The Portfolio Committee met virtually to receive a briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training on its performances for 2019/20 second to fourth quarters and 2020/21 first quarter.
The presentation highlighted the Department's focus areas during the 2019/20 financial year as the following: the filling of vacancies, resolving disciplinary cases, timeous payment of invoices from creditors and the achievement of a clean audit opinion from the Auditor-General. The following targets were not achieved: number of graduates in Human Health and Animal Health from universities, percentage of success rates at universities, number of universities offering accredited Technical Vocational Education and Training College (TVET) qualifications, number of students in foundation programmes, the number of headcount enrolments in TVET colleges that are state funded, number of qualifying TVET students obtaining the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) financial assistance per annum, percentage of TVET throughput rate and percentage of TVET lecturers undergoing specified hours of work in their industry for specified periods. TVET colleges are still underspending due to extensive tender processes required through supply chain management processes. The low number of headcount enrolments is due to under-funding. Lecturers must be exposed to real work situations so that what is being taught is relevant to what the industry requires. The challenge is in respect to rural campuses and colleges. On Community Education and Training (CET), 62% of lecturers are qualified but placement remains a challenge. In the 2020/21 first quarter, most of the targets will be reported at the end of the financial year but progress reports will be made available on a quarterly basis.
The Department's main appropriation for the 2019/20 financial year amounted to R108.3 billion. At the end of the second quarter, R72.312 billion was spent. The expenditure for the third quarter is based on the adjusted estimates allocation as tabled by the Minister of Finance during October 2019. The allocation was reduced to R107.616 billion. The total expenditure for the fourth quarter amounts to R107.096 billion representing a spending rate of 99.79%. The underspending on voted funds includes the following: unfilled vacancies and outstanding claims for Community Education and Training lecturers, unclaimed project management fees for the Student Housing Infrastructure Project, outstanding travel and subsistence claims of examiners and moderators and goods and services as well as equipment not yet ordered, delivered or outstanding invoices. The 2020/21 first quarter report is based on the original allocation as tabled by the Minister of Finance during February 2020. It amounts to R116.9 billion. The first quarter expenditure amounts to R43.112 billion representing 36.9% of the allocation. University Education remained the biggest spending programme. Transfer payments and compensation of employees remained the biggest spending items on the budget.
The Department highlighted the impact of the adjusted budget allocations on the Department's delivery programmes. In the University System, the required feasibility study to determine the nature, scope and location of the two new universities will now be undertaken in the 2021/22 financial year. In the TVET College System, the main impact of the budget cut will be on the 2021 new student intake because the funding has been reprioritised for Covid-19 related expenditure. In the Skills Development System, the Covid-19 tax relief measures will negatively impact on learning programmes such as apprenticeships and internships. As a result, the number of learners placed in workplace-based learning and artisanal programmes have been reduced. In the Community Education and Training system, the number of lecturers trained will be reduced by 50%. Quarterly progress reports on the interventions to mitigate against Covid-19 will be produced and submitted to the Committee. The focus of the strategic plan for the next five years has not changed however because there is a move into a zero-based budgeting process, the strategic plan had to be reviewed to ensure the current commitments are adequately funded. Some targets were adjusted to ensure the Department is able to deliver on its commitments for the next five years.
Members raised concern about the way TVET and CET programmes are treated and neglected in comparison to other institutions. Members expressed concern that this issue has already been raised in the past and it hasn’t been addressed to ensure there is harmony and equality in the sector. Members also raised concern on the certification backlog and asked for more detail on the number of outstanding certificates, whether there is a projected commitment going forward and how the suspension of computer services for data lines and software for TVET examination systems will impact the status of the backlog. Members also asked whether there was a funding model for developing a gender-based violence policy, what measures have been put in place for online learning capabilities, whether the new constructed campuses will be operational this year and whether the Department incurred irregular expenditure for the 2020/21 first quarter. Members asked for more detail on the timeframes of the rescheduled trade tests, what drives the cost of establishing new universities and the progress on filling senior management positions at TVET colleges. Members also asked for progress on the filling of the Deputy Director-General posts of the TVET and CET programmes. Other concerns raised were the following: outstanding invoices for goods and services, revising the NSFAS allowance model and the under-spending in the CET programme. Members asked why certain targets were shifted to the next financial year when there was still sufficient time to meet them and for a better explanation on why there was under-expenditure in infrastructure at TVET colleges. Members sent their condolences to the family of Asithandile 'Kwasa' Zozo who was killed by her boyfriend this week.
