The Portfolio Committee convened a virtual meeting to receive a briefing from the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) on the organisation’s annual report for 2021/22. The ARC reported that overall there was no particular concern that needed to be red flagged in its audit.
A concern was raised on the credibility of the ARC’s report, as an incident involving the non-delivery of a kitchen trailer had been picked up by the Auditor-General, but was not reflected in the ARC’s report. Members were uncertain whether there were similar issues of concern that the ARC had neglected, but overall they commended the NYDA on its governance and on obtaining its eighth consecutive clean audit.
The management of the NYDA presented a report on its annual performance plan for 2021/22, after which the Committee expressed its reservations on several issues. Most notably, Members felt they could hardly feel its existence on the ground, and were further let down because the newly-appointed board and its members had not fulfilled the promises they had made during the interview process, despite the various programmes, sectors and initiatives that the Agency could tap into to assist the youth in the country. The Committee emphasised that Members wanted to see tangible outcomes, and that promoting the interest of youth should not be treated as a box-ticking exercise in the form of hosting summits. It therefore suggested that the NYDA board develop an assessment tool to assess its members’ performance. It also requested board members to outline the achievements made in the first 100 days since they were appointed and the goals for the organisation they were working on achieving. In addition, the Committee sought more information on the course of action that the NYDA had taken following allegations of corruption and maladministration which an anonymous source had reported.
Among other issues, Members enquired about the filling of vacancies in the organisation, the job experience issue which remained a major obstacle for young job applicants, the effectiveness of the organisation’s non-financial business interventions, the benefits that youths with disabilities received under the organisation’s various programmes, the NYDA's collaboration with universities to expand its reach, progress on the organisation’s communication strategy plan, the disability champion programme, and the performance of the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship Fund.
Members wanted to know why the workshops and communication had cost the organisation such exorbitant amounts, and sought more information on the chief executive officer's R2.7 salary package and the working relationship between the board chairperson and her deputy. They raised concern over the inequitable distribution of resources among the provinces, and urged the NYDA to distribute them more equitably. The Agency's acceptance of an invitation to send a contingent to Russia was also questioned, with a Member suggesting it might be misconstrued in the international community as South Africa’s support for Russia.
Allegations surrounding the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA)
The Chairperson alerted the NYDA that the Committee had received an anonymous letter which contained several allegations against the Agency. She thus requested the CEO of the Agency to provide an update on what the organisation and the board had done to address those allegations. She said that there should be an investigation into the pension fund of the NYDA’s employees because there was an outcry that employees did not get what they expected. She that suspected fishy issues were happening in the organisation. She had also requested the Auditor-General's (AG’s) Office to provide an update on what it had done regarding these allegations.
Ms Asanda Luwaca, Executive Chairperson, NYDA, acknowledged the receipt of the anonymous email alleging the CEO to be involved in corruption, mismanagement of funds, etc. The board had responded to the anonymous sender and thanked the sender for the email. The board had further reassured the sender of the organisation’s commitment to root out corruption and had outlined the various channels to which the sender could report such matters.
She said the organisation had its own fraud prevention and whistleblowing policy and plan. Soon after receiving the letter, the board appointed an independent legal firm to probe into the veracity of those allegations. She could confirm that the investigative work had commenced. Once that process was concluded, the executive authority and the Portfolio Committee would be briefed on the outcome. The latest development was that the first phase of the inquiry had been completed and the team was now embarking on the second phase. The anticipated completion was before the end of November 2022. The Agency would then share the findings with all the Members.
The Committee noted an apology submitted by the Minister due to an invitation from the President in preparation for a state visit.
It also noted the continuous apology from part-time board person, Mr Avela Mjajubana, despite the sufferings that young people had to endure in the country. The Committee refused to take more than one apology from him from now on.
Ms Luwaca indicated that she would engage with her colleague to ensure his attendance on the platform.
Audit and Risk Committee briefing on NYDA annual report
Ms Reabetswe Kungwane, Chairperson: Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), NYDA, outlined the key responsibilities of the ARC in its oversight of the organisation.
The organisation’s audit findings showed its internal control environment, such as leadership, financial and performance management, and governance. The organisation had had no fruitless and wasteful expenditure in 2021/22.
The organisation’s compliance with the broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) requirements was outlined.
Please consult the presentation slides for details.
Ms N Sharif (DA) requested the ARC to provide the Committee with its monthly or annual risk and fraud meeting registers. She wanted to know if there were any red flags regarding the NYDA.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) was surprised that the issue of a beneficiary who had not received a fridge had not appeared in the ARC’s report. He asked the ARC to explain why it was not included, although the AG had red-flagged it.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) noted the improvement in the organisation’s internal control environment, leadership management and governance. However, she wanted the ARC to indicate if there were any other areas of compliance that the organisation needed to improve on.
