The Committee convened in a virtual meeting to review its first quarter programme, to consider the draft report on the first and second quarter performance reports of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), and to adopt minutes dating back to the end of last year.
Concern was expressed that the Department was not addressing the large number of issues which members of the public had been raising during the first quarter. Commenting on the forthcoming public hearings and the current difficulty in engaging with the public, a Member proposed that the hearings be moved to the second term, or alternatively to the constituency period. The first quarter programme for 2021 was adopted.
The Content Advisor took the Committee through the findings of the DPWI’s performance reports for the first and second quarters of 20/21. He said that the issues were repetitive, with the weaknesses, difficulties and challenges which the Department faced emerging again in both quarters.
During discussion, an ANC Member said that because the Department was inefficient, the country was at standstill and was faced with multiple crises. Continued under-expenditure and a number of vacant posts had resulted in the Department continuing down a problematic path. She recommended that the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure should be removed, claiming that she lacked the leadership and resources required for someone in her position.
The Committee adopted its report on oversight visits to parliamentary villages in November last year, which contained strong criticism of the condition of the houses, and the inadequate safety and maintenance features.
The Chairperson welcomed Members, their support team and the viewers. She mentioned the special meeting held recently which dealt with the cut-off date for the return of submissions on the Expropriation Bill, and said that normal proceedings would now be resumed.
She commented on the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the secondary pandemic of gender-based violence (GBV) engulfing South Africa. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine had arrived in South Africa last night, and would be distributed first to those at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, the healthcare workers, to minimise this threat.
She urged everyone to stay safe and adhere to the health protocols, adding that life would never be the same again.
Ms S Graham (DA) said she would have to leave the meeting early.
Committee Programme: First Quarter 2021
The Committee Secretary took the Committee through its first quarter programme. She referred to the meeting held on 3 February in which the Expropriation Bill had been deliberated upon. This programme would be considered for adoption in the present meeting.
Ms Graham expressed her concern that the large number of issues which people have been sending in regarding the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) were not being addressed in the first quarter. As political envoys, they should not ignore pleas from people who view them as their lost hope for a voice. She was also concerned by the Department not yet explaining to them how they would perform oversight over the infrastructure projects, and how it planned to manage its budget. She inquired whether deadlines had been set for the Department to address these issues.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) mentioned the issue of the forthcoming public hearings and the current difficulty of engaging with the public. He proposed that the public hearings be moved to the second term, or alternatively to the constituency period.
The Chairperson remarked that some of the issues raised by Ms Graham which did not refer to the programme, may be found in the report. Correspondence sent to them which required interaction by the Department, were immediately forwarded to the Department. If the Department did not respond, they stepped in to discuss the issue.
Responding to Mr Mathebula, she agreed that the public hearings should be shifted – specifically to the first week of the second quarter and, if possible, the constituency period could be utilised.
The Committee Secretary remarked that when Committee took a resolution to request a certain update or status report from the Department, a specific indication that the timeline was quarterly meant that the Department should include it in its quarterly reporting. She said the recommendation from the Committee that the public hearings should be moved had been duly effected in the programme, and it would be amended as such.
The Chairperson noted that a request had to be made to the Office of the Chair of Chairs to utilise the constituency period.
Draft Report of DPWI quarterly performance report
The Committee Content Advisor took the Committee through the findings of the DPWI’s performance reports for the first and second quarters of 20/21. He said that the issues were repetitive, with the weaknesses, difficulties and challenges which the Department faced emerging again in the first and second quarter.
He refrained from going through the background and introduction, as they were guided on these topics by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Constitution, and the rules of the National Assembly.
He stressed that quarterly performance reports functioned as a tool to fulfil Parliament’s oversight and accountability mandate. The matters contained within these quarterly performance reports would re-appear in the annual financial statements in the budgetary review and recommendation report (BRRR).
(View the report for further detail.)
Ms A Siwisa (ANC) commented that the Department was problematic. She thought back to the Committee’s first meeting with the DPWI, and how Members had picked up the existence of problems within the Department. Members had offered assistance, but the Department seemingly had other ideas.
Despite recommendations that officials be removed or suspended, those very people who were supposed to ensure the smooth running of proceedings were untouchable. Proper work by the Department was not possible by decreasing the budget and failing to provide resources for monitoring and evaluation. An efficient Public Works Department led to a functioning country, but because Public Works was inefficient, the country was at standstill and was faced with multiple crises. Continued under-expenditure and a number of vacant posts had resulted in the Department continuing down a problematic path.
