In this virtual meeting, the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and North West Offices of the Premier briefed the Committee on the filling and vacant positions of Heads of Department (HODs) and compliance with the Directive of the Performance Management Development System (PMDS).
In March, the Committee received a report from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on the turnover and the filling of Director-Generals and Heads of Departments in the public service. The report flagged the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and North West provinces for their high vacancy rates in respect of the HODs. This resulted in the Committee’s decision to extend an invitation to the provinces with high HOD vacancy rates to understand the challenges in filling those critical positions.
The Northern Cape reported that four departments had vacant HOD positions, with Acting HODs currently appointed in the Departments of Health; Provincial Treasury; Roads and Public Works; and Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform. It had no recorded cases of non-compliance in terms of the Directive on PMDS for HODs. Northern Cape indicated it could have done much better in filling the vacancies. It assured Members by the end of August 2021, it would submit a report to the Committee to demonstrate the progress it would make within the next three months.
Members raised concern around the absence of HODs for Health and Provincial Treasury. They noted the significant role of these departments, especially Health as it was critical during this time of the pandemic. Members asked about the impact of these vacancies in the Province and on the Department.
Concerns were raised about the delay in filling HOD positions. Members asked why some of the vacancies took an entire year, and in some cases more than two years, from the date of advertisement to be filled. They cited the Public Service Act and Regulations which stipulated that positions must be advertised and filled within a period of 6 months, and that an official may not be in an Acting post for more than 12 months. The Committee requested clear timelines and fixed dates on when the vacancies would be filled as the presentation provided a vague timeframe.
The Mpumalanga Office of the Premier reported that of its twelve Departments, six HODs were appointed whilst six Departments had Acting HODs in Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA); Economic Dev and Tourism (EDAT); Agriculture, Rural Dev, Land Admin and Environmental Affairs; Education; Public Works, Roads and Transport; and the Office of the Premier (the Department). It confirmed the Department had already embarked on an extensive recruitment drive to attract suitably qualified individuals to serve as HODs. It would be formally endorsing the appointment of HODs in four Departments that same day.
On the status of compliance with PMDS reports, two of the six appointed HODs in the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison, and in Dept Human Settlements did not submit their PMDS as yet owing to their respective suspensions and they would only conclude their PMDS upon finalisation of their labour matters. The suspensions were due to issues such as insubordination, allegations of fraud, bribery, corruption, and a violation of immigration laws which was a prominent case that was currently in court.
Mpumalanga highlighted that Covid-19 added further challenges in fast-tracking the processes of employing suitably qualified candidates for the vacant positions, and the Department was also constrained in terms of having live interviews as candidates had to travel from one province to another. These accounted for the delays in filling the vacant positions.
Members raised concern that half of the HOD positions were currently vacant, and that out of the five HODs that were appointed, two were currently on suspension and the HOD of Health was currently on extended sick leave. They asked whether this pointed to a looming crisis around the issue of HODs and the incumbencies in office. Concerns were raised about the vetting and checking of the legal documents of the people who were appointed. Members said that Covid-19 could not be used as an excuse for the vacant posts because some of those positions had been vacant for two years prior to Covid-19. They claimed the Department was flouting the Act and the Regulations by not advertising and filling some of these posts within the requisite time period and allowing officials to Act beyond the 12-month period. The Committee said it required clear timeframes on when these posts would be filled.
The Committee informed the province that the Minister had established a permanent team which would assist departments and provinces to speed up disciplinary processes and advised it to take advantage of this.
The North West Office of the Premier reported the Province was under administration since 25 April 2018 and this had an impact on its ability to fill vacancies. The Premier indicated that concurrence was needed from the Minister for Public Service and Administration in the recruitment and placement of HODs in terms of this protocol.
The province indicated that it recently appointed a DG, as well as HODs in Health, Agriculture, and Social Dev. It was in the process of recruitment for HODs in Public Works and Roads; Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation; Human Settlements; and COGTA. It confirmed government had been stabilising over the past three years, service delivery improved, and audit outcomes were a significant sign of improvement, and Covid-19 actually assisted the Department greatly in bringing about more coherence between departments. It said the appointment of DG and HOD positions had been critical in reinforcing the positivity that was emerging. It expected to fill the four vacant posts by the end of August 2021 and that all the HODs would have signed Performance Agreements in compliance with the PMDS by the end of May 2021.
Members asked whether the invocation of section 100 (1)(a) and (1)(b) had an impact on the stability of the Province because it was not intended to be a long-term solution.
They asked what the cause in the delays of the appointments was because it was shocking that the appointments of HODs for Health and Social Dev were only made in April and May 2021. The Committee requested firm timelines on this matter. It took the matter of officials doing business with the State very seriously as this was prohibited in the Regulations. Members questioned whether the sanction of a final warning was appropriate.
The Department said it would ensure officials would do what they were appointed to do, and that was why the Premier had taken the decision and given the instruction that even those officials in provincial office would now do work in municipalities.
Members proposed that all three Premiers should send senior management officials to attend a mandatory course at the National School of Government (NSG) as this would expose them to anything they might be unaware of which was law or prohibited in law, as well as its implications. They raised concern that some officials were unaware of the laws that governed their space as the NSG would speak to the service delivery and performance of departments as expected.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson informed Members on 10 March 2021 the Committee received a report from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) on the turnover and the filling of Director-Generals (DGs) and Heads of Departments (HODs) in the public service. The report flagged the Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, and North West provinces for their high vacancy rates in respect of the HODs. This resulted in the Committee’s decision to extend an invitation to the provinces with high HOD vacancy rates to understand the challenges in filling those critical positions. The National Development Plan (NDP) stated “many of government’s best performing institutions are characterised by stability in leadership positions”.
He invited Mpumalanga province to present first, followed by the North Cape and lastly North West province. He requested all the Premiers to make an opening address to introduce the presentation to the Committee before they commenced with the presentation.
The Chairperson handed over to Mpumalanga Office of the Premier.
He moved to the Northern Cape Office of the Premier as the Mpumalanga Office did not respond on the platform.
Northern Cape Office of the Premier
Dr Zamani Saul, Premier of the Northern Cape, welcomed the opportunity to present the provincial report on the filling of HOD positions and compliance with the Directive on the Performance Management Development System (PMDS) for HODs.
He spoke to the Executive Summary which indicated the Northern Cape Provincial Administration (NCPA) had a total of 11 departments, including the Office of the Premier (the Department) which had an appointed DG. A total of six departments had appointed HODs and four departments had vacant HOD positions, with Acting HODs currently appointed. He confirmed the NCPA had no recorded cases of non-compliance in terms of the Directive on PMDS for HODs.
Vacant HOD positions
Dr Saul mentioned the DG and HOD incumbents, their gender, and their term of office outlined on slide 4.
There were four Departments with Acting HODs: Health, Provincial Treasury, Roads and Public Works. The vacant HOD positions for these Departments were advertised in August 2020 in accordance with the job evaluation outcomes. Whilst awaiting the filling of these positions, officials within these three Departments and with the requisite skills and competencies were appointed as Acting HODs. He said the Office of the Premier acknowledged this arrangement was not ideal and it was an interim measure, but it created and added value to the operations of the Departments. He confirmed the current HODs did not apply for the advertised positions.
