NLSA on 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan; whistle-blowing case; CISCO initiative

Sports, Arts and Culture

31 May 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Dlulane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

 

 

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National Library of South Africa

The Portfolio Committee met with the Department of Sports, Art and Culture in a virtual meeting, and were joined by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), which presented its annual performance plan for 2022/23.

The Chairperson directed Members' attention to the Child Protection Week in her opening remarks, urging them to raise awareness of this, as young children were still suffering domestic abuse in their communities.

The Committee congratulated the board on the diverse nature of its composition, and on being well-balanced. They also appreciated the collaboration that existed between the NLSA and the Department.

They asked whether the Department had a working relationship with other departments, such as education and public works. They also wanted to know if there were plans to ensure that libraries were accessible to citizens, particularly in underprivileged communities.

The maintenance of libraries was brought up, as Members had noted that some libraries were damaged and had not been repaired yet, and this could lead to the damage to the books inside.

Clarity was needed on the budget allocations, as the salary budget was high, even though the entity had several unfilled vacancies. The bonus paid to its chief executive officer had been flagged as irregular, and an update on matters involving the previous chief financial officer was also requested.

Information on several whistle-blower cases was also updated in response to Members' questions.

The Committee asked about the Cisco Programme, and whether members of the NLSA's executive staff were also enrolling in the programme, since they also needed to have the skills necessary to promote skills development, especially in the fourth industrial revolution.

The Department was asked about any plans they had to ensure that indigenous books were being introduced in schools and libraries so that communities could access them, as these works had shaped the communities in the past.

The Chairperson commended the Department and the NSLA on their seamless collaboration and evident good communication. She appreciated that they were dealing with flagged matters, and that they were reporting back to the Committee on progress made.

Meeting report

The Chairperson made Members aware that this was Child Protection Week. The theme this year was creating a society that prioritised the rights and dignity of children. Parents should treat other children as if they were their own, and the Committee needed to assist in ensuring that communities were conscientious about that, so children could look up to adults as parental figures.

The abuse of women and children was a major issue, and awareness needed to be created. Children were being abused on their way to and from school -- sometimes due to traditional practices. Even though children had been brought to Parliament to testify, this form of abuse was still happening in communities. This was unacceptable, and programmes to address this were welcomed.

The Chairperson called upon chiefs and elders of communities to assist the Committee in ensuring that such practices were stopped, as children as young as ten years old were suffering from these practices. Education was important in the development of young children.

She noted that the Minister and Deputy Minister would not be able to attend, as the Minister was attending the Presidential Economic Retreat in Limpopo and the Deputy Minister was ill.

Ms Mandisa Tshikwatamba, Acting Director-General, Department of Sports, Art and Culture (DSAC), notified the Committee that she would lead the delegation, as the Minister was unable to attend.

The Chairperson allowed this.

Mr A Zondi (ANC) proposed adoption of the agenda presented by the Chairperson, and Ms V Malomane (ANC) seconded.

Department of Sports, Art and Culture overview
Ms Tshikwatamba introduced her team to the Committee. It included officials from the Department and representatives of the National Library of South Africa (NLSA). She presented an overview of the entity.

The presentation covered the mandate of the NLSA, its strategic intent, governance, strategic imperatives, NSLA programmes, the budget overview and annual performance targets. The Department also shared details on matters flagged by the board, such as the vandalism of property and its contribution to socio-economic gains.

The objectives of the NLSA are to contribute to socio-economic, cultural, educational, scientific and innovative development by collecting, recording, preserving and making available the national documentary heritage and promoting an awareness and appreciation thereof, by fostering information literacy, and by facilitating access to the world’s information resources.

(Please see the presentation attached for further details.)

National Libraries of South Africa
Ms Refiloe Mabaso, Chairperson, NLSA, delivered a presentation which covered the background of the NSLA, initiative implementation in public libraries, training programmes, beneficiaries and the way forward. The way forward included providing recent graduates with support through monitoring individuals who made use of the Cisco programme to develop their skills.

(Please see the presentation attached for further details.)

NLSA 2022/23 Annual Performance Plan
Ms Mabaso handed over to Mr Kepi Madumo, CEO, NLSA, to present the annual performance plan (APP) for 2022/23.

The presentation covered the mandate of the NLSA, it strategic intent, governance, NLSA programmes, and the budget overview.

Strategic imperatives of the entity included: economic transformation and job creation, education, skills and health, social cohesion and safe communities and a better Africa and world.

