The Committee was briefed by the Department Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on the extent and nature of contract appointments in national and provincial departments, the location and funding of the Thusong service centres, and the proposed revised ministerial handbook which would soon be submitted to the President for approval.
Members heard that an increasing number of employees were being appointed on contract by national and provincial government departments for extended periods of time, mostly additional to the establishment. As a result, the Public Service Commission (PSC) had undertaken a study to assess the extent, nature and rationale of contract appointments. Data from the departments suggested that some appointed staff were additional to the establishment for average periods of three years or more, and there were cases of workers being absorbed by departments without going through the required recruitment and selection process.
Members were told that the Thusong Service Centre programme had been established in 1999 as a vehicle for providing development communication to communities. Currently there were 197 centres that had been established in the provinces, but only 117 were operational. Some had been de-listed, and others affected by service delivery protests. Most centres did not have centre managers, and no monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms to monitor the effectiveness of the programme.
The Minister also briefed the Committee on the contents of the proposed revised handbook for ministers, which would see them fly only in economy class on domestic flights, their vehicle allowances being capped at R700 000, no allowance for security upgrades, and limitations on domestic staff at their official residences.
Members asked why some contract workers had UIF contributions deducted from their salaries, but these were not remitted to the UIF, and the workers discovered this only when they went to claim their benefits. Who was to be held responsible for this? Members were aghast that the noble idea of establishing the Thusong centres as a vehicle to bring services to the people had become a disaster. How was it that 20 years after its establishment, the centres had no internet connectivity, and less than half were functional? How much were the centres costing taxpayers, and what was the country getting back as a return on this investment? The Minister committed to implementing a reorganisation which would see the programme functioning properly within three months.
The Chairperson welcomed the Members and told them that one of their colleagues, Ms C Motsepe (EFF), had not attended the last two meetings because her granddaughter, who was only five years old, had been severely shot at their neighbour’s house while playing with other children. She was presently seriously injured. The Chairperson said she wondered what had actually gone wrong with the men in South Africa. Why were they so violent that they always wanted to injure and kill? The Committee needed to send Ms Motsepe a message of solidarity in her hour of need. A Member from each the parties represented in the Committee then sent her a message that they stood with her, and expressed the hope that the perpetrator would be speedily arrested and brought to book.
Contract appointments in government departments: PSC briefing
Ms Moira Marais-Martin, Commissioner: Public Service Commission (PSC), said the compensation of public servants accounts for a large and growing proportion of pending in the Public Service, hence the need for government to derive commensurate value from all its employees. In the execution of its mandate, the PSC observed an increasing number of employees being appointed on contract by departments for extended periods of time, mostly additional to the establishment. Given concerns about the wage bill and the perception that contract staff end up doing work that should be done by permanently appointed personnel, the PSC wanted to understand the extent and impact of appointing contract employees for long periods of time. For these reasons, the PSC undertook a study to assess the extent, nature and rationale of contract appointments, as well as the extent to which departments had made attempts to re-skill and place employees who were left additional to the establishment after the reorganisation and restructuring processes. The overall objective of the study was to determine the nature and extent of contract appointments, the rationale for such appointments, as well as their impact on organisational performance.
The study found that fixed term contract (FTC) appointments vary from one department to the other, but the most common were the internship programmes. Other common contract appointments were related to essential services that were not directly linked to the core functions of departments, which included contract appointments for community development workers (CDWs) and general workers. A breakdown of contract appointments in national and provincial government departments showed that there were contracts considerably in excess of the establishment levels throughout. (See presentation slide)
The recommendations of the PSC were:
- Departments must conduct human resources (HR) planning at key intervals to enable them to deal with their critical skills needs systematically and increased workload effectively.
- Although contract appointments had several benefits and could not be completely avoided, there was no regulation that made provision for filling funded posts on contract as a method of cost containment, and departments should appoint contract workers only as a last resort in extreme cases of skills shortage.
- Departments should put measures in place to develop employees who were placed additional to their staff establishment through continuous professional development, re-skilling and skills transfer, as well as effective knowledge management, to avoid creating dependency on a few employees or external expertise.
