Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill: Premier
Premier & Constitutional Matters (WCPP)
28 November 2022
Chairperson: Mr C Fry (DA)
The Standing Committee on the Premier and Constitutional Matters (WCPP) held a virtual meeting to deliberate on Vote 1: Premier in the Schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2022.
Members asked why there was a decrease in the compensation of employees' budget by R7 million. Members also asked for clarity on the delays with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and if there was a way to expedite the process. Members also asked what necessitated the extra money allocated by the Western Cape Development Partnership.
The Standing Committee adopted the budget vote report, with the ANC reserving its position.
The Chairperson opened the meeting, and informed the Members that the meeting agenda was about the deliberation on Vote 1: Premier in the Schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2022. The Committee would also consider and possibly adopt its draft Report on Vote 1: Premier in the Schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2022 as well as the draft Committee meeting minutes of 11 October 2022. The Committee would also consider the draft Committee Report on the 2021/22 Annual Report of the Department of the Premier.
The Premier of the Western Cape, Mr Alan Winde, said that the Department was in a better position looking back to the years when they were hit with the pandemic.
The Premier briefly became inaudible
He said that the shifting of the funds was R38.394 million between votes. This was mostly related to software systems such as the R1.335 million Microsoft Cloud computing for Health, the Ministry of Mobility was a R6-million shift; competency assessment at schools was R575 million; his content was R8.6 million, and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) information technology resources and services were R3.4 million. About R2 million was shifted to the Department of Economic Development, which was to supplement the operations of the EEP; R950 000 shifted to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), and it was part of the Safety Plan against Violence at School Programmes. There were some rollovers of R2.5 million which was the citizen-centric culture in the Western Cape government culture journey. R4.252 million in ICT-related shifts in the Department of Health, and R1.7 million rolled over from transport and public works, as part of the modernisation infrastructure refresh project. There was budget alignment with compensation of employees (COE). The shift was just one percent of their budget.
The Director-General, Dr Harry Malila, said they were ready to go into the issues related to programme four. He highlighted that the Premier had touched on most of the issues. The issues in programme four had to do with applications in some municipalities such as Witzenberg and Saldana. The R54 million that had been surrendered would go over to MTEF 2023 to ensure that the Department gave it back to all the initiatives under the broadband project. It also rolled out broadband to some of the remote areas. The shift in the budget was less than one percent of their total budget, and they were quite happy to present it to the Committee.
The Chairperson said the Committee was present to deliberate on Vote 1: Premier in the Schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation Bill, 2022. He asked Members to do it in blocks of pages.
Mr C Dugmore (ANC) asked why there was a decrease in the COE of R7 million. Was it because of the vacant posts that were not filled? Why were these not filled? He asked for an explanation in subprogramme 1.4, where there was an amount of R15 000 being shifted because of the staff exit. How did the Department save from the staff exits? He asked for clarity on the virements of the strategic communication and the shifting of the million from the savings due to the fact the first Thursday radio show was only held quarterly. He asked for clarity on the procurement of how much each bicycle cost.
Ms D Baartman (DA) asked on page five, subprogramme 4.2: strategic ICT services. She asked for clarity on the delays with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and if there was a way to expedite the delays.
Dr Malila highlighted that there were a lot of issues at SITA, and they had regular meetings with the head of SITA monthly because there were issues in the province relating to some of the major contracts relating to the education environment. There had been many issues, and these had resulted in massive delays on some of the contracts that they had to procure using the SITA platform. The Department had written a letter to seek authority to do the procurements on its own because of the delays. This impacted service delivery, and they could not spend some of the funding because the broadband companies also run through SITA. SITA was not where it was meant to be. Given some of the challenges, the Department took some of the money and allocated it for the new year.
The e-centres were an absolute game changer, and the province had 73. Members could go to any of these to speak to the people of the province, and they could report how the centres would help them to either access job opportunities or improve their livelihood. It was something that they had to build on as a government, while making sure that they could extend the centres into the most rural areas. They had plans for the mobile centres to go into the rural areas, which could assist the people in doing what they needed.