(Please see the presentation attached for further details.)

Presentation on Cisco Project
Ms Nokothula Musa, Executive Director, NLSA, presented on the Commercial & Industrial Security Corporation. (Cisco) Project.

The presentation addressed the background, initiative implementation in public libraries, the training programme, beneficiaries and the way forward.

The Cisco Academy existed to empower the South African citizens with skills that were relevant in the fourth industrial revolution.

NLSA will continue to provide support to the graduates who completed the programme by
-Monitoring that those who completed the programme continue to develop themselves through online causes made available to them for free from Cisco
-Monitoring provision of training to community members in their libraries – Germiston library and Newcastle library have advertised for the first group of trainees.
-Continue to engage with Cisco and finalise the review of the current MOU with Cisco to expand the programme to more libraries.

(Please see presentation attached for further project details.)

NLSA presentation on whistle-blower cases
Ms Mabaso provided an update on whistle-blower cases, which included a detailed sequence of events, and actions taken by the board upon the discovery of each case.

The Director: HR was charged for misconduct on 10 August 2021 and given an opportunity to respond to allegations levelled against as per NLSA Disciplinary Code and Procedure.

On the 13 August 2021, she acknowledged receipt of the charges and responded by denying all the charges level against her put to the employer to prove all the charges at the disciplinary hearing.

Please see the presentation document for further details on sequence of events.

The Offer letter matter was investigated and there was evidence that the offer letter was fraudulent. The Board Secretary was served with the notice to suspend and respond to the allegations, instead, he resigned and the NLSA recovered all the monies that were unduly paid to Company Secretary. The PASA has since opened a case with the SA Police Service.

Discussion
Ms R Adams (ANC) asked if there was a system in place to ensure that all libraries were supported and developed by the NLSA to ensure that they were fully functional, with adequate facilities and accessible for users. What were they doing to promote reading in schools and communities, and how did this ensure the use of libraries?
 
On the financial allocations, clarity was needed, as allocations were not stated for 2021/22. This was specifically related to grants for municipality charges and leasing. Could they explain what had happened there?

She congratulated the NLSA on the balance of members of the board. They needed to check on their race balance. It indicated that they were all black, but the norm was to identify the different races, and not just to group them all as black. Other organisations normally reported them that way, so it was a note to consider.

Their oversight looked good on paper, and she hoped it was a true reflection.

Mr A Zondi (ANC) asked if the gradual budget cuts over the years were not demoralising employees. This would affect their performance.

In relation to the case of the company secretary, reported on 26 November 2021, the board was meant to investigate the allegations made by the whistle-blower on the chief executive officer (CEO) bullying the company secretary. Had this investigation been done? If so, what were the outcomes of the investigation? While the Deputy Director General (DDG) had tried to report on this matter, what protection was afforded to the whistle-blower?   

How was the entity leveraging digital transformation to develop platforms to access materials such as e-books, and other digital platforms to promote access to library works and publications?

Was the level of vandalism based on the low usage of libraries? How did provincial departments ensure the security of facilities and their sustainable use? Beyond theft, why were libraries an easy target?

Mr D Joseph (DA) commented that he had recently visited the Cape Town library. The status and service were of a world-class standard. On programme 1, dealing with administration and the comment made by the presenter about air conditioners that should work, he had discovered during that visit that some shelves were empty. Upon enquiry, he was told that the roofs were leaking, and that the previous Committee had also noted that. Was the roof repairs part of the allocation for planned maintenance? What was the cost?

New Zealand had submitted a note stating that the library had protected information of a world-class statement, hence the earlier comment being made about the standard. This was commendable.

The decline in the financial allocation was concerning. On the audit outcomes, the generally recognised accounting principles (GRAP)-103 had sho no improvement for three consecutive years. How did they plan to address that problem so they could have a clean audit?

On the whistle-blowers' case information, it was good that they were reporting on it and that they had a working system for people to openly report. An intervention and an outcome were present, and that formed part of good governance.

On the R200 000 bonus paid to the CEO, was that an amount for one financial year? Did the entity have a maximum amount for bonuses for the executives?

On the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the effort that the NLSA was making was appreciated in preparing library staff and the country’s leaders in that field. Were the board members and senior management also enrolling in these courses? What was the plan for them to equip themselves? How many staff members were enrolling, and what was the budget for them to attend this training?

