Department Budget: briefing

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Meeting report

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION AD HOC COMMITTEE
2 June 2004
PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT BUDGET: BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr J Gomomo (ANC)

Department Delegation: Mr A Rapea, Acting Director-General Mr C Senoamadi, Chief Operation Officer and Mr R Shaw

Documents handed out:

Department of Public Service and Administration presentation
Department of Public Service and Administration Budget Vote 10

Summary
The Committee in line with its oversight responsibility was briefed by the Department of Public Service and Administration on its review, business plan and budget for the year 2004/05. The discussion that followed included the following topics:
- the effects of the restructuring to the public service
- the rationale of having a programme in International and African Affairs
- to ensure the effective use of information and IT in government.
- the effect of having the whole of the public service on medical aid scheme
- the disadvantages of having a Senior Management Service (SMS) official acting for a long period
- the rate of vacancies in the Department and the low number of disable employees employed in government departments
- provincial interventions
- the problem of scarce skills in rural areas
- implementation and monitoring of the targets noted in the President's SON address

Minutes
Public Service and Administration Department Briefing
Mr A Rapea (Acting Director-General) noted that the presentation addressed the Department's achievements from the previous financial year. It also represented the final phase of the multi-term agreement which had been concluded in 2001. Furthermore, he stated that the presentation would deal with the Department's strategy and budget proposed for this financial year. According to him, the multi-term wage agreement would have to be concluded during this financial year. Before getting to the actual review Mr. Rapea addressed a number of issues. One was that the Department has three types of outputs in terms of its role. These were explained in the power point presentation. Secondly, according to him, the Department had six programmes and would be adding an International and African Affairs programme. This was due to role South Africa was playing in Africa and in the International arena. In his review of the 2003/2004 he started off by saying that the Department had undertaken two major crosscutting projects in addition to the programme work. This was the intervention in the Eastern Cape and the restructuring process of the whole of the Public Service in terms of Resolution 7 of 2002. He then discussed the programmatic work with special reference to integrated human resources. This can be viewed on the attached documents. He made mention to phase one of Batho Pele Gateway and stated that it should be launched before the 21 July 2004. He further noted that the Department envisaged to have had the Community Development Workers (CDWs) deployed in all the 21 nodal points by the end of the year and thereafter be appointed as part of public service from 2005.

Mr C Senoamadi (Chief Operation Officer) presented the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) budget allocation for the financial year 2004/05 to 2006/07. He noted that there would be no financial allocation transfer made to the State information Technology Agency (SITA) as the Public Service SETA (PSETA) would be undergoing an institutional review during the course of this year. He further added that the Committee should note that there had not been much of an increase in this years budget and that he was skeptical whether the Department would be able to make much impact in its programmes for the next year, especially as far as provincial interventions were concerned. He said that while R5 million has been proposed for Department's provincial intervention, the Eastern Cape experience had been a good indication that that amount was far too little for the Department to be as effective as possible.(See attached documents)

Discussion
Dr U Roopnarain (IFP) noting that there might be a huge exodus of officials from the public services to private sectors due to this restructuring process. She asked which department is likely suffer mostly in terms of scarce personnel?

Mr Rapea answered by saying that he did have figures with him in this regard and would therefore not like to speculate. He suggested that the Department prepare a proper assessment thereof and report back to the Committee at a later stage.

Mr R Baloyi (ANC) noted that this presentation seems to be useful as it assisted the Committee in two ways: Firstly it helped in the preparation of the budget vote and secondly when developing the Committees programme for the year. He added that the Committee would have to be re-briefed by the Department on some of issues arising from the presentation.

Dr Roopnarain (IFP) asked what the rationale was of having a programme in International and African Affairs instead of focusing on capacity building, monitoring and evaluation of scarce skills training?

Mr Rapea responded by saying that South Africa does not operate as an island and that international and continental issues affect South Africa. Therefore the programme on International and African Affairs is specifically designed to address our international and continental relations with the outside world. He further noted that this is would also play a significant role in developing the Nepad programmes.

Dr Roopnarain (IFP) noting that almost half of the public service personnel is not on any medical aid scheme. She then asked how much would it cost the government to get them into a public services medical aid scheme?

Mr Rapea responded by saying that this was a contingent liability as government policy clearly states that anyone can join government medical aid scheme. He added, that if the whole of the public sectors were to decide to join the medical aid scheme at once, it would cost the government approximately R7 billion. Therefore in order to reduce this contingent liability the Department has developed an internal closed medical aid scheme based on economies of scale and proper quantification, thus trying to determine what the pharmacists and other service providers can offer in this regard.

Mr R Ntuli (DA) noted that Mr Rapea has been acting as a Director-General for quite sometime. He then expressed his dissatisfaction in stating that by having people in key position for a long period of time, such as SMS's, could bring instability within government Departments. He then asked what the vacancy rate was within the Department in so far as the SMS level is concerned?

Mr Rapea acknowledged that he had been in his position for a lengthy period of time. He however said that the post was advertised before the national election and that the process had to be halted since the Minister is required to be part of the panel that interviews his/her prospective Director-General. According to him, the candidates had been shortlisted and it was expected that the Minister would appoint the Director-General within the forthcoming two weeks.

Mr Ntuli (DA) asked what is the vacancy rate within the Department was as far as the Senior Management Services level was concerned?

Mr Senoamadi responded that there was an overall vacancy rate of about twenty percent within the Department and this included level two to chief directorate. However out of this twenty percent the vacancy rate from directorship up to SMS is about 2 percent.

Mr Ntuli (DA) applauded the Department and the Department of Labour on the progress that they had made with regard to SETAs and asked how is this process was going to unfold?

Mr Rapea said that although the negotiations are already in progress, the process was very slow.

