Independent Development Trust role during Covid-19 lockdown; with Deputy Minister

Public Works and Infrastructure

26 August 2020
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure presented on the role of the Independent Development Trust (IDT) during the lockdown period in the social sector of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
 
The Deputy Minister, addressing the meeting via a virtual platform, reminded the Committee that the EPWP was a means of mitigating poverty and unemployment. The programme was not a job creation scheme, but a poverty alleviation measure that acted as an initial stepping stone for the poor households to improve their lives.

The Health Department, through the IDT, had contracted qualifying non-profit organisations (NPOs), who met its criteria on the central supplier database, to appoint 25 000 people to participate in the Department’s EPWP Covid-19 response measures. The IDT was the prime social infrastructure agency responsible for providing project management and a social facilitation service across the country. They had contracted 189 NPOs in all nine provinces and the district municipalities to participate in the EPWP Covid-19 response, and 149 had commenced with the work. A total of 19 794 participants had been contracted by 31 July, and were currently deployed to various sites.

 
The Department said the participants were paid a daily wage rate of R101 per person, guided the by the EPWP determination of the Minister of Labour. The IDT’s function was to ensure payment to the NPOs. Many of the Committee Members expressed concern as to why the participants were not receiving the national minimum wage.


The DPWI said challenges encountered included a delay in payments due to the late submission by NPOs of the required documents, such as attendance registers, contracts, copies of identity documents, and the risk of Covid-19 infection. However, the Department had ensured that the EPWP participants were covered through the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
 
The Committee appreciated the value of the IDT in upskilling young people and alleviating poverty. However, it said the EPWP reporting systems and the other ICT systems of the Department needed to be updated speedily in order to capture, verify, monitor and evaluate all the information on its supplier database. It asked to be provided with a list of all the participating NPOs, with a breakdown of beneficiaries per province, region and municipality.
 

Meeting report

Opening Remarks

The Chairperson expressed her condolences, as one of their own Members, Adv Hishaam Mohamed passed away. She asked the Committee to observe a moment of silence. She also mentioned that the Deputy Minister, Ms Noxolo Kiviet, had also lost her mother, and extended the Committee’s condolences to her.

Deputy Minister Kiviet shared her condolences for the Members’ fallen colleague. She appreciated the warm messages she had received from colleagues and ordinary citizens. She said the EPWP was a means to mitigate the challenges that the country was facing, and to mitigate poverty. Covid had forced the Department to think on their feet, and as a Department they had to support the Department of Heath in ensuring that they contributed in any form of mitigation of the pandemic. They had agreed to assist the Department of Health by providing some EPWP workers, and had targeted about 25 000.

The Deputy Minster introduced the acting Director- General, Mr Imtiaz Fazel, and the acting Deputy Director-General responsible for the EPWP, Ms CJ Abrahams.

Role of Independent Development Trust

Mr Imtiaz Fazel, acting Director General (DG), said that the Department would present an updated report, given that this particular programme was in progress. They would present the role of the Independent Development Trust (IDT) with respect to the Covid-19 programme during lockdown.

Ms CJ Abrahams, Chief Director: Extended Public Works Programme, presented.

Discussion

Ms S Graham (DA) said she was confused by the presentation. How many days a month did the participants work?  Did the R31 million paid over to the non-profit organisations (NPOs) include a project management fee? The participants were paid R101 -- were the project managers paid out of the EPWP funding for managing the process? The report on the 9 744 participants referred to the period from 1 April to 30 June. According to the report the Committee just received, this programme started only on 1 June, so who were the people who worked from 1 April to 31 May? Were the normal non-state sector NPO EPWP projects still working and functioning, or was this the only EPWP project that the IDT was managing at this stage? The EPWP reporting system had been down for some time. She asked about the construction companies that had been unable to report on the EPWP.  Was the system still down, or was it up and running and able to work?

The report stated that it was a two-month contract, but she had submitted a question to the Minister on 3 July and received a response 31 July, and in his response the Minister said that the project would run for three months, so which was it?  The Minister had also said that of 189 NPOs, only 143 had commenced with Covid-19 work. 46 had delayed implementation due to various challenges, such as late or non-confirmation of deployment sites. How many NPOs had been working, and for how long? In addition, she said that 171 NPOs had received their PPE, including hand sanitisers, masks and gloves, but 18 were still awaiting theirs. Could the Department confirm if they had received their PPE?

