The Department of the Premier (DotP) briefed the Committee on its financial and non-financial performance for the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year, and reported that it had spent 26.61% of its total budget, and had achieved 87% of its 45 targets.
The “compensation of employees” strategy was having the desired effect, as budget expenditure had been at the level of 23.11%, which was below the linear benchmark of 25%. Overall, the Department had not identified a significant risk from a spending perspective.
Members wanted to know how the provincial government’s employees were being supported since they were working from home. Was the Kromme Rhee provincial training institute in use, or was training being provided on line? Had the provincial forensic services worked with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (HAWKS), and provided them with the necessary information? Members wanted to know what support was provided to staff who reported wrongdoing, considering the attacks on witnesses.
The Chairperson said the Committee had received a draft letter from the National Parliament on 2 September, requesting its feedback by 3 September on the draft amendment bill related to expropriation of land without compensation. He had requested an extension from the Chairperson of the ad hoc committee, but it had been denied.
The legal advisor's view was that giving a legislature less than a week to express its views seemed like an unreasonably truncated timeframe, considering the complexity of the Bill. A Member commented that the provinces needed to show more mettle. Provinces were not a level of government, but a sphere of government. There was no sphere that was above another.
Department of the Premier 2021/22 Quarter One Performance (Financial and Non-Financial)
Dr Harry Malila, Director-General, Western Cape Government (WCG), presented on the Department’s financial and non-financial performance for the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year.
He said the Department’s spending was at 26.61%, or R465 million of the R1.748 billion budget.
The Department’s compensation of employees (CoE) strategies were having the desired effect, as spending was below the notional benchmark of 25%. The Department had spent 23.11% at the end of quarter 1.
From a spending perspective, no significant risk had been identified. Programme 4 was at 29.88% of its budget spent, mainly as a result of payment for Microsoft licences.
Overall, the Department had achieved 39 of its 45 indicators (87%) for the quarter.
He said more focus would be placed on managing risk in non-financial performance management through early identification, and on providing internal assurance on relevance, sufficiency and reliability of reported performance against the annual performance plan (APP) indicators.
The reasons for deviations were related mostly to the refinement of operational planning, post tabling of the 2021/22 APP, with ‘learnings’ taken on board.
(Please refer to attached document for details)
The following was an overview of each programme’s overall performance:
- Programme 1 (Executive governance and integration): three out of three indicators achieved (100%).
- Programme 2 (Provincial strategic management): five out six indicators achieved (83%).
- Programme 3 (People management): seven out of nine indicators achieved (78%).
- Programme 4 (Centre for e-Innovation): 14 out of 14 indicators achieved (100%).
- Programme 5 (Corporate assurance): nine out of 12 indicators achieved (75%).
- Programme 6 (Legal services): one indicator achieved (100%).
(Please see attached document for reasons for deviation and corrective measures)
He said spending was largely on track, and no spending risks had been identified.
The overall findings indicated that performance evidence submitted had adhered to the standard of reliability, sufficiency and relevance, and was therefore consistent with the performance information.
Some recommendations were subsequently approved by the Executive Committee in order to improve the quality and reporting of performance information going forward.
He said that, as the Accounting Officer, he was happy with the performance in the quarter, and did not foresee any major delivery risks for the remainder of 2021/22.
The Chairperson asked about people empowerment and training as it related to WCG employees -- non-health and non-education staff. What had been done in the quarter for their mental health? What had been done to empower people to work from home? Was the Kromme Rhee provincial training institute in use, or not fully in use? Was all the legal training was done only online? How much was being spent on Kromme Rhee currently?
He asked whether there had been any COVID cases at the Cape access centres? Were the centres fully functional? Had the staff received the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Had the provincial forensic services worked with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (HAWKS) and provided them with the necessary information?
Regarding audit risks, he asked how the Department was managing the fact that auditors might not be able to physically visit offices to audit documents. What kind of fraud prevention activities were being implemented at the Department?
