The Department of Basic Education (DBE) presented a report on its performance for the second quarter of the 2019/20 financial year, and the overall feedback from the Committee was positive.
The Department provided details of progress with its five programmes, and highlighted some challenges. It had implemented consequence management for managers who had not signed off invoices within the mandated 30 days. The Funda Lushaka bursary programme was not meeting its targets because students were opting for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), which had fewer restrictions. The implementation of the Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) programme had been slowed down due to a late allocation of funding. The distribution of workbooks had also been delayed because of payment issues. Irregular expenditure was being investigated in 20 confirmed cases.
Members asked what the Department was doing about the poor performance of some contractors that was preventing it from meeting its targets. How was it dealing with the controversial aspects of sex education and HIV/AIDS programmes at schools? They also said that it was important for teachers who were depressed and demotivated to receive psychological support whenever it was needed.
Department of Basic Education: Second quarter performance
Ms Carol Nuga-Deliwa, Chief Director: Strategic Planning and Research, Department of Basic Education (DBE), took the Committee through the second quarter performance report. She said the Department’s annual performance plan summarises the priorities of the DBE to improve the quality of basic education. The activities of the Department had been constructed into five programmes.
Programme One: Administration
The purpose of this programme was to manage the Department and provide strategic administrative support services. The programme included corporate services, the training of skills and social responsibility; the inclusion of labour relations on late referral disputes with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA); and the financial service, including monthly conditional grant expenditure reports and asset and security management.
The quality learning and teaching campaign (QLTC) was discussed, including the strategic planning research and co-ordination of subjects, training and the implementation of evaluation. The percentages of valid invoices paid within 30 days upon receipt by the Department deviated by 0.20% from the first quarter, because managers did not sign off on the invoices in time. Consequence management letters had been issued as corrective action.
Programme Two: Curriculum Policy, Support and Monitoring
The purpose of this programme was to develop curriculum and assessment policies, and monitor and support their implementation. The programme included the delivery of learning and teaching support materials (LTSM); training sessions and monitorisation of mathematics, science and technology (MST); the framework of rural education (RE); and the inclusion of curriculum innovation and eLearning.
The programme included training on Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Inclusive Education (IE). This programme monitored schools and reading assessments under the General Education and Training (GET) programme. The number of schools monitored for the utilisation of information communication technology (ICT) resources remained the same as the first quarter. Development of electronic publication (ePUB) digital content files from identified PDF content files had been approved. Volume one mathematics workbooks were delivered to 97% of public schools. In the first quarter, 43 schools were monitored for the implementation of the early grade reading assessment (EGRA), and 27 schools were monitored in the second quarter. The DBE strengthened its support in conducting the advocacy campaigns in four provinces -- Gauteng, North West Province, Free State and Limpopo. A deviation had occurred in quarter one. More learners had registered for the programme due to increased publicity. Learning programmes for learners with profound intellectual disabilities had been updated and verified. Caregivers and outreach teams were trained on the implementation of the repackaged learning programme.
Programme Three: Teachers, Education Human Resources and Institutional Development
The purpose of this programme was to promote quality teaching and institutional performance through the effective supply, development and utilisation of human resources. This programme included human resource planning, provisioning and monitoring; labour relations and the conditions of service; and management and governance development.
For schools producing the minimum set of management documents at a required standard in the second quarter, all the heads of departments in the nine provinces had been issued with letters on the Auditor General’s (AG’s) expectations for 2019/20, signed by the Director-General and indicating the survey tools and their implementation. There were 13 000 Funza Lushaka bursaries available, but only 12 943 were awarded since many first-year students opted out of in favour of the “Fee Free” National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursary, which had fewer restrictions than the Funza Lushaka bursary. The Department was working with universities to find deserving and qualifying students to replace those who had opted out.
Programme Four: Planning, Information and Assessment
The purpose of this programme was to promote quality and effective service delivery in the basic education system through planning, implementation and assessment. This included the oversight of examination administration in schools and additional training for adjudicators. There was also financial planning and provincial budget monitoring, and meetings were conducted in all provincial education departments (PEDs). There was the inclusion of project management programmes in rural areas. The GET test items in language and mathematics for grades three, six and nine had been developed. These items still needed to be finalised and reviewed, and would be ready by quarter four.
The number of National Senior Certificate (NSC) reports produced would be finalised and submitted by quarter four. A total of 145 NSC question papers for November had been sent to PEDs, 104 NSC June 2020 questions had been approved, and 39 question papers were currently in process.