- Departments should take note of the report’s findings and recommendations and ensure implementation of the recommendations in order to prevent or minimise complaints, grievances and disputes, as well as the likely financial impact of contract employments related to arbitration awards and court orders in instances where reasonable expectation was said to have been established.
Ms C Motsepe (EFF) asked about the findings on the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) levy deducted from contracted workers, but were not remitted or paid over to UIF. Because no deducted payment had remitted, these workers after completing their contracts had received no payments from the UIF. She also asked if there were identifiable cases where a project could have been finalised, but was manipulated or systematically delayed in order to extend the contract of fixed term employees. What could be done in such cases?
Dr L Schreiber (DA) referred to the response rate on the methodology, which indicated that 63% of national departments and 68% of provincial departments had participated in the survey. Did this mean that the percentages mentioned were the response rates? If this were so, it would be concerning because it meant the PSC was not being taken as seriously as it should be, and the survey was not regarded as important. In collating the number of contracts appointments in addition to the establishment listed, it amounted to 5 990, and as the response rate was low, this could not be all the contracts. What was of concern was that from some Parliamentary questions asked a while ago, and based on the response from the DPSA, it seemed like there were only 2 224 posts that were in addition to the establishment in the public service. If this was such a low figure for contract appointments, what else could be considered additional to the establishment? Was there another way that people could be appointed which was not necessarily a fixed term contract that could so significantly have increased the figures of people that were in addition to the establishment?
On comments in the recommendations regarding a moratorium on the filling of posts in the public service, what were the PSC’s views on the potential for abuse with regard to contract appointments, and were there other categories in additional to the establishment? What was its overall appraisal for potential abuse as government, as it tried to address the wage bill through a moratorium and other mechanisms?
Ms M Clarke (DA) asked about departments that were being merged, and what was being done about staff that were not placed in the new structure. What were the staff doing in the interim, since they had not been placed in the structure? Audit reports on the departments to establish the number of permanent employees and contractors had found that there might be relevance that there were permanent positions available while contractors were being employed. What was the difference in the monetary value between permanent employees employed versus the contractors employed in their place, and the abuse thereof?
Inkosi R Cebekhulu (IFP) said his question would centre on staff that had exited, with special reference to teachers. What happened where a teacher resigns, takes the severance package, and then after a few months reapplies to the department to be employed again? Why was the department open to allowing this to happen when there was a large number of unemployed graduates? With regard to bursaries awarded to staff from the department; what happened when a bursary recipient failed to complete the course? Did they pay back this money? Why should the department allow the engagement of an excess staff complement when they know the fixed number of employees they should have?
Mr C Sibisi (NFP) highlighted the findings of cases in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) provincial Department of Public Works (DPW) in which the absorption of employees had taken place without going through a recruitment and selection process. Was this not a violation of the applicable labour laws and an unfair labour practice? How did the Department engage contract employees for any permanent position in a process deemed to be fair and based exclusively on their proficiency and competence?
Ms M Kibi (ANC) said that since there was no prescribed limit to offering a renewable fixed contract, would it be prudent to recommend a limitation within the public service regulations, given that un-renewed contracts sometimes ended up in litigation? How long did it take to appoint a candidate who was in the process of completing their training in an attempt to register for their various professional bodies? Should the appointment not coincide with the length of training required, instead of extending it?
Ms Marais-Martin responded that in the case of contract appointments, the focus of the study had not been on the UIF and the other required deductions. However, the concerns expressed by the Members were legitimate. The study was not on whether departments were paying over UIF deductions to the Department of Labour. The Department was also aware of cases of people who were employed on a contract basis and had the UIF deductions removed from their emoluments, but when their contracts had ended had discovered that the money was not paid over to the UIF and therefore they could not claim. This was an area that could be looked into in future.
The manipulation of projects had not been investigated, so it would be unwise to make a general statement, but it happens. For instance, there were also cases of a bridge being built in a locality, where a service provider had been contracted and for some reason did not stick to deadlines so that the contracts could be renewed. It was possible that such contracts could be manipulated unless there were proper contract management processes in place. These were cases where contracts awarded could be open to abuse and manipulation.
