In a virtual meeting, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) presented on the e-government plan to transform government services into a digitalised public service. The Committee was also briefed on the corruption cases reported through the National Anti-Corruption Hotline, as well as the number of suspended employees and the cost of the suspension of public servants.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) presented on the corruption cases reported on the National Anti-Corruption Hotline, and the successes and challenges impacting on the possibility of closure of the cases.
Members asked what strategy the DPSA would use when departments did not adhere to collective agreements or resolutions, since this practice contributed to the state losing many winnable cases against officials accused of misconduct. With the cost of suspensions at the national level standing at more than R11 million, and the provincial suspensions costing more than R74 million during Quarter 4 of the 2019/20 financial year, what was the percentage of cost recovery in these cases?
The PSA said that there were no emails between departments, but a committee had been established that consisted of the head of IT for various government departments, to improve coordination. Members asked if there was statistical information related to the number of disciplinary cases that had resulted in criminal charges being laid against individuals that had been found guilty, and if public servants were being blacklisted after been found guilty at different stages in the public service. An end needed to put to the recycling of individuals who engaged in unethical behaviour and resurfaced in other senior government positions.
The Chairperson said to the PSC took too long to investigate instances of corruption. What was the PSC’s relationship with other departments’ anti-corruption hotlines? How had it improved its turnaround capacity and partnership with stakeholders and other chapter nine institutions?
The DPSA said they did not have the statistics on the information that resulted in criminal charges, but they were trying to address this issue. Currently, they were training 200 more discipline management personnel and initiators. They said there was a backlog of cases because of their complexity and the unavailability of investigators, as well as management engaging with unions, interference by outside stakeholders and the issue of discipline management being delegated to labour relations practitioners. Conversations were happening with the criminal justice system regarding the statistical information of those cases resulting in criminal processes.
The Minister assured the Committee that there would be a prevention of a resurgence of people who had been guilty of misconduct in the previous positions that they had held in the public service. These disciplinary processes were not punitive in addressing the indiscretion when one occupied a position, but would act as a deterrent for future behaviour.
The Chairperson said that the purpose of the meeting was to receive the three presentations as outlined in the programme that Members had received. The first presentation would be by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on the e-government plan and implementation to transform government services into a digitalised public service. The Committee should have a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Communications, since the issue of communications overlapped the two departments. The second presentation would be by the DPSA on the disciplinary cases, several suspended employees and the cost of suspension of the public servants. The last presentation would be by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on the corruption cases reported on the National Anti-Corruption Hotline, the success and challenges impacting on the possibility of closure of cases; and consideration and adoption of the previous Committee minutes.
She requested the Minister to give his opening remarks.
Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Public Service and Administration, said the Department would act in the interest of time, and go straight to the presentations.
E-government plan for digitalised public service
Mr Mandla Ngcobo, Deputy Director-General: Service Delivery Support, DPSA, presented the e-government plan and implementation to transform government services into a digitalised public service.
He said the 1998 Presidential Review Commission (PRC) had been charged with the responsibility to assess the state of the public service at the dawn of democracy. It found there was a lack of coordination amongst stakeholders on matters related to information technology (IT), duplication of un-interoperable IT systems and initiatives, and a lack of value for money from information communication technology (ICT) investments. It had recommended that all key ICT decisions should come from senior political and managerial leadership, rather than IT specialists, and that ICT should be treated like other human, finance and material resources.
In 2001, an e-government policy had been developed by the DPSA, with a focus on ICT security, the elimination of duplication, citizen convenience, digital inclusion, etc. The policy went to Cabinet, but was never gazetted.
In 2017, the national e-Government strategy was approved by Cabinet through the then Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS), and was basically a copy and paste of the previous policy. On 27 November 2018, the draft Public Service Digital Transformation Strategy was presented to Cabinet.
After his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ramaphosa announced a 30-member Presidential Digital Industrial Revolution Commission during the first week of April 2019. The Commission was to provide a digital transformation strategy/plan which would give direction to all sectors, including the public service. The product of the Commission’s work was presented to the President only on 6 August 2020. The next step would be for the Report to be presented to Parliament, the Cabinet and the public.