On 28 May, the Committee had been due to receive a presentation by the IDT, but this presentation was stopped by the Minister because of the closing down of the IDT in this financial year. In that report there was a statement made that the IDT had charged the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) R11 million for the implementation of this project. That was on 28 May. The project had not actually started yet, because it looks like it started only on 1 June. On what basis was R11 million charged, and for what? According to the report, the bulk of the work had been done by the DPWI officials, and not by the IDT. Had that money been paid? If not all of it, how much?

Ms A Siwisa (EFF) said Ms Graham touched on some of the questions she wanted to ask. Legally, minimum wage was R3 500, and the EFF had made a plea that this should go up to R4 500. When she calculated the R101 per day, that amounted to R505 a week, which was about R2 000 a month, depending on the number of days that the beneficiary worked. Did the Department take into consideration that the R101 stood, irrespective of taking into consideration that the beneficiary was absent due to family responsibility or ill health? Why could the Department not move to R3 500, because some of the participants had to use that R101 for transportation, and some were the only breadwinners in their families? How was the payment made? Was it a manual payment, or was the payment deposited into the account of the beneficiaries? Was payment in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) a deduction from the beneficiaries, or was it an amount that was put aside by the IDT? Were the beneficiaries of the EPWP those who had already been captured, or were they new beneficiaries? Before the lockdown they already had beneficiaries, so was it capturing new beneficiaries with a new database that they were working on?

She requested clarity on the fact that 19 794 had been deployed, and only 9 744 had actually reported. What was the reason for those who did not report for duty? Why were they not reporting, yet they had been deployed to do it?

Ms S van Schalkwayk (ANC) said that surely there were memorandums of understanding with the NPOs, where specific guidelines had been stipulated, so she wanted to know whether there were measures in place to monitor if the NPOs were abiding by those regulations, especially in terms of the participants that they were employing. Were there some statistics as to how many dropouts were indeed registered, to also monitor that part? As not all of the 25 000 participants had been employed, there should be some funds that had been allocated but had not been used. What would happen to those funds when the project was done and all those funds had not been used? Regarding participants entitled to COIDA and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), it was clear that they were entitled to COIDA and it had been sorted out -- she just wanted clarity in terms of UIF, and whether it was also sorted. Were there any statistics available of possible infections of Covid among participants?

Mr M Tshwaku (EFF) requested a detailed report from the IDT or the DPWI on this project from the beginning to the end, with more meat and more details, in order for the Committee to make some determination of the project’s progress. He asked about the finding of the contracts of the NPOs, and who these NPOs were. Would it be possible to get a list of the NPO’s? Who were these NPO’s? Maybe at some point, they could do an oversight at one of the NPOs. He expressed concern that this project had been audited by the Auditor General (AG), but the Committee still had some questions. Their target had been 25 000 participants, and they had managed to recruit about 19 000. What was the reason for this?

Why were the EPWP participants not being paid the minimum wage? Was that not illegal? Why were they not paid the legal amount set by the government? Why were they not being paid R3 500? What were the terms of the contract between the IDT and the NPOs? Was it open ended, or would it be ending any time soon? What was the reason for the audit query from the AG? The capturing of the participants had been  very slow -- why was that? They were just volunteers in a NPO and had submitted some Excel spreadsheet. What criterion was used to select these NPOs? The Committee had been getting reports from the Westrand, where there were some Covid brigades that had not been paid for the past two months. The payment was not actually being effected by the NPOs. Could the Department look into that?

Mr E Mathebula (ANC) said it had been indicated that the contract that was envisaged for the participants would be for more or less three months. Had they looked at the fact that the issues of the pandemic were ongoing, and not thought that this would go beyond the three months that had been set? He commended the fact that the people who had been recruited into this programme were young people between the ages of 16 and 35. Unemployment was at 30.1%, and of this about 59% were young people. Although the recruitment and employment was for a short time, it did help in bringing down the number of young people who were unemployed. Over and above that, they also had to appreciate that this programme had brought skills to these young people. Once what they have been recruited for was over, they could still utilise these skills in some way. Once they had received their training, was there not something in the form of a certificate which would indicate that they had undergone the training, and would help them find employment?