On appointments, there were people who wanted to be only on contracts, while others might want a secure tenure by means of permanent employment.
Regarding the response rate, ideally it should have been better if a higher response rate had been obtained, but there was also the pressure to finalise the report and the ability to make defensible statements about the report, based on the responses received. With some departments who responded, how could the DPSA even ascertain that they had responded truthfully? However, it had to take their responses at face value and write findings based on them. Ideally one would want them to respond robustly to the questionnaire, but sometimes they do not respond truthfully.
On contract appointments additional to the establishment, one could only take a snapshot at a specific time in history, knowing that targets were moving all the time. For instance, if three individuals were appointed in addition to establishment today, say, for three months, by the time the research project was completed one would find the department did not even count those three anymore because their contracts already had expired. However, if at certain point in time different figures were given that exceeded the number the department had, and it was less, certainly it would be warrant a second look. The figures released in the presentation were based on 2017/18 financial year information, when the study was undertaken.
The moratorium could be abused by departments at the expense of the contracted employees, and also abused to get around the limitations put in place to halt appointments. There was not an absolute moratorium on appointments in the Northern Cape province -- one was in place, but room had been created by the premier’s office which allowed for appointments when they were properly motivated, like in the case of a vacancy opening in a critical position that absolutely had to be filled.
The study had also not looked at the staff that were in addition to the establishment because of reorganisation. The DPSA had given a report to the previous Portfolio Committee on where the process was, and that it was still an ongoing process that was yet to be completed.
Regarding teachers who exited and were reemployed, she reminded the Committee that a special dispensation had been offered to teachers should they wish to return back to the profession. Teachers were also not employed in terms of the Public Service Act, and neither were nurses, so the research did not even look at this category of employees.
On bursary recipients that failed and did not graduate, normally departments set the criteria but there was no way public money could be used to fund a candidate that failed without such persons refunding the funds. She could not say for sure what the conditions specifically entailed in each department.
Absorption without recruitment did happen, according to the responses of some of the departments. The public service regulations do not make provision for this without following the requisite qualification and recruitment procedures, so the PSC could not intervene unless there was a registered grievance of unfair competition and process. In a case where it was established that due processes were not followed, the PSC could rule such an appointment irregular, and guidelines had already been issued to Executive Authorities (EAs). When this happened, the EAs must to take the decision to go to court in order to reverse it and regularise the process.
One of the things that would be discussed by colleagues in the DPSA and the Department of Labour was whether there was a realistic way to limit the number of people that get appointed, especially when one knows that the department, instead of appointing people permanently in funded vacancies, have opted to appoint on contract basis. The reality was that there were legitimate circumstances to appoint on a contract basis, such as when they need a certain skills set but cannot afford to appoint on a permanent basis because it would be a recurring cost on their budget.
On how long generally it takes to recruit people, the DPSA prescribes that vacancies must be filled within a specific period of time. Sometimes departments start the recruitment process late, and sometimes they do not worry about the prescription, but this must be based on a legitimate reason.
Ms Motsepe, in a follow-up question, wanted to know who should be held responsible when UIF deductions were not paid over to the Department of Labour. There were cases of where these deductions had been made from people’s salaries for three years, only to find out on exit from employment that it they had not been paid over.
Dr Schreiber said this Committee had spoken a lot about strengthening the PSC’s hand, and a good way to start was for the Committee ask the PSC for a list of government departments, both provincial and national, who had failed to give them the requested information, and for the Committee to send a letter to each of them, referring to the letter sent to them from the PSC, and forcefully telling them that failure to comply would not be tolerated.
Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Public Service and Administration, said that the coverage of the report needed to be more substantial than it presently was. The study had started last year and ended in March, and it had been subsequently analysed. There was a need for follow-up on the concerns noted by the PSC, including the importance that legislation might be needed on contract workers in government. The assertion that it was open ended in terms of how many times and how long it could be done, might need to be contained and regularised.
The Chairperson added that not paying over UIF deductions was a problem in the domain of the Department of Labour and Treasury.