Ms Kungwane said that the ARC did its risk register quarterly. The main risk identified about the Agency was related to its information communication technology (ICT). Other risk factors included its capacity to meet the demands of the youth -- whether everyone was catered for, etc. Overall, she did not think there was a particular issue that should be of concern.
The organisation also had a whistleblower hotline as a measure where young people could address their various concerns, such as complaints about poor feedback and communication within the Agency.
The ARC was also on track with the organisation to ensure that its insurance asset register was insured adequately to reduce risk.
Ms Kungwane was uncertain of the refrigerator issue which had been picked up in AG’s report, and asked for the Committee’s and the NYDA management’s guidance.
Mr Mphithi clarified that the item the beneficiary did not receive was a kitchen trailer, which was an issue that was picked up by the AG's report. He asked if money had been spent but the actual beneficiary had not received the item, and why the issue was not picked up in the ARC report.
Ms Kungwane explained that AG had identified the issue, but the item was essentially recorded in the incorrect financial year. There had been delivery of that asset.
Mr Waseem Carrim, CEO, NYDA, explained that the issue involved a young person who was invested in developing a business. Usually, in the course of business development, a business person would have to source quotations from suppliers for use in their own businesses. For the NYDA to approve grant disbursements, it needed proof from those suppliers. The reality in most business transactions was that most suppliers wanted money to be paid upfront before supplies were handed over. In this case, the supplier had received the money, but the item was not supplied when the young person went to collect it. When advised of the situation, the NYDA immediately contacted the supplier to try to resolve the issue. Thereafter, a letter of demand was delivered which explicitly stated that if the supplier failed to return the funds to the NYDA, the organisation would head to the small claims court. Mr Carrim assured the Committee that such incidents did not often occur at all. In the current financial year, there were only four instances of such a nature, which accounted for less than 1% of all the grant disbursement cases.
The Chairperson interjected, and indicated that Mr Mphithi’s question had been directed to the chairperson of ARC, and thus should be responded to by Ms Kungwane. She reiterated Mr Mphithi’s question, emphasising that his question was about why the ARC had not picked up the issue.
Ms Kungwane sought clarity on the report to which Committee Members referred -- whether it was an audit opinion report or a management report. She said that the ARC had received only the legal report and in terms of the AG’s report, which the ARC received, the issue under discussion was not included. The ARC would have to explain to the Committee in writing after looking into the issue.
Mr Mphithi remarked if this issue was not picked up in the ARC report, how could Members have confidence in the ARC’s report, and how many other instances like this were happening?
Ms Kungwane appreciated Mr Mphithi’s point, and acknowledged the importance of highlighting all the issues the AG had flagged and reporting them back to the Committee. She indicated that this particular issue needed to be escalated to the NYDA management.
She said the Agency was in the process of aligning its policy with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), though this was not yet completed. Furthermore, it needed to review its leave policy, HR policy, etc.
The Chairperson asked Mr Carrim who in the NYDA was responsible for the trailer incident, and why the young person had not been charged for the trailer.
Mr Carrim did not think it was the young person’s fault, because that person had lost revenue while waiting for a trailer from an alternative supplier. The person responsible for the issue in the area immediately alerted the NYDA of the incident. He explained that the recouping of small amounts would usually go to the small claims court. The organisation was in negotiation with the supplier. The AG agreed with the process that the NYDA follows. The NYDA would also alert the National Treasury to inform the public sector to stop doing business with such suppliers. Of course, the NYDA would want to require more due diligence from suppliers, but it was also a balancing act because of the often cumbersome process that frustrated young people.
NYDA's new board
The Chairperson asked Members their opinions of the organisation’s new board. Her own observation was that the new board did not make any positive contribution on the ground, and she was unsure what it had done since its appointment.
She noted the overseas trip to Russia, but questioned the organisation on the selection criteria that it had used. She recalled that the chairperson of a Standing Committee in Parliament had complained to her about one child from the West Rand who had applied but had never heard back from the NYDA. Because she lacked knowledge of this project, she simply forwarded that complaint to Ms Luwaca and Mr Carrim. The Chairperson was under the impression that some applicants had not heard back from the organisation, not even a response or acknowledgement of applications.
The Chairperson wanted to know the purpose of the Russian trip.
She found it disappointing that despite all the promises those board members had made during their interviews, no promises had been fulfilled. She had not seen anyone from the board appearing in media, so she wanted to know about their activities in the provinces.
She highlighted Port St Johns as an example. In her view, the area had a huge developmental potential for young people in agriculture and tourism, sectors which the NYDA should assist young people to get into.
She remarked that when the NYDA did not have a board, Committee Members could at least feel the issue. However, now that a board had been established, she felt the organisation was experiencing a slow death.