He referred to the R101 per day that they were receiving, and asked how many hours the participants were working? How much were they paid per hour? Were these participants also working over weekends and holidays? If it so, were they being paid in terms of the Labour Relations Act, or in terms of the labour laws of South Africa? There was a target of 25 000, but only 19 794 had been recruited. He wanted to know whether there was a plan to meet the target. If there was money that was budgeted for these participants to be paid, it was his considered view that they should be recruited, as the 5 206 participants would help to bring down the number of young people who were unemployed.

Ms P Kopane (DA) observed that there were more questions than answers when listening what was being presented to them. Although they had been given the breakdown of participants per province, she asked if they could be given the breakdown of participants per district. She also believed that the Committee should be given the names of the NPOs, especially per district, so that they would be able to do their oversight more easily. Many NPOs did not have the capacity to handle so much money -- they did not even have the capacity to handle their own organisation. How did the Department assist the NPOs in training them for their management? If the NPOs were not well capacitated, they would have problems reporting to the Department.

There were targets in the presentation, and she wanted clarity as to how the Department arrived at them? The Committee needed to get a thorough report of the drop outs in order to understand why people were quitting the programme. She did not understand that while unemployment was high and people were given this opportunity, they would quit the programme. The Committee needed to be given a thorough presentation on the challenges experienced by the NPOs and the Department.

Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) joined his colleagues in saying that it was a skeleton report that did not have enough details on what they actually wished to see. He asked whether IDT or the Department had a number of reported cases of Covid infections. Did they have a model to monitor whether the beneficiaries had actually received their stipends? Did they have a register to monitor acknowledgement of payment? How much money did the beneficiaries take, or was there an amount set aside for the NPOs for executing the responsibilities that they were expected to perform? Where were these Covid brigades? If they were the same people that were sanitising schools, they had not been paid for the past three or four months that they had been working. The Department’s expenditure states they spent so much paying the beneficiaries and NPOs, but when one goes to the beneficiaries, they say that they have not been paid for a couple of months.

Mr T Mashele (ANC) said that when the Committee previously met with the Department, they had indicated that they had an interest in making sure that the beneficiaries were not abused by the Department. It seemed to be economic with giving the Committee information, considering the last two presentations. He suggested receiving a report detailing who the NPOs were, and where they were.

The Chairperson said that the provinces had now been listed, but as the Members had indicated, the Committee wanted the names of the NPOs. They wanted details of the beneficiaries who were getting a stipend through this programme, which addressed the issues of unemployment and the plight of those who were most disadvantaged, especially woman and young people. People were complaining about the EPWP. In the Western Cape, she had received many complaints from people that they were part of the programme, but they did not receive any stipend. When the Department gave the Committee this information, they would be able to tease out the problems. The Committee could see that the IDT was playing a role here. When they wanted the IDT to be saved, they had decided to involve it in social facilitation. The ruling party had indicated that the IDT should be utilised, and infrastructure should be part of economic recovery.

Mr E Mathebula (ANC) wanted to check if the NPOs had just been selected randomly, without looking at those that were owned by young people, women and people living with disabilities. If it was not so, could the Department indicate why, because these were the target groups that they needed to consider first when opportunities of this nature arose. The Committee had been inundated with complaints from some participants who had been complaining that they were being paid late, and sometimes did not get their stipends. He just wanted to check whether the Department was aware of this, and if there was any plan in place to ameliorate it? 

Department’s response

Deputy Minister Kiviet said that the team would respond to the administrative questions, and she would answer the political questions.  

Mr Fazel said that Ms Abrahams would answer the bulk of the questions, and he and the Minister would deal with the rest.

Ms Abrahams said participants in the initiative were contracted for 42 days. However, the details of the employment contract would be clearly stated. They had to be mindful at this particular stage that they were drawing to the end of the project, depending on the needs. However, all of the 19 794 participants had been contracted for the 42 days. They were still undertaking the 42 days, and had not completed them.

The EPWP minimum wage was R92.31 per day, in terms of the National Minimum Wage Act. Therefore, the R101 per day was higher than the EPWP minimum wages. The National Minimum Wage allowed for this particular variation in these circumstances.

The conditions of employment were per the Ministerial Determination in term of the EPWP. Participants were entitled to a certificate post-service, and were also entitled according to the Ministerial Determination requirements, to family responsibility, such as sick leave and those required benefits.

In terms of monitoring, they did receive regular updates from the IDT on whether the wages of the participants were being paid, and they also had a register of all of the payments that had been made to the NPOs.

