The Department of Human Settlements (DHS) presented its fourth quarter performance report, during which it was revealed that while it had spent 100% of funds, it had achieved only 60% of its targets. Greater attention was being paid to the upgrading of informal settlements, which had received a R5 billion allocation increase. The Department expressed disappointment with municipalities and provinces that had not spent their emergency housing grants which had been approved and transferred to them, as this undermined the purpose of the grant.
Other key issues discussed were related to the non-achievement of targets, delays in procurement, the backlog of title deeds, community tensions and engagement, gratuities paid to previous ministers and deputy ministers, and the rollover of funds to Mangosuthu University for the scholarship programme at the institution. Members also asked what the involvement of mining companies in the revitalisation of distressed mining areas was – were they providing housing for those living in the surrounding communities?
After requesting a moment of silence for prayer or meditation, the Chairperson invited representatives from the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) to proceed with the presentation.
Ms N Tafeni (EFF) asked why the WhatsApp group been closed for questions.
Mr L Basson (DA) said this matter should be discussed outside of the meeting platform, and requested that the meeting continue.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) agreed, and added that the matter raised was not within the agenda that had been set for the meeting.
Ms R Mohlala (EFF) requested professionalism from the Chairperson. If WhatsApp groups were going to closed for questions, could this be communicated to Members ahead of time?
The Chairperson acknowledged this request.
Department of Human Settlements Performance Report: Quarter Ending 31 March 2020 (Fourth Quarter)
Mr Joseph Leshabane, Acting Director-General (DG), Department of Human Settlements (DHS), began the presentation by acknowledging the presence of Mr Neville Chainee, Deputy Director-General: Human Settlements Planning and Strategy, and the Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
The presentation outlined the overview of financial performance, the departmental Quarter 4 performance as per the approved 2019/20 annual performance plan (APP) and trend analysis. It provided an overview of grant performance, areas that required attention for improved performance, and actions implemented -- over and above interventions for title deeds, etc -- and recommendations going forward. Project level stoppages due to social unrest and crime had been a major problem for the execution of community-level projects.
(See presentation attached)
Mr Basson referred to the DHS’s achievement of 60% of its targets, and the partial achievement of 29%, which he described as “not really bad.” What had been the factors hindering 100% performance? What had been learnt in the quarter to improve in the next quarter and achieve 100%? His biggest concern concerned title deeds. Though the Minister had said she would hand out title deeds every Friday, this was not really happening. Instead, individuals were pleading for their title deeds and the DHS was not performing in this area. What would happen to ensure it would achieve its targets and address the backlog? At the end of the day, Members could not “play around” with the title deeds of people. Whatever problems were encountered within the DHS, these needed to be sorted out, and he wanted to know how it would do this.
The Chairperson announced that the procedure of the meeting for questions would be to follow a list of names, which she would call out. This was also due to the network troubles she was facing.
Mr S August (GOOD), Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC), Ms N Tafeni (EFF) and Ms N Mvana (ANC) indicated that they wanted to ask questions.
The Chairperson invited Ms Mvana and Ms E Powell (DA) to proceed with their questions, followed by Ms G Tseke (ANC) and Ms Sihlwayi.
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) asked why the format had been changed to listing names, even though Members had indicated that they wanted to speak. Could other Members be given a chance to speak? She objected to ANC Members being given preference to ask their questions, and asked that a fair sequence be followed.
Ms Mvana asserted that she was elected by “the people” and that she spoke “the language of the people.”
Mr M Mashego (ANC) contested this, saying that all Members were elected by, and therefore spoke for, “the people.”
The Chairperson again explained the procedure for asking questions. She invited Ms Mvana to proceed.
Ms Mvana asked whether the DHS had a plan, as the Portfolio Committee wanted them to achieve 100% of their targets and funds. Why had the DHS not used the Emergency Housing Grant if there was need for houses in most of the provinces? The report presented stated that some metros had submitted applications early, but were there any given reasons that other municipalities had submitted late?
