The Committee convened on a virtual platform to adopt its Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (2019/20) of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on the Performance of the National Department of Public Works and its Entities. The report was adopted with amendments and Members applauded the support staff for putting together a report in a short amount of time which was an accurate reflection of the Committee’s interaction with the Department and entities.
The Committee discussed a range of matters related to the performance of the Department where they expected the findings and recommendations of the Committee Report to be more robust on. Members were mindful that the report should stick only to matters pertaining to the 2019/20 financial year and not conflate matters relating to the COVID19 activities which did not fall under this reporting period. Members were concerned about possible anomalies in the report regarding the discrepancy on target numbers. There was general concern that despite having good expenditure, the Department did not perform well and did not meet a number of targets.
An issue which came out strongly in the Committee discussion was the need for accountability and consequence management – Members stressed that the Department is constantly telling the Committee there is consequence management in place but the evidence of this is not seen.
Members also discussed the need for greater work around the problematic area of state funerals which had been coming on for many years. Members also stressed the need for an immovable asset register for the Department to keep track of its properties and land so that they are utilised.
It was said the Committee needs to indicate, going forward, that they would be making use of a monitoring system where the action on the Committee’s recommendations can be tracked – without this, the problems remain the same and the Committee cannot keep making the same reflections
The Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (2019/20) of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on the Performance of the National Department of Public Works and its Entities
Mr Shuaib Denyssen, Committee Content Advisor of Parliament, took Members through the report.
Ms S Graham (DA) commended the support staff on the incredible work, considering the little time they had to put the report together, which encapsulates what was discussed yesterday. She found the focus on COVID when discussing mis-spending bizarre as COVID did not fall under the 2019/20 financial year. If the Committee could recall, the first payment for the Beitbridge project was made on April which falls outside the period currently under review. Also, none of quarantine sites kicked in April as the country went into lockdown in March. The Committee will have to be very careful not to shift focus too much regarding the matters which feel squarely in 2019/20. In the next financial year, the Committee is going to interrogate what happened in the quarantine sites and the Beitbridge project. The Committee must not lose sight of this..
One of the big matters in the Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) was the non-stake sector EPWP programme and again, what happened with the Independent Development Trust (IDT). The meeting was cancelled because it had not prepared the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and the Committee did not have financials to look at for the IDT. Much like this year, they missed seven or eight months of what should have been EPWP interactions. That is going to have a big impact on the number of opportunities that the Department can provide. But at this stage, she was not too concerned about the matters raised. But she was worried that all of this had happened under the guidance of COVID and that there was a lot that the Committee was still missing. She does believe that this year, going forward, when the Committee starts looking at the quarterly reviews, it will have to be far more up to speed with what was happening and will have to interrogate matters on a much deeper scale. But aside from that, she commended the support team on an excellent report.
Mr W Thring (ACDP) thanked the support staff for the tremendous effort and work put into the BRRR. On pages 19 and 20 of the report, he noted an anomaly regarding the number of targets. At the bottom of page 20, it provides for targets that were also not reported on. He asked if they include that what the actual total would have been. Because if it was not counted it means that six of the 16 were not achieved. But if it was counted and included then they are looking at seven targets that were not achieved.
Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) commended the excellent work of the report given the short period of time they were given. The general issues that were of much concern were captured in the report. The Committee should try and include the concern in terms of low-performance rates of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) which is 48.6% because although there is under performance of expenditure of the budget, the Committee’s disappointment in the poor performance of the targets must be emphasised. She raised the same issue last year during the BRRR process then. The under expenditure and under performance of the Department is concerning.
Under the Committee’s observations and recommendations, the support team should emphasise the challenges in the area of the supply chain. There should also be a recommendation where the Minister can be requested to strengthen and enforce consequence management and to look at people exiting the Department - this can be a sign of malpractice or irregularity in the Department.
Ms P Kopane (DA) apologised that she could not join the meeting yesterday. She congratulated the support staff for compiling the report. The report is a true reflection of what is happening in the Department. The progress of how things have to change is not happening at the speed as they wish so that was concerning for her, having read the findings and observations of the report. The Committee needs to indicate, going forward, that they would be making use of a monitoring system where the action on the Committee’s recommendations can be tracked – without this, the problems remain the same. She welcomed the report and reiterated it is a true reflection of what is happening. She emphasised the importance of accountability and hoped that the Minister performed her responsibility as the report casts a somewhat negative reflection on the integrity of the Minister. She was hopeful that the new Minister was going to change systems. However that is not the case. But she is still hopeful that the Committee can put pressure on people to take accountability for what they are doing. Then progress will be made.
Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) commended that the report gave a clear description of what the Committee has been confronted with and what has been happening. He felt that the report had the same reflections the Committee has been making for the past two years. There has been some improvement with the Property Management Trading Entity (PTME) and their key responsibilities. The Committee cannot keep making the same reflections. He hoped n improvement in the BRRR would be seen next year. The Committee must try to grapple with accountability and ensure they get their eventually. The Committee was must ensure that the PMTE is in order. He welcomed the report and hoped the Committee did not find any surprises.
Ms M Hicklin (DA) was concerned and agreed with Ms Graham that COVID is outside of the scope of the report. The Department must be careful of the data they generated via the software systems they made use of – this data is important for determining whether leases, monies are paid to municipalities, whether monies are paid to the EPWP programmes etc. The Committee must find a way of ensuring their recommendations emphasise the need for stronger data capturing and information input so that the information that is generated by the system is more credible.