The Chairperson had observed from constituents that the NYDA often attributed its slow service delivery to backlogs. She did not think it fair young people should suffer from the lack of capability in the NYDA's provincial offices. She questioned why Ms Luwaca and Ms Karabo Mohale, the Deputy Chairperson, why were earning so much when young people on the ground were suffering. She asked them to give a list of the projects that they had initiated since they took office. She urged the NYDA board and its management not to "drown the institution."
NYDA Chairperson’s opening remarks
Ms Luwaca assured the Committee that the NYDA was committed to focusing on expanding the organisation’s footprint and being responsive to the needs of young people in the country.
She appreciated the Chairperson’s input, and acknowledged the need for the Agency to increase its visibility on the ground.
Ms Luwaca welcomed the criticism raised by the Chairperson and the Committee about the NYDA not being felt on the ground, and would constructively accept this criticism. She assured Members that going forward, the organisation would be more intentional in delivering on its mandate. She also wanted the organisation’s good work to be seen by everyone in the country.
She assured Members that all due processes had been followed in the selection process for the Russian trip. The NYDA received an invitation from the International Youth Cooperation as the event organiser that hosts the annual Brazil-Russia-India-China-SA (BRICS) youth camp. The purpose of the event was to promote sustainable development among BRICS nations. The organisation had received over 1 000 applications, but was able to select only ten applicants. The selection process was informed by their motivation letters, the geographical spread, gender equity, etc. The NYDA could furnish more details by providing the Committee with the CVs of the successful applicants.
Ms Luwaca indicated that the organisation had sought youth from all sectors, and aimed to create programmes to foster relations and social cohesion building. The organisation prioritised community involvement and collaboration at the centre of youth development. She appreciated the valuable contributions communities had made in responding to some of the challenges youths faced.
Among the organisation’s key activities, the NYDA was part of the pre-SONA dialogue, the Back to School campaign, and was involved in provincial road shows.
NYDA Annual Report 2021/22
Mr Carrim summarised the highlights of the organisation’s annual report.
The Agency achieved 100% of its approved targets for the year under review and received its eighth consecutive clean audit outcome with zero unauthorised, irregular, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure.
See attached documents for details.
The Chairperson interrupted the presenter, and affirmed the Committee’s position that the Committee did not regard summits as outcomes. The role of the NYDA should be to coordinate all stakeholders, including municipalities, and private and public sectors, to highlight and prioritise the issue of youth development and empowerment. She asked whether the NYDA had liaised with the economic clusters so that young people would benefit. The Committee wanted to see tangible results. As the NYDA needed to advocate for young people, Members wanted to see young people benefiting from the programmes it initiates. She questioned what the NYDA had done in assisting young people in establishing small businesses, agriculture, industrialising cannabis, etc. As getting a cannabis licence from the Department of Health (DoH) was a complex process, she asked if the NYDA had assisted young people in that regard.
Mr Walter Bango, Senior Manager: Monitoring and Evaluation, noted the Chairperson’s commentary.
Mr Siyabonga Mbambo, Executive Director: Programme Design, Development and Delivery, explained the market linkage programme to Members.
The Chairperson said the Committee wanted to see the donors’ fund being utilised. The under-spending was unacceptable and meant that there was poor planning. She urged the organisation to improve its spending.
Mr Culita Mhlongo, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), NYDA, noted the Chairperson’s input and guaranteed that the organisation would ensure all funds would be spent in this financial year.
The Chairperson asked about the R500,000 house project in Sedibeng, which was in this financial year.
Mr Mhlongo denied that the Agency had spent those funds on housing in Sedibeng, and said it had managed to clarify the issue of the organisation’s involvement.
The Chairperson enquired about the NYDA’s training for construction and asked if the money was for this financial year. If it is, she wanted to know why the amount was not reflected on the statement.
Mr Carrim explained that training and toolkits were both included under disbursement. The R93 million represented all of the 2 000 grants overseen by the organisation.
The Chairperson noted that the advertising of its vacancies had lasted for almost ten months, and requested the CEO to give a timeframe of when those vacancies would be filled.
Mr Carrim responded that a lot of the vacancies had been filled. In the first two quarters of this financial year, it had already filled 50 positions. There were also another 18 positions that were under the process of recruitment at the moment. The prolonged waiting period could be attributed to the long period of time for verification processes, such as criminal checks, etc. Normally it took the service providers two weeks to report back to the organisation about applicants’ verification outcomes. The last set of 13 vacancies was being referred to business development advisors. Those positions were advertised in September. He hoped that filling all those vacancies would bring the organisation’s vacancy rate closer to 5% in December.
Ms Mafiki Duma, Executive Director: Human Resources and Legal Services, continued to report on the organisation’s human resources performance.
See attached documents for details.
Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) noticed the cost of the Agency's workshops, which amounted to R24.6 million, and asked for details about them. She also wanted to know who the beneficiaries of the workshops were.