With regard to the question to the Randfontein, Westrand area, she did become aware of that particular NPO, and when she looked at the register it had been paid. However, she was open to receiving details regarding non-payments to follow up on whether payments had actually been received. She had also received a complaint with regard to a participant in the Western Cape not being paid. Within the same day of receiving that particular query, it had been resolved. The NPO had not submitted the required information, and as soon as they submitted it, the IDT had been able to make the payment within two days.

The project had started on 11 April, and the Department had embarked on what was the appropriate response to the pandemic that the country faced. The process followed was that the most appropriate response from the DPWI would be via the NPO programme. They had then engaged within the Department to ensure that the NPOs that were contracted were compliant in terms of the regulations. All of the NPOs contracted were engaged by an open procurement process. All of the189 NPO’s that were contracted attended a briefing session at the time that they were contracted.

Their bid committee for the Covid-19 response had approved that they would be able to engage these NPOs that were contracted in an open and transparent procurement process. However, they needed to make sure that these NPOs were compliant at the time of contracting for this initiative with the Central Supplier Database (CSD). They also had to ensure that the NPOs were interested in engaging in this initiative. The NPOs were not new in terms of engagement. All NPOs participating in the NPO programme were required to have a track record of being operational for at least two years. They also expected the IDT to have a strong interface with the NPOs, because they were responsible for contracting with the NPOs. They were therefore supposed to articulate any challenges experienced by the NPOs to the DPWI.

The EPWP system had not been down, according to her knowledge. However, from a system perspective, there may be times when a system is down for maintenance, but it would not be for extended periods and it was not a structural problem in terms of the system. The system was able to report on work opportunities in quarter one for the entire EPWP, not only the Covid-19 response, and the EPWP quarterly report had been put out and issued officially.

The fees paid to the NPOs amounted to 7% of the project fees. This was not the IDT’s fee, which she would address later.

The Department of Public Works, together with the IDT, had been managing the personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with the Department of Health’s (DoH’s) specifications for the work that was required. Delivery notes had been signed and evidence had been provided as requested by the Auditor General (AG) on any PPE that was distributed. It was important that the IDT monitored the PPE and deployed the PPE only as required. In terms of PPE distributed, the status quo remained, and the PPE would be released as required when sites came online.

After the signing of the agreement with the IDT, the NPOs had been contracted. The next step was to ask the NPOs to provide a list of participants that would be engaging in this particular initiative. That process had happened extensively until the end of April. On 29 April, the list of participants had been sent through to the DoH. The Department had looked at the list to determine where the primary health facilities were, in order to assist with the placement. This had required engagements between the DPWI and the DoH to ensure that all 44 districts were covered, as well as the metropolitan areas. It was a collective engagement, looking at the public health facilities and at where the need was the greatest, and ensuring that every part of the districts and metros were covered. There were 149 NPOs deployed to date. The remaining NPOs still needed to be deployed as sites became ready.

The National Minimum Wage Act did permit a variation, particularly for the EPWP. Participants were paid via a bank account. In terms of the COIDA, it was not the beneficiary’s responsibility to fund the COIDA payments. That had been fully funded by the project, and the payments had been made. The IDT had undertaken the responsibility for monitoring the participants. To ensure better control by the DPWI, during the sampling of payments made, identity document (ID) numbers that were already loaded on the system and attendance registers were compared, to confirm that payments made were in accordance with the attendance registers and were supported by the payments in terms of the information provided.

There was no information on the dropouts, but it was possible to get it. It may have been for multiple reasons. She had even received reports from the Gauteng region that participants may have exited for more favourable conditions in other programmes. The EPWP provided employment to the poor and vulnerable, but if alternative opportunities arose, it may be for the benefit of the participant.

UIF contributions were a deduction from both the participant and the employer, as per the law, to ensure compliance. All these payments had been made.

Ms Abrahams said the DPWI had not received any reports of infections. However, one of the chief executive officers (CEOs) of an NPO had notified her that he had Covid-19, but he had recovered and was healthy.

The DPWI had provided all the details of all the NPOs, and she would be able to go through that quickly. The full list of the 189 NPOs was provided. The name of the NPO, the NPO registration details, the email addresses, the addresses and the Global Positioning System (GPS) co-ordinates were provided. They had also looked at the status of the various NPOs, and had submitted that documentation. All the NPOs had provided the Department with their proof of registration with the Department of Social Development (DSD), and a letter of good standing with COIDA. They had all provided the Department with their registration with UIF, and the Department had checked this out. All NPOs had a track record of not less than two years, and had indicated their willingness to participate. 77% of the NPO’s were 100% black-owned, while the others had a varied ownership. These details were specific in the report on the NPO’s status.

