Performance Agreements of Accounting Officers for 2020/21; Filling Heads of Department posts; Brand SA update on challenges & suspended CEO; with Deputy Minister

Public Service and Administration, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation

10 March 2021
Chairperson: Acting: Ms M Lesoma (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, 10 March 2021

In a virtual meeting, the Committee met to receive a briefing from the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) on the performance agreements of the Accounting Officers for 2020/21 financial year in the public service and alignment to the MTSF 2019-24; and progress made in filling Heads of Department posts in the public service. The Committee also received briefs from the Board of Brand South Africa on the update regarding the finalisation of the suspended Chief Executive Officer, and outlined the plan to stabilise the institution at the leadership positions.

The Committee welcomed the high-level compliance on submitting performance agreements in the 2020/21 year but expressed concerns that there were challenges on compliance on linkages between the MTSF and the National Development Plan. However, the DPME observed that the quality assurance of performance agreements of HoD performance agreements was currently compliance-driven and not performance-driven.

Members observed that what was key in the address by the Deputy Minister DPME was the status report on the filing of HoD 2020/21 performance agreements which showed that only three out of the HOD’s did not have a signed performance agreement because the MECs had not yet signed, the status of the HOD performance agreements, the Brand SA plans to stabilise the institution, issues related to the former CEO’s activities and information by Brand SA’s Board on reputation report on Brand SA.

Members asked the DPME to clarify what consequence management had been implemented against HoDs that did not comply with the Directive issued by the MPSA in terms of Section 41(3) of the Public Service Act, 1994; to state the valid reasons given by HoDs for noncompliance;  to clarify if it had set timelines to conclude performance agreements; to clarify when the review on the HoD PMDS guideline would take place; to state other consequence management apart from the loss of benefits administered to HoDs that did not sign performance agreements; if the DPME had evaluated the role of MECs in signing the performance agreements of HoDs and to confirm when the tenure of the CEO ended, when the CFO’s case would be heard, and state if the CFO’s suspension was with salary and for the DPME to clarify attempts made to ensure that Provinces sign performance agreements.

The Committee asked the DPME directly ‘Please state measures taken by the DPME on HoDs that gave inaccurate information on employee contributions and clarify how HoDs align with the MTSF’, DPME please clarify why North West province had a poor submission of signed performance agreements’? And DPME please state if disciplinary measures exist for senior managers that frustrate the efforts of HoDs’. Members stated that the DPME needed to properly monitor HoDs that did not update the DPME on performance agreements after quality assurance.

The Committee was briefed by Brand SA. Highlights of the brief by the Brand SA were the plans to stabilise the institution at the leadership positions via current posts, the extension of contracts, the moratorium in place since 9 October 2020, the pending reconfiguration process, and Brand SAs appeal to the Executive Authority to uplift the moratorium.  Members asked the Brand SA questions on filling of crucial vacancies, the reconfiguration process, and the existence of Brand SA

Members asked ‘Brand SA please state the exact impact of the 9 October 2020 moratorium on vacancies and if Brand SA was appalled about the moratorium’; asked the Board of Brand SA to state attempts it had made to ensure that vacant posts be filled as these affected performance and for Brand SA to clarify the status of the filling of vacancies of the two posts within the Board of Trustees and the timelines to fill these posts for SA Tourism, and Invest SA. An appeal was made to the DM ‘Deputy Minister, please clarify if the unstable human resources situation at Brand SA sends a positive message about the leadership of brand SA. Also, Deputy Minister please clarify whether there is still a strategic need for the existence of Brand SA given that the existence of the Presidential Envoys on Investment and Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry’

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration. The Committee asked the DPSA questions on timelines around finalising recruitment processes, re-advertisement costs, and HoD positions were vacant for long periods. The Committee appreciated the DPSA for informing the Committee of the risks of crucial vacancies not approved. The Committee stated that it would invite the North West Premier to take the Committee into its confidence on the reasons for delays in signing performance agreements.

