good governance that was achieved for the four consecutive years during the fifth parliament. The increase in the roll-out of broadband from 18 to 30 municipalities was a long-term project and Broadband already had an impact on the agricultural sector in the Stellenbosch region and in community driven initiatives in Delft, Elsies River and Khayelitsha where there were examples of investment by government to empower citizens. The lack of infrastructure in rural areas was causing a delay in the roll-out process there.
The audit outcomes reflected a decline in the performance of the Education department and a concern was raised about unhappiness in the management style and leadership of this department as the number of black senior managers had declined significantly. The Health and Education departments were excluded from transversal services offered by the Department and for this reason, the People Management Forum created a platform to discuss matters of common interest with senior management of the Health and Education departments.
The Premier agreed to monitor this issue and said that crime and budgetary constraints contributed to the pressure placed on the Health and Education departments in the province. The lack of representation of black people in the organisational structure was a concern. The employment equity plan made provision for the building of internal structures to capacitate staff who aspire to advance into senior positions. Progress was made on positions below management levels and the human resources culture allowed for staff to up-skill themselves in preparation for upward movement. The recruitment process was open and transparent and political affiliation was not tolerated.
Conflict situations in Kraaifontein, Hangberg, Hout Bay and Philippi were being monitored on a continuous basis. The legitimacy of the Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF) was being challenged by a self-organised group in the Hangberg community. Not all residents of the Hout Bay community was keen to participate in the process to unlock land. Some people asked for higher than market value prices. The Legal department was involved in the dispute about the occupation of farm land in Philippi. The services of consultants were used for short-term assignments and reduced over time as the process of capacity building, through internal development and research programs, was taking place.
The Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Premier and Constitutional Matters of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, Mr Ricardo Mackenzie, announced that an advertisement for this Committee meeting was placed in The Argus, Die Burger and Vukani newspapers.
The Premier of the Western Cape, Mr Alan Winde, accepted responsibility for the programs of his predecessor and offered to report on issues and answer to questions of oversight, raised by the Committee. The discussion focussed on issues linked to General Information in Part A, Performance Information in Part B and People Management Oversight in Part D of the 2018/19 Annual Report. The Committee was directed by the Chairperson to deal separately with the each part of the report.
Part A: General Information
The Acting Director-General (ADG) provided context to the report of the accounting officer. The main focus was on good governance and service delivery through partnerships. The Department was structured into five programs. The first program dealt with Executive Support and the focus of the remaining four programs was to play a transversal role through the Corporate Services Centre (CSC). The CSC served 11 of the 13 partners (departments) which included Human Resources, Internal Audit, and Legal Services. All 13 departments were served by Legal Services. The Provincial Strategic Management programs dealt with strategic planning, monitoring and keeping government accountable. The transversal service in relation to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) formed part of the CSC and deal with the entire ICT suite of the Western Cape. The Department had a budget of R1.5b which would be discussed at the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA). The ADG proposed that the Department be afforded the opportunity, before the end of this financial year, to share information with the Committee about the functions and processes of the Department. It would assist the members with their oversight function.
The Chairperson asked for clarity about the three percent budget cut that was imposed on the Department during the 2018/19 financial year taking into account the four percent cut stated in the Annual Performance Report (APP).
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) asked what limited broadband meant and whether the Department managed to reach 30 municipalities as at October 2019. He raised concerns about the description of priorities introduced by the Premier, particularly about the notion of Inclusive Economic Growth and asked whether this was an ideological view. He said the description of Transport and Spatial Transformation was neutral as it did not imply an actual program to reverse the legacy of apartheid. He queried the support for the Jobs War Room and Safety Cabinet and asked how many special advisors were appointed. He asked whether the Premier was aware of the tensions in the Education department which were a contributing factor to the decline in audit and academic outcomes. Staff attrition was a problem. Of the 43 senior managers, only two black managers were left. People were leaving without giving reasons, which was a warning sign. He asked for more information regarding the R3m of fruitless and wasteful expenditure, as this was a considerable amount.