On 1 April 2021, the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation merged with the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform. An Acting HOD was appointed for the new department that was now known as the Department of Agriculture, Environmental Affairs, Rural Development and Land Reform. The recruitment process for the vacant HOD post for this new department had commenced and the advertisement would be in national and local newspapers, including the DPSA vacancy circular in the coming weeks. Dr Saul said the contract of the HOD of the former Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development came to an end and hence the appointment of an Acting HOD. The Department of Environment and Nature Conservation also had an Acting HOD.
Compliance with the PMDS Directive for HODs
Performance Evaluations for HODs would be concluded by 31 March each year due to the Annual Report that must be audited first before evaluations could take place. On the DPSA Circular 32 of 2020, the Performance Evaluations of HODs for the 2018/2019 and Performance Assessments of HODs for the 2019/2020 performance cycle was to be concluded by the 31 March 2021.
Performance Evaluations of HODs for 2018/19
Performance Evaluations of the DG for this performance cycle was done and finalised by the Public Service Commission. The Office of the Premier concluded the Performance Evaluations of HODs for this performance cycle in March 2020.
Performance Assessments and Evaluations of HODs for 2019/20
The Performance Evaluations of HODs for this cycle could not be done by 31 March given the DPSA Circular 32 of 2020 that allowed for the Annual Performance Assessment between the Executive Authority (EA) and HODs to be concluded by 31 March 2021. The Performance Evaluations for HODs would therefore take place and it was planned to be finalised within the next two months (end of June 2021).
Performance agreements for 2020/2021 and 2021/2022
On the level of PMDS compliance, the Acting HODs (in the four departments), under the PMDS processes for Senior Management Service (SMS) members, were not required to comply with the Directive on HOD PMDS.
Dr Saul outlined the rest of the agreements on slide 10. He explained one HOD was on precautionary suspension and had since submitted the Performance Agreement on 24 May 2021 and would only conclude PMDS documents on finalisation of the labour matter. It should be noted that Acting appointments and suspensions were valid exclusions in terms of the HOD PMDS Directive.
The Provincial Administration had no recorded cases of non-compliance with the Directive on PMDS for HODs. The Provincial Administration remained committed to ensure that all HODs positions were filled for effective and efficient delivery of services as well as accountability.
He thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present on this very important matter.
The Chairperson invited Members to engage with the report.
Dr M Gondwe (DA) welcomed the presentation. She was concerned about the absence of HODs for the Department of Health and Provincial Treasury. She noted the officials with requisite qualifications acting in these positions and that these positions were advertised in August 2020. She asked, does it really have to take a year from the date of advertisement for these positions to be filled? She said August 2021 was approaching and this would make it a year since the posts were advertised.
The Health Portfolio was extremely critical at this point in time and it worried her that there was currently no HOD for Health in the province. How long has the current Acting official been Acting in this specific position? She clarified she was asking these questions because the Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations provided that positions must be advertised and filled within a period of 6 months, and that an official may not be in an Acting post for more than 12 months.
On the merger of the Department of Environment and Agriculture in April 2021, what was the rationale behind this merger of these two Departments? What happened to the HODs who previously headed these Departments prior to the merger or amalgamation of these two departments?
Dr Gondwe commended the Northern Cape for concluding the Performance Evaluation for HODs for the 2018/2019 financial year within the stipulated timeline. She said the Committee would hold it to the commitment to finalise the Performance Evaluation of HODs for the 2019/2020 financial year within the next two months. The Committee would appreciate a clear date on when exactly the finalisation of these Performance Evaluations would be concluded.
She commended it for having no cases of non-compliance with the Directive on the PMDS for HODs.
Dr L Schreiber (DA) asked about the three vacancies that exist. How long had these been vacant?
Specifically, on the HOD of Health, with reports of a potential third wave, how long was that position vacant? What was the Premier’s view on the impact of having positions, as flagged by Dr Gondwe on the Provincial Treasury and the HOD of Health, what was the impact of having those positions vacant? He was especially concerned about the health side with the looming third wave in the country. He would appreciate the Premier’s feedback on this question.
Ms R Lesoma (ANC) appreciated the sense of functionality in ensuring stability in the administration, in view of the Chairperson’s opening remarks on what the NDP required and the impact of senior management’s instability and the high turnover. She said since the day the Committee engaged with the Public Service Commission, there had been an improvement as the Committee would not invite it if there was no concern. She was satisfied that there had been a lot of progress aligned with the regulations and the acts that governed public service and administration.
She echoed Dr Gondwe’s question for the Committee to receive a concise and clear timeframe. She asked the Premier to give the Committee a sense of comfort that a thorough security clearance was done before people were appointed. She cautioned about recycling people who were not performing in other departments. She said there needed to be a clear track record with qualifications.
Are there any senior officials that were still doing business with government? If they were, what system was being used to detect this to indicate awareness on this matter? Lastly, she sought clarity about what checks and balances were in place.
Ms R Komane (EFF) thanked the Department for the presentation and acknowledged the work it had done. The presentation stated the posts would be advertised in the coming weeks. She asked whether the Committee could be given an exact timeframe as “weeks” was vague and could refer to the next 48 weeks for example.
The Department said it had complied with the Directive. If it missed the deadline on the review performance of the HOD, was it full compliance as it indicated?
What was the reason for the post being advertised for an entire year?
On the merger between the two Departments, were there two HODs in the Departments that merged? If yes, what happened to these HODs in the two Departments?
On the HOD on precautionary suspension, how long was this HOD on suspension? What was the DPSA’s duration of the condonation? Was it open-ended; what was happening?
Ms M Kibi (ANC) welcomed and appreciated the presentation. She said Members had already covered her questions, but she extended her appreciation for the Premier’s commitment to ensure the province was stable and all issues were addressed.
Mr S Malatsi (DA) asked for the timeline the Provincial Administration was working with to fill the vacancies. He said the Committee recognised the individuals currently acting, what was the current plan in terms of the timeline to conclude the process of filling those vacancies?
Ms M Ntuli (ANC) commented on the HOD vacancy in the Health Department. She said it was very unfortunate, because of the difficult circumstances experienced due to Covid-19 and the dependence of every province on this Department.
She asked whether the Premier could indicate when the three posts he mentioned would be filled. She said it was not right for officials who were Acting and for the Committee to be unaware of the reasons why they did not apply as indicated by the Premier. It seemed there were reasons for this decision for example they could be ready for retirement or looking for other opportunities and so forth. Could the Premier assure the Committee that it does in fact have the timeframe, according to the Province, on when these key positions would be filled?
She concurred with Members on the long period of advertisement. If such periods were still within the DPSA processes, why was it advertised for this long? She asked the Premier to provide clarity on this and noted perhaps there was a re-advertisement and so on.
On the precautionary suspension, how long would this be in place? Was it still within the DPSA processes?
Ms Ntuli commended the Province and echoed Ms Lesoma’s comment that between today and the presentation by the DPSA, a lot had been done. This meant work was in progress and she commended the Province on this. She said the Committee would like to see it fast-track the work that was outstanding and commended it for its compliance to the administration.
The Chairperson asked Dr Saul to provide responses.
Dr Saul thanked the Chairperson. He noted that this was his inaugural meeting with the Committee.
He said he was joined by the DG who would provide some responses to questions he does not address or where he does not provide adequate responses to.
