Video (Part 1)
Video (Part 2)
The Department of Basic Education (DBE), Umalusi, and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) briefed the Portfolio Committee in a virtual meeting on their annual reports for the 2021/22 year in preparation for the budgetary review and recommendations reports.
The DBE reported that it had achieved an unqualified audit opinion with no matters of emphasis. It presented their service delivery environment and programme performance, as well as their financial year expenditure and audit matters. It reported on fruitless and wasteful expenditure that was still being recovered and investigated. The Department also described improvements in their service delivery and the performance of their programmes.
Umalusi reported obtaining its third unqualified audit opinion, with no material findings. This has been possible due to the improvements in its systems and controls. It had generated revenue below its target due to the uncertainty of demand for verification and certification. COVID-19 had affected some of Umalusi’s staff, but implementing the annual performance plan had not been disrupted.
SACE reported that they received an unqualified audit report, with some misstatements. There has been an increase in the number of sexual misconduct incidents at schools. There had been an 81.25% decrease in their surplus from the previous reporting year, but they had achieved most of their targets. They produced efficient and effective governance, improved teacher competence, and maintained ethical standards. SACE also raised concern over a possible shortage of teachers in the future.
Members questioned the DBE about the strength of their internal audit processes and their consequence management. They were also concerned about non-compliance issues by the provincial departments, irregular and wasteful expenditure, and monitoring the provinces’ finances. They asked for concrete plans on how the Department planned to strengthen compliance and consequence management, improve early childhood development (ECD), and improve monitoring.
Umalusi was commended for the good work they were doing. Members felt that a statement congratulating Umalusi on their outstanding audit performance should be issued. They were also impressed by Umalusi’s good governance, and asked about the possible heights Umalusi could reach with more funding.
Members questioned the professionalism of the teachers registered by SACE, seeing that there were challenges involved in data collection. They also raised concern about whether SACE was doing enough to increase the competence of teachers. They did not agree with the assertion by SACE of a possible future shortage of teachers.
Members generally wanted to see a change in how all the entities measured their impact
The Department expressed appreciation for the strong level of accountability and oversight played by the Committee. It gave an assurance that more impact would be seen now that it had more professionals and more resources. SACE said that its funds were being spent where they needed to be spent.
Dr Reginah Mhaule, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, said the Department's annual report was coming after the Portfolio Committee had received presentations from the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA), the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), and the audit committee of the Department of Basic Education (DBE). The Department could not achieve 100% of its targets due to challenges beyond its control, but had been able to achieve 81%. This was bad, because it had planned to achieve the other targets that were missed. Sometimes they aimed to achieve things, only to find that the material conditions did not allow them to do so.
Mr Hubert Mweli, Director-General (DG), DBE, said that the Department had listened to the AGSA and FFC, and the Members’ questions about those presentations. That information had been added to the presentation, which made it different from previous reports presented by the Department.
Parts A and B would be dealt with by Ms Carol Lucas Deliwe, Chief Director: Strategic Planning, Research, Monitoring and Evaluation. Part C would be dealt with by Ms Ntsetsa Molelekoa, Acting Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
DBE's Annual Performance Plan 2021/22
The DBE achieved 81% of targets for the year with 13% partially achieved targets.
The DBE said that the indicators that were not achieved were in Programme Two (curriculum policy, support and monitoring), and Programme Four (planning, information and assessment).
The highlights in the service delivery environment and context included:
- The overall pass rate for 2021 was 76.4%, an improvement of 0.2% from 2020.
- 65 373 740 Grades R to 9 Volume 1 and 2 workbooks were printed and delivered to 22 975 public schools.
- 76% of Funza Lushaka graduates eligible for placement were placed in schools against the annual target of 84%.
- 34 schools were monitored against the 2021/22 annual performance plan (APP) target of monitoring and supporting 120 schools.
It was pointed out that the GEC indicator had been incorrectly worded, resulting in the interpretation of it being fully implemented, instead of just the GEC pilot programme.
The DBE reported on irregular expenditure and possible irregular expenditure. R10.1 million in irregular expenditure on the Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign had been uncovered. Subsequently, R5.9 million had been recovered from the volunteers, leaving a balance of R42 million still outstanding. The matter has been referred to the HAWKS for further investigation. In the last meeting, the HAWKS had promised to review the documents and discuss the case with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
He said that possible, fruitless, and wasteful expenditure still needed to be investigated, and concluded his presentation by going through the material irregularities.
The Department received an unqualified audit opinion with no matters of emphasis for the 2021/22 financial year.
Please see presentation attached for full detailed annual performance
Mr B Nodada (DA) said he had recommendations that he would like to make to the Committee that should be put in its programme. It should ensure that it follows up on the issues that have been pointed out. There was a need for devices for special needs learners, and there had been a failure of those network providers who did not deliver the devices on time. What was the impact of the failure to deliver the devices on time? What alternative solutions had been put in place to try to cover MTN and Cell C’s shortfall?
He commented that the Department’s 81%achievement of targets must always be linked with evidence of improved learner performance in the classroom. How would the DBE demonstrate the link between the evidence of improved learner performance and the 81% target achievement? The Auditor-General (AG) had stated in a previous meeting that some targets were questionable. The report from the AG pointed out the non-effectiveness of the internal audit. How effective was the Department’s internal audit? Were there shortcomings or capacity issues in that regard? Why did these things fall through the cracks when they could be addressed before the AG picked them up?
Challenges over the years have been associated with the implementing agents. He was vocal and strong about this. What systems had been built in to prevent these challenges from recurring? Had the Committee identified who the implementing agents were that were contributing to irregular and fruitless expenditure? What consequences had been put in place to tackle repeat offenders who contributed to irregular and fruitless expenditure. How many projects that had been taken over by implementing agencies had been overspent? For what reason and to what cost? If that information is not available currently, could it be emailed to the secretary of the Committee when it is available?
The AG had stated that there were shortcomings in the Department’s compliance with the law when awarding tenders. This resulted in material non-compliance in supply chain management (SCM). Seeing that this was a recurring issue, what mechanisms were put in place to prevent recurring non-compliance in the awarding of tenders? Did they have any information about officials in the supply chain Department who had contributed to the material non-compliance of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) issue?
Based on some of the provincial performances, what interventions were in place to fix the issue of poor financial statements? Gauteng and Mpumalanga had material adjustments in terms of their budgets. Was there any report the Committee could get on the consequence management for those responsible for these material adjustments in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA)?
There were still provinces reliant on a central system regarding National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), whereas one could see that the provinces that could provide better NSNPs had decentralised their systems. Was there a reason why these provinces were still in a centralised NSNP programme? Was there a way that they could be moved to a decentralised system to provide nutritional meals?
As it had been noted that there was great under-performance from schools in rural and underprivileged areas, was it not time that the DBE considered mechanisms to solve the issue of implementing agents and the building of schools, and have a collaborative model of schools? What mechanisms were in place for collaboration models? Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been put in place to build schools, improve them, and alleviate the pressure of children attending schools outside of their communities to receive a good education.
Was there a timeline for the investigation reports into possible fruitless and wasteful expenditure? How many of those reports could be reported to the Committee, or a timeline given, on when they could be reported to the Committee so they could determine whether they were fruitless or not?
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said she had oversight-related issues due to oversight not being attended to. The Committee tended to measure the Department’s performance against the input, rather than the actual impact the performance had on the real world. The South African taxpayer had made a significant investment, and when one made an investment, one expected a return. The public wanted to see what the impact of their investment was and how effectively the Department was working. (Ms Sukers had connectivity issues and could not complete her question).
Dr S Thembekwayo (EFF) supported the suggestion that the provinces be accountable for the mistakes made in their audit reports. It was unacceptable that reports were submitted where the amounts did not reconcile. It was not the first time that the provinces had reported such non-compliance. Even though the presentation said this non-compliance was because of the verification processes, these were unacceptable reasons. How did the DBE plan to intervene in the daily and monthly controls? There would not be such mistakes if prior intervention was in the monthly controls.
