The Committee convened virtually to be briefed on the petition on how the Expanded Public Works Programme employs job seekers. The Petition, as submitted by the GOOD Party, presented its national petition for fairness, equality and integrity in the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). The programme, which was a mechanism for alleviating poverty and unemployment, was being re-tooled to enable politicians to ‘reward’ loyal members, friends and family members to the exclusion of everyone else. These issues could be resolved through the Programme Code of Good Practice, Skills Audit, and the Programme’s Bill and Policy. Social audits, for example, were where the community was asked to partner with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to account for resources spent on a project.
The Deputy Minister said that the Department took the position that whilst at the conceptualisation of the Programme, there were some guidelines on how to implement it, and those guidelines were ultimately not enforceable. It was against this background that in 2019 the Department raised the unenforceability challenge and was trying to review the policy at the time of the meeting.
The Expanded Public Works Programme team acknowledged that their guidelines were not enforceable and that rotational recruitment was an issue particularly due to patronage, inconsistency in recruitment, as well as lack of transparency poorly defined criteria and processes for selection of participants. It was a fact that political manipulation was taking place with the Programme, not just by one party but also by many parties that undermined the core objective of the Programme.
Of particular concern to the Committee was that they had laid complaints since 2019, when they were appointed to the Committee. There was a lack of a uniform policy to guide the Programme across all spheres, including non-governmental organisations. They had thus requested quarterly performance reports and updates, though they were not receiving them, as they had wanted.
Members asked the Deputy Minister what measures they would put in place to ensure that the Programme guidelines and programmes actually became successful. What were they doing about workload versus compliance and skill in the Department, specifically with the Programme? Another concern amongst Members was that though the guidelines spoke of public bodies carrying out recruitment, in many municipalities there were ward councillors who were singlehandedly and independently doing their own appointments according to their favourites and voters, with little consideration of poverty alleviations.
The Department explained that the major concerns raised by the practitioners were the absence of enforceable policy. They were also concluding a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Labour and Employment. There were five key Deputy Director-General positions available for immediate filling. The Department was committed to engaging on a quarterly basis as the Committee Chairperson requested.
Ultimately, the Chairperson concluded that the Programme was not work for the sake of work, but the building of communities and feeding of children to contribute to the asset portfolio at community level. Principles of equity, accountability and transparency were central. The Programme, as Members had said, spoke to the most vulnerable and those who did not have special skills. This was the majority of the population of South Africa. A clear policy would benefit this majority.
Introductory Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting by welcoming the Members, the Deputy Minister and the delegation from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. She said that they were meeting to get an update on the petition forwarded to the Committee by Parliament, received on 11 December 2020. They would also be deliberating on the Committee Annual Report.
On the Covid-19 front, as a country, there were signs that numbers were starting to increase again. She implored everyone to continue staying indoors, to prevent getting infected with COVID-19. They needed to adhere to health protocols because they would be dealing with the public hearings. People of South Africa were looking at the Expropriation Bill, which would repeal the Expropriation Act of 1976. She called on the Secretary to announce the apologies received.
The Secretary relayed apologies that were received from Mr M Nxumalo (IFP), Mr P van Staden (FF+), and Minister Patricia De Lille. Ms L Mjobo (ANC) added the apology of Mr T Mashele (ANC).
Briefing by Mr S August (GOOD) and the DPWI on the petition
Mr August said that in a country (South Africa) of extreme poverty, inequality and unemployment, the state provided important safety nets to the elderly, the disabled and children in the form of grants. He asked Members to imagine that in order to qualify for these grants, citizens had to belong to a certain political party or be somehow related to a serving public representative. Besides this being totally unthinkable, it was unconstitutional. Yet, Mr August said, this was the way a number of the state’s frontline poverty alleviation programmes – such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) – were being manipulated across the country.
The EPWP was being re-tooled to enable politicians to ‘reward’ loyal members, friends and family members to the exclusion of everyone else. “Vote for us or starve” is the covert message citizens are being given. More than 32% of these citizens are unemployed, according to recent statistics (Statistics SA). In the by-elections of 2020, Members had seen how political parties were unashamedly targeting people most desperate for income in their communities with offers of temporary jobs for votes. The GOOD Party resolved to launch its national petition for fairness, equality and integrity in the EPWP after receiving similar complaints from communities across South Africa. EPWP provides paid short-term to medium-term work to individuals and EPWP designated projects within the framework of the EPWP Code of Good Practice, together with the Ministerial Determination 04 May 2012 (in terms of Section 12 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act). Typically, beneficiaries of the programme were absorbed into the infrastructure, environment, culture and social sectors. GOOD’s petition requested DPWI, together with the DPWI Portfolio Committee, consider a policy review aimed at ensuring compliance by all municipal, provincial and national government departments with the principles of fair and impartial allocations of EPWP opportunities. Mr August said that the policy review should close down the possibilities of cadre deployment and the manipulation of opportunities by public representatives and political parties. The EPWP had to be primarily repositioned as a poverty alleviation tool, not camouflaged as job creation. At the same time, it needed to develop skills and employability of participants – particularly youth. The EPWP also needed to provide equal opportunities to all members in the ranks of the unemployed, with a review of the current minimum living wage within the programme, how money was transferred to agencies such as the Independent Development Trust (IDT), and if this was performance based.