Mr Ntuli (DA) asked what causes PSETA not to function effectively and whether this was related to human resources, financial capacity or lack of management skills?

In his response Mr Rapea noted that the problems surrounding PSETA were more legislative, emanating from the Skills Development Act, as PSETA should not have been part of the Department but rather a separate entity. He further mentioned that the PSETA also experienced a leadership crisis at board level and had staff incapacity. He said that he had raised these issues with the Department of Labour and together they were drafting recommendations proposing that the PSETA should be separated from the Department of Public Serve and Administration, with its own budget and managed in terms of the Skills Development Act.

Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked whether there was any time frame in place for those who could not be deployed and thus would now have to undergo training for redeployment?

Mr Rapea responded that there was a twelve-months time frame put in place for the completion of the restructuring process. This would be concluded in June 2004 and running parallel to this there were social plans that included training and retraining. He said that it should be noted that all Departments are responsible for their own training and retraining and what the Department for Public Service and Administration only provides a framework and guidance to these Departments.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) asked whether the Department had identified the provinces where its' intervention would mostly be required during this year?

Mr Rapea responded by saying that the specific Province should request for assistance first and then the Department would respond. According to him, based on this the Department received requests from the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr S Ndebele, requesting specific interventions and it was also presently assessing a request received from Mpumalanga Province. He further noted that work in the Eastern Cape has not yet been finalised and that the Department would try to complete its work in that Province as soon as possible.

Mr Mzondeki (ANC) asked what happened to the awareness programme which was designed to assist the public servants in understanding the complicated issues around the definitions of disability and the meaning of reasonable accommodation, as outlined in the Labour Relations Act?

Mr Rapea responded that on all disability issues in the Department work very closely with the Office on the Status of Disabled People (OSPD), located in Presidency. He further noted that the Department was presently looking for an alternative building, which would also be able to accommodate its disabled employees and other people.

Mr Mzondeki (ANC) noted that the Employment Equity Report showed government as not achieving satisfactory levels as far as disabled persons are concerns and thus asked whether the Department intended to increase its number with regard to disabled employees in this financial year?

In his response Mr Rapea acknowledged that although the Department's unit that works on employment equity issues is very under resourced, they would however be looking at ways to boost its numbers during the course of the year. He said that the Department had set itself a target of 1.5 percent for 2004 and was only able to employ 1.3 percent of people with disabilities at the end of the day. However for the year 2004/05 their target has been increased to be 2 percent so that it could be in line with the national target.

Mr Mzondeki (ANC) asked whether there is a component in the Department that has been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the CDW understand the disability issues?

Mr Rapea responded that the Department, in collaboration with the Public Policy Partnership, has launched a learnership programme to educate its CDW's on disability issues. Furthermore the Department would try to acquire its own learnership equipment so that it could ensure that all people with disability would be catered for.

Mr N Gcwabaza (ANC) noted that there was an outcry from the rural community public service that they did not received their rural allowance and asked the Department to comment on this?

Mr Rapea responded that it should be noted that this allowance came as the result of an agreement concluded between the Department and the health sector. In terms of this agreement certain nurses who qualify to receive the allowance were to be identified, as it was noted that there could not be a general allowance. He also stated that the National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) weren't initially signatories to the agreement, although they agreed later on to sign the agreement. He conclude by saying that rural allowance still had to be rolled out in terms of these guidelines and agreements.

Ms H Mgabadeli (ANC) made a comparison between the needs of rural teachers versus those of urban teachers and thus asked what the Department is doing to encourage teachers to remain in rural areas?

Mr Rapea responded that the Department had developed an approach in dealing with the identification of scarce skills in the rural areas and the approach was sector orientated. He said that the former Minister of Education had also indicated what should be considered as forming part of a scarce skill incentive schemes. One way of doing so is by introducing rural housing allowance and also ensuring that other facilities are made accessible to these teaches. Therefore the real issue is not to giving these rural teachers more money but rather ensuring that the infrastructure is improved.

The Chair acknowledged the unbearable conditions which the rural teachers find themselves facing and which result in them wanting to leave their rural. He thus requested the Department to take these facts into consideration when negotiating the problems faced by rural teachers and also asked them to include the Department of Labour in those negotiations.

Mr Gcwabaza (ANC) noted that R5 000 was made accessible so that all those public servants who are on the excess list could enrol and be trained or retrained for skills programmes. He asked how this programme was working?

In his response Mr Rapea acknowledged that there was a problem with government departments' human resource systems as the personnel was not strategic enough to anticipate things and thus develop systems to address them should they arise. However, noting that this was not a problem unique to public services alone, as it also affects the private sector, they then developed a project which would reposition all the human resources in the public service and thereafter produce practitioners who are more strategic and skill trained. He further stated that the R5 000, which was allocated for the training voucher, was not an additional amount allocated for this purpose but it came from the training budget of those departments who needed to re-skill their employees due to the fact that they were in excess to the requirements. It should further be noted that this R5 000 training voucher will only become relevant to prepare those for exit.

Mr S Simons (NNP) asked what mechanisms were in place to monitor and evaluate various departments so as to ensure that they deliver effectively on, and meet the targets noted by the State President in his State of the Nation address?

Mr Rapea responded that there were various projects that have been developed by the Department so as to ensure that all the departments do implement these targets. Amongst these projects there is a Cabinet Electronic Network (CabEnet), which has been designed to monitor the implementation and evaluation system and thereafter makes the necessary inputs accordingly. Furthermore a team had been established by the Governance and Monitoring System and the Presidency Policy Coordination Unit to monitor and evaluate the implementation of all government policies and the Department is part of that team.

The Chair thanked the Department for presentation and noted that there wass a need for these two organs to meet again so as to discuss some outstanding issue and thus proposed the 21 June 2004 as the date for this meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.



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