Meeting report

The Acting Chairperson welcomed Members and requested that three items be added to the meeting agenda. The additional items concern the letter of complaints related to the public service addressed to the Speaker and Committee Chairpersons, consideration of a Bill, and consideration of the programme for the next quarter. She informed Members that these three additional agendas would be deliberated upon by Members.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) agreed with the Acting Chairpersons’ request.

The Acting Chairperson read the apologies of the acting Minister in the Presidency, Dr L Schreiber (DA), and Ms B Maluleke (ANC). She stated the agenda of the day which included the additional item. She invited the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Sindi Chikunga.

Deputy Minister Chikunga said she was presently monitoring the administration of vaccines to frontline workers and apologised on behalf of the Acting Minister who was attending a Cabinet meeting. She said the briefing would highlight the status report on the filing of DG/HoD 2020/21 performance agreements. She informed the PC that only three out of the Heads of Department (HODs) did not have a signed performance agreement because the MECs had not yet signed. The brief would address the status of the HOD performance agreements, the Brand SA plans to stabilise the institution, issues related to the former CEO’s activities, and information by Brand South Africa (BrandSA’s) Board on ra eputation report on Brand SA. She invited the DG DPME to brief the PC.

DPSA: Filling of HOD posts

Mr Stanley Ntakumba, Acting Director-General (DG), said he would be available to answer questions but invited Mr Blake Mosley-Lefatola, DDG: Public Sector Monitoring and Capacity Development, to brief the Committee.

Mr Mosley-Lefatola said that the Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) for HoDs was approved in December 2017 and came into effect from 1 April 2018. He said the DPME was the Secretariat that supported the Presidency for HoD evaluations and was responsible to oversee the implementation of the Directive for DGs from national departments, national government components, and the Offices of the Premier in each province. There was an extension for the submission of the 2020/21 performance agreements due to COVID-19. The initial extension was the 31st July 2020 and thereafter it was further extended to the 31st of October 2020. As indicated by the DM DPME, the compliance on performance agreements has been good but the only exception has been the delay on the three HODs from North West due to delays from the MEC in signing the performance agreements. This challenge is currently been addressed by the Acting Minister. Out of a total of 108 HoDs, 98 DGs/HoDs submitted their performance agreements to the DPME on time. Six HoDs have been newly appointed and have three months to submit their performance agreements from their date of appointment while eight performance agreements were submitted late.

The Directive in terms of Section 41(3) of the Public Service Act, 1994 on the PMDS for Heads of Department (HoDs) indicates that HODs who do not comply with all the requirements of the directive will forfeit all benefits related to the PMDS. Despite COVID-19, there has been a high level of compliance with the submission of performance agreements in 2020/21. The DPME in collaboration with stakeholders such as the DPSA and the National School of Government developed and provided training to provincial and national departments to the HoDs on the PMDS. However, the DPME observed that the quality assurance of performance agreements of HoD performance agreements was currently compliance-driven and not performance-driven. Also, the content in the Performance Agreements in all cases do not accurately reflect the employee contribution and the linkages and alignment with the MTSF were not clear and adequate. Also, many HoDs did not amend their performance agreements after quality assurance feedback was provided by the DPME. The DPME noted that a review of the HoD PMDS guideline needed to be conducted based on the challenges observed during the quality assurance of HoD performance agreements. This review would be carried out in collaboration with the DPSA to ensure that the performance agreements be more performance-focused, reflect HOD’s role, and ensure that linkages with the MTSF and the Minister’s Agreements be clarified. This process of amendments would commence in the next quarter and would be finalised by the end of 2021. DPME invites PC to note that there has been good compliance with the submission of performance agreements to the DPME. However, consequence management must be applied to PMDS defaulters. Although the performance agreement compliance is good, about 24% in 2020/21 there is a concern that it has dropped from 27% in 2019/20 to 24% in 2020/21. The DPME will improve tracking of documents via the HoD PMD online system which serves as a central storage for all HoD performance documents.

The Acting Chairperson invited Brand SA to address the Committee.