On Dr Gondwe’s issue of the absence of HODs for Health and Provincial Treasury, he said the posts were advertised in August 2020 and when he looked at this date, he believed the Department could have done much better. He assured Members that by the end of August 2021, it would submit a report to the Committee to demonstrate the progress it would make within the next three months. He acknowledged that it could have done much better. Most of the vacant posts varied between five to ten months and the posts were advertised immediately as they became vacant. There had been a slight progress with filling posts.
On the HOD post for the Health Department, he was sitting almost a month with the recommendations from the interviewing panel on the appointment of this HOD. There were some difficulties around this matter as there were developments that took place that overtook the process of the appointment of this HOD. The Department was currently reviewing its positions on the appointment of the recommended individual. He would not elaborate further but the interviews took place, and recommendations were on the desk. They were very careful about going ahead with this appointment due to some serious developments regarding the recommended individual that had overtaken the process of appointment.
On the HOD position for Treasury, Dr Saul said the applications were received but when it was reviewed, most of the applicants did not qualify and the few that did were mainly based on academic credentials but lacked the practical experience of public service management. He was certain it was now possibly facing a re-advertisement of the post. He and the DG had engaged the current Acting HOD, who was currently the Accountant General of the province, because she was doing an excellent job, but she made it poignantly clear that she was not interested in the post. She had considered her age and she did not want to get herself entangled in a five-year contract which would bring a great deal of uncertainty on her future prospects and so forth. With the current applicants, they were reviewed but the Department was not satisfied.
On the issue of timeframes, he said the Department would try its best within the next three months -- by the end of August 2021, to report back to the Committee.
Dr Saul stated that the people the Department appointed in acting positions in the province were qualified for these positions and were quite seasoned bureaucrats who were really assisting it to hold the fort while these positions had been vacant. He said there were no visible signs of instability and poor performance due to the people who were acting.
On the merger of the Environmental Affairs Department and the Department of Agriculture, he explained this used to be two separate departments which brought the total number of departments in the province to 10. It was reduced to nine hence it had nine Members of the Executive Council (MECs) in the province and not 10 as in other provinces. The overriding consideration was to cut on government expenditure as some Members were aware it had the smallest budget in the country where about 60 percent of its budget goes into compensation of public servants. It therefore had to do everything possible to cut costs. The provincial Department of Environmental Affairs’ annual budget was about R141 million and in view of its staff complement, there was absolutely no justifiable reasons for such a department with meagre resources, staff complement, having an MEC, an HOD, a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and so on. The HOD post was vacant and it had been approved by national with the merger and the Department was currently looking at staff placement between the two departments. If there was excess staff, they would be placed in other departments hence the DG wrote a letter to all the current departments to not fill vacant positions pending the placement of staff in the two departments. If there was a possibility of two CFOs, it would have to place one CFO in another department that had a vacant CFO position. This would go a long way in cutting costs and not having to maintain two ministries, two HODs, and basically two senior management structures. He emphasised the Department firmly believed this would go a long way because as the province with minimal resources, it needed to consider cost-cutting and cost-saving measures to enable it to implement other important programmes of government. He noted these were the reasons for the merger.
On senior officials still doing business with government, Dr Saul said the report he received from the DG was that this matter was dealt with and beyond the normal reporting processes on this matter, the Department introduced its own measures. For now, it was quite satisfied there were no senior government officials who were doing business with government.
He noted Members requests for timeframes. He had already provided some timeframe the Department would work on this matter. By the end of August 2021, it should have finalised this.
On the HOD on precautionary suspension, Dr Saul asked the DG to elaborate on this matter. The HOD on Sports, Arts, and Culture was suspended as a response to the report the Department received from the Public Protector. After it received the report, it gave it to the HOD and asked her to exercise her options – whether she intended to take the report for review, but it was quite clear she decided not to take the report for review. The report directly implicated her in the misappropriation of funds which was about R1 million. On this basis, the Department took the very difficult decision to suspend her.
He thanked Members for the questions. He said the DG and the team could add follow-up comments to strengthen his responses to some of the questions.
Mr Justice Bekebeke, DG, Northern Cape Provincial Government, thanked the Committee and the Premier. He said the Premier adequately responded to the questions but that he would elaborate further on the Department of Agriculture as one of the questions called for firm timelines. He indicated the advertisement for the HOD of the new Department of Agriculture and Environment would be out on Friday 28 May 2021 on the DPSA circular, and in the national newspapers on Sunday 30 May 2021. He confirmed this was a firm commitment it had already made on this matter.
On the suspended HOD, he explained she was suspended as from September 2020 and the preliminary hearing was heard towards November 2020 where she had raised several interlocutory matters. One of those was that the Premier did not have the locus standi to institute disciplinary hearings against her. The hearing was held, and the sitting was done but unfortunately the chairperson became ill and was hospitalised for a lengthy period. The chairperson was subsequently released from hospital and had given the verdict on the preliminary matters. The next hearing would be on 19 July 2021 which was when the formal hearing would be done. Until such time, the HOD unfortunately had to be on precautionary suspension.
He said those were the only issues he needed to add as the Premier sufficiently dealt with all the questions posed towards the Department. He thanked the Chairperson and handed back.
The Chairperson formally welcomed Mr Joe McGluwa (DA) to the Committee as this was not done in the previous meeting. He noted Mr McGluwa would be the permanent Member to replace Honourable Clarke. He officially welcomed Mr McGluwa in the Committee.
He invited Mpumalanga’s Premier to present.
Ms Komane interjected to make a follow-up.
The Chairperson indicated that Ms Komane’s connection was breaking up. He asked her to restart her follow-up as Members could not hear the question.
Ms Komane referred to the Premier’s response that his Office was sitting with recommendations for almost a month. However, there were developments on the set recommendations of the individual. Since it had a challenge of filling posts in certain departments, and with the recommendation of a particular person who it had issues with, were there no other alternatives to be implemented about this? In view of the developments the Premier spoke to, which he mentioned he would not disclose with the Committee, would that not impact badly on the timeframe to fill the post? On the developments he spoke to and the negative impact, what would be the reason for the Department to revisit the post?
Dr Saul said he took a risk to allude to this particular matter as he wanted Members to be aware of the difficult situation the Department was confronted with on the filling of the position in the Department of Health. He said the Department went through all the due processes and as soon as it was about to appoint the HOD, it saw the developments that overtook the process. It had to halt the process because of the public perception that would have been created if it continued to fill the vacancy. The Department was currently considering its options. The reason why he did not want to disclose full details on this matter was because this was a recorded proceeding and if the person who was affected by this discovered such engagements, he could take the Department to court as it was a legal matter. He alerted Members that the Department was faced with some challenges and it was currently considering all the available options. In his last discussion with the DG sometime last week, they considered the option of re-advertising the position to get other suitable individuals to apply.
Ms Ntuli commended the honesty from the province for presenting candidly to the Committee. She said the Department should tread carefully as it should not be pushed by Members’ questions other than the core matters the Department faced.
The Chairperson thanked the Premier and his team. He invited the Premier of Mpumalanga to present.
Mpumalanga Office of the Premier
Ms Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, Premier of Mpumalanga, greeted the Chairperson, all Members, and the senior managers of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government (the Province) led by the Acting DG Mr Peter Nyoni. She extended her gratitude for the opportunity to present before the Committee and to provide an update on the filling of the Accounting Officers posts within the provincial departments.