Ms Mohlala began her questions by saying she was sitting in darkness because of the failures of government, so she would not switch her video on. She then referred to the National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT), contrasting the presented report with an article in the Mail and Guardian on 4 May 2020, in which Minister Sisulu was quoted:
“I am deeply hurt and angered by the collapse of the ethics, discipline and code of good governance within the NRRTT. After careful consideration of all these factors and others that have been brought to my attention by various individuals and law enforcement agencies, I have come to the conclusion that I must, with immediate effect, disband the NRRTT.”
Minister Sisulu had said it was clear that the task team had outlived its mandate and that it would be closed down with immediate effect. Ms Mohlala asked which advisory committee or NRRTT was being referred to in this quote, Members also needed to be furnished with the terms of reference of this particular group, if it still existed. What were their roles and for which purpose? Members also needed to know about the processes for the appointment for the members, including fees. In terms of their appointment, how was this group going to engage with other agencies in their reporting arrangements?
Referring to the movement of funds between programmes, such as moving funds from Programme One to Programme Three for gratuity payments to ministers and deputy ministers who had left the DHS, she said the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act was very key in dealing with pensions and gratuities for office bearers such as Members of Parliament and the Executive. What were the reasons for not obtaining these funds from the pension fund, instead of using voted funds which would impact the work of the Department? Could the DHS provide the legalities on this issue?
She asked if the DHS could provide input on the analysis by National Treasury in the fourth quarter report on the Department’s expenditure. Since National Treasury provided recommendations, how had the DHS taken these recommendations into its work? With regard to the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG) that had been withheld by National Treasury, she wanted to know about the redirection of a portion of the grant towards COVID-19 efforts. Was there no other money that could be used for COVID-19 that would not derail the efforts of upgrading informal settlements? These were historical issues which persisted into 26 years of African National Congress (ANC) governance. When would a re-direction and prioritisation of informal settlements occur, so that the dignity “of the black person” could be restored?
Mr S August (GOOD) reminded the Chairperson that he had requested to speak after Mr Basson.
The Chairperson assured Mr August that he would get an opportunity to ask his questions.
Mr Mashego asked Ms Powell if she had a question.
Ms Powell asked about the Chairperson’s presence in the meeting, and whether this had been disrupted by the connectivity issue. She suggested that Members might need to co-opt an Acting Chairperson.
Mr Mashego suggested the meeting proceed with Mr August’s questions, though Ms Powell urged that Parliamentary processes be followed.
Ms Mvana suggested that the Committee Secretary should step in.
The Committee Secretary allowed Mr August to proceed.
The Chairperson regained connectivity, and nominated Mr Mashego to continue chairing the meeting, due to her network issues. She requested consensus on this.
Mr Mashego said that Parliamentary process should be followed, and suggested the Committee Secretary should continue.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) stepped in to advise that the Committee Secretary had already been suggested, but because the Chairperson had suggested Mr Mashego, Members supported him taking over as ad hoc Chairperson.
Acting Chairperson Mashego continued by inviting Mr August to proceed with his questions.
Mr August was happy overall with DHS’s report, and thanked the Department for what it had done in the fourth quarter. It was evident that there was progress as the year went on. He thanked the Directors General for pushing their staff to ensure their targets were met, or at least partially achieved, at 70% plus. He was satisfied with the report, also taking into consideration the financial year end of the municipalities and the national department, acknowledging the two to three month delay between the groups as a result of this.
He requested clarity on a few matters that were ‘grey areas’ to him. Because of COVID-19, it was understood that vacancies could not be filled. Had the target to employ the physically challenged been reached? Did the DHS plan on reaching this target by the end of the financial year? He was happy with the new approach of the emergency grant funding, which would address situations where municipalities often sat with millions of Rands within their accounts that were unspent.
He remained concerned about title deeds, and echoed Mr Basson’s sentiments. Of the 10 000 title deeds’ target, only 3 000 had been handed out. This was a less than 50% outcome. Could more detail be provided as to why at least 80% of the target had not been reached, and what plans would be put in place to ensure that targets -- or at least 80% thereof -- could be reached in the next financial year?