The capturing of data had been on time in terms of the EPWP reporting system requirements. The AG had advised them as a Department, and they had agreed with him that if data was in the EPWP system, it was a system which allowed one to produce a report. This allowed for better monitoring of whatever was supposed to be done with the particular initiative. They had advised the IDT that they wanted the reporting to happen as soon as the participants were paid.

The DPWI was looking at the initiative broadly in order to work with the key government departments not only on the NPO initiative, but also to undertake valuable work which provided economic livelihoods. They had been engaging with the Presidency on a weekly basis, particularly in terms of the funding of the initiatives that were currently under way, with the aim of ensuring that they identified appropriate programmes. 

Referring to the hours per participant, Ms Abrahams said that originally the 42 days were spread over three months. This meant the participant would work three days, then four days, then three days, etc. This model had been adjusted to allow the participant to get the 42 days of work, irrespective of the model which was applied. That also depended on the particular site where the participant worked. The 42 days was what the participants had signed for. In terms of the labour laws, they were compliant with the Ministerial Determination and the National Minimum Wage Act.

How they could get to the 25 000 participants was an issue that the Department was currently considering. They wanted to look particularly at provinces where they had not yet had full deployment. This had mainly been in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). However, they were working very closely with all parties within KZN to ensure effective deployment. Regarding the district municipalities, the names of the NPOs had been provided, and all had two years of operational experience.

The target had been informed to ensure that there was wide coverage. They had had to look at the NPOs and where they came from. There was wide coverage through the 44 districts. There were daily challenges which required some project management and engaging constantly with the IDT for a number of hours per day. As the matters arose, they were addressed.

Ms Abrahams said they had not received a query about participants not being paid, other than the query in Cape Town. She was very aware of another initiative that had taken place with another public body in KZN. She was writing regular reports on outstanding payments. One of the challenges at the start of the project involved a schools’ cleaning project, where the documentation for payment was not 100%. Some payments were also affected by certain offices being closed. This was a matter that they were working on hand in glove with the KZN government, because any late payment of participants was not an acceptable outcome. She had also received positive feedback from participants whom she had personally emailed and called to verify whether they had received payment.

Deputy Minister Kiviet said they needed to remember that the EPWP as a programme was not employment in the true sense of the Department of Labour. The national minimum wage was regulated in that space. Through the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC), the determinations were negotiated and agreed. In September, the DPWI would be participating in NEDLAC on the future of public employment programmes, which includes the EPWP. This confusion on the minimum wage had been discussed, and there was agreement that public employment programmes would requires the DPWI to redesign the EPWP and come up with new programmes, especially those involving infrastructure development. If they were going to say that they were going to use infrastructure development as the backbone of employment, they needed to come up with fresh ideas. This was why they were going to NEDLAC to engage on new ideas on how they could utilise the public employment programme in infrastructure development. NEDLAC had representatives from communities, from labour, from business and from government. They all needed to agree on how to move forward. They needed to remember the points that were raised on why they were not paying the minimum wage had come out of agreements from that structure.

The Committee was correct to want the breakdown per district, because one of the IDT’s weaknesses, as an organisation which conducted oversight, was that it not necessary interacted with the districts, even if they had programmes running in the districts. That was one weakness that they had picked up, and had tried to push them to correct it as they implemented this particular programme. She therefore wanted to say that the breakdown per district would help them to ensure that the coordinators of the programmes participated in the structures created in the district delivery model.

Follow up questions

Ms Siwisa stated that she had a serious problem with legislation being applied in order to deviate from the R3 500 minimum wage. All the beneficiaries were offering their labour; so why could they not be protected by the same labour laws? In the Eastern Cape, a register had been circulated, but the people had not worked. The owner of the NPO had ended up claiming for money for work that was never done. It raised a lot of issues, such as whether the register system was reliable? She suggested the Department was more concerned about NPO owners benefiting than the actual EPWP beneficiaries. These people were being exploited, when she considered the numbers.

