In this virtual meeting, the Committee considered its report on the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure First and Second Quarter Performance for 2021/22.
The Committee Content Advisor informed the Committee that the Department used the DPME’s targeted checks on performance indicators, but these could give a false impression of performance being very good. He spoke at length on the challenges around the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) and the lack of progress on the White Paper. The PMTE was unable to collect debt and therefore drew money from Programme 4 so Programme 4 appeared to be on track in its spending, but the spending was not one that should be celebrated. The reason why he PMTE was not doing well was because the White Paper was still not in draft form and no money was spent on developing that. Programme 4 and the PMTE needed a stronger oversight focus beyond the Department’s stated intention to request from Treasury of a revised drawdown status to align the PMTE’s cash flow and its projections. The Minister had promised that there would be progress now that a private legal consultant was contracted to draft the White Paper.
Members heard that in Programme 3, the EPWP branch could not pay money out, because provinces, entities and other departments were creating work but not adhering to conditions surrounding identification. Hence there were disclaimers and a clean audit report was not issued. The Department consistently under-spends even with no Covid-19 because of vacant funded posts. There was a leadership vacuum because of this and the Department struggled to appoint people to posts from director upwards. Leasing, especially month -to- month leases, remained a problem.
Members said the approach of dealing with the Department on a quarterly basis needed to change to bear fruit. The Department was always saying it was in the process of filling funded posts, especially crucial posts and the Committee could not sit back as there was no movement. Another concern was fiscal dumping in the last quarter as evidenced in the annual report. On some provinces not subscribing to the DoRA prescripts, Members proposed that the Department, in conjunction with Treasury and the provinces needed to ensure that there was compliance and get to know the root cause for the non-compliance to avoid the same issue occurring in future. If there were cases of dereliction of duty the Department needed to look at punitive measures that could be instituted. Members said it was a travesty that the White Paper on construction was not getting completed while the country had such high unemployment.
The Committee approved the performance report.
The Draft Committee Report on a Petition lodged by MP, Mr I Seitlholo on North West Province Roads was also approved.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr S Zondo (IFP) to the Committee.
Consideration of the North West Provincial Roads Petitions Report
Mr IS Seitlholo (DA) had lodged a petition on 1 December 2021, calling on the Assembly to:
-investigate the construction of road D201 through a petition from residents of Greater Taung, including Tlapeng, Motsweding and Matlapaneng (ATC 103-2021-08-12) and
-investigate the halting of the construction of road D206 through a petition from residents of Ba-Ga Maidi (Matsheng, Kokomeng, Molelema etc) Greater Taung, North West province (ATC 112-2021-08-26), reports as follows:
On 8 and 12 August 2021, the above-mentioned petitions were referred to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure for consideration and report.
Ms S Graham-Mare (DA), Mr W Thring (ACDP) and Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) pointed out some typographical errors.
Ms Graham-Mare said that the Committee was requesting that all the reports go to the provincial portfolio and public accounts committees and NCOP committees. Should the Committee not also request that the reports be sent to the Committee so that it could still be privy to these and additional reports.
Ms M Hicklin (DA) and Mr P Van Staden (FF+) supported Ms Graham-Mare’s proposal that reports should come back to the Committee.
Ms L Mjobo (ANC) welcomed the report and proposed the adoption of the report.
The Chairperson said the department fell under a province and it was under section 100 and therefore there was a team dealing with all the issues in North West province which included the Minister of COGTA and the select committee. The Committee would investigate whether it was possible for it to receive reports.
Mr Shuaib Denyssen, Committee Content Advisor, said it was correct that the provincial and COGTA departments that were managing the administration part (section 100), dealt with those reports and outcomes will be available to committee and the Committee would keep track of it. When there were interventions in provinces, the select committee in the NCOP had a role to play to decide whether the administration continued or whether the provincial department had improved and then there was a chance to access the outcomes. This did not mean the Committee could not ask for access. The Committee should wait till the NCOP had done their report but could ask for access to reports.
The Chairperson said the Committee would request reports from time to time to keep track .
Ms L Shabalala (ANC) seconded adoption of the report.
The Committee adopted the report with amendments.
Committee Report on DPWI 2021/22 First & Second Quarter Performance
Mr Denyssen spoke to the two quarterly reports because the issues were the same. He said that even though the Committee did not have a strategic plan it did not mean the Committee did not work with a strategy. The strategy was to give effect to their oversight mandate by following a consistent approach of looking at quarterly reports and the outcomes found there including looking for specific weaknesses. These two quarterly reports covered what would be included in the Committee’s budget review report and the review of the quarterly reports assisted in the in- year monitoring financial and non-financial performance of the Department. The in-year reports are reports from the Programmes to the DG who then reports to the Minister. So, these would be performance reports in a quarter reflecting actual weaknesses. The Department used the DPME’s targeted checks on performance indicators, but these could give a false impression of performance being very good. Since the start of the current term the Committee learnt that there was a weakness with the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE) because it was unable to collect debt and therefore drew money from Programme 4. Programme 4 did the best in terms of spending its budget, but the Programme’s expenses were not one that could be celebrated as it was transfers to the PMTE. The reason why the PMTE was not doing well was because the White Paper on public works towards the 21st century was still not in draft form and no money was spent on developing that. This was supposed to be the work of Programme 4. Programme 4 was the only Programme that had exceeded its budget. He said the Department consistently under- spends even with no Covid- 19 because of vacant funded posts. This continued each quarter and nothing gets done.
In Programme 3, the EPWP branch could not pay money out, because provinces, entities and other departments were creating work but not adhering to conditions surrounding identification. Hence there were disclaimers and a clean audit report was not issued.