Mr August said that of the 50 informal settlement plans, only nine had reportedly been achieved. He had heard and seen that there had been unrest and labour issues, but surely different approaches should be looked at for liaison between community members and government. The discussion of tribal issues, for example, required tribal leaders to be engaged so that at least 70% to 80% of the target could be reached.
Ms Sihlwayi asked about the return of budgets to the national department, and asked if the community would not see this as undermining of their service delivery. Could the DHS provide the reasons that led to the non-utilisation of budgets at the provincial level? This would assist in improving the situation, and was not fair for the people. Furthermore, National Treasury had said that metros should not be given budgets because of poor governance – which areas did this include? The Committee should know which areas had been specified, so that it could be involved in this process.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) appreciated the progress report on the Human Settlements Development Bank and the operating business model that was approved by National Treasury, but wanted to know when Members could expect the bill to be tabled to Parliament. This was long overdue. Regarding the grant transfer to Mangosuthu University of Technology for the scholarship programme, could the DHS explain why this had not been done? What was the involvement of mining companies in the revitalisation of distressed mining areas? Were they coming on board to build houses for the people around the mines? She felt there was relative silence in the presentation around the employment of people with disabilities, only emphasising women and youth entities.
Ms N Tafeni (EFF) asked what the reasons were for the reported delays in appointing service providers to augment capacity for the internal audit risk management and investigation unit. Secondly, what were the primary reasons and circumstances leading to the decision to withhold funds from Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality? Thirdly, under Programme Three, delays in the procurement of service providers to augment the capacity of the monitoring and evaluation unit were listed as the main reason for under-spending -- how was the DHS addressing these delays?
Ms Mokgotho asked what the reasons were for the increased spending on goods and services under Programme One, necessitating the movement of R6.6 million from the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) in Programme Three during the third quarter. What measures had the DHS put in place to assist the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality to use its USDG of approximately R451 million by the end of June? Expenditure under Programme Three had reached R146.8 million, representing less than the anticipated expenditure, and one of the reported delays that had contributed to this had been in concluding a service level agreement between the DHS and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). What had caused this delay -- why was there a delay in appointing professionals to assist the Department with the development of its strategic plan to align with the new medium-term strategic framework (MTSF)? What steps were taken to improve the internal capacity to ensure the DHS became less dependent on consultants?
By mid-year 2019/20, only 95 out of a planned 300 informal settlements had settlement upgrading plans. What were the reasons for this? How would the DHS make sure that sufficient programmes were implemented to ensure targets were met by the end of the financial year? A total of R93 000 had been shifted from goods and services to cover theft and loss of equipment and vehicles during the MTEF. What were the causes and relevant details about these losses and thefts? Had consequence management been applied? If yes, what were the results, and what measures had the DHS undertaken to ensure that losses were not incurred in future?
Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) commended the DHS on reaching their target with regard to women and youth. She agreed with Ms Tseke that people with disabilities should also feature. She said more needed to be done to ensure that all provinces adhered to DHS policy.
Mr M Tseki (ANC) commented on the readiness matrix, and suggested that in future, the chart should include columns to indicate the plan, showing what was spent, the targets, numbers and percentages, to assist Members. Other than this, it was a very good chart. He reiterated Mr August’s point on community unrest, saying sometimes these issues were man-made. The DHS should isolate specific deficiencies through community engagement, and try to improve communication by bringing communities into their plans.
Regarding mining, and learning from the Marikana debacle, it was clear that owners of land were ‘shack farming’. Even in Gauteng, there were instances where owners of land would release the land for people to occupy with their shacks while they rented to the occupants. The DHS could improve on this by also giving Members information about which mines had been identified, to resolve this matter. Which mines were willing to work with the Department, particularly on the Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme (FLISP)? Using the example of Elijah Barayi Village in Gauteng, he asked if this could be classified as a mining revitalisation programme, or if it was purely a catalytic project that was different.
He supported previous points made about title deeds, and said there could be serious improvements based on the district model launched by the President. All spheres of government would be working together at the local level to make sure they responded to the challenges. The percentage of USDG expenditure in metros had reached 41% in the third quarter, while the general expectation was that it should have been between 60% to 75%. This was where conversations about fiscal dumping came about. In any financial management, to spend 59% of an annual budget in three months, after only 41% was spent in nine months, meant there was obvious issues which needed to be improved.