There were numerous pieces of legislation with the responsibility for e-government. Below was the summary of these.
Mr Ngcobo said there were key role players in the PS ICT landscape, and discussion on the subject matter was often characterised by questions on the delineation of responsibilities between several key departments in the ICT domain. All departments managed information and had ICT systems that supported their departmental business, which was separate and distinct from the national communication infrastructure within the purview of Department of Communications and Digital Technology (DCDT).
- The DCDT was the designated shareholder on behalf of the state for post, telecommunications and broadcasting policy, and national ICT infrastructure;
- The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) hosted the Meraka Institute and played an important role in promoting research and development (R&D) and innovation, including on ICT;
- The DTIC played an important role of developing and influencing trade, industry, investment and competition policy, as well as small, medium and micro enterprise (SMME) incentive frameworks that had an impact on ICT companies;
- The State Security Agency (SSA) determined and influenced ICT and communication security policy;
- The Ministry of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) was the designated custodian of ICT in public administration.
- The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) was the designated entity for secure identity management of citizens, particularly given its changing role.
- National Treasury, through RT contracts.
Mr Ngcobo said digital transformation would require improved governance of ICT at all levels; centralised decision making on digital/ e-government matters, with participation/ support from other role players; improved cyber security capabilities; the amendment of legislation, policy and frameworks to be aligned to the digital transformation agenda; change management interventions; centralised funding for digital transformation initiatives; skills development; the necessity to establish business intelligence capability; and the use of a digital government technology platform.
E-Government 2020/21 annual targets involved an audit report on the state of national e-Government strategy issued to national and provincial departments; a Public Service Data Governance Standard submitted for approval; status and recommendations for improvement on the public service ICT infrastructure being developed; a Public Service Information Security Standard issued to national and provincial departments; a revised corporate governance of ICT policy framework; and a quarterly report on compliance by national and provincial departments with the DPSA policies.
In the middle of 2014, political oversight of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) had been moved from the MPSA to the MCDT, and this had impacted ICT provision in the public service in numerous ways. Some of the issues which arose out of the SITA move were:
- The move watered down the PRC’s recommendation of a tripartite business model of the DPSA (Office of the Government Communications Information Officer -- OGCIO), SITA and the Government IT Officers Council (GITOC);
- The SITA Act was developed by the DPSA and modelled around the PSA enjoining the two institutions. The SITA/ PSA Acts were yet to be amended, in line with perceived future;
- SITA was moved from a COG department that could issue and enforce compliance to norms and standards, and e-Government policy and strategy through regulations and directives, as provided for in Section 3 (2) of the PSA;
- Some key transversal term contracts were still not in place against which departments could procure, such as Local Area Network (LAN), ICT security goods and services, etc;
- “Absence” of a digital factory for the PS in terms of solution development, given SITA’s role as a “Telco”;
- The proclamation impacted on the responsibility over the SITA Act, but not the PSA Act, implying dual responsibilities between the DPSA on one side and the DCDT and SITA on the other;
- Generally, departments keep contacting DPSA on ICT matters in the PS -- even those related to SITA;
- Inadequate commitment by relevant parties to the current draft e-Government programme;
Despite the move having taken place in 2014, the rationale/business case for the SITA move remained unknown to the DPSA.
There were a number of issues needing attention:
- Improved governance on matters of ICT;
- The Governance, State Capacity and Institutional Development (GSCID) Committee on ICT should assist in achieving improved governance;
- The need for the digital transformation strategy to be taken back to Cabinet;
- The need for centralised funding for mechanism for digital transformation initiatives -- particularly investment related to optimisation;
- Change management interventions -- skills development for a digitally transformed PS;
- DGTP and Broadband connectivity to service delivery points.
Status of discipline management in the public service
Mr Salomon Hoogenraad-Vermaak, Director: DPSA, and Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, Director-General of the Department, presented on the status of discipline management in the public service. The purpose of the presentation was to provide the Committee with an update on the disciplinary cases, number of suspended employees and the cost of the precautionary suspension of public service employees.