How did they plan to strengthen the supervision of implementing agents? A concrete plan needed to be implemented, and not for the reasons given the presentation. There were cases of overspending and irregular expenditure such as in the North West, where money for the learners’ food programme was used to build carports and pavements. Who had approved such misdirections? What accountability measures had been put in place? How could they prove to the Committee that the Department had prioritised and implemented the AG's recommendations? Such mistakes were made, but the Committee hardly hears reports about the action taken to deal with them. What proof could the Department provide to show that they had complied with the AG's recommendations? Why were the same findings recurring? She was of the belief that the Department had stated that they were still going to ask the relevant people to submit documents just to present to the Committee today, but they were not doing it in reality. This was unacceptable. People and officials involved in overspending and irregular spending must be charged and expelled. There was currently no consequence management in the Department. The Committee expected to hear tangible outcomes of investigation, not that cases still needed to be investigated. This was unacceptable. The procurement issues brought up in the presentation were also unacceptable. It had been reported that the appointment of the contractors was a problem, yet those people were given only written warnings. There was no room for written warnings. These people must be charged. The Department needed to be serious about these issues. If they could not be serious, then they should resign and make way for new people to lead the Department. She knew the Department did not usually accept and respond to criticism positively. The Department was not doing enough to rectify the mistakes made by the provinces.
Ms Sukers rejoined the meeting. She supported Mr Nodada’s suggestion that three provinces should come before the Committee because oversight issues needed the Department’s response. How many research reports were completed last year? How many of the research topics were targeted for last year? How many research reports were uploaded to the research repository? What research areas were being targeted for this financial year?
She noted that the inter-departmental team was working on the second Children’s Amendment Bill. What were the next steps in that process, and what were the target dates? What other legislation and policy frameworks were under development in this period? What milestones had been completed in the year under review? What were the planned milestones for this year? Over 40% of the 2 075 applications for homeschooling had been approved. Could the DBE explain why the 60% had been refused? Why had the number of registered homeschoolers dropped from 6 049 to 3 444 over a three-month period? How many learners had been expelled for sexual harassment and abuse in the Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) rollout? How had the CSE impacted the number of reported learner pregnancies, and the number of learners referred for contraception and abortions? These numbers were needed to compare the figures for schools included in the pilots, and those not in the pilot. She could not see how this report could be considered a detailed report without a report on school closures. Could that please be included in the report? What was the historical value of the infrastructure expenditure of schools closed in the year under review compared to the total over the last ten years? What was the trend? This might appear like an unfair question, but these were basic metrics that had to be part of this report.
In 2019, irregular expenditure to the tune of R240 million was reported to the Committee. The Director-General had indicated that R60 million was retrieved. The R60 million was already reported in the previous financial years. Apart from the R60 million that had already been reported, how much fruitless and wasteful expenditure in infrastructure had been recouped?
Mr Nodada returned to ask more questions. Based on the 76.4% pass rate of the previous year, he asked if the Department had managed to track the percentage of that cohort that had accessed a university, had elected to upgrade their marks, or opted to go into the world of work. This question was in line with the Department’s medium term strategic framework priorities of a better prepared youth for further studies and the world of work. It was good that the Department had highlighted its achievements, but it was important to be able to measure the real impact of some of these achievements on the ground. What happened to the Funza Lushaka graduates that were not placed, outside of the 76% that was reported?
Ms N Adoons (ANC) acknowledged the improvement from the previous annual report, and that the Department had managed to obtain an unqualified opinion from the AGSA without matters of emphasis. How many of the misconduct cases had been resolved within 90 days? What acts of misconduct had been committed? What was the impact of these cases on the Department? On the five cases that were finalised and the remaining 18 pending cases, what financial implications did the legal issues have for the Department? Why were the four tenders cancelled? What was the delivery expected from the procurement process on those four tenders?
How far was the general education certificate (GEC) pilot programme? What lessons and observations has the Department made thus far? What were the findings and recommendations on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) new landscape and new funding model? What immediate interventions were required to improve ECDs in the short to medium term? Did the Department have a sector plan for digital transformation or a provincial plan based on their capacity? Was there an annual business plan for the HIV/AIDS life skills education programme, because there had been under-spending on the grant of the programme? What was the challenge that had led to under-spending of the grant?
On the issue of school sports and the municipality being allocated a 5% grant for sports, what was the Department doing with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA?) Had there been any engagement to ensure that this grant was being used? There was a lot of improvement in the financial performance compared to the previous financial year, but there was also under-spending that had been reported. What challenges led to the R172 million under-spending on buildings and other fixed structures? What contributed to the above R80 million over-spending on goods and services? Was the R80 million cost of hiring mobile toilets for schools due to COVID-19, as reported?
Mr P Moroatshehla (ANC) said the DBE had brought to the Committee’s attention how they were monitoring their annual operational plan. Could the Department advise whether the monitoring was done monthly, quarterly or annually? Could a monitoring report be shared with the Committee? The ECD as it was now was a new landscape in the DBE, presenting new challenges and new findings. It was important that the Department share with the Committee the immediate challenges and interventions the Department was going through. This needed to become a success. The success of this migration rested with this Portfolio Committee and the DBE.
The Chairperson highlighted the fact that the Department had printed and delivered grade R to nine volumes to 22 975 schools, 76% of Funza Lushaka graduates were eligible for placement in schools against the target of 84%, 18 854 qualified educators below the age of 32 had been appointed, and tracking the audit outcomes of the Department; they were improving bit by bit.
There was a deviation in the Programme Two target in the annual sector report. They could not go back there with report verification issues. Most of the issues were within the provincial offices of the Department. What was it doing about the late verification of information from the provinces? How many special schools, rural schools, and quantum schools had been provided with the Vodacom and Cell C devices in the year under review? The expenditure on the Learners with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability (LSPID) grant stood at a 100% -- how had the implementation of this grant improved in the year under review? What was it that the Department did differently to achieve 100% expenditure?
The total education infrastructure grant for 2021/22 was R11 689 billion. How many new schools were planned on the annual performance plan from the aforementioned amount, and how many were built? Her analysis indicated that they had dumped this money on the provinces, and the provinces did not know how to use it. This R11 billion had gone to the provinces while they did not have a plan on what they were going to do with it. If R2 million had been returned to National Treasury, why was there insufficient Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM)? She pointed out that there was a norm for class assistants in private schools, and special needs classes in public schools had assistants. There was a need for assistants in the classroom. Why did they not make this programme sustainable? This programme had been given for two years and made an impact, so why did they not make it the norm and give young people a form of experience?
Referring to irregular and wasteful expenditure, she asked why the Committee was not updated on Covid-19 related expenditure in the provinces. There was an information communication technology (ICT) procurement in the Eastern Cape where a tender had been irregularly awarded to the iSizwe Africa ITC group in 2020/21 for tablet devices. The tender was for three years for an amount of R160 million. Did the Department know about it? Were the irregularities reported to them? If they did know about it, what had they done about it?
Many Members had mentioned that the Department was trying to get a clean audit but a persistent issue was consequence management, particularly in the provinces. What consequence management was taken when officials in the provinces contravened the PFMA and SCM prescripts? What has happened to the Department’s legal cases? Perhaps this was due to the fact that the Department was led by women with kind hearts, who opted to let the cases go. A conclusion that was not founded was that the Department was doing nothing to officials. This led to the Department not getting the clean audit that we all wanted them to get. Consequence management was lacking in the Department, and they needed to take corrective measures in this regard. The report presented and the work every official was doing was appreciated. It could not be ignored that the Department was improving daily. However, there were some issues that the Department needed to look into.
Deputy Minister Mhaule stated that she would hand the platform over to the Director-General and other officials to respond, and she would step in when there were issues they did not deal with.
Mr Mweli expressed gratitude for the comments made by the Committee. Sometimes the DBE pleased the Committee and sometimes it did not. However, where they did not please the Committee, they went back and worked harder. He assured Dr Thembekwayo that the Department took all the criticisms seriously. If Dr Thembekwayo does not believe this, she was invited to look at part two of the report. Part two of the report was 80% different from previous reports that the DBE had presented to the Committee. This difference was informed by comments made by Members of this Committee. It would take courage not to take the comments made by this Committee seriously, as it represented an important institution in the country. The Department was led by two amazing women and two amazing women had led them exceptionally well in today’s meeting.
On the Chairperson and Dr Thembekwayo’s statements that the Department was not working, he replied that the targets were predetermined objectives that were not within one’s control and could sometimes not go as planned. The Department of Information Technology and Communication had committed to connecting 18 000 out of 25 000 schools. The Department had very little control if this was put in the annual performance plan (APP), and it did not happen. However, it had to be in the APP if the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) said it must be put in. All that he could do was appeal to colleagues. He was dealing with accounting officers in their own rights who had to work with him due to concurrent functions. The spheres of government were distinct and interrelated. This had been discussed at a previous portfolio committee meeting. The discussion prompted the Committee to summon the provinces. He agreed with the statements made by Members that the provinces must be called to account. The provinces could respond and work with the Department within limits, as they were accounting officers in their own right. The law did not allow him to force them to respond. He had meetings with them regularly even on matters about under-spending to express the importance of the Department getting the information they required for their reports. He admitted that some indicators could have been crafted better so that they would have been easier to achieve.