Dr Malila said mental health was one of the issues that was at the top of the agenda for the Cabinet. The Western Cape Government was in the process of employing graduate interns who had Honours degrees in the mental health and wellness disciplines. This was not only about the employees, but also to ensure that the environment was conducive for mental health.
Mr Hilton Arendse, Deputy Director-General: Centre for E-Innovation, WCG, said when the pandemic hit, the Centre had had to ensure that employees could work from home. The workloads could be migrated to the Cloud because of the provincial government’s investment into broadband.
Virtual Private Network Remote Access (VPNRA) was provided to staff members that required access to the corporate systems that were not in the Cloud, like the Basic Accounting System (BAS), the Logical Information System (LOGIS), and the Personnel Administration System (PERSAL). 400 data cards were procured and provided to critical staff members, so they had access to the internet and the required applications.
The contact centres needed to be online all the time. The Centre for E-Innovation had procured a ‘contact centre on-demand’ solution, which was cloud-based. This had enabled most the centre’s staff members to work from home.
He said the security of the devices that were taken outside of the corporate environment had been improved. The Cape access centres were fully functional, other than the social distancing that had to be practised. This had limited the number of people who could be in the centre at any given time.
Of the 75 centres, 73 were open. A fire had broken out at the one in Nduli, and the municipality was busy with renovations at the Worcester centre.
He said some COVID cases had been reported and recorded, but there were no current cases. The staff had received PPE.
Mr Lucas Buter, Deputy Director General (DDG): Legal Services, Department of the Premier (DotP), confirmed that all the training was online. The training was focused predominantly on the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI).
Ms Louise Esterhuyse, Chief Director: People Management Practices, WCG, said Metropolitan Health was the service provider for employee health and wellness. They provided group facilitation sessions or individual counselling/debriefing sessions. The Director General also issued weekly letters from his desk to encourage staff to speak openly about mental health issues. He also directed people to where they might receive help.
Regarding Kromme Rhee, she said the training was done online during this quarter. There would be a hybrid approach when the lockdown levels were eased.
A guideline had gone out to all heads of departments regarding alternative working arrangements for staff during the lockdown.
Dr Malila said the Department worked with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and other law enforcement agencies where requested. The Department was a willing co-operate in these processes.
The Department had developed processes to mitigate auditing risk. They ask for information from departments, and it gets shared online. The audit committees were fully functional. A lot of the audits happen electronically, and this had not presented an issue.
Mr Drikus Basson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DotP, spoke about the fraud prevention activities in the Department. As much as the provincial forensic services had a reactive role to play when there were cases, they had also developed an inventory of proactive messaging that was shared with staff. One of the key messages was, “if you don’t report it, you support it.”
Ms Blanche Cairncross, Chief Audit Executive, DotP, said audits had been delayed in the last year. There were now front-end discussions with departments regarding working arrangements and record-keeping. This had been built into the process so there would be no delays.
The Chairperson asked if there had been any savings, since Kromme Rhee was inactive. He wanted to know what cases had been reported, and how they had come to the attention of the provincial forensic services.
Was there a timeline for when the inactive cape access centres would reopen? Besides technical support, what other support was being provided from a human resource perspective to ensure optimal performance?
Dr Malila said a lot of the spending on Kromme Rhee was fixed expenditure. There had therefore not been a lot of savings, and if there were any, they would have been re-invested into the information technology (IT) environment. Kromme Rhee was not in use, as it was currently being utilised as a quarantine and isolation facility, since there were a couple of beds there.
He would provide a written response regarding the cases currently being investigated by the provincial forensic services (PFS). The Department usually received tip-offs or information via the hotline, which were then referred to the PFS team.
Mr Arendse said the Cape access centre in Nduli was a bit of a challenge, because the Department had to wait for the municipality to go through its procurement process in order to repair the facility. He would reach out to the municipality for a timeline and provide this to the Committee. The Worcester facility should be ready by October.
He said it would be very challenging to check each employee’s home before installing provincial government assets, as there was not enough manpower. However, security was built into the devices.
Mr P Marais (FF+) apologised for being late. He expressed concern about the “if you don’t report it, you support it” message. He knew of a senior official who had been murdered after reporting wrongdoing. What would be done to protect staff -- or were they expected to be another murder statistic?