The Department was also faced with a leadership crisis resulting from a lack of funds and resources, which in turn had resulted in a widespread social infrastructure crisis.
She recommended that the Committee remove the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure on the basis of her inability to properly perform her duties. She claimed that the Minister lacked the leadership and resources required for someone in her position.
Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) stressed the fact that every individual had a different background, and the degree of infrastructure development in different communities largely affected one’s ability as a young entrepreneur in the building profession to play a role in the country’s economy, and in their own local economy. In his view, the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) should be at the centre of transformation in the country. It should adopt a direct programme, ensuring that young business people in the construction industry were uplifted by all means possible. Other councils, such as the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professions (SACPCMP) should also be at this centre.
Without guidance as to the transformation agenda and statistics, transformation would remain a term that was used to lobby for votes, but it was not actually taking place. The Presidency had also not furnished Infrastructure South Africa with sufficient guidelines as to what role it plays. He believed it to be a disgrace that one aspect of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) – poverty alleviation – was being under-spent, despite over two million jobs having been lost.
He lamented the lack of functionality of the asset register software controlling all the immovable assets in the Department. He criticised government for focusing on the occupation of foreign land when the status of the local land was unknown. The passing of the Expropriation Bill would lead to government seizing land which it was unable to account for. The Committee should be better facilitated to express their views to the Department, or the Department should be present in the sessions such as the current one.
The Chairperson said that some of the issues raised in this meeting had been raised with the Department, and updates would be documented. The recommendation by Mr W Thring (ACDP) that the Department be invited when the Committee discussed its own report was not problematic, but the Department was not normally invited to meetings when they would not participate in them.
The Chairperson highlighted some of the issues raised by the Committee. She said vacancies in the Department created instability, and the filling of those positions would create stability and ensure the performance of service delivery. It would not be possible to implement the recovery plan, as presented by the President, if there was under-spending and vacancies within the Department.
On the issue of the Independent Development Trust (IDT), the Committee had successfully fought for its survival. However, the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) may follow the same path as the IDT if the issues it faced were not resolved.
The Content Advisor reiterated that quarterly performance reports functioned as a tool to monitor throughout the year. Performance target information was not sufficiently given to the Committee – they were given a summary of the interaction between the Director-General, senior management and Treasury. The in-year quarterly reports were a continuous process. Recommendations were not necessarily made during the consideration of quarterly performance reports – instead, observations were made. These observations reappeared when looking at the annual performance of the Department.
He referred to the characteristic of lethargy in the Department, which could be seen by the annual performance reports now being done in November. He also expressed his agreement with the Chairperson’s emphasis on the matter of instability and the requirement of professional qualifications, and stressed the importance of employing every public servant in a position where they could deliver to ensure an economic recovery.
He said that the report would be redrafted after obtaining permission from the Chairperson, with the matters that were emphasised inserted under ‘Observations’.
Draft Committee report on oversight visits to parliamentary villages
Ms M Hicklin (DA) asked for an amendment to be made to the attendance list, as she had not been present, but Ms S Kopane (DA) was.
The Committee Secretary then took the Committee through the findings of the draft report on the oversight visits to the parliamentary villages on 4 November 2020.
She said the reason this report was being only adopted now was because there had been urgent business to attend to before the start of last year. Some the recommendations in the report may or may not have been dealt with by the Department as it stood. After having been adopted, the reports were published in the Announcements, Tablings and Committees (ATC). The Minister was given 30 days after the report had been published to make written responses and recommendations. However, this had not been the case in practice, with no responses coming from the Minister’s office.
She said it was the responsibility of Members to request the report as they were supposed to receive it only after the Committee had adopted it.
She highlighted the objectives behind the Committee undertaking this oversight visit to the parliamentary villages, stating that the focus was on:
The condition of the houses in which Members of Parliament reside;
The renovation and maintenance work that was planned and had taken place ;
The safety and security measures;
Illegal inhabitants at the villages – in particular, Acacia Park; and
The strengthening of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems for functional communication connectivity for residents
She highlighted point 18.104.22.168 of the DPWI presentation contained within the report, which referred to the demolition and maintenance projects where the Department had reported that the MPs occupied a total of 112 prefab units in Acacia Park, including units that were under Eskom servitude. These prefab units were scheduled for maintenance.
The Department had highlighted in the report the challenges faced when trying to evict residents in Pelican Park in an effort to combat overcrowding, as well as the poor condition of the grounds in Acacia Park.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) had highlighted in its presentation, which was contained in the report, the security deficiencies which Members had experienced and were evident during the oversight visit. These included faulty CCTV monitors, a lack of intruder detection systems, insufficient perimeter protection, a lack of burglar proofing and security gates, as well as faulty intercom systems.