The petition had received tens of thousands of signatures from ‘good people’ across the country; not all of them were good members and supporters. The petition was submitted to the Speaker’s Office on 24 November 2020. The GOOD Party’s appeal with the petition is that government would ‘walk the talk’ on the EPWP each day that they, as public representatives, allowed the manipulation of the programme by political parties and officials. When the EPWP was initially adopted by DPWI, it was launched under the theme “more jobs, better jobs, and decent work for all.” As it stood, this matter was a violation of the Constitution and the Employment Equity Act. Mr August said it was time to re-evaluate what the EPWP was supposed to achieve, and how it might better contribute to loosening the grip of poverty and unemployment under which South Africans were suffering. With an upcoming election, it was suspected that EPWP manipulation would be on the increase as there was a scramble for votes. Though the GOOD Party was committed to tackle this with speed, it should not matter which party they represented; they had the responsibilities as elected public representatives to re-establish the EPWP’s integrity. The Portfolio Committee was requested to speed up the process of bringing one system in place on all levels of government to ensure that every unemployed South African had an equal opportunity to benefit from the EPWP.
Deputy Minister’s Remarks
The Deputy Minister, Ms Noxolo Kiviet, appreciated the petition and that Mr August had seen it fit to raise the matter with the Portfolio Committee. She commented that this matter was at the heart of dealing with the high unemployment rate South Africa was suffering from. It also afforded the country’s leadership with an opportunity to collaborate in addressing unemployment, as it was a vexing issue nationally. She confirmed that when EPWP was conceptualised, it was at the heart of the rising unemployment and poverty rates. In any of DPWI’s policies, having fought for the Constitution (which encompassed principles of fairness and justice) as government, they needed to be acting visibly in line with this. Across the board, there had been undeniable cries of corruption in the EPWP, especially at lower levels; the system was being abused. DPWI was notably not the employing body for every project, but was rather more of a coordinating body for the Department. DPWI therefore acted as a conduit, especially toward the non-state sector. DPWI took the position that whilst at the conceptualisation of EPWP, there were some guidelines on how to implement it, and those guidelines were ultimately not enforceable. It was against this background that in 2019 the unenforceability challenge was raised by DPWI, who was trying to review the policy at the time of the meeting.
She appreciated the opportunity to speak on the important EPWP programme, which was ‘lifesaver’ programme.
Presentation by DPWI
Mr Imtiaz Fazel, Acting Director-General (ADG), DPWI, began the presentation on the petition as received on 11 December 2020. The Department had a number of interventions in place to ensure the integrity and due diligence of the EPDP programme to ensure equal opportunities for all. DPWI could identify with some of the concerns as raised by Mr August. The interventions were an attempt to provide direction to all public bodies, as the Deputy Minister had mentioned. EPWP was a national programme carried out at municipal level, with national government and non-state sector. As such, DPWI’s role was to coordinate, oversee, direct and imbue the necessary level of integrity into the programme. There were interventions and guidelines, including recruitment guidelines, being developed to assist with this.
Ms Carmen-Joy Abrahams, Chief Director: EPWP partnership support, DPWI, said that on 11 December 2020, the petition being discussed in the meeting (tabled 24 November 2020) was deferred to the National Assembly (NA). The Portfolio Committee had requested DPWI give a briefing on the recruitment of EPWP participants.
The EPWP was one of governments medium- to long-term strategies aimed at alleviating poverty since 2004. The programme involved all spheres of government, specifically as it related to infrastructure, environment and culture, social and non-state sectors. Government and state-owned enterprises were also involved. Mr August was correct in his observation that there was a high demand for the EPWP, especially due to unemployment. This had resulted in challenges, particularly at the local and municipal spheres. She recognised challenges with patronage, inconsistency in recruitment, lack of transparency poorly defined criteria and processes for selection of participants. These challenges ultimately resulted in the incorrect targeting of participants, which meant reputational damage as the programme was designed on the message that ‘the poor benefit’. This was the primary factor. DPWI had several engagements with stakeholders at different levels to come up with the EPWP recruitment guidelines. This was a lengthy process that started in 2017 – ultimately bring the EPWP recruitment guidelines (as they now had it) to fruition. There was a concern, however, about the enforceability of the recruitment guidelines. One intervention was not sufficient to address the key EPWP issues; rather this was a continuum requiring a series of interventions. They were in the internal stakeholder phase. The Minister of Employment and Labour had signed off and approved these particular guidelines in December 2017.
