Committee Oversight Reports: Beitbridge; SABC & UIF

Public Accounts (SCOPA)

17 November 2020
Chairperson: Mr M Hlengwa (IFP)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Public Accounts,17 November 2020

Tabled Committee Reports

The Committee convened on a virtual platform to consider and adopt Committee Reports. On the Committee’s Report on its oversight visit to the Beitbridge border post, the Democratic Alliance (DA) felt the report ‘softened’ the remarks made by the Minister. The DA said it would deal with the issue in the House. The ANC said the report was an exact representation of what the Minister said and suggested consulting the transcript.

Members raised concern regarding the absence of timeframes related to recommendations. These should be included. The Report was adopted with the timeframe amendments and the DA reserved its right.

On the Committee Report on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), for the 2018/19 financial year and the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, Members noted the supply chain management had high levels of instability and turnover of persons in ‘acting’ positions. This is undesirable. The Report was adopted but the DA reserved its right.

On the Committee Report on the oversight visit to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in Pretoria on 30 October 2020, Members brought attention to the R24 billion dispensed to 330 000 employers and several employees. Members thought 'several' should be replaced with an accurate figure as it was too vague. Further, the Auditor-General’s report refers to more than R40 billion. Members asked the figures to be cross-checked and verified.

The Committee made recommendations relating to call centres capability, and suggested prescribing specific targets. Members also suggested the overall risk on financial distributive capacity in the absence of integrated systems be highlighted. The lack of it exposes the country to fraud and corruption. Members also highlighted the internal capabilities and synchronisation of the risk management protocols which need to be sorted out. The Report was adopted

Meeting report

Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its oversight visit to Beitbridge Border Post, from 4 to 6 September 2020
The Chairperson said the Beitbridge Report had one outstanding matter. The transcript of the input and contributions by Minister Ms Mapisa-Nqakula was circulated. He asked if there were any further comments since the transcript was circulated.

Ms B van Minnen (DA) said it was very unfortunate to essentially edit the Report to soften the remarks the Minister made. She will speak to this in the House. It really was a problem the Minister was essentially admitting to knowledge of the ingresses.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee Members were fine on the matter, if it was the only issue, or if there were any other comments.

Mr S Somyo (ANC) said Ms van Minnen was disingenuous because it came straight from the transcript. She cannot insinuate the Committee is softening what the Minister said. The record was a record of the Committee meeting.

Ms van Minnen said with respect, she was not insinuating, she was saying it straight-out, but she would deal with it in the House. It was a political issue. She understood one party had one view and another party had another. The matter would be dealt with politically.

Mr Somyo said it was not an issue of one party having a view.

The Chairperson interjected, he said he did not think there was much of an issue on this matter to be discussed.

Mr B Hadebe (ANC) said the Committee had to approve and compare in relation to what the Report contained, as a true reflection of the issues raised. The only issue disputed was in relation to the Minister. What was reflected in the Report was a true reflection of what the Minister said transpired. Therefore what was contained in the Report could not be perceived as softening, it was not altered or amended at all. If the Member wanted to advance political issues it was okay, she was entitled to do so, but it could not be perceived as if the report was not a true reflection of the issues at hand.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) agreed with what Mr Hadebe raised. It was a correct reflection of what the Minister said. The Committee cannot go into the House and give a different interpretation of what the Minister said. This was the issue the Committee needed to clarify in the report, what the Minister actually communicated to the Committee. There were transcripts available which covered what the Minister said, the Committee could go back to the transcripts and listen to precisely what was said by the Minister.

The Minister reported to the Committee regarding an incident which took place, and approached the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) about the incident. The SANDF explained what happened to the Minister. The Minister did not have prior knowledge of wrongdoing, about people crossing the border illegally, the Minister explained to the SANDF. The transcripts were there; the Committee could go back and check exactly what the Minister said. The Committee must present a direct reflection in its Report to the House. It was not trying to soften what the Minister said; it was trying to state what the Minister said in the meeting.

Mr Dirks said he did not think the Committee should make politics about it. The Committee wants to put the correct version regarding what the Minister told the Committee in the Report.

Mr A Lees (DA) was not sure why the Committee was going into this kind of detail regarding the issue. The DA would not accept the Report and as was its norm, it reserved its rights on all Reports. The DA needs to take it back to its caucus to get a mandate. If Ms van Minnen felt it was a softening of what the Minister said, she was entitled to her view and he concurred with it. But he did not think it was really a discussion point for the meeting. The DA would make its declaration in the House according to the mandate given. He proposed the Committee move on.

Ms V Mente-Nqweniso (EFF) referred to the Report, and said her concern was no timeframes relating to the recommendations were tied down, as was done with the ESKOM Report. For instance, if the Committee said the ‘process of vetting of all supply chain management personnel should be initiated’ then the question of by whom, and by when, must be looked at. If this is not done it is an open-ended statement. She suggested the team refer to the ESKOM Report, the recommendations, and the Report back intervals on its recommendations. She specifically recommended looking at what it wants the entity to do, by when, and when it must report back to Parliament with an outcome. If it had monthly reports, it needed its first response by a stipulated date. It would then request monthly feedback regarding progress, according to its recommendations.