Brand SA: Update Regarding the Finalisation of the Suspended Chief Executive Officer and Outline the Plan to Stabilise the Institution at Leadership Positions

Ms Thandi Tobias, BrandSA Board chairperson, said the brief would include the finalisation of the suspension of the matter of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the plan to stabilise the institution at the leadership positions via current posts, the extension of contracts, intern fixed-term contracts, and stakeholder engagements.

The fixed term of the CEO expired on 31 July 2020 and a new CEO has been acting since 31 July 2020. Since the Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu died, Brand SA has been trying to meet with the acting Minister. Three critical posts, the CEO, CMO, and CFO are currently vacant at the executive level. The moratorium that is in place since 9 October 2020 by the Executive Authority, prevents Brand SA from filling the vacant posts permanently. In the case of the CEO, the Board has requested the Executive Authority to extend the secondment of the current Acting Chief Executive Officer to beyond 31 March 2021.  The response from the Executive Authority is currently pending. For the Chief Marketing Officer, the acting appointments are rotating between the General Managers at Brand South Africa every six months. Presently, Dr Judy Smith-Höhn is the CMO. In the case of the Chief Financial Officer the disciplinary matter of the former Chief Financial Officer, on appeal by the Board of Trustees, is pending at the Labour Court.  The acting Chief Financial Officer appointment is extended during this period. Fixed-term contracts have been extended in critical service delivery units including but not limited to Supply Chain Management and the Country Heads of the USA and UK. Nobody wants to take a Country Head position of 12 months if the process of hiring is 12 months. Brand SA is concerned with the rise of the vacancy rate. She asked the Acting Chairperson to permit the acting CEO to continue with the brief.

The Acting Chairperson agreed.

The Acting CEO Brand SA, Ms Thulisile Manzini, said the plans to stabilise the institution at the leadership positions included identifying Brand South Africa’s stakeholders as people or organisations that are affected by Brand South Africa’s work. They include those who have the influence and power to champion the Brand South Africa cause and those who have a direct interest in the success of the Nation Brand. Also, Brand South Africa consistently monitors stakeholder sentiments concerning perceptions of the entity. Brand SA keeps track of and engages with stakeholders who have issued informal queries about stability and/or requested face-to-face interactions with the entity. Although questions were raised in the past, organisations continue to work with Brand South Africa in the fulfilment of its mandate. Brand South Africa also intends to leverage the Office of the Executive Authority – through Deputy Minister Siweya and Acting Minister Ntshavheni to contribute to the management of perceptions of stability at the organisation.

Ms Tobias said the moratorium in place since 9 October 2020, has a pending reconfiguration process that prevents Brand South Africa from filling permanent vacant posts.  Brand South Africa has appealed to the Executive Authority to uplift the moratorium.  The outcome of the appeal was that the entity may fill permanent vacant posts with 12-month contract appointments.  The vacancy rate was 12.3% at the time of the moratorium.  As of 1 March 2021, the vacancy rate has increased to 14.04%.  The vacancy rate is likely to increase as Brand South Africa is perceived to be unstable given the uncertain timelines surrounding the reconfiguration process. Also, capacity-related needs were to be addressed in the review of the structure, which was advertised by way of a tender in March 2020.  The bid committee process was in progress is at risk as the Executive Authority imposed a hold on the review of the structure given the reconfiguration process.

Discussion

The Acting Chairperson asked Members to ask questions on the brief.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) appreciated both the DPME and Brand SA for their briefs. She asked the DPME to clarify what consequence management had been implemented against HoDs that did not comply with the Directive issued by the MPSA in terms of Section 41(3) of the Public Service Act, 1994. She also asked the DPME to state the valid reasons given by HoDs for noncompliance. ‘Please state measures taken by the DPME on HoDs that gave inaccurate information on employee contributions and clarify how HoDs align with the MTSF’. She indicated that the DPME needed to properly monitor HoDs that did not update the DPME on performance agreements after quality assurance. She asked the DPME to clarify if it had set timelines to conclude performance agreements.