Thusong Service Centre: DPSA, GCIS & COGTA on location and funding model
Prof Richard Levin, Director-General: Department of Public Service and Administration, said that the Thusong Service Centre programme had been established in 1999 as a vehicle for providing development communication to the citizens of the country. Initially the programme had been set out to establish a centre in each district municipality by the end of 2004. The second phase was to establish a centre in each local municipality by 2014. In 2010, a recommendation had been made to Cabinet to relocate the national coordination function to the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCOG). The recommendation had not been approved by the Cabinet.
An inter-departmental task team had been appointed to explore other viable ways of addressing the findings. The task team was made of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), DPSA, DPW, DCOG and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR). In 2014, several studies were done to determine the relocation of the programme to the appropriate department. A feasibility study was conducted as part of the situational analysis; the development of a business case on the institutional arrangements for the management and coordination function; development of a funding model for the centres; a research report on international best practice and benchmarking of integrated service centres; and a Thusong Service Centre accessibility study.
Currently there were 197 Thusong Service Centres that had been established in the provinces. Only 117 were operational. Some centres had been de-listed, and others affected by service delivery protests. A situational analysis was completed by the DPSA during August 2018, which demonstrated there was 30% functionality of Thusong Centres in the country. A draft improvement programme had been developed and consultations took place with all provinces and the national inter-sectoral steering committee in March 2019.
Based on the consultation with most stakeholders on the improvement programme, a framework for the establishment, management, monitoring and evaluation of Service Centres had been developed, in line with the Section 18, Sub-Section1 (b) of the Public Administration and Management Act (PAMA). Five provinces had been consulted and the remaining four would be consulted with before the end of the current financial year. The programme was coordinated by Office of the Premier’s in six provinces (Gauteng, Eastern-Cape, Limpopo, Northern Cape, Free State and North West) and by the provincial Departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) in KZN, the Western Cape and Mpumalanga.
Current challenges facing the programme were:
- Most of the Thusong Centres in provinces do not have connectivity, although information communication technology (ICT) backbone infrastructure had been completed in 2016 by DPSA through the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).
- There was currently a shared leadership function spread mainly across the DPSA and the GCIS, with support from COGTA via the municipalities responsible for the national and provincial coordination function in the country.
- There was no dedicated funding associated with the maintenance and sustainability of Thusong Centres.
- Most Centres do not have centre managers who were responsible for the daily operations of the centre.
- No monitoring, evaluation and reporting mechanisms had been put in place to monitor the effectiveness of the programme.
- Provincial inter-governmental structures were not well established to conduct oversight on the programme.
- Many service departments were not honouring their office hours at the centres, due to scaled down operations.
- The new and innovative service delivery models, such as mobile units and online access, mean that brick-and-mortar type models like the Thusong need to rethink their service model.
Minister Mchunu said that the centres should be linked to communities’ needs to make them aware of their responsibilities to cater to their needs. This would ensure that the government could gradually reduce their footprint where it was not necessary for them to go. The aim of government was to gradually empower communities, and that was the right direction for it to take. Part of what the DPSA did was to house this programme as part of the African Review Mechanism, which was aimed at assessing states and governments on the continent as a whole. It measured the impact of democracy down to the grassroots level, as a democratic state. It also measured the reach of democracy, and whether it stops only at Parliament without reaching the provinces, local governments, communities and villages.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said the Thusong centres were seen as one of the tools of government, particularly in rural areas, to service communities better. Would it not be ideal for the centres to be accommodated under the municipalities? For some time, it was not known exactly who was housing these centres, as many departments had been mentioned in the presentation at one point or the other to have housed the centres. If the centres generated revenue, who should it go to? As suggested before, it would be better if it was placed under the management of local municipalities. Could the Thusong centres be made available to the communities for different activities, and security at the centres strengthened? In the constituency she represented, just a few months ago the offices of the Department of Social Development (DSD) were invaded, computers stolen and security guards tied up.
