DSI on programme of support for District Development model; with Deputy Minister

Higher Education, Science and Technology

07 September 2021
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee convened virtually to receive a briefing from the Department of Science and Innovation on its approach to the District Development Model (DDM). The presentation dealt with the selection of high impact projects to support the delivery of basic services to 35 municipalities, using the DDM as a platform for inclusive innovation and implementation of a decadal, or ten-year, plan.

Members were told that the DDM provided an ideal opportunity where national, provincial and local governments could play a role in creating a conducive environment for an entrepreneurial and innovative state. The DDM provided a space where innovation could drive economic development and regeneration of districts through an inclusive policy framework.

Members asked questions about bringing in more stakeholders for consultation on the processes of the DDM; why the Vaal University of Technology branch was closed when there was a need for skills development; the details of the budget, human resources and infrastructure capital for the DDM; the number of campuses built by the Department in the Covid-19 period; and the percentage of procurement under the DDM that was directed towards youth, women and black owned businesses. They asked how the Department was ensuring that communities were aware of the DDM and whether the Department was partnering with the private sector in some of its projects. 

 

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone present and acknowledged the Deputy Minister and the delegation from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI). She said the Department would outline its projects to support the District Development Model.

She noted that the programme of Parliament had been adjusted due to the local government elections, which would affect the Committee’s programme. The Committee was still corresponding with the Office of the Chair of Chairs on a meeting that was scheduled to take place the following day. The Committee would push for the colloquium to sit on Friday. It was important that the colloquium took place as it spoke to issues of institutional autonomy in the country.

Deputy Minister’s Remarks

Mr Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, said government was pursuing developmental programmes through the District Development Model (DDM) because it was the best way to coordinate service delivery and improve coordination between all spheres of government.

Mr Imraan Patel, Deputy Director-General (DD): Socio Economic Innovation, DSI, added that this was a new way for government to operate and many departments were still finding their feet to align with the DDM. The DSI had adopted an approach that brought its entities on board in a coherent process. Some of the work was still in progress as the DSI embedded new approaches.

Briefing by DSI on DDM approach and interventions
 
Mr Tshepang Mosiea, Acting Director: Innovation for Inclusive Development, DSI, took the Members through the presentation. He said the DSI had adopted a three-pronged approach. This involved the selection of the most responsive and high impact projects; innovation and technologies to support the delivery of basic services at 35 municipalities; and using the DDM as a platform for inclusive innovation and the implementation of a decadal plan. (See attached slide presentation for what each process entails.)

Mr Mosiea said the DDM provided an ideal opportunity for national, provincial and local governments to play a role in creating a conducive environment for an entrepreneurial and innovative state through inclusive innovation. The DDM provided a space where innovation could drive economic development and district regeneration.

He described the district profiles and development challenges that had been experienced in a number of municipalities, such as Ekurhuleni and the Ugu and Zululand district municipalities.

The selection criteria for DDM projects involved:

- Initiatives which catalysed and advanced economic inclusion of youth through. These included support for youth-owned enterprises and innovations, developing skills and enhancing the engagement of youth as active citizens;

-Projects that were directly responsive to challenges such as crime, drugs, health, drought and climate change. This included risk and vulnerability profiles;

-Projects that promoted the roll-out of innovative solutions to deliver basic services in municipalities such as water, sanitation, energy, education and connectivity;
 
-Projects that supported local systems of production, a circular economy and innovation for local economic development;

-Projects that benefited SMMEs and cooperatives, women, youth and disabled people and which had a direct impact on the community.

In conclusion, Mr Mosiea said it would take time to get everyone on the same page. More iterations and internal and external engagements were needed. The DDM was a new approach of doing things differently through partnerships. It provided a platform for the DSI to drive innovation in local government. A process to link high impact and responsive projects of the DSI with municipal initiatives and other national departments’ programmes should be initiated through the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). The DSI would include a chapter on its approach to the DDM in its Annual Performance Plan and Annual Reports for the 2022/21 financial year.

There was still misalignment between departmental and municipal DDM planning processes. The national government departments were simply providing a list of projects to the municipalities. The DSI’s current DDM projects had been officially submitted to the Department of Cooperative Governance. The Department would work to engage municipalities to include DSI high impact projects in their plans. The Innovation for Service Delivery initiative had been initiated as a bottom up approach and provided a golden opportunity for the Department to support service delivery in municipalities through innovation, but the budget was not sufficient. In implementation, there appeared to be a bias towards infrastructure projects.

Discussion  

The Chairperson thanked the delegation for the presentation and referred to the need for interventions in municipalities which spoke to the many social ills the society faced. She asked if there was a way for the DSI to adopt a consultative and inclusive process in the selection of high impact initiatives.

She believed that constant engagement would assist in curbing wasteful expenditure. She hoped that the DDM would come up with suggestions on curbing irregular and wasteful expenditure in municipalities. She was pleased that the DDM attempted to do away with the silo mentality of many departments within government.

