DHET Third Quarter Performance Report 2022/23; Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications Concerning Higher Education

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

15 February 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


The Committee met with the Department of Higher Education to receive briefings on its 2022/23 quarter three performance report, and the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education.

The Department only achieved 21 (45%) of the 47 targets set for the quarter. At the end of quarter three, spending increased by 42% from R85.86 billion to R121.65 billion.

University Education remained the biggest spending programme, at an amount of R87.21 billion, followed by Technical and Vocational Education and Training at R8.81 billion, and Planning, Policy, and Strategy at R2.41 billion. Transfer payments at R108.42 billion and compensation of employees at R7.56 billion were the biggest spending items on the budget.

The Global Convention included a timeline on development; and the South African implementation of the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education; Regional Conventions; an Overview of the Global Convention; and Viewing the Global Convention through the South African Lens.

Members were not pleased with the performance of the Department in the third quarter, and wanted to know why the Department performed poorly; if the spending patterns spoke to the achievements of the targets; vacancy rates at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges; the finalisation of the comprehensive student funding model; the impact of loadshedding on institutions and other natural disaster-related matters on institutions; the changes in the fiscal distribution of the higher education vote; if it could address the problem and how much would be required; progress spending on infrastructure projects in TVET colleges; strategies and plans which were responding to the mobility limitation of students and researchers; and how the Global Convention improved the articulation of the country in comparison with other nations; the failure to fill the vacant posts; the Department’s position on institutions which were going on strike; and consequence management over personnel which has failed to meet targets.

Meeting report

Briefing by the Department of Higher Education and Training on its Third Quarter Report
Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), outlined the Department’s five-year strategic outcomes; significant developments during the period under review; performance against the third quarter targets, and financial performance.

Performance has been declining over the three quarters of the financial year. Only 21 (45%) of the 47 targets were achieved during the third quarter. This is an 11% decline from the second quarter and a 15% decline from the third quarter. Though the Department underperformed in some areas, it achieved some of its targets.

Ms Amelia Poolman, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DHET, said spending at the end of Quarter Three increased by 42% from R85.866 billion to R121.650 billion. The total expenditure of R121.650 billion, for the period ending 31 December 2022 represents a spending rate of 93%, of which R17.223 billion is for the skills levy. Spending on operational expenditure increased from 33.9% to 51.5% amounting to R361.1 million. University Education remains the biggest spending programme at an amount of R87.219 billion, followed by Technical and Vocational Education and Training at R8.815 billion, and Planning, Policy and Strategy at R2.418 billion. Transfer payments (R108.422 billion) and compensation of employees (R7.566 billion) are the biggest spending items on the budget.

See attached for full presentation

Department of Higher Education and Training on the Global Convention
Dr Sishi said one of the purposes of the Global Convention was to call on the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science, and Innovation to support the deposit of an instrument of ratification of the Global Convention with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), through Parliament. The presentation included a timeline of development; the South African implementation of the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education; Regional Conventions; an Overview of the Global Convention; and Viewing the Global Convention through the South African Lens.

See attached for full presentation