National, Provincial & Municipal Levels of Government; Beneficiary selection, formulae through which job opportunities were translated into actual jobs; with Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

06 November 2019
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure told the Committee that her Department was committed to fighting against gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. It would be handing over a building that would be used to house victims of GBV, and would also erect a billboard strongly condemning GBV and bring awareness to the epidemic that was ravaging the country. The new strategic plan of the Department needed to be aligned with the seven key priorities outlined for the new administration by the national government. The new plan would come into effect in the new financial year. It would be drafted by the Department and the Minister, and given to the Committee for its input.

A Member of the Committee said that the Public Employment Programme coordinating committee had allegedly been suspended and there was a moratorium. The Minister said she was unaware that the Programme had been stopped, and would look into this issue, as she had intended using the programme to employ seven GBV coordinators in each of the 44 districts.

During discussion on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), several Members reported that EPWP workers had been coerced into campaigning for a certain political party, and there were other instances where they had been barred from EPWP opportunities because of their political affiliations. There were also reports of cases where non-profit organisations (NPOs) paid EPWP workers who were not actually working, and in some cases workers were denied sick leave. According to the Department, the recruitment guidelines had been rolled out only in the last year. Since then, there had been positive feedback, as participants could now report when recruitment was not free and fair.

The Minister said that where there were allegations of misconduct within the EPWP, a forensic investigation to deal with fraud and corruption would be conducted. The bureaucracy created over the last 16 years had not achieved what it should have. The Department was creating fewer jobs each year, despite having more money. The process of transferring funds to local authorities via intermediaries was an unnecessary additional cost, which could be better used to finance training and job creation.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by Minister

Minister Patricia de Lille (GOOD) stated that the Department of Works (DPW) was hard at work ensuring that all programmes and projects were aligned with the seven key priorities outlined in the State of the Nation Address (SONA). She said that the DPW’s image needed to change. It had committed to creating 8 200 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) jobs in the current financial year, and this was being monitored.

Challenges had emerged with the non-profit organisation (NPO) sector in reaching the target of creating 50 000 jobs, as they were still in the process of registering and accrediting NPOs. She expressed her concern regarding this, as it deprived poor people of job opportunities. The EPWP was challenged with the under-reporting of jobs created in national, provincial and local government, and so asked the Committee for its assistance in this regard.

There was a debate within the DPW regarding the Auditor-General's (AG’s) findings against the Department, as it received money from Treasury which was dispersed to other spheres of government and the NPO sector which were not accountable. However, the AG had made audit findings against the DPW. The Department was therefore reviewing the monitoring and evaluation system, as well as the systems of accountability at the national level, as it had become like a postbox. They received various information from different departments and recorded it, but in most instances, it was not the correct information.

The help of the Committee, and the questions it had brought forward, had assisted in streamlining the EPWP. In the fifth Parliament, the target of six million job opportunities had not been met, and this year the target had been set at five million. The programme had great potential, but the existing policy was being reviewed and the role of the Committee in reviewing the policy needed to be established.

The Department had committed to fighting against gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa. It would be handing over a building that would be used to house victims of GBV. It would also erect a billboard strongly condemning GBV and bring awareness of the epidemic that was ravaging the country.

Presentation

Ms Carmen-Joy Abrahams, Chief Director: EPWP, said that at end of Quarter 2 of the 2019/20 financial year, the EPWP had reported 670 629 work opportunities overall, translating to 68% against the annual target of 981 497 work opportunities. The non-state sector (NSS) community work programme (CWP) had contributed most of the work opportunities, with a total of 236 640 jobs created, followed by the infrastructure sector, with 114 069 reported. There were no work opportunities reported in the NSS/NPO programme due to delays experienced in the signing of contracts with the NPOs contracted in the programme. The target for women had been exceeded by all sectors. The environment and culture sector had achieved the youth target, whilethe CWP had achieved the target for women and people with disabilities.