Lastly, he felt that Ms Mokgotho was in a fighting mood at all times. The Committee Secretary, who had earlier been nominated to handle the co-opting of an ad hoc chairperson, was an administrator – not a Member.
Ms Mokgotho raised a point of order.
The Acting Chairperson sustained the point of order, with the justification that Mr Tseki had raised his last point ‘on a lighter note.’
Ms Mokgotho interjected that Mr Tseki should never ever repeat his last point again. When she was on ‘the platform’ she did not have time to play – she was serious.
The Acting Chairperson affirmed that “this was fine,” and proceeded with his questions to the DG. While he was not saying that the DG should not provide answers to the questions, he felt that in addition to the verbal answers provided, there should be a programmatic approach to responding to concerns. This was because often Members, by way of their questions, were making proposals which warranted them to be taken as recommendations for the DHS to operate in a certain way. For instance, the Mangosuthu University grant transfer issue – if there was a reason for this, what was being done about it? In the Free State, from a budget point of view, only 92 projects had been identified, and 22 in the Western Cape, while in Limpopo no sites had been identified. There may have been reasons, and the DHS should therefore provide them. The military veterans should not still want houses 30 years down the line into democracy.
Ms Mohlala requested that Acting Chairperson should not lead the DHS in their responses.
The Acting Chairperson requested Ms Mohlala not instruct him how to make his point, as he had not done this to her.
He continued to affirm that the Portfolio Committee was asking questions which highlighted where solutions were required. If answers were given through a programme, this would avoid a constant state of having questions, with little implementation to show on these issues. Furthermore, the DHS had reportedly spent 100% of its funds, while reaching only 60% of its targets – how could they improve on this? Finally, he suggested that the recommendations presented be re-worded as ‘resolutions,’ to indicate that answers to questions were being used to resolve issues.
Performance and achievements
Mr Leshabane said that with the overall 60% performance, together with 29% work in progress to be completed, the DHS had had to take a hard look at its internal systems, operations and procedures, as well as its forward planning. The under-performance could be attributed to the planning gaps experienced. For example, there had been a target set that specialists would be brought in to attend to a particular matter, but the procurement had started far later in the year. By the time the service provider was appointed, the work could not be completed. This had resulted in incomplete work, so the DHS recognised the need to embark on proactive procurement.
Similarly, the difficulties of a concurrent mandate within the inter-governmental system meant that projects needed to be implemented by the provinces and metropolitan governments. As a national department, the DHS did not implement a single project. At the same time, however, the DHS could not disconnect itself from the inter-governmental and concurrent system, and simply delegate its responsibility to provincial and metropolitan bodies. The DHS took ownership as the sector leader in terms of human settlements. Reported performance, therefore, reflected the performance, or non-performance, and deficiencies occurring in other spheres. This was the reality, not an excuse. These functions were distributed in accordance with the constitution.
Title deeds backlog
Mr Leshabane said he would welcome the opportunity to present on both the problems and the turnaround strategy to deal with the title deeds backlog further at a subsequent meeting. With township management delays, for example, if a general plan was submitted to the Surveyor General and the name of the municipality had been changed, the process had to restart. On the other hand, there had also been legislative changes. The Development Facilitation Act (1995) was the main instrument through which settlements were being delivered. When this law was repealed, this had created a lacuna where township establishments were ultimately left hanging. The DHS was thus going back to reconcile all of those issues, and bringing back the records to deal with the surveying, town planning and engineering before getting to conveyancing. This was one dimension. All of this happened within a space where the records were with the municipality, while other records were with the province.
He suggested the approach was simple -- take a township/settlement, and do town/settlement planning whether required or not. All of the issues arising would have to be dealt with as they happened. The DHS had taken account of all the townships that needed to be formalised, and the procedures and timelines required. He was confidently taking the Committee into confidence in this respect, but accepted that there was a new opportunity to focus within a district and bring on board land reform, co-operative governance and the municipality. This, he asserted, meant a better chance of quickly closing the gaps.