Discipline management was a decentralised process, and was the responsibility of departments. The DPSA had the following role:
- To provide advice to departments on the implementation of the disciplinary code;
- To facilitate the sourcing of initiators and chairpersons;
- Capacity building -- training of initiators and chairpersons;
- Monitoring adherence to the time lines of the disciplinary codes -- departments were required to submit quarterly reports;
- Assist with the interpretation of chapter 7 of the senior management service (SMS) handbook;
To assist the DPSA to monitor and obtain statistics on discipline management, the DPSA had issued a circular, on 16 January 2012 and on 17 November 2014, for all departments to report quarterly statistics on disciplinary matters to the DPSA on a prescribed template.
These reports were received quarterly and the DPSA consolidated the information manually.
The following national departments did not submit the required reports for the 4th Quarter (1 January 2020 - 31 March 2020): Justice, Military Veterans, Small Business Development, Rural Development and Land Reform, Statistics South Africa, and Women.
The types of misconduct fell into the following categories: financial misconduct/ irregular expenditure, absenteeism, dishonesty, assault, damage to state property, contravention of code of conduct, failure to carry out lawful order, poor work performance, sexual harassment, insubordination, negligence, failure to comply with procurement procedures, dereliction of duty, intimidation, abuse of sick leave, drunk on duty, insolent behaviour, failure to declare previous misconducts, prejudice and disrespect, theft, fraud and bribery.
In the third quarter of 2019/20 (October to December 2019), the cost of misconduct cases had been R14.6 million for national departments, and R84 million for provincial departments. In the fourth quarter (January to March 2020), the cost of misconduct cases had been R11.4 million for national departments, and R74.1 million for provincial departments.
Failure to meet the 90/60 day target had been due to the complexity of cases, the unavailability of investigators and chairpersons, discipline being delegated to labour relations practitioners, management engaging with unions, and interference by outside stakeholders. The delays caused employees to declare disputes regarding the principle of justice delayed was justice denied, or a waiver by the employer.
- Covid 19 resulting in late submission of Q4 reports;
- Departments not meeting the time frames on finalising cases, and some departments reporting selectively;
- Departments not adhering to collective agreements/resolutions;
- Some departments using legal representation as a norm rather than an exception, resulting in long delays and additional costs in finalising cases.
- Analysis of data was difficult because of late submissions, inconsistent reporting and manual capturing of information.
The DPSA had introduced interventions to deal with these challenges. The Public Administration Ethic, Integrity and Disciplinary Technical Assistance Unit had been established to develop norms and standards on disciplinary matters relating to misconduct, and to provide technical assistance on disciplinary matters relating to misconduct in the public administration. The Personnel Administration System (PERSAL) system was being reconfigured to allow for departments to capture cases for reporting and monitoring purposes.
A project had been launched to analyse the cause of backlogs in order to recommend methods to reduce backlogs, to assess the appropriateness of policies, and to recommend interventions to be applied. This would assist with the setting of norms and standards for disciplinary matters related to misconduct. A system would be adopted to automatically generate suspensions, with departments compelled to report suspensions to the DPSA, whereafter they would receive a number, which would allow the DPSA to track progress.
The DPSA had established a pool of labour relations specialists to assist departments with chairpersons and initiators, and was rolling out a capacity-building programme in conjunction with the Public Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) to train 200 initiators and chairpersons for disciplinary cases.
To address overdue suspensions, letters had been drafted in August to all departments with cases older than one year, wherein the MPSA called for urgent one-on-one discussions with the executive authorities and heads of departments to address the backlogs and to offer support from the DPSA.
Management and closure of NACH cases
Mr Mike Seloane, Public Service Commissioner, presented the overview report on the management and closure of National Anti-Corruption Hotline (NACH) cases during the 2019/20 financial year.
During the year, a total of 70 500 incoming calls had been received, of which 1 591 calls were generated. The remaining 68 909 incoming calls were related to enquiries, unanswered calls and dropped calls, and 110 cases that were not forwarded to the departments for investigation as they did not involve corruption. Of the 1 591 cases, 1 007 were related to social grant fraud, and all had been referred to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) for investigation. 508 of the 1 591 cases were still under investigation by departments and law enforcement agencies.