Ms W Philander (DA) asked for an update on the 18 Irregular Expenditure cases that were awaiting condonation and queried how many vacancies, as reflected in the organisational structure, were filled.
Mr R Allen (DA) asked what the people-centred and citizen-centric approaches, mentioned by the Premier and the ADG respectively, meant and how was it being implemented. In relation to the five consecutive clean audits, he queried how value for money could be added to the auditing profile. In relation to the Western Cape government digital strategy, he asked whether government had plans to enter into Public Private Partnerships (PPP).
Mr L Mvimbi (ANC), the Chairperson of SCOPA, commended the Department for achieving, on average, 94% of annual targets and said that although the six percent not achieved represented a small number, it should not be ignored. He asked how frequent the monitoring of management functions was done. He requested more detail of the demographic representation of young people in management positions and of people with disabilities. He indicated that those present in the meeting fairly represented the population groups in the province but that it was not a good representation of women and that African people were under represented.
Mr M Xego (EFF) was concerned that the promotion of service excellence through technology, as one of the three strategic goals of the Premier, posed a threat to job security. He asked for clarity about the statement in paragraph 4.8 that “the Auditor General’s report did not find any irregular processes in procurement transactions for the period under review” in comparison to the number of outstanding Irregular and Wasteful expenses.
Mr Dugmore asked what the position of the bill, which would make the position of the Environmental Commissioner a discretionary appointment, was at the end of the financial year.
Response to Part A
The Premier said that the long-term plan was to increase the broadband roll-out to all municipalities. The economy was linked to broadband. In order to make a success of inclusive growth, broadband needed to be implemented in places where the local economy might not be in a position to create future growth. This was important as the country had the highest rate of unemployment in the world and past injustices needed to be addressed. A discussion was held with the Mayor about identifying spaces and opportunities for inclusive growth. Economy was not only about creating jobs, it also required a safe environment and eco-system to enable the delivery of services.
Jobs War Room and Safety Cabinet
The Jobs War Room was a pilot project. Every Monday morning the previous week’s activities and the escalation of unresolved issues was reported to the office of the Premier. Officials of the city and province participated in the project. The Safety Cabinet ran on a six-weekly cycle. The first part of meetings focussed on report back on deliverables of provincial departments. A request would be made to role-players in the criminal justice system to be present at future meetings in order to build that relationship.
Special advisors were linked to the year under review when the Department still had a Delivery Unit. The Premier acquired the services of two of the advisors on a two-year contract basis. The first appointee was given the responsibility to deal with transport issues. The congestion across the province impacted on access to education and jobs. The strategic direction of the government was the focus of the second appointee.
Client versus citizen centric approaches
The notion of client-centric and citizen-centric approaches were associated to the two sets of clients that received services from the Department. The most important being the citizens who received services through government departments and the other being the role that the Department played in servicing other departments. He said that clean audits did not mean perfect service delivery. To improve service delivery and good governance required an assessment of the needs of clients on a regular basis.
Job security threatened by technology
He said Broadband had already had an impact on the agricultural sector in the Stellenbosch region. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) created huge excitement but was also a cause for concern amongst some people. Government had announced the policy of broadband roll-out ten years ago. In terms of the manual digging of trenches to install broadband, the Western Cape was at one stage 650 kilometres behind Durban and Johannesburg. The special vehicle that was introduced sped up the process and even though it involved technology, a whole range of jobs was created. Technology was an enabler of expansion and growth but required proper management.
The ADG said that the Department delivered transversal services to the government departments except for the Education and Health departments. These departments were responsible for their own Human Resources management policies. He nevertheless agreed to take up the audit issues about the declining performance and reversal of diversity in the Education department that was raised by Mr Dugmore. The Department was looking at innovative ways to address audit issues. The idea was to follow an “auditing for outcomes” approach. This did not imply moving away from good governance but there was more to governance than just compliance. Compliance involved huge costs. The move to “governance for performance” would add value for citizens.