He said the problem with consequence management was that he was not the employer of some officials in some provinces, and he did not have the legal authority to carry out consequence management on officials in the provinces. He had authority only over officials within the Department. He might be the accounting officer, but when it came to consequence management, the law delegated different roles to different players. He could only ask the heads of departments to act. He had to plead with them, and then ask Ministers to do the same with Members of Executive Councils (MECs).
On the procurement issue in the Eastern Cape, he replied that he had enquired about this issue from the head of department, but his information on this matter was rusty. This was a battle between the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the DBE over who had authority to procure information communication technology (ICT) outside of SITA’s purview. He did not know how the legal battle had ended, though a report could be sent to the Committee.
On the Covid-19 related expenditure by the provinces, the Chairperson could call the provinces to appear before the Committee to account on the expenditure. The Department would meet with them and help them prepare for the meeting.
On the Presidential Initiative, he agreed that assistants in the classroom should become a norm. The programme had recurred because district managers and principals were giving positive feedback on the programme and had requested that it be permanent. The DBE had expressed this to National Treasury, hoping it would become a permanent programme.
On the R200 million from the Education Infrastructure Grant (EIG) that was taken to National Treasury, he replied that it was not taken to Treasury but had been redirected to the provinces that were performing well, as they had been directed to do. Where there was underperformance in one province, the best thing to do was redirect the money to a province performing well. The money then stayed in the basic education sector. The problem with LTSM in the Eastern Cape was that National Treasury had released money for the LTSM for the Eastern Cape Department of Education in December. It was difficult for books to be bought in December and in time for learners to use them when schools opened in January.
On the R11 billion, he replied that provinces submit a B5 and along with the grant allocation, they had to indicate what projects they were targeting. This information could be made available to the Committee. There was also a business plan that was produced for grants. Every province was expected to produce a business plan regarding HIV/AIDS.
He agreed with the Chairperson that the Department had not performed as well as it should on learners with severe and profound intellectual disabilities. They had now extended their meetings with all nine provinces. Every province presented on all the grants every first week of the month. The Department assessed them and corrected them where necessary. They had even requested others to appear in meetings convened by the Minister and Deputy Minister, to account. It was not the case the Department needed to do certain things, but rather the case that the Department was actually doing those things. The monitoring schedule could even be made available to back this up.
The information on how many special schools had received devices could be made readily available through the network operators. One of the members of the Department could provide this information too, if it was readily available.
The Department was working on the South African Council of Educators (SACE), and wanted to see it performing more or less at Umalusi’s level. They accepted that there were challenges and would explain this later during their presentation. They also had their own audit committee. The provinces also had their own audit committees.
He thanked the Chairperson for acknowledging the improvements in the audit report. The Department had prepared better than when they received a qualified audit opinion because they knew more needed to be done.
He thanked the Chairperson and Mr Moroatshehla for recognising the Department’s efforts to deal with the implementation challenges, and said he was encouraged to work harder. The challenges when implementing plans were faced in the nexus of concurrent functions. The Constitution made it clear that every sphere of government was distinct and interrelated. The provinces were not subordinate to any sphere of government. The same applies to local government. He cautiously said that the regulatory regime in South Africa was comprehensive, sometimes to the detriment of service delivery. One could not intervene as quickly as one might want because the law prevented one from doing certain things. He felt constrained when action needed to be taken, as he was not the employer of the provincial departments. When things happened that required action to be taken, he often could communicate it only to his counterpart and hope that something would be done about it. This was an experience that was shared across the public service.
Information on the frequency of monitoring could be provided to the Committee. The last slide in the presentation spoke about monitoring and gave statistics about it.
On the infrastructure targets questions asked by Ms Sukers, he replied that the Department had been battling to meet infrastructure targets for years. The targets had now been exceeded in the 2021/22 year because of the effectiveness of the Department’s monitoring. They had been out monitoring, and the results were showing. They wanted to do it even more. This improvement was due to the pressure that the Committee placed on the Department. They were held to account every week.
The Department had not worked with municipalities to the extent that they could access the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG). He would take this up with colleagues and counterparts to see how much they could leverage out of this.
On what was happening in ICT, he replied that the Department had an ITC strategy they could share with the Committee. The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies had pledged to connect 18 000 schools. The DBE was going to push to ensure that this happened. The DBE also had plans for digital skills.
He redirected the question on the progress of the General Education Certificate to one of the DBE officials who dealt with the curriculum to give a report on this to the Committee. He knew that they had received approval in principle from Umalusi on the GEC, and they were moving much faster on piloting.
On the four cancelled tenders, he replied that some would have gone beyond the specified period and others would be cancelled due to technicalities.
Responding to Dr Thembekwayo’s statements that the Department did not take criticism well, he said it did take both negative and positive feedback.
He acknowledged that there had been fruitless and wasteful expenditure in the Department, and understood how Dr Thembekwayo felt. The problem was that the Department was expected to follow due process. Only when the AG had completed their regularity report was the DBE able to subject some of the issues to investigation by a team led by the head of their internal audit.
There had indeed been capacity challenges in the internal audit unit, and personnel had been approved to assist. A review of the organisational structure has been suggested. Mr Mweli was happy to indicate that the Department’s meeting with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) had led to the approval of a majority of those things that they had not agreed on in the amendments of the structure. Consequence management had not taken place because investigations were not taking place. This was due to capacity issues related to the internal audit function. Directives to employ people on a fixed-term contract had been issued in the interim. The AG had placed reliance on the Department’s internal audit function and the oversight done by the executive. The Minister and Deputy Minister had scored “green,” which meant that the internal audit functions were performing well.
The Department addressed the recurring findings in its audit report, and consequence management was applied to implementing agents. Some of the agents were no longer given projects. Consequences were being applied to the entities. The AGSA had previously used the DBE as an example of a Department that implemented its recommendations.
The misuse of funds meant for the learners’ feeding programme in the North West would be followed up, and he hoped that Dr Thembekwayo would provide him with more information in this regard.
He would like to invite the Committee to be part of the Department’s monitoring programme, as he believed the Members would enjoy it.
He agreed with Ms Sukers that inputs and outputs were not the only way to measure success -- impact was also important. He requested that an intervention be made at the DPME, as some of these things could best be addressed there. Impact took a while in some of the programmes in the education sector. Some programmes required time for implementation to take root in the system before results were seen.
On school closures, he said the Department’s report was based on the APP. If something was not in the APP and was not part of the predetermined objectives of the Department, then it could not be expected to report on it.
The Department would get information on declining homeschooling numbers from the provinces.
On what other legislation was being developed, he replied that the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill was being developed for now. No other legislation was being developed.
He said he supported the idea of the provinces coming before the Committee.
He said that the Funza Lushaka graduates who were not placed were at liberty to go elsewhere outside their bursary obligations after a certain period. However, the Department would go back to the list and try to place them every year.
On whether learners who had access to varsity or the world of work had been tracked, he replied that not at this stage. The Department would look into whether it could track this.
Information on possible wasteful and fruitless expenditure on projects by the implementing agents could be retrieved and made available to the Committee.
Regarding the collaboration models for schools, he replied that quintiles one to three outperformed quintiles four to five in the Department’s grade 12 class of 2021 results. That indicated that dysfunctional schools in previously disadvantaged communities were contributing to the improvement in the Department’s results. The needle had shifted compared to quintile one to three’s performance in 2005. There were still dysfunctional schools in rural areas and disadvantaged communities ,but there were very few of them. He would say that 70% to 80% of their schools were fully functional, and would accept that 20% to 30% were still dysfunctional.
On whether SCM officials contributed to non-compliance, he replied that it was in the implementing agents. He had requested consequence management, and had received information from some, but had also heard nothing from others.
On lower score bidders being awarded contracts, he replied that there were complications in this process. The highest bidder was not always the best performer. A meeting was being requested with the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) office, the Chief Procurement Officer, and the implementing agents so that if we follow what the CIDB system and National Treasury was saying, the highest bidder must get the tender. A certain tenderer had to cancel 31% of their contracts. This has made it difficult for the Department to reach its target for the 2022/23 financial year. All of this was adjudicated on the highest bidder. That was why a meeting had been called to do something about this.
On whether implementing agencies that contributed to irregular expenditure had been identified, he replied that they had been. The Department had asked the agents to account and implement measures to ensure that over-expenditure did not happen anymore. They had even asked them to take action against their own officials. Regional managers and project managers had been dismissed.