Ms Clarke described the situation as *a joke,” with all due respect. There were 197 of these centres and 80 of them were non-functional. What was the cost of the centres to the taxpayers, and what were they getting back from the centres? Many citizens were unable to access government services because they had no money to get to government offices, and these centres should be providing these services to the communities and the poor who were unable to access them. For 20 years, these programmes had been running, yet most of them did not have connectivity. How could one run such a centre in today’s age without the internet? The presentation states that most of the centres do not have managers, and no monitoring and evaluation reporting mechanisms, yet the centres have staff that come and go as they please, and the very poor are denied the services the centres were created to deliver, which was government services at the grassroots level. The Committee must include the centres as places to visit when it does oversight to see what is going on. This was a 20-year programme, yet nothing had happened.
Dr Schreiber said he would like to follow up with the PSC regarding the additions to the establishment, because it needed clarity. There was a massive discrepancy between what was shown in the PSC snapshot, because in response to the Parliamentary question asked, the figure seemed to be that 224 870 people had been appointed who were additional to the establishment. In one of the Parliamentary responses, the Minister had indicated that there were 1.16 million civil servants, and in a subsequent response he had indicated that there were 1.39 million civil servants. When this was queried and followed up, the explanation from the Department was that one figure included those additional to the establishment, and the other excluded them. That was where the 224 000 came from. He would like to check whether the Department and the Minister could confirm that this was indeed the figure.
Mr G Cachalia (DA) said that 20 years since the inception of this programme, there was nothing to celebrate. It was an unmitigated failure in anybody’s book. The words picked from the press and in the presentation just given were that the programme was dysfunctional – there was no connectivity and the physical infrastructure was crumbling. Clearly this needed radical surgery and not the continuous references one heard all the time of true potential, capacity building and so on -- if this was heard again, one might just fall from this chair and die. One had to ask who was actually responsible for this constant haemorrhaging of money, the bloating of the civil service to provide nothing in return, and at what cost the programme was failing the citizens on a daily basis in an area they truly needed support. The centres had cost over R1 billion over the years, and were a mirror for madness.
Minister Mchunu responded that in terms of the status quo at these centres, the DPSA was responsible for only one Thusong centre in Soweto. Money to run this centre was extracted from the DPSA baseline budget, and the rest did not fall within the responsibility of DPSA for both funding and management. They were migrating, and in the process to ensure that they were managed better, it did not mean that the DPSA was taking over running them. As part of the migration, the only one being managed would go to COGTA who could decide whether to run them through municipalities, because as it stands there were some controlled via the office of the premier, while some were run through the municipalities, who even funded them. Going forward, the DPSA would be concerned only with the standards of service conditions of employees and values.
Prof Levin emphasised that the DPSA supported initiatives from the GCIS on the basis of service delivery innovation, but one could say the same concerns about compliance around contract appointments would also concern the Committee with regard to the implementation of the Thusong centres. This was because some of the key obstacles involved silo mentalities and the responsibility for integrated service delivery. The DPSA promoted a kind of global best practice of service delivery integration, without any funding being given to it. There were representatives from GCIS and COGTA present, and it would be good if they could participate in responses on the basis of what the DPSA had tried to do in supporting the centres without even having any physical or legal clout. Even roping in municipalities would not help without the spirit of what the constitution said regarding integrating the approach of government to service delivery, to achieve the objectives of the Thusong centres. The DPSA could provide the legal framework in terms of its legislation, but implementation would have to lie with the department working on the ground to champion the whole concept.
Dr Kevin Naidoo, Acting Deputy Director-General: Institutional Development, COGTA, responded that it had been engaging two years at a technical level to try and find how to migrate the programme from the DPSA to COGTA. Lots of technical work had been done, and it was safe to say it needed to be processed politically.
The Minister said it had been specifically for this reason that he had told the DDG tasked with this matter in DPSA to complete the process in three months. The COGTA official present also had to be aware that it had to be three months to complete the process of transferring Thusong from the DPSA to COGTA. As it stood now, the centres were already detached from the DPSA, so it should not take a long time to formally complete the process. He asked the Committee should to back them in this process.