Schools that had been provided with sanitation facilities had decreased due to delays from Sanitation Appropriate for Education (SAFE) due to receiving the SAFE allocation late. National Treasury had delayed the approval of some, and a plan had been implemented to achieve the set targets, and the project was being closely monitored. The targets to provide schools with water had not been achieved due to poor performing contractors appointed by the Mvula Trust in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Province. Penalties were being charged to the contractor for late completion. Various school districts had been monitored and visited, and district director posts hag been advertised and filled by the province. The provincial number of underperforming schools had been sent for verification.
Programme Five: Educational Enrichment Services
The purpose of the programme was to develop policies and programmes to improve the quality of learning in schools. This programme promoted psychological and care support in schools, as well as the promotion of health. There was the inclusion of gender equity and social cohesion. The number of schools monitored for the provision of nutritious meals had decreased due to the cancellation of monitoring visits. The Department had ensured doubling the monitoring visits in quarter three. The number of teachers, learners and community organisations participating in social cohesion and gender equity programmes had increased drastically due to jamborees that were held to expose learners to life skills and various career opportunities. The number of hotspot schools monitored towards the implementation of the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) had increased.
Financial Report for Second Quarter Expenditure
The Minister of Basic Education had delivered the sector’s budget vote for the 2019/20 financial year for the 2019 Medium-term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period. There had been an increase of 3.4% from the previous year’s budget allocation and the overall allocation for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) was above R24.5 billion. The overall allocation for the 2019/20 conditional grants for the DBE was above R18.6 billion -- an increase of 4.9% from the previous financial year. The total of all five programmes expressed as a percentage of the appropriation was 58.4%.
Challenges had been experienced in Programme Two with the distribution of workbooks, as there was a delayed payment. Programme three had a high expenditure due to the once-off transfer of funds towards NSFAS and the Funza Lushaka bursaries. The expenditure per economic classifications in 2019/20 included all transfers that were made to public entities as scheduled, and 100% of the transfer of funds to NSFAS and Funza Lushaka Bursaries were made. The delay in the distribution of the workbooks had been due to waiting for the audit of the independent audit firm.
Progress on 2018/19 AGSA audit report
The Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Development Initiative (ASIDI) unit was currently reversing all implementing agent (IA) fees previously accounted as part of capital expenditure. The adjustment process was linked and targeted for completion by the end of quarter three. Where the disbursements had already been incurred and accounted, the amount equalling the expenditure had been raised as the commitment value. All estimated amounts would be deducted from the proven trends and follow the pattern of expenditure. Disbursements commitments had been adjusted to be on proven costs and in line with the authorised contract percentage. Disclosure of contingent liabilities in the Interim Financial Statements had been addressed and was compliant to the modified cash standard. The accruals and payables disclosure note had been addressed and was compliant. The final accounts for Phase Two had been done for all three schools, and consequently approved by the Director-General.
Confirmed irregular expenditure had resulted in consequence management being completed nine out of 20 cases. Possible irregular expenditure was being investigated three out of 13 possible cases, and was still to be confirmed. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure had previously reported cases, and was being investigated by the Committee, and internal audit was in the process of verifying the assessment report. Quarterly monitoring of the alignment between all the quarterly indictors and their corresponding quantified targets was continuing. Teacher guides and lesson plans were not monitored in 2019/20, but technical schools were monitored. Technical indicator descriptions were discussed in detail at the branch reviews to strengthen the evidence to be provided. The business process had been revised to clearly indicate the process flow of each indicator.
Ms N Tarabella Marchesi (DA) acknowledged that the Department’s performance had improved. However, it was having challenges with contractors which were preventing it from reaching some targets. What measures were being put in place to ensure that contractors remained aligned to contracts? How were these contracts being funded, and were tenders give out to various contractors? When projects were not completed, does the Department experiences losses?
The DBE needed to look at the strengthening of School Governing Bodies (SGB) and not just that of management. SGBs needed training on how to vote, and the Department needed to empower them, especially because of the gap between quintile one and two schools. In Programme Five there were activities where parents and learners build on issues of HIV/AIDS -- what did this entail? The Department was having challenges with comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), and there were two programmes that would be parallel to one another. Who would be responsible for that? What measures had been put in place to ensure that teachers had been trained in mathematics, accounting and science subjects? There were teachers who were teaching mathematics who did not have the relevant qualifications -- what happened to them? Were teachers who were involved in sexual misconduct being held accountable?
