PSC Vacancies: recommendation; DPME, StatsSA & Brand SA Quarter 1, 2 & 3 2021/22 performance; with Deputy Minister

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Meeting Summary

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Tabled Committee Report

The Committee was briefed in a virtual meeting on the filling of vacancies at the Public Service Commission (PSC), and on the performances of the Department of Performance Management and Evaluation (DPME), Statistics South Africa and Brand South Africa during the first three quarters of the 2021/22 financial year.

There was some debate as to whether the sub-committee's report on the filling of the PSC vacancies should be adopted, as a previously advertised vacancy had not yet been filled, and it would be practical and cost-saving to add this to the three positions that were being considered. However, the Committee ruled that this was not in line with the required process, and the report was adopted.

The DPME acknowledged that although it had achieved most of its targets, there had been shortfalls, and strategies had been put in place to ensure that the issues were resolved. It had a persistent challenge of high vacancy rates, and it was working hard to fill them. Members were not happy that the Department was not meeting the target of settling invoices within 30 days, urged it to revive the Presidential Hotline as soon as possible, and questioned the time it took to finalise disciplinary cases.

Statistics SA devoted much of its presentation to its challenges in achieving its targets for racial and gender equity in the organisation, pointing out that the average age of its personnel was in the 40 to 49 year bracket, with many long-serving employees, so the process of transformation through attrition would take time. Members commented on the entity's human resources problems and also sought answers to questions about Census 2022.

Brand SA emphasised the importance of the organisation in enhancing the country's reputation. Reputation drivers were always a necessity, providing the ability to position the country as a desired investment opportunity. It touched on patriotic and social cohesion, stressing three key indices -- national pride, active citizenship and social cohesion. Members asked if the collaborative activities that Brand SA was doing with the public sector were yielding any positive results. Since the restrictions caused by COVID-19 were slowly being eased and the use of online activities was successfully being employed, could the activities previously postponed by Brand SA's partners in the United Kingdom be revived, and when would this occur?

Due to time constraints, the entities were asked to respond to the Committee's questions in writing.

Meeting report

The Chairperson said the agenda for the meeting would include three items:

- the report of the sub-Committee on the filling of vacancies at the Public Service Commission;

- a briefing by Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) on its performance for the first three quarters of 2021/22; and

- a briefing by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on its performance over the same period.

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration on the Recommended Candidates for Appointment by the President to serve as Commissioners for the National Public Service Commission

 Mr Julius Ngoepe, Committee Content Advisor, took the Committee through the sub-committee report on the recruitment process for national public service commissioners. He gave a brief overview of the report, indicating that Members were open to make any comments they may have based on the report. He took the Committee through the processes undertaken throughout the stages of the recruitment, from the advert to the interviews. In total, 17 candidates were short-listed. The report showed each step undertaken to get to this present moment.

There were issues encountered, with delays in the vetting process by the State Security Agency (SSA). The sub-committee had recommended that the matter should be brought before the Office of the Presidency, to consider the vetting report. He also highlighted the recommendations made by the Portfolio Committee to the National Assembly of the three candidates appointed to serve as commissioners of the Public Service Commission.

The Committee was confident that the shortlisted candidates had a clear understanding, expertise, and the necessary skills to uphold the mandate of the PSC.

The Portfolio Committee resolved to recommend three candidates to the National Assembly in terms of section 196(8)(a) of the Constitution, for the appointment by the President to serve as commissioners for the Public Service Commission, who are as follows:

  1. Ms Zukiswa Mqolomba

  2. Ms Nancy Nomah Ngwenya

  3. Prof Mandlenkosi Stanley Makhanya

 

Discussion

Dr L Schreiber (DA) said that there had been an earlier recommendation to fill a vacancy at the PSC, and it had been vacant since 2019. He proposed that the Committee write to the Chair of Chairs to confirm that there was indeed a fourth vacancy, and there was no other recommendation waiting to be served before the National Assembly. He further recommended that the Committee should consider filling all four vacancies, instead of the three considered in the report. He reasoned that the instability that had been at the PSC was due to the longstanding vacancy. Not filling all four vacancies would take at least another six months to get to fill the fourth vacancy. He also indicated that Parliament would be saving on resources and time. He proposed that the current recommendation be put on hold and await confirmation from the Chair of Chairs. Thereafter the matter would be brought back to the Committee, a fourth name would be added, and all the vacancies would be filled accordingly.