Under-spending of Emergency Housing Grant
Mr Leshabane confirmed that where the emergency housing grant had not been spent, a different approach was being taken. The DHS was disappointed with municipalities and provinces that had not spent their emergency housing grant which was approved and transferred to them, as this undermined the purpose of the grant. It had therefore engaged National Treasury, as well as the National Disaster Mnagement Centre about the shift in the model. Going forward, a different delivery model would be used to avoid a shift in funds being parked and unspent in municipal or provincial accounts.
Delivery of plans for Urban Settlement Development Grants (USDGs)
Metros had experienced several difficulties which accounted for the non-delivery of plans for the USDG on time. While it was not an easy task, the Department they had put in place measures to deliver the solutions to problem areas. Mangaung, Tshwane, eThekwini and Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan municipalities were listed as examples which had their own administrative deficiencies. All plans were required to have council endorsement or approval. Therefore, when the council delayed in convening and endorsing, approving or adopting the plan, the plan had no status with the DHS, even it was brought to them by an official.
Response to Mail and Guardian article
The NRRTT was related to the two sectors under the Minister’s portfolio: Human Settlements, and Water and Sanitation. The disbandment related to the Water and Sanitation sector, and that was what the Mail and Guardian article dealt with. In due course, the terms of reference for the NRRTT could be made available and shared with the committee. He confirmed that the National Treasury recommendations, along with financial and fiscal recommendations as far as expenditure trends were concerned, involved tensions that needed to be resolved. As the DHS moved forward into new financial years, it was not possible to accommodate those recommendations retrospectively, but it was comfortable that they had been engaged and consulted in the process of developing these recommendations.
COVID-19 response by metropolitan municipalities
Mr Leshabane said the re-allocation of efforts and funds to the COVID-19 response had not taken away money from informal settlements. In any case, the USDG was provided to increase the capacity of the services’ infrastructure in the Metros. What had happened on this particular occasion was that the standard of services in other informal areas had had to be increased. Some metros were also required to provide housing for those who were otherwise on the far extremities of settlements. The annual performance plan and strategic plan showed the informal settlements upgrading programme as a standalone programme, funded to the value of approximately R5 billion. This meant that the DHS was really focusing on it, as opposed to putting it into a wider pool of projects and hoping for it to be prioritised. It was not exclusively focusing on the upgrading of informal settlements by attaching funds, capacity, procedures and so forth.
Under-spending of title deeds grant within provinces
The DHS was carrying the blame for deficiencies within the provinces and, in some cases, the metros. This was not pointing fingers, but acknowledging that the DHS was accepting accountability because of the system’s design. Where funds had been transferred to the provinces -- for example, the Title Deeds Fund -- DHS was not simply walking away, as that money was part of an approved business plan, meaning it still had to be accounted for. Additional capacity and support to those provinces was thus being provided.
The Human Settlements Development Bill was awaiting state law adviser certification before submission to Cabinet by the second quarter, followed by public consultation and ultimately Parliament. The DHS did not have control over the certification process, which made it difficult to provide a definitive timeline. The state law advisor was inundated with litigation around lockdown. The bill was urgent for the DHS, as it provided for the establishment of the Human Settlements Development Bank.
Revitalisation of mining communities
Mining companies were working with DHS. There was legislation which meant that this was a regulated space, where mining companies had to comply with specific expectations such as providing adequate housing for employees, and ploughing back into those communities. The Department admitted that more could be done, which was why the programme was being sustained, and they were entering into partnerships with mining companies as part of their ongoing work. There was no outright resistance, though there were instances of different emphasis. The programme was therefore confirmed to be addressing issues at play. In some instances, the state had to look at an environment and identify where there was a need for housing, not just for mineworkers, but for the community that had settled around those areas. Elijah Barayi Village was an example. The DHS was collaborating with the mining companies which had initiated their own programmes, where they donated land and the spare capacity of their own bulk infrastructure, for example. It was therefore important to strengthen the capacity of this programme going forward.