Phase three of the EPWP, started in 2014, was recognised amongst many EPWP programmes. This brought about a need for universal recruitment principles, such as a fair and transparent process across the many EPWP programmes. Adherence of minimum wage, too, was pegged in relation to the Minimum Wage Age (2018) at R11.93/hour for participants. EPWP was not work for the sake of work, but the building of communities and feeding of children to contribute to the asset portfolio at community level. In addition to the guidelines, there was a Code of Practice and Ministerial determination; this meant that work opportunities in the EPWP were subject to law. Given the challenges, the aim was to provide guidance on the selection process – eliminate unfair practices, provide sector uniformity and provide a non-ambiguous recruitment process. They wanted the guidelines to be put into EPWP policy at municipal and council level. Principles of equity, accountability and transparency were central. They advocated for community engagement, which would be increased from a legal (contracts, inductions, enforceability, etc.) and practical (flyers, radio etc.) perspective. Redress and skills profiling was part of the recruitment guidelines.
DPWI was to provide strategic documents, of which the EPWP recruitment guidelines were just one. The EPWP policy was to follow, along with workshops and community-sector NEDLAC partnerships. Once they had a national policy, they would expect municipalities to adopt this through council and to ensure proper reporting. Existing co-ordination structures (such as the DDM of the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) would be subscribed to and assist with this. DPWI asked for challenges to be reported, which they would investigate. Monitoring and Evaluation were a key matter when DPWI met with constituencies. As such, DPWI had committed to social audits, where the community was asked to partner with DPWI to account for resources spent on a project. The idea was that this would espouse transparency. Education was also involved in the process. Ultimately, DPWI was looking for collective social data to put out a social audit framework and an EPWP policy.
The Deputy Minister indicated that the policy review as requested by the petitioners had started in earnest. DPWI requested support from the Portfolio Committee via periodic updates. In DPWI’s analysis, the major concerns raised by the practitioners were the absence of enforceable policy. The occurrence of examples, as given by Mr August (of patronage, for example), would be minimised.
The Chairperson thanked the groups for their presentations and responses and invited Members to comment and ask questions.
Mr August thanked the officials. He was aware that it was difficult for DPWI to ensure that policy and guidelines were implemented at municipal level. This was not happening in both 2014 and 2017, as referred to in the presentation, since then guidelines had not been enforced. There were EPWP workers in party regalia and their bibs, ensuring to push a political party agenda. There were also many community engagements with community leaders who gave names of their party, branch and family members for recruitment. Mr August also said he wanted to policy review to include addressed EPWP workers who continuously got work from six to 12 months for years, while others were not given an opportunity. He asked Ms Abrahams to give further explanations on sanctions against the bodies, or what penalties were being enforced. He thanked DPWI for putting the proposal in place.
Ms M Siwisa (EFF) welcomed the presentation, though she pointed out that some aspects were not very clear. Though there were guidelines and workshops, would the community truly be part of this to understand recruitment, etc.? Another concern was that though the guideline spoke of public bodies carrying out recruitment, in many municipalities there were ward councillors who were singlehandedly and independently doing their own appointments according to their favourites and voters, with little consideration of poverty alleviations. Ms Siwisa made particular example of a project in her own Ward (17), two years prior where had been an uproar. There were beneficiaries of EPWP who were benefiting for many years. For example, an individual was recruited many times, instead of allowing others to be rotated into the system. This was counter-productive to the cause and contributed to the uproar. Because there was no permanent job creation, there was a conflict of interest among the community and the EPWP programme. People did not understand the process, and this was problematic. The minimum was not being enforced or helping. With the guidelines – beneficiaries needed to be taken into permanent jobs. The programme should give permanent jobs with benefits. For example, if someone were brought in for a project of six months, how would they purchase anything or take out an instalment in such short period, especially on minimum wage? This was also taking into consideration the context that that DPWI had a crisis of vacant positions.
Ms S Graham-Mare (DA) said that this was the first petition that had come before the Committee. She asked for clarity around the process. It seemed the petition came to the Speakers’ office. Though it came to the Committee thereafter, Members did not actually see it. After this, the petition went to DPWI for their response before the Committee had engaged with it. Was this the normal procedure? She also asked how many signatures were on the petition, purely from an academic perspective (procedural for the Member’s own edification) to know the threshold needed to be discussed by a portfolio.
Most Members who were previously councillors had a real ground-up understanding on the effects of the patronage within EPWP in communities. She thought it was a very important discussion, and hopefully they would be able to provide their own perspective. At a national and municipal level, EPWP participants were being ‘dumped’ on sites, left in the hands of the contractor with no making sure they are supported. Often, they became demotivated, possibly from earning such a low wage. The construction companies were struggling to get any real work out of the participants. On the other hand, when this was done through Kocher implementing agents the workers arrived with proper PPE, the contractor provided hardhats. They were monitored, properly trained and motivated. She suggested it a worthwhile experience to ask Kocher what they were doing differently and how they were getting it right. On another note, there was no incentive for implementers. Funds were withheld from municipalities, but ultimately those who suffered were the beneficiaries. The person in charge of EPWP in the municipality was not punished for any lack of implementation or integrity – they were punting the wrong people. They needed to find a new means to monitor implementation. Otherwise, the people on the ground would continue to suffer, as the system was dysfunctional. A key need to address concerns raised by the petition would require proper database management. This would give an indication of who was available to work, who had worked and how they could rotate. Something needed to be done to address this system. Public participation and engagement was key, but even if this was happening, they needed to manage the system (which included record-keeping). She strongly supported the social audit system, which would go a long way to address the shortcomings. On other programmes, there did not seem to be exit strategies.