Ms V van Dyk (DA) noted that Members had covered interesting points. She agreed with the whistle-blower platform being commendable. She raised the issue of the secretary resigning before further steps could be taken, saying that this created an opportunity for perpetrators to be recycled without facing any consequences for their behaviour, which was problematic.

On the Cisco training, had the Northern Cape participated? There was no record of any person from there completing their training. Could a list of all the libraries in the Northern Cape with damage done to them be provided, along with the type of damage and its estimated rand value?

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) raised the issue of vandalism. The level was too high. Was it possible to improve library security?

How did the entity assess and monitor the impact of its work in building a reading culture? What was the upkeep of the use of libraries, and how did the entity monitor the usage of libraries?

What was the current recruitment status for vacancies in the organogram presented? The Corporate Services Director position was vacant. What progress had the NLSA made on their target of raising 13% of the budget allocation through sponsorships in cash and kind?

Ms V Malomane (ANC) asked about recruitment. What was the current status of recruitment considering the vacant status indicated on the organogram?

From the 102 listed vandalised libraries, what was the date range for the vandalism cases? Could they provide the total cost of these incidents? Had any study been done to determine what the impact would be on the delivery of library services in the affected areas?

What international memberships and partnerships did the entity have internationally and domestically to attract investment and other support for the expansion of the impact of the entity? What was the target amount set for implementing the sponsorship strategy?

Given that the entity was small to medium, what was the impact of 50% of their expenditure being allocated to employee costs?

Relating to their annual target of 100% and quarterly targets of 100% as well, was this an error -- especially under administration?

The Chairperson welcomed Mr B Madlingozi (EFF) back to work following a bereavement last week. They were grateful to have him back.

Mr Madlingozi thanked her for her comforting words. The Members had covered most of his questions.

Were there plans for indigenous and informative books to be introduced to schools and libraries so younger people could understand where the country came from, and where it was headed?

Were there plans to create more libraries in informal sectors for poor people to access them, and for Wi-Fi purposes? This was where most poor people lived.

Mr B Mamabolo (ANC) raised human resource (HR) issues. What kind of measures had they developed as a vetting process, especially with the director of human resources, as there was information on irregularities which had been raised? What measures were they taking to address them?

What kind of support were they giving to the libraries in townships, because communities like Seshego had libraries that were not working well? Did this fall under municipalities, or were they part of the Department?

What other measures were they using to ensure that villages and townships were covered so that people would be able to become a reading nation?

The Chairperson asked about libraries. She suspected the Department of Education was supposed to be involved. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) had been mentioned, but it was not clear as to which department it had been entered into. What was the involvement with municipalities, and how did they link with the Department of Education? Some districts had many damaged libraries, and she was wondering if it was because they were under the sphere of local government. Whose responsibility did they form part of? What kind of relationship did the NLSA and the DSAC have with the Department of Education and the municipalities?

Ms Adams asked about the budget allocation for compensation of employees, especially for the CEO. It amounted to around R68 million for the 2022/23 financial year. In 2023/24, transfers were reduced by about R35 million, mainly because of goods and services. Would this affect the recruitment of suitably qualified individuals for existing vacancies?

The Department had indicated that the NLSA would expand on the allegations of bullying and maladministration. The Committee had to ensure that the NSLA dealt with the matter. The presentation had not given any detail regarding these issues that had been flagged.

Responses
Mr Madumo appreciated the comments and compliments from Members. Regarding budget cuts affecting employees, they were aware of the increasing costs of living. Not only were the NLSA staff affected, as this impacted most environments. As public servants, they needed to be appreciative of their jobs, as the economic climate was not favourable to anybody.

They had to work with what was available to them, as they relied on directives from National Treasury. Internally, they were continuing to motivate staff with the limited resources they had. The chief financial officer (CFO) would expand on the allocation of funds received.

On the 4IR, it was clearly articulated in their plans that the NLSA and the Department were working on how to make use of technology to improve service delivery. International trends in technology fast-tracking libraries were not something that the country could ignore. This included wi-fi accessibility. It was still a challenge in some provinces, but was an issue where they were constantly thinking of ways to improve. The board consisted of young members who were born after modern technology had evolved, so they were equipped with devices to allow them to conduct their business virtually. Given that they were leading an institution in charge of the 4IR, it was hoped that they were up to the task of occupying that space.