According to the information received from SASSA, the monetary value of the cases amounted to R216 799, with a recovery of R106 263.
A quarterly breakdown of NACH statistics showed that 340 cases were received in the first quarter, of which 50 cases were reported against the provincial departments, 55 cases against national departments, and 235 cases against SASSA. The SASSA cases primarily involved social grant fraud relating to disability and child support grant pay-outs.
In the second quarter, 460 cases were received, of which 143 cases were reported against the provincial departments, 70 cases against national departments, and 247 against SASSA.
In the third quarter, 354 cases were received, of which 61 were reported against the provincial departments, 69 against national departments, and 224 against SASSA.
In the fourth quarter, 312 cases were received, of which 45 were reported against the provincial departments, 52 against the national departments and 215 against SASSA.
Gauteng had the highest number of cases (70), followed by Limpopo (54), the Eastern Cape (33), the Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal (30 each), the Western Cape (23), and the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga (15 each).
National departments received 246 cases of alleged corruption. In this respect, the Department of Home Affairs received the highest number of cases (44), which were mostly related to identity document fraud by foreign nationals. 22 cases were received in respect of the SAPS, and the Department of Correctional Services received 21 cases which were, among others, relate to the smuggling of drugs into the correctional centres. The Department of Water and Sanitation received nine cases, which were mostly related to procurement irregularities and abuse of government resources.
During the course of the 2019/2020 financial year, 64 complaints of alleged corruption relating to national and provincial departments were presented to the Complaints and Grievance Panel (CGP) and were closed in the Case Management System (CMS) of the NACH. The CGP also received 93 complaints of alleged corruption which were cases reported during the previous financial year.
The PSC had closed 1 007 cases relating to the public entities during the 2019/20 financial year. There were 110 complaints that were not forwarded to the departments for investigation, as they did not involve corruption.
Tip-offs had been received during the COVID-19 period, and most of those who were involved with the SASSA corruption were immediately given up to SAPS and were arrested. Service delivery failures were being followed up.
Disciplinary outcomes and successful convictions at the national level had seen 18 public officials being found guilty of misconduct. Similar actions were taking place at the provincial level as a result of cases received through the NACH.
The following challenges were being faced with the management of the NACH:
- The PSC had observed that departments were taking an extended period of time in providing feedback to the PSC, despite the fact that whistle-blowers were requesting feedback on progress made with investigations;
- Generally, many investigations were prolonged due to a variety of factors, like complexity and retrieval of supporting information;
- The PSC took a decision in 2017 to manage the NACH on an in-house basis to reduce costs, do the in-house call centre was available five days per week, and eight hours per day.
- This arrangement was creating serous challenges, as members of the public were calling after hours without getting assistance from the call centre agents.
The NACH remained an important vehicle for reporting corruption, as evidenced by the number of calls received and cases processed o date. The PSC had taken the decision to operate eight hours due to lack of adequate funding, but its plan was to have the NACH operate 24/7 if the necessary funding was provided. As the NACH was designated as a single hotline through which corruption in the public service should be reported, it remained significant that it must be adequately resourced to enable people to report 24/7. To this end, an application of R5 million had been made to the Criminal Asset Recovery Account (CARA) to improve the functionality of the NACH.
Ms M Kibi (ANC) asked what strategy the Department would use when departments did not adhere to collective agreements or resolutions, since this practice contributed to the state losing many winnable cases against officials misconducting themselves. With the national cost of suspension at more than R11 million, and the provinces costing more than R74 million during Quarter 4 in 2019/2020, what was the percentage of cost recovery in these cases yearly? Since there was such a huge backlog of cases in the period from January to 21 March 2020, was this due to the lockdown or were there other reasons for the backlog? Would these cases expire due to timelines set to investigate and finalise disciplinary cases? Was there a memorandum of understanding among the stakeholders in the ICT space, so that every activity complied with the legislation on ICT?