Ms Lindiwe Nkuna, Director: EPWP, said the EPWP triangulated its recruitment/targeting approach with geographic and community-based targeting, as well as self-targeting through a relatively low programme minimum wage. To ensure alignment with existing labour prescripts, the EPWP, in consultation with stakeholders, had developed recruitment guidelines approved by the Minister of Labour in December 2017. The guidelines describe the requirements for fair, equitable and transparent recruitment processes of participants in the EPWP. The guidelines also aim to ensure uniformity across all sectors in the process of recruitment of participants, and to provide guidance to EPWP stakeholders on their roles and responsibilities. To raise awareness on the recruitment guidelines, the DPWI’s EPWP branch, supported by provincial coordinating departments, were currently conducting road shows across all provinces.

Ms Abrahams said that the EPWP’s training was targeted at skilling EPWP participants, contractors, supervisors, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs)/cooperatives and implementing agents, including NPOs, across all the four EPWP sectors. Skills programmes, learnerships and artisan development training was done in accordance with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). The QCTO oversees the design, implementation, assessment and certification of occupational qualifications, including trades. EPWP participants undergo theoretical/practical training, workplace training, assessments, internal/external moderation and certification of the various learning programmes. Capacity building was also provided in terms of workshops/seminars -- for example, capacity building on financial literacy.

The EPWP Phase III’s Lesson Rapid Assessment Report had highlighted that “given the large number of EPWP participants, providing all of them with training was found not to be feasible due to the limited budget/funding. Partnerships should be strengthened for investments, placements and training.” As such, the EPWP Phase IV business plan notes that resources available for training would be limited to the provision of accredited training, due to the fact that it was costly. As training in the EPWP was not a funded mandate, many programmes faced a difficult choice of whether to use their funds to pay for training, or use them for the wages of EPWP participants, and thus either employ more participants, or the same number for a longer duration.

To provide training in the EPWP Phase IV, an application for funding had been submitted to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) National Skills Fund (NSF). The funding had been approved and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed with the DHET in 2019. The DHET had provided the EPWP with funding of R228.8 million to train 8 300 EPWP participants over the period from 2018 to 2023. The target of 8 300 EPWP participants covered the following programmes: 400 to be trained as artisans, 7 000 on skills programmes, 450 on learnerships; and 450 training providers to be capacitated. To utilise this funding, there had been certain EPWP business processes for training applied to the NSF funding.

Mr Stanley Henderson, Deputy-Director General:Public Employment Programmes, DPWI, said there were challenges in the auditing of the programme by the AG, where findings for the failure by public bodies to comply with EPWP Prescripts had been issued against the DPWI instead of the public bodies. They were developing an EPWP Policy to mainstream its implementation across all ministries, departments and spheres of government. They were providing technical support to public bodies to ensure they mainstreamed the EPWP in their plans and reported into the EPWP reporting system. They were also engaging the Department of Performance Management and Evaluation (DPME), National Treasury (NT) and AGSA to find a solution to its auditing problems.

Minister De Lille said that the Independent Development Trust (IDT) should explain to the Committee what the role of the intermediation was. The intermediary and the Department were both responsible for job creation in the NPO sector, and therefore they should explain why their figures were at zero for job creation with only three months of the financial year left. The Committee should ask for a follow-up report, as this could not be ignored.

Mr Maphutha Makhura, Programme Manager: IDT, said that the IDT had not yet reported into the system, they had contracted 300 NPOs and the processes were under way. At the end of November, a report would be given to the Committee regarding the job creation target, followed up by a report in December. It was anticipated that there would be a lot of improvement before the end of the quarter. Time had been lost in the early processes, as the official start date for implementation had been 9 September. Seven provinces had missed this deadline, so the last quarter would be reflected in the current quarter. Participants had been placed on the sites, and North West was the only region that had not yet placed participants. However, this would happen in the next week.

