Committee was briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). The Committee heard that that the Department had received an unqualified audit opinion with findings from the Auditor-General. The Committee was pleased to hear that 83% of Annual Performance Plan targets were achieved; that there were quarterly reports on the status of the Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS); 76% of misconduct cases in the provinces were resolved within 90 days; and a digitalisation strategic framework was developed, including a framework for the implementation of the Community Development Workers Programme. The Committee heard that the Department had developed a report to attempt to secure adherence to legislation prohibiting public service officials from doing business with organs of State.
Members were especially concerned about the lack of presence of political leadership in the meeting. Further concern was expressed about costs related to misconduct cases and penalties. Members questioned lifestyle audits for senior managers; unannounced visits; Batho Pele workshops and awareness programmes; monitoring of officials conducting business with organs of State; reports delayed due to late submission of inputs; vacancies, acting positions and retention of heads of departments; ring-fencing for the GEHS; graduate recruitment; the Digitalisation Strategic Framework; the African Peer Review Mechanism; vetting; job creation and wage negotiations.
While Members commended the unqualified audit received by the Department, they emphasised that matters raised by the AG had to receive attention and corrective measures had to be reported on within 7 days. Members felt that the establishment of the APRM had to be expedited. Members issued a caution that in future there would be no sympathy around the absence of political heads including DGs or DDGs.
The Minutes of 27 November 2019 were adopted without amendments.
Introductory Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson noted that the meeting of the day should have happened in the previous year. He welcomed the delegation from the DPSA, and added that the Committee expected the Department to provide a focus on provincial departments. The NCOP was not a replica of the NA, hence Members would focus on support granted to the provinces, and how the principles of the Public Administration Management Act (PAMA) were applied across provinces. Provinces had to be assisted in terms of systems, integrity and ethics, towards the building of a capable and capacitated State, and the professionalisation of public administration. Reconfiguration of government departments also had to receive attention. Apologies were received from the Minister, the Deputy Minister and the Director-General, and Members Boshoff and Mathevula.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) asked why the Minister and/or the Deputy Minister were not there. Political leaders had to be present for Members to put questions to.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) agreed that political leaders were the custodians of the Annual Report (AR) and the Annual Performance Plan (APP), and were required to be present. A letter had to be written to the NCOP Chairperson, and the Chairperson of the Small Business Development Select Committee. The Trade and Industry Select Committee would not continue with a meeting if political leadership was not present.
Mr Brauteseth remarked that one got the feeling that the NCOP was considered unimportant. It was insulting. Members had to be flown in to attend the meeting. He was unable to do clinic oversight in his constituency because he had to attend the current meeting. He would advise that the meeting continue, but the Committee would have to make as firm a resolution about the matter as the Trade and Industry Committee.
Mr Rayi agreed that the meeting could continue, but the Chairperson had to write to the NCOP Chairperson, as not even the Director-General was present.
The Chairperson told the delegates that it had to be conveyed to senior management how the Committee felt. The Minister was abroad, but the absence of the Deputy Minister would have to explained. In future meetings would not proceed if political leadership was not present.
Briefing by the Department of Public Service and Administration on the 2018/19 Annual Report
The briefing was presented by Mr Masilo Makhura: CFO, Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and Ms Thembi Nkuna, Director: Strategic Planning, DPSA. The DPSA received an unqualified audit opinion with findings from the Auditor-General (AG). Steps had to be taken to prevent irregular expenditure. 83 percent of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets were achieved. An organisational functionality assessment tool was produced. Quarterly reports were produced on the Government Employee Housing Scheme (GEHS). 76 percent of misconduct cases in the provinces were finalised within a 90 day period. The public service Digitalisation Strategic Framework was developed, including a framework for implementation of the Community Development Workers Programme. Establishment of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) had to await the establishment of a National General Council. 23 national and provincial departments were supported to improve internal human resource capacity. A report was developed on adherence to legislation prohibiting officials from conducting business with organs of State.
Mr Brauteseth remarked that it was regrettable that the political leadership were not present, as he had some questions about consequence management. 3000 people were suspended, at the cost of R46 million. He asked about progress with the establishment of an Ethics Disciplinary Unit. Was such a unit really needed with the SIU and others already operative? A Ministerial Committee had initiated the institution of lifestyle audits for public service senior managers. What had happened to that initiative? It was stated on slide 14 that there were 1819 misconduct cases for provincial departments. Which departments, in which provinces? R46 million was spent on disciplinary cases, and people who did not have clinics might want to know where the money went. Were race-based appointments also made in terms of merit, or was there a quota system?
Mr Rayi asked for figures about the kind of offences and related penalties to be elaborated in terms of provinces and Departments. An ethic of professionalism had to be promoted. Were unannounced visits made to Departments? The Home Affairs Minister made an unannounced visit to a Home Affairs branch, and found that offices did not open on time, and that the counter person was not at all friendly. Batho Pele programmes and workshops had to be run, as well as Batho Pele awareness programmes. Was there a mechanism to monitor officials who conducted business with organs of State? There had to be a list of people in every department who conducted business with the State, and what had been done to them. The matter of quotations was central to irregular expenditure. It had to be monitored that the required amount of quotations were received. R310 000 was a large amount. Slide 9 referred to the delay of a report on bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements and programmes, due to late submission of inputs. How was a repetition of that to be avoided in future? There were too many vacant posts and acting positions. The DPSA had to set an example by abiding by policies it had developed. Parity between workers in the Ciskei and Transkei and in the rest of the Republic had to be looked into. What were conditions pertaining to money ring-fenced for GEHS?. He referred to the graduate recruitment schema. A breakdown of unemployed graduates per province was needed. Would the Digitalisation Strategic Framework (slide 15) address the matter of lost files and disappearing dockets?