Regarding staff exits: it was quite difficult to manage and control, but the COE budget was a major issue around the country. The province had put together their own budget committee so that, as soon as a post goes vacant, it goes back into the pool so that the Department’s management team could look at the entire Department to see where the specific skills and capacity were urgently needed. The new funding was used to fill the vacancies. This was part of the efficiency analysis and the savings on staff could be used to employ the savings in other key areas in the Department. It was hard to manage staff exits because people were moving to different departments, which was the constraint. In terms of capacity at senior management level, there were discussions to fill some of the positions, but that would come through the new budget.
On communication, the first Thursday programme was a massive success in the province. It was taken to rural areas where people could come every first Thursday to engage with Cabinet, ministers and the HoDs.
Mr Drikus Basson, CFO, Department of the Premier, said the bicycles were one way of encouraging non-motorised transport. There was a focus on mobility, and there was a focus on transport. On the venues for the meeting of Cabinet, there was a shift when they realised that their venue budget was not enough. The Department budgeted by looking at what happened in the previous year regarding expenditure. Due to COVID-19 in previous years, the Department did not spend any money on the venues and when things started to open, it was a challenge. The budget had moved by one percent on a budget close to R2 billion.
The R50 000 shift was apportioned of the cost; it was a hundred bicycles that cost R400 000, amounting to R4 000 per bicycle. The bicycles were at the occasion of the Premier, for the safety cycle tour in the West Coast. The bicycles were handed over to the neighbourhood watch.
On the staff exits, there was a common refrain that funds became available for transfer to households. It meant that when the staff members exited, there were certain gratuities payable to the staff members. However, since they were members of the public, the item was not scored as COE but as a transfer to a household. These were not naturally budgeted for. But in the adjustment budget, a shift would just be created from COE to transfers to households.
Mr Hilton Arendse, Head of Cyber-Security, Department of the Premier, added that two e-centres were created in the high crime areas. The focus has now shifted from rural to the metro.
Regarding the delays in the infrastructure procurement, this was specifically for the EMS building that the WCED was moved into and Groote Schuur. There had been significant engagement with SITA, and they had sent a letter to the Minister requesting to procure goods and services by themselves. The Department was waiting for the outcome of the Minister.
Mr Dugmore asked how the Premier was going to justify allocating the West Coast Community Policing Forums (CPFs) as opposed to all other CPFs in all the non-metro regions. Was it going to be another blue-dot exercise? Was it about electioneering, or was there actual commitment to deliver cycles to all the CPFs in all the provinces?
Premier Winde said that, when looking at how government had distributed the bicycles in the past years, one would see that government had distributed the bicycles to neighbourhood watches, health care workers, and school children. Over the years, they would spread across the province. He said it was not about electioneering but about mobility in the province, and it had always been like that. He asked if the Member wanted a discussion on the blue dot – R215 million going into a pilot project. It was launched as a pilot project and was extended once. There was a lot of interest from the OECD and the KfW Bank in Europe. Level universities were studying it as a behaviour change model as well as how they would find a way to subsidise and incentive the taxi industry, which is an industry that moves more people than trains and buses in South Africa. That was why the pilot project had been put in place. He said he would gladly roll it out across the whole province because it would ensure that every single taxi operator had a system that was marker chipped, and they could check the speeds and whether they were on track or on their route. This was going to enhance customer and citizen reporting. The problem was that they had run a pilot project for R215 million, with 800 taxis to roll out to all 16 000 to 17 000 taxis. That would run into billions and billions of Rands. So it had to be handed over to a national level to determine feasibility.
