Public Service and Administration Budget: Committee Report

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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, 21 May 2020
Audio: Public Service and Administration Budget: Committee Report  

Tabled Committee Reports

The Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration met to consider and amend various draft Budget Reports from the Department of Public Service and Administration, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and the entities including StatsSA. The Committee focused on key findings and observations as well as recommendations.

Members stressed that it is imperative for the Committee to set timelines as a means of oversight and holding departments accountable, specifically referring to disciplinary proceedings.

The Committee noted concern over the Minister of Finance’s recent proposal to cut the Public wage bill by R37 million and made recommendations stressing the importance of filling vacant positions, citing StatsSA’s historic challenges in filling vacancies – this was a pressing issue as Treasury may reduce funding if this inclination continues.

The Reports would be adopted in the following Committee meeting.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed the members.

Administrative Matters

The Chairperson noted absentee apologies from Ms V Malomane (ANC) and extended condolences on the death of her mother on behalf of the Committee. He further requested that Members extend individual condolences as well. He stated that the purpose of this meeting is to consider the draft Budget Reports and highlighted that this will be a standing agenda item in the following meetings.

The Chairperson requested the Committee Secretary to outline the agenda items.

The Secretary informed the Committee of the proceedings - there will be a precise reading of the report and Members will be given opportunities to provide input regarding content and grammar changes. Members would have an opportunity to make additional recommendations to the report during the reading of the “recommendations” section of each budget report.

Members agreed they would not go through the entire body of the reports but would rather focus on the observations, recommendations and conclusions as the Committee had already considered much of the content of the reports in their strategic planning meeting.

Ms R Lesoma (ANC) requested that the Committee revert any administrative errors, such as figures and critical budget areas, to the Administration Office.

The Chairperson noted this suggestion.


Draft Committee Report on the Budget of the Department of Public Service and Administration

Members read through the key findings of the report.

Ms Lesoma asked for clarity on the difference between the Public Service Act (PSA) and the Public Administration Management Amendment Bill (PAMA).

She was informed the object of the PSA is employment and conditions of service, whereas the object of the PAMA is to tackle corruption and more specifically to establish institutions in this regard. More loosely, PAMA prevents a government official from doing business with the state and establishes ethical codes on the matter.

Dr L Schreiber (DA) asked for clarity as to when the amendment to the PSA was discussed.

He was informed the amendment was based on the Department’s findings and propositions and Dr Schreiber was referred to the Department’s presentation.

Dr Schreiber was asking for clarity because he was absent from the last meeting. He subsequently resolved to revisiting the presentation slides to become more familiar with the matter.

Ms Lesoma referred Dr Schreiber to the table that was included in the Department’s presentation slides.

Ms Lesoma suggested that Members who were able to use the “raise hand” tool on Microsoft Teams make use of the tool, whereas Members who were not yet familiar with the platform simply indicate that they would like to speak to the Chairperson to avoid confusion. She also suggested that Members be allowed to interrupt the reading of the report to give input instead of waiting for the end of a paragraph to do so in order to address pressing issues more efficiently and to optimise the meeting time.

The Chairperson noted these suggestions and Members agreed with this approach of conducting the meeting.

Ms M Clarke (DA) requested to add that “the Committee urges the Director-General to submit progress reports on the disciplinary proceedings” so that the Committee can better exercise oversight over the matter.

Ms Lesoma seconded Ms Clarke’s request, but asked that this matter be included with the Committee’s recommendations.

The Chairperson agreed and stated that it was important to capture the essence and gravity of Ms Clarke’s suggestion in the wording.

Ms Clarke voiced concern over the Minister of Finance’s recent proposal to cut the public wage bill by R37 million, which is a major concern when taking into consideration conflicting salary increments. She stressed that this is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA).

Dr Schreiber echoed Ms Clarke’s concerns and suggested that the matter be revisited in the recommendations section.

The Chairperson noted these concerns and agreed they should be reiterated in the recommendations section. The Committee upheld Ms Clarke’s suggestion.

Ms Clarke requested for timeframe to conclude the recommendations. 

Ms Lesoma said that ordinarily, the observations should be captured in the resolutions and stressed there should not be any administrative, technical issues in the resolutions as the Committee’s mandate is to provide oversight and not to run the Department.

Consideration of Recommendations (Section 11 of Report)

Ms Lesoma requested that the word “ensure” in section 11.1 of the Draft Report be changed to recommend, as the Department and administration would first have to make these recommendations to the Committee before implementation.