The Chairperson responded that the proposal made by Dr Schreiber would be improper. He argued that the processes involved were not linked, and there would be a need to go back to the process that had failed. It was not possible that after the process of conducting interviews and short-listing, that the Committee would bring in the name of a candidate that had not passed, or even select from the current applicants. He had made the Chair of Chairs aware of the vacancy and it would be addressed. The vacancy could not be filled in the current sitting; it should take its own due process. He was aware that the vacancy needed to be filled.

Dr M Gondwe (DA) echoed the sentiments of Dr Schreiber, saying that they were being made from a practical and pragmatic point of view. She indicated that four candidates were fit enough for the positions. She also highlighted that there would be costs saved in the process, as well as ensuring that all the vacant posts were filled. She understood the reservations of the Chairperson, but the previous process had had irregularities related to the way it was conducted. The current processes were in order and should be able to cover whatever shortcomings had been experienced previously. She said that advertising the post again certainly had cost implications, and candidates would need to be flown to Parliament again just for interviews.

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) asked if there was anything fundamentally objectionable in waiting for a response from the Chair of Chairs. He indicated that this seemed to be the overlapping view regarding the way forward.

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) said that the Portfolio Committee should not contradict itself. Bringing the matter before Parliament again would be a stretch. It would be understandable if the sub-committee felt that the outstanding item before Parliament needed to be addressed. Even the sub-committee would have to come back to the Portfolio Committee for the item to be endorsed if that was the case. She did not see any way that the process could be included in the meeting. All the necessary procedures had been followed, and they should look forward to the President going ahead with the appointments. She stressed that the matter was already before Parliament and the way forward should be indicated by Parliament.

Ms C Motsepe (EFF) disagreed with the recommendations made by the Democratic Alliance. She said that it would be in the best interest of the Portfolio Committee to go through all the necessary processes concisely, and not hi-jack the process.

Ms R Komane (EFF) shared the same sentiments as Ms Motsepe, stating that they should not set a bad precedent. The sub-committee's work should be completed and handed over as it is. The issue of saving costs did not matter -- what did matter was that the procedure would have been followed.

Mr C Sibisi (NFP) asked what the problem was for the post to not be advertised. He also asked why it was taking so long, understanding that perhaps Parliament took time to respond.

The Chairperson interjected that he should not have allowed the discussion to get to this extent. There was no agenda item before the Committee to discuss an item that previously had not passed.

Ms T Mgweba (ANC) supported the response from the Chairperson. She raised concerns that the matter being discussed was not part of the minutes from the sub-committee. She agreed with the Members who had indicated that the matter should be left before Parliament. She proposed that the Chairperson should brief the Committee at the next meeting on the outcome of the proceedings relating to the fourth vacancy. She was under the impression that the discussion would be based on the minutes of the sub-Committee, and whether the recommendations made were in order. She moved for the adoption of the sub-Committee minutes.

Ms M Kibi (ANC) agreed with Ms Mgweba that the Committee should proceed with the meeting as per the agenda. The Chairperson should be allowed time to engage on the matter of the fourth candidate, and it should be a new process being undertaken.

Dr Schreiber said that while listening to the responses from fellow Members, a few things did not make sense. This matter was meant to be dealt with by the Portfolio Committee, not the sub- committee.

A point of order was raised by Ms Komane. She said that the Committee should confine itself to the work that had been assigned by the sub-committee.

The Chairperson sustained the point of order.

Dr Schreiber asked if the fourth vacancy could be put on the agenda for the next meeting.

The Chairperson raised another point of order. He said that there was no agenda item in the meeting referring to a discussion of the fourth vacancy.

There was a bit of hesitancy from Dr Schreiber, who asked the Chairperson if they were not allowed to suggest an agenda item for the next meeting.

The Chairperson ruled him out of order.

Ms Komane seconded the adoption of the sub-committee minutes.

The Democratic Alliance rejected the minutes. The Chairperson said that it would be out of order to note the DA’s objection in this context, as it was irrelevant.

