In a virtual meeting, the Committee convened to deliberate and adopt its 2019/20 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Reports (BRRR) for the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), and Statistics South Africa (StatsSA).
The EFF noted StatsSA faced challenges in the payment of their staff and had a high vacancy rate. There were also repeat Committee recommendations which the entity did not implement.
On the DPSA report, requests were made for a comprehensive report on the beneficiaries or public servants that had taken advantage of the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme and a roadmap that could measure how long the reconfiguration of the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) was going to take. Members raised the mandatory training for students at the National School of Government (NSG) and vacancies at the PSC. Members questioned what was happening with the case of the Director-General of the PSC.
On the DPME report, the Committee raised the matter of lifestyle audits of the Executive and the issue of delegated authority.
With the exception of the DA and the EFF, who opposed the BRRRs, the Committee adopted the reports.
It also adopted the report on the recommended candidate to fill the position Public Service Commissioner, despite opposition from DA Members, who argued that the recommended candidate lacked certain important requirements for the job. The report would be forwarded to the National Assembly for adoption.
The Chairperson said the meeting intended to adopt the Committee’s Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) on Vote 8, Vote 10 and Vote 12, as well as the consideration and the adoption of the report on the recommended candidate to fill vacancy at the Public Service Commission (PSC) Board, and the consideration and adoption of previous Committee minutes.
The Committee Secretary said that Mr Mlungisi Biyela, Parliament Researcher, and Mr Julius Ngoepe, Content Advisor, would present the reports on the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and the filling of the vacancy reports.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) 2020 of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on Statistics South Africa
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said that this report reflected the deliberations of the Portfolio Committee.
Mr M Malatsi (DA) said that while the report did represent the input of the Committee, he noted the DA’s right to reserve its vote on the report.
Ms R Komane (EFF) said that even though StatsSA faced many challenges, the EFF could not support the report. The challenges faced by StatsSA were perpetuated by the Committee and the Ministers, and the EFF did not commend StatsSA for having an unqualified report. There were many shortfalls in the payment of staff at StatsSA. The high vacancy rate that the Committee had said that StatsSA must take note of, had still not been done, and StatsSA was unable to attend to this matter. She commended the report, despite the EFF’s rejection of it -- specifically point 10.6, which stated that the Committee had decided to invite National Treasury and the Minister of Finance, together with the Minister of the DPME as well as StatsSA, to address the budget challenges at the Department.
Mr C Sibisi (NFP) said that despite the numerous challenges, he supported the report.
The Chairperson said that report was agreed upon, with the exception of the DA and the EFF, which had reserved their rights.
Dr L Schreiber (DA) said that that was correct.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) said she supported the adoption of the report.
Ms Ntuli seconded the adoption of the report.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on the Department of Public Service And Administration (Dpsa), Public Service Commission (PSC), National School of Government (NSG) and The centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI)
Ms Lesoma suggested that the Department should seek legal advice on the preliminary reports that the Committee had looked at yesterday in the House, and what they were dealing with now, meant for how they managed in terms of compliance processes. In respect of the DPSA, she was unsure about point 10.3 under recommendations, as it did not capture the previous agreements of the last three years, and the Department needed to practice caution in that area.
Regarding the Government Employees’ Housing Scheme (GEHS) for PSA employees, the Committee would like a comprehensive report on the beneficiaries or public servants that had taken advantage of it, and what the challenges were so that they could deal with it. The scheme was already there, but it seemed that most public servants were not taking advantage of it. The report should contain the “value for money” in terms of the housing scheme.
Regarding the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI), she said she would like a roadmap that could measure how long the reconfiguration of the CPSI was going to take. The Acting CEO of the CPSI had said that they were not able to retain the staff because they were moving elsewhere due to uncertainty of job security. The reconfiguration would be the key to all of these concerns, and to say explicitly what it was that they wanted to receive from it.
Regarding the National School of Government (NSG), in 10.11 under Recommendations, she said that the mandatory training for students was already happening, because this recommendation had been made last year.
Regarding the Public Service Commission (PSC), she said that the Committee was aware that there were vacancies that the Premier’s offices of the three provincial governments also had to fill, as this was very important. The Commission must implement what it had promised to do.
Ms Motsepe said rejected the report, and this must be dealt with at the next meeting.
Ms Kibi said that she seconded what Ms Lesoma had said about the housing scheme. She accepted the adoption of the report.
Ms M Clarke (DA) said that the DA reserved their right in terms of the report.
Ms Ntuli asked what the stress at the CPSI was with regard to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on shared services.
Regarding the PSC, she asked if the Committee had said anything about the finalisation of the case of the Director-General (DG), and if something had been said, it should be reflected. Regarding the suspension of the DG, had they recommended the impartiality of the PSC? There needed to be a differentiation between the preliminary report and the BRRR.
Dr Schreiber agreed with Ms Ntuli about the urgency of the finalisation of the disciplinary investigation of the DG of the PSC. The Committee needed to express the desire to wrap the finalisation up.