The Acting Secretary to Parliament had also highlighted, in her presentation contained within the report, the connectivity issues experienced within the parliamentary villages, including poor sound quality during meetings.
The Committee Secretary then drew the Committee’s attention to the gym facility. It had not been utilised for its intended purpose, and was instead being utilised as a storage facility.
Taking the Committee through the recommendations, she highlighted point 4.4, echoing Members’ views that this recommendation did not have to wait for the report to be adopted by the Committee to be implemented.
(View the report for further detail.)
Ms Hicklin pointed out two errors – on the spelling of the word ‘drought,’ and the fact that the word ‘inhabited’ should be corrected to ‘uninhabited.’
She said she had never, during her occupation of the parliamentary village, been given a landline number for SAPS or an emergency number. There were security beams on the perimeter walls at Acacia Park which could not be activated due to a lack of communication available with independent alarm companies. This was also the case with the alarm systems implemented in all Acacia Park houses. Because there was no communications infrastructure enabling an outside monitoring company or SAPS to identify if a house had been broken into, it rendered the security beams and alarm systems pointless.
Regarding security audits, what were they and what did they consist of? A recommendation must be made that annual investigations were done regarding maintenance around all the parliamentary villages. This would have resulted in the state of the houses being much better than they currently were.
She stressed the importance of a facilities maintenance contract. The contract that was apparently in place was lacklustre. Work was being done only on Sundays, and there were no resident maintenance workers on site who were able to arrive urgently and deal with an urgent problem. This made life difficult for the residents of Acacia Park and other parliamentary villages.
She emphasised that the report must stipulate which maintenance contract existed, whether it had been signed, what the value of the contract was, who the company was and why they did not have a presence on site in all the villages at all times.
Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) acknowledged that the relevant stakeholders, including Parliament and the DPWI officials, had been present at the oversight visit, and that the DPWI had requested the report only last week. However, she believed that this was not sufficient reason to not give them a clear indication in terms of what had been done since their oversight visit in November. The issues raised should have been attended to, given that the Department had been engaged with and given ample to deal with the issues raised during the visit. The excuse of receiving the report late should not be accepted.
She lamented the terrible state of a number of the prefab units, including the one occupied by the Chairperson, and believed that the recommendation of urgent attention to these houses should be re-emphasised.
She noted that there was a specific amount of money attached to a unit, but also that they were requested to be patient with the contractors, because this pool of money was being redistributed. She requested an update on when the first phase would be concluded, given that some units needed more extensive repairs than originally established. She also requested quarterly updates on the progress of these repairs, and what challenges were being faced as they attempted to comply with the deadlines for completion.
Ms L Mjobo (ANC) believed that the issue of using roofing asbestos should be emphasised due to health concerns and Constitutional requirements.
The Chairperson explained that they had been informed of a programme scheduled to start in March which would deal with the prefab units, but during their oversight visit they had discovered the existence of a contractor dealing with the brick houses. She proposed a recommendation that the prefabs containing asbestos roofing be demolished and new houses be constructed on the existing foundations, without the use of the brick-and-mortar method.
She said that the Committee was not being represented in certain meetings where issues such as ICT was being discussed, and stated that this needed to change. Resolving the ICT issues was long overdue. Because of the emergence of virtual meetings, connectivity should not be an issue, especially in a city possessing optical fibre. She also expressed her grievances over the current state of the parliamentary village houses, given that she occupied one.
The Committee Secretary responded to the comments made by Members, stating that most comments made were already contained in the recommendations, and that certain comments would be better dealt with by the Department when they came to give feedback. She asked Members to ensure that their recommendations were ready when the meetings begin.
On the point made by the Chairperson regarding the Committee’s presence at meetings, the Committee Secretary agreed that as it was responsible for holding the Department to account, it should be included in all meetings regarding parliamentary villages. However, there had been a disagreement between the Chairperson and the Committee Secretary as to whether it was the duty of the Minister to invite the Committee to the meetings, and whether the Chairperson herself should be invited.
Ms Hicklin agreed that there should be mechanism whereby they hold the Minister and the Department to account. Discussions were happening but the Committee was not present, which conflicted with their duty of holding these entities to account. The Committee needed to be present in the meetings.
Ms Siwisa agreed with Ms Hicklin, and added that the Chairperson should raise the matter with the Chair of Chairs.