She said the filling of the Accounting Officers’ (HOD) posts was central to the creation and sustenance of stability in the functioning of government and the delivery of services within the province. True to the mandate, as espoused in the Manifesto of the ruling party, the Province’s’ commitment towards the creation of the developmental state would be underpinned by the recruitment of capable, suitably qualified, and committed individuals to serve as HODs. Through the recruitment of suitably qualified HODs, it could eradicate amongst others, unemployment, poverty, and inequality, whilst strategically positioning the Provincial Government, especially the Office of the Premier as a central node for the effective functioning of government through the development and implementation of policy, as well as the coordination and collaboration of all government spheres.
The Province was comprised of 12 Departments. Currently, there were six HODs that were appointed whilst six Departments had Acting HODs.
The following Departments appointed HODs: Human Settlements; Community Safety, Security and Liaison; Health; Culture, Sport and Recreation; Social Development; and Provincial Treasury. These Departments had Acting Accounting Officers: Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA); Economic Dev and Tourism (EDAT); Agriculture, Rural Dev, Land Admin and Environmental Affairs; Education; Public Works, Roads and Transport; and the Office of the Premier (the Department).
She confirmed that her Office had already embarked on an extensive recruitment drive to attract suitably qualified individuals to serve as HODs. She was pleased to announce that the Provincial Government would sit that day to formally endorse the appointment of HODs in four Departments which included COGTA; Education; Agriculture, Rural Development, and Land Affairs; and lastly Education. The recruitment process to finalise the appointment of HODs for EDAT as well as the DG in the Department was ongoing and was projected to be concluded by end of August 2021.
On the status of adherence to the submission of PMDS reports, of the six appointed HODs, four of them had already submitted their PMDS and Performance Agreement on the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) system. The outstanding HODs did not submit their PMDS as yet owing to their respective suspensions. They would only conclude their PMDS upon finalisation of their labour matters.
She concluded that the briefing was an overview of the status quo in Mpumalanga. She requested the Acting DG Mr Nyoni to provide a detailed presentation and handed over to him.
Mr Nyoni greeted all Members and colleagues.
He indicated that the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison as well as the Department of Human Settlements both had suspended HODs. The reason for the suspension of the HOD in the Dept of Community Safety and Liaison was due to insubordination as well as allegations of fraud and corruption relating to the appointment of traffic learners. In terms of the Department of Human Settlement, the HOD was suspended based on violation of immigration laws which was a prominent case that was currently in court, as well bribery allegations.
Status on vacant HOD posts
On the gap in the acting capacity of the Departments the Premier mentioned, he said the position in COGTA had been vacant since February 2020 which indicated it had been vacant for almost 15 months. The position in Public Works, Roads and Transport was vacant for almost nine months. Agriculture was vacant for three years. The Department, in terms of the position of the DG, was vacant for four months; EDAT vacant for six months; and Dept of Education was vacant for two years and five months.
Mr Nyoni said Covid-19 added further challenges in fast-tracking the processes of employing suitably qualified candidates for the vacant positions. The Department was also constrained in terms of having live interviews as candidates had to travel from one province to another. That accounted for the delays in filling the vacant positions. He said he could not repeat what the Premier had indicated on her schedule to get all vacant HOD positions filled before the end of Friday 28 May 2021, but the sitting of the Executive Council (EXCO) today, 26 May 2021, was to give attention to the matter.
He concluded his responses and handed back to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson invited Members to engage with the presentation.
Ms Ntuli thanked the Premier and the DG for the presentation. She said it somewhat reflected a lot of progress. If the Department was finalising four appointments this week out of six, this showed a lot of progress.
She commended the province for eradicating corruption. The suspensions and the underlying reasons for those suspensions indicated it was eradicating corruption.
Ms Ntuli said she did not have any questions for the province but to commend it for the work it was doing and for its progress. With the current female Premier, she hoped it would employ more female HODs.
Ms Lesoma commended the Chairperson for his direction. The presentations were taken as read and the provinces therefore dealt with the substantive issues. This helped to give Members time to engage on the presentation.
She said it appeared there were some reasons for the duration of the vacant posts. For the sake of interest and a sense of comfort, she hoped the suspensions that unfolded were not linked to the change of the EAs because for her, it created an administrative instability. If there were still HODs that were still suspended when the half-term of office was approaching, this meant that whatever promises were made to the people of Mpumalanga would not be delivered. She explained that generally when a new leader took office, they generally wanted to change the business plans, staff, and make overall changes in the workspace and overlook the fact that it was the same government. She cautioned that the Premier and her team should be mindful that this would impact the promises made to the people of Mpumalanga. If people did not perform and there were allegations of financial maladministration, it must be attended to.
In the Auditor-General’s (AGs) report on the province, one of the risk issues identified was on the instability and high turnover of the HODs. She said she was certain moving forward, the Premier would pay much attention to that matter as there were several other issues the AG raised but this would not be elaborated on for the purpose of this engagement.
She asked how robust the security check was. She clarified she did not claim it was not robust as she would not know about this, but she believed it needed to be strengthened to ensure there were no vacant positions where people needed to be suspended.
All these positions required clear timelines so that the Committee could do its oversight work. The Committee could not do oversight and monitor an activity that did not have a clear timeline. She believed the Department was aware of the project management protocols and what it required but she would have a sense of comfort that this might follow in writing. Ms Lesoma emphasised it should be clear in the timelines based on the activities that needed to be taken before the posts were filled.
In the Committee’s engagements with the DPSA, the Minister had indicated it had a permanent team which would assist departments and provinces to speed up disciplinary processes. She said Mpumalanga should take advantage of that so that it did not find itself on the day of the disciplinary hearing with a sick or unavailable presiding officer. It should have a plan B on this issue so that it did not have several senior officials paid whilst sitting at home as this meant double pay for the same position twice because Acting officials also needed to be paid if that Acting post was beyond six months.
She extended her appreciation for the presentation. She said she was looking forward to having a complete timeframe on this matter.
Dr Gondwe noted slide 5 indicated seven out of 12 HOD positions were currently vacant. That was close to a 60 percent vacancy rate in this regard and this was extremely worrying.
Slide 9 indicated that out of the five HODs that were appointed, two were currently on suspension and one was on extended sick leave. This meant there were only two HODs that were currently active or sitting. Does this not point to a looming crisis around the issue of HODs and the incumbency in office?
Slide 4 indicated these vacancies were due to the expiries of the employment contract of the incumbent. Was the Department not supposed to plan ahead because in her opinion it could not have such a high vacancy rate? She recalled the Public Service Act and Regulations provided that a post must be advertised and filled within six months or the Department was ineffectively flouting the Act and the Regulations by not advertising and filling some of these posts within the requisite time period and allowing officials to Act beyond the 12-month period. She noted some of the positions had been vacant since 2018 and it was now 2021. She said if an official had been acting beyond the 12-month period; that was flouting the Act and the Regulations.
On the HODs compliance to the PMDS, slide 9 indicated the HOD of Social Development did not manage to submit his Online Performance Agreement for the 2021/22 financial year. Why was this HOD not able to submit his Performance Agreement? She asked the Premier to provide reasons why the Department requested a condonation on this matter?
She noted the HOD for Health was on extended leave, how long had this HOD been on extended leave? South Africa was at a critical period in the history of the country as it was fighting a pandemic and it was concerning that this HOD was on extended leave at this very crucial time. She said the Department of Health was supposed to play a leading role during this time in the fight against the pandemic.