He said that important matters to note was that across the two quarters the PMTE was not doing well notwithstanding the 26% of budget expenditure recorded in Programme 4 and therefore Programme 4 and the PMTE needed a stronger oversight focus beyond the Department’s stated intention to request from Treasury of a revised drawdown status to align the PMTE’s cash flow and its projections. Treasury needed to take note of the Committee and AG’s opinions. The PMTE was not able to make money from fees owed by other departments for maintenance. He said the input of the Minister agreed with what the Committee was saying. Programme 4 was also not making progress on the White Paper. The Minister had promised that there would be progress now that a private legal consultant was contracted to draft the White Paper. The problem was where was the skills that was supposed to be in Programme 4 to do policy review? It was just not there. The transformation of the construction, built environment remained a challenge.
In Programme 2 there were slight improvements across the board. He quoted the Minister as saying that the PMTE had just become a banking account with an overdraft and that 76% of the budget of the DPWI being passed on to the PMTE. This was how it should be, but the PMTE should then make money from this and not draw heavily on the fiscus, therefore the request to Treasury for assistance was not correct. The PMTE was not properly operationalised and was severely understaffed so could not generate the money that it should. Serious work needed to be done before clean audits would arise and, in any case, clean audits did not mean the Department was doing well. The Department was projecting that it would be R24m over budget on maintenance. There was a continuous challenge of securing vacant buildings and facilities management required attention. These were all PMTE issues which had previously been raised by the Committee. He said the Department had very good staff but there was a leadership vacuum because of vacant posts not being filled. The Department struggled to appoint people to posts from director upwards. He said leasing, especially month -to- month leases, remained a problem.
He said that the slow spending of the Department was noted under observations and that the slow spending caused problems for the Department.
Ms Hicklin said the Committee was fortunate to have reports of the highest order and superb quality and detail and that nothing in report was news to the Committee. The PMTE was not a trading entity as it was not able to trade, could not collect debt and was averse to making money. How could the Committee force the hand of the Minister to enable the Department? She said it was frustrating for the Committee to do what it was supposed to do. Vacancies were not filled since 2019 and increase exponentially. Pressure needed to be brought to bear on provincial departments to enable grants to be paid out because the poor needed the EPWP posts to be filled. The Committee had to ensure that skilled people were employed.
Mr Thring shared Ms Hicklin comments and thanked Mr Denyssen and the team. His concern was what did the Committee do with the report. Positive steps needed to be taken to turn the ship around. It was a travesty that the White Paper on construction was not getting completed while the country had the highest unemployment rate in the world. The Committee needed to start applying its minds on the steps to be taken to ensure that the White Paper was processed. The EPWP spent 8.6% of its budget when it should be 25% after the 1st quarter. The police did not have a hosting base in Tshwane and after three years there was still no movement and the blame was placed on the Committee. The Committee should insist on dates for when the White Paper would be completed; when SAPS would move into its building; dates for provinces who were not performing.
Ms Shabalala appreciated the report and Mr Denyssen had put her mind at ease regarding the lack of a strategic plan session. The Department tended to give the agenda to the Committee instead of Committee demanding the Committee’s priorities be met, especially job creation. Regarding the comparison between the previous term and where the Department was now, it worried her that the reports were a form of cut and paste. On the issue of the PMTE, she said the Committee was in the middle of its term and yet the PMTE came as a surprise to the Minister. Something was not right or the staff was not accountable enough.
Ms Mjobo welcomed the good report from the Committee team. She said all reports adopted last year had noted the lack of filling vacancies. Even the reports for the forthcoming quarters 3 and 4 would contain a paragraph on vacancies.
Ms van Schalkwyk welcomed the excellent report and shared the same sentiment of previous colleagues. The report had observations but no recommendations and she proposed a recommendation for each observation and the recommendations should be tracked especially that of compensation of employees. She said the approach of dealing with the Department on a quarterly basis needed to change to bear fruit. The Department was always saying they were in the process of filling funded posts, especially crucial posts and the Committee could not sit back as there was no movement. The vacancies at senior management level included the issue of the DG post that was not yet sorted. Another concern was fiscal dumping in the last quarter as evidenced in the annual report. On some provinces not subscribing to the DoRA prescripts, she proposed that the Department, in conjunction with Treasury and the provinces need to ensure that there was compliance and get to know the root cause for the non-compliance to avoid the same issue occurring in future. If there were cases of dereliction of duty the Department needed to look at punitive measures that could be instituted.
Regarding the PMTE, she said it was of concern as it seemed to be going the same as the DTI. If one looked at the age analysis of their debt, there was a clear indication that they were faltering so the Committee needed to make a recommendation for that area to be strengthened and to see results. Dealing with Quarter 1 & 2 of 2021/22 , she said that the Committee needed to move faster with quarterly performance reports, because it was not fast enough to deal with the issues.
Regarding different types of reports, budget reports and BRRR, Mr Denyssen explained how the phrases ‘report to be considered’ and ‘report to be noted’ applied. The former was used for budget and BRRR reports while in-year reports contained the latter phrase. The term ‘consideration’ meant the Minister had to do the recommendations in the report with deadlines attached and the Committee had a check sheet to keep track of these. Quarterly reports note these things, but it did not mean the Committee would action it. The
Committee would debate a budget vote and recommendations then went into that report.
Ms Mjobo proposed the adoption of the report, seconded by Ms Shabalala.
Adoption of Minutes
Committee minutes from the meetings held on 16 Feb 2022 and 23 Feb 2022 were considered and adopted.
Welcome of Hon Zondo
The various parties represented in the Committee welcomed Mr S Zondo (IFP) to the Committee as the replacement for the late Mr M Nxumalo (IFP).
The meeting was adjourned.
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