The Committee Secretary highlighted the fact that Parliament did not have a collaborative nature, citing this as the reason for the prevalent situation. She noted that the issues mentioned had been acknowledged during the oversight visit and were being deliberated upon. She also reminded Members to have their recommendations handy in case the Department happened not to touch on a specific issue, and Members wanted to ask specific questions related to the recommendations.
The draft report of the Portfolio Committee on the 2020/21 first and second quarter performance of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure was adopted.
The draft report of the Portfolio Committee on the oversight visits to parliamentary villages on 4 November 2020 was adopted.
Consideration and adoption of Committee minutes
Committee minutes dated 25 November 2020
The minutes were adopted without amendment.
Committee minutes dated 2 December 2020
The Committee Secretary took the Members through the minutes.
Ms Hicklin asked whether all the written responses to questions had been received by the due date, as she did not recall whether she had seen all of them.
Ms Van Schalkwyk recommended that during meetings with the Department, in order to ensure proper accountability, the Committee Secretary should keep a record of everyone present and capture it under ‘attendance.’ She moved the adoption of the minutes.
Mr Thring commented that the Committee had followed the recommendation of the Content Advisor – that an internal process be followed -- instead of the process recommended by Mr Thring, and he did not see that decision captured in the minutes. If an internal process of investigation were to be followed, where was the outcome of that internal investigative process?
The minutes were adopted.
The Chairperson noted two issues arising from the minutes. The first was the issue indicated by Mr Thring, and the second was the issue of what was expected by 15 December 2020.
The Committee Secretary confirmed that the requested list of projects had not yet been received.
Committee minutes dated 3 Feb 2021
The Committee Secretary took the Members through the minutes.
The minutes were adopted.
The Committee Coordinator then took the Members through the progress of the resolutions of the meeting.
There were funds available to ensure that the radio promotions were being distributed to three radio stations. However, the Committee Secretary had received an email late last night, which stated that the Section Manager of the Parliamentary Communication Services had indicated that there were no funds from her section that would be made available for use by other parliamentary sections. The Committee Secretary had then spoken to the project sponsor again in an attempt to ensure the intervention of the Divisional Manager, who would make the funds available. She had been sensitised on the matter and was working on it, but there had been no further updates and the radio promotions had subsequently not been aired today.
The Parliamentary Communication Services officer responsible for this Portfolio Committee had submitted a draft media plan to the Committee Coordinator on 10 February, but this plan required other units within the Parliamentary Communication Services to input prior to the Committee formalising it, and sending it through to the Members.
The Public Education Unit had been engaged with in a very robust meeting that had had a brilliant outcome, as a plan had been drafted regarding how the Committee was to move forward in terms of the present issue. This plan had also been informed by the recommendations from this Committee regarding pamphlets and the involvement of Parliamentary Constituency Offices (PCOs) and Parliamentary Democratic Offices (PDOs), which were situated in three provinces.
Yesterday, the Committee Secretary, Content Advisor and Legal Advisor had gone through the content of the meeting to find any possible loopholes prior to the content being disseminated to the public, ensuring that the public was properly informed of what the Bill sought to achieve. This final draft had been returned to the Public Education Office to submit to the Divisional Manager for final sign-off. Once the final sign-off was received from the Divisional Manager, the information would be shared with the Committee, pending approval by the Chairperson.
In response, Ms Hicklin suggested the extension of the 28 February deadline as, due the absence of the radio promotions and requisite public education, the public did not have all the information at their disposal necessary to make informed comments.
The Chairperson indicated that she would seek updates from the Chair of Chairs and Communications Manager.
The Committee Secretary noted that, following the 3 February meeting and the Chairperson’s ‘Morning Live’ interview, there had been a large increase in the number of submissions that the Committee had received. She noted the massive number of submissions received electronically and via email, but also the large number that had been lost through people not making proper use of the WhatsApp link provided for submissions.
The Chairperson suffered from connection issues, and highlighted again the issue of ICT that had to be resolved. She reiterated her intention to seek updates from the Chair of Chairs and Communications Manager following the present meeting.
The Chairperson mentioned again the pressing issues that Members had raised in the meeting. These were the high vacancy rate within the Department, and that resolving this issue was of utmost importance for the implementation of the President’s proposed recovery plan; the daunting path the PMTE was following; and the issue of accountability and optimal performance by the Department.
She highlighted the outstanding list of projects which the Department was working on, and noted the lack of responses to Committee questions by the Department at the end of meetings, and the absence of responses to written questions sent to the Minister. She asked that the responses to the questions to the Department to be submitted by 24 February, as well as the list of projects.
The meeting was adjourned.
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