Mr S Malatsi (DA) asked if there was statistical information related to the number of disciplinary cases that had resulted in criminal charges being laid against individuals who had been found guilty in those instances. This needed to be given so that they could monitor those processes over and above the human resources (HR) processes, where criminal acts had taken place. Were public servants being blacklisted after been found guilty at different stages in the public service? An end needed to be put to the recycling of individuals who engaged in unethical behaviour and resurfaced in the municipality in other senior positions.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) said that her questions were similar to those of Ms Kibi.
Ms C Motsepe (EFF) asked what government plan they were devising to have coordination amongst the stakeholders. There was a problem in rural areas, as they were behind on everything, such as technology. They struggled with online recruitment and were left behind. Who was the main role player concerning the centralised decision on digital government matters? Since the role of the government was to facilitate the sourcing and training of initiators, was one of the causes of the non-finalisation of cases within the mandatory period due to the unavailability of investigators? The Department was stifling progress and the finalisation of cases, and causing the public service to use a lot of money. Which two provinces had not produced a report?
Dr L Schreiber (DA) answered Ms Motsepe’s question, and said it was Gauteng and Mpumalanga which had not submitted those reports. He asked what the reasons were for not submitting, as this non-compliance indicated undermining of the Department. What systems were in place to ensure that this behaviour would not be repeated in the future? He asked the DPSA how much of the R85 million had been recovered due to disciplinary processes. Was the technical unit not needed the most during this time of corruption and COVID-19, to provide support and technical backup to make sure that these cases were handled quickly? It was ironic that during the pandemic, the anti-corruption hotline had not been declared an essential service, but it was good that that oversight had been rectified. How many officials in total had been subject to disciplinary action, based on the 1 591 cases? The ratio was very important, because they had started with 70 000 calls and then a relatively small number of cases were generated, and an even smaller number of officials were held to account, therefore it was important to note how many of them had been held accountable.
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said she wanted to emphasise the worrying point of the prolonging of the investigations. She applauded the Department for its turnaround strategy, and hoped that it would reduce the number of cases. Regarding the latest report on PPE, would the Department deal with these cases on its own, or would it fall under the Committee that would deal with all the negative effects of the pandemic?
The Chairperson told the PSC that they took too long to investigate. What was the PSC’s relationship with other departments’ anti-corruption hotlines? How had it improved its turnaround capacity and partnership with stakeholders and other chapter nine institutions? With a depleted fiscus and shrinking tax revenue that the country has, do the Department think it was advisable to have multiple anti-corruption hotlines? If all departments did what was expected of them, fewer would appear before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA).
Mr Ngcobo answered Ms Kibi’s question on ICT, and said that there were no emails between departments. However, a strategy had been developed that consisted of the head of IT for various government departments to improve coordination. There were two plans. A strategy had been taken to the Cabinet, and they had been requested to wait until the Commission had been appointed and finalised, and a draft income and progress report presented. With the support of the Committee and continuous engagement, it would be communicated across the government, and implementation would be monitored. The main role players in the ICT space in the public service were the DPSA, National Treasury and Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT). Issues of technology, process and people were always handled together. The general role of the DPSA was played in that space. They had then developed Home Affairs, and they were responsible for identity management in the country. The National Treasury provided the funding for all government initiatives, and it became important for them to be there and understand the need to form a security point of view. The DCDT had a structure called the Universal Service and Access Obligations, where the industry contributed between 0.2 and .05 percent of its turnover to ensure that there was universal access to ICT.
Mr Hoogenraad-Vermaak replied to Ms Kibi, and said that in terms of the strategy that was used to ensure that people adhered to the practice of submitting their answers to the DPSA, they write letters to departments to create awareness around the issue. Follow-ups were being done, and the Minister had intervened with other Ministers, while one-on-one discussions were also being conducted to discuss the issue of discipline management. Due to COVID-19, it had been difficult to submit.
The Chairperson said that it could not be because of COVID-19, because they submitted electronically.
Mr S Hoogenraad-Vermaak agreed with the Chairperson, and said that was why they were following up with the different departments.
Replying to Mr Malatsi, he said the Department did not have the statistics on the information that resulted in criminal charges, but they were trying to address this issue.