The Committee needs to also make a strong point on the need for more red flag systems so that if any data inputted is incorrect, it is flagged. The Committee needs to somehow police the supply chain management a lot more than it actually is. For example, the problem with the overspending on state funerals happened over a period of time and if DPWI had identified to the Committee earlier on that it had a problem with SCM, it would not be in the position it is currently, with wasteful expenditure. There must be stronger recommendations on mechanisms to identify corruption before it reaches the epic proportion.
Ms L Mjobo (ANC) gave her thanks for the report. She concurred with the recommendations made by Ms Graham and Ms Kopane.
Mr T Mashele (ANC) did not have any recommendations
The Chairperson thanked all Members for their recommendations and discussions. She appreciated the report. She noted she did not see the matter of state funerals listed within the section of recommendations – this is something which has not only been happening this year but also occurred in previous years. Red flags were raised and investigations occurred. The Committee did not get the full report on the investigation into state funerals. The Committee report needs to have recommendations on state funerals and the role of officials. The Committee needs a detailed report on what is happening with state funerals. In the previous meeting, Members discussed the matter of state funerals and it needing to be capped at a certain amount to avoid over expenditure.
Secondly, the matter of the asset register is in need of a fully-fledged register that is owned by the Department. If the Department had it, it would not have had the challenges it currently faced. There are many unknown public works and infrastructure buildings in respective towns that some of them are being vandalised, some are hotspots for criminals, and some of the buildings are in good conditions. The asset register is needed, especially the immovable asset register. The Department may decide to donate to certain respective municipalities. When the Committee was in KwaZulu-Natal, the Mayor said there was land that was laying there unused belonging to national DWPI – the municipality would like to make use of the land but the Department was not doing anything about the land. There is a need for a clear immovable register within the Department because it will make it easy to identify land and what was not being used.
The Content Advisor noted the confusion around the performance targets that Mr Thring raised.
He acknowledged and appreciated the other matters Members spoke to. The recommendations will highlight the fact that there are not yet solutions but there are still weaknesses.
He noted the matter of COVID falling outside this particular reporting period.
He provided that the aspect of proactively monitoring consequence management requires provincial perspective.
Responding to Ms Hicklin, he said having electronic software is useful but it generally depends on what is inputted. The focus should be on competent individuals working the system to make the decision of what is valuable rather than using a system - it all depends on the individuals appointed.
He noted the link Ms Van Schalkwyk pointed out between performance targets and the integrity of the Committee and Minister. He noted the irregularity of targets achieved (low) but the 91% spend of the budget (high) – this is a cause for concern. Somewhere along the line there is an anomaly which might only be revealed three or four years later. He would find a way of strengthening the recommendations and findings in line with the suggestions made by Ms Hicklin.
It was noted there was an error in terms of the performance targets. It should instead have read seven. The Department’s Annual Performance Plan had 16 targets that it reported on for 2019/20. However it left out one of those targets which is to do with change in the index for management practises. That was the target planned but when it reported in its Annual Report, this target was not mentioned – it should read the Department missed seven of 16 targets. However only 15 targets were reported this - this caused the confusion. Something similar happened with the PMTE – it missed one target i.e. it reported on 43 targets in the Annual Report but had 44 in the initially tabled APP. These were some of the anomalies which came through.
Ms Graham raised the matter of consequence management - the Committee has no idea what consequence management looks like, what it does, how it is enacted, how it is implemented, or what the policies look like. And it is something Members need to start pushing for more. When the Committee talks about consequence management, it needs to be specific on what it looks like, what policies should be in place, who is consequently managed and the results of this consequence management. The Department is constantly telling the Committee there is consequence management in place but the evidence of this is not seen. She was unsure if it will be possible to incorporate this into the report, but if not, she requested a meeting where consequence management could be discussed and the Committee can get an idea of what I looked like practically in the Department.
The Chairperson when the report would be debated in the mini-plenary.
The Committee Secretary responded that she not sure of this. She will enquire when the debate will take place as it is a House matter and not a Committee matter.
Mr Thring questioned the irregular expenditure raised in the previous Committee meeting regarding schools. Even though the irregular expenditure that was explained to the Committee may be a noble cause, irregular expenditure is still irregular expenditure. He concurred with Ms Graham regarding accountability and consequence management. He is aware of the AG’s report about the third level of accountability, but he wanted to know about the new findings of holding senior management to account where certain irregularities are found and continue to be perpetuated year after year.
The Chairperson noted the matters Members raised and said they will be effected in the report in the manner in which they have been recommended. The Chairperson was not sure if the Committee had to adopt the report after the meeting or once the corrections have been done.
The Content Advisor said that there are few additions that need to be added to the report’s recommendations and findings. He advised that the Committee adopt the report with amendments. The amendments would be effected by the end of business. Members would then get to see the amended report.
Ms Mjobo moved to adopt the report with amendments.
Ms Hicklin seconded the motion.
The report was adopted with amendments.
Consideration and adoption of Committee minutes
Committee minutes dated 10 November 2020
The Committee Secretary took Members through the minutes.
The Chairperson asked that the minutes of 10 November 2020 be adopted as true reflection of what happened on the day.
The minutes were adopted with minor amendments.
Committee minutes dated 11 November 2020
The Committee Secretary took Members through the minutes.
The minutes were adopted.
The Committee Secretary briefly outlined the Committee programme for the coming week.
The Chairperson thanked the Committee for their robust engagements.
The meeting was adjourned.
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