Nelson Mandela Bay Situation
There was a time when the governance at this metropolitan municipality had been quite challenged. A situation where a metro was without a City Manager or Chief Financial Officer raised serious red flags as to how the municipality would run. The Treasury had previously met with the municipality. There had been commitments and agreements around how the administrative gaps would be filled, but over time the metro seemingly did not fulfil those commitments. Treasury had therefore said that because the agreed undertakings had not been fulfilled, all of the grants would not be transferred, to allow the metro an opportunity to make good and be in good standing. The metro had since done this, but only after the DHS’s fourth quarter, which meant that the funds would be rolled over to the following fiscal term and then transferred. There was also a sustained programme of intergovernmental support provided between the national department, the province, the municipality itself, the housing development committee and the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and the National Housing Finance Corporation (NHFC). These institutions were working together to support the municipality to ‘turn the corner’ and make progress from this point of view.
Hostility between communities and the DHS referred to when there was no social coherence within the community themselves, to allow the Department to complete the social compact required. Ward committees were often the entry point where challenges existed. When different interest groups in local settlement areas were at odds with one another, it made it difficult for a development programme to move forward. Mr Leshabane made a commitment on behalf of DHS to attend to suggestions made about strengthening communications and liaisons.
Gratuities paid to office bearers
The Acting CFO addressed matters relating to financial issues. In response to the question about why office bearers had been paid gratuities by the DHS, and why the pension fund was not used, a Government Gazette had addressed this. In the gazette, which was passed, it was stated that if there was no minister or deputy minister re-elected as Members of Parliament, the department that was their last employer needed to pay the gratuity for loss of office. As such, the DHS had had to pay for the loss of office of the previous minister and deputy minister.
Losses incurred within DHS
As a national department, the DHS had an internal policy that dealt with losses, in the form of the Loss Control Committee. If there was theft or loss, the employee would fill in the required forms to the committee, who would sit down and assess the losses in accordance with the policy. For example, if expenditure was found to be negligent, it would need to be paid for by the employees themselves. After ascertaining whether DHS or the employee would need to pay, a submission would need to be made, as stipulated in the policy. As the DHS reported, there were employees who had had to pay due to negligent expenditure of state assets.
Nelson Mandela Bay
She confirmed that the R390 million that had not been transferred to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and National Treasury had been requested to allow a rollover by the end of the financial year. The DHS was aware that the Treasury essentially invoked Section 18.104.22.168 of the Constitution, whereby if the metro did not comply with any provisions of the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), they could withhold the transfer of funds to the particular metro. The rollover requested at the end of the financial year was in progress, and thus awaited approval or non-approval after the Minister of Finance had dealt with the revised budget.
Vacancies within the DHS
Mr Chainee responded on the issue of vacancies. Posts had been advertised, though the DHS could not fill them. It was having discussions with the unions about the manner in which they would conduct interviews through the virtual platforms. There was a substantial amount of vacancies, particularly in the technical, knowledge management and policy areas.
Informal settlement upgrading
The pace of informal settlement upgrading remained an issue, along with the inability of municipalities and provinces to address the situation. The DHS had set up a dedicated grant for the financial year in question. The pace and manner in which informal settlements were being upgraded, including the provision of water, sanitation, health etc. was insufficient.
Contractors and designated targets
It was important not only for municipalities and provinces to meet targets, but to exceed them beyond the minimum 30%. This extended beyond contractors, and included the supply chain as well as the professionals.
Employment of physically challenged persons
The questions about the employment of physically challenged persons raised additional issues about whether, for example, persons with a disability were able to apply for jobs or make themselves available – particularly in marginalised communities. This was one of the indicated issues that needed to be addressed as a collective.
Mining companies and surrounding communities
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (2002) included issues on housing for mineworkers and their families, as well as where this was temporary.
When tenders were awarded, 30% was required to go to community-based contractors. In the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) area in particular, disgruntled groups had been disrupting sites, resulting in delays and the inability to use the budget.