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) referred to the Cabinet Memorandum for the establishment of the APRM National Secretariat that was not prepared, as the National General Council had to be established first (slide 18). The President was the Chairperson of the African Union, and SA was not complying. SA had to deliver on commitments, so as not to embarrass the President. Vetting was currently done by State Security, but the DPSA could deal with vetting that was not top secret.
Mr E Landsman (ANC, North West) expressed concern about job creation through internships and employment services. Statistics were needed on post-cutting and the unemployment rate, as unemployment was getting worse. He predicted that job creation would be a theme in the SONA of the current year. He agreed with other Members that meetings would not proceed in the absence of political leadership in the future.
The Chairperson noted that slide 20 referred to support provided to 23 national and provincial departments to strengthen internal human resource capacity. More detail was needed. Conducting of business with organs of State by officials had to be more tightly controlled (slide 22). The PFMA could be updated to enable the recruitment authority to better understand the areas of State.
Mr Rayi referred to administrative challenges related to the Public Service Charter. What was the purpose of the APRM? Slide 19 referred to the development of a report on the retention of heads of departments. Were exit interviews conducted, in which HODs could explain their reasons for leaving?
The Chairperson asked about a commitment to remove entrance level requirements for the public service.
Mr Brauteseth asked for a list of people who conducted business with organs of State. Whoever did so was breaking the law. Where people ever charged at a police station? Civil action was not enough.
The Chairperson remarked that nothing was said about wage negotiations, within the context of the economy not growing as expected. Tension between public service unions and government had to be avoided.
Ms Khuna responded that a technical assistance unit was established in the office of the DG. A framework for lifestyle auditing would be developed.
Mr Brauteseth insisted that timeframes had to be given for that. The Minister had already announced an intention to institute lifestyle auditing in September of the previous year. It was probable that nothing would have been done a year into the future. Who was to start the process? It was already instituted in the Western Province.
Ms Khuna continued that unannounced visits were made to clinics and hospitals through Programme 5 (Service Delivery Support). Batho Pele workshops were conducted. There was a Batho Pele forum to which provinces were called.
Mr Dangor advised that Batho Pele principles be openly displayed at public service institutions.
Ms Khuna answered about ensuring that reports such as the one on bilateral cooperation not be delayed because of late submissions in future. Progress reports were provided to the DG on a monthly basis.
Mr Makhura responded that he would convey questions that were put to the political leadership. Currently officials who did business with the State were told that they could stay on, provided that they did not do business with the State, or resign. Still there were officials who did not resign, and continued doing business with the State. He replied to Mr Brauteseth that the DPSA did not have the jurisdiction to press criminal charges in any department other than the DPSA itself. The DPSA could only report in writing to the HOD. It was up to the various departments to report on the matter to Parliament. Details would be provided about disciplinary actions per province. People were sitting suspended for two to three years. The 13 percent vacancy rate was cause for concern. It was being finalised at top level, but elsewhere re-allocation of officials to new posts had to be concluded before vacancies could be addressed. The DPSA also had to contend with Compensation of Employee (CoE) budget cuts. Some of the 13 percent vacancies were unfunded.
Mr Rayi remarked that it had to be indicated whether posts were only approved or also funded.
Mr Makhura noted that money ring-fenced for the GEHS could not be utilised for other purposes. The GEHS was a government component, and the DPSA would report on the status of the scheme.
Ms Khuna stated that the DPSA would respond in writing to questions that could not be answered in the meeting.
Mr Rayi remarked that there had to be written responses about reconfiguration; unemployed graduates and recruitment programmes in the provinces; the digitalisation framework as it pertained to lost files and dockets; the ICT value management framework; the functions of the APRM General Council, and exit interviews in which HODs could state reasons for leaving.
Mr Brauteseth asked the CFO who was to be held responsible when a suspension period exceeded 90 days. It was a breach of the law for a suspension period to exceed 90 days. Could the DPSA supply information about which departments, Ministers or DGs were approached about officials doing business with the State?
Mr Makhura replied that details could be supplied. If a suspension continued for longer than 90 days, it was the responsibility of HODs to render an explanation. According to the PFMA the Accounting Officer had to account for any money that went lost.
Ms Khuna replied to Mr Brauteseth that race-based appointments were done with due consideration of merit.
Mr Brauteseth said that the principle of finding the right person for the job had to apply.
Mr Landsman remarked that it was not simply a matter of qualifications. The CEO of Mango Airlines only had matric. Did the DPSA also monitor parastatals?
Ms Khuna replied that the DPSA only monitored the public service.
The Chairperson thanked the DPSA team. He commended the unqualified audit received by the Department, but added that matters raised by the AG had to receive attention. Corrective measures had to be reported on within 7 days. The Select Committee would not only hold the DPSA to account, but would also support it. The establishment of the APRM had to be expedited. In future there would be no sympathy for the absence of political heads.
Mr Brauteseth added that the same applied to DG or DDGs.
Adoption of minutes
Minutes of 27 November 2019 were adopted without amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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