The Select Committee on Health and Social Services met for the first time with the newly-appointed National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) board. It was briefed in a virtual meeting on the Agency's 2022/23 annual performance plan (APP) and five-year strategic plan.
The Chairperson expressed the Committee's excitement at finally meeting the NYDA board, nine months after its appointment in November last year. The Committee had undergone a thorough process to deliver the board, as had been requested by the President. During this process, short-listed candidates were subjected to two interviews in Parliament, following which a list of preferred nominees was sent to the President for his endorsement.
The NYDA board outlined some of its goals for this financial year. These included placing 10 000 young people in jobs; increasing the number of young people capacitated with skills to enter the job market from 50 000 in the previous financial year, to 75 000 this year; providing mentorship to 2 000 youth-owned enterprises; and allocating an average amount of R40 000 of the R80 million budget allocated for grants to 2 000 youth-owned enterprises, which it hoped would create 6 200 jobs. The board admitted that it was currently financially strained, with its budget decreasing from R974.5 million in the 2021/22 financial year, to R757.1 million this financial year (a 22% decline), but it was confident that it would be able to achieve its outlined targets.
Members were told that due to the high rate of suicide amongst the youth, the prioritisation of mental health amongst the youth had become one of the board's legacy programmes. Part of its planned interventions included entering into memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with provinces, to ensure the operationalisation of interventions it believed would be effective; and working with provincial and local government institutions that were already tasked with dealing with this matter.
The Committee raised its concerns regarding the high dropout rate of children in schools, particularly girls, in the country's poorer areas. Sharing the Committee's concerns, the board highlighted that it had worked with the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) to make sure that during outreach visits, community members were encouraged to work together in their efforts to keep children at school.
In her closing remarks, the Committee Chairperson said Members looked forward to further interacting with the Board, and collaborating with it to reduce the high levels of youth unemployment – and other challenges – in the country.
The Chairperson said the Committee would be briefed by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on its 2022/23 annual performance plan (APP) and five-year strategic plan. It would then deliberate and discuss the information with the Agency's board.
Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) moved the adoption of the agenda.
Ms M Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) seconded the adoption.
Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed Members, the NYDA board, parliamentary staff and delegates from the Minister's Office. She said that the Committee had undergone a thorough process to deliver the NYDA board, as had been requested by the President. During this process, short-listed candidates had had two interviews in Parliament, following which a list of preferred nominees had been sent to the President by the Committee for endorsement, which he later did. As such, the new board was adopted and established.
She expressed the Committee's excitement to meet with the board for the first time, and said that the briefing by the board would assist Members in understanding the challenges it had faced thus far and the milestones it had achieved.
With the multiple challenges faced by the youth in the country, she wished the board, under the leadership of Ms Asanda Luwaca, well in their endeavours, and requested that it work hand-in-hand with the Committee in tackling these issues. In addition, she informed the board that Members would not be afraid to hold them to account at all times.
She asked if the Committee had received any apologies.
The Committee Secretary said the Committee had received apologies from both the Minister of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities (DWYPD) and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NYDA. The Committee accepted the apologies received.
NYDA annual performance plan and five-year strategic plan
The Chairperson asked Ms Luwaca, Executive Chairperson of the NYDA, to brief the Committee on its annual performance and five-year strategic plans.
Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) asked that Ms Luwaca switches on her video camera when speaking, as it was the first time the Committee had interacted with the board.
The Chairperson agreed, and asked the Members, the NYDA board and the officials from the Department to introduce themselves.
Mr Jack Matlala, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, DWYPD, said the Department was pleased with the choice of Ms Luwaca as chairperson of the NYDA board, and believed the organisation was in capable hands.
Ms Luwaca thanked the Committee for allowing the NYDA board the opportunity to present its 2022/23 APP and five-year strategic plan, and hoped that both would have a fruitful engagement. She highlighted that the board and the Committee were meeting against the backdrop of Women's Month, which had been celebrated under the theme of: "The Women's rights and empowerment: building back better for women's improved resilience." In line with this, she called for society at large to be at the forefront of dismantling the patriarchal culture in the country.
As an agency, the NYDA was responsible for contributing to the realisation of young women's socio-economic rights and empowerment. The NYDA had been established to be a single unitary structure, promoting youth development across the government. This understanding primarily informed the mission and the values of the newly appointed directors.
She said the NYDA's work and yearly trajectory were informed, in the main, by the prerogatives outlined in the annual State of the Nation Address (SoNA), and the Budget Speech, which provided the necessary resources for the Agency's programmes. Both these instruments placed quite a substantial focus on youth development, something that had not been seen in the country's young democratic dispensation, and which the Agency celebrated.