Responding on the effectiveness of the internal audit, he replied that the Department would not have been close to a clean audit if it were not for the help of its internal audit committee. The AGSA placed their reliance on them and believed what they said. They had strongly taken the recommendations that their own internal committee were making. These officials had discovered the R3.2 billion worth of irregular expenditure, not the AGSA. Even more -- R12.2 billion -- had been uncovered in the 2019/20 financial year, which was far more than this year. This showed that the Department’s efforts had yielded results. Irregular expenditure was not like fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Irregular expenditure was recoverable unless money was lost to the state. Irregular expenditure meant one had not followed the law.
On whether there had been any impact on the classroom dividers that had not been delivered, he assumed that this referred to dividers that were supposed to have been delivered to schools with learners with special needs. He did not know whether there had been any impact. He could not say that there was not any impact. What the Department had done was to prioritise schools of learners with special education needs. The second group would have to be multi-grade schools, then quintile one to three schools, then quintile four to five. This was in line with the ICT strategy for infrastructure delivery. He was unaware of any impact the non-delivery of network operators would have had in the special needs schools.
He handed the platform over to other Department officials to answer questions.
Mr Paddy Padayachee, Deputy-Director General: Teachers, Human Resources and Institutional Development, DBE, referred to the 76% of Funza Lushaka graduates and what happened to those who were not placed, and said that some were placed the following year or whenever the opportunity arose to match vacancies. They were also competing with other bursars. They did remain, but they would be past the six months of their contractual obligation.
Dr Rufus Poliah, Chief Director: National Assessment and Public Examinations, DBE, addressed the question on the general education certificate. He replied that the pilot the Department started in 2021 was based on a phased approach. In 2021, they focused on one component of the GEC, which was the curriculum assessment. The GEC would have three forms of assessment -- a curriculum assessment, an inclination assessment, and a performance-based assessment. In 2021, the Department looked at the test item and the suitability of the tests item. This year, they were looking at the inclination assessment, which looks at what the interests and aptitudes of the learner are. The third component was the performance-based assessment, which looks at the skills that could be measured in examinations and tests. They were looking at integrated project works that had been throughout the year, but would be final towards the end of this year. The lessons from these forms of assessment would assist them in the pilot that they were planning for 2023 and 2024. Finally, they would have the full scale presentation in 2025. The GEC policy had been submitted to Umalusi, and it was on the road to full accreditation and registration.
On the extent the Department was looking at outputs and how it was measuring impact, he replied that it was currently looking at the performance of the system in grades three, six and nine. This evaluation had three components as well. This systemic evaluation and report should be available in April next year. It should give a good sense of the impact of all the inputs being put into the system and how they were influencing and improving the performance of the entire system at these strategic points in the system.
Deputy Minister Mhaule said that the Department appreciated Mr Nodada’s analysis because it was deep. Unfortunately, it was difficult for the Committee to give him all the answers now. For instance, information on the 76.4% pass rate of the matric class of 2021 came from the districts and provinces, and it was a process to get those numbers. Getting this information required the Department to go to schools and circuits. She promised that they would provide the information if it were needed.
On the Funza Lushaka placements, there were usually cries from this Committee that only Funza Lushaka students were appointed, and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students and others were not appointed. This showed that the myth might not be true. The schools appoint according to their priorities. She gave an example of her nephew who went to university and was given a bursary for a different course of study. He had changed to accommodate that bursary offer, as he did not have money. However, her nephew could not secure a job in line with that changed course. This happened to many students. Schools would appoint according to their needs, and the district that recruited them could not place them if they did not meet the needs of that district. It was not easy to absorb them. The myth that there was a shortage of teachers was not true. The teacher’s age analysis was to recruit in anticipation of their retirement.
Other questions required the Department to head back to the provinces and collect this information. Provinces were established by the Constitution, and were authorities in their own right, and autonomous. This often made it difficult for the Department’s executive to pressure the provinces to account to them.
She supported the idea of the provinces appearing before the Committee to account. When this was done, invitations could be tendered to chairpersons of portfolio committees in the provinces, because they would be able to tell them that they wanted them to account.
She told Ms Sukers that it was not easy to measure impact, but the impact would be seen now that the Department had more professionals and more resources. The fact that there was no more room to absorb more teachers and that children were now back at school was an impactful outcome.
Where the comprehensive sexual education (CSE) programme had been piloted, the rate of pregnancies had dropped. Perhaps another tool was needed to assess this matter. When the DBE piloted CSE, they were informed by the rate of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and this was not a box-ticking exercise. That was why there were grants to address many issues. They were trying their best. The Members of the Committee opened their eyes wider when they raised issues after they had presented.
She agreed with Dr Thembekwayo’s statements that people should leave the Department if they did not want to work. For now, they would give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they wanted to work and make a difference in the country.
Monitoring was very important, especially regarding infrastructure. A follow up meeting was held with the implementing agents, and it appeared that they did not monitor thoroughly. The Director-General had regular meetings with the implementing agents and monitored infrastructure, and would bring whatever information he got when he was monitoring to their attention. They were pushing the agents to increase their monitoring capacity.
Mr David van der Westhuijzen, Deputy Director General (DDG): Infrastructure, DBE, replied to the question regarding over-expenditure on projects. He said that this was something that was monitored regularly. He explained that every project was allocated to a contractor based on an open process and the best-scoring contractor gets awarded the project. The value of the award became the contract, and any variations to it must be approved by the DBE through processes and strict guidelines. There were areas that allowed tolerances that could be approved locally. Special approval was needed from National Treasury if they went beyond that tolerance.
He said that irregular expenditure did not mean wasted money. Where they had disclosed this irregular expenditure, they had completed over 300 brand new schools, completed a water supply to over 1 000 schools, and provided electricity to over 300 schools. At the end of those three consecutive audits, the entire Department found the irregular expenditure unacceptable, which led to a very detailed audit action plan. One of the plans involved retrospectively investigating every procurement process that had ever happened all the way back to 2011. They had uncovered those that did not comply with requirements such as local content. There were many compliance issues that did not impact the value for money or delivery. They had uncovered all of those procurement processes for completeness. R2.7 billion was disclosed in the financial statements of that specific year, and they had added another R2.3 billion to that, and another R1.5 billion in the last financial year. This process created a lot of transparency and trust in the AGSA.
Ms Nosipho Mbonambi, Director: Strategic Planning and Reporting, DBE, replied to the research question by stating that more information could be provided in writing. There were various places on the DBE website where research reports were shared, and there was a research repository. There was also a Covid-19 research repository which had been updated in the year under review. There was a section with research reports where two new reports were published and there was a reading study with its own section on the website. More detail could be provided in writing.
Ms Ntsetsa Molalekoa, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DBE, stepped in to answer finance-related questions. On misconduct cases, she confirmed that all the cases were concluded within 90 days.
She lost her connection, and DG Mweli said that information related to the question would be sent through.
Upon returning, Molalekoa, referring to the cancelled tenders, said the first one had been due to the cost included in the bid by the prospective bidder being too high, and more than the DBE’s budget. The other three did not meet a few mandatory requirements. A tender could not proceed without the mandatory requirements being met.
Ms Sukers said that it was clear that the Department did not have the figures for the number of learners referred for abortions and contraception in the CSE programme. Could the Committee get the report that the Deputy Minister had referred to, and the report on the issues she had raised on the programme? This could be given in writing.
Deputy Minister Mhaule said she does not think that the Department would have numbers on abortions, because they had a policy on how learners should deal with pregnancy, and that those learners should not be discriminated against. The Department of Health might have the information on learners referred for abortions, but the Department did not have this as they did not refer learners for abortions. They did not focus much on sexual relationships, as most of the matters related to sexual issues happened at home and not in schools. It was not easy to provide the statistics that Ms Sukers requested. Were there any abortion-related issues that the DBE did not know about?
Ms Sukers said there might be a misunderstanding, and clarified that her question was about the effectiveness of the CSE pilot project. If the Department was not measuring the project, then why were they pushing for a project that included sexual reproductive rights being run with the Department of Health? The Committee needed to be briefed on how this project was actually run. The DBE had a programme with different elements that had their own targets. Had the effectiveness of their own intervention been measured? The policy sought to ensure the provision of information on prevention and the choice of termination. She said she would redraft her question and send it in.
The Deputy Minister encouraged Ms Sukers to redraft her question and the Department would respond accordingly.
The Chairperson thanked all the officials from the DBE. A few issues needed to be ironed out and then the DBE could achieve a clean audit. The first half of the meeting was adjourned.
Umalusi Annual Performance Report 2021/22
DG Mweli introduced the delegation from Umalusi, and congratulated them for presenting a report on an unqualified report without findings or matters.