The Chairperson addressed the first matter discussed, saying the transcript was to enable clarity on the issues raised, as there was dispute about it. The Committee would be in a position to make its position known in the House. The transcript was to ensure everybody was on the same page, as far as the issue was concerned.

Regarding the issue highlighted by Ms Mente-Nqweniso, he asked if she was in a position to make proposals. The Committee could say it wanted monthly reports and the processes of investigation should be concluded by no later than the end of the financial year, 31 March 2021. He asked if it should be an earlier date.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso asked if the team could look at how it phrased the recommendations for ESKOM, as it did not require follow-up. Given it was mid-November, and the Committee would most probably take the report to the House the following week, she was not sure of the date arranged with the Chairperson of the House regarding programming. She suggested giving the month of December to complete it. The first progress report should be by the 31 December 2020. She realised the Committee would not be in Parliament then, but the progress report will be the first thing done when Parliament reopens the following year. Subsequently, she suggested the Committee request monthly reports until all the matters are resolved.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee Members were in agreement regarding Ms Mente-Nqweniso’s suggestion on the first report being submitted on 31 December 2020, and by the end of each month thereafter.

Mr Lees and Mr Hadebe agreed with the proposal.

The Chairperson asked if there were any other matters regarding the Report which needed to be addressed. He asked if it could put the Report, with those amendments, forward for adoption.

Mr Hadebe said it was unanimously agreed.

The Chairperson asked if there were any objections.

Mr Lees said the DA reserves its rights, and did not agree at this point.

The Chairperson said this was fine.

The Chairperson asked if there were any other comments. The Report was agreed to with the caveat stating the DA reserved its right.

Mr Hadebe said he thought it must be noted the DA reserved its right on political grounds and not on the content of the Report

The Chairperson asked Mr Lees if he captured his standing correctly.

Mr Lees said the Chairperson captured him correctly but Mr Hadebe had not. Mr Hadebe could not put words in his mouth. 

Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on the Annual Report and Financial Statements of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), for the 2018/19 financial year and the first quarter of the 2020/21 financial year
The Chairperson referred to item 4.2 on page three, and said it was recommendations to the Accounting Officer. He asked the Committee members if members were in agreement, or if there were any amendments or changes.

Mr Somyo asked about the reference to ‘acting’ positions.

The Chairperson said the challenge was there were retrenchments. If one entered into this space, it was a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. He was not aware of what was recommended, nor had the Committee received a briefing from SABC. He suggested the Committee could note concern about supply chain management’s high levels of instability regarding turnover of persons in ‘Acting’ positions, which was undesirable.

He asked if Ms G Shabalala, Committee Researcher, captured everything said.

Ms Shabalala said she had not, and asked if it was a recommendation.

The Chairperson said Ms Shabalala should note it with concern, without making a recommendation, as the Committee was not briefed. He suggested she just note it was not desirable for supply chain management, which was a critical space, requiring stability. The retrenchments and restructuring process must consider this particular dimension. 

Mr Somyo said the Chairperson was correct in the first instance. He suggested the Committee not focus on restructuring. It should focus on supply chain management, which was disempowered by vacancies and ‘acting’ positions at this level.

The Chairperson agreed and asked if Ms Shabalala captured this.

Ms Shabalala confirmed she did.

Mr Somyo agreed to adopt the Report.

Mr Hadebe seconded the motion.

The Chairperson asked if there were any further comments.

Mr Lees said the DA reserves its rights.

The Chairperson said the Report was adopted, noting the DA reserved its right.

Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on its oversight visit to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in Pretoria on 30 October 2020
Ms Mente-Nqweniso said there was something in the UIF report which disturbed her when she read it. It dispensed R24 billion to 330 000 employees. She asked roughly how much each employee received. R24 billion for 330 000 people is a lot of money.

Mr Hadebe said she must remember it was not a uniform distribution to all employees. Some would receive more than others.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said she understood employees are scaled at different levels, but it is a lot of money.  

Ms Mente-Nqweniso referred to page four and asked for an explanation of the figures.

Mr Somyo said it indicated R24 billion to 330 000 employers, not employees, and several employees.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said this covered her query.

Mr Hadebe said it referred to, ‘benefitting several employees’, so it also included employees.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said she no longer had a problem with this item. However, she wanted to know the source of the figures, and asked if it was from the Auditor-General’s tabled report.

Ms Shabalala confirmed this.

Mr Hadebe said she did not sound convinced.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said the Committee could not table a Report if the Committee did not know where the figures came from.

Ms Shabalala said the figures came from UIF’s presentation to the Committee in June 2020. It confirmed and verified those numbers.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said she had no problem with this.

Mr Somyo referred to the Auditor-General’s report where it said more than R40 billion.