Young people were concerned by the rise in the triple challenges they currently faced -- unemployment, poverty and inequality -- all of which had been compounded by the negative effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns. However, despite all these challenges, under the slogan "Nothing about us, without us", the Board was committed to ensuring that it worked tirelessly to change the circumstances of the youth. The Agency believed that it should be positioned as the sole mechanism to mainstream youth development in all spheres of government.
Ms Luwaca said the NYDA looked to hit the ground running, to ensure it achieved all of the priorities it had set out. However, it felt that these could not be achieved without collectively working with bodies like the Committee. In addition, the board planned to build on the foundation of its predecessor's achievements.
She was pleased to announce that the NYDA had achieved its eighth consecutive clean audit during the 2021/22 financial year. This was a clear indication that when provided with the instruments, young people were capable of ensuring good governance and sound financial management.
APP and strategic plan
The Committee was briefed by Ms Khuthadzo Mbedzi, Chief Financial Officer (CFO); Mr Walter Bango, Senior Manager: Monitoring and Evaluation, Ms Palesa Notsi, Executive Director: ICT and Communications; Ms Mafiki Duma, Executive Director: Human Resources and Legal Services; and Mr Siyabonga Mbambo, Executive Director: Operations.
Ms Mbedzi highlighted some of the NYDA's targets for this financial year:
- Reduce the vacancy rate number to less than 5%;
- Target at least 2 000 enterprises per year over the medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF);
- Improve customer service; and
- Introduce online training for entrepreneurs, as well as job training.
She said the NYDA's five-year strategic plan was anchored on government's long-term plan, and it should align to government-wide priorities. For this financial year, the Agency had three programmes: Administration; Programme Design, Development and Delivery; and Integrated Youth Development.
Programme 1: Administration
Mr Bango said the outcome of this programme was to have an efficient and effective Agency characterised by good corporate governance and ethical leadership. Some of the output indicators included producing four NYDA quarterly management reports; increasing the value of funds sourced from the public and private sectors to support youth development programmes, from R70 million in the previous year, to R150 million this financial year; and maintaining the number of Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) partnerships at six for this financial year.
Programme 2: Operations
Mr Bango said that in this programme, the NYDA had two outcomes:
- to increase access to socio-economic opportunities, viable business opportunities and support for young people to participate in the economy; and
- to increase the number of young people trained to enter the job market.
Some of the output indicators included placing 10 000 young people in jobs for this financial year; increasing the number of young people capacitated with skills to enter the job market, from 50 000 in the previous financial year, to 75 000 this year; providing mentorship to 2 000 youth-owned enterprises; and to allocate an average amount of R40 000 of the R80 million budget allocated for grants, to 2 000 youth-owned enterprises, which it hoped would create 6 200 jobs.
Programme 3: Integrated Youth Development
Mr Bango said the outcome of this programme was to produce research reports which influenced change in the youth sector and built sustainable relationships. Some of the output indicators included increasing the number of youth status outlook reports from two, in the previous financial year, to three for this year; producing an annual report on the integrated youth development strategy; and increasing the number of impact programme evaluations conducted from two, in the previous financial year, to four this year.
Ms Duma then explained that the NYDA had advertised 66 vacant posts, given the increased budget and funding from the Public Sector SETA. Of these 66 posts, 49 were two-year internships which would allow them to fill all entry-level posts in the Agency, and 17 were permanent posts.
Mr Mbambo, taking the Members through the NYDA's budget methodology, said that the Agency's revenue was derived from four sources -- annual transfers from National Treasury, special projects, donor-funded programmes and finance income. The budget preparation process followed a zero-based budgeting process, using the APP as a guideline to ensure that annual targets were funded.
Ms Mbedzi outlined the NYDA's revenue budget:
- The budget received from the DWYPD, which was in the form of a grant, had increased from R470.96 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R481.25 million for this financial year, representing a 2% increase;
- Donor-funded income had increased from R65.8 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R69 million for this financial year, representing a 5% increase;
- However, the Presidential Youth Employment Fund income had decreased from R431 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R200 million this financial year, representing a 53% decline;
- In total, the budget had decreased from R974.5 million in 2021/22, to R757.1 million this financial year, representing a 22% decline.