Prof Yunus Ballim, Chairperson, Umalusi Council, introduced his delegation and said he was pleased to advise the Committee that Umalusi had received a clean audit for the third year in a row. This was evidence of its commitment to hygienic management and governance. They had observed improvements in the management of finances, and the management of the performance information and governance of the organisation. The Council remained committed to supporting management and maintaining this level of quality of operation.
Mr Hendrik van der Walt, Acting CEO and CFO, Umalusi, said that even though COVID-19 had affected some of their colleagues during this financial year, the implementation of the 2021/22 annual performance plan (APP) had not been disrupted. This was possible because the organisation had put systems in place that enabled service delivery to continue during the pandemic. They had achieved their third unqualified audit opinion with no material findings (clean audit), and the Head of the Council had made a commitment to maintaining this for the next 50 years.
Ms Stella Mosimege, Senior Manager: Strategy and Governance, Umalusi, presented the performance information. She reported that Umalusi had achieved all of their APP targets, and several had been exceeded.
Mr Dumisani Maluleke, Senior Manager: Finance and Supply Chain Management, took the Committee through the financial information.
On the external audit report, he reported that Umalusi had submitted financial statements free from material misstatements. There were no instances of material non-compliance with requirements of applicable legislation.
He highlighted that Covid-19 related expenditure stood at R88 000, as it was required to be properly disclosed in the books. On the trends of actual revenue and budget, he said that the organisation continuously generated revenue below its target due to uncertainty on the demand for verification and certification. The split between own generated revenue and grants/transfers from the government was consistently at a proportion of approximately 80/20, which made it challenging to expand the entity's activities beyond the current levels.
Mr Van der Walt returned to express gratitude on behalf of Umalusi to the Council for their support.
See presentation for full performance
SACE Annual Performance Report 2021/22
Ms Brenda Mbatha, Council Member, South African Council of Educators (SACE), introduced the Council's delegation, and handed over to Ms Ella Mokgalane, CEO, SACE, to deliver the presentation.
Ms Mokgalane said that this annual report signalled the second year of implementing the Council’s 2020-2025 strategic plan, and they were moving towards the strategic plan mid-term review in 2022/23.
Overall, 43 326 newly qualified educators were registered during the period under review. More ethical misconduct has been reported. The Council had a total of 1 327 educator misconduct cases to be processed for 2021/22, with a total budget of R4 million. These reported cases were made up of 563 cases rolled over to the 2021/22 financial year from previous years, and 764 new cases received for the 2021/22 financial year.
26 804 educators had benefited from development and support through participation in the Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) system and various professional matters. Its programme on SACE women in school leadership and management was established to focus on the struggles and successes of women in education.
She reported that overall 23 (77%) of the 30 APP indicators had been achieved in 2021/22, compared to 14 (52%) out of 27 in 2020/21. The organisation was making steady progress to ensure that its targets were achieved. Performance information was also slowly being addressed.
The output indicators not achieved included:
- The percentage of digitised systems in a year. The target was 60%, and only 40% was achieved. This was due to the slow turnaround time of service providers, such as the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).
- The percentage of investigations on new cases finalised. The target was 80%, but only 44.4% (339 of 764) was achieved. This indicator depended largely on the availability of learners who were the dominant witnesses to obtain information regarding each filed case of misconduct against teachers. Very little could be done during that period due to the closure of schools for the greater part of the year. This was also owing to the focus placed on roll-over cases in indicator 3.1.2.
- The percentage of signed-up final-year initial teacher education students. The target was 55% and the annual output was zero. Information on student teachers in higher education institutions could not be accessed because many argued that the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) would not allow them to deal with that. Even with legal processes, this meant that they had to spend a year going to and fro to get that information. The process had not been abandoned.
On administration, she reported that:
- The percentage of employees assessed through the performance development system planned target was 100%, and 100% was achieved.
- The percentage of trained employees planned target was 30%. The achieved target was 31%.
- The professional registration planned target was 25 000, and 43 326 were achieved.
- The percentage of educators applying through the online system for professional registration planned target was 50%. 28% was achieved (12 310 of 43 326).
The registration highlights and challenges showed that the analysis of the SACE annual professional registration data was important in contributing to the education sector’s discussions around teacher supply and demand. The challenges also showed an absolute shortage projection of 50 000 to 70 000 teachers by 2030. What the media and other academics were projecting was not tallying with what they were projecting. There was a need to work hard to thoroughly analyse the numbers. There was a need for quality and substance in specific subjects/areas of focus, such as the ECD sector, special needs education, the three stream model, focus schools and rural schools.
She reported that SACE had received many misstatements regarding the CPTD management system. Challenges included the number of educators supported on professional matters. The target was 20 000, and the actual achievement was 26 804. However, most of the information being collected on the ground was from the educators themselves. There was a human element regarding the kind of information that came into the organisation. The biggest issue was the identifier. Many educators did not know their SACE registration numbers. Therefore, many educators just wrote numbers down, and not their actual SACE numbers. There were incidents where there were a series of educators just copying from each other when registering. When verification was done on the 26 804, they could tally to this number. However, when one took a further step to audit completeness and verified the reliability of the data, that was when the problem arose. Identity document (ID) numbers and SACE numbers were not tallying with the numbers on the SACE registration system. This already made the data unverifiable. They had to look at the quality of data instead of just taking the numbers as they were. The same applied to the percentage of professional development providers approved. The target had been exceeded, but some providers and endorsement activities missed information such as signatures.
On quality assurance, she said that SACE approves and endorses, and they go into the field and assure quality and the effectiveness of programmes.
In the previous financial year, SACE had received disclaimer on performance information which emerged from programme four. A slight improvement was made in this year under review. The required additional remedial work for programme four’s 2021/22 audit findings was in progress.
She said there were no problems with programme five (professional development). All the indicators had been achieved. Currently, students were registered from their final year, so SACE did not know them well. They needed to track them from year one until they qualified, continue working with the DBE in terms of their induction model, and be ready to certify them as fully registered educators.
On programme six, professional research, all the indicators were achieved.
Mr Morris Mapindani, Chief Financial Officer, SACE, said the Council had submitted all the financial statements on time to the auditors. However, the financial information had misstatements and remedial action was being implemented to ensure that the misstatements did not recur in the next financial year.
He reported that total assets increased by 10%, current liabilities decreased by 105%, revenue from operating transactions increased by 58%, there were increases in registration-related revenue, and an increase of 46% on CPTD subsidy spending.
There had been improved contact and interaction with the educators.
(See attached document for details)
Mr T Letsie (ANC) said Umalusi had done well over the years in obtaining its targets and obtaining a clean audit. However, this year, Umalusi achieved 100% for all of its targets, and very few entities achieved this. A congratulatory statement should be released from the Department’s desk. He welcomed the new board and wished them luck with their responsibilities.
Government had made many plans that did not speak to one another. However, the "one country, one plan" project sought to align plans across departments. This plan must require institutions of higher learning to set a target and the DBE must have a programme that speaks to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to help them achieve their goals. Similarly, when Umalusi and the DBE decide to release matric results on certain days in January, this negatively impacts the plans set by higher institutions. They cannot do placements properly for first-year students. Ideally, results should be released at the end of the year so that universities could use that time to place learners in their institutions. What could Umalusi do to try to avert some of these pressures at higher education institutions at the beginning of the year, when there was chaos?
A report by Umalusi stated that there was a split between own generated revenue and grants or transfers from government -- that it was at a proportion of 80-20, which made it challenging to expand some activities beyond their current levels. What expansion would Umalusi undertake if they received an increased allocation? What problems would the expansion solve? Was the inability to expand in part due to implementation of the entity's mandate? Were there any digital transformation innovations that Umalusi could use to improve its quality management system?
Compared to other global quality assurance bodies, what was the level of South Africa’s standard relative to other education systems in the global north and south? The South African basic education system had a relatively high expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), yet education outcomes were not commensurate with the spending. From a quality assurance perspective, what factors contribute to education outcomes? What innovations was Umalusi planning for the long-term to improve the education system and ensure it adapted to the changing world? Was the teacher training and development improving at the rate required to improve teaching and learning outcomes? What recommendations could Umalusi propose in this regard? Transformation required a change in the teaching and pedagogy approach. How would technology impact the education system? How would the entity adapt to the changing world? How did Umalusi contribute to the “ten-year-old learners enrolled in public schools reading for meaning” target in real terms when executing its mandate? Was there a trend of an increase in private school education? What were the causal factors of its growth if it existed? What implication did this have for the future of the education system, particularly in addressing inequalities? What do the entities recommend to the Minister? What impact would this have? Where did Umalusi draw its good practice from? Many entities could learn from Umalusi. Where else was Umalusi affiliated across the globe? How frequently did it interact with other quality assurance bodies across the world? What was it doing to prevent staff from leaving the entity? Were the salaries competitive?