The role of the IDT was to procure NPOs, and for the NPOs to create job opportunities on behalf of the Department. This had taken place, and head counts and administrative requirements for salary payments had also already been completed.

Discussion

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) asked which buildings/sites were being provided with security guards, and how crime hotspots were identified? She asked about the people employed to cook school meals, as schools had their own Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes which were funded by the Department of Social Development, so how did this fall within the scope of the EPWP? What was the role of the Department in ensuring that people receiving training and obtaining skills were actually getting employed?

It had been mentioned that the EPWP did not have enough funding to provide skills, but it was also reported that skills were being provided, and this needed clarification. Were municipalities tendering for EPWP projects? The concern was that projects being managed by a tender would result in corners being cut to maximize profits, and the poor would bear the brunt of this. It was essential to ask EPWP workers what their minimum wage was, if they were receiving compensation when injured on duty, and if they were granted sick leave, as these were often corners that were cut. She had heard of a case in Kimberley where a woman was ill but was denied paid leave by her supervisor. This contradicted the Labour Act. It was also found that EPWP workers had been coerced into campaigning for a certain political party and in other instances, members affiliated to other parties had been barred from EPWP opportunities.

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) commended the EPWP, and said that people familiar with rural areas could see the difference it had made in those communities. The Department had committed to creating five million work opportunities over the next five years. Were beneficiaries that had contracts renewed annually counted each year as a job opportunity provided? Political interference hindered people with political affiliations, as they were barred from engaging in EPWP opportunities. It was important that the youth participating in these projects were taught skills that they could use to sustain themselves, as the economy was not absorbing them at the moment. EPWP projects in urban areas utilised workers from disadvantaged areas, which meant they traveled long distances to get to urban areas. Was this feasible for these workers, as their stipends would be used for transportation rather than poverty alleviation?

Ms S Kopane (DA) said it seemed like the Department had been singing the same song for years. There were different phases of projects, however -- what was the difference between the last phase and the current phase? The recruitment process aimed to have uniformity across sectors, how would this be monitored to ensure all sectors complied? Which other public bodies had been involved in the data verification process which had led the AG to giving the Department a bad report? One of the resolutions determined in the 2016 Jobs Summit, hosted by the former Minister, had stated that EPWP targets must be incorporated into the performance agreements of senior management. Had the link between the two been made and if so, had there been any achievements?

The training courses provided by the EPWP look good on paper, but where was the training taking place and were the places accredited? How many people were being trained in each province? When would all the role players be in one room to discuss what their roles and plans for the way forward were? The Public Employment Programme coordinating committee had allegedly been suspended and there was a moratorium. What had happened to the R6.1 million that had been budgeted for this Committee since it had been suspended?

Ms L Shabalala (ANC) asked for a monthly update on the EPWP targets, as the zero target for the NPOs was concerning. The Committee had been given a list of challenges which the EPWP was faced with, but it would have been ideal for this to be accompanied with a strategic plan so the Committee could find the gaps in the plans. One such gap was that there was a disconnect between the municipalities and the NPOs. A ward in Kwa-Zulu Natal had been in conflict with an NPO as they had hired people from only one area for EPWP job opportunities. There were also cases where NPOs paid workers that did not actually work. How was this gap being closed, as it came up every year?

Mr W Thring (ACDP) asked how many people had progressed from the EPWP, where they sweep the streets, to obtaining certification -- and what type of certification. What were the best-case scenarios that could be replicated? What were the differences between Phase 3 and Phase 4 -- was it a duplication and a change in the name? He had also found that members of communities had been denied opportunities due to their political affiliations. The organogram and systems were extensive and technical, but the AG was still not satisfied, so these gaps needed to be closed. The EPWP’s linkage of what they do with skills development was successful, as it made sure people had a meaningful skill they could use to contribute to the economy. What best-case scenarios and best practices of this could be found in the provinces? How was the transfer of skills encouraged, as this was what the unemployed need?