Mr Willie Vukela, Deputy Director General: COGTA, said that talks had being going on at the technical level, but what was actually missing was the executive sign off. The ministerial directive of three months had given the departments more impetus to conclude the matter. The Department was also appreciative of the issues raised by the Committee, as they were very progressive and would steer the departments in the right direction. The Minister was also addressing these concerns because the management of Thusong was currently fragmented. In Mpumalanga, the Thusong management was under the ownership of mines, which involved private individuals. In other provinces, it was management was located either in the provincial COGTA, the premier’s office or municipalities, and the Minister had maintained that this programme should be a tool to deliver service to the people. The critical area that affected the programme was connectivity, but the DPSA managed to do that when the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) was with the DPSA.
Mr Michael Currin, Acting Deputy Director-General: Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management, GCIS, said he was privileged to have been in this programme since its inception in 1998, and the present DPSA minister had given the most profound synopsis in two decades. The historical nature of Thusong centres had been conceived as a part of government that provided access to its people. It had been pulled together as an exercise for government to provide services to the communities. By 1999 to 2001, it was realised that people did not want to be provided information alone, but services as well, and that had ushered in a completely different model. The model then was that there had to be dedicated funding from a particular government department such as Public Works for things like the community centres. This was mainly a gentleman’s agreement, but in the second generation there had not been that kind of dedicated funding.
The logical model then was to move to provinces, and that was when it took a different direction. The present sense of disappointment was felt not only by the Members of this Committee, but by civil servants as well. The nature and character of the communities when the centres were first launched had changed, and part of the plan to revive them was to offer other services with it. It was an evolving programme, and it had to be placed in a proper home.
Ms Ntuli welcomed the framework put in place by the Department, because it would assist the Thusong centres to work better. The centres were needed because they brought services closer to the people, and just needed to be polished to function better.
Dr Schreiber said he wanted an answer to the question he had asked about the additions to the establishment. He also argued that “polishing” the Thusong programme would not make it function better. What they were seeing was a disaster and a massive failure of leadership. This was a 20-year-old programme, and what they were hearing was a lack of coordination, the silos, that it did not have connectivity, and all the officials were saying was that it would be fixed one day. Where was the leadership in this? Cabinet must take leadership. Was this not a failure of Cabinet for over 20 years? Who had been held accountable for this disaster?
The Chairperson pleaded with the Committee to bear with the Minister because he had made an emphatic decision. The Committee should give him the three months to work and deliver on his promises. The Committee would monitor them and if they failed to deliver, then it would be on their case. The Minister had given instructions, so the Committee should allow him the opportunity to implement them.
Dr Schreiber again rose to demand the names of those found accountable for the mess. The Minister should disclose to the Committee the number of people disciplined, the amount spent for the past 20 years, the number of targets missed etc.
The Chairperson said that fault-finding would not solve anything, so the Committee should give the new Minister time to fix challenges he had inherited. The Minister had issued an instruction and going forward this Committee would hold him accountable for it.
Minister Mchunu accepted the ruling of the chair, and submitted that the concerns would be dealt with. As for the last 20 years, the principle of accountability was important, and that was also accepted. Although it was the prerogative of the Committee to monitor that, accountability should also include the previous Portfolio Committees down the years in dealing with this problem. Not only the Department should be blamed for the problem, because they also had an oversight body looking after things. A conscious decision had to be made whether the bulk of their time should be spent going back 20 years, or moving forward 20 years. Going forward, the framework would be dealt with. The centres would be transferred to COGTA, and it would provide the support that would be needed to ensure that the centres work optimally, all within three months.
Briefing on revised Ministerial Handbook
Minister Mchunu said that when the present Cabinet was appointed on 29 May 2019, it had been discovered that a ministerial handbook had been under consideration for nine years. This process had culminated in a submission to the President for his signature by time the present Cabinet was appointed. Secondly, there was the need to provide the newly appointed ministers with a ministerial handbook, which was the responsibility of the DPSA. The assumption had been that the handbook was in the hands of the DPSA, but when inquiries were made, it was discovered that it was already on the President’s desk.
Ministers were given the handbook as a guiding tool, and a discussion was held that led a decision that the ministers of the DPSA, Finance, and Public Works and Infrastructure must embark on a review of the handbook. The task team had been reviewing the whole handbook, and the process was completed a month ago. The outcome had been handed over to the President for consideration.