Mr S Malatsi (DA) asked Brand SA to clarify the timeline for the conclusion of the reconfiguration process between the Board of Brand SA to clarify the status of the filling of vacancies of the two posts within the Board of Trustees and the timelines to fill these posts SA, SA Tourism, and Invest SA. ‘Given the ongoing leadership instability at BrandSA as a result of the three crucial vacancies at the executive level, what are the Ministry’s plans to eventually fill the three crucial vacancies’? ‘Deputy Minister, please clarify if the unstable human resources situation at Brand SA sends a positive message about the leadership of brand SA. Also, Deputy Minister please clarify whether there is still a strategic need for the existence of Brand SA given that the existence of the Presidential Envoys on Investment and Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry’.

Dr M Gondwe (DA) welcomed the high-level compliance on submitting performance agreements in 2020/21 year but expressed concerns that there were challenges on compliance on linkages between MTSF and National Development Plan (NDP). She advised that the DPME prioritise the performance agreements on linkages between the MTSF and the NDP.  ‘DPME please clarify why North West province had a poor submission of signed performance agreements’? She asked the DPME to clarify when the review on the HoD PMDS guideline would take place. She asked the DPME to confirm when the tenure of the CEO ended, when the CFO’s case would be heard, and state if the CFO’s suspension was with salary. ‘Brand SA please state the exact impact of the 9 October 2020 moratorium on vacancies and if Brand SA was appalled about the moratorium’.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked the DPME to state other consequence management apart from the loss of benefits administered to HoDs that did not sign performance agreements, and the authority that enforces disciplinary measures and confirm if the DPSA intervention through School of Governance was a given program or disciplinary measures on HoDs that breached performance agreements. ‘DPME please state if disciplinary measures exist for senior managers that frustrate the efforts of HoDs’? He asked the Board of Brand SA to state attempts it had made to ensure that vacant posts be filled as these affected performance.

Ms B Maluleke (ANC) tendered apologies on ill-health but sent her questions through the Acting Chairperson. She asked the DPME to state the role of the DPSA in the review of the HoD PMDS guideline.

Ms V Malomane (ANC) asked Brand SA to state the challenges it was facing on the reconfiguration of the 9 October 2020 moratorium on vacancies and state if it had presented its business case to the relevant authorities to ensure that the vacancies were filled.

Ms C Motsepe (EFF) asked if the DPME had evaluated the role of MECs in signing the performance agreements of HoDs. She asked Brand SA to confirm if it had spoken to the relevant authorities concerning its vacancies and also crucial the vacancies were.

Ms Ntuli (ANC) asked the DPME to clarify attempts made to ensure that provinces sign performance agreements.

The Acting Chairperson remarked that Members should come-up with suggestions on the way forward apart from asking questions. She invited Ms Tobias to answer questions.

Responses

Ms Tobias said concerning the CEO position, the Minister had communicated with the DG and the DG has communicated with the DPSA. The moratorium was put in place to avoid negative situations. She asked the PC to allow Brand SA to liaise with DPME on the vacancy positions as delays occurred in the past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Ntakumba said the rule was that any official working in the public service needed to sign a performance agreement. Investigations have shown that when performance agreements were not signed it was due to systemic challenges. The punitive measures affected only the HoDs and did not affect the Executive Authority. In some cases delay in signing might be a result of relationship challenges between the Executive Authority and the HoD. The DPME acts by sending a report to the President who intervenes. The DPME measures impact by assessing the Annual Performance Plan (APP), impact assessment is through bi-annual reports that take in the voices of the community on service delivery. Presently, the DPME has no mechanism to follow-up on Province compliance on performance agreements. The DPME suggests that Minister brings it to the knowledge of the Premier as Premiers have a role on MECs signing. Some performance agreements are signed at the end of the year rather than the beginning and this affects the HoDs impact assessments.