The Chairperson said she had recently found out that the IDT was coordinating the non-state sector of the EPWP. She asked when this had come into effect? If not a single NPO had started as at the end of September, when would they begin, and would the IDT reach its target? Many certifications provided by the EPWP training had been mentioned -- were they all being offered, or were some still in the pipeline? Collaboration with Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges would help with certification. Skills training such as brick laying and plumbing was more feasible, as people could make their own money through entrepreneurship, as well as create jobs themselves. However, skills training for office management did not seem realistic, as many did not have a National Senior Certificate, so they would not be hired solely because they got EPWP training. It needed to be monitored if NPOs were paying workers the minimum wage, as some NPOs paid less and pocketed the rest of the money. This needed to be followed up by Committee Members in their municipalities, as well as by the Department. Mainstreaming was a good idea, but was there power to ensure this would be done?

Department’s response

Minister De Lille said that the strategic plan which the Committee had requested needed to be aligned with the seven key priorities outlined by the national government for the new administration. The new strategic plan would kick in, in the new financial year. It would be drafted by the Department and the Minister, and given to the Committee for its input.

A forensic investigation regarding fraud and corruption would be conducted, as many poor people were not benefiting from the programme. Consequence management and key performance indicators (KPI) for the previous and current financial year would be looked at. The monitoring system presented was not functional. It needed to be looked at on all three levels of government.

Since 2003, more and more committees were being formed, which took away from the budget which could be redirected to the programme. When the Department received R2.6 billion from the national department, it was then transferred to the provinces, municipalities and the NPO sector. This process incurred costs, as money was spent on intermediaries. Would it not be more efficient for the money to be sent directly to municipalities, with clear instructions to mainstream it into their budgets? The bureaucracy created over the last 16 years was not achieving what it should be achieving. The Department was creating fewer jobs each year, despite having more money.

The Minister said she would write to the Chairperson, as the IDT presentation presented in the previous week had not been signed off by the Minister or the Deputy Minister. It was being investigated as to why the presentation was not the one signed off, and who had made the decision. Feedback on this would be given.

Before the end of December, plans for all the issues raised would be given to the Committee for consideration. The Minister was unaware that the Public Employment Programme had stoppedShe had intended using the programme to employ seven GBV coordinators in each of the 44 districts. The President had requested that EPWP workers be deployed across the country to help with GBV. What training programmes existed to train GBV activists? By the end of the week, it needed to be determined which NGOs could do the work across the 44 districts and could also do the training, and should strategically fit in the Public Employment Programme.

Chairperson thanked the DPWI for what it was doing in the fight against GBV.

Mr Henderson said that the EPWP worked across four sectors, and follow-ups could be made through the EPWP system where the various sectors reported. Slide 17 showed how these programmes were measured, and it should be taken to scale. Slide 14 showed how the phases differ. In an earlier presentation regarding phase 4, a narrative document had been distributed that had been approved by the previous administration, and this would be given to the Committee. It would more clearly show the differences of each phase. In some instances, something that was started in phase one may reappear in the additional phases. The Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) reflection would show what had been done well and what had not been done well, and this had determined what was ditched or carried over into the next phase. It may come across as repetitive, but it simply meant it was retained and the impact was deepened.

In later phases, climate change, green jobs and the fourth industrial revolution feature more. It looks at how the fourth industrial revolution would haemorrhage the job market, and how opportunities for young people could be created. For example, drones could be used to protect women and children from a safety point of view, but the manufacturing of drones could also provide opportunities for young people. Thus the department did not stumble from phase-to-phase, but it was clearly thought out.

EPWP workers had the same rights as other workers. They may be paid at the lowest scale, but this was signed off and adjusted every year by the Finance Minister. If implementing bodies did not hire the necessary human resources for the public employment programmes, it would not happen automatically. The Department needed the support of the Committee to see that this was happening in their constituencies and report concerns to the Department, especially around unfair recruitment. The Public Employment Programme that had not yet been convened by the Deputy Minister, had been addressed with the Presidency through letters, and the Department was awaiting a response.