DPME performance report: Quarter 1-3 2021/22

Deputy Minister's opening remarks

Ms Pinky Kekana, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, conveyed an apology from fellow Deputy Minister, Thembi Siweya, who would join the meeting later. Director-General Nkuna was on study leave and therefore could not attend the meeting.

She said the DPME's report would focus on the first three quarters of the financial year 2021/22, and referred to a few highlights and achievements from the financial year report.

Mr J McGluwa (DA) said that this was not the first time that the Minister had not been present before the Committee. Every time the Committee accepted these types of apologies, the Committee should write to the Minister about the grievances and concerns of the Portfolio Committee on his absence at most of the meetings.

Deputy Minister Kekane continued with her opening remarks and said that the Department was on track with meeting their annual performance plan (APP) targets by the end of March. By the end of quarter three (December 2021), it had achieved 71% of its targets, and 59% of the budget had been spent. At the end of February, the expenditure had increased over 80%. She repeated that the Department had performed well.

She said that the Department had produced the National Annual Strategic Plan (NASP), which had been adopted and institutionalised through the government. Once the final NASP document was adopted, the DPME would have the opportunity to present it before Parliament.

She also touched on the stabilisation and recovery to reverse the impact of the COVID pandemic, which would be outlined in the quarterly report and mentioned some of the issues around planning, policy, and institutional arrangements. She said that the Department would be changing the format of reporting going forward. Future APPs would all look at the alignment of the National Development Plan (NDP) with the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF), together with the NASP. The Department would observe how all these plans are linked to the budget.

There were areas where the Department had not done exceedingly well. She referred to the delays in procurement, highlighting the centralised data management administration system. This system would integrate all existing data in the DPME. Another area that had underperformed was the Presidential hotline, but they were confident that this would be improved.

Dr Ntsiki Mashiya, Deputy Director-General (DDG), DPME, presented the performance of the DPME, taking the Committee through the mandate, vision, mission and functions of the Department. She emphasised the importance of contextualising against the mandates and functions of the budget of the DPME.

She emphasised some of the achievements of the DPME, as indicated by the Deputy Minister. Biannual reporting had had a positive impact on the quality of reports and focused on themes addressing critical national concerns. She also said that it was important to note that the third National Planning Commission (NPC) had been appointed by the President in December.

She spoke about the targets that were planned for each programme in the Department, and the number of those targets which were achieved. In the first quarter, 79% of the targets were achieved, while only 71% of the targets were achieved in quarter three. March was the last month of the current financial year, so the statistics shown may have changed drastically from what was being shown in the report.

She outlined the different programmes and the achievements and under-performance accordingly.

Programme 1 - Administration

The purpose was to provide strategic leadership, management, and support services to the DPME. Only 67% of the targets were met in the third quarter. In programme 1, the submission of financial disclosures was not met. She also highlighted the critical target of the vacancy rate, saying the Department had planned to achieve 5%, but it was at 8% in the third quarter. While the standard for government was 10%, the DPME wanted to be a leader in this regard, so the standard was set quite tightly.

All the reports had been audited, and the performance verified by the internal audit before they were submitted to Treasury. Nine audits were completed and presented to the audit committee, and three of those were currently in progress. Information Communication Technology (ICT) was being strategically positioned to cope with the new trends of supporting employees who continued to work remotely. The Wellness Strategy implementation had been prioritised, as a part of promoting employee health and holistic approaches to dealing with the impact of the pandemic on employees. Labour relations in the Department were being monitored closely by the Director- General, as well as the labour-management forums.

Programme 2 -- National Planning Coordination

This had two programmes -- the National Planning Commission (NPC) secretariat, and national planning coordination. The work that emerged from these programmes addressed the planning landscape in the country. The NPC secretariat had achieved 100% of their targets throughout all three quarters.

As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest, the Department had in the short term implemented the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan (ERRP). She indicated that in terms of the Department's plans, they were currently at the mid-point. It was currently performing the NDP 10-year review to assess the progress made.

All the plans of the DPME, inclusive of the constitution, policy, laws, and regulations etc, all emerged from the long-term NDP plans and the MTSF. The discussion as a country should be aimed at seeing that all the plans that had been funded, had been prioritised by the government.