Fruitless and Wasteful Expenditure
The ADG pointed out to Mr Dugmore that the amount in respect of the eight cases was R3 000 and not R3m. Although the amount was small, the cases were taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. Due to the transversal nature of services, the Department was responsible for the purchase of tickets for people who needed to fly to Cape Town for interviews. On occasion, people either missed flights or did not pitch for interviews. This resulted in expenditure which were either condoned or recouped.
The scope of the work of the Department was more of an external rather than of an internal nature. The focus was on the needs of citizens and not what happened in the office. The Department acted and engaged with citizens and the private sector in relation to innovation and culture, as government could not do it independently. The Department collaborated with the private sector although formal legislation did not exist for conventional Public Private Partnerships.
The ADG explained that the 94% achievement rate was an average over a period of four years. The 92% referred to the achievement rate for the year under review. The Department was committed to not setting easily achievable targets. The monitoring and evaluation aspects of performance management were receiving increased attention. The frequency of reporting illustrated the advancement of the accountability agenda. Reporting to the legislature and the provincial cabinet was done on a quarterly basis and continuous reporting to the Premier was done on a monthly basis.
Appointment of Environmental Commissioner
The ADG said that the appointment of the Environmental Commissioner was being dealt with. The matter was referred to the Provincial Cabinet as the Premier needed to re-introduce the applicable legislation.
Mr Dugmore asked if the constitution would be amended to make the appointment discretionary.
The Premier said it was part of the discussion, as such an amendment needed to be aligned to the national constitution.
Supply Chain Management
An official from the office of the Premier explained that the Auditor-General did not find any irregularity in procurement processes and that the irregular expenditure issues were detected by Internal Audit. The accounting officer no longer had the power to condone irregular expenses. Such cases needed to be referred to Treasury after investigations were done by the Department. The 18 Irregular Expenditure cases under investigation were resolved and no losses were incurred. The eight Fruitless and Wasteful expenses under investigation had been reduced. Five cases were resolved and fines in respect of two cases were recovered subsequent to year-end.
An official from the office of the Premier replied that Phase 2 of the broadband project required certain technologies to upgrade the connectivity speed. The remainder of the municipalities were in deep rural areas and the service provider did not have the technology in those areas.
Mr Xego noted that none of the 26 women in the structure were African and that only three Africans appeared in the structure. He asked how this was going to be addressed.
The HOD explained that most vacancies at senior management levels, namely levels 13 to 16, were filled. The Department was sensitive when doing performance reviews, but experienced difficulty finding candidates. Progress was being made at levels lower than level 13. The goal of the employment equity plan was to capacitate staff for higher level positions.
Mr P Marais (FFP) requested an explanation for the figures in table 4.2.2 relating to the Centre for e-Innovation, as it did not add up. He queried whether the Department factored in the underspending of the different departments in relation to being underfunded in terms of the equity principle. He remarked that there was no official present in the meeting responsible for policy on poverty relief and asked if the Department was looking into creating jobs.
The ADG explained that the figure of 99 338 in table 4.2.2 was an error that would be corrected to 998 338. The general norm for equitable share funding was that provision was made for a baseline budget that grows with inflation. The budget in real terms did not keep track with inflation, which impacted the effectiveness of service delivery.
Part B: Performance Information
Mr Dugmore asked what the factors were for the vacancies on Provincial Strategic Management under program 2 and why it was not being filled. He expressed frustration that forensic investigations took too long. He asked what the Department regarded as a reasonable time frame and what kind of capacity was lacking which could speed up the investigations. He requested that statistics be made available on the various platforms used by people to access provincial government services, including how extensively the Please-Call-Me number was being used. He asked for progress on the 28 remaining projects that the Chief Directorate: Organisation Development was asked to assist with. He queried the factors that contributed to under performance in Executive Support – Administration under program 1. He asked for an update on the status of the court order which resulted from the Hangberg Peace Accord and whether other conflict situations were attended to. He concluded that the underspent amount of R1.31m as per table 4.2.6 was linked to the high turnover rate where no reason was provided for staff exits. He asked how many, of the 1 442 posts advertised by the Chief Directorate of People Management under program 3, were filled in the year under review. He asked if there were other municipalities that offered advancement of youth programs similar to the 12 interns that were place at the Mossel Bay municipality.