It was agreed that the Department will provide the Committee with a report on the cost drivers and what it takes to establish a university.
The Chairperson opened the meeting and welcomed everyone in attendance. He indicated that the Committee will receive briefings from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on its quarterly reports and revised Annual Performance Plan (APP). The Department will present all of its reports and then members will engage with all of them at once. There should be sufficient time to do so.
The Chairperson asked if there was a quorum to proceed.
Mr Anele Kabingesi, Committee Secretary, replied in the affirmative.
The Chairperson asked if there are any apologies.
Mr Kabingesi replied the Committee received apologies from the Minister, Deputy Minister and Ms B Bozzoli (DA).
The Chairperson asked for the reasons for the apologies.
Mr Kabingesi replied Ms Bozzoli is hospitalized, the Deputy Minister is attending another meeting and the Minister is attending a Cabinet meeting.
The Chairperson wished Ms Bozzoli a speedy recovery.
Mr W Boshoff (FF+) said there is load shedding scheduled to take place and he might disappear from the meeting as a result of this.
The Chairperson said load shedding is affecting everyone and constitutes a real risk to the meeting. He hoped the presenters and Committee members won't be affected by it and asked the Director-General to begin the presentation.
Briefing by the Department on its quarterly reports
Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde, Director-General, DHET, said the Department will present on the financial and non-financial performance of its 2019/20 second to fourth quarter and 2020/21 first quarter.
During the 2019/20 financial year, its focus areas included the filling of vacancies, resolving disciplinary cases, timeous payment of invoices from creditors and the achievement of a clean audit opinion from the Auditor-General. There are also a number of areas where it exercised oversight monitoring on the Post School Education and Training System (PSET) as a whole. This included, amongst others, teaching and learning, institutional governance, financial health of universities and research outputs of universities. The 60 annual targets are within the control of the Department and its machinery. The 29 system targets are located within the Department's institutions and entities. In programme three, University Education, 20 out of 21 targets were achieved. A plan was developed to pilot the Central Application System (CAS) and this will contribute to the management of applications and registrations of students. The oversight report on the University of Fort Hare (UFH) had a disclaimer because there are challenges in the management processes and procedures that require accountability at a management and governance level. The previous management had to work very hard to correct the system. A lot of clean up was executed but this is not in the full view of the public news.
Mr Qonde said the following targets were not achieved: number of graduates in Human Health and Animal Health from universities, percentage of success rates at universities, number of universities offering accredited Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college qualifications and the number of students in foundation programmes. The lower success rate can be explained by the protests that take place at the beginning of the year and at interruptive intervals during the course of the academic year. All stakeholders must value the idea of not disrupting the academic activities of the institution because it comes at a cost for the students and results in a waste of resources. TVET colleges are still underspending due to extensive tender processes required through supply chain management processes. The following targets were not achieved: the number of headcount enrolments in TVET colleges that are state funded, number of qualifying TVET students obtaining the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) financial assistance per annum, number of TVET students enrolled in foundation programmes, percentage of TVET throughput rate and percentage of TVET lecturers undergoing specified hours of work in their industry for specified periods. The low number of headcount enrolments is due to under-funding.
Mr Qonde said the funding is split into 80 and 20, where 80 refers to the subsidies and 20 refers to the fees that are charged to individual students. The subsidies funding only constituted 54 instead of 80. The Department took the decision to stabilize enrollment so that colleges become effective and efficient over time. Quite a number of students are not keen to enroll in foundation phase programmes. Lecturers must be exposed to real work situations so that what is being taught is informed and relevant to what the industry requires. This is something that was never considered in the practice of TVET colleges before but it is now being enforced that there must be arrangements with industries. The challenge is in respect to rural campuses and colleges. The Department is encouraging municipalities and provincial governments to come to the party and to open up spaces for these lecturers. On Community Education and Training (CET), 62% of lecturers are qualified but placement remains a challenge. In the 2020/21 first quarter, most of the targets will be reported at the end of the financial year but progress reports will be made available on a quarterly basis. There were 5 targets due for completion of which 3 were not achieved. No trade testing was administered at Indlela during the lockdown period.