Mr Biyela replied to Ms Ntuli, and said that the Committee had discussed the case of the DG, and the chairperson of the PSC had said they were at the finalisation stage of the process. This would be reflected in the report.
Regarding the impartiality of the PSC, maybe they had not made it clear enough. He thought that point 10.8 covered that, but they could still extend it by including the impartiality that the PSC should practice.
Regarding the preliminary report that Ms Ntuli mentioned, they had reported it, and Members had made declarations in the House. They had matched what was in the preliminary report with the final report which was presented.
Replying to Ms Lesoma on the query of 10.11, he said that they would remove that section because it was already happening. On 10.13, they would include the milestones on the roadmap on the reconfiguration of the CPSI. This would be done after the meeting and forwarded to Members.
Regarding the GEHS, they would include this aspect in the comprehensive reports on the process and challenges experienced with the scheme. They would state clearly what they wanted the Committee to recommend.
Regarding 10.3, there had been an omission, and they had inserted: “However, the government was urged to keep the three-year agreement on salaries, which was effective from the 2017/18 financial year up to the 2020/21 financial year.”
Ms Lesoma referred to the DG of the PSC, and said they had to be mindful that they must incorporate that the Minister was given the responsibility of appointing a DG by the President.
Ms Ntuli said that as the Committee discussed the matter, the issue of the DG was closed. How did the Minister feature in there? To clarify, she was not querying the impartiality, as the report implied the impartiality which had led to the DG being suspended. She wanted them to reflect on their observations, and it was not a request.
Dr Schreiber referred to the edit that had been made, and said it was the position of the Committee that they were now officially saying that with the freezing of wages that took place on 1 April 2020 -- which was the third year of the agreement that it referred to – it did not agree with the fact that wages were frozen for the 2020/21 financial year. He asked if this was what the Committee wanted to say, and wanted clarity around this sentence.
Ms Lesoma said that Dr Schreiber was confused -- government had entered into the wage negotiations two years ago, and it was a three-year agreement. When one entered into an agreement it was legally binding, and it was going to be very embarrassing for government for the courts to determine whether, correctly or incorrectly, government was reneging on the agreement that it had signed with the organised labour. She referred to the Labour Relations Act and what it said concerning the wage negotiations and the various platforms that were engaged on. The people who had taken government to court were not necessarily the ones that had sat in the bargaining chamber. In the Committee’s observations, they had to be explicit about what they meant in the observation of a paragraph. This was to avoid people coming to the same conclusion that Dr Schreiber had come to.
The Chairperson said that in a nutshell, the Committee was obligated to honour signed agreements.
Dr Schreiber said that he understood the content of the observation and the recommendation.
Ms Lesoma moved the adoption of the report.
Ms Kibi seconded the motion, with all the changes and recommendations.
Dr Schreiber said that the DA reserved its right to take a position on the report.
The Chairperson said that the report was adopted, with the DA reserving its right and the EFF rejecting it.
Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR): Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), and Brand South Africa
Mr Malatsi asked if the Committee had discussed the issue of lifestyle audits for the Executives, and if they had, why the completion of that process and the timelines were not reflected. He would comment again once his question was answered.
Ms Komane said she seconded what Mr Malatsi had said. The EFF rejected the report.
Ms Lesoma said that the rejection of reports went to the House, and in the meeting, one reserved one’s right. It did not get captured when individual Members stated something, and whether all Members agreed with it. The issue of the lifestyle audit had been sponsored by Minister Mthembu. The Committee would like to get a report back on how far the DPME was in delegating authority by the Ministers, which would lead to the signing of performance agreements by the Deputy Ministers. There was a very fine line between the responsibilities of the Ministers and the Deputy Ministers. She would like the Minister to give the Committee a report back as to when and how the government intended to do the lifestyle audit for the Executive.
Ms Komane responded to Ms Lesoma, and said that when they rejected a report, they did not want to be perceived in the House as if they have been agreeing to it in the Portfolio Committee meeting.
The Chairperson said that he noted that they had reserved their right and it would be recorded as such.
Mr Ngoepe wanted to draw the Members’ attention to 10.5 on re-grading. They had covered what Ms Lesoma had said about the lifestyle audits, but were not specific about the emphasis on the Executive Authority. The DPME was mostly responsible for assisting the Presidency with the lifestyle audits of the Executive. They would place an emphasis on the Executive Authority. He would add the recommendation regarding the delegation of responsibilities to the Deputy Ministers.
Mr Malatsi said Mr Ngoepe had made a key point regarding the finalisation of the delegated authority if one considered that that the claim by the Department that the incomplete nature of government agreements for Deputy Ministers was based on delegated authorities to them that had not been finalised. As the DPME was responsible for the monitoring of the government departments and ministries, it needed a clear report on the delegated authorities as a standalone. He understood the impact it had now on this commitment of performance agreements, but it showed a weakness that there was no clear standing on the delegated authority. The DA reserved their right on the report.
The Chairperson said that the members of the staff were recording the amendments that Members were suggesting.
Ms Kibi moved the adoption of the report.
Ms Ntuli seconded the adoption of the report.