Slide 11 indicated the filling of the four vacant positions of HOD for Public Works, Agriculture, COGTA, and Education was awaiting approval of the EXCO. When was this approval likely to be given? She said the Committee needed a clearer and fixed date on when this EXCO was likely to sit and finalise this approval.
Slide 7 indicated the HOD post for EDAT would be advertised in the first quarter of 2021/22. She reiterated her request for a clear and fixed date on this matter as the first quarter of 2021/22 was about to conclude. She said it was unacceptable that it simply indicated “the first quarter of 2021/22”.
Ms Komane echoed Ms Lesoma’s sentiment that with a new administration, there would be a tendency to do things with their own staff and personnel and so on. That hindered the performance of the said administration. It was almost midway through this administration yet there were still vacant positions, especially in the Department. This was very concerning.
On the vacancy rate, there was mention that Covid-19 impacted on the filling on these posts. She disagreed with this view as Covid-19 could not be blamed on the filling of the posts because those positions had been vacant for two years prior to Covid-19, which amounted to three years to date. It was incorrect to use Covid-19 and whilst she recognised the impact of Covid-19, it could not be used as an excuse for the vacant positions.
To echo Dr Gondwe, she said the Regulations were flouted because the vacancies should have been advertised and filled within the six months. Could the Committee be brought to confidence as to why this did not happen, other than the impact of Covid-19? She clarified before Covid-19; they were already vacant for two years.
She raised concern about the vetting and checking of the legal documents of the people who were appointed. She said the province should not be sitting with the HODs that were either suspended or for some other reasons, due to their expired permits. In terms of the province, what were the consequences because the province requested the condonation but what were the consequences for the HODs who did not submit their Performance Agreement reports on time?
Dr Schreiber said this was a very serious situation. He asked whether the Committee correctly understood that in the midst of a global pandemic and at the start of what seemed to be a very dangerous third wave of the Covid-19 crisis, there was an HOD of Health in Mpumalanga who was on extended leave. This was difficult to comprehend and he asked what the reasons were for this leave being granted at a time when the country faced an unprecedented health crisis?
On the point of Regulations flouted, he said the Department was dealing with a massive failure of succession planning in this regard. It was the EAs responsibility to ensure succession planning was in place. He explained it could not wake up a minute before someone’s contract expired and then suddenly want to fill the vacancy. Or in a worse scenario, wait an entire year after a person had already left their post to start to fill the vacancy. He said this was totally unacceptable and the Premier should address why this was the case in both of these matters—the extended leave of the HOD in a health crisis, and the failure of succession planning.
Ms Mtsweni-Tsipane thanked the Committee for the comments and concerns that were raised, as well as the advice.
She started her response with the issue of the report presented before the Committee. She was informed the report was outdated and the updated version was submitted today, 26 May 2016, hence the confusion on the number of vacancies. She confirmed there were only six vacancies and of the six, the Executive Committee endorsed the appointment of the four Departments she mentioned in her briefing.
On the HOD of Health, Ms Mtsweni-Tsipane confirmed this HOD was not on extended leave but rather on sick leave which was coming to an end on 4 June 2021. The HOD would return next week.
In response to Ms Ntuli’s question, she said ensuring gender parity within senior management was at the top of the Department’s agenda. It was a matter they were looking at very seriously to ensure there was a 50/50 in terms of representation. She would ensure it achieved this goal as a Provincial Government.
In response to Ms Lesoma’s question on whether the suspended HODs were linked to the changes in the EXCO, Ms Mtsweni-Tsipane said certainly not. It had nothing to do with the reshuffling. In the main, it believed the work of government was informed by the implementation of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) priorities, the NDP, and the Mpumalanga Vision 2030, and not individuals. Members would note that one of the HODs had been suspended due to the alleged contravention of the Immigration Act which had nothing to do with the permits and so forth. There was an allegation of this HOD contravening the Immigration Act. She confirmed the matter was currently ventilated in court, and it would be remiss of the Department to echo sentiments on this matter as it was still awaiting the court outcome.
On the suspension of the second HOD, it had to do with the gross insubordination and the alleged fraud and corruption issues. The Department took the advice and whilst it was addressing this matter, it needed to finalise this within three months as per the timeline that was provided. It took the advice that the DPSA had also added a system to ensure disciplinary processes were fast-tracked. The Department would engage with the DPSA and if it could be of assistance, the Department was more than willing to work with it on this matter.
On ensuring senior officials were properly vetted, she said the Department was subjecting them to security clearance and vetting. Currently, all its senior officials had been subjected to security clearance and vetting. Those who were about to be employed today had already undergone the vetting. The Department received the results, which were positive, but it was still awaiting the results for the other two. It hoped to receive those results by the end of Friday 28 May 2021.
She said the DG’s post in the Department was vacant for almost four months. It had already been advertised but unfortunately, the applicants had academic qualifications rather than the prerequisite experience and expertise that were required. This therefore hindered the process of the Department’s appointments. It was considering this matter and hopefully it would re-advertise this position once again to try to obtain people with the relevant expertise that could be of assistance to the Department. Many of the same people applied for the EDAT position. The Department was mainly looking for specialists which it found a bit challenging to recruit at this point in time. She confirmed it would try its best to get the relevant people with the requisite expertise that would be assistance to the province.
Ms Mtsweni-Tsipane invited the DG to add on to her responses.
On the Department of Education, Mr Nyoni said the concerns were noted but in addition to the explanations provided around Covid-19, the Department wanted to put it on record that it interviewed for the position and it could not find a suitable candidate. It should not be understood within the context that it was only Covid-19 that created the challenges.
He noted Members’ comments around succession planning. In terms of the Department, the contract of the DG did not expire as she remained for a few months or years but because of certain matters, she decided to relinquish that responsibility. Within this context, under normal circumstances the Department would have anticipated if the contract had to come to an end and put a system in place to address it, but he said it did not go as it had planned.
Mr Nyoni explained those were the two issues he wanted to clarify. He handed back to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson thanked the Premier and her team for the presentation and the responses.
Dr Gondwe interjected. She said the Premier indicated that the incorrect presentation was sent to the Committee and an updated presentation was sent later. She asked if the Committee could receive the updated version of the presentation.
The Chairperson checked with the secretariat if the updated document had been sent to Members.
The secretariat replied that it would check if the updated presentation was sent.
The Chairperson confirmed the secretariat would send it to Members.
He invited the Premier of the North West to present.
Premier of the North West
Prof Tebogo Job Mokgoro, North West Premier, greeted all members and thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present on a very important matter on the administrative leadership of depts. He said he would commence with a brief background on where it has come from.
Members would be aware that the Department had been under administration for just over three years which was unprecedented in the history of South Africa’s democracy. He said the one province that had quite a considerable intervention was Limpopo a few years ago, but it was only half the departments. All of the North West’s Provincial Government departments were under administration since 2018. The following issues brought about the situation in 2018: violent labour unrest and community protest, paralysed service delivery, threatening life and property, health system collapsed which required intervention of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), learners kept out of school, audits results showed a year-on-year decline for four years straight, AG noted a refusal to address the issues raised, non-compliance with supply-chain management laws, lack of consequence management, systematic outsourcing of service delivery to irregularly appointed project management units that involved hundreds of millions of Rands, four-year decline in audit results, and municipal services was in a state of collapse and required intervention of the SANDF in certain areas. He explained in view of the appointments of HODs and the progress of the province, it was useful to know the background as the deployment of the current Premier in 2018 was to address those very difficult issues.