The Chairperson asked where the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is.
Mr Qonde replied that he is on leave.
Ms Amelia Poolman, Director: Financial Management, DHET, said the Department's main appropriation for the 2019/20 financial year amounted to R108.3 billion. At the end of the second quarter, R72.312 billion was spent. The expenditure for the third quarter is based on the adjusted estimates allocation as tabled by the Minister of Finance during October 2019. The allocation was reduced to R107.616 billion. The total expenditure for the fourth quarter amounts to R107.096 billion representing a spending rate of 99.79%. The underspending on voted funds includes the following: unfilled vacancies and outstanding claims for CET lecturers, unclaimed project management fees for the Student Housing Infrastructure Project, outstanding travel and subsistence claims of examiners and moderators and goods and services as well as equipment not yet ordered, delivered or outstanding invoices. The 2020/21 first quarter report is based on the original allocation as tabled by the Minister of Finance during February 2020. It amounts to R116.9 billion. The first quarter expenditure amounts to R43.112 billion representing 36.9% of the allocation. University Education remained the biggest spending programme. Transfer payments and compensation of employees remained the biggest spending items on the budget.
Briefing by the Department on its revised 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan
Mr Reineth Mgiba, Director: Strategic Planning, DHET, said the Department had to analyse the impact of the adjusted budget allocations on its delivery programmes. As a result of this process, it concluded that most of the targets should not be adjusted and if there was a need to adjust, completion dates would be shifted to a later date in the financial year. In the University System, the required feasibility study to determine the nature, scope and location of the two new universities will now be undertaken in the 2021/22 financial year. In the TVET College System, the main impact of the budget cut will be on the 2021 new student intake because the funding has been reprioritised for Covid-19 related expenditure. In the Skills Development System, the Covid-19 tax relief measures will negatively impact on learning programmes such as apprenticeships, learnerships and internships. As a result, the number of learners placed in workplace-based learning and artisanal programmes have been reduced. In the CET system, the number of CET lecturers trained will be reduced by 50%. The revised APP also includes an addendum on all interventions to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19. Quarterly progress reports on these interventions will be produced and submitted to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) as well as the Committee. The focus of the strategic plan for the next five years has not changed however because there is a move into a zero-based budgeting process, the strategic plan had to be reviewed to ensure the current commitments are adequately funded. Some targets were adjusted to ensure the Department is able to deliver on its commitments for the next five years.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for its presentations and asked members to raise questions.
Mr W Boshoff (FF+) said it's clear from the previous year's report that the Department runs a good balance between budget and expenses with some deviations here and there. There are of course instances where the performance is not exactly what the Committee wants it to be, especially in the CET programme which seems to be finding it hard to get out of the running blocks. On the next 5-year period, the Department is going to have to compromise on one or more of the terrains. It will either have to train and educate less people in the PSET sector or it will have to do it less thoroughly by spending less money on it or it is going to have to leave out some more expensive programmes. With the projected 80% negative growth this year, the 2.5% growth the following year, there is a contraction of 5% and the Department will not get the money it received in the previous years. It has just about spent all of the money. It will have to look very closely at another funding model otherwise it's going to slide back.
Mr Boshoff said he would like to make a presentation later on with more detail on this because he has worked quite a bit on it. If there is a move away from the free funding and a student registered with NSFAS funds gets a tax number and is registered as a tax payer, at the moment the student follows the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system then at the lower end of the payment scale, the student may pay back the capital. When the student goes beyond a certain border or margin, he may start paying a soft interest rate and thereafter a market-related interest rate. This will make sure the Department also gets back the money it spends on PSET because otherwise it is not going to make it.