With regard to Ekurhuleni, she was concerned about the closure of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) branch. How could that branch be closed when there was a need for skills development in that city? Hopefully, the institution that was planned to be built would assist with challenges such as unemployment in that area. She supported the objective of the DDM of managing migration and ensuring sustainable growth within rural areas as a way of curbing density and overpopulation in the cities. One would hope that the plans of the DDM would come to fruition, given the impact that the projects would have on growth within those areas and, ultimately, the country.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) asked how progress on the projects would be reported. He suggested that the progress should be reported in as detailed a manner as possible. He asked that when the DSI came back to report on progress it should not do so from a high level perspective. He felt that the presentation was quite high level and it should have been at the grassroots level. It was important to remain up to date, because there were municipalities that needed technological support in order to improve. The update must not be high level, but as detailed as possible, so that Members were enabled to assist by pointing the Department in the right direction in assisting municipalities. It was easy to suggest interventions, but municipalities had different challenges and operated within different contexts.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) said that she was pleased that Members were able to see how the DDM was going to impact positively on service delivery. The presentation did not touch on partnerships with other departments. She also felt that it was quite high level. The Committee needed an indication of budgetary, human resources and infrastructure issues. While there was a commitment and will to assist in service delivery, there must be specificity on the resources that would be required for short-term and long-term projects.

Ms D Mahlatsi (ANC) concurred with the other Members that the presentation ought to be detailed in terms of the work to be done. Could Members get an indication of how many campuses the Department had built during the Covid-19 era? Many students had been learning remotely but that did not take away the fact that the country still needed to build. The slide presentation showed various sites that were still under construction. How would the non-completion of these sites affect the Department’s ability to meet its targets? This was a beautiful presentation, but it was important for the Department to note that Members and communities wanted to see the end result.

Lastly, what was the percentage of procurement under the DDM that was directed towards youth, women and black owned businesses? It was a fact that these groups had been marginalised in terms of procurement and they must be encouraged. What would be a reasonable target for the Department, noting that even if that target had been met, it should be increased?

Ms N Tarabella- Marchesi (DA) asked whether, given the current state of the Covid19 pandemic, the Department had thought about including projects that would be of great assistance in terms of boosting employment. How was the DSI ensuring that communities were aware of the DDM? What were the targets and how soon would progress be seen in provinces like the Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga? As for the budget, were any private sector partnerships involved in this Model?

The Chairperson emphasised the need for greater detail so Members could have a comprehensive understanding of the interventions of the DDM in communities. There were a lot of projects taking place in KwaZulu-Natal, but very few in provinces like the Eastern Cape.

She asked about interventions on gender equality. When would a point be reached where what was contained in the presentation was a lived experience in the country?

As the DSI analysed its plans around the DDM, what kind of challenges was it encountering where the Committee could intervene and assist?

Responses

Mr Patel said that the DSI was still in the early stages of the DDM. It was stepping up Geographic Information System (GIS) measures to make this information available to the public. The information would be denser as projects unfolded. Most of its entities were consulted regularly by many municipalities on projects that were being initiated. The DSI would also look into how it could deploy digital services to ensure that this information was available to the public.

There was a need to look at a range of interventions that dealt with critical social development as opposed to only focusing on infrastructure. The DSI did work and partner with other departments where projects were not necessarily at the district level but more on a generic level. 

He said the targeting of people living with disabilities needed to be improved and integrated with existing projects.

Mr Mosiea said that the question about interventions becoming lived realities was fundamental and important. The DSI noted the comments of Members on the structure of the presentation in so far as the detail was concerned. It did not make sense to come before the Committee to present on targets and percentages and projects when the realities on the ground were still the same. The main objective was to give Members an idea of what had been happening. There was a need to challenge COGTA to not only list projects but to provide details about the impact that these projects would have. 

The DSI would try to open up partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and other departments. It was not by design that KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of projects, but it remained a challenge to balance the projects with other provinces, especially in rural areas. The DSI would look into ensuring that projects were balanced. This was the type of detail that would be presented to the committee in future. 

A range of matters had been noted. The DSI would present a detailed budget when it came back to provide a detailed presentation on the work done at community level. Engagement of communities, this must be done the right way because they were important stakeholders. The DSI needed to ensure that it opened up channels for communities to access the support initiatives by the DSI.

The issue of inclusion was not necessarily about women and youth but people who were not part of the socio-economic system. The challenge was how inclusive innovation was driven in the context of the decadal plan. There were so many people who were excluded, not by choice but underlying socio-economic policies. There was a need to come up with agile policies that responded to these issues. 

Mr Patel said that the DDM was still in its early stages. There was a whole range of other policies and there were significant variations in how the DDM was being expressed. A DSI team had attended many of the workshops held in different district municipalities.

The Chairperson said that Mr Mosiea had been honest about the Department not yet having answers to some of the questions. The DDM was still at the developmental stage and the Committee understood that. The Committee noted all the responses that could not be provided at this time by the Department. The Committee would welcome further details to be provided by the Department in the next engagement on the DDM.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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