Were staff working from home using their own laptops, or were they being provided by the provincial government? If it was their own devices, had the South African Revenue Service (SARS) been informed so that staff members could claim a tax rebate?
Dr Malila said the Department had been very proactive regarding the work from home arrangement. He confirmed the devices belonged to the Western Cape government. A pro forma letter had been generated in order to allow employees to indicate the percentage of their home they use for income generation. This could then be claimed when employees filed their tax returns.
He said that what happed to the murdered witness had been unfortunate. The Department did provide the needed protection, and encouraged staff to report wrongdoing.
Mr Buter said the Department had gone out of its way to make staff aware that they must take responsibility for their own health and safety while working from home.
Ms P Lekker (ANC) asked about the forensic investigations. What was the turnaround timeframe? What happened when an investigation took longer than envisaged? What processes were in place to prevent this? What were some of the hiccups that had been picked up investigators? Was there a possibility that another service provider could be used, instead of Kromme Rhee?
Mr M Xego (ANC) asked about the percentage of activities in enterprise risk management implementation. What had caused the non-performance of this target? He asked if the percentage of internal audit areas completed, which stood at 19.7%, had changed since the presentation was compiled.
The Chairperson wanted to know about the contact centre that provided the mental and social support. Was it a 24-hour contact centre or was it eight to five?
Mr Marais wanted to know if the Department of the Premier was prepared to accommodate the Children’s Commissioner, who Helen Zille did not like.
Dr Malila said the Department had briefed the Committee about the Children’s Commissioner in the previous week. It had been ready to accommodate the Commissioner since Day One. There had been some challenges regarding the budget, but they had been working nicely together. The next step was to sort out permanent accommodation for the Commissioner. Provincial Treasury had already been lobbied regarding this.
Regarding forensic investigations that had overrun their timeframes, he was not aware of any. The PFS team was highly professional, and they tried to complete investigations in the quickest time possible.
He said the Department was reviewing how best to utilise the campus at Kromme Rhee.
The deviation related to the percentage of completed activities in approved risk management had been less than 1%, and was related to the Department aligning its operational plan to the quarterly process. This could be tricky, because the processes were not necessarily linear.
Ms Esterhuyse said the contact centre providing mental and social support was operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and throughout the year.
The Chairperson wanted to know what the ‘take-up’ of the service among staff had been.
Ms Esterhuyse replied that she did not have the numbers at hand, but this could be provided to the Committee.
The Chairperson thanked the team, and they were excused from the meeting.
The Chairperson tabled the draft minutes of the meeting held 1 September 2021. Mr Marais proposed their adoption.
The Chairperson said the Committee had received a draft letter from the National Parliament on 2 September, requesting its feedback on the draft amendment bill related to expropriation of land without compensation by 3 September. He had requested an extension from the Chairperson of the ad hoc committee, Adv Motshekga. The request for an extension had been denied.
Mr Marais said the Committee should not have been rushed on such an important Bill.
The Chairperson said the Committee would deal with the Bill once it reached the Provincial Parliament.
Mr Marais wanted to know what the legal position was, regarding a province that was not ready to provide feedback regarding a Bill. Could the process continue without the input of that province? What was the legal opinion, from a cooperative governance perspective?
Adv Andre le Roux, Legal Advisor, WCPP, said he was of the view that giving a legislature less than a week to express its views seemed like an unreasonably truncated timeframe. He agreed with Mr Marais that the timeline seemed unreasonable, considering the complexity of the Bill.
Mr Marais said the provinces needed to show more mettle. Provinces were not a level of government, but a sphere of government. There was no sphere that was above another.
Mr Xego agreed that the Committee should not be rushed. He felt that the National Assembly was handling the matter recklessly, and this could have dire consequences.
The Chairperson said he would send a letter to the ad hoc committee, expressing the Committee’s displeasure regarding the communication.
The Director-General would send through the status of the eight forensic cases that were currently being investigated.
The meeting was adjourned.
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