Ms Hicklin (DA) thanked Mr August for the petition and Ms Abrahams for her professional presentation. The biggest problem with the EPWP was that people saw it as a career choice or career choice instead of seeing the EPWP as a steppingstone in their career path for proper employment. They needed to look at this as a shortfall of the EPWP, linking this to the problem that rotation was not happening. Participants were going from one project to the next for years. This obstructed the up-skilling opportunity. The vast group of people who had little to no skills needed to be targeted. What was the DPWI doing to address the up-skilling of NGOs who were defaulting because they did not know how to fill in the paperwork? Though she understood the devolution of power from national to municipal – the Portfolio Committee bore the responsibility to end the cycle. Again, how did DPWI know that municipalities were hurting entire communities eligible for the EPWP? Could they not enforce consequence management? It was the Portfolio Committee’s responsibility to perform oversight on the Department (DPWI) in the same way it was DPWI’s responsibility to perform oversight on municipalities to ensure the guidelines were implemented properly. The social audit was a fantastic tool, but they needed to make sure that it worked, and that recommendations from the social audit became part of an EPWP Bill, which made contravention an offense. Managers in municipalities who did not secure their paperwork needed to be the one that felt the brunt of this, not the person who was doing the work and then would not get paid.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) appreciated the decision by Mr August to exercise his constitutional right to engage members on the petition. This was encouraging and they needed to be put under the microscope as politicians. Mr August had done this. The Portfolio Committee needed to assure Mr August that any anomaly would not be left to chance. They were seeing how government was dealing with corruption and maladministration. The issue of patronage and inconsistency at municipal level – how was this picked up? It was disturbing that DPWI could report what was going on, without an indication of how (at best) they had dealt with the matter. Programmes such as the EPWP were not intended for parties or politicians to increase their popularity. It was not correct for the EPWP to be used to be re-elected in the following elections. He asked Mr August which tool he had used to identify the issues he had mentions, such as patronage or councillors being involved in recruitment. Mr Mathebula asked DPWI if there were participants who resisted being rotated when such projects were being executed in municipalities. Once the participant worked and engaged with the project without training and certificates – this might be the challenge. Could they not use training and certificates to hand to participants, so that they could hand them something to sustain them beyond the project besides their salaries?
On another note, unemployment forums in municipalities sometimes saw groups wanting to take over the running of projects. How did this impact the recruitment of participants? Out of fear, companies might be hired or force their own employees; how did this impact projects executed by the government?
Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) said it was clear that the Committee had not received the actual petition as presented by Mr August. She asked for this to be availed to Members, such that they could properly scrutinise as to what was pertained in the petition. The Social Audit Framework being developed brought about the need to receive updates on the process in terms of the social audit (while it was being presented quarterly). The EPWP’s intention consistently prioritised skills transfer and employability post participation. Though there were issues with this, this was of concern. This was likely why participants were jumping from one programme to another because they did not find the proper skills and certification to BE employed elsewhere. If this could be addressed, the problem would be solved. Ms van Schalkwyk then asked if information could be collected on participants (how long they had been in the programme, etc.) and if this could be spearheaded through reporting from DPWI. The EPWP was being rolled out at local level; this meant that one of their biggest challenges was DPWI, who did not have authority of local and municipal level. This would be a long-term problem. If they rolled out the policy, they would need to find proper measures to ensure the main objectives were being reached, as initiated from the start.
The Chairperson said that the Portfolio Committee appreciated Mr August initiating the petition. As a Committee, Members had laid complaints since 2019, when they were appointed to the Committee, such as the lack of a uniform policy to guide the EPWP across all spheres including NGOs. They had thus requested quarterly performance reports and updates, but they were not receiving them. This petition was thus timeous in this regard. In the fifth administration, the development of the uniform policy had started; so this was not a new matter. As long as the Public Works Bill did not exist, the DPWI would face challenges in enforcing a uniform policy. This needed to be written in black and white in the act that guided the EPWP. In response to Ms Graham-Mare, the petition was sent to the speaker, which was procedurally correct. It was first sent to the National Assembly and then given to this Committee. The due procedure was then as follows: the Portfolio Committee was to call the petitioner and invite the relevant department (DPWI), as they had done. There was a real need for the EPWP policy.
The Deputy Minister handed to the presenting team. Acting DG, Mr Fazel, led the responses.