She also highlighted examples of the budget expenditure for each programme:
- For administration, expenditure would increase from R77.8 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R86.2 million in 2022/23, representing an 11% increase;
- For economic participation, expenditure would decline from R212.3 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R185.87 million in 2022/23, representing a 12% decline;
- For the National Youth Service (NYS), expenditure would decline from R423.79 million in the 2021/22 adjusted budget, to R205 million in 2022/23, representing a 52% decline; and
- R31.38 million would be allocated towards office accommodation rentals for regional NYDA offices and the national office.
Ms Notsi, referring to the NYDA's marketing and communications strategy, said the Agency planned to utilise a mixed strategy of traditional and social media to reach young people and indicate the opportunities available to them. Furthermore, it looked to continue the digitisation of its platform through the National Pathway Management Network, SAYouth.Mobi, the NYDA ERP System and the Mpowa App.
Mr Bara said that while the presentation was long, the information provided was important. He asked the extent to which the NYDA provided support to young people in both urban and rural areas, and whether the NYDA monitored and evaluated its interventions. If so, could it provide an evaluation report?
Referring to the Deputy Minister of Health's emphasis on treating mental health as a priority, he asked if there had been any interaction between the board and the Department of Health (DoH) to resolve matters related to mental health.
He asked the Agency to elaborate on how the board had worked thus far with civil society to ensure sufficient support and synergy in improving the lives of young people.
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) agreed that the presentation provided the Committee with relevant information to think about. Following this, she wished the board luck in carrying out its duties.
She asked what youth programmes the NYDA had to address the dropout of schoolgoers, particularly girls, in the country's poorer areas. Having raised her concern regarding the high poverty and unemployment amongst the youth, she wanted to know what programmes the NYDA had to address drug abuse, specifically in schools. If such programmes were in place, at which schools and provinces were they being implemented?
What programmes did it have in place, in collaboration with the DoH, to raise awareness of teenage pregnancy and assist them in remaining in school after giving birth?
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KZN) asked what programmes the NYDA had to raise awareness of its products and services to young rural people, as many were unaware of them.
Mr I Ntsube (ANC, Free State) asked when the NYDA planned to fill the 66 vacant positions that had been advertised, as more often than not, the lack of human capacity had led to the failure of government institutions in the country. Why had it advertised 66 posts, whereas the presentation indicated that it had 85 vacancies?
Referring to the NYDA's decision to rent office space, he asked why the Agency could not request that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) assist it with building an office, instead of spending R31 million on office space rental. Building an office would allow the NYDA to utilise the R31 million on other programmes to assist the youth. He wished the NYDA well in its journey to assist the youth in the country.
The Chairperson asked the board to explain the processes for unemployed youth to apply for the job vacancies recently advertised by the Department of Home Affairs, which she described as a good initiative.
How had the NYDA worked with community-based organisations currently engaged in youth upliftment programmes? She indicated that partnering with such organisations would bring the NYDA's services directly to the youth.
Ms Luwaca said she would respond to some of the questions posed, and board members would answer the remaining ones.
Regarding the question on the NYDA's strategy to target youths residing in the rural areas, she said that the Agency had developed a strategy to target them, which would ensure that its products and services were made accessible to them. Some of the interventions included the use of mobile offices and outreach vehicles for outreach programmes in various provinces in the country; stakeholder engagements with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector, to gain their assistance in reaching out to rural communities; the translation of information into some of the official languages; a toll-free number for young people to access officials; and collaboration with community-based organisations in rural areas.
Ms Karabo Mohale, Deputy Chairperson of the NYDA, confirmed that the NYDA did have monitoring and evaluation (M&E) reports available, which could be provided to Members. These reports assisted the Agency in shaping its programmes to have maximum impact, and to identify and understand any gaps in the programmes, so that it could make improvements in the areas the youth had mentioned it was lacking in – one of which was poor communication. All things considered, the outcomes from the M&E reports were of great assistance to the NYDA.
On the question relating to mental health, she said that due to the high rate of suicide amongst the youth, the prioritisation of mental health amongst the youth was one of the board's legacy programmes. Some of the planned interventions included entering into memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with provinces, to ensure the operationalisation of interventions it believed would be effective; working with provincial and local government institutions that were already tasked with dealing with this matter; and continuing to work with the DoH.
She said the NYDA had engaged young girls on issues such as teenage pregnancy during its 'Back to School' campaigns. Through this experience, the NYDA noted that statutory rape had been sanitised in society, and it was a matter that needed to be dealt with. To do so, the Agency involved the police, as it had noted that some teachers were scared of the consequences of reporting their colleagues, so they required protection. It had also engaged provincial departments and municipalities, with the assistance of the DoH, to create sustainable and ongoing programmes. She called for all stakeholders to come together to tackle these issues.