Programme 3 -- Sector Monitoring Services

This was the programme that ensured government policy coherency. This branch facilitates, supports, and monitors the implementation of government priorities, sector plans and intervention strategies. She made the Committee aware that this programme had been achieving 100% of its targets. The key outcomes and impact indicators came from the 2030 NDP and MTSF 2024 targets. She described the seven priorities of government in terms of the MTSF and said that there had been progress but not all the targets had been achieved.

Programme 4 -- Public Sector Monitoring and Capacity Development.

This programme looks specifically at the annual performance of the Ministers. In quarter 1, the programme could not produce a report on the performance of the Ministers, but the report was produced in quarter 3. The programme had had a challenge regarding the Presidential Hotline. The Deputy Minister had indicated that they had been tasked with strategising new ways to handle the Hotline. Reports had been produced concerning the status report on the implementation of the heads of department (HOD) Performance Management and Development System (PMDS) produced in both quarters 1 and 3.

Programme 5 -- Evaluation, Evidence, and Knowledge Systems.

The branch had achieved 80% of their targets in the third quarter. Due to procurement issues, the Centralised Data Management and Analytics System (CDMAS) had been delayed, but the Department was looking forward to the development and success of this project. The CDMAS was currently in the evaluation stage, and it would benefit the Department to have an integrated data system.

She took the Committee through the selected evaluations and strategic research undertaken in the 2021/22 financial year, highlighting the implementation evaluation on the accommodation provision programme to diagnose the key challenges and inform a way forward on the provision of accommodation. A final report had been released and was currently with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). She also highlighted the rapid evaluation of the Fusion Centre Programme, to assess its relevance, efficiency and effectiveness in addressing cases of corruption, fraud and money laundering. She was happy to report the COVID-19 country report's second edition. This extended the analysis on the measures implemented by government to alleviate the negative impact of Covid-19.

The Committee was also taken through the financial performance against the targets of the Department. All the branches were expected to report on the payment of suppliers within 30 days. She outlined the budget spending across the various programmes, and in total, 59% of the total budget had been spent by December.

Dr Mashiya concluded by stating that the DPME had achieved more than 70% of its targets by the end of the third quarter. It was on course and was likely to achieve its annual targets. Departments were expected to develop and implement improvement plans based on the recommendations made to Cabinet on the results of monitoring the implementation of government priorities.

Discussion

Ms Ntuli found the presentation quite informative. It was important to recognise that the NASP baseline was crucial, and she implored the Department to follow through with the programme. The presentation had reflected work in progress. It still needed to push harder and higher. She said the Portfolio Committee pleaded for more unannounced visits, particularly by the Department of Home Affairs. She indicated that there were often situations beyond the control of those on the ground.

She also touched on the issue of vacancy rates. The Department needed to have its own strategies to deal with the various causes of the vacancies. There needed to be systems in place for retiring staff, so that those posts were occupied as soon as they were available.

Eliminating poverty was a major challenge, and she applauded the Department for the attempts that they were making in this regard. The monitoring and evaluation in this area should be carefully considered.

The issue of non-compliance with the 30-day payment requirement should have been addressed at this stage by the measures put out by the Department. There should be no delay in payments. She urged the Department to push harder on the Presidential Hotline issue, as it was the last resort and hope for the people on the ground.

Ms Kibi agreed with Ms Ntuli on the issue of non-compliance. She said non-compliance seemed to be a challenge, and it crosscuts through the public service. She asked whether the Department was monitoring the issue of non-compliance in the public service, and if the Committee could expect a report on it, or if it would it be a part of the frontline service delivery programme.

Throughout the presentation, the Department had referred to the 100% impact targets achieved. She asked what impact had been made, and what visible changes could be pointed out.

Had the Department had any disciplinary cases in the 2021/22 financial year? If there were any, how long did the labour relations process take to finalise them?

She asked if the national planning programme could provide the monitoring report on the NDP indicators to the Committee. Did the current monitoring report comprise high-level indicators to measure the performance of MTSF chapters?