She also needed clarity on the costly amount the organisation had spent on communication.
Which official at the NYDA who resigned had been paid R1.895 million?
Ms Hlengwa was worried about the exorbitant salary earned by the CEO, although she understood that it was a procedural matter.
She asked for Mr Carrim’s view on companies and departments that required work experience for jobs. Many youths were qualified but were short on work experience, and were thus unable to apply for jobs.
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked whether the NYDA was able to offer non-financial business development interventions for the beneficiaries of the Sanitary Dignity Programme, and how many youths had been assisted in 2021/22.
She asked about the number of youths with disabilities who had benefited from the NYDA’s non-financial business development interventions in 2021/22.
Ms Masondo wanted the NYDA to indicate the effectiveness of its training workshops and identify the key challenges and lessons learnt during the process. She further wanted to know the experience of those youths that the NYDA trained.
She requested an update on progress with the implementation of the Committee’s recommendation that the Agency should collaborate with universities on training initiatives to assist it in expanding its reach.
Ms N Hlonyana (EFF) shared the Committee’s view that this NYDA was not much felt by the people on the ground. She emphasised that it should be on the ground to assist young people.
The Agency had achieved its performance target on life skill programmes, such as preparing curricula vitae (CVs) to apply for jobs, but she wanted to know how many of those young people on the life skill programme had successfully got real jobs.
She noted the Agency’s involvement in assisting the financial planning for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned or run by young people. Given the key role of financial planning for any business, she wanted to know what financial planning the NYDA provided to help young people set their businesses up and get them running, and to provide a few examples.
Young people today live in a time of WhatsApp and Instagram, and would prefer doing everything online, so she wanted to know how far the programme was before a young person with WhatsApp could make their applications online.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) commended the NYDA for exceeding its set targets on youth-owned enterprises supported through its financial interventions. She requested a more detailed breakdown of the distribution of the grant in terms of sex, provinces, disabilities, and grant allocations to see how youths were being supported.
How many government departments submitted their annual plans in 2021/22 to the Agency, which departments they were, and what was the Agency’s assessment of their annual plans?
What key findings and recommendations emerged from the 2021/22 Status of Youth Report?
When did it plan to host the Integrated Youth Development Summit?
She emphasised that the Agency needed to have a greater alignment with government’s strategic plan on gender-based violence (GBV) and youth in conflict with the law.
Referring to the delegation that had visited Russia, she asked whether any persons with disabilities were on board, and whether the Agency had considered applications from young people in disadvantaged and rural communities.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) commended the NYDA for its eighth consecutive clean audit and achieved 100% of its approved targets for 2021/22. However, those achievements should be equally translated into the actual work being felt on the ground, such as seeing the lives of young people being improved. She was uncertain of the organisation’s visibility among young people and the impact of the organisation’s programmes.
Ms Masiko requested a thorough report on those allegations once the investigative process was concluded, because those allegations severely undermined the credibility of the organisation.
She enquired about the loans written off, as shown in programme one. What measures were put in place and were exhausted before the write off of loans for young entrepreneurs?
She needed more details on the main reasons for the three dismissals and resignations because she felt it raised concern for the organisation’s human resources function. She also wanted to know whether exit interviews were being held with departing employees at the Agency.
She said the Committee commended the NYDA for its consistency in promoting youth with disabilities, so she wanted to know the progress as to how far the Agency had come in achieving the employment equity target on employing persons with disabilities. The Committee would like to see aggregated data on persons with disabilities in the organisation’s future presentations.
Ms Masiko highlighted the importance of youth-owned organisations under Programme 2. She indicated that the Agency must support and monitor those 2 000 youth-owned organisations in townships and rural areas to boost the rural and township economy. She wanted to know whether monitoring and evaluation (M & E) was taking place and at what level it was taking place.
She suggested that Ms Luwaca and Mr Carrim work on some form of integration for the Sanitary Dignity Programme. In Members’ oversight, it had been discovered that although this programme was being mainly used by young people, it had not benefited young people financially. She suggested that the Agency could support young people by tapping into the entire value chain of the programme.
She recognised the importance of training the youth to prepare them for the job market, and commended the Agency’s effort, as its performance exceeded the set targets. She was happy to hear that through this programme, about 50 000 young people had been capacitated with the requisite skills. However, she also wanted to know whether the Agency had conducted a thorough assessment of the effectiveness of this training, identified the challenges they had experienced and articulated the lessons learnt in this process.
Ms Masiko said that the Cabinet had approved the Integrated Youth Development strategies (IYDs). One of the key resolutions was that governmental departments were obliged to submit their annual plans to the NYDA. If fully implemented, the IYDs could promote and advance the interests of youth across all government departments. Given the context, she asked the Agency how many governmental departments had so far submitted their annual plans for 2021/22, which departments still had not submitted, and their reasons. She also wanted to know whether the NYDA had assessed those plans or not.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) asked the Agency how many young persons with disabilities it employed, and whether it had met its set target.