Ms Pearl Pillay, a member of the NYDA board, indicated that the board had been engaged on the issue of mental health and was in the process of drafting a project plan to launch a mental health project through the Agency as part of a board legacy project, which would form part of the National Youth Service (NYS). The programme was aimed at the three provinces that research had shown to have the highest rates of suicide in the country.
Given the impact of the Covid pandemic, the lack of capacity to intervene, and the lack of capacity in current mental organisations and initiatives, the Agency had decided to make an intervention in some capacity. The NYS team, which had engaged Lifeline, the DoH and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), would table a proposal to the board at the next meeting. She added that the proposal would include input from SADAG and the DoH on the mental health interventions, their successes, the gaps, and the areas where the Agency could fill in.
Regarding the question on the NYDA's collaboration with civil society, she said that the Agency had partnered with civic organisations, through the NYS, to place young people into work opportunities in these organisations. The NYS also hosted training and capacity-building programmes for smaller civic organisations, to enable their capacity to grow and benefit from other NYDA programmes. At this point, the Board was in discussions with the board and team at the NYS on establishing a fund that would assist young people who wanted to set up new community-based programmes and NGOs, to be able to do so, as one of the criticisms the NYDA had faced was that it was too focused on entrepreneurship and not civic organisations.
Considering that criticism, she stressed that the NYDA was engaged in a process to build, fund and upskill civic organisations to create a wider environment for collaboration, which would also address the problem of civil society organisations working in silos. She added that in the NYS, larger civic organisations collaborated with smaller organisations.
Ms Lebogang Mulaisi, a member of the NYDA board, referred to the filling of vacancies, and said that the board was committed to filling the critical vacancies in the Agency. Progress had been made with appointing a capable chief financial officer (CFO) and chair of the disciplinary committee – while a process was underway to appoint a company secretary. The board had noted the 20% vacancy rate as a concern and decided to reduce it to well below this number through various advertisements. This would ensure that the organisation was run properly and was able to deliver services as efficiently as possible.
However, with the current public sector wage dispute, the Agency had had to consider how many vacancies it could afford to fill. Nonetheless, she applauded management for its approach to hiring interns and employees on fixed-term contracts, ensuring that the Agency had the requisite personnel in place. A number of vacancies will be filled in the coming months.
Mr Thulisa Ndlela, a member of the NYDA board, referred to the question related to the high dropout rate in schools, and indicated that the NYDA had worked with the DWYPD to make sure that during outreach visits, community members were encouraged to work together in their efforts to keep children at school.
Regarding the extent to which the NYDA provided support to youths living in rural areas, he said that the Agency had an online system for people to access their services. For those with poor connectivity, kiosks had been made available. Due to their presence in all parts of the country, the NYDA was working with local and district municipalities to accomplish these initiatives. While progress had been made, the board noted that more work needed to be done to provide services to the remote areas, particularly as its success was ensuring young people used its services.
Ms Mbedzi, referring to the question on the NYDA's vacancy rate, said that the figures provided in the presentation related to 1 April 2022. Since then, there have been significant changes, but management is currently awaiting approval from National Treasury and the board. She assured Members that when the board and the Committee next met, the NYDA would have a better outcome for its vacancy rate.
Regarding the suggestion that the NYDA should consider requesting the DPWI to assist it in building an office, she said management had considered this option, but it had not received any opportunities from the Department. The NYDA did work with municipalities where they had placed their branches to occupy buildings where it did not have to pay rent. Out of 40 branches, it did not pay rent for 17 of them. However, some municipalities did not provide these rent-free buildings and where they did, they did not meet occupational health and safety standards.
The position of the buildings chosen by the NYDA to occupy, was crucial for ensuring accessibility for clients. Due to its financial constraints, the board believed that this model was better suited, as it enabled the Agency to make savings that it could use to provide services to the youth.
The Chairperson thanked the Members and officials at the meeting for what she described as a "progressive engagement." The Committee looked forward to further interacting with the board and collaborating with it to reduce the high levels of youth unemployment – and other challenges – in the country. However, she reminded them that the Committee would continue to hold them to account. Nonetheless, she was pleased with the improvement shown by the NYDA and, on behalf of the Committee, wished them well in their endeavours. She also encouraged Members to contact board members based in their respective provinces.
Adoption of Committee minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of its meeting on 2 August.
The meeting was adjourned.
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