Mr Mosley-Lefatola said the delay in signing all performance agreements by HoDs in the North West province was due to the MECs who had not yet signed. The DPME is currently interacting with the office of the Premier. Inaccurate reports on PMDS are due to evidence not supplied when the DPME assesses and evaluates the service delivery in communities. The DPME is tasked with ensuring that Government achieves its outcomes and this is done by interrogating the APPs, performance management of Ministers and HoDs. Hence performance agreements of HoDs need to include indicators that are outcome-based and encompass service delivery. The PMDS has to provide for the secretariat role of the DPME and if Government is to achieve its outcome on APPs and service delivery DPME must include this in the performance agreement of HoDs. A review on the PMDS guidelines has started between the DPME and the DPSA and timelines to finalise them would be the end of 2021.

Ms Tobias said a portfolio of evidence has been prepared on the strategic need for the existence of Brand SA. The Board awaits a meeting with the Acting Minister to present its business case particularly on the moratorium and reasons to fill the vacant posts. The President appoints Board Members and the Board awaits the President’s approval on recommendations made.

The former CFO was suspended from Brand SA on 17 March 2019 and dismissed on 4 December 2019. The CFO appealed to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the CCMA ruled in the CFO’s favour. Brand SA has appealed to the Labour Court but the hearing date is yet to be assigned. The Board is advertising for the position of CEO and CMO which are critical positions that affect the morale of staff. Crucial positions should have been advertised earlier but stopped because of the moratorium. Brand SA is confronted by the moratorium as the old CEOs term has ended but awaits the guidance of the Executive Authority.

The Acting Chairperson said administrative questions should be answered in writing. Brand SA should come back to the Committee in terms of timelines. The Committee would invite the North West Premier or the DG to take Members into its confidence on the party causing the delay in signing performance agreements. Members should assist by liaising with the Minister in terms of filling vacancies. She invited DPSA to present its brief.

Filling of HOD posts

Deputy Minister Chikunga expressed the apologies of the Acting Minister who was attending a Cabinet meeting. She said the purpose of the brief was to provide the status of the vacancies at the level of HoDs in the Public Service. The role of the DPSA was based on Section 84(2) (e), Section 85(2) (a) and (b) and Section 92 (1) of the Constitution, 1996. She invited Ms Yoliswa Makhasi (DPSA DG) to deliver the brief.

Ms Makhasi said the appointment of HoDs fell under the purview of the human resources unit and was based on Section 84(2)(e), Section 85(2)(a), and (b) and Section 92 (1) of the Constitution, 1996. The role of the DPSA Minister regarding filling of HoD posts is to advise the President on National Directors-General and facilitate the Cabinet processes for filling posts at national government and set the norms and standards to fill such posts in the public service. Further, a funded post must be advertised within six months and filled within 12 months. She stated the vacancies at national departments as of 31 December 2020 and emphasised the national department that had vacancies that exceeded 12 months.  Although the departments of Communication and Digital Technologies, Small Business Development, Social Development, The Presidency, Military Veterans, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, National Treasury (CEO GTAC), and Government Printing Works have started their recruitment processes, they have received a delegation of authority from the President as supported by the DPSA. The Water and Sanitation, State Security Agency, and Government Pensions Administration Agency Departments have not started their recruitment processes.

The DPSA has sent out communications (December 2020) to all national departments that have not finalised the filling of their posts of HoD. She also gave the status of vacancies at the provincial level and emphasised the provincial department that had vacancies that exceeded 12 months. Currently, 12 HoD posts are vacant at the national level and 27 HoD posts are vacant at the provincial level as of 31 December 2020. A major concern is that five of the nine provincial departments do not have a HoD for health. The DPSA is concerned that regulation 65 (7) PSA of 2016 on an advertisement regarding timelines to fill posts. Also, poor quality of Cabinet memos are being filled, regulatory frameworks on vacancies not followed and risks are associated with filling posts with acting officials for long periods as there is no stability. The interventions by the DPSA are regular communications with the national and provincial departments on an advertisement and filling of posts in 2021. The DPSA sent letters to national and provincial departments on the need to fill posts in December 2020 and January 2021. DPSA has expressed its concerns on recruitments to national and provincial departments in 2020 on the need to fill crucial posts. The DPSA issued various criteria related to recruitment in 2020/2021. The Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Mr Senzo Mchunu, addresses the Forum of South African Directors-General (FOSAD) and challenged the HoDs in the public service to take up their positions as part of leadership and not allow themselves to be “wrongly flexible”. The DPSA would begin to track the files on vacancies of DDGs. The DPSA DG engagement with Provincial HODs would take place between April and June 2021. The requests to present the DG vacancies will be presented in March 2021. Cabinet memos on DG vacancies would be completed in April 2021. The PC is invited to consider engagements with Executive Authorities (Premiers and Ministers) that are non-compliant.