He requested an update on the disability champions in each and every branch of the NYDA throughout the country.
How many young people have benefited from the Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Scholarship Fund?
Mr Mphithi expressed his disapproval that the deputy chairperson had told the Committee that she had nothing to report on. He commented that Ms Mohale had been travelling across the world and wanted to know what she had been doing.
He did not think the opening remark of Ms Luwaca had been very detailed, and was neglecting the NYDA’s activities and strategies to tackle the unemployment issues faced by youth.
He had noticed that there seemed to be some tension between Ms Luwaca and Ms Mohale. The Committee had huge expectations of the NYDA in steering the youth of this country and thus emphasised the importance of cohesion within the board, and teamwork.
Mr Mphithi wanted to know the number of board meetings that had been convened, the attendance of board members and the types of assessment to evaluate the performance of its board members.
He welcomed the investigation, and looked forward to receiving the report in November.
Given the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, he asked the NYDA how it had accepted an invitation from Russia despite the South African government’s foreign policy on the matter. He was concerned whether this acceptance would potentially be misconstrued across the world as the Agency endorsing what was happening between those two countries. He therefore wanted to know how the decision was made, and what considerations had taken place. He indicated that the NYDA must be protected from political inclination at all times.
Mr Mphithi noted Mr Carrim’s brief response on the kitchen trailer issue, but was keen to know how it could be justified for the organisation to claim that it had achieved all its targets when it was not true. This also made him wonder whether there were possibly other incidents of a similar nature that had also been reported as having been achieved, whereas, in reality, they had not been achieved.
He requested an update on the organisation’s communication strategy on how it planned to reach out to more young people in rural areas.
He remarked that one would have expected the organisation to have infiltrated into communities in a more sophisticated way under the leadership of Mr Carrim, given that his remuneration package was R2.7 million, which was higher than a lot of governmental officials. It was therefore disappointing that currently, the NYDA was not making an impact on the ground. Further, the allegations were denting the image of this new board.
Mr Mphithi recalled his high hopes for the NYDA, the passion and zest for change and the many innovative ideas proposed by some board member interviewees during the interviews. Hence, it was very concerning that such promises had not been delivered.
Ms Sharif asked the organisation to provide a report on what each board member was responsible for, what each board member had done since appointment, and what each board member was planning to do when the Agency came to the Committee next time. Having such a list would also make it easier for Members to do their oversight work.
She noted the lack of consistency among the pay scales of board members, and requested more information on that from the Agency.
Ms G Marekwa (ANC) indicated that she was not against Mr Carrim earning R2.7 million. However, she also reminded the organisation that over the years, CEOs across state-owned entities (SOEs) were being paid a lot of money whereas the entities of which they were in charge always ended up not performing and functioning because of the lack of funds. She sincerely hoped that the NYDA would not be one of them.
She noted the aggregated data for males and females in the Agency’s report, but pointed out that the Agency had left out those young people who were non-conforming to a particular gender or sex. She suggested that it would be good for the Agency to include the non-binary category in their day-to-day operations, as this population group was currently being under-represented.
Ms Marekwa noted that there was an unequal distribution of benefits that each province received from the NYDA. She observed that the KZN, Limpopo and Gauteng tended to get more. She thus urged the NYDA to bear the equity issue in mind while providing opportunities to all provinces in a just and equitable manner.
Ms Luwaca reaffirmed that at the board level, board members worked very well together. She assured the Committee that there was a good working relationship and a sense of synergy among all board members, and that she and Ms Mohale worked very well together.
She said that the NYDA was not indifferent to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, because the Agency was an entity under the charge of a governmental department. Naturally, the Agency’s position on the conflict remained the same as that of the government -- that it was deeply concerned with the loss of lives in this humanitarian crisis. The acceptance of the Russian trip came from a point that the Agency wanted to give the South African youth an opportunity to be part of the global community. As South Africa was a member state of BRICS, the Agency had thus accepted the invitation.
Ms Luwaca acknowledged that the delay in sending the Committee the organisation’s communication strategy was an error on the NYDA’s part. However, she updated the Committee that the Agency had held a communication strategy session last week, with several recommendations made on the topic. The organisation would make that report available to the Committee.
Ms Luwaca thanked Ms Sharif for her suggestion. She agreed that the Agency would develop a monitoring tool to assess board members’ performance, and that it would update the Committee in future.
Ms Mohale apologised for her earlier remark that she did not have anything to add from her side. Her comment was concerning the chairperson’s response on the Russia trip, which she had nothing to add to, and not that she did not want to report to the Committee.
She clarified that she herself had not been in Russia, but appreciated Members’ constructive criticisms. She would work with the board to ensure that the Agency’s programmes were impactful in future.