Mr Marais was concerned that internal staff were not being empowered. People with 10 and 20 years of service were not being considered for vacancies. He questioned whether vacancies were always advertised externally or were internal vacancies were also advertised. He asked why the Annual Report was not made available in Afrikaans. The feeling was that Afrikaans was not being respected, as government officials use English when presentations are delivered, even in rural areas where people were mostly Afrikaans speakers.
Mr Allen asked whether there was 100% wheelchair accessibility at the 70 Cape Access e-Centres and if the Department had plans to make the centres more user friendly. He asked what the exit strategy was for absorbing interns into further employment.
The Chairperson asked whether the Department could not make use of a database of candidates to improve the recruitment process which took 104 working days to conclude.
Response to Part B
Human Resource Culture
The Premier replied that the Human Resource culture presented opportunities for people to improve themselves through continuous learning. This would signal to management that people had aspirations. Such an environment would keep people on their toes. He referred to a situation at the Reserve Bank where people were unhappy that an outsider was appointed. When questioned, none of the unhappy people indicated that they were preparing academically or any other way for the job.
The Premier replied that Afrikaans and isiXhosa versions of the Annual Report were available on request, as indicated at the back of the report.
Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF)
An official from the office of the Premier reported that a self-organised group in the Hangberg community was challenging the legitimacy of the PMF. The forum was facilitating communication between the groups, in terms of the Peace Accord. The conflict between the local community and foreigners in Kraaifontein was and ad-hoc matter while Hangberg was an on-going matter.
Mr Dugmore asked if the Premier’s office was currently mediating on other issues. The negotiation to make properties available in Hout Bay, where property owners lived in close proximity to informal settlements, seemed to have stopped. He asked about the unlocking of further land.
The Premier said he was fully aware of the issue but that not all residents were keen to participate in the process and some people were looking for higher than market value prices.
Mr Marais raised a problem with valuations in the Philippi area being done by the valuator that was appointed by the City of Cape Town. It was difficult to remove people occupying farm land and he asked whether the Premier would act as mediator to resolve a specific case that was brought to his attention.
The Chairperson asked which land Mr Marais was referring to.
Mr Marais agreed to provide more detail at a later stage.
Staff turnover rate
An official from the office of the Premier indicated that people declined to provide reasons for leaving. The Department also needed the information and would try to improve on this issue. He explained that the contracts for 62 of the 150 people that left, had expired.
Training and empowerment
A Department official said not all municipalities could afford to implement educational projects. The Department would make the database of the Harambee portal available to the Department of Economic Development and business. The goal was to provide young people with skills to make them attractive to business. People were encouraged to study further.
The time delay in the recruitment process was mostly due to the shortlisting phase of the process. The process was relatively quick once the shortlist period was concluded. The recruitment policy allowed for Recruitment Pools, valid for six months, from which staff may be selected. He said that 1 450 training opportunities were created and 33 internal appointments (promotions) took place.
Mr Dugmore asked if the Department held exit interviews or whether staff who resigned just completed a form.
The official said that participation in an exit interview was voluntary.
Mr Dugmore asked whether completion of the form was also voluntary. He noted this as an area of concern which required a resolution.
Mr Marais obtained more detail about the land occupation issue during the break and asked the Premier to investigate the Marikana, Philippi informal settlement matter.
The Premier said that the Legal department was attending to the matter. He indicated that Human Settlements was also playing a role and that there were a number of pieces of land involved and not just the one issue. A second opinion was being sought with regard to the valuations of various properties in that area.
Part D: People Management Oversight
Mr Dugmore was concerned about the serious regression in the employment equity position in the Education and Health departments. He acknowledged that the Department of the Premier did not provide services to these departments but asked whether the Barometer Fact File would identify challenges in the Education and Health departments.
An official of the Department of the Premier said that the Barometer Fact File excluded the Education and Health departments as the Department of the Premier did not have access to the PERSAL records of those departments. The People Management Forum provided a platform to discuss matters of common interest with senior staff members of the Education and Health department. The Department offered assistance to other departments with the interpretation of policies and sharing of technologies. It provided analysis and raised matters of concern with Heads of Department’s (HOD)’s of the Health and Education departments.