Ms Abrahams said that the key issue with the sanctions was recruitment guidelines. The expected the matter to get taken up at a public body level. Another key issue in relation to the sanctions was programmes, at municipal level. They needed to tighten up on what the programmes were and defining them so that they could have the required oversight. They would rely on best practise principles to do this. Because of the setup of the project falling under a programme, there were related norms and standards. They needed to strengthen programme formation in the EPWP. A key consequence they were seeing at local level was the need to improve on programmes.
Workshops would be a mixture, including the council and the community. They found it vital to engage with the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) constituency. If participants were from other wards, this was clearly breaking the law. It was only if there were not sufficient skills that employment could occur from other areas. This was a matter that could be referred to DPWI and they could engage with the Department of Labour on the basis of the law that was not being adhered to.
Rotation was required, according to EPWP policy. This was why, when they looked at the contract, it was very important that they put out the end dates in relation to the projects. However, they also needed to realise that this was a policy issue they needed to deal with. When the EPWP started out, there was a clause that participants could only be engaged in a public employment programme for a maximum of two years within a five-year period. The issue of exit was an issue of “where do people exit to?” So they could go ahead and put forth a proposal, which said they ‘must exit’. But if the economy were not growing with jobs, where would the participants exit? Monitoring rotation was possible because the EPWP system linked participants’ Identity Numbers. DPWI also recognised that the NDP relies heavily on the EPWP, and they stated that if the economy did not grow enough (in terms of the growth chapters three of the NDP) they would not be able to take up some of those work opportunities. This issue had even come up in the policy development process – that the mechanism for funding the EPWP was not as responsive as one would like. With the Presidential Stimulus, there were clear processes that needed to be followed (with budgets) even before additional funding. Though they advocated for rotation, they acknowledged the problems causing this to not happen. Ultimately, the key question was what their policy would be on this. Would they return to the days where they reintroduce the principle (rotation) fully know that the economy was not absorbing them? Ms Abrahams was aware of participants hopping from one project to the next. The Department had the option of whether to forbid this in law, so this was a policy and equality issue. There was a very small group of participants that were undertaking more than one project.
Related to the rotation issue was the issue of skills. EPWP Phase three included a big discussion, which proved that the work experience was the relevant experience with the skills training. Even when this happened, the economy was not absorbing. This was an issue of the first economy and the second economy – initially they had thought that if they had provided people with skills, employment would increase. However, even after work experience and skills building, they recognised that the first economy was not absorbing. The NDP recognises that the primary issue is that the country will need to grow and create employment opportunities. If the country grew the scenarios in the NDP (chapter three), reliance on a PEP (Public Employment Plan) would be so much less. There were insufficient opportunities for the people entering the labour market. This was a huge challenge that the government needed to look at. Public employment programmes had always been seen as short-term interventions. From 2004, it was short-term – which became medium-term because they were a ‘blocked pipeline’. Participants who came into the EPWP came often without skills and it was difficult for them to move on in the context of South Africa’s economy.
DPWI monitored wages as an ongoing project as part of the EPWP reporting system. They then engaged public bodies on the wage levels, whether they were not meeting the minimum or other issues. DPWI had seen a good improvement in clarifying and enforcing the minimum wage. Many of the social sector participants who used to be volunteers were not paid the national minimum wage initially, but as they moved on they had seen compliance. DPWI took this as a very serious matter, which they would report to the Department of Employment and Labour. It was gazetted that if minimum wage were not paid, charges would be face. This was not just a legal matter, but also a rights matter. The Department of Employment and Labour had a mechanism through investigation to enforce minimum wage. In terms of monitoring compliance, they did public body visits that took place monthly. When they found non-compliance, letters were sent to the acting DG’s office. Sixteen letters had been sent out the previous day, advising on noncompliance. Sometimes when they did write, they did not always receive a response. To ensure accountability would thus be to have policy underpin what they did. Their customised indicator needed to be in by September 2021. Nothing that the customised indicator was able to assist at national and local level, the challenge would be at municipal level. They would need to work strongly with COGTA. If they got the indicator of EPWP work opportunities in the Annual Performance Plan (APP) of the various accounting officers, they could start holding them accountable. This would open up the ability for projects to be audited. Ultimately, where DPWI was doing well they made this part of best practice. Where DPWI was not doing well, they had the challenge of compliance.
Permanent Jobs for Beneficiaries
Some areas, particularly with school or administrative assistance at school – DPWI found that that with the natural interventions that the EPWP brought about, there was a natural movement into permanent jobs. As EPWP they had initiated a tracer study to see how people transitioned from the EPWP programme. This of course meant there needed to be a sample. At a provincial steering committee level, they were given anecdotal or case study examples to assist. EPWP worked had been taken up as traffic officers or to do Early Childhood Development (ECD) work. For DPWI it was key to ensure that whatever data was collected was published with the quarterly labour force survey.