She confirmed that the organisation did have a digital platform for youths to access.
Ms Mohale assured the Committee that the Agency had investment strategies that aimed to attract more investors and partners to assist the Agency in rolling out its grant programmes to reach out to a greater number of young people. She indicated that the key to attracting investment relied on how to translate investors’ confidence into value.
She confirmed that the Agency was working in partnership with agri-SETA to help young people get into the cannabis farming sector.
She said that the Agency had just finalised an MoU with the Premier’s Office in Mpumalanga, stating that 40% of its procurement should be given to young people. Further, the finalisation of MoU between the Agency and the Premier’s Office in Limpopo was underway. The Premier in Limpopo suggested setting up a premier Youth Fund to help fund young entrepreneurs to start their businesses. The key to success in this was to figure out how the Agency could help young people to achieve the 40%.
Ms Mohale explained that in her official capacity, she had taken part in only two international trips. One trip was to Spain. The Deputy Minister of International Relations had led the trip, and her presence there was to promote trading investment that would be set aside for young people. There was appetite for investment for young people, but they did not have access to market. The second trip she undertook was to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) delegation for the industrialisation week. The purpose of that visit was the same as the first one.
Mr Thulisa Ndlela, Board Member, NYDA, said that the Agency did its best to advertise its work, but conceded that Members may not feel the presence of the Agency on the ground because of the lack of communication. As an agency, it initiated and did a lot of good work for young people to the extent that the resource was unable to meet the demand of the appetite of young people for those programmes. Given the limited resource, the Agency now realised that forging external partnerships and setting up external programmes could be a strategy to assist the Agency’s work and expand its reach and coverage. For instance, the partnership with the Agri-SETA was one such example that the Agency was exploring, conducting pilot level industrialisation of cannabis in the Eastern Cape. If the project was to be done by the NYDA alone, it would take much longer because of its limited budget.
The organisation’s stance was that it wanted young people in rural areas to have access to the NYDA. Although the Agency wanted to be in every municipality in the country, the budget constraint meant it could not do that. As an alternative, it introduced things like chatterbox to allow young people to have direct contact with the NYDA via WhatsApp.
Mr Ndlela concurred with Ms Luwaca’s point of the good working relationship amongst board members. He emphasised that they were seven hard-working, differently-abled, different-skilled young people. Although he had not met some of the other colleagues and could not say that they were friends on a personal level, he wanted to assure the Committee that they were professional colleagues and they were there to support one another. The team worked well together and never had any difficult issues they could not confront. Though there were uncomfortable discussions, they always managed to keep them professional and strived their best to move the NYDA forward.
Mr Avela Mjajubana, NYDA board member, agreed with Ms Sharif’s suggestion that the board develop a plan on how board members should be assessed and accounted for their work.
Mr Mjajubana emphasised that the strategy session the board held last week aimed at improving the reach of the NYDA projects. Particularly in the Eastern Cape, the Agency worked with youth organisations to tackle unemployment. It was negotiating with the Eastern Cape Premier's Office to set up a youth fund. The NYDA would play a critical oversight role to ensure that the fund transfers resources to empower young people. It was also working with technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges to do curriculum review. He highlighted the importance of partnering with youth organisations and other institutions to assist the youth in the country.
The Chairperson suggested that the Agency should look into bringing the youth issue into discussion with the Offices of all the Premiers in all provinces. She requested an update on the negotiation process with the Eastern Cape Premier.
Ms Alexandria Procter, NYDA board member, reiterated that the organisation’s position on Russia was strictly in alignment with government’s position.
She understood the impact of the organisation’s work and indicated that any change the Agency made would have a rippling effect on the South African youth.
She commented that the organisation seemed to be dictated by the ministry to do its bidding on certain occasions.
The Chairperson noted that remark and said that she would be interested to know what the ministry wanted the NYDA to do. As long as the Department’s instructions did not take the organisation out of its APP and strategic plans, the Committee would not have a problem with that, but it also would not want to see the ministry try to push things that the NYDA should do.
The Chairperson asked board members to reflect on their achievements in the first 100 days since they took office, except going to Russia.
The Chairperson then invited the CEO to respond to the remaining questions.
Mr Carrim was aware of the wider conversation about the public sector wage, particularly about the complaints about it being too high. The NYDA was not spared from that conversation either. At some point in its history, its wage bill accounted for nearly 50% of its revenue. National Treasury then instructed the Agency to reduce its wage bill to 35%. As a result, the organisation had reduced its senior management staff from 11 people, including ten executive managers, to only five, including four executive managers and himself as the CEO. Five people were now doing the work that used to be performed by 11 people. During COVID time, the organisation engaged in further cost-reducing measures. The organisation’s salary bill now accounted for 20% of its total revenue, making it one of the lowest in the public sector.