Mr Dugmore highlighted that in the engagements with SANTACO, they had indicated that there had been a second extension. It had been agreed that it would be extended to the end of that financial year, but that was not extended, and the money had been adjusted to other purposes whereas the commitment made with the second extension was to extend it until the end of the financial year. The processes had to be borne by the provincial government or whoever was doing the negotiations with SANTACO because the extension was committed to the end of the year – which would have been an amount of R40 million. Did the province learn anything from the pilot?
The Chairperson asked for questions for pages nine, 10, 11 and 12.
Mr Dugmore asked regarding page seven, on the R6.3 million that had been shifted to vote 10 – for the issue of the Office of the Minister for Mobility. When would the MEC for mobility actually have his own office? He highlighted that, on the centre for E-innovation, an amount of R20 million was shifted from health to the mentioned account system. Members had gone to the Khayelitsha Hospital where the board had pleaded with the Members for needs amounting to R150 million. He asked how that was justifiable. What are the infrastructural needs in hospitals like Khayelitsha?
The Premier responded on the MEC for Mobility, saying that it was going to be 01 April 2023. They were doing other things from e-innovation, from other departments, and the shift via agreement with the accounting officer of the Department of Health where they incurred certain expenditure and commitments. They had agreed to pay for it, and the Department would use the adjustment estimates to deal with the shift.
On the issues regarding infrastructure requirements in places like Khayelitsha: it was something that the Department of Health had to deal with as part of its annual budgeting process.
Mr Dugmore asked regarding the staffing of the Children’s Commissioner. He noted that there was almost R2 million not spent to increase the capacity in the office. He asked for an explanation as to why that did not happen. He asked about the extra money allocated to the Western Cape Economic Development partnership. What necessitated the additional funding?
Dr Malila replied that the funding they were not going to spend would go to the 2023 year. There were challenges with recruiting people for the Commissioner for Children, and she had gone through numerous processes but could not find the correct candidates for what she required, since it was a new office. There were specific requirements, particularly concerning people’s qualifications. But it had not been a lack of trying. The Commissioner for Children was quite active in the space and had an institutionalised support structure. There were no other issues; it was just that they did not find the right candidate. The other issue was that of permanent accommodation and an office building that belonged to government, but when they wanted to move in, there were tenants. The Department had to go through a process to get the tenants out of the building in a legal manner. They had identified a new building, and the money had been earmarked for the new year. Concerning the EDP, the additional funding was for the institutional capacity arm support. The EDP was actively engaged with communities, particularly during the COVID-19 period, to get additional support so that the food systems structures were in place to deal with vulnerable people and communities across the entire province. The Department had to support them with additional capacity and institutional support, but there was no specific project related to that.
The Members supported the vote, and said that it could be tabled.
Mr Dugmore said they did not tackle the issue of resolutions, and he asked if the Chairperson planned to deal with them before or after the report.
The Chairperson highlighted that resolutions would be dealt with after the adoption.
Mr Dugmore raised that the minority view of the ANC was not to support the budget in line with rule 19. They did not support the budget because too much money was spent on venues for Cabinet meetings, and not enough detail was provided on the various expenditure such as the Western Cape Economic Development partnership. The Department had prioritised cloud computing above the infrastructure needs of the Khayelitsha Hospital.
The Chairperson thanked all those in the meeting for their contribution, and the members of the public.
Mr Dugmore requested information as part of the resolutions. He asked for a breakdown of the additional funds allocated to the Western Cape Economic Development partnerships and what the funds would be utilised for. He asked for a full report for the bicycles allocated to the various initiatives; the monitoring and the evaluation of the bicycles, how it was done and where the ownership resides.
Ms Baartman raised the need to adopt the budget vote report because it would have to go to the budget committee the following day.
Mr Dugmore asked if the information request could be made available by 15 January.
The Committee adopted the budget vote report.
Members considered the meeting minutes from 11 October 2022, and adopted them.
Members considered and adopted the draft Committee Report on the 2021/22 Annual Report of the Department of the Premier
The meeting was adjourned.
Baartman, Ms DM
Dugmore, Mr C
Philander, Ms W
Winde, Mr AR
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