Administration of departments
The Province was under administration since 25 April 2018. The administration in the departments included departments under section 100 (1)(a) and departments under section 100 (1)(b) of the Constitution. Those under (1)(a) operated on the basis of the Directives provided by the appropriate and counter national departments. These departments included Treasury, COGTA, Human Settlements, Social Dev, and Agriculture. Those under section 100 (1)(b), an Accounting Officer was deployed by counter national department to be the Accounting Officer in the department. As expected, there would be an Accounting Officer and the Accounting Officer would then be deployed by national departments. Naturally, the confusion and tension this created would be the respective responsibilities of the HOD and the Accounting Officer deployed. The departments affected included the Office of the Premier (the Department), Health, Public Works and Roads, Education, Community Safety, and Transport Management (COSATMA). In terms of this arrangement, the Premier had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT), who provided overall political oversight on the implementation of those issues identified by the intervention. The Premier had also signed a protocol with the Minister responsible for Public Service and Administration (PSA). In an area such as the one that was being discussed, the Minister of PSA provided concurrence on the recruitment and placement of HODs in terms of this protocol.
He explained a significant development that happened over this difficult period was that at the end of the 2019/20 financial year, the Department was able to register significant improvements in audit outcomes where it achieved unqualified audits in eight of its departments, four qualified, and one disclaimer. It believed given where it came from, this was certainly a significant development for the province.
DG and HOD appointments
The Department recently appointed a DG, as well as HODs in Health, Agriculture, and Social Dev. It was in the process of recruitment for HODs in Public Works and Roads; Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation; Human Settlements; and COGTA. The HOD of Treasury’s contract would expire in 2025, HOD of Economic Development contract would expire in 2023, and the HOD of COSATMA’s contract would expire in 2022.
Performance Agreements for 2019/20 were concluded. The Departments involved included Treasury; COSATMA; Economic Dev; Education; COGTA; and Arts, Culture, and Recreation. He was accompanied by two Deputy Director-Generals (DDGs) of the North West Provincial Government and he would later request one of them to provide details on these formal agreements.
He confirmed government had been stabilising over the past three years, service delivery improved, and audit outcomes were a significant sign of improvement. Covid-19 actually assisted the Department greatly in bringing about more coherence between departments.
The appointment of DG and HOD positions mentioned had been critical in reinforcing the positivity that was emerging. The recruitment process that was mentioned for the outstanding positions of HODs was only recently initiated. Under the section 100 regime and protocols, all administrative decisions by the Premier needed the concurrence of Minister of PSA prior to the finalisation of such appointments. The recruitment process must be in full compliance with the 2016 Public Service Regulations, and the advertisement must be aligned to a job description and job grade that had been confirmed in the last 60 months. In all of the positions, this had to be done and it was being done.
Because of these additional activities, the best-case scenario to fill these positions would happen within four months. It was estimated that the four remaining posts would be filled by the end of August 2021. Currently, the processes were at different levels of recruitment: Public Works and Roads would soon be advertised as the Department was awaiting concurrence by the Minister of PSA; Human Settlements was awaiting concurrence for advertisement; and COGTA would be finalised before the targeted date, despite the challenge of benchmarking against similar compositions of functions. Public Works was under administration of section 100 (1)(b) and it was common cause that the internal processes of consultation on the job advertisement happened before the Department submitted to the Minister for concurrence. It was only after this that the post would be advertised once it had obtained concurrence.
The advertisement of the HOD position for Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation went out recently. Unfortunately, the imperative for candidates to possess a National School of Government (NSG) certificate was not included in the advert. However, the shortlisting and interviews were not yet conducted.
The DPSA was assisting the Department with the finalisation of the COGTA post. It was expected, by the auditors, for the Department to provide evidence at all avenues to follow the correct processes. After this process which took quite some time, the Department was satisfied that it had ticked all the boxes.
On doing business with other organs of State, Prof Mokgoro said he would allow one of the Department’s DDGs, Mr Buti Chuma, to present on the number of cases it identified and the actions it took.
He concluded his opening statement. On the areas he identified, namely PMDS and doing business with organs of State, he requested his team to assist in providing further information on these matters. He thanked the Committee and handed over to his team.
Mr Chuma greeted all Members, his colleagues, and the Premiers from the various provinces. He added on the issue of the PMDS. As a province, the expectation was that by the end of May 2021, all the HODs would have signed Performance Agreements in compliance with the PMDS.
The Department had set up an evaluation committee that would be chaired by the Public Service Regulations Chairperson within the Province, to evaluate assessment of the two positions due for evaluation.
On the officials that were doing business with an organ of State, 13 officials were identified following the audit process by the auditors. The Department had noted the positions they had occupied and the companies they used, and hence four of them were given a final warning and some had resigned from their directorships, although it was not captured at the time on the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro). Upon investigation of officials, the Department realised other officials were no longer officials with those particular businesses and unfortunately the system had not removed them from their positions. The Department administered awareness programmes on a yearly basis to make officials aware that they should not conduct business with government as per legislation. Every year, the Department followed up and investigated each and every case based on the results it received from the auditors.
He concluded his briefing and handed back to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson thanked Mr Chuma. He asked the Premier if those were all the additions from his team before taking Members’ questions
Prof Mokgoro said he had indicated that if there were any gaps in his report on the PMDS, Mr Chuma should add further details to his points.
The Chairperson asked Mr Chuma to add further details but if there were no additional points, he should indicate this.
Mr Chuma confirmed there were no gaps as the Premier had already outlined there were Performance Agreements for HODs for 2019/20 who were within the establishment of the Province. Currently, the Department would evaluate the two HODs for Provincial Treasury and Education who were eligible for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Performance Assessment. The Department would then be able to ensure all the HODs signed Performance Agreements for the financial year in question. This process should be done by end of May 2021.
The Chairperson welcomed Members to raise questions.
Ms Lesoma thanked the Premier and his team for providing the background on where the Province came from and where it was currently at. In terms of invoking section 100 (1)(a) and (1)(b) which was invoked in 2018, did it make any difference now? Was there any improvement in the stability of the Province because it was not intended to be a long-term solution?
In the last administration, which was the fifth administration where the Premier came in at the end of the term, she asked the Premier if he thought there had been a significant improvement from 2019 to date hence, she clarified the reason for her question of whether the invocation of section 100 (1)(a) and (1)(b) made any difference and how long he would stay. She recalled in one of the Committee’s meetings, it agreed when it returned from recess after June, or during recess, it would invite COGTA and the DPME to take the Committee through the lessons it could adopt for the Committee to do its robust oversight work.
She noted some of the reasons for the suspensions were quite detailed and she would therefore not ask for the reasons why an official was suspended. She asked whether the disciplinary processes were in the timeframes that was expected by the Public Service Act and Regulations.
Ms Lesoma noted that she should have raised the issue on the vacancy of the Public Service Commissioner with the Premier of Mpumalanga. Ms Mtsweni-Tsipane could respond in writing on when it expected to fill the vacancy.
Dr Gondwe asked when the DG in the Department took office. The presentation the Committee received indicated when the HODs for Health, Social Dev, and Agriculture took office. It omitted to indicate when the DG in the Department took office.