Ms Abrahams said that the EPWP partnered with 27 TVET colleges. Key worries were that the colleges sometimes outsourced work, which inflated the costs.

Certification was happening, it was required as part of the payment structure. Training providers were not paid unless certification could be proven. 10% of the training fee was withheld if certification did not happen. All training was reported to the National Skills Fund (NSF) in terms of financials and reports that state how many participants had been certified, with which qualifications. This year, TVET colleges were not finalising certifications, and the Department had written to the NSF to intervene, as they were a branch of NFS. This had been largely resolved.

Training was happening in all provinces, and 1 751 participants would be trained this financial year. There was existing training for the workplace, such as ECD practitioners, where 673 had graduated on a 12-month NQF 4 learnership. ECD practitioners often found employment through the Department. This gave both training and employment opportunities. Cultural guides were trained this year, with 205 completing training, and were hired by the Department of Tourism in Mpumalanga. A tracer study was being finalised that showed about 20% of EPWP participants go on to find work. This study was limited, as the sample was small.

On a lesser scale, the Department was supporting small businesses. EPWP participants that exited in 2015 had started a bakery and were receiving assistance from the Department. They had small business premises and equipment where they produce loaves of bread for which there was a demand in their community. There were many other similar enterprises receiving support. There were also more than 50 co-operative ventures with PRASA, where people had been cleaning stations, and EPWP participants who had exited had been successfully able to tender for work through PRASA and compete with everyone else. There were other co-operatives involved in recycling and making of jams and jellies, amongst others.

Ms Nkuna stated that recruitment guidelines had been rolled out only in the last year. Since then, there had been positive feedback, as participants could now report when recruitment was not free and fair, as they now had a benchmark. Through the job summit last year, social partners had been established to partner with the government to ensure that the recruitment guidelines were rolled out successfully. The Department would play an oversight role in communities where the EPWP programmes functioned. The incidents that had been brought to the attention of the national Department had been referred to the relevant authorities. When the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) was introduced, the Department had played a role of secretarial support, and no budget had been allocated for its operations. The office of the Deputy President was leading the operations of the IMC.

Mr Ignatius Ariyo, Chief Director: EPWP Infrastructure Sector, DPWI, referred to the recruitment for facilities’ management, and said there was no policy that stated that one must be locally based. It was based on who was willing to work on the project. For instance, for the facility management project in Parliament, many employees came from town. The Department tried to minimize the cost of transportation for participants, but they could not limit people applying to work at these projects, despite living far away.

The IDT had begun supporting the non-state sector in 2009, in phases two and three. In phase four, a review had been performed, and an MOA was signed in May. This had created a challenge, as NPOs had to submit proposals, but they had since been contracted and would meet the target of 50 000 job opportunities being created. The NPO’s contracts were over a period of two years. They would then go through a process to renew them.


Work opportunities were totaled for a financial year, but a work opportunity may be longer, according to the duration of the project. Statistics showed that the number of work opportunities and number of participants were very similar. In a few cases, one person may take two opportunities by applying for a new opportunity after a previous opportunity had concluded. The Department was trying to get other public bodies to adopt EPWP policies as part of the mainstreaming agenda by getting this approved by a council. Some public bodies had adopted the resolution of linking targets to senior management performance reviews, such as the City of Johannesburg and the Nelson Mandela Metro.

Mr Chris Lombard, Executive Head: Programme Management Services, IDT, said that the MOU had been signed on 15 May, and stringent NPO guidelines had been given. They had advertised and briefed the NPOs, which had made the application process lengthy. 345 NPOs had been appointed.


The Chairperson said the information given regarding the NPOs had not been given to the Committee. As part of the oversight, the Committee needed to visit NPOs, but for this to be done, information on them needed to be disclosed. The EPWP had been recognised globally, and Department needed to continue its work.

The meeting was adjourned.

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