He said that SACE had problems achieving its targets. Slide 27 stated that there would be a shortage of between 50 000 and 70 000 teachers in 2030. This was scary. The country had an association called the Unemployed Teachers of South Africa, which was prioritising Funza Lushaka graduates. There should not be a situation where the government sponsors students to study education through different bursary schemes, and only one scheme is prioritised when the students graduate. Many of these graduates were not employed. Given this context, what had SACE done to address these two problems? One of their long-term plans involved the placement of teachers. What was SACE currently doing when there were teachers out there?
There was a story where the Department was saying that South Africa was considering getting teachers from Zimbabwe to help teach in South Africa due to a shortage of teachers. Was this true? If so, why did teachers need to be imported, and why were they not taking the teachers that were available and not employed in the country? South Africa should only go outside to look for teachers if the country has exhausted its internal capacity.
Dr W Boshoff (FF+) said it was good to hear about inputs, but what about outputs? Umalusi had mentioned the four institutions which they quality assured for matric exams. Could Umalusi assure that the Independent Board Exam (IEB), the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI) and the DBE were on the same academic standard, or could they say that all of them reached the minimum standards, which was not the same thing as "equal"? One often heard from lecturers that the learners who left school with a bachelor's pass simply did not have the academic skills they needed. Was this anecdotal, or could Umalusi assure the Committee that it was not the case?
He told SACE that he was taken aback by the stories about data gathering when training opportunities arose -- that teachers do exactly what school children do, not filling the information in correctly. Without generalising, this made him doubt the teachers’ professionalism. If it was a problem of such a magnitude that it had to be reported, this showed that they had a huge problem. The idea that most teachers did not have the skills or facilities to submit their documents online and would rather visit offices indicated one or two realities. One was that teachers were able to learn the online system, but the online system did not have the capacity to assist them. The other was that they had teachers who had to teach the youth for a digital future, but they could not navigate the online system of a professional body. What responses did both institutions have for this? What was one dealing with in terms of teachers' professionalism?
Ms Sukers said the research was understandably focused on operations. She asked Umalusi what future-oriented research they were doing in areas like home education, online education, micro-education and hybrid education. What was being done to accredit special needs education, seeing that they were mostly developed in other countries? How many had been accredited? How could Umalusi be approached to have them accredited? Constituents were complaining that they were struggling to have these programmes accredited.
The cost of assessment for independent schools, both in terms of fees and time spent by institutions to comply, was a barrier to entry into the sector. The Centre for Development Enterprise reports that the cost of registering a low fee school was R270 000, while a high fee school was R290 000. Low fee schools were often smaller, so this meant the cost per learner was even higher. This was not pro-poor or pro-low income earners. What had the entities done to reduce costs and provide a fair playing field? This tied in with economic growth.
What progress has been made with the National Senior Certificate for Adults (NASCA)? When would NASCA be available? Why was NASCA changed from the original four-subject format to the new subject format? Students were writing an amended senior certificate. She had received complaints that registering for that qualification was extremely difficult. What quality assurance was being done to ensure that learner registration was happening efficiently? Did Umalusi track a sample of learners from grade R as a cohort to university, work and life outcomes over their lifetime? If this research had started every year since 1996, they would have had a number of answers to their questions by now.
Had SACE done a customer survey to find out why teachers would rather walk to the offices than use the online system to submit their data? She was pleased to see that nearly R600 000 had been allocated to research, as there was a research deficit in the sector, but it did sound as if it would not be adequate.
Could the Committee receive the report on the research with the University of KwaZulu-Natal that was going to profile sexual offenders? What was the status of this?
The DBE was very confident that one would not see a shortage of educators in the future. A number of local and international researchers disagreed with this. The decline in educator numbers would adversely affect SACE’s finances. Research could not assume that someone would stay in the teaching profession just because they had trained as an educator. Factors such as poor working conditions and high administrative demands led to people leaving the profession. Would the review on teacher supply and demand be done again? In SACE’s opinion, was SA facing a shortage of educators?
Research in the United States has shown that 10% of learners were sexually abused by educators or support staff in school. Did SACE have any indication of the number of learners being sexually harassed or abused by educators and support staff? This question referred to research best done after learners leave school. The number of cases being referred to SACE seemed like a drop in the ocean. There was an urgent need to know how many incidents occurred. Was there any such research being planned?
How long did it take to process an application? Could SACE provide an age analysis of the applications that had been received?
The safety issues that appear in schools and the news was very concerning. There was an incident in a high violence area in a school due to gang wars. Educators there had very little recourse regarding the intimidation they faced from learners who had left school and those still in the school system. Had this been highlighted or investigated? Could SACE work with the Western Cape Department of Education in specific schools that she could identify for them? This was a serious issue that the Committee needed to attend to. Teachers were leaving the system because they had no recourse against this. It was important for SACE to give the Committee a picture of what they were doing to tackle this. What did the GBV programme specifically targeted towards women in leadership in education entail? There had been alarming GBV incidents involving educators that had resulted in fatalities. What was being done to support and address the security and safety issues female educators face in schools?
Mr E Siwela (ANC) echoed Mr Letsie’s statement that the Chairperson should issue a statement congratulating Umalusi on their outstanding performance. Umalusi was the only entity that was able to achieve all its targets. What was Umalusi’s take on Professor Mhlongo’s statement that the country’s schools were just daycare centres?
What did the findings of the analysis of educator misconduct cases reveal? What were the recommendations arising from the studies? On educators who filled in incorrect SACE registration numbers, was it not a misconduct for someone to supply wrong information? Did SACE believe that the legislative framework enabled it to fully implement its mandate? What activities were the entity implementing concerning teacher development concerning the fourth industrial revolution? It had reported that the Council had decided on a SACE review and reposition process to ensure financial stability. Did the review address only its financial sustainability or its business model and operations? Would the SACE review and repositioning require legislative changes to strengthen its capability to execute its mandate? What continuous development was the entity planning to support the changes in the ECD landscape and the changes resulting from making grade R compulsory? What plans and actions had been introduced to respond to the finding by the AG that management did not implement adequate internal controls that enabled the sufficient review of the annual performance report, resulting in the lack of reliability of information finding?
The Chairperson thanked Mr Moroatshehla for representing the Committee well in Limpopo. She congratulated Umalusi and assured the Committee Members that a statement congratulating Umalusi for their performance would be released.
She stated that SACE had obtained an unqualified audit report, with findings due to inadequate performance reporting, though improvements were made in certain areas. Based on the AG’s findings, when had SACE realised their targets could not be achieved? How did it establish its targets? What did it do to deal with constraints after they were unable to reach a target? To what extent did it plan to build capacity to undertake its function?
How many teachers were registered with SACE? None of SACE’s documents gave the Committee these numbers. SACE said 43 326 teachers had registered with them for this financial year. That was one financial year. She had Googled this; it was indicated that the total number of teaching staff in SA stood at 447 123, the largest amount being in KwaZulu-Natal, with 96 650 educators. If there was this amount of teachers, then how on earth would SACE want to target 20 000 to support? Who were they prioritising and who were they not prioritising? This target did not make sense to a layman.
Teachers pay a R15 monthly subscription to SACE. This amounted to SACE making R7 798 660 million per year from the teachers who had registered in the year in review. She stood to be corrected if this was not the current amount. They had gone to SACE and had found a lot of teachers who were there to register their certificates. The teachers had told the Committee that they were paying R100 to collect a certificate. There were 30 educators there to pay for their certificates. SACE could make R60 000 cash per month. How many teachers were actually registered with SACE, and why had they not presented this number in their documents?
There was a 2011 document that stated that teachers and teacher unions had criticised SACE for not delivering adequately on its mandate. It also emphasised issues of non-visibility in provinces, lack of communication with the profession, and inefficient professional development programmes. However, when one Googles the reviews on SACE, they bring up issues about lack of service delivery, lack of communication, and poor customer service. A lot of reviews on SACE find it an unhelpful entity.
She was not an expert on finances, but the numbers were not tallying properly. A joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) was needed to deal with SACE’s issues in depth.
Mr Moroatshehla said the CEO had indicated in the presentation that there were misconducts that warranted SACE acting on the spot, citing sexual assault and corporal punishment. The reality was that many times there were frustrations when witnesses did not come forward, as they were either silenced or bribed. Perpetrators sexually assaulted these children, and when they were supposed to be held accountable, one would hear that the case had vanished. Victims were often silenced. In terms of their assessment, what could the possible percentage of these cases be that they would be able to bring to finality? They were going nowhere as a nation if they let perpetrators get away with murder.