He said the CEO’s remuneration was determined by an independent system, and was approved by a board of directors. When he joined the NYDA eight and a half years ago, the organisation had zero clean audits with revenue of R400 million. Now it had in excess of R1billion. Eight and a half years ago, only two people outside the governmental sphere contributed to the organisation, and today there were more than 20. This achievement was due to the collaborative work of the board and management. Should the Committee be uneasy with his remuneration, he would be happy to take a cut in remuneration. After all, he did not take the job to be paid well; he simply wanted to contribute to the public service.
The Chairperson assured the CEO that it was not the Committee’s intention to disparage him for his remuneration package.
Mr Carrim said the organisation’s stance was that it would advocate that young people must be accommodated. Many workplaces required experience before youth applicants could get a job, so the Agency provided entry-level courses in the country to enable young graduates to get the relevant experience they needed. This initiative had seen success, as many of the NYDA graduates from those programmes would enter the private sector in most cases.
He referred Members to the presentation on market linkages to understand more about the Agency’s collaboration with universities.
The Chairperson alerted the Agency to pay attention to the underpayment and exploitative nature of internships for young graduates. She felt it unfair that a young person who had studied at a university should be paid only R3 500 for an internship.
Mr Carrim acknowledged that this issue indeed required the Agency’s attention, as the cost of living had increased dramatically.
He said the money the NYDA had spent on catering was entirely for young people who had attended the training workshops that it organised. Leaving young people starving after those training workshops would not be fair. If the Committee took the amount of the fund spent on catering and divided it by the 60 000 young people that had attended those workshops, the figure would be R80 per day per young person for catering.
The NYDA had spent only R11 million on communications out of the R19 million budget. The associated cost included the special arrangements for those with sight impairment that required printing of training manuals, the printing and replacement of banners every two to three years at its centres when it did its outreach-related work, free Wi-Fi that the Agency provided to every municipality once a year, updating the Agency’s website once a year, media monitoring reports, support for community-based and national based media, signage after relocation, branding at least 2 000 beneficiary sites, mobile outreach vehicles, the printing of brochures, pre-SONA youth events, young people’s deliberation on the budget, etc.
The organisation taught and showcased financial planning skills to young people and taught them how to take care of the finances of their businesses.
Mr Carrim said the NYDA was a digital organisation with various online methods for young people to access its information, register, and open a profile.
He pointed out that although the country was seeing improvement in basic education and skills development, the regression of the economy had stalled the progress of youth development, which the State of Youth Report astutely pointed out.
He asked for inputs from the Committee for the direction of the Integrated Youth Development Strategy (IYDS). He believed that since the summit was related to youth as a key stakeholder, it was vital to consult with youth organisations. Amongst young people, there was a feeling in the country that political work and advocacy were only talks, and that there were no real actions that aimed at improving the lives of young people, which they were tired of. The organisation’s position was that it was weighing the options -- whether those summits were still useful, or if the money rather be diverted and spent on other more outcome-productive issues such as jobs, youth service programmes, etc.
On youth in conflict with the law, Mr Carrim said the NYDA was in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services to work with 5 000 young people through youth services to understand why they were in conflict with the law and to upskill them, to ensure that they would have economic opportunities when they were released from prison. On GBV, the organisation was collaborating with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) and the National Council in the Presidency to address the issue. The NYDA was also part of the Presidential Summit due to take place in November. He added that the 5 000 young people had a majority female representation.
He said the loans on the organisation’s book were legacy loans, because they had already shifted to the disbursement of grants. It was of the view that if it could not collect those legacy loans, it would make more sense to write them off because it did not make sense to spend more time and resources trying to collect them.
The organisation was committed to hiring more young people at all levels in the organisation. However, he also made it clear that the organisation must not be a permanent employment place for young people. Young people must come and go when their employment contracts ended so they could make space for a new generation of young people.
He confirmed that an independent outside provider was assessing the grant programmes in the organisation. This would be the fifth year of this type of assessment. The organisation would share the assessment outcome with the Committee, and had taken the recommendations seriously.
Mr Carrim indicated that there were 106 students enrolled in the Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu Scholarship Fund, of which 50 had graduated at the end of 2021.
The NYDA board was still determining its communication strategy and would present it to the Committee at its next appearance.
He disagreed with the Auditor-General's audit method, particularly on the issue related to the young person who did not receive a kitchen trailer. He explained that the whole auditing process began with the Agency developing a performance plan which the Committee oversaw quarterly. The Agency’s internal monitoring and evaluation team then assesses the organisation’s performance and whether the M&E has been done correctly or not. The AG did not give a clean audit if there was a discrepancy between the number of targets that had been reported and the number of targets the Agency counted. In his understanding, it was the NYDA’s responsibility to replace the kitchen trailer and ensure its delivery for the young person affected, since the non-receipt of the item was not the young person’s fault. Secondly, the NYDA followed due process, as its officer immediately alerted the organisation of the non-delivery from the supplier. The organisation then requested the supplier to return the money to the NYDA. He assured the Committee that it was in the process of recovering that money. Had it not been recovered, the AG would have picked it up and flagged it in its audit report. There were similar incidents across the 2 000 grants that the organisation oversaw. It was applying due diligence measures to prevent events of such a nature from happening in future.