Mr Dugmore was concerned that the Barometer Fact File did not apply to the Health and Education departments which provided critical services. Unhappiness about the management style and leadership could escape the Premier’s attention. He asked whether the Premier had a view on the decline in black management positions and if he was aware about the representivity issues.
The Chairperson suggested that Mr Dugmore attend the MEC meetings where his concerns could be addressed.
The Chairperson questioned the skills development opportunities for the different occupational categories. It seemed that the lower levels had fewer opportunities for skills development in comparison to the higher levels where training for technical skills were promoted.
The ADG agreed that this was a valid point to consider and that the Department would review each performance management agreement to identify opportunities for moving people out of lower salary bands.
Utilisation of consultants
The Chairperson asked whether skills were transferred by the consultants.
The ADG said that the services of consultants were used for short-term assignments and the number of consultants were reduced over time as capacity building was taking place through internal development and research programs.
Mr Marais asked how much of the advice from consultants was used and what percentage of reports was worthwhile taking into consideration.
The ADG replied that proposals from consultants were considered to improve the work of the Department. It was, however, the job of public servants to use professional judgement in deciding whether or not to use it. Not using a proposal did not mean that it was not worthwhile.
Pressure on Health and Education departments
The Premier said that crime and budgetary constraints contributed to the problems experienced in the Health and Education departments. The Gauteng and Western Cape provinces were experiencing considerable pressure as people move closer to the cities due to failure in other provinces. Many schools were under pressure due to safety issues. He made a commitment to monitor the issue.
Mr Dugmore expressed his appreciation for the Premier’s perspective on the matter.
The Chairperson declared the meeting open for public participation.
Mr Muaath Gabier, Provincial Deputy Secretary of the Progressive Professionals Forum, asked for clarity on the organisational culture of the Department and questioned why Health and Education operated independently. He asked whether it was policy to advertise HOD positions. Feedback from members of his organisation suggested that jobs were written for DA members. He queried whether the more than 1 000 vacancies were filled by members with affiliation to the DA. He asked whether Legal Services rendered services to all other government departments. He requested the details of the Broadband roll-out project, including the number of unique users, where the sites were located, the speed and costs of the project. He asked about the countries of origin of the foreign staff members. He said safety at schools was of concern. He raised a legal matter in which he was the complainant in a corruption case against a school principal.
The Premier replied that the building of a team was at the heart of the organisational culture in the Department, as this impacted on the quality of service delivery to clients. All HOD candidates underwent an interview process and the Premier’s sign-off was required to finalise appointments on behalf of the government. The renewal process was not automatic. The next review process would introduce an opening up of the process where candidates could challenge for senior positions. The Human Resources department could provide detail of vacancies filled, but political affiliation as a factor, would not be tolerated. The recruitment process was open and transparent.
he said investment in broadband formed part of broader decisions that needed to be justified. He described the difference that free Wi-Fi made when it was first rolled out in areas such as Robertson, Atlantis and Delft, where normal connectivity was not available. These were pilot projects with great impact on services in communities. Delft households were being serviced through the 27 towers installed in that area. A local entrepreneur designed a program where orders could be placed at a spaza shop and a taxi would pick up and deliver items to clients on his normal routes. Other examples of investment in broadband include the I-CAN centres in Elsies River and Khayelitsha which were now globally renowned FinTech spaces.
An official from the office of the Premier replied that the Department did provide legal services to the Education department but did not liaise directly with clients. On the case against a school principal, he said that the issue should be raised with the Education department.
The ADG replied that all HOD positions were advertised. There was direct alignment between competencies and the function of the Department for senior level positions. Each functionality was tested during the interview process. Advertisements did not require affiliation to any political party. Advertisements were placed in the media and senior positions were advertised nationally. A portal for the Department of the Premier made provision for a link to the Education department through an easy registration process.
Detail of the five foreign staff members would be made available to the public representative through the office of the Chairperson.
The meeting was adjourned.
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