Adverse Effects on Participants
Ms Abrahams agreed with Ms Graham-Mare that they needed to look how participants would not be adversely affected. This was also an issue raised by the Deputy Minister. They had an incentive, alongside other large pockets of money. The money was under Public Works; it would be approximately R2.7 billion in the following financial year. In 2021, they had put in measures where the allocation was affected if there was not adherence to the guidelines. Unfortunately, since poverty was so rife, they still had to make sure that the locality had the money dispensed across. This also tied in with accountability issues. Once the APP’s indicated the situation with this, consequence management was much more possible against those that flouted rules. This would espouse the opportunity to work with the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA). They had a database of who had worked. They were concluding a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Department of Labour. The Department of Labour had a database under the Employment Services Database.
At any given point, there were approximately 9 000 participants entering the EPWP programme. While DPWI was looking at exit strategies, they focused on training initiatives, through which they got funds from the Department of Higher Education and Training. DPWI was the highest funded body outside of DHET. This money was clearly not enough. However, this linked with the customised indicator, because if they did not force sectors to set aside funds for training, they would have a permanent issue of insufficient training funds. The environment and culture had seen an introduction of many training aspects. A large proportion of these participants had access to training through programmes such as chef training, fire training programmes, etc. Training figures were on the DPWI quarterly report, but there was always the policy dichotomy – for example, whether to spend R40 000 on a learnership or on a new job. DPWI specifically worked with the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA’s) to determine the exact skills required by the economy. DPWI then developed a skills list, signed off by staff. This was put out and provided within the EPWP. They would make DHET more accessible for this. DPWI had also partnered with an AgriSETA. Since late 2020 they had selected 233 participants for various private sector employers. These participants would take up various artisanal training and would be employed until 2023. There had been an invitation for organisations to take up the residual, so that DPWI could ensure 400 participants could exit the programme with skills that addressed the economy not growing.
The EPWP’s website had the office of the DDG’s contact details. Social media platforms such as Facebook were used. This was also done through the Acting DG’s office and the Minister’s office. DPWI also monitored the media on a daily basis. Ms Abrahams personally enjoyed this because though a particular matter could be reported on in a staff meeting, the truth could always be heard when talking to a participant. There was an undertaking to phone participants as well as a frequently asked questionnaire that would also go on the EPWP’s website. DPWI wanted to answer questions about late contracts, among other things.
DPWI selected their people in a transparent fashion. Organisations had the opportunity to apply through tender system. There was that an opportunity for DPWI to be engaged, if not through the public measures.
The key question was whether employment services would be centralised and the practicality of this. There needed to be a pragmatic approach to databases, which should not close the door to the poor. DPWI was providing updates to NEDLAC and the Presidency. The data capturing requirement had to be balanced, it was helpful but not necessary to target training. If 11 million jobs were still being sought by 2030, DPWI really needed to look at which jobs were breaking the bank with their collaborators. This was a policy issue.
The EPWP sat with the National Coordinating Committee and had good relationships with the provinces. They also participated with Ministers and Members of Executive Councils Meeting (MINMEC). Furthermore, they also provided support to the provincial structures. EPWP DPWI representatives were often part of government structures (also at provincial level), which meant they had sound relationships. There were also protocol arrangements. The North West was such an example, where a document was signed by the Premier in the North West, along with the MEC and HOD of Public Works, the MEC (Member of Executive Council) and HOD (Head of Department) of COGTA, the Municipal Manager, Mayor and Executive Mayor in the North West. They also had good progress in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, though what they said was that the last signature would be the Minister of Public Works. This would put out all responsibilities and would recognise that the programme required working arrangements that were sound. EPWP staff had prepared letters for the Minister to inform them that the OTP and others signed said that they would adhere to protocol, including reporting and managing. The work on the social audits was going in the right direction, though they needed to work on measurements with not compliance. This was in the policies, but they had not done enough work on this.
Mr Ignatius Ariyo, EPWP Infrastructure Sector Chief Director, DPWI, said the matter with Kocher was an issue of project management, which they were trying to strengthen and manage in DPWI. Between internal and external project managers, there was a need to ensure projects were managed according to EPWP principles. Workshops had been held with different managing regions and DPWI was continuing meetings with their own project manager so that they could continue with oversight of EPWP projects to ensure uniformity. In the absence of the policy being drafted, some municipalities and metros had been engaged in an attempt to get them to adopt EPWP policies and targets within the performance agreements of different officials. It would be much easier if they had the APP targets for the different public bodies; this was something they were working on. The overall policy, once adopted, would help. The challenge with EPWP was that it was complimentary to the rest of the economy – participants could not always be absorbed into the mainstream economies. Some of the municipalities were beginning to have databases, such as the City of Tshwane and the City of Cape Town. In Tshwane they had a big drive to have people registered, then when a project came up they had an automated rotational system. This was done in other municipalities too. Concurrent functions were certainly a challenge, with DPWI relying on their relationships with municipalities to handle this.
