Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation: Department of Education, with Minister
27 November 2019
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
The Committee deliberated on Vote 5 in the schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill. Consideration was given to the content, including the annexures, of the report on Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure.
The Minister was satisfied with the performance of the Department. Almost 100% of the budget had been used.
The Committee questioned the surrender of funds to the Provincial Treasury. Concerns were raised about the implication that the decrease in funding would have for the children in the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and in public schools.
The ring-fencing of Compensation of Employees (COE) proved problematic for the Department, as it was restrictive and did not allow for minor changes to be made.
The Chairperson invited the Minister to brief the Committee on the adjustment estimates for the Department of Education.
Ms Debbie Schafer, Minister of Education: Western Cape Government, presented the budget adjustment report. She explained that the R30 million roll-over amount was of a technical nature that she would leave to the officials for comment. In light of misrepresentation and complaints about independent schools, she clarified that the Department paid for independent schools only in poor communities. The Department spent us much as it could without overspending and was doing very well, as 99.83% of the budget had been spent.
Mr Brian Schreuder, Head of Department (HOD), Western Cape Education Department, said that relinquishing some of the compensation, which was a small percentage of the total budget, was not done from the subsidy for independent schools. The allocation in the annual budget was very restricting, which accounted for the roll-overs.
The Chairperson tabled Vote 5 as documented on p71 to p86 of the Adjusted Estimates of Provincial Revenue and Expenditure 2019 report. She granted Committee Members the opportunity to engage the officials of the Department on the content of the report.
Mr M Sayed (ANC) questioned the reason for, and the implications of, the decrease of R102 million in Programme 2: Public Ordinary School Education, and asked which sub-programmes would be affected by the decrease. He queried the decrease of R45 million in Programme 5: Early Childhood Development, and asked where the funds had been transferred to.
Mr M Kama (ANC) asked for an explanation of the R7 million reallocation of funds due to savings identified in sub-programme 2.1: Compensation of Employees (COE).
Mr Sayed asked how many posts were affected by the cuts in COE.
Mr Kama referred to the broken fences at many schools, and asked why R27 million had been moved from sub-programme 6.2: Ordinary Schools.
The Chairperson requested clarification of the R10 million realignment in transport, in sub-programmes: 2.1 Public Primary Level, and 2.2 Public Secondary Level. She asked for an explanation of the R3.8 million utilised for infrastructure in Programme 6.1: Administration.
Mr Sayed requested details of the R27 million earmarked for projects in sub-programme 6.2: Public Ordinary Schools. He asked whether part of the R33 million allocated for Programme 7: Examination and Education Related Services, would be used for an increase in the stipend for markers and invigilators in sub-programme 7.3: External Examinations. The issue of the stipend had been raised by members of his constituency.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) requested an explanation for the surrender of the COE budget, in Programme 2: Public Ordinary School Education, and Programme 5: Early Childhood Development (ECD), to the Provincial Revenue Fund. He asked whether the reference made to employees was in respect of teachers or staff members of the Department.
The Chairperson pointed out to Mr Sayed that the Annexure on page 96 covered the infrastructure question that he had raised.
Mr Kama asked for clarity about the shifting of funds to the Department of the Premier to fund competency-based assessments for schools. He queried why the assessments were done by the Department of the Premier.
Mr Sayed requested an explanation for the budget cut at the Inkanini Primary School in Khayelitsha, as per table 5.9, Annexure B.
The HOD indicated that Mr Salie Abrahams, Chief Director (CD): Business Intelligence Management, Western Cape Education Department, would comment on the technical aspects of the questions. He explained that part of the COE budget from Programmes 2 and 5 was a saving that could not be used prematurely. Relinquishing funds to the Provincial Revenue Fund was dealt with by Treasury. In the past, the Department was able to get the majority of the funding back in the next financial year, but due to the current budget constraints it was not the case this year. The Department hoped to still get some of the money back. This was a matter of timing, and not of poor planning.
The HOD said that examinations would not impact on performance. The Department could not define in advance how many learners would enter for the June examinations. This had been due to the cancellation of the supplementary examination in March, which had led to the reallocation of funds.
The stipend for marking of examination papers was determined nationally. It involved a technical determination based on the number of scripts and how long it took to mark. Markers got more or less the same amount.
He said the Department used a psychological testing model to do assessments for positions of principals, deputy principals and officials in senior management positions. This was done through an agency contracted by the Department of the Premier, who would receive the accounts. It counted as a saving, as it avoided a duplication of services. The realignment was between the number of learners in high school and primary schools.
The repair of fences was allocated in the maintenance budget. The infrastructure budget was always a challenge, as it depended on the time frames of the contractors. The Department kept a fairly tight rein on what was happening.
Mr Abrahams said that the cost of the fences project was ring-fenced and expanded because of the schools that were impacted. R300 000 of the R60 million was a reallocation, based on the claw-back that was done. It was not a budget cut, but a reallocation of the budget. The exact timing and delay influenced the allocation that was made year-on-year. He agreed to confirm the timing and cost of the project, and make it available to the Committee.
Mr Leon Ely, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Western Cape Education Department, explained that the table 5.1 on p72 was a breakdown of the figures in p71. Money was transferred to administration for laboratories and e-learning, as some schools still required laboratories. The decrease in funding for Early Childhood Development (ECD) was due to fewer applications. The Department had 40 000 staff on the payroll. Consultations had been held with the trade unions in June about the set basket of schools. Posts were filled as positions became vacant.
The Chairperson asked how she should interpret the difference in numbers between the mega primary and mega secondary schools. The summary of infrastructure detail had the status of ‘already handed over’ in respect of replacements, upgrades and additions for some schools, but there was still money allocated. She asked how this should be interpreted. She asked how many schools across districts needed upgrading of their sanitation facilities, and which districts were affected.
The HOD remarked that it was all very well to ring-fence expenses, but the Department should be trusted to make minor changes to make sure that the sector did not get bloated.
Mr Abrahams said the sanitation audit revealed that the majority of facilities in the rural districts needed to be upgraded. It was an on-going process, and he was happy to share the list with the Committee at a later stage. He explained that mega schools had 1 200 learners, and at the bottom were the small primary and farm schools with 300 learners, and in between were the medium schools with between 650 and 800 learners.
An adjustment had been made to reallocate the money that was left in the infrastructure budget to other competing priorities, to sufficiently cover all programmes.
The Bill was adopted by the Committee without amendments.
Mr Sayed said that given the concerns raised, the ANC expressed the minority view not to support the vote.
Mr Bosman asked why the ANC was not in support of the vote.
Mr Sayed replied that there would be an opportunity to engage at a political level regarding the reservations of the ANC.
Tabling of Annexures
The annexures were adopted by the Committee.
The Chairperson raised the issue of a follow-up on the COE budget that had been returned to Treasury.
The Procedural Officer raised the issue of the briefing by Treasury on the COE, and the sanitation list that Mr Abrahams undertook to provide the Committee.
The Chairperson asked whether it was in order to meet on 27 January 2020, which was a constituency day.
Mr Sayed supported the proposal.
The Chairperson said that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) would be invited to brief the Committee on the Comprehensive Sexual Education issue that was in the public domain. This would provide Members with a better understanding of the issue when they conveyed the message to communities.
The meeting was adjourned.
Botha, Ms L
Allen, Mr R
Bosman, Mr G
Christians, Mr F
Kama, Mr M
Sayed, Mr MK
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