Mr Mbhele said the key point made in the presentation was that the problem was not in the planning, but rather heavily the implementation. He indicated that this was not a new problem, as it had been discussed many times before.

He asked what process was followed, after the evaluation reports, to ensure that the findings and contents of these evaluations started making corrections to the performance going forward. Where was the value chain breaking down? He was under the assumption that these reports were handed to the President, and that he would use them as a basis for some of the discussions with Cabinet ministers and director generals. This would in turn mean that consistently underperforming individuals would receive interventions to improve their performance or be taken out of the system.

From the external social indicators, there was a chronic stagnation in the outcomes that the Committee would like to see, as set out in the MTSF and the NDP. He indicated that growth, investments and employment were down, and were below the levels at which any developmental ambitions could be achieved. The prerequisites for the successful implementation of the NDP had not been achieved. One of these prerequisites was the social compacts announced by the President for the past few years. He said that the stagnation may at some point become irreversible if too many skills and resources were depleted. He added that there really needed to be radical changes within the MTSF mid-point.

Dr Schreiber said that the key outcome and impact indicators on the report were intensely alarming. Leading up to the year 2024, the period had already gone past the halfway mark. Looking at some of the indicators, it seemed they were all heading in the wrong direction. Some of them were quite shocking, such as the employment rate and poverty. He asked if the Department thought that the government was currently failing, given that it was halfway through the MTSF period.

Ms Motsepe said now that COVID-19 was fading away, the Committee was expecting full accountability. The Department needed to be fully prepared to fix all the recurring issues within the organisation. The vacancy rates needed to be broken down according to the various departments and targets which had been achieved, and those that had not been achieved. This would help the Committee to identify where they could assist.

She asked if the Department had implemented any consequences for the delays in providing invoices. What plans did it have in place to deal with such issues?

Ms Mgweba asked how information communication technology (ICT) had been strategically positioned to cope with the trends of supporting employees.

She also asked why the Department was reliant on the private sector instead of its internal monitoring and evaluation tool.

Understanding that unemployment was currently at its peak, she was puzzled by the high vacancy rate within all the Departments. She asked what was preventing the departments from filling these vacant posts.

Ms Malomane reiterated the sentiments of her fellow Committee Members regarding the vacancy rates. Why had the Department not been filling some of these vacancies?

She asked if any unachieved targets had been moved to the fourth quarter. If there were any, was it possible that they could be indicated?

Mr McGluwa said the report looked at evaluating the conduct of the programmes of government, and these same programmes guide the efficacy of the broader citizens of South Africa. These evaluation reports also affect several portfolios in Parliament, and these Committees could be seen as the only tool to affect the decision-making processes.

He asked if anything was preventing the Department from sharing the evaluation reports with Parliament and the respective Committees. This would help all Members to play their respective roles efficiently.

Ms Kibi commented on the development of the Budget Prioritisation Framework, indicating that the target had not been achieved in 2021/22 financial year. She asked if government really needed this framework, considering that the role of budget allocation was the responsibility of National Treasury, through Cabinet and Parliament. She asked if the Department involved Treasury during the conceptualisation process. She also asked if the framework informed the budget allocation of the National Treasury process.

DPME's response

Dr Mashiya clarified the issue of non-compliance before handing over to the DGs to respond. She said that the DPME was compliant as a department, but this was a compliance target where everyone needed to score 30% to meet Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) requirements through their procurements. The measurement tools throughout the public service had resulted in government departments not being able to achieve the score that had been set out.

She responded to the question about providing reports to the Portfolio Committee. She said the DPME always had an interest in making information available. She agreed with the point made that once recommendations had been made from the evaluations, departments had a responsibility to implement these recommendations. The DG and the accounting officers had to ensure that the recommendations were integrated into the improvement plans. Indeed, this should be evaluated across other committees, to assist with accountability issues.

She addressed the comment around implementation issues. This could be supported thoroughly by the comment from another Member regarding being seen in the front lines -- for example, Home Affairs. She said that frontline monitors had visited these entities and recommendations had been made, as they had observed that these circumstances were not conducive for the citizens of the country. It was then the duty of the sectors' accounting officers in the departments to implement the recommendations. She said that the leadership of the various departments received these results, but globally the challenge was the appetite to obtain the results, such as budget issues and resources, by those who got the results. If there were no changes implemented, these departments should be brought to task.  