Ms Pearl Mugerwa, Chief Director: EPWP Operations, DPWI, responded to the question about ensuring the up-skilling of NGOs and NPOs. She clarified that indeed the DPWI implemented the EPWP through the IDT. As a result, DPWI would ensure that those NPO’s participating through the IDT did not default. The broader scope of the NPO sector/civil society sector was tied to the mandate of the Department of Social Development (DSD). Sometimes the NPOs would default by not having an updated registration certificate, which was issued by DS upon compliance. DSD had a very critical role in helping to prevent the defaulting of the NPOs. Other departments, such as the Department of Employment and Labour, would give an NPO a letter of good standing, which would mean that NPO as it employed people at ground level, would ensure to pay the people working with them (including pay, insurance, compensation of injury on duty, for example). In addition to this, with SARS (South African Revenue Services), NPOs needed to make sure they were tax compliant. If NPOs defaulted against this list of requirements, they would not be able to participate; this was enforced by whichever department was using NPO’s at ground level for service delivery. The EPWP NPO processes were carried out by the IDT. The EPWP received funding to up-skill the participants. This budget was for technical up-skilling, but not up-skilling to be compliant. They would have been trained on financial management to ensure they could develop and compile their own annual reports. They did not have this kind of training with DPWI, but through their own efforts, they had a provincial management team(s) in the respective nine provinces. These structures had representation from DSD and the Department of Employment and Labour. They had not managed to secure representation from SARS. At the time the NPOs were being recruited for participation, they were subjected to due diligence. Where they did not comply, they were engaged and respective representatives were consulted for guidance. About two to three weeks were given for them to correct their situation. In the previous financial year, they could not make the target of NPOs they had intended to work with (315) for the same reason that NPOs were non-compliant and had defaulted on one area or the other. Moving forward, they intended to revise the NPO implementation model especially in the coming financial year. They wanted training to go beyond the technical level, to include management capacity.
Mr Fazel announced that there were five key DDG positions available for immediate filling. The position for DDG Supply Chain Management (SCM) and DDG: ITR would take place in the following ten days. The positions for EPWP were for DDG: Policy and DDG: Facilities Management. These had been advertised, with responses received from the public, and the interviews were expected to follow after shortlisting. They were making good progress in this regard. The Public Works Bill would need to be assessed for enforceability.
On the Customised Performance Indicator, he said that this was a very important intervention that DPWI was seeking to introduce to the performance management system throughout government. This would bring about self-monitoring of EPWP system where participants would need to report on their APP, which would be subject to auditing by the Auditor-General. The Customised Performance Indicator also included recruitment practises. It would take time for the DPME (Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation) to accept an introduce it. This was a fundamental intervention. If DPWI were to succeed at introducing the Customised Performance Indicator (the number of work opportunities reported by the relevant work bodies) they would introduce much diligence into the system through auditing of the EPWP programme with the Auditor-General.
The Deputy Minister said that DPWI took the objectives of the EPWP quite seriously. The manner, in which EPWP was viewed not only nationally but also internationally, as a measure to mitigate poverty, was viewed quite positively. This was because over a number of years, and in 2019, DPWI had received an award working together with the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) because of the manner in which the conceptualisation and the drive of the programme. Their major deliberation was the unenforceability of the guidelines – they need to clarify this as government. The fact that abuse of the EPWP was taking place was clear (community petitions and interviews had articulated). It was a fact that political manipulation was taking place with the EPWP, not just by one party but also by many parties, which undermined the core objective of the EPWP. This core objective was poverty alleviation, which occurred across political spectrums and parties. One of the strongest elements, which would be contained in both the Bill and the Policy, was to ensure that they limit the ‘human element’ of influencing the EPWP in a negative manner. There needed to be justice in what they did. DPWI had already started dealing with this on 23 January 2020 at a colloquium they held an invited municipalities and other groups. It was emphasised in that meeting that there was a need to stop abusing the EPWP. Trying to work with all role players was a carrot and stick approach, which was taken in this colloquium where government had shared their intention and what they had wanted to see from the role players. There were social implications if the EPWP was not driven ethically. As leadership, they needed to understand the purpose of the programme (EPWP). Because it was a steppingstone, it was a helping hand. The programme was envisaged to cushion the most vulnerable in society. If they could not do this, the whole nation would be affected. This was a human interventionist programme that needed to be humane. They needed to ensure participation was in an ethical manner and not individualistic. DPWI was committed to engaging on a quarterly basis as the Chairperson requested. As they drafted the public works bill, the do’s and don’ts of the programme became enforceable.
Ms Siwisa asked the Deputy Minister what measures they would put in place to ensure the EPWP guidelines and programmes actually became successful. There was much non-compliance, unaccountability and vacancies that needed to be addressed. On the 16 letters written with no response, there was a lack of accountability and proper follow-up, with many loopholes. What were they doing about workload versus compliance and skill in DPWI, specifically with the EPWP programme?