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said that the report did not explicitly indicate problems. It had not indicated the defaulters of the NSFAS programme, and if the Department had recovered from it. Defaulters were not exposed, and if defaulters were not exposed, no funds would be able to be recouped. If money was owed, there should be a mechanism put in place for payment, and failure to pay should lead to exposure. The Department and the Committee should be able to help each other. The budget was overheating, and the DBE was not being assisted to recoup the money that was due to it.
During the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Department had been handed two vast challenges -- the safety of schools, and school infrastructure. The Programme Four targets for sanitation and water had not been met, and the Department needed to authoritatively inform the Committee that the issue of safety in schools and the commitments made over the last two quarters were being implemented to fulfil this mandate. Could the Committee tell the public that this issue was being dealt with forcefully? These were the main issues for the Department and the public.
Programme Five reported on educational enrichment services and psychological support, but the DBE had not mentioned the importance of psychological support to educators. Teachers needed serious support and rehabilitation, something the Department five years ago was unable to provide, but there should have been improvements. How could teachers who were highly depressed and demotivated lead and educate our children? These teachers could not be dismissed -- the Department might end up dismissing everybody. There was a need for the implementation of rehabilitation centres and psychological support.
Fruitless and wasteful expenditure had been reported by the Auditor-General, and 70% was under investigation. After investigations, there was no feedback. The danger was if the Department had a problem, investigated it -- and then failed to act. The investigations carried out had to be reported back to the Committee, otherwise there would be continuous poor performance without improvements.
Mr E Siwela (ANC) asked whether all the provinces had submitted their post provisions to date. If not, when would they do so? The percentages stayed the same in quarter one and two for schools using the South Africa School Administration and Management System (SA -SAMS). If schools were not using this system, what were they using? What were the effects of training in Programme Three? Had performance agreements been signed off by officials, and had the officials been assessed? Was the Department cooperating with unions in the sector, and what had been the effect of officials being absent?
Ms N Shabalala (ANC) questioned whether the Department had a risk committee that dealt with the DBE. If yes, when would the Department brief the Committee on the information, indicating the risks in those valid expenditure areas? Regarding fruitless and wasteful expenditure, if the Department were cautioned before the time on the risks involved, and if it was pointed out to the Auditor-General, there would be no need for the expenditure. The DBE needed to strive for a clean audit. Why had only 70% been covered, and when would the Committee be briefed on the findings of these investigations?
Ms C King (DA) said that key performance indicators (KPIs) had always been an issue in all Departments. The DBE’s measurements were either too low or insufficient to make an assessment. It had briefed the Committee on Grade 12 learners who wrote exams, but there had been incidents this year where students were not registered. Budget cuts might not influence projects now, but had provision been made for the next quarter? There was a concern over debt, as the Department of Public Works (DPW) was still due to be paid by the Eastern Cape DBE for projects that they could not complete, and the problems of implementing agent contracts. The Department needed to review the framework of the contracts of these agents and highlight these issues. If projects were not completed by the stipulated set dates, they would then owe money to the Department. Implementing agents were not performing, and this would come back to the Department as findings. Contractors who did not abide by the stipulated contracts should be barred from working with the Department for a time period. The distribution of letters did not solve the problem. Why was the Eastern Cape not included in the rural education advocacy? It was a concern, because it was a rural province.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) said it was important to understand the risks so that the Department could create guidelines. The Committee had not heard much about the internal audit committee, nor the effectiveness of it and the risk unit. Would the Department still meet its necessary targets, considering the budget cuts? The non-performances were not being reported on explicitly -- how would this be corrected going forward?
The Chairperson commended the DBE on its achievements. She asked whether it was open to public engagement regarding its policies, as comprehensive sexuality education had been misinterpreted. What systems were in place to ensure that workbooks were reaching learners and that they were not being dumped? What was the rate of improvement with mathematics and technology? The rural education framework provinces included needs to be considered, because the Eastern Cape was rural. There were financial challenges that were not allowing the Department to reach certain heights.
Dr Granville Whittle, Deputy Director General: Education Enrichment Services, DBE, said that the discussions on CSE had become complicated, because of leaked documents that had come from old contexts. Individuals had been approached and stated that this was not something they taught children in schools. Images were often taken from other countries, such as Europe, and were not based on the South African context. The Minister of Basic Education had agreed to have another round of discussions and descriptive lessons which would include teacher unions, stakeholders and students. The CSE curriculum had been a part of the curriculum for almost 20 years. Over the last five years, there had been a concern for the DBE to address high rates of new infections in adolescent girls. There were 2 363 new infections per week, mostly among Coloured and African young girls.