Mr Mweli thanked the members of the Committee, and said the sector was grateful to the entire Committee for raising the accountability bar. As the entities and sector, they would always do their best to respond accordingly.
Prof Ballim began by thanking all the Members who spoke on the importance of Umalusi achieving a clean audit. Without diminishing the achievement, he cautioned that this achievement should not be remarkable. It was possible to criticise Umalusi for not being too ambitious. Was Umalusi doing the best it could? This question must be interrogated. The answer would always be no.
On the output indicator for basic education being a possible input indicator for higher education and inter-departmental related targets, he stated that this was important. When two or more social institutions were interested in a shared outcome, they all acted as independent institutions. Democracy was best served when they showed respect for each other’s activities. Even as they talked to each other, they wanted to be aware of what the other was doing and how one could best support the other’s objectives. While Umalusi did give advice, there was always room for the Committee to disagree with them.
Referring to academics saying that students did not have the necessary academic skills, and other academics saying that SA schools were just daycare centres, he replied that it was irresponsible for any higher education institution to say to Umalusi that they wanted students who were guaranteed to pass. That was an irrational statement. The young people who were leaving the school system competently, or were judged sufficiently competent to enter higher education, were a shared social judgment. The duty of universities was to align their curricula, the pedagogical support for that curriculum, and the general support for their students in teaching and learning that ensured that students would be successful. It was not Umalusi’s duty to admit students into university -- universities did that. If academics felt that students were not being admitted properly, then that was a shared conversation at the fence. One could not say that all the schools were acting as daycare centers. One needed to be careful not to cast aspersions on what other hard-working people were trying to achieve. This comment made it seem as though universities had no duty in ensuring that students pass. There was a lack of academic development in universities.
The timing of the release of matric results was a subject that was often debated among Umalusi colleagues. He assured Mr Letsie that Umalusi never took decisions about the timing of the release of results without a shared conversation with the DBE and other examining authorities. The constraints were shared and understood. Releasing results earlier puts pressure on the DBE and its processes.
Education outcomes unrelated to the expenditure were a concern in South Africa. Only about 22% to 25% of the students who write National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams in mathematics and science would manage to get 50%. This was not a statement about the intellectual capacity of young South Africans, but a statement about how schooling was managed. Several social questions impact learning. There was global evidence that showed that the relationship between investment in education and the outcomes of education was not linear. They were actually related to parameters outside of a purely funding question.
On whether teacher training was improving and whether teachers were better equipped to teach, he said that this was a perennial question. He was sceptical of the discourse around the fourth industrial revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) was not new and had been around since the mid-90s. The term “fourth industrial revolution” was a placeholder, and no one knew what it entailed. There was too much emphasis on the means of production and too little focus on the relations of production in conversations about the fourth industrial relation. When discussing teachers’ access to these kinds of technologies, one must be careful not to craft these conversations in a purely technological conversation.
On where Umalusi draws its good practice from, from a governance point of view, if there were any lessons they had to offer, they were there for the taking. He was not sure they had much to offer, except to say that their commitment to hygienic governance had always been an important issue. A governance approach in decision making that says, “I could but I should not, so therefore I won’t” required fairly strong moral courage from individuals in governance, and in the shared way that they attend to one another. One should not lose one's ability to criticise. It was also aligned with a very competent set of executive and lower level staff at Umalusi. The one without the other was impossible.
He said that Umalusi had strong affiliations with international quality assurance bodies. The Umalusi team could give more detail about this.
Regarding the examining bodies and the assurance that the IEB and SACAI were on the same level as the DBE, he replied that their last presentation to the Portfolio Committee on the benchmarking of the NSC gave Umalusi confidence that they were on the right track. The relative outcomes from the different examining authorities were not statements about the examining system. When they see that fairly wealthy private schools produce 90 - 99% pass rates in mathematics, it is not because they were getting mathematic geniuses but because they had the resources to teach the students. It was more than just about the examining system. The outcomes may be different, but the examining systems were competent at a level above the minimum. Some individual components needed some improvement.
Mr Van der Walt responded on the 80/20 split, and said Umalusi always tried to have a balanced approach to increasing its own revenue. Should they receive the funding, there were a lot of aspects that they would be able to cover and improve upon. Umalusi had begun the year with a cloud migration process to improve their information communication technology (ICT) systems, as they spend a lot of money on ICT security and related things. These were some of the technology utilisations that could be improved.
As a small organisation with footprints across the country, there were aspects of Umalusi’s monitoring and evaluation that they could improve on if they had more funding available. Instead of monitoring 20% on a specific subject, they could do 40% moderation and evaluation. That could lead to broader quality assurance and comparable results between various organisations.
On staff retention, he said that Umalusi was using similar salary scales to what the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) was using. However, Umalusi’s pension fund and medical aid were not aligned with government. This resulted in a number of staff members leaving the organisation. Umalusi aimed to keep its vacancy rate below 10% to ensure that it continued to deliver its service.
He stated that Ms Sukers was correct on the cost of accreditation. Umalusi revised the rebates on accreditation and monitoring fees, and this was implemented on 1 April 2022. Council had approved their concession for independent schools with a proven annual income R1.5 million, where it had previously been R1 million. There was a further reduction of 60% if a school’s income was less than R1.5 million per year. Umalusi was sensitive to these matters, and they annually reviewed their tariff structures.
Ms Zodwa Modimakwane, Executive Manager, Umalusi, responded to the question on the comparability of standards between the Independent Board Exam (IEB), the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI), and the DBE. She stated that the three institutions were assessment bodies that offered qualifications registered on the substrate map of Umalusi, and were therefore subject to the same quality assurance regime. Umalusi approved all three institutions’ question papers. They had other quality assurance processes to confirm the academic standards at the different institutions. One certificate was issued to the candidates. The certificate did not specify the assessment body. The certificate carried the same value. The standards between the three assessment bodies were indeed comparable.
On the accreditation question raised by Mr Siwela about the quality assurance framework, Umalusi could only accredit institutions that were registered with the Department.
She said Umalusi was represented in the DPE task team that looked at the legislative framework for managing homeschooling, micro-schooling, and online schooling. The gap in managing these institutions was that they did not have a regulatory framework, and could do the accreditation only once they had one. They were now involved in ensuring that they considered different approaches to managing the schools. For accreditation purposes, for now, they grant concessions to these institutions to write the Umalusi examinations that were quality assured by Umalusi.
On the accreditation of the special needs programmes, there was a difference between programmes and institutions. If one referred to institutions, the problem was that the Constitution and the South African Schools Act provide for the establishment of independent schools at their own cost. Umalusi did provide concessions and rebates, and tried its best to accommodate and support these institutions.
Mr Emmanuel Sibanda, Executive Manager, Umalusi, responded to the question on international benchmarking. He stated that Umalusi was a primary member of the International Association for Educational Assessment and the African Association for Educational Assessment. They participate in the activities of the association and learn a lot from them.
On whether there was any research being done on online learning and micro-schooling, he said that Covid-19 had taught the entity that it was possible to provide online schooling. Research was being done to see how online school systems could receive Umalusi accreditation. Discussions that were taking place were about the offerings, and not about assessment. Assessment would be another challenge requiring the assistance and engagement of assessment bodies.
On the accreditation of special needs schools, he replied that in as far as the programmes were concerned, all programmes offered in South Africa must be registered with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). Programmes that were vocational, academic, and offered between levels one and four, must be submitted to Umalusi. They would be evaluated and Umalusi would see where to register them. Occupational-related programmes belonged to the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).
He said the NASCA qualification had been registered with the NQF. Umalusi had evaluated the qualification before it was registered with the NQF to see whether it was fit for purpose. Linked to the qualification was the intended and assessed curriculum. Only the intended curriculum had been appraised. Feedback and directives had been given to the DHET. The DHET was still to address those directives. Umalusi was still waiting on the DHET to submit the assessed curriculum so that it could be evaluated. A meeting had been planned between the DG of the DBE and the CEO of Umalusi. A date for this meeting was still to be set.