Regarding recruitment, the NLSA was currently in a process of organisational redesign. The current structure was last updated 14 years ago, so it was outdated. The job descriptions were also outdated, and this was not reflective of the current environment. The redesign had become a critical area because of this. With the budget cuts and last year’s austerity measures, the NLSA had performed reasonably well.

There was a year when they had received three budget cuts, and this had impacted compensation. They were now trying to remove redundant positions with the re-design, and such positions would not be filled. They were prioritising the most critical positions for them to deliver on their strategy.

Relating to indigenous books being introduced in schools, the Department along with the NLSA had implemented an aggressive programme as part of the mandate of preserving and promoting indigenous languages. They were working closely with their sister entity by providing grants to assist with the publishing of these books. They also had a programme for reprinting the classics that were no longer being printed by publishers due to an insignificant market for them. These classics had shaped South Africans as they read them in the past. They were going to supply these to libraries to present and promote indigenous languages. Others would be donated to school libraries.

They were also going to cross-translate these classics so that they would be available in popular languages, so South Africans could appreciate the literary work of the indigenous languages. They worked closely with the Department of Education to create programmes that promoted reading, as well as spelling "Bees." These programmes were targeted at school children, and they had a strong stakeholder relationship with the Department of Education. They met quarterly to share challenges and collaborate on national projects.

International relationships through associations such as the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the African Library and Information Association (AfLIA) provided learning opportunities and platforms for libraries and librarians to collaborate. They used those platforms along with participating in the Council for Directors of the National Libraries. They engaged in local sub-committees as well, and this was done continuously to improve the alliances.

The maintenance of libraries in Cape Town (including the roof) was one of their priority projects. They were working closely with the Department of Public Works, and a challenge faced was that the Cape Town library was classified as a heritage building. The tiles in that building had been discontinued, but they would implement an interim solution to prevent further damage while the major work was being set out. This was considering that the upcoming winter rains were expected in June. There were plans within the maintenance programme to ensure that there was an interim solution.

The heritage status of the building was one of the challenges when looking for a solution to permanently repair the damage, as it came with restrictions on what could be used to repair the damage. Another challenge was the Cape Town winds and climate, as this would affect the kinds of materials they could use when coming up with a permanent solution. The nearby cathedral was facing the same challenge, which was why it had also not been repaired.

Relating to annual targets compared to quarterly targets, he said “compliance issues must be complied to fully.” Non-compliance would be a problem as they would incur penalties. They were ensuring that they complied with all requirements in their targets set. They did this on a consistent basis, and they aimed to meet that target fully.

Measures had been put in place to ensure the vetting of staff. Pre-employment vetting was updated through the recruitment protocol. This started when people would fill in application forms, as there were certain mandatory disclosures that were required before the selection committee would consider an application. Within the internal staff, in line with the minimum information security standards, there were protocols embedded in the process where vetting needed to take place. They were dealing with sensitive information, so certain levels of staff needed to be vetted. The most important one was the pre-employment vetting that needed to be thorough, to prevent bringing in people who were not meant to be in the NLSA.

The CEO handed over to the CFO to answer questions relating to the plans and the budget allocations.

Mr Thilivhali Ramawa, CFO, spoke about the budget and the model of the NLSA. The model informed the budget, relating to employee costs. The NLSA was a service-based organisation, like a university institution or a technikon. Its services were driven mainly by people who assisted people. The NSLA budget in proportion to overall expenditure was high. They did not have the option of outsourcing certain services like other institutions could.

The salary budget was high because they mainly offered library services. This included paying people to assist citizens with taking out books from libraries. These services were provided by people who needed to be paid salaries.

The budget of R68 million did cater for vacant posts. Those vacancies would not push the current allocation upwards, as those positions were calculated as part of that allocation. The funding of those positions had already been considered, and any increases would be from normal inflationary adjustments.

The new board had performed a status analysis. They had appointed a valuator and agreed on a process to finalise everything. They had already incorporated the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) in terms of their action plan. They had discussed the plan to request the AGSA’s assistance around September to help them finalise the accounting so that it could audit the finalised project. This would allow them to report back to the Committee around that time instead of waiting for the AGSA’s normal cycle to audit, which would be in May 2023. To close the gap in terms of accountability, the GRAP matter would be finalised in September.

Institutional memory was affected when an institution allowed for a constant movement of its people. This also impacted the people who were working on projects. The agreement with the AGSA was to help close that gap so the audit part would be finalised by September. They would jointly report back to the Committee.