Mr Bango said there were departments that had already submitted their annual plans concerning the Integrated Youth Development Strategy, and given the very recent approval of the plan by Cabinet only in June, he considered the progress a very positive response. The Agency had also written to the Offices of the Premiers and governmental DGs to inform them of the approval, the meaning of the approval and the subsequent expectations of them as government departments. So far, the provincial Cabinet of the KZN was the only province that had submitted its plan, but the progress looked promising, as other provinces followed suit and had started working on this project. During the process, the main challenge identified was that many governmental departments did not understand what the IYDS entailed. He recalled that Mr Carrim had to personally go to some provinces to conduct workshops to explain to those stakeholders how to develop the plan. Mr Bango provided a timeframe indicating that all departments would have finalised and submitted their plans to the Agency before the end of this financial year.
The organisation had established a steering committee to create disability champions. It had been agreed that every senior manager from a division would become a champion and serve on the committee to interrogate the issues brought to their attention. However, the difficulty in implementing this project was the lack of resources to train and capacitate them to engage effectively with the disability sector. The organisation had asked its HR division to assist, and said it was taking a bold step with the disability champion programme.
Ms Duma said the target was that by 2023 there would be eight persons with disabilities in the organisation. It currently had four people with disabilities, so the organisation had met 50% of its target. Regarding skills levels, one was skilled and the others were semi-skilled.
There had been three dismissals in the organisation. Two were due to employees’ abscondment, and the other was due to negligence, where the former employee had damaged a company car over a weekend. The organisation conducted interviews with all the departed employees. Their resignations were always to take advantage of better opportunities and better salaries.
Ms Duma clarified that the CEO’s annual remuneration of R2.7 million was not the total cost to the company. That figure included variable pay, such as a performance bonus, and other allowances, such as travel and cellphone.
The Chairperson remarked that Members understood that people often mistakenly believed that MPs got paid very well, but they forgot the fact that their remuneration package also included travelling, constituency, telephone and cell phone expenses. It was not the intention of the Committee to disparage the CEO for his salary, as if it was a crime. It was the first time Members had heard about his salary, which was why they wanted to learn more about it.
The Chairperson returned to the question of what each board member had done in the first 100 days since their appointments and requested responses.
Ms Luwaca summarised what she and her board team had managed to achieve:
1) The targets that had been set in its APP for 2021/22, including the strategic targets on youth entrepreneurship;
2) Supporting the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to reach as many young people as possible in the intake for the 2022 academic year;
3) Re-vitalised the National Youth Service and took in 35 000 youths by March 2021 on a paid youth service programme;
4) Having lobbied for the continuation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention and Stimulus;
5) Presented findings from the IYDS report;
6) Established high-level inter-partnerships;
7) Fulfilled commitments that were vested by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) in a community works programme in Mpumalanga
Ms Luwaca indicated that generally, the board would have achieved most targets, but some targets were a continuous process, and she welcomed the Committee to continuously monitor their progress.
Dr Bernice Hlagala, Chief Director: Youth Development, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), applauded the NYDA for its presentation and achievements, particularly on its eighth consecutive clean audit, which showed the good governance at the Agency.
Referring to youth employment, she indicated that the Department was partnering with the Department of Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation (DPME) to conduct an evaluation study of the Youth Employment Initiative to assess the effectiveness of the programmes initiated by the NYDA. Although there had been a slight delay due to an error in the tender process, the DPME had issued a tender again and the study would commence very soon.
Dr Hlagala explained the difficulty in obtaining annual reports from the different government departments for the IYDS, and said the Department would support the NYDA in this process. Since the DPME was mandated to do all the M&E work across governmental sphere, it would include the NYDA in the team as well.
She assured the Committee that the NYDA was working with the Department on the Sanitary Dignity Programme, and would ensure that collaboration on the project was intensified.
The Department had had its initial meeting with the African Development Bank and had also written to the NYDA to attract more young people to be involved in the agricultural sector.
Dr Hlagala acknowledged the need to ensure uniformity in the stipends paid to young people. She also recognised the need to conduct a rapid assessment of all the programmes to ensure that the public service was not exploiting young people.
The Chairperson requested that the reports be sent to the Committee as soon as possible so that Members could be briefed on those topics in which they had a keen interest. The NYDA was not doing badly at all, but Members needed to feel its presence on the ground, and hoped there would be more improvement.
The meeting was adjourned.
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