Dr Schreiber commented on point 11.1 of the report and said the Department intended to introduce the amendments in 2023, however it is necessary that the implementation process be accelerated to before 2023, citing Ms Clarke’s point on providing clarity on timelines to allow for better oversight.

The Chairperson noted this suggestion and the Committee upheld it.

Ms Lesoma said all the recommendations regarding the timeline should be considered as a collective in terms of the schedule.

Ms Lesoma requested that point 11.2 and 11.1 of the Draft report be amended as one point as they both speak to the same issue and target the same objective.

The Chairperson noted this point and the Committee upheld Ms Lesoma’s suggestion.

Ms Lesoma commented that 11.4 speaks to the same issues raised in 11.2

The Committee agreed it was superfluous and should be struck out.

Members agreed that in 11.7, the word “before” should be changed to “on” 26 November 2020, as this would be more precise.

Dr Schreiber said 11.8 refers to technical implementation, which exists in the relevant legislation.

Ms Lesoma seconded Dr Schreiber that it was different from 11.5.

The Chairperson and the Committee agreed with this finding.

Ms Lesoma stated that in unison with Ms Clarke’s finding on the public wage bill, this section should be worded differently to state more clearly that the departments must provide a detailed report in terms of the public service restructuring and its financial impact, as the Committee’s oversight will be extended to all government departments.

Dr Schreiber also commented on this issue, stating that a separate recommendation be added to say that the Committee recommends the government department adhere to the 2020/2021 budget, which outlines the need to reduce the public service wage bill by R160.2 billion over the MTEF period including a reduction of R7.8 billion in the current financial year. Reason being that the Minister of Finance highlighted this is a government-wide reduction.

Ms Lesoma agreed that it be clearly stated in good faith that the Department will adhere to the spirit of the Minister’s presentation.

The Chairperson noted these observations and the Committee agreed.

Dr Schreiber was asked to forward this recommendation via email so that it can be included.

Ms Lesoma requested that this recommendation be put at the end.

Consideration and Deliberations of Observations

Dr Schreiber noted the decision the national anti-corruption hotline was not an essential service was rescinded and the matter should now be removed from the observations in the Draft Report.

Ms Lesoma felt the matter should remain in the observations, as it was discussed in the meeting.

The Chairperson and Members agreed with Ms Lesoma.

Clarity was requested on section 6.6.

The Committee Content Advisor explained the chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC) alerted the Committee there are other call centres in the public service and the impact of the new call centres was that part of the funds allocated to the PSC has been used to fund some of the activities within the Commission.  The duplication of anti-corruption hotlines may render them ineffective.

Members were uncertain about the last sentence in 6.6.

Mr Schreiber noted the function of the hotline is the rightful jurisdiction of the PSC and not the Department, as it echoes the Commission’s mandate as being an independent watchdog. He further requested that the Committee investigate this matter further and take a united stance on whether the hotline’s functions should be transferred to the Department. A recommendation should be made in this regard urgently.

The content advisor clarified that the chairperson of the PSC stated that this function is also covered in its APP. The national unit will set the standards in the function of the hotline.

Members said section 6.6 should be rephrased to include the Committee’s opinion on the matter.

Ms Lesoma requested a workshop day that will provide more clarity and direction on the issue.

The Committee agreed.

Ms Lesoma noted that section 6.8 undermined the notion that the PSC lead by example in practicing good corporate government standards.

The Chairperson and Committee secretary noted this point.

Consideration of Recommendations from Observations

Ms Lesoma highlighted that what Dr Schreiber raised happened before the meeting.

Ms Lesoma suggested the wording in 7.2 be amended to recommend that the Department strengthen or improve the performance of its duties rather than to recommend the Department perform a duty it was already performing.

The Chairperson noted this finding and the Committee agreed.

The content advisor stated the PSC currently does not have capacity to operate over 24 hours.

Ms Lesoma stated that the PSC should revert to the 24 hours operation, as it has not provided clarity on the challenges that prevents it from operating over 24 hours.

The Chairperson and Committee agreed on this finding.

Ms Lesoma asked whether the PSC has the administrative mandate to advise other departments independently. According to the public service structure, it is only DPSA that has an influence across all departments.

The content advisor responded that the PSA was envisioned to lead the Commission to investigate what went wrong in providing the anti-corruption hotline. Cabinet envisioned the PSC would spearhead the anti-corruption front.

Ms Lesoma noted the response and stressed it should be emphasised when the Committee concludes to avoid duplication.

The Chairperson noted this finding and the Committee agreed.

Mr Schreiber asked whether the PSC has acquired the status of having a fully-fledged budget vote.

The content advisor confirmed the PSC is the only Chapter Nine institution with a fully-fledged budget vote.

The content advisor highlighted the last point in the recommendations section that some government departments have resorted to using external legal services and the PSC is the only institution that can investigate this matter. This recommendation was added considering the DPSA presentation.

Ms Lesoma requested a three-month timeframe on the matter. She also requested confirmation on whether 10.2 and 10.3 were included the resolutions. She also asked for clarity on the DPSA’s legislative reform and whether there were any other issues Members wished to be included if not already included in the report.  

The content advisor responded that these observations were covered - although not all observations are expressed and worded as being recommendations, most of the Committees wishes would have been included.

Ms Lesoma stated that as legislators, it is important to ensure that pending Bills are covered. 

The content advisor confirmed that the pending legislative reforms have been covered.

Ms Lesoma contributed that the wording in section 9.1 and 9.3 of the Report be amended to better capture the intended objective. She would email a suggestion in this regard. She stressed the timeframe should be amended to accommodate the COVID19 lockdown.

The Chairperson noted this submission.

Deliberations and Consideration of Key Observations and Findings – Statistics SA

Ms Lesoma asked whether the issue of internet connectivity and access to digital platforms has been discussed at a Committee level.

Mr S Malatsi (DA) added that it should not be a hindrance for StatsSA to move towards digital computer- assisted interviews for data capturing. It is imperative that StatsSA take an inclusive approach and should be cautious not to exclude communities that may not have the means to access these platforms. He requested the wording be amended to urge StatsSA to ensure it has the necessary ICT infrastructure to conduct its work in an inclusive manner.

The Chairperson noted this amendment submission.

Deliberations and Consideration of Recommendations - StatsSA

Ms Lesoma asked that the Committee consider the consistency of its recommendations – she asked whether the Committee’s recommendations on the matter would be consistent with the other departments despite budget differences. It was important to stress that StatsSA fill up all (Member’s emphasis) critical positions and not some (Member’s emphasis). She asked for clarity as to whether it was necessary to include broad figures on the issue rather than focusing on critical posts.

The Chairperson requested Members input on the matter.

Mr Malatsi stated this is a historical issue, which makes it unique given the human resource challenges. It is important that the language considers StatsSA’s unique circumstances and the reality of staff shortages it faces.

Ms Lesoma added that it should carry the spirit and purport of the importance of filling critical posts, emphasising that Treasury would decrease its funding if those posts are not filled.

The content advisor agreed and noted it was important to add the figures to provide emphasis and to better reflect StatsSA’s current standing.

The Chairperson and the Committee agreed that it was important to stress the gravity of the consequences of not filling the posts.

The content advisor said 9.8 should be amended to capture the essence of Ms Lesoma and Mr Malatsi’s findings.

Ms Lesoma asked for clarity on point 9.9 in Recommendations as she was not clear on the rationale. She wanted to know whether StatsSA was not communicating its challenges or whether the Committee was recommending that communication be improved. What is not happening that should be happening?

The content advisor responded that the Committee was recommending an improvement.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) asked for clarity as to whether it was the Statistician-General or the Statistics Council that failed to communicate with communities

The content advisor responded that it is the Statistician-General that communicates with the communities after he/she has consulted with the Statistics Council.

Ms Lesoma submitted that in her view, 9.9 should be removed as StatsSA was already communicating to the communities daily and it is redundant to ask it to do something it was already doing.

The Chairperson noted this point and Members agreed.

The content advisor subsequently removed recommendation 9.9 from the Report. He requested that Members submit comments on the conclusion of the recommendations via email, due to time constraints.

The Chairperson and Committee agreed.

The secretary informed the Chairperson that, Ms M Ntuli (ANC) was experiencing audio issues and could not voice her recommendations during the meeting.

Consideration and Deliberation of Key Findings – Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

Ms Lesoma requested that the wording of the section on Brand South Africa be amended to include the words “global” and “domestic” to encourage African trade.

The Chairperson noted this change.

Ms Lesoma asked Members to consider adding a recommendation to honour the 30-day payment.

Mr Ngoepe responded that this had already been discussed and concluded. The 30-day payment was offloaded from the DPMA.

Ms Lesoma requested that the appreciation of the former DG be included in the conclusion of the Report. 

The content advisor informed the Committee that the documents will be processed and sent to Members. He would investigate whether the Houses of Parliament will have a sitting in this time and revert to the Committee, adding that the Reports will be adopted in the next meeting, scheduled for 27 May 2020.

The Chairperson extended his appreciation towards Members for their commitment in these extraordinary times.

The meeting was adjourned.


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