Replying to Ms Motsepe’s question on the role of the DPSA to facilitate training, he said that currently they were training 200 more discipline management personnel and initiators. An issue that needed to be addressed was when people needed to be protected when they wanted to be chairpersons.
He told Dr Schreiber that he did not know why some did not submit, but that was why they wrote letters and had direct engagements with DGs. The R84 million was salaries paid to people that were suspended, and not the cost of the disciplinary proceedings.
Ms Makhasi said that the impact of COVID-19 on the backlog in cases would be experienced in the Quarter 1 2020/21 cases. There was a backlog because of the complexity and unavailability of investigators, as well as management, engaging with unions, interference by outside stakeholders and the issue of discipline management being delegated to labour relations practitioners. Conversations were happening with the criminal justice system regarding the statistical information of those cases resulting in criminal processes. They were creating a mechanism where the reporting and the investigation of these cases at SAPS were captured, and they were working together to share information. The Minister of Police and the Minister of Justice had met and presented several proposals on how to coordinate and strengthen their efforts concerning tracking some of the criminal cases in the system.
Regarding blacklisting, there was a five-year period during which a person would not be able to work in the public service again, and would not be appointed in the system until the period of the misconduct was over. However, with the municipalities, there was no system that she knew of that was in place. Gauteng had said that they had submitted their report, but they had not received it, and Mpumalanga had not communicated at all. They had written letters, but would now inform the executive authorities.
The technical advisory unit was operational, and there was a recruitment process to ensure that all positions in the unit were filled. However, they were faced with the reality that the Department did not have sufficient funds to respond to the type of work that was required for this unit to do.
Mr Seloane said that the Cabinet had decided that there should be one national anti-corruption hotline, and it must be managed by the PSC. The purpose of the hotline was to receive complaints and then refer them to the various departments. Most of the complaints were people asking questions, so they did not count towards the 70 500 calls that were investigated. The majority of the 1 591 cases were referred to by SASSA, but SASSA was a public entity established through the Public Finance Management Act, and was accountable to the Minister of Social Development. They were looking at unauthorised expenditure, irregular expenditure and wasteful expenditure of the previous year and how much of that money was being recovered and how many officials were being charged with financial misconduct. They needed to operate 24/7, but they would need additional funding and were asking for R5 million. All complaints regarding PPE must be sent to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to avoid a duplication of cases.
Minister Mchunu said that when they reconfigured the organogram of the Department which would come into effect on 1 April 2021, they had removed the branch called policy analysis so that they could add a labour relations branch. This was because they needed a branch do deal with these matters. Interviews were being done for the position of Chief Director and the positions below. This branch would add capacity to the Department. There had been a slow turnaround, and they were using their role and the public service to deal with this matter so that there was an improvement.
On the issue of chairpersons and initiators, they had decided on a pool system -- a pool of initiators per province, and up to national. If at any time there was a problem, they could then be informed and supervise timeously. The criminal cases within the public service were taken very seriously. All departments had been instructed to collect all their information on PPE and sent it to so SIU and the National Treasury so it could be analysed. He suggested that the Chairperson and the Public Service Commission engage tomorrow to initiate a submission to review, with the goal of achieving an improvement. There was an acting DG in the PSC, and the disciplinary hearing for the DG was scheduled for 9 and 10 September.
The Chairperson said that they needed to get feedback on Gauteng and Mpumalanga, so that there could be a complete report. She asked the principal of the National School of Government (NSG) to assist with a training module on financial oversight. She agreed on popularising the PSC and their work in the rural areas.
Mr Malatsi said that there would be a prevention of a resurgence of people found guilty of misconduct in previous positions that they had held in the public service. These disciplinary processes were not punitive in terms of addressing the indiscretion when one occupied a position, but could act as a deterrent for future behaviour.
The Chairperson said that the Minister had said these cases would be categorised depending on the nature of the unethical act, and she agreed the recycling should stop.
The Minister said that they would use the legislative framework to maximise the side of the state against someone prone to wrongdoing. They may need to negotiate a new bill or law. They would also discuss what else could be done to tighten up on what the Chairperson had said.
The meeting was adjourned.
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