Responding to questions by the Chairperson of the Committee, Mr Mapindani assured the Committee that the finances of the public were in safe hands. SACE transparently collected revenue every year in accordance with legislation. The money was accounted for. Their books were exposed for audit processes and they tabled the financial statements to the public through this Committee and the Department of Education. He felt pain when the Chairperson calculated the revenue SACE collect, and indicated, in summary, their own interpretation of what the Chairperson was doing. There was no need to have done that. They had just presented the financial statements which indicated that R118 610 121 had been collected this financial year. They had spent it in the way disclosed in the financial statements. The Committee should not panic about the safety and accounting of the money, because the AGSA audits the books and declares a report to the public. SACE’s financial status was in good order.
His understanding was that the Chairperson was trying to determine whether SACE was giving the public value for their money, given that the public was complaining about its service. The Council had noted this, and had embarked on a project to reposition SACE in previous years. This project analysed SACE’s performance from the past years in line with legislation to assess whether they were on the right path and whether SACE was making an impact. Coupled with that, the Council had currently checked, when this point was made, whether the necessary actions were being taken and what deficiencies it had. The Council wanted to balance its revenue, its resources and the skills of its human capital, to ensure that it could meet its obligations. There was an added job evaluation process, so that when two processes were evaluated, the Council should be in a position to take a well-informed decision to improve. SACE had come a long way from the past years, and was working hard to reach its desired level. The public’s resources were in good hands.
Ms Mokgalane referred to the issue of professional development, and explained SACE’s role from a legislative perspective. There was a national policy framework on teacher education and development in South Africa and an integrated strategic planning framework on teacher education and development. Linked to that was section 5B of the SACE Act, which addressed promoting continuing professional development. This had been amended by the 2011 Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Act, which gave SACE authority to manage a system for continuing professional development, which was the CPDT system under programme four. When managing a system for continuous professional development, the main issue at hand was whether the country was providing fit for purpose continuing professional development that would improve the professional competence of the teachers.
This gave SACE a role to say that as a professional body responsible for the teaching profession, a system for continuing professional development would be managed as follows:
From a quality management perspective, it would approve all the providers in the country that were responsible for provisioning continuing professional development -- not SACE provisioning the providers. SACE would then approve, meaning all higher education institutions, teacher unions, provincial education departments, and private providers
In addition to the approval of providers, SACE had a responsibility to quality assure each and every continuing professional development programme offered to teachers. That would mean they had a criterion for relevance, fit for purpose quality, etc. That particular management function meant that SACE must employ a certain number of evaluators across the country, so that when providers were being submitted to SACE, they would be in a position to evaluate and give providers feedback on their status.
The evaluators employed by SACE would then forward their recommendations to the endorsement approval committee. All these people were paid from the money allocated to SACE concerning the management role of continuing professional development. In addition, SACE must implement a CDPT system with different role players. Teachers and providers would have their own separate portals so that when they participated in any continuing professional development, they would report that participation to SACE.
SACE would then analyse the professional development uptake of educators. There would be CPDT coordinators on the ground that were paid to support school teachers and principals and show them how to report to SACE and develop their professional development portfolio.
The development of teachers, or their being provided with continuous professional development, was the responsibility of the providers SACE were approving and the employers in the nine provincial education departments. SACE would manage all these people, programmes and information coming from the ground so that it could be in a position to advise accordingly whether what they were doing was correct or not. SACE did not have any responsibility for providing continuous professional development. What they were in fact doing was to say how they could help teachers when they were participating in continuous development. SACE could not be a player and a referee. They support their members on professional matters.
The money they receive from the CPDT in a financial year ranged from R15 million to R19 million, depending on the economic situation of the country and the resources from the Department and National Treasury. The money did exactly what she had already explained. They could have targets only in terms of what they could afford. It looked like a drop in the ocean, but they needed to cut the cloth to fit the resources they had. It was not financially possible to exceed by even R100 000. They managed, supported, and ensured that they found a way to encourage educators to participate. They had been on the ground with district directors giving them access to schools so that they could be in a position to encourage more educators to participate in continuous professional development. SACE used to set high targets, to a point where the Committee would feel that they were being too ambitious, and that SACE’s resources did not speak to the targets being set.
She said the entity's internal capacity could never be at 100%. That was why they had a job evaluation process and the SACE review and repositioning. Many aspects related to SACE’s mandate were not being done at 100%, but the review process allowed it to move in a direction where it was being done at 100%. They signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Council on Higher Education to start a joint accreditation process to influence the programmes being offered to student teachers.
On the sexual misconduct issues raised by Mr Siwela, she replied that she had previously indicated that this was one area that they were advocating action more than in any other area, followed by corporal punishment. She was personally convinced that the issue was not whether SACE was advocating or not. The more they thought they were advocating, the higher these cases would rise. Research showed the profile that many of the perpetrators had double personalities. These were men in the main. Between 7% and 11% involved women abusing younger boys. However, the bulk of the perpetrators were males with double personalities whom you could trust with all your heart -- but had hidden agendas. Schools not being careful about the spaces they had played a role. Sexual misconduct took place in spaces such as school halls, laboratories and offices. Psychological issues and grooming in certain subjects also played a role.
She replied to Mr Letsie’s questions by stating that SACE was not responsible for placing teachers in schools and did not deal with employment issues. It only registered teachers for them to enter the teaching profession, and then employers could decide whether to employ them or not. They were not in a position to deal with issues related to Funza Lushaka. The issue that we were raising was that the data coming from registrations should be able to inform the teacher supply utilisation and demand. They were already working with the DHET and DBE as a trilateral that was trying to deal with those issues.
She said SACE could try to liaise with Ms Sukers to support the Western Cape on safety issues, as she had already done research in the area.
They had developed a handbook to capacitate the schools. SACE was looking into the 2010 supply and demand issue. They would see how they had taken up some of the issues and link them up with the current ones.
On the turnaround time for registrations, she replied that if it was a walk-in, then the turnaround time was immediate. This was perhaps why online was not preferred, because all the quality assurance processes were in-person. The system took about ten days, as a workflow chain must be followed.
Ms Gaylin Bowles, SACE Councillor, assured the Committee that she had seen a growth in accountability during her time at SACE. Job evaluations and the repositioning of SACE meant for councillors that every committee on the Council now had a committee charter. SACE councillors had a Council charter. They look at their accountability and performance and reporting standards during committee meetings.
SACE was often seen as a big watchdog. Educators needed to realise that SACE was there to uphold professional standards. They take a lot of criticism for being selective about who and how they register. The education system was changing all the time. SACE had moved from being reactive to being proactive through monitoring and evaluations, giving input on who could be registered, and looking at the providers for professional development to see whether they were adapting to changes. SACE would never be 100%, because it was in a fluid and evolving sector. Council had become a lot more accountable, and dealt with more serious issues. They hold management in SACE to high standards. She was proud of being on the Council and of the developments that had been made. SACE was not just rubber stamping things, but was finding different ways of doing things and ensuring that the organisation was accountable.
Ms Mbatha said that she had confidence in the Council. The unions were in full support of it. They knew they had to plan, monitor and report on the work SACE was doing. She had noticed that there had been growth in SACE. There was more trust between SACE and the teachers. It was there to professionalise the profession. People could write what they like, but she could assure the Committee that the Council was in good hands. They were working with the DBE, and were happy with them.
Mr Moroatshehla said the Committee would appreciate it if SACE could answer the questions they were not able to respond to, in writing. On the grey areas of misunderstandings, he thought some bilaterals would be needed at some point. It remained the duty of the Portfolio Committee to create space and time to allow for clarity when there was a misunderstanding. They could not fold their arms if the public continued to raise a number of issues.
Ms Sukers said there were important questions that had been only partially answered. These were questions raised with Umalusi about special needs learners. She asked to submit those questions through the Committee Secretary, and that it be replied to as part of this report.
Mr Mweli saidd that this Committee had raised the accountability bar. The accountability of this Committee could be quite robust. He commended his colleagues from the DBE for being fully prepared for the meeting and doing their best. He assured Ms Sukers that the entities would respond to her questions. The Committee was doing an excellent job. He thanked the two entities for responding as best as they could. Prof Ballim’s ability to self-criticise was impressive -- he did not bask in praises, but was able to caution. This showed the calibre of his leadership. The sector was grateful for the Committee’s robust accountability.
The Committee went through the minutes of its meeting dated 11 October. They were adopted.
The Chairperson said a lot of work was being done on the BELA Bill behind the scenes. A report on this would be presented to the Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Adoons, Ms NG
Boshoff, Dr WJ
Letsie, Mr WT
Mashabela, Ms N
Mhaule, Dr R
Moroatshehla, Mr PR
Ngcobo, Mr SL
Nodada, Mr BB
Siwela, Mr EK
Sukers, Ms ME
Thembekwayo, Dr S
Van Der Walt, Ms D
Van Zyl, Ms A M
Yabo, Mr BS
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