The report was adopted.
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on the Recommended Candidate for Appointment by the President to serve as a Commissioner for the National Public Service Commission
Ms Clarke said she had participated in the one day of interviews of the sub-committee, and had been unhappy that there was no platform for the Committee to discuss people who had been short-listed that had serious disciplinary matters against them. Surely there must be some form of discussion that allowed the Committee to bring this forward before they interviewed candidates. For example, Ms Stella Ngumbela, who had been short-listed, had a Diploma in Food and Beverages, and did not understand in the interview what was expected of her and what she was being interviewed for. Ms Clarke said she was extremely disappointed that Dr Somadoda Fikeni had been chosen for the position, as he no background in human resources (HR), governance or law, which was a critical component for the person who was going to be employed in this position. The short-listing process needed to be improved.
The Chairperson said that they had had discussions in the subcommittee already, and the report was now simply being presented to the full Committee. They were not there to start over again.
Ms Clarke said that Committee Members who were not involved in the whole process should also have the opportunity to express how they feel.
The Chairperson said that that would be unfair to the process that they had agreed upon, which was that the subcommittee must deal with the matter and then come to the Portfolio Committee with its recommendations.
Ms Lesoma said that the report did explicitly say what processes and tools had been used to determine the short-listing and selection of the ideal candidate. She said that Members needed to stick to the principles that they had agreed on. She asked if Ms Clarke would like candidates to have security clearances before they conducted the interviews. The security clearance processes of Parliament seemed to be too slow for the committees to conclude their work timeously. Regarding people with disciplinary issues that were pending, they must crosscheck with the DPSA after they had short-listed candidates. Ms Clarke needed to acknowledge that she was part of the process as well. It was quite unfortunate that Dr Schreiber had pre-empted the decision of the Committee today, and she was surprised as to why Ms Clarke was raising that issue while it still needed to be debated.
Ms Komane raised a concern of the Members who had served on the sub-committee. The report of today was dealt with in the sub-committee, and today it was the subject for deliberation by Members who were not part of the sub-committee. These Members should raise their concerns, because the Members of the sub-committee had digested all those factors. It was neither side’s fault if a Member was part of a sub-committee and then, for one or other reason, was no longer part of the sub-committee. They should have noted when they short-listed the candidates if they did not meet the requirements, but now that had exhausted that process. For someone to be short-listed and go through to an interview, it meant that that person had met the requirements of the advertisement, and this person was then agreed on by the Committee and the sub-committee. The fact that the person did not have experience was neither here nor there.
Ms Kibi said that unfortunately, Ms Clarke had been part of the panel for only one day. The reality was that they had had deliberations on the process, and the previous day that they had had discussions. She agreed with Dr Schreiber that these were issues they should be looking at. On the screening issue, the candidate that they had identified did not have a case against him. If Ms Clarke knew something about this candidate, she needed to bring it up.
Dr Schreiber expressed his disgust at the way the Committee had attacked a Member for sharing a view that they did not agree with. Ms Clarke had been part of the interviews, and she had the right to express her views on the interview and question issues round the process. The Committee interviewed people who were in the beverage industry and people who had disciplinary cases against them, and the Committee was appointing a political analyst who had no experience in public administration. This was an outrage, and it was disgusting how Members had responded to Ms Clarke. Members saying that someone not having experience was “neither here nor there,” would lead to bad effects in the future. How could the Committee say that they wanted someone fit or proper, but then say they did not care whether they had experience in the relevant fields? The DA fundamentally rejected this candidate, as the candidate had shown political bias, was not independent and impartial, had no background in law, and had no public administration or HR background.
Replying to Ms Lesoma, he said no one had pre-empted the outcome of the meeting except the person who had issued a media statement from the Committee, minutes after they had finished their meeting the previous day. He said that Members needed to check their emails to see that there was an email from Parliament saying that the sub-committee had resolved to appoint this person. He had spoken out after the email had gone out in response to the arrogance the Committee issuing that statement, after they had not yet discussed it in the full Committee meeting. This process was flawed and it would have bad effects on the Committee. The DA rejected this candidate with contempt.
Ms Lesoma said she respected the views of all Members, but they must be very mindful of the fact that all their meetings were recorded and open to the public.
Ms Ntuli said that it was a pity that those who were not part of the sub-committee were speaking only now. The Committee wanted to thank the sub-committee for the work they had done, and it had not been that easy to select a candidate. They were looking forward to working with the candidate that had been selected. They must conduct future interviews properly. If they followed the process, there would be no problems.
The Chairperson said the report was supported, with the exception of the DA. That rejection would be noted, and the report would be taken to the House.
Minutes of Committee meetings
Minutes dated 13 October, 4 November, 17 November, and 18 November 2020 were adopted.
The Secretary of the Committee read through the minutes of the sub-committee of 24 November 2020.
Mr Biyela asked for his name to be corrected, and the spelling of the name ‘Mpikase’ be changed to ‘Mphikase’.
Ms Lesoma moved the adoption of the minutes, and Ms Kibi seconded.
The minutes were adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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