She noted the total of six HOD appointments and one DG appointment between April-May 2021. Prior to this, an appointment was made in November 2020 and before that, in May 2018. She asked what exactly the cause of the delays in these appointments had been because it was shocking that the appointments of HODs for Health and Social Development were only made in April and May 2021. She noted the Premier alluded to this in his opening remarks, but she requested more clarity as the Departments of Health and Social Development were currently supposed to be at the forefront of service delivery in the fight against the pandemic, yet these appointments were only made as recent as April 2021. She emphasised this was very concerning. How did these departments manage in the absence of these appointments? How long did it take for these appointments to be finalised?
The presentation indicated the process was underway to fill the outstanding HOD positions for Public Works; Arts and Culture; Human Settlements; and COGTA. When exactly would these posts be filled? She appreciated the status reports provided for each of those appointments however, the Committee needed more fixed dates on this matter, especially on the appointment of an HOD for COGTA because service delivery was a huge challenge in the North West and Mahikeng. She said the place had become a shadow of what it used to be.
The Minister of PSA issued a Directive on PMDS for HODs which stipulated that Performance Agreements should be signed by 30 April 2021. However, the presentation indicated that all HODs would finalise the signing of that Performance Agreements by the end of May 2021. She asked for clarity on why the required condonation in this regard.
On the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Performance Assessments, the presentation indicated an evaluation panel had been convened and would be Chaired by the Head of the North West Public Service Commission. When exactly was this panel established? When would this panel sit and conclude these assessments which are very crucial?
Ms Komane said she took the matter very seriously that the Department identified officials who were doing business with the State. This was prohibited in the Regulations, but they were only given a final warning. She was unsure whether this sanction was appropriate because it did not condone doing business with the State and this was concerning as they committed an offence that they should not have committed because they were aware of the Regulations and were only given a final warning.
On section 100 imposed in the Province, she noted she was familiar with it and the background thereof as she was from the North West as well. She asked the Premier whether this section 100 (1)(a) and (1)(b) yielded any results? If it did, why was it so prolonged? In its engagements with the Principals in national on this matter, what was still missing? She said it had been prolonged for quite some time. As a Member of the Committee from the North West, she said it did not bring any results. She agreed with Ms Lesoma for the Committee to call upon COGTA and the Department to engage on this matter because this was a very serious factor that impacted badly on the service delivery of the Province. That is why the Premier would be seen going to the provinces without the proper protocols and so forth hence this happened in Rustenburg in 2019.
The presentation indicated the province would conclude the Performance Agreement by the end of May 2021, but the request was that it should be concluded by April 2021. What informed the request for the condonation of this?
She requested the exact dates as to when the unfilled vacancy positions of the outstanding HOD posts would be filled.
In terms of Public Works, she said the correct protocol was not followed by the MEC around the request for the Minister’s concurrence and approval by the Premier. This was very concerning. Were there any advisors to the MEC on this matter to do things accordingly? Tax payers’ money was spent on that exercise and it was futile because it was flawed. She asked for an update on who would be held accountable in this case. How were things done and how should it be done accordingly to avoid this unnecessary delay because it caused delays in the filling of these positions?
Gaps were identified in the requirements in the Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation post. Those gaps were identified after the shortlisting and when the interviews were done. In view of this, money was equally spent in this case for the advertisement and for all the processes. Who would be held responsible for this wasteful and fruitless expenditure, and how would it be recovered? The position still needed to be re-advertised so what money was put in place as this was perceived as a useless and wasteful expenditure.
Mr Malatsi noted his question was directed to the Premier and asked about the Public Works post where it was signed internally by the MEC, but did not follow both the protocol by the DPSA, which needed concurrence from the Minister of PSA, and the Premier. In view of that violation, did the Premier initiate a process of discussion with the MEC and the responsible officials for this violation? If that was done, what was the outcome of it? If it was not done, why was it not done because such a violation could not simply go unattended?
Prof Mokgoro thanked Members for their questions; he said it had been an eye opener.
In response to Ms Lesoma’s question whether there was any difference around the stability in the province. Many people had said the progress was visible and sometimes significant in relation to the stability provided. For example, sometime last week at EXCO, there had been had an intense presentation and a report back which was quite encouraging. He does not readily believe what officials claimed around the work that was done as he always requested evidence. It was a long and fruitful session, and it was quite encouraging that senior managers saw the value of reporting and providing evidence. He agreed there was a lot that needed to be done.
On the question of Public Works, he said the question of consequence management was important. He invited his team to respond on this matter.
In response to Dr Gondwe, he agreed with her on the state of Mahikeng. He said the Department was addressing that question. It was as if municipalities, with some exceptions, across the country were offspring of the same parenthood because the state of municipalities was unsatisfactory. He confirmed the Department had taken action and applied section 154 of the Constitution where as the Premier, he had given a clear instruction that should and was being implemented that every department would deploy two members of the SMS to work intensely on municipalities.
He explained that the North West was largely a rural province and its rural areas were therefore mostly negatively impacted by the current state of municipalities. Since he was deployed in this position, he had always been hands-on so that when there was water shortage for example, he would personally get the problem fixed, forgetting there was a department to address this situation. The challenges were particularly difficult in Ms Komane’s area, but the Department was addressing it. Prof Mokgoro confirmed he had brought in the private sector for example he brought four mining companies when he was in the area last week because some of these mining companies hoard a lot of work.
In response to Dr Gondwe, the DG took office on 1 May 2021, and only three HODs and the DG were appointed thus far. The three took office on 1 April 2021. He added his team would correct him wherever he might have erred.
On Members’ concerns about Health, he understood their concerns around the pandemic and the fact that the Department had taken quite some time to fill that position. He reminded Members that the first department that was put under administration in April 2018 was Health. As part of that package, he said quite a competent administrator was appointed who was still the Accounting Officer since April 2018. However, to enable the administration intervention to come to an end, it was important to ensure the Department filled these posts. He emphasised the Department of Health was never without a Head, an Accounting Officer. It was the person deployed from the National Department of Health as part of administration.
Why the delay in appointments? He clarified this would have been implied in his input. The question of concurrence was clearly part of the prescripts, but this unfortunately took time. For example, if a file had been processed by the particular department and had passed through the Premier, unfortunately it does not send this electronically to the DPSA. He explained a driver would drive to Pretoria, and it joined the queue of many files awaiting the Minister’s attention. In addition to this, the Department’s administrators did not reside in Mahikeng. He noted there were five departments with administrators, and all its administrators resided in Gauteng. When things needed to be looked at and signed by the administrators, this was not done electronically as many of these were files and required a driver to be delivered. These were very frustrating delaying factors but understandably so because it was under administration.
He requested Mr Chuma to respond to the question on the Directive for the PMDS.
On Dr Gondwe’s question about when the panel was established, he asked his team to respond to this question.
He agreed with Ms Komane’s comment about the final warning. He requested Mr Chuma to also respond to this question because it may be that the extent to which the State had been depleted of its resources were looked at, and a mild sanction would therefore be inappropriate.
He hoped he had responded to Ms Komane’s comment about the Premier moving around without protocol. He said he appreciated it, but the Province was hers and she was therefore aware of the challenges in the Province.
On the question of whether there were advisors in the Department of Public Works and Roads, he said there was an administrator appointed from the National Department of Public Works as part of section 100. The Department also had an administrator who did the quality checks on all submissions, and a team from the DPSA was assisting it to check and ensure there was quality assurance in its work.
On the gaps in the Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation post, he could not pinpoint why that mistake was committed, but he would call on his team to respond to this question. Importantly, he said the question on accountability should be stated very clearly so that it could confront the matter.