The Deputy Minister said that it was critical for DPWI to appoint a DDG. There were staff members below, but it was not enough. Once there was a DDG, it would be their duty to ensure that the staff members were available. For a programme of this nature, agility was critical – the ability to network and interact with the various role players. The District Development Model (DDM) platform had to be used to ensure co-ordination with various role players was attended to. Where there were gaps and poor performance they were attended to. Everyone understood that DPWI needed to be able to drive programmes that capacitated the people and communities. The people on the ground and leadership needed to understand the dos and don’ts. The policy would include the issue of co-ordination and easing the flow for prompt response. At times, responses were delayed because of chain management and accountability between the municipality and national government. If in all the DDM’s they had a representative or allocated staff for such matters, they could be utilised to address this. They would ensure to employ representatives in DDM’s and to reorganise themselves in their work plans.
Ms Abrahams said that EPWP recognised that the work was much, though their strength (as shown in their strategy session) was that they people who were committed to the programme since 2004. They were committed to the process. At the time, there was a situation where an EPWP staff member had received a promotion in another government department and was simply saying they had been in the programme since 2011 and they loved it. One needed to be passionate about the poor to work on the EPWP programme. The strength was in the team and they had met with all the provinces that morning to recognise that when there was a need in a particular area they were able to deploy staff in that area. In certain province, there were committed staff members assigned to a district, such as in the North West, Limpopo and the Western Cape.
Mr Fazel acknowledged that there was a proposal to the Minister to do a skills audit, which would be an assessment of the skills and capacity at their disposal at the present time throughout the organisation, including EPWP. Of more immediate interest, he mentioned that in the past six months they had seen that the staff that was clearly committed and they would fill the vacancy in the coming few weeks.
The Chairperson thanked the DPWI team, the Minister and Mr August for their presentations. DPWI was a coordinating structure and could not shift to a certain directorate when speaking about the DDM. DPWI was a pillar. They requested quarterly reports and detailed updates. The EPWP, as members had said, spoke to the most vulnerable and those who did not have special skills. This was the majority of the population of South Africa. A clear policy would benefit this majority. One of the key drivers of the reconstruction of the economy was the creation of jobs – the EPWP was a vehicle to do so and they dare not fail the majority that had made them Members of the Parliament of South Africa.
Consideration and adoption of the 2019/20 Annual Report of the Committee
The Committee Secretary flighted the report and programme from March 2020 to March 2021. Members would craft their own recommendations to be added to the report.
Members were invited to interact with the report.
Ms Hicklin said that there was a numbering issue at 10.13, this was written at 8.13 on page 11. As a further response, Ms Hicklin said they needed to emphasise that the reports given to them needed to be comprehensive and responses needed to be timeous to requests for information. The reports they got were always considerably delayed and needed to answer the questions they had. Often the reports were generalised and incomplete. Very often, there was an issue where the timeframes were not adhered to and the information requested was not provided to them. The submission received from the Free State Agricultural Society was received a few weeks prior. Would this fall out of the scope of the petition because it was on the Expropriation Bill, or was it something completely separate?
She agreed with the report overall, though wanted more on the Immovable Asset Register (IAR), which she did not think DPWI was taking seriously enough.
Mr Mathebula supported the report as it was. He moved to adopt the report.
Ms Siwisa said that responses, recommendations and timeframes were problematic. Even if DPWI was given a timeframe; their responses were not in detail. Timeframes needed to be stipulated by the Committee. Attachments to reports, which Members could read in their leisure time, would be helpful.
Ms Schalkwyk seconded the report. She said that if Members could get their feedback in the form of annexures, this would help significantly. Reports should also include explanatory reports to provide a narrative report to assist members.
Mr Mashele said that the report was a true reflection of what they had gone through. They needed to find a way to deal with how DPWI was responding to the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Graham-Mare pointed out that on page two (report framework), the Minister was referred to as ‘he’ instead of ‘she’.
On recommendations, they generally received weekly reminders to track and monitor. She asked for this to be included by the secretary, to all Members of the Committee. Ms Graham-Mare also requested they acknowledge the hard work done by the Committee support staff in supporting them in the year.
The Chairperson said that the report was the culmination of what the Committee had gone through in the year 2020/2021. It indicated what they had done.
She said that the way DPWI was dealing with issues needed much improvement with detail and timelines. The fact that a petition was needed to get their attention and, for example, stopping DPWI from bringing in a third white paper as they wanted to, showed the problems in DPWI. In 2019, reporting was sufficiently detailed in presentations. For this year, the Committee did not get slides, but a report with a summary. Now DPWI was bringing PowerPoint presentations, which was not enough.
The submission from the Free State Agriculture society, as Ms Hicklin had asked about, was not a petition but spoke about the Expropriation Bill. At the time, the Committee had wanted written submissions, though they said those that wanted oral submissions should put in a request, which is what they had received.
The Secretary gave procedural advice on this. What FSA did was never a petition in the main but was rather a written submission.
The report was adopted with amendments and corrections.
The minutes from the previous meeting were also adopted, without amendments.
Announcement and closing remarks
The Secretary gave announcements pertaining to oral submissions, second term focus areas in the Committee Programme.
The Chairperson thanked everyone for attending the meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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