Ms J Mananiso (ANC) said she is very worried about the Department's explanation that TVET colleges are underspending due to extensive tender processes through supply chain management. She was concerned about how this statement has been written. Members know that a supply chain management process is to mitigate against any fraudulent activities and other illegal processes. The Department needs to change this statement or provide members with better reasoning. On the failure to finalise the CET Act regulations for approval by the Minister, what advice did the State Law Advisors provide to the Minister? On the appointment of a service provider to develop a sustainable funding model for CET centres, the original target was for the appointment to be made by 31 March 2021. The target was replaced by the terms of reference and the original target deferred to the next financial year. It does not take the whole financial year to develop the terms of reference. Why was the original target not retained? There is still sufficient time to appoint this service provider. On the revised APP for the University System, the presentation only reports the shift of one target, the feasibility study to determine the nature and scope of the new institutions. The presentation doesn't report on other targets that were shifted to the next financial year, for example the Draft Regulatory Framework for university fees, number of scholarships or internships allocated to universities, number of doctoral scholarships and the draft revised regulations for public universities. What is the reason for shifting it to the next financial year? The Committee already noted that CET and TVET are not being treated fairly by the Department. Members have emphasized the issue of promoting CET and TVET as institutions of higher learning of choice. On gender-based violence (GBV), is there any budget or funding model for a GBV strategy?
Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC) said she was concerned when there were only two hands raised by members at the beginning of this round of engagements. The previous day, the Committee was also very quiet and its usually known for being a robust and engaging one. She agreed with Ms Mananiso and expressed concern about closing the gap between the various programmes in the sector, particularly because the Committee has already emphasized the importance of ensuring harmony and equality in the sector. When looking at the reprioritisation and budget adjustments, the programme on universities is not as impacted as the TVET and CET programmes. This is very concerning. She noted the passing of Asithandile 'Kwasa' Zozo, a 19-year old Wits student who was killed by her boyfriend this week. She emphasized the importance of fast-tracking the development on the GBV policy framework. What is the funding model, the plan and how far are you with that? On the filling of senior management positions, have you been able to commence recruitment processes? How far are you with that? On the disruptions by students through protest action and how they are a hindrance to meeting certain targets, one of them was only missed by 1%. That speaks to the sector and ensuring that at the beginning of each and every academic year there isn’t unrest in institutions.
The Chairperson sent his condolences to the family of the student who passed on.
Mr S Ngcobo (IFP) agreed with Ms Mkhatshwa and said the presentations received the previous day were very depressing. Although the Committee is dealing with other matters today it's still an important issue to raise. Sometimes the Department has a tendency of putting problems on the table when they should have been solved and are not being solved. A simple report on the problems is just being provided to members. It's not only important for the Committee to hear about problems but also to hear about the progress on those problems. On the certification backlog, the presentation indicates a targeted time period of 3 months for a certain number of certificates to be issued. This did not happen. It's even worse because the presentation does not indicate by how much the Department failed to reach the target and worse again, it does not provide a projected commitment going forward. It's very worrying the way TVET programmes are being treated and neglected in comparison to other institutions because it has already been noted by the Committee in the past. Members have spoken about it and it has not been addressed. It does not look like it will be addressed very soon when looking at the huge discrepancy.
Mr B Nodada (DA) noted Covid-19 and asked what measures have been put in place for online learning capabilities, especially for TVET programmes. Are all students able to access resources and do they all have connectivity? The Department might need to have a look at the NSFAS allowance model. It needs to be revised so that allowances are standardized. The Department needs to look at the book allowance in relation to the procurement of laptops. Can the Department assess the possibility of this? At least R1 billion has been taken away from the universities and TVET infrastructure sufficiency grant which was allocated for the construction of new campus sites. What plans are in place to recover these funds to complete the intended projects? Are these campuses going to be functional this year? On the certification backlog, can you provide members with the status of the backlog in terms of day zero? There are three entities that are supposed to be working on a particular system but how will the suspension of computer services for data lines and software for TVET examination systems impact the progress of the backlog? The outstanding invoices for various goods and services remains a concern. How will the process of these invoices be settled? What are the implications of carrying over outstanding invoices into the new financial year? On the reasons for underspending, does it relate to the outstanding invoices and not filling vacancies? What is the reason for underspending in particular programmes? The first APP had five targets planned for the first quarter and the revised APP has three targets planned for the first quarter. In one of the programmes, the reporting on the targets have been shifted to the second quarter in the revised APP. What are the reasons for that? Since no trade tests were conducted during the lockdown, the Department indicated it will reschedule the candidates that were supposed to be tested. What are the timeframes for which these tests will be rescheduled?