On Mr Malatsi’s question, he asked his team to provide clarity on the advertisement of the post for Public Works and Roads.
In response to Ms Lesoma, he confirmed there was definitely improvements and stability. He acknowledged there were some outbursts, for example the outburst that happened this week threatened stability and it was only due to lack of information. It emanated from two things for example, when the SABC decided to dispose of its non-core assets, the towns affected included Mahikeng, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Due to the lack of information, which the Department was trying to provide, people saw the physical structure in Mahikeng as belonging to Mahikeng and they did not see any other South African or any other person buying property. There had been an unpleasant experience of some valuable assets disposed of such as the Bophuthatswana Recording Studio which was a top-class facility in Mahikeng. There was this kind of thinking that the rest of South Africa was out to deplete the North West of its resources. This was clearly inappropriate and incorrect thinking, which was based on ignorance, but the Department was addressing this. Another recent development that caused a stir was the appointment of the HOD of Social Development where people alleged that she was unqualified and did not possess the necessary experience. This was being addressed and some of it was referred to the Public Protector.
He invited the DDG team to provide further details on the gaps.
Mr Chuma responded to the question on Public Works and Roads, he said it might have been the interpretation of the recording as written on the application because it indicated that “the DPSA protocol was not followed in terms of requesting the Minister of PSA for concurrence and approval by the Premier”. He clarified that this statement was simply intended to identify the delay that it might take because the internal process was supposed to be done and there had been a change in documentation between Public Works and the Department to look at the job requirements for the advert, as well as the job grading and the description thereof. Currently, that particular work had been finalised, and the documentation was on route to the Minister of PSA for concurrence.
On the evaluation committee, it was set to sit the following day but it was postponed, and the Public Service Commission would provide the Department with the date as it was quite aware of the urgency to address these particular issues. The Department therefore believed it would have to sit by next week for the urgency the Public Service Commission had also shown on the finalisation of the assessments.
On officials doing business with government, the sanction on the final warning arose from the investigation that was conducted when the Department met with the colleagues. It noted, through the investigation, that most of the people who were doing business with government were people at operational level. Most of them, such as the four officials found were community development workers and they claimed that they were unaware that they were not supposed to do business with government. They had missed out on the annual awareness programme that the Department administered around this issue. That is why the sanction was based on a final warning, and it also looked at the value they derived from the business they were conducting with government. In other instances, where it indicated people needed to resign was based on the discovery that happened post an investigation and interaction with those officials who were found by the auditors that were doing business with government that the delay was with the CIPC in terms of removing their names from the system.
Mr Chuma concluded and indicated he would provide further details if there was anything he had missed. He said the Premier had addressed most of the questions.
He reaffirmed that the Department predicted the remaining four posts of HODs would be filled by the end of August 2021. He handed back to the Chairperson.
The Chairperson asked whether that was all from the Department’s side.
Prof Mokgoro confirmed the Department covered all the issues Members had raised.
The Chairperson thanked all the Premiers for their presentations.
Ms Komane said the Department and the Premier did not address the reasons behind the condonation.
Further, she wanted to make a follow-up for recorded purposes because the Committee could not be seated and allow wasteful and irregular expenditure. She requested the Premier and the Department to concede or confirm that expenditure was used before it identified the gaps in the Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation post. She reiterated her question was how would that expenditure be recovered and who was to be held accountable. It was incorrect for the Premier to indicate that it would not appoint external people. She emphasised the Committee needed to know what arose, what happened, why did it happen, and what were the corrective measures on this matter?
Ms Komane indicated she wanted to put it on record that the Committee heard the responses on the officials doing business with the State, but it was completely incorrect that officials were doing business with the State and they claimed to be unaware of the Regulations. She put it on record for the Department and the Premier to note that the sanction was very lenient. Going forward, the Committee could not be advised that the officials were unaware that doing business with the State was unlawful.
She thanked Prof Mokgoro for his interventions however; his interventions without proper protocols perpetuated the Accounting Officers not to be accountable which therefore impacted on the current state of the Province. She explained when government was needed, it does not pitch up, but it would show up without holding those accountable and without their engagements. Hence the current situation in the Province and the situation in Rustenburg in 2019 because the same people who should have rescued the people did not show up to date. As a result, it had exhausted the avenues of going to the private sector, yet the Department through the municipalities, had the capacity to assist those people. However, to date, those people were still drinking water that was unsafe and people were still sick in that community because of some of those interventions. For example, the boreholes that were used there were affecting people.
Ms Lesoma proposed to all three Premiers that their officials should have a relationship with the NSG so that it could implement a mandatory course for senior management to attend. This would expose them to anything they might be unaware of which was law or prohibited in law, as well as its implications. She agreed with Ms Komane that officials should know the laws that governed his/her space. To ensure everyone was aware, she proposed that they must attend that compulsory senior management course because it would have a value add to ensure it phased out the invoked section 100 (1)(a) and (1)(b). She recalled the Committee asked the NSG for the courses it provided to speak to the service delivery and performance of departments as expected.
Prof Mokgoro said he completely agreed with Ms Komane’s concerns. He would personally pursue the question of Arts, Culture, Sports and Recreation and ensure there was consequence management around this.
He requested Mr Chuma to present a report to him, after this meeting, on the investigations of officials doing business with government, and where it found cases. In terms of perpetrators, he said the Department had taken firm action on these misdemeanours so that he could be satisfied.
He reiterated his support of Ms Komane’s concerns. On the other matters she raised, he referred her to section 151 of the Constitution which provided some kind of autonomy to municipalities. He said many of its officials and leaders were aware of the law that could hide their incompetencies much better than the law that insisted on service delivery; hence municipalities would at times put up section 151. He clarified that was part of the reasons and that he was not trying to blame legislation for the ineptness of officials. He said there was a sense of a furtherism culture when it came to municipalities. It was a matter that all leadership across all sectors of the State system should look at. He would ensure officials would do what they were appointed to do, and that is why he had taken the decision and given the instruction that even those officials in provincial office would now do work in municipalities.
To Ms Lesoma, he said he actually led the establishment of the NSG. He emphasised he could not agree more with her as the NSG was very close to his heart. It took a lot of toil when he worked with very capable men and women in the NSG, and he had set up a similar structure in the North West which would soon be up and running. There was no way any human being could go through life without lifelong learning therefore officials in all government departments should be compelled to undergo learning all the time. This was a labour-intensive organisation and in the same way that a capital-intensive organisation oiled and repaired its machinery, in this case, public servants were the machinery and they should be oiled and re-oiled from time-to-time. It should not be up to them, someone else in the system should compel them to do so.
Ms Ntuli commented on Mr Chuma’s response on officials who were doing business with government. She said government systems at some stage was confusing. [commentary in her vernacular language 2:30:05]. She said it was an eye-opener for all members to start workshopping people.
To those who said they were not aware, the Chairperson highlighted the expression that ignorance of the law was not an excuse. He thanked all the Premiers for their attendance and valuable input in this meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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- Media Statement: PSA Committee Welcomes the Premiers’ Commitment to Fill Vacant HODs posts
- Media Statement: PSA Committee Welcomes the Premiers’ Commitment to Fill Vacant HODs posts
- Filling of HoD positions and compliance with Performance Management Development System Policy: NC, MP & NW briefing
- Office of the Premier Northern Cape Province presentation
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