Dr Mashiya referred to the vacancies within the Department. Unfortunately, the DPME had had deaths due to Covid-19, together with a few resignations that had contributed to the vacancies. The DPME tried to make sure that as soon as vacancies were open, they were advertised and filled. There was also an issue of funding that had been taken from some of the positions. The compensation of employee’s budget had been reduced by Treasury, but the Department had to find a way around that. That was still a constraint.

Ms Kefiloe Masiteng, DPME, responded on the issue of whether monitoring reports could be shared with Parliament. She indicated that these reports were available, and they could be used to create the necessary dialogue and conversation. These could even assist in working with Parliament to understand how to ensure the dialogue regarding improvement towards implementation of the NDP was generated and continued. This would ensure that the work of the NDP continued for decades longer, till 2030. She said that when progress was measured, the role of the private sector, civil society and government as a leading entity, was understood.

Ms Mmakgomo Tshatsinde, Deputy Director-General: Public Sector Monitoring and Capacity Development, DPME, said she was proud of the 100% target achievements. The monitoring progress was presented to empower Parliament. It was exciting to hear that the Committee was interested in coming on to the aid of the Department to assist in some of the tasks at hand. She said it took several departments and entities to get to this point with the data which was presented before the Committee. Everybody needed to come on board. She also reiterated that reports were available to anybody who wished to access them. The narrative analytical reports, which show all the indicators and all the challenges raised, were available.

The DPME was given the opportunity by Parliament when they carried out their visits to various departments, to speak and share how the MTSF translates to the NDP, as well as the APPs. The DPME had follow-through and improvement plans. The President and the Minister had indicated that they wanted to take control of the improvement plans. The DPME was currently busy with writing the letter from the recommendations they received from Cabinet and the remedial letters for various ministers.

She indicated that case studies were done in the various departments, such as Home Affairs and the police stations as a way of strengthening the monitoring sector.

Dr Mashiya said that overall, the Department had covered all the issues raised by the Members of the Committee. The planning and coordination unit would be coming back to report to the Committee on the NASP matter. She also emphasised the importance of Treasury. She said the Committee needed to consider whether the baseline budget was still relevant. It often happened that money was surrendered just before the end of the financial year and if this was the case, how were these programmes still relevant if they had been surrendering money every three years?

Another element the Committee needed to pay close attention to was the Planning Commission, which was already in place. Through the Committee, there would be a stakeholder engagement, and dialogues with various institutions and Parliament.

She called on Members to join the Department on the robust mission of frontline monitoring. Officials had visited the Free State province to investigate why there were high numbers of gender-based violence (GBV) in one region with 170 people. There was a case of a young girl who was raped at the age of six, and it had not been heard although she was currently 12, because of the backlog. She said frontline monitoring helped the Department to identify the agility of government, without interfering with the work being done.

Statistics South Africa performance report: Quarters 1-3 2021/22

Mr Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General, gave an overview of the first three quarters of the 2021/22 financial year. The overview of the performance was viewed concerning what had been set out as the objectives. There had been an objective to make available 48 statistical releases/reports which were scheduled for the year 2021/22 in several areas -- education and skills; unemployment; health; poverty; housing access; and governance.

Stats SA had set out to release 228 statistical reports concerning measuring the economy, which were scheduled for the financial year 2021/22. These would be inclusive of economic performance; price stability; financial performance of the government sector; primary, secondary, and tertiary sector; environment and agriculture; and tourism.

Stats SA had reached 64 of its planned targets in quarter one, and in the third quarter, 96% of the targets had been achieved. He indicated that when the economy was measured, the targets included the monthly figures that the entity had to release in terms of manufacturing, electricity/utilities and other areas of mining.

He also gave an overview of the human resources (HR) performance. The vacancy rate was at 18% as at December. 84 staff members had left the entity in the last three quarters. These include staff members that were sought after by banks and international agencies with much higher offers than the entity could match. Staff with disabilities represented 1.2% of the workforce. An area that the entity was paying particular attention to, was women in senior management service (SMS) positions, which was at 40.1% at the end of 2021.