The President had then applied his mind and a deliberation took place at Cabinet level. Issues were raised, and it was decided that those comments should be discussed further. They were five issues which the finance minister had to reconsider and refine, which fell within his ambit. After a meeting last Monday, the Finance Minister had made his submissions on the five aspects earlier spoken of. What was being presented now was work that had been done in this process which would be resubmitted to the President. The contents therein were as follows:
There were certain categories of staff that Ministers require. One was the staff team, which the Minister was comfortable with at a skills and personal level that empowered the Minister to do his/her work. Secondly, there were staff that could be categorised as permanent staff. The handbook reflected these two categories of staff.
In terms of the current proposal, in the first category, there would be nine staff to the Office of the Minister, unless the Minister changes it. They would be a chief of staff; a personal assistant (PA) and administrative secretary in the private office of the minister ; a media liaison officer; a Parliamentary officer; a community outreach officer; and two at a household level -- one in Pretoria and the other in Cape Town.
At the Deputy Minister level, there would be seven staffers. Premiers would have seven staffers, and one at the Council level. For Members of Executive Councils (MECs), it would be six staffers. In the second category, there was the permanent staff, which would include the administrator who did the accounting at the ministerial level. There was also a need for two Parliamentary secondary staff, one at a senior level and another at a lower level. Another member of staff at the registry, a messenger and food aid staff would all be on a permanent basis. It was suggested that all the permanent staff mentioned above be seconded by departments. The current fiscal situation had been taken into consideration when making the proposals.
Cost of official vehicles:
The handbook provided R700 000 for an official car, not the R800 000 spoken about by the Finance Minister in Parliament. What had been discussed by the Minister of Finance was that R700 000 was what would be submitted to the President, with a proviso that the Minister of Finance must review this on an annual basis, taking into consideration what was obtainable in the market. The handbook also states that Ministers must not use their own vehicles in the hope that if they did so, they would be entitled to claim this money. If Ministers elect to use their own car, then so be it – there was no entitlement to a claim, as was provided in the previous hand book.
Class of domestic travel:
The proposal was that Minister and Deputy Ministers would no longer travel with business class on all domestic flights, but in economy class. Some were already doing so, but it would be effective once the President signed it. When they travel internationally, it would no longer be first class, but in business class. There was the question of neighbouring countries like Botswana, but it was decided to break it down to domestic and international. When it was passed, adjustments would have been made on spouses, children and the like.
Costs associated with occupying state-owned residences:
The handbook covers residences in Pretoria, in the first instance. The costs needed to be capped at R5 000 and when they exceeded that, the Minister would be responsible.
Security upgrades at private residences:
The previous handbook had provided for R250 000, but in the present proposal it would be zero. There would be no provision for upgrades to private residences of ministers going forward. Water and electricity at private residences would be paid for by the ministers themselves, but while residing in a state house it would be capped at R5 000.
Domestic Services at official residence;
One domestic staff workers would be provided at official residences, but materials to clean would be bought by government officials themselves.
Equipment, including cell phones:
That would be provided, but a new deal was being negotiated and was yet to be finalised with the Minister of Finance. As a cell phone was regarded as a tool of the trade, it would be provided for by the state.
Benefits upon relinquishing office:
The handbook would also cover members upon surrendering office, and issues such as how long one could stay in a state house were provided for. Other things that would happen after then were not contained in the handbook, because they were covered by an Act of Parliament. Parliament had to make such amendments by itself. It was an area of concern that when a person was longer a minister, they had an unlimited number of tickets to fly. This was a concern, given the fiscal condition of the country right now.
Hopefully by Friday, the proposals would be handed over to the President to sign, and once it was done, the Members could have a copy of the new ministerial hand book. This was just a briefing to the Members of the contents contained therein.
The Chairperson welcomed the briefing while it was awaiting approval of the President. The Committee would receive a copy of the handbook when the Minister had signed it. No further discussion was therefore necessary on the matter, as it was pending the President’s approval.
The meeting was adjourned.