Mr W Letsie (ANC) sent his condolences to the family of the departed student. On the filling of vacancies, what is the progress in filling the TVET and CET Deputy Director-General (DDG) posts? What is the progress made in filling senior management vacancies at TVET colleges? The Committee had a meeting with three TVET colleges and almost everyone at senior management level was in an Acting position. When members asked why this was so, it was explained that the Department is the one that advertises and fills these positions. What is the progress in terms of filling these senior management positions at TVET colleges? He disagreed with the reasoning provided that the underspending of TVET colleges is because of the stringent measures of supply chain management. This can not be the reason there is underspending of the infrastructure grant. That’s not the correct way of putting it because it suggests that supply chain management must be relaxed a little bit in order to spend the grants. It should clearly indicate that the problem is because people are not capacitated enough, if that is the case. Has the Department incurred irregular expenditure in the 2020/21 first quarter? If so, then how much, what contributed to the irregular expenditure and were investigations conducted to identify those responsible for the transgressions? Was consequence management implemented? The presentation indicates that R79 million was budgeted for strategy. Can you give us full details on what exactly happens when you have a strategic session? Even if it were for the whole year or the whole sector, can it really get to R79 million? Does it include budgeting for strategic sessions of universities and all TVET colleges?
The Chairperson said the Committee has been very concerned for some time now about day zero in terms of the certification backlog. The Department as well as Umalusi and the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) have been tasked to work on this matter to ensure there aren’t outstanding certificates for students who have gone through TVET. Can members be provided with a more succinct explanation on this matter? On the feasibility study for the establishment of the two new universities, what kind of work is being done and has there been an appointment of a professional team? On the two universities that have been constructed, there is more construction work taking place. Can members get a full picture of the cost of establishing these universities and what is driving the expenditure? Members would like a sense of what drives the cost and what it takes to establish new universities. This will help in the planning going forward because the rate at which the economy is demanding skills, the Department should be able to establish more universities. Can a separate report on the two universities and the estimates be provided to members? On the reasons provided for under-expenditure, the Department spent about 99% of its budget over the last financial year and part of the R200 million that was not spent relates to CET and the filling of lecturers. Can the Department expand on that? The CET programme is the least funded of all the departmental programmes. It's a cause for concern that there is little money allocated to it and even that money is not being spent. When the orientation sessions are scheduled, the biggest outcry is the acute underfunding of this branch. Can an explanation be provided on this concern? The Committee welcomes the presentation and the work done by the Department because spending 99% of the budget is a remarkable achievement. It shows that work has been done.
Mr Qonde replied that members have raised the issue of gaps within the PSET system and the nature of funding. In an earlier meeting with the Committee, the Department indicated that 82% of its budget is spent on the university sector alone. The voted funds are meant for the entire system, excluding SETA's. The university education branch receives R74 billion, TVET colleges receive R12 billion and CET's receive R2 billion. The NSFAS receives R38 billion, out of which R31 billion goes to universities and R7 billion goes to TVET colleges. CET's receive nothing. The Department can't take money away from the universities in order to beef up TVET and CET. More money is needed to inject into them but that money from the national fiscus is not available. The disparity of funding is because there is no money allocated to them. The distribution of funds consists of voted funds and it's what the Department receives for the system as a whole. The Department is making arguments to the National Treasury (NT) and to Parliament for the appropriation of funds.