Discussion

The Acting Chairperson asked Members to ask questions on the brief.

Dr Gondwe asked if the Departments had being given timelines around finalising recruitment processes. The Committee needs to find ways to assist the DPSA because its hands are tied and it cannot advertise or start the recruitment process for HoDs. ‘Please clarify if constant re-advertisement does not cost the country money. DPSA please state the consequence on Executive Authorities as workshops, letters, and circulars are not leading to necessary recruitment of HoDs’?

Ms Motsepe remarked that the DPSA should not rely on national departments alone to fill in crucial vacancies. ‘What is the consequence when these crucial vacancies are not filled’?

Ms Ntuli asked the DPME to clarify the steps taken to ensure that provinces follow the regulations needed to fill vacancies. She noted that some of the vacancies were not new vacancies but the posts had been vacant for long periods and it now seemed that HoD positions were vacant for long periods. She expressed a major concern that some departments did not have health HoDs even in a period of Covid-19.

The Acting Chairperson asked the DPSA to respond to the questions.

Responses

Ms Makhasi said the timeline of filling vacant posts was guided by regulation 65 (7) which says that vacant national and provincial posts must be filled within 12 months. Hence she suggested that the Committee was advised to engage with the Executive Authorities. Vacant positions are advertised in the public service circular and newspapers. The human resources unit of each department also incurs costs on interviews. The DPSA does not track the costs but different Departments use methods that are beneficial to the organisation. It has reached the stage that the DPSA has to activate Section 16 (a) (3) of the Public Service Act of 1996 which empowers the Minister to report non-compliance of DPSA regulations by the Executive Authority of a Provincial Department to the Executive Council. The President is responsible for recruiting HoDs but this task has been delegated to the Minister hence the DPSA only monitors the process to ensure it is carried out according to regulation 65 (7).

Deputy Minister Chikunga appreciated the Committee for the opportunity given to present its work to Members. She informed Members that there was an error in its presentation on the vacancy posted for health HoD in Mpumalanga as Dr Savera Mohangi had been employed in the position in August 2016. Challenges occur when HoDs have to act because the HoD only accounts for six months and a new acting HoD would have to be employed for the next six months. Hence acting HoDs have to be lenient if they want to continue as an acting HoD. The model of employing acting HoDs should not be encouraged and the DPSA is taking measures to discontinue this model.

The Chairperson noted the apologies of the acting Minister and appreciated the Deputy Minister and officials of the DPSA for heeding the call to attend the meeting. She also appreciated DPSA for informing the PC of the risks of vacancies not approved. She asked Members to adopt the previous minutes of the meeting and invited the Committee Secretary to present the previous minutes.

The Committee Secretary requested that the previous minutes not be put-up for adoption so as not to pre-empt decisions from the Cabinet meeting that could affect the previous minutes.

The Acting Chairperson agreed with the Committee Secretary’s request and encouraged Members to wait for the Cabinet meeting to ensure that decisions taken are factored into the minutes before adopting the previous minutes. She invited Members to consider the three additional agenda items. She stated that public service-related complaints had been addressed to the Speaker and Chairperson of the Committee. She instructed the Committee Secretary to share the complaints and legal advice on the complaints with Members. Also, there was a Bill presented to the Committee but this Bill seemed to concern the Treasury and Finance Committee. She instructed the Committee Secretary to share the Bill and legal advice to Members to determine its relevance. She also informed Members that they had to meet to agree on the agenda of the next quarter.

The meeting was adjourned.

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