He categorised the posts filled per race group, indicating that the non-SMS population group was 89% black African, 5.9% Coloured, 4.3% White and 1.2% Indian. However, when it came to the SMS levels, the black Africans decreased drastically to 67.2%, while the Coloureds increased to 6.1%, Whites increased to 17.2%, and Indian increased to 9.4%.

Referring to the gender statistics, there were 45% males in non-SMS posts, while the females were at 55%. In SMS posts, there were 59.9% males and 40.1% females. Although the problem needed urgent attention, when there were staff still permanently employed from ten years ago, it was difficult to resolve it. The entity would need to wait for people to resign, and people employed in statistical agencies tended to stay for much longer in one position. Until these people retired, slow progress would continue to be made.

He took the Committee through the various performance levels concerning the different programmes. He also highlighted the age components of the organisation, stating the staff age peaked at 40-49 years -- the bulk of the staff members were in this age group.

There were different vacancy rates within the organisation. Statistical operations and provincial coordination were sitting at 13%. Economic statistics was at 15%. The South African National Statistics System (SANSS) had the highest vacancy rate, at 48%. Discussions with National Treasury relating to funding did not show promise that all the vacancies would be filled. The organisation had to reprioritise.

The key achievements of Stats SA in outcome one were related to insightful data, where the entity had published 200 statistical releases in total. In Outcome 2, the agile operating model, the organisation had piloted a code of practice for a quality management system. They had commenced with the establishment of an end-to-end geospatial platform.  In outcome three, legislative reform, there had been intentional engagements and participation. Outcome four had looked at the transformation capabilities.

Mr Maluleke took the Committee through the Census 2022 timetables and milestones. He said that most of the Census reporting would be done in the fourth quarter, but the data shown was for national interest’s sake. The organisation was currently out in the field conducting these Census interviews. He gave an update on the progress being made on the census programme.

He concluded that by describing the five-year strategic plan priorities from 2020/21to 2024/25. The organisation would continue to drive legislative reform and wished to sustain and protect the quality of the national indicators. The organisation would continue to drive business transformation and change.

The Chairperson suggested that because the meeting had gone over the stipulated time, the Portfolio Committee should allow Brand SA to continue with its presentation. Thereafter, Members could pose their questions and comments on both presentations, and answers would be provided in writing through the office of the Secretariat of the Committee.

Member of the Committee agreed with this suggestion.

Brand SA performance report: Quarters 1-3 2021/22

Ms Thandi Tobias, Chairperson, Brand SA, said it was unfortunate that Brand SA was continuously presenting last and was not given enough time for effective engagement at these sittings. The organisation always had to gallop through their presentation due to the pressure of time. She pleaded that the organisation should be considered among the first, and not just as a small organisation.

The Chairperson noted the grievance.

She began the presentation by indicating that Brand SA was working hard to ensure that the visions of the NDP were realised. The organisation was pleased by the announcement in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the 100 days to finalise the comprehensive social compact to grow the economy. The quarterly report was a portfolio of evidence on the role Brand SA had played in positioning South Africa to realise economic reconstruction, roping in international and local investors. All of the above-mentioned takes into account the role played by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organisation’s role was to build trust, market the country and build social cohesion. She stressed the importance of the opportunity to have physical engagements as a way to market the country fully.

Ms Sithembile Ntombela, Acting CEO, Brand SA, gave an overview of the vision, and the mission of the organisation. She provided context to the mandate of Brand SA, which simply states that it was to manage South Africa’s nation brand reputation, to improve the country’s global attractiveness and competitiveness. Its primary purpose was to contribute indirectly towards economic growth, job creation, poverty alleviation and social cohesion by encouraging local and foreign investment, tourism and trade through the promotion of the Brand SA. The duty of Brand SA was to ensure that South Africa was attractive for investors and that it was competitive.

She emphasised the importance of the country's reputation. Reputation drivers were always a necessity, providing the ability to position the country as a desired investment opportunity. She emphasised the importance of ensuring that investors were always able to trust the Brand SA.

She touched on patriotic and social cohesion, stressing three key indices -- national pride, active citizenship and social cohesion. In 2011, Brand SA had formed a movement called "Play Your Part" in its efforts to create social cohesion and encourage active citizenship. Brand SA also contributed to constitutional awareness.