Ms Mabaso responded to questions about whistleblowing. The board had addressed the bullying that was reported, as it was a serious matter. An internal investigation had been conducted by the board, and they had initiated this by soliciting evidence around the bullying. This was unfortunately a very difficult task, but they had eventually concluded the matter with no evidence being found. The whistle-blower could not provide any preliminary evidence to substantiate the allegations. The matter was closed.

Regarding the issue involving Adv Mabaso, he had been suspended immediately after the matter was brought to their attention. Subsequently, an internal investigation was performed where they contacted the mentioned organisation. They could not solicit any evidence, based on the letter of appointment that was provided by that organisation. While trying to conclude the matter, Mabaso resigned. They were aware that a criminal case had been opened against him, and that the matter was being taken care of by the South African Police Service (SAPS). Follow up questions would need to be directed to the police.

The R200 000 bonus had been the first matter that the board had to attend to. They had immediately called an urgent meeting, as they understood how whistle-blower cases could affect the morale of staff members. It was important for the organisation to safeguard itself from a bad reputation. They had investigated the matter and even engaged with the previous chairperson for more information and documentation. They had had a difficult discussion with the CEO to understand his side of the story.

The conclusion they reached was that there was a pre-contractual agreement between the CEO and the previous board. When the CEO was appointed, he was above the NLSA salary grade. Given that he had desirable skills and competencies, the board offered him key performance areas to deliver on within a specific time period and based on those deliverables, it was agreed that he would be paid a bonus. Written evidence of this was provided, and it was examined.

He had delivered on those deliverables, so he was entitled to the bonus he had received. It was a once-off bonus, and would not be given again. This had been to cover what the NLSA could not pay him, based on what he was earning from his previous employer.

As previously indicated, there were vacancies, but they had started to recruit for the critical positions at an executive level. One of these was the recruitment of a CFO, as this was an important position. This post had already been advertised. The other positions would be advertised as soon as they received a final presentation from the organisational design team (ODT) that was relooking at the organisational structure and job descriptions.

There would be a meeting before the end of July where this report would be provided, and based on approval from the board, the CEO would recruit for those positions.

She thanked the Committee and concluded the NLSA responses. They were not at liberty to respond to questions that were the responsibility of their allocated shareholder. The shareholder would respond to those questions.

DSAC's response
Ms Tshikwatamba covered the remaining questions on the DSAC's relationship with the Department of Education and the municipalities regarding the libraries.

They did have a working relationship with the Department of Education, and were in the process of finalising an MOU with them. They also had a working relationship with the provinces that transcended the common areas of their work. They also supported the libraries. Details would be given through Mr Kekana.

On the budget relating to the municipal grant for leases and utilities, the Department was working to find ways to assist its entities. It was not unique to this entity, as there were other entities facing the challenge of keeping up with municipal charges. There was an arrangement to say expenses devolved to the entities, but they complained about not being able to meet the rising costs.

The previous year, they had hoped that savings from Covid-19 would be able to cover that expense from their budget. They realised that they had a shortfall and had to use their funds to supplement it. In 2022/23, there seemed to be an increase in that allocation, because they had had to request an increase in allocations from Treasury to compensate for what they could have extended from other programmes. This was to secure the commitment of payment they had made for this bill, where the full amount was not paid to the municipality.

The NLSA had needed about R17 million to clear off legacy debts, and they were doing their best to allocate more to them. In this financial year, they had allocated R6 million more to assist them with this. These expenses were difficult to budget for, as municipal charges were unpredictable.

Chairperson's closing remarks
The Chairperson thanked Members for engaging with the presentations, and for the presentations being concluded in a timely manner. The Committee required presenters to stick to the allocated time allowed, as failure to do so would show that they did not take the Committee’s time seriously. In such cases, the Committee could refuse to allow them to present.

She appreciated the good work being done by the new organisations and board members. She appreciated the collaboration between the Department and the NLSA on working well together on issues that had been flagged, and how they were handled. They were forthcoming with details, and this was better than them hearing information from the media due to inadequate communication.

She appreciated that the DSAC and the NLSA were working well together. The Department had been provided with enough information to report to the Committee, and this was exemplary behaviour. The Department was performing its oversight responsibilities well.

The Department had been able to report well as they were aware of what was happening in the various organisations they were working with. Information gaps made it difficult for the Committee to provide oversight. Media reports were vocal and tended to make it seem as though the committees were not doing any work, so this presentation was a commendable one.

The meeting was adjourned.




 

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