The Department had worked closely with the Departments of Health and Home Affairs to understand why teenage pregnancy had increased. South Africa’s gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide rates were off the charts, and the only way to systematically deal with this was through our schools and the curriculum. By doing so, they had reduced it to 1 000 new infections per week. The National Budget had shifted from Education to Health. It was costly to provide anti-retrovirals (ARVs) to a person who contracts the infection at the age of 12, because they would have to be supplied for the rest of their lives. Many adolescents who fall pregnant do not go back to school, and they fall into poverty traps.
The Department had responded to political parties and the media on images found offensive. One of the activities required children to get into groups to discuss what body parts were okay to touch and which body parts were not okay to touch. Children had been molested by a teacher in Pretoria, and only after the police had come to the school and told children that it was not okay for someone to touch one’s body parts, did the children then come out. The Department would continue to test the material. There would be descriptive lesson plans for Grades four to 12. Grades below that would be taught family values, and about boys not being violent towards girls, because children were abused not only from grade four onwards. HIV programmes were funded through conditional grants. Teams were sent to communities with high rates of HIV, violence, teenage pregnancy and low performing schools, to educate communities on the importance of knowing one’s status and using condoms.
Mr David van der Westhuijzen, Deputy Director-General, DBE, shared his vision with the Committee. Moving targets were important to take into consideration. Offending contractors needed to be dealt with and be taken off the departments’ central databases. It was important to deal with defaulters The Department needed to report and expose defaulters and implement penalties.
Mr Patrick Khunou, Deputy Director General: Finance and Administration, DBE, said that contractors were chosen based on assessments and grading systems. However, there were a number of challenges that could not be foreseen by the Department. Contractors might be compliant, but might be appointed by the DBE and other departments, and the contractor would then be overloaded. The allocation of implementing agents, specifically for the SAFE programme, involved targets that required the implementation of the project within the same financial year, and the funds were allocated only in April.
Ms E Mmola, Director: DBE, said that there was a risk committee that included an investigator, and was chaired by a member from the audit committee. Its members were chief directors and DDGs in the DBE. There was also a representative from labour relations. Most of the expenditure was disclosed and the investigation on the 70% irregular expenditure could not be reported on, because the findings had not been confirmed yet. The assessments needed to be verified and the invoices had to be checked.
Mr P Padayachee, DDG: Planning Information and Assessments, DBE, said that the South Africa School Administration and Management System (SA-SAMS) was a software programme for administration in public schools. It was the property of the DBE and was offered free of charge. Currently there was no policy in place to ensure that this system was compulsory, and some schools did not use this system. Some had third party software and were funding these services on their own.
The Department had been made aware of students in Gauteng who had not been registered to write examinations. However, he was receiving relevant updates with regard to examinations and so far there had been no irregularities. If students had not been registered, they could still write the examinations and the issues would be investigated later.
Dr Sibusiso Sithole, Chief Director, National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU), said that with migration there had been many engagements between the DBE and the Department of Social Development (DSD) to try to understand the brief and the mandate on the migration. The two departments had made presentations together on how to approach the migration issue to make the work easier. The DBE had drafted an implementation plan from 2019 until 2024. It outlines the milestones of an action plan involving the Department of Health and National Treasury.
Dr Whittle said that the Post-Provisioning Norms (PPN) framework was being implemented in two provinces, but they had not submitted reports so far so the Department did not have data. The Department admitted that this area had been neglected, as it was important for educators to have the necessary facilities made available for them and their mental health.
Dr Whittle said that his team did have performance agreements. The DBE and the unions had a good relationship. He emphasised the importance of disciplinary hearings at schools for sexual misconduct, and said that over the last three months, the Department had dismissed 30 educators nationally.
The Committee’s minutes of 12 November were adopted.
The Chairperson said the Committee had received another petition from the residents of Dryharts Village in want of an investigation of the reopening of a closed down school for the use of the Dryharts Primary School children. The Committee would send the information to the DBE and as soon as they received a response, and would deal with it in the same way it had dealt with the Griqua petition.
The next meeting would deal with the Griqua community and a presentation by the DBE on the preparations for school readiness in 2020.
The meeting was adjourned.