Ms Shabalala said she was not part of the delegation to UIF.

Mr Hadebe asked the figures to be verified, and said numbers do not change. He asked for accurate figures. It was not he because he doubted the figures presented, he just wanted to make sure.

Ms Ntandokazi Cenge, Committee Content Advisor, said the figures would be verified.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso asked not use the term ‘several’ employees, as it was a very vague reference. SCOPA deals with a number compared to a certain number. Otherwise, the Committee would table a Report which might not be accurate, and see the Sunday Times stripping the Committee apart. She asked if her point was understood.

Ms Cenge said it is understood.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said otherwise the media will correct the Committee.

Mr Somyo said he thought Ms Mente-Nqweniso was correct. He suggested the Committee go back to the Auditor-General’s report.

The Chairperson moved through the rest of the Report and asked if there were any further matters Members wanted to raise regarding the Report.

Mr Lees said he did not spend a lot of time on the Report, and apologised. Regarding the recommendations, he said it did not see reference to call centres capacity to deal with a 440 000 email backlog, nor its ability to deal with only 3000 voice calls per day. He could not recall the exact numbers. He asked if this was included anywhere in the recommendations.

The Chairperson said it was 30 000 call, with an ability to deal with ten percent of it.

Mr Lees agreed this was correct. He thought it was important to include it, as it required an intervention of some sort. At the current rate it would never catch up and would have tens to hundreds of thousands of calls not dealt with. He realised many of the calls were the same people trying to get through over and over again. He suggested putting in a recommendation on operational ability needing to be upgraded to deal with the number of emails and voice calls.

The Chairperson asked if Ms Shabalala captured this. It was 30 000 calls per day with the capacity to deal with ten percent of it, and a backlog of 440 000 emails with an ability to deal with 680 of it per day.

Mr Hadebe said he agreed with Mr Lees on this one, for the first time today.

The Chairperson said he was happy the two Members agreed.

On the same point, Mr Somyo asked if it was possible to highlight the overall risk on financial distributive capacity, in the absence of integrated systems. He thought the matter was also highlighted by the Auditor-General in the auditor’s report. The lack of an integrated system exposes the country even further to ill-conceived matters of fraud and corruption. Therefore, something needs to be done about it.

The Chairperson said the numbers did not take into account the 120 labour centres. It only considered head office backlogs. He agreed with Mr Somyo about integrated systems being very important.

Mr Lees said Mr Somyo made a very good point. He referred back to what Ms Shabalala typed on the screen on the issue of backlogs. He suggested she not state the Committee wants it to deal with ten percent; it wants it to deal with 100 percent.

The Chairperson said what Ms Shabalala should write was, currently the Committee wants it to deal with ten percent, but wants it to be able to deal with 100 percent.

Mr Lees said this put it well.

The Chairperson asked Ms Shabalala to work on the particular Item, and the one on financial distributive capacity. He asked if there were any further comments.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso referred to item (c) of the recommendations which read “Skills audit is conducted to determine whether the current staff have the required skills set for the Fund.”

She asked what happened if it did not have the required skills. The sentence should not end there, it should be expanded to read ‘and be capacitated for the required skill’ or ‘re-skill them.’

She referred to Item (h), “Management maintains an effective risk management policy which continuously evaluates and updates the financial management and internal control risks.”

The Risk Management Policy was there, but the people who were appointed to implement the policy, did not identify risks. There was a problem with the actual officials. The right people for risk management regarding labour should be corrected. She asked if she made sense. Being a risk control manager, one ought to see a potential risk coming into the system. One could not use prescripts given by someone else, when there was no capacity.

The Chairperson said he followed her. He said it was more than the skillset, it was also about the internal capabilities and synchronisation of the risk management protocols which need to be sorted out. It was very disjointed.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said it was not just the Policy which was a problem, but the Policy would not point out what kind of risk one was looking for. One ought to be an official who was efficient enough to see what the potential risks were in each and every system being built. The officials do not have this capacity. She suggested the Committee tie it down to reporting timeframes. When does the Committee want it to do all of those things; and when must it give its first report?

The Chairperson referred to the bottom of the Report where timeframes were stated. He asked if the Committee was comfortable with 60 or 30 days.

Ms Mente-Nqweniso said she thought it should give 30 days.

The Chairperson asked if all were all in agreement with this.

Mr Hadebe asked if 30 days was doable.

The Chairperson said 30 days would be the timeframe to prepare the first report; thereafter it would submit quarterly reports.

Mr Hadebe agreed.

The Chairperson asked if there were any other comments. He said he would tie down those points properly, and asked if Members were comfortable with the issues raised.  He asked the Committee to adopt the Report.

Mr Somya moved to adopt the Report.

Mr Hadebe seconded.

The Chairperson said the final Report would be sent through to the Committee. The Report could possibly be debated in the House next week. He asked if the members were comfortable with this.

Members said they were.

The meeting was adjourned.



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