Ms Graham asked if the R11 million had been dealt with. She requested clarity on the duration of the programme. The Minister’s response to her had stated that it was a three-month programme which would have been June, July and August. The report presented today stated that it was a two-month programme, June and July. In the discussion there had been an impression that it was ongoing. If the end date was 31 July, then it was a moot point. If the end date was 31 August, then there were only a couple of days left. Ms Abrahams were referring to things like PPE being delivered if NPOs needed it. Would this programme go on indefinitely during the lockdown period, or was there a cut-off date?

She also wanted clarity on the fact that in that past financial year, there were 340 NPOs that were part of the EPWP’s non-state sector NPOs. 189 had been contracted for this project, but what had happened to the others? Would there still be a non-state sector EPWP project for this year run by the IDT to cater for the NPOs that were not covered by this project?

Mr W Thring (ACDP) said that of the 189 contracted NPOs, 149 had commenced with the Covid-19 response. What had been done to bring the other 40 NPOs on board? Were there other NPOs that could be taken on board to meet the criteria? Were there other NPOs that the Department could look at to cover the shortfalls?

For quarter one, 9 744 participants had reported. How did this relate to the breakdown of 19 794 participants? Why the discrepancy? It was not just KwaZulu-Natal that was not up to scratch -- it appeared that it was also Limpopo, which had not met their target. It was below 50%, just like KZN. Other provinces, such as Gauteng, had exceeded their targets. Did that mean the provinces that had not reached their targets but were working towards them would be penalised because other provinces had exceeded their targets?

Has the Department looked at studying the model in India with regard to minimum payments and minimum periods of employment, as India seemed to work very hard in trying to get employment numbers up? They also have a type of expanded public works programme. Those who were employed with the minimum age were included in their employment numbers. Had this been considered? Where in South Africa were EPWP participants considered within the employment numbers?

Mr Tshwaku asked whether the Department was willing to give the Committee a detailed report that captured all the questions that had been answered here. The Committee needed a detailed report. Maybe they should agree on a time when a detailed report would be presented. It looked like they were becoming more confused.

He also wanted to appeal to the Deputy Minister to imagine that the participants were her brothers and sisters or children, who were working in the sun in bad conditions and then left with only R1 000 or R1 200. The Department of Labour must be guided by the Committee or by the Deputy Minister’s office to say that they wanted these people to be protected by the LRA. He did not know what a stipend was. The participants must get a minimum wage. The Committee must advocate for a minimum wage.

He requested a list of the NPOs with their contact details, and a list of the people who had been hired. Could they get a register, so that the Committee could do oversight? It had allocated a lot of money, and needed to go and see the NPOs. If the Department could not handle 25 000 participants and there was confusion with capturing data and making payments, how were they going to handle millions of people’s data when they were employed for infrastructure projects? There was a capacity issue. The Department needed to strengthen their IT infrastructure.

The Chairperson wanted to know how EPWP data capturing worked. Was it on an Excel spreadsheet? Was it linked to the ICT system of the IDT, because it was clear that there was a challenge in the capturing. This was linked to accountability.  

Department’s responses

Ms Abrahams said that at a high level, the aim of the project was to make sure that 25 000 participants received a wage of R101 per day for 42 days of work. This project had been faced with the realities of implementing projects. This meant that some projects may have started in the first week in June, while others had started in July. The point was that they had taken it from the commitment perspective.

The difference between the 19 000 and the 25 000 was that 40 NPOs had not been deployed, challenges with NPOs the KZN area, and a mixture of other issues. Either the sites were not available, or they were having minor challenges with deployment or stakeholder matters. As indicated, the aim was to be able to engage with these particular public bodies and continue. The residual participants had not yet been contracted. It was important for the Department to watch the budget to ensure that there was not over-expenditure while trying to unblock these particular issues in the residual provinces. This was an ongoing issue. This project would be ending on 31 August, which meant that all the difficulties faced had to be resolved, or there had to be a conclusion in terms of the challenges. These were project management related issues that they had taken into consideration. This mainly affected KZN, Limpopo and a little bit of the Eastern Cape.

The EPWP reporting system was a functional system. It was not an Excel spreadsheet, but a web-based system. It was the Department’s role to ensure that they would validate the data of the EPWP. The annexure was on the website, and it covers the period from 1 April to 30 June. Once the second quarter was over, that report would also be placed on the website.

The Department could provide a detailed NPO report, and could also give details on the participant payment details, as Ms Abrahams got this regularly from the IDT.

Mr Thring clarified that his question was for clarity on why the presentation that the Committee received had stated 9 000, while Ms Abrahams had talked about 19 000. Was the accurate figure 9 744 or 19 000?  