Ms Dianne Parker, Deputy Director-General: University Education, DHET, replied that the Department has not taken away targets but has changed their time-frame due to Covid-19. For example, on the feasibility study of new institutions, the Department has not been able to start on the ground because of the lockdown. The Minister has appointed a programme manager for the projects. There is also a plan in place to determine what has to be done. This plan draws on the Department's experience of what it takes to build universities based on what was done for the Sol Plaatjie University and University of Mpumalanga. The process of the appointment of a project management team will start going forward. The reason for the delay is because it was not possible to get it off the ground in the last few months. The Department is looking at completing the feasibility study in this financial year. The study identifies the location, if infrastructure is already available and what the costs would be for infrastructure development. Infrastructure is not the only cost driver, but it is the biggest one. Based on the experience from the other universities, it will take around 15 years to complete. We are now in the sixth year. It costs around R10 to R15 billion for each institution. The cost drivers also include operational funds and the appointment of staff. A full report on what has been done so far can be provided to members. The Draft Regulatory Framework for university fees had to be delayed because of Covid-19. There was uncertainty around funding and the cuts that had to be implemented this year. It was impossible to publish a framework that could be implemented immediately. It has been moved out a year, like other policy work, because it requires consultation. The Department can not promise to do it within this current financial year because there has been a change of focus to deal with Covid-19. On the GBV policy, it has been published and can now can be implemented. The policy framework will demand reports from institutions on an ongoing basis and enable the Department to assist in ensuring the issues are dealt with. The GBV Ministerial task team in universities is also doing its work. It's been looking at all of the policies that different institutions have. The new gazetted policy will inform the way in which universities change their current policy. On online learning and data, the Department has information from universities. This information can be provided to members. It indicates that around 98% of students and staff have access to data across the system. On devices, almost 100% of students across 13 institutions who require devices have got them. The Department is still in the process of procuring laptops for NSFAS students. On infrastructure planning and funding, the budget cut on the University System has not affected the implementation of plans. The Department can't recover those funds. The institutions will get the funds in the following year from the infrastructure grant. This will mean that there will be less funding for the next infrastructure cycle.
The Chairperson asked how much money was allocated in the current financial year for the feasibility study and how much of it has been spent so far.
Ms Parker replied that the cost of the feasibility study is R5.4 million.
The Chairperson asked if it has been budgeted for the current financial year.
Ms Parker replied in the affirmative.
Ms Aruna Singh, Acting Deputy Director-General: TVET Colleges, DHET, replied that the draft revised norms were completed and had to be submitted to the NT for inputs. The NT only responded after the Department's financial year deadline. In the meantime, the inputs have been incorporated and must be sent back to the NT. If the NT is happy with it, it will be provided to the Minister of Finance for concurrence. On the CET Act regulations, the advice received from the State Law Advisors was that the Minister is not allowed to develop regulations. It was suggested that determinations be developed in place of regulations. It's disappointing because determinations only provide guidance whereas regulations are compulsory and can be monitored and reported on in a more definite way. On the slow expenditure of infrastructure, it's not only about going out to tender and getting the contractors to do the work. There is a lot of capacity and expertise that is needed upfront before the tender documents can even be prepared. This is not for new infrastructure but for existing infrastructure that requires repair and maintenance. There is no funding for brand new infrastructure at the moment. The grant is being used to bring all the current infrastructure up to the requisite standard before building new infrastructure. The repair and maintenance work will happen across four or five campuses at a time. The quantum of work has to be scoped and the full costing has to be done before colleges can go out to do the contracting. In the absence of expertise, the Department has made provision for colleges to appoint project managers to do this. There is a lot of preliminary work that has to be done before the actual expenditure happens. The Department reports on expenditure after everything has been done and payment has been effected. The Department is confident with the plans of the colleges that expenditure is going to grow very rapidly.
Ms Singh replied that the Department did not take into account the breaks, holidays and weekends within the 3-month period for the certification target. In the new plans, the indicator reflects how many working days it will take for the certificates to be generated. This will provide a more accurate way of tracking the time. Monthly reports on the certification backlog by SETA and confirmed by the Department and Umalusi are provided to the Committee. The reports go through the Director-General's office to the Committee Secretary. Day zero has been shifted to March 2021. SETA is working towards December 2020. From the onset of the lockdown period, no TVET students had laptops and data. Students returned in June and all engineering trimester students successfully wrote their exams in July. They have completed the exams and will return for the second trimester at the end of August. The semester students alternate between face-to-face classes and self-learning. These students will write their exams in September. There hasn’t been a reliance on online learning entirely but those students who do have access to zero-rated websites can use the available materials. On the laptop initiative, there are difficulties for students confined to the NSFAS. This will be the current initiative announced by the Minister moving forward. The Department will find a mechanism so that all students have access to laptops and data. On the TVET posts, many of them had to be advertised by the college itself, such as principal posts. The Department has given colleges the clearance and approval to advertise for these posts.