Brand SA's performance in the first quarter had been 81% targets achieved, and 87% in the third quarter -- 28 targets out of the 32 targets it had for the quarter.

Discussion

Ms Kibi welcomed the presentations from both organisations. She was happy to hear that there were individuals living with a disability within the organisation of Brand SA. She also noted the partial upliftment of the moratorium, as this had impacted badly on the organisation's spending.

She asked which collaborative efforts/activities Brand SA was doing together with the public sector regarding the nation's brand. Were these activities yielding any positive results?

She said that since the restrictions caused by COVID-19 were slowly being eased, and the use of online activities successfully employed, could the activities previously postponed by the partners in the United Kingdom be revived, and when would this occur?

Given that 84 staff members had left the organisation, and the vacancy rate was at 18%, she asked for an update on how the department was addressing the issue.

She asked for clarity on protected areas, and why the protected areas were so classified.

She asked Stats SA how the organisation was preventing criminals from harassing the staff moving around the country during the period of the census. What was it doing to prevent criminals from going into the areas posing as the staff members of Stats SA?

Dr Gondwe said Stats SA had indicated that 25% of the households that registered for the assisted interview had managed to complete the questionnaires, and the deadline given was 25 February. She asked if the number had improved since the date had passed, as it had been mentioned that there was a poor uptake in people responding to Census 2022.

She asked what challenges had been encountered regarding Census 2022 and how the organisation intended to tackle these challenges.

With regard to Brand SA, it had always been maintained that the issue of amalgamation needed to be sorted out. She welcomed the upliftment of the moratorium. She requested an update on the amalgamation with Tourism SA, and when it would be concluded.

Mr McGluwa said that it was unfortunate that the Committee was not able to interrogate the report from Brand SA. The organisation sounded overly excited and enthusiastic about the report, but it did not correlate with what was written on paper. He referred to delays in the submission of information, and misalignment of the annual performance statements. He expressed concern about the financial implications of the campaigns. He noted that R13 million had gone unspent. Therefore, the excitement in rebuilding the trust in the organisation and the confidence should also be taken into consideration. He highlighted the vacancy rates and the organisational structure and indicated that it was made worse by the Presidency making it a priority to pay people within 30 days, and this had not happened.

He raised his concern around the vacancy rate of 18% and said loyalty was not a good enough reason for a person to stay with an organisation. Following the trend, the major reason for leaving the public service was to prioritise their mental health. He asked if the organisation conducted exit interviews, as billions of rands were spent on sick leave in public entities.

Data collection formed the core of Stats SA. He did not buy the idea that the period of counting had been extended to include everyone. The issue of project implementation was of concern, and there needed to be transparency as to what the genuine issues were in this regard. This would help the Committee and the organisation figure out a conducive way forward.

He was also interested in the field cost figures and asked that the organisation submit these figures per province.

Lastly, he asked what the organisation did when people do not what to be counted in the census.

Ms Motsepe asked what was entailed in the financial census for municipalities, and asked for clarity on the statistics in this regard.

The Department had highlighted that insolvency data could not be published due to challenges from the Department of Justice. She asked if these challenges were caused by data being wrong, or still being compiled.

Stats SA had indicated that data collection for Census 2022 had been extended to allow field workers to reach as many households as possible. She asked if this would not affect the budget.

Ms Ntuli asked if there was any turnaround strategy regarding the vacancy rates within the Stats SA organisation, which would allow for a skills transfer to the younger generation.

She asked if the extension of the Census 2022 would not affect the budget and the APP. She noted that the work was appreciated, as well as the extension to ensure that the work was being done.

She asked for a synopsis from the Department on the challenges faced by the Stats SA team in remote areas, including challenges with ICT, even in urban areas.

She asked whether Brand SA had positioned itself if it was to be amalgamated with Tourism SA.

She applauded Brand SA on the integration of 2% of people living with disabilities into the organisation. She asked for the turnaround strategy aimed at doing away with under-spending.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting by reiterating that the questions would be responded to in writing, and through the committee secretariat.

The meeting was adjourned.

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