Ms M Hicklin (DA) said Ms Abrahams had stated that the implementation fee applied, come what may. The implementation fee of R11 million was charged, whether the work was done or not. What was the incentive to do the work? It did not make sense. She did not understand the implementation fee of R11 million.  

Ms Abrahams responded to Mr Thring’s question she may have misspoken -- it was 19 974 participants that were on the programme that had started during the period. This had not been in the vetting that they had done initially. During that particular period, they had had an EPWP reporting system that was for all public bodies to report on across all programmes. The requirement was that work opportunities had to be reported 15 days after the end of the quarter. The programme had then provided an extension, because it acknowledged that certain offices were closed. Sometimes people were not able to be at the office, so they had provided another two-week extension. They had then said to all the public bodies, irrespective of whether it was this project, that all data covering the period from 1 April to 30 June must be in the EPWP reporting system by the end of July. The DPWI had gone ahead and produced the EPWP annexures. In those annexures, the participants that were covered there were the 9 744 whose IDs had been loaded. They had been paid, and this covered the period of up to 30 June. This meant that participants who started in July would not have not have been captured in this particular report. It was a snapshot that they were looking at. The EPWP reporting system was working. They had more than 200 000 work opportunities that had been reported by all public bodies in the system.

The R11 million was the IDT’s implementing fee as an intermediary within the vote. It was a three-month project, and that particular fee would then be pro-rated for the three-month period. The calculation was for the three months, but the deliverables that they were expecting from them was the 25 000 participants, subject to what was within their control. When they engaged with the chief financial officer (CFO), they had been very clear that they acknowledged that it was a time-based issue. They would be charging R11 million for this particular initiative. Regarding how the intermediary fee was determined, the AG had put out the rates at which the IDT could be remunerated. It was a document that had been signed in 2014 which specified how the percentage would be determined. She recognised the issue of the control of the payment. The IDT was working with the Department, and they had acknowledged the risks of an upfront payment. With the IDT being their agency, the DPWI had been able to ensure that the required reports were delivered through daily interaction with it on this particular initiative.  

Deputy Minister Kiviet responded on the question of exploitation. There would never be anyone who would want to simply exploit, especially from the perspective of the policies of the ANC. Also, as a government that was for the people, they worked to ensure that the policies that they drive improve the quality of life of the people. The EPWP, as a policy directive, was one of those programmes that sought to mitigate poverty. It was a poverty alleviation strategy. There was no intention in government to exploit people. There was an intention to ensure the alleviation of poverty where there were no employment opportunities. Their intentions were to maximise opportunities for employment, and to deal with the challenge of poverty.

The Deputy Minister stated that she was the only person with a job in her family of five. She urged Members to desist from personalising the issues. No one wanted a person to suffer from poverty. They Members were in the positions they held to drive programmes to assist the communities and to contribute to economic development of the country and to contribute to bettering the lives of the people.

Referring to the example of India, she said they did not want to be seen as cheating the system. As a matter of fact, the EPWP had won an international award last year because of the impact that it had on individuals, families and communities. That impact sought to remove people from the state of being unable to provide for their families. That award was because of the impact that this programme had on communities.

The issue of stipend versus minimum wage should be looked at from the perspective of wanting to be seen as very extra caring people. These people did not work every day. A person working every day was a person who was employed full time to do a specific job over a specific period. Therefore, they could not be paid less than the minimum wage. The EPWP participant was a person working certain hours and certain days, not every day. They should not try to make it something that it was not. The Department was open for proposals and ideas to modify the programme at the discussions at NEDLAC – taking into consideration their mandate, as well as the increasing unemployment rate. They needed to ensure that every family had something on the table at the end of the day.

The Chairperson summed up, saying they could not run away from the role that the IDT was playing in coordinating this programme. Its role was that of social infrastructure management. There must be a link in the ICT system of the IDT for reporting purposes. They needed to update the reporting system for the Department to get the information. The Committee had received the list of NPOs, but wanted the list of beneficiaries. Some of the beneficiaries might not even be alive, as some NPOs asked people to go around collecting signatures while no work was being done.

The EPWP played an important role in alleviating poverty in many families. She requested that all the required information be given to the Committee by next week Friday.  

Adoption of minutes

The Committee adopted the minutes of their last few meetings.

The meeting was adjourned.

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