Mr Bheki Mahlobo, Acting Deputy Director-General: Community Education and Training, DHET, replied that the underspending in the CET programme can be explained by the 1039 lecturers who are paid on claims. They can't be employed because they are actually full-time employees of the Department of Basic Education. At the end of the financial year, it looks like there is a saving on the compensation budget but at that point the claims haven’t been processed yet. The claims submitted for examiners and moderators by the end of the financial year have also not been processed yet. It looks like savings on the actual goods and services and operational budget but it's actually on the compensation of employees' budget.
Ms Lulama Mbobo, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Services, DHET, replied that the Department had hoped the DDG posts would have been advertised by now but the delays are due to the lockdown. During level 4 and 5, advertisements could not be posted as directed by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) due to the difficulties the candidates would have encountered in submitting applications and for the Department to receive those applications. This coming Sunday, all three DDG positions will be in the Sunday Times newspaper as well as the DPSA vacancies section. The senior management positions and principal posts will also be advertised. The Department tried to use virtual connection to fill the principal posts but there were challenges from the unions who argued that it's not part of the policy to hold interviews virtually. The Department is trying to negotiate with the unions. The Department hopes to convene panels to complete what was not completed in the last quarter of the financial year.
The Chairperson asked if there are any responses on skills and planning.
Mr Qonde replied that none of the questions raised those issues. On GBV, the institutions are doing a lot in their own practices to put in place preventative measures and consequences for those who transgress the institutional policies. The Department had to emphasise and ask all institutions to put in place support systems and mechanisms for the victims to ensure that they are given adequate support beyond reporting the incident and disciplinary processes. The wellness programmes will also have to include medical and psycho-social support and it must be affordable for the victims. Institutions and colleges have responded well to this request. The matter is a societal one that requires all communities to address it. It's not a matter which is confined within the schooling system or its institutions. It's out there in the communities and must be attacked from all angles. On irregular expenditure, nothing has been reported yet but the Department is monitoring compliance and ensuring there is effective use of state resources at all times.
The Chairperson said the Department spent 99% of its overall budget and this represents a good expenditure trend. At the beginning of the financial year, there are motivations submitted on priorities and funds required for it. Very often funds are allocated and not spent but the Department is doing well and must keep up the good work. It's concerning that the levies have been reduced substantially as a result of the lockdown and the measures introduced by government to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Its already having an impact on SETA's in particular. One of the SETA's pleaded for allocating additional resources because they were faced with having to introduce measures to cap the expenditure. They were looking at the possibility of retrenchments. SETA's are really struggling from the results of lockdown. They were not able to certify foreign qualifications which they receive a lot of income from. It's not only the levies but also the cutting of funds to the Department which resulted in the dire situation of SETA's. Many other sectors in the country are also struggling as a result of the lockdown. The R5 million allocated for the feasibility study is concerning. Is it sufficient? The President announced the construction of a new university but it's receiving very little allocation. Members thought there would be a big budget for it. There have also been delays in appointing the project team and project leader. This makes one wonder to what extent it's being prioritised. Since the President's announcement, there has only been the appointment of a project leader. The work has not even started and there is too much excitement out there about this new university. The Department must pull up its socks. Members are looking forward to receiving the report on the cost drivers and what it takes to establish a university. It will help with future planning. The question of remote learning won't be dealt with now because the Committee has postponed the briefing on saving the 2020 academic year. Members expected the Department to deal briefly with the finalisation of the acquisition of gadgets necessary to facilitate remote learning. NSFAS handles it but the delays in finalising this matter is very worrying. The Committee was given a very clear commitment in the last meeting that by mid-August the procurement will be done and the rolling out of gadgets will happen by 1 September. By this date, all students will have received their gadgets. That was a commitment made by the Department and there has not been any announcement on it. It's very worrying and a matter that must be followed up so that the Department puts into practice the commitments it has made. Since the Minister made the announcement, nothing has been happening and the commitments given to members are not being fulfilled. This matter must be attended to sooner rather than later so that students can receive their gadgets.
Ms Mananiso asked if there is a possibility to amend the CET Act to ensure that the Department develops the regulations.
Mr Qonde replied that the change of legislation is determined in relation to what objective the change intends to achieve. Amendments can be done but one must be clear about the intended purpose for the amendment. The Department is happy to engage with the member after the meeting to find out what specific areas she thinks requires an amendment.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting. The Committee will engage with SETA's next week. There will be an engagement with the construction SETA in the next term.
The meeting was adjourned.
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