Human Settlements Bank Bill
The draft of this Bill had been completed. A specific time period would need to be communicated. The fourth quarter had initially been the intended time frame, though this had become difficult because of COVID-19.
Ms Mohlala referred to the NRRTT, and asked if formal communication could be provided on this, as it was very important to know why the one part was disbanded and the other not. She asked about the amount of litigation against the DHS in the 2019 financial year. With regard to gratuities to staff members, she found the policy to be strange, and suggested Members should peruse the policy so that it could be investigated.
Ms Tseke requested a response to the question about the delayed grant for Mangosuthu University and the scholarship. As at 31 March, there was no grant allocated to the university, and only 24% of the grant was utilised.
Ms Mokgotho said she had not received a response to her question about the reasons for the increased spending on goods and services in Programme One, and the need for funds of R6.6 million for the National Urban Settlement Programme (NUSP) during the third quarter. Based on third quarter expenditure, what were the reasons leading the DHS and SITA to delay concluding service level agreements, which had contributed to lower expenditure in Programme Three?
The Acting Chairperson reiterated the points he had raised -- a programmatic approach to resolutions was required for the implementation of issues/solutions highlighted by Members, instead of just verbal responses. He suggested that the report should not simply be noted, as this would circumvent accountability, rather that it resolved to implement the recommendations made.
Mangosuthu University and scholarship Issues
Ms Sindisiwe Ngxongo, Acting DDG: Corporate Services, DHS, said that the agreement between DHS and Mangosuthu University had been delayed by 12 months. The delay in transferring the remaining balance of R3.5 million, as per the contract, stemmed from the DHS waiting for the Mangosuthu School of Technology to provide them with delivery of the research that they were contracted to do. Value for money was important before the last payment could be released. This would be the last stretch in the working relationship, and a consultative process was being followed. The scholarship programme was on a declining slide base, due to the fact that there were new developments -- for example the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the response of government to the ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement. In order to avoid ‘double-dipping’ students, the DHS had stopped taking new entries for the scholarship to reduce the number of students being funded.
Mr Leshabane concluded by accepting the guidance given by Members. He confirmed that the request for written replies would be made as a follow-up in respect of the NRRTT, and the copy of the gazette regarding gratuity payments to departing ministers.
The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) had administered a number of transversal systems. In this case, they were supporting part of the Department’s information communication technology (ICT) support infrastructure. Therefore, these contracts that had to be concluded with the SITA were negotiated every time they approached expiry. In this case, while the DHS was clear about what they required of the SITA, the SITA had to run their own internal processes that the DHS had no control over. Therefore, by the time the SITA finalised that process, in many instances it was way out of time for what the Department had planned. This matter had been taken up with SITA and its parent department to ensure that in future, there were no delays in concluding contracts, because this led to money not being spent in time, as evidenced in theDHS. There were knock on issues -- for example, invoices arriving very late-- which he was aware of. However, he was very alert to the fact that SITA’s parent department was taking an overall review of their efficacy.
He concluded by confirming that responses at the meeting would be supplemented with follow-up written responses in certain instances.
The Chairperson said that the report would be re-tabled at a later stage to be adopted.
Adoption of minutes
Committee Minutes dated 18 February 2020
The Chairperson took the Members through the minutes of the meeting of 18 February 2020.
Mr August raised a point, referring to a trend of bombarding questions after presentations. He understood that everyone was a politician, but was concerned about a lack or loss of respect between Members, as trying to “shout louder than the other” had become a common occurrence. He requested the Chairperson look at how questions could be asked in a particular order -- chronological or per party. It was important that, across the various political parties, all Members were given the opportunity to pose their questions. It was not in everyone’s nature to shout at meetings. He personally chose not to shout at meetings, opting rather to be disciplined and wait his turn to speak. He concluded by pleading that the Chairperson evaluate how Members conducted themselves in the meetings.
Ms Mohlala responded to the proposal made by Mr August. She gave an assurance that there were not personal issues between each other -- they simply wanted to raise issues and be provided an opportunity to speak. She suggested that there was a lack of proper leadership in meetings, though the meeting at hand was commended for having run very smoothly. She then added that Mr August did not attend meetings.
Mr August interjected to say he had a problem with that statement. He had attended 10 of 11 meetings in the previous month.
Ms Mohlala said that if everyone was allowed time to speak, she did not foresee any problems.
The Chairperson said that they would look into the matter in order to improve, and asked Members to return to the minutes at hand.
Mr August took up the opportunity to respond, as previously indicated by the Chairperson. He reminded Members that he had never mentioned any Member’s name, but had spoken generally. The disruption of Members as they raised points should be addressed, as this was not an opportunity to score political points. However, “if the shoe fits, put it on.”
Ms Mohlala said that Mr August was out of order, and asked whether he had been attending meetings.
The Chairperson pleaded with Members to return to the meeting agenda, introducing page one of the minutes of 18 February.
On page one, Ms Tseke laid a complaint on behalf of Mr M Mabika (DA), that he was often referred to by his surname or initials, but without ‘Honourable Member,’ as was done for other Members. She requested that this be rectified.
Adoption of the minutes was moved by Ms Tseke and seconded by Ms Mvana.
The minutes of 18 February 2020 were adopted with amendments.
Committee minutes dated 7 May 2020
Ms Tseke requested a correction to the detailing of the chair of Social Housing Regulating Authority on page two.
Adoption of the minutes was moved by Ms Tseke and seconded by Mr August.
The minutes dated 7 May 2020 were adopted with amendments.
Committee Minutes dated 11 May 2020
At point 3.2, in the third paragraph, Mr Tseki queried the point made, asking who had made the statement on ‘issues raised on transformation’ – “with regards to social impact there were issues of racism…”
Ms Powell clarified this, adding that the matter was most certainly addressed by the chairperson of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) when addressing the anti-transformation of the property sector to date, though the word ‘racism’ could be replaced to something “softer” if deemed necessary.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Powell, adding that when the minutes were written they were a record of the language used in the meeting that had been translated for better written language.
Mr Tseki proposed that, without changing the minutes, an inquiry be made into resolving the issues by requesting a report for the Committee to respond to this. The Portfolio Committee could become indirectly responsible for reported instances of racism if they did not follow up. She suggested the Chairperson should follow up with the secretary to find out how the matter of racism in the property sector could be resolved, without changing the minutes.
The Chairperson clarified that the report of the budget had been adopted, which was where the minutes were, noting the described discussion.
Ms Mohlala asserted that the minutes were a true reflection of what had happened in the meeting. It was important that the truth of what had happened was reflected in the minutes, so that Members could be held accountable even if the language was not correct.
Mr Mashego commented that there was a difference between written and spoken language. The minutes were written with training for the written language, and not the spoken language. Minute writers knew they were trained for written, and not spoken, language.
The Chairperson disagreed with Ms Mohlala, and stressed that the correction should be made.
Adoption of the minutes was moved by Mr Mashego and seconded by Ms Sihlwayi.
The minutes of 11 May 2020 were adopted with amendments.
Committee minutes dated 20 May 2020
Ms Mvana moved for the adoption of the minutes and this was seconded by Ms Tseke.
The minutes of 20 May 2020 were adopted.
Ms Powell asked for a summary of all meetings to come, particularly to avoid a fallout that had previously happened. Could a commitment be made to this by the Chairperson? A comment had been made that the meeting had stated that entities would be presenting, which had not happened, which meant that this would still need to happen. Finally, could communication be provided about the meeting with the Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA)?
The Chairperson responded by confirming that the following meeting would be last one before Parliament was rising. The meeting with CoGTA would occur when CoGTA was ready -- they were still meeting with the Select Committee before this. If a slot was not found to meet with CoGTA, this would occur in the new term, to discuss tariff challenges.
Mr Basson was concerned, and requested an assurance that the Minister would not accept or approve the tariffs while Members had requested this be brought back to the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Mohlala returned to the matter of the previous minutes, asking for issues not to be brushed aside.
The Chairperson disagreed, clarifying that no-one wanted to change the minutes. However, they had a responsibility for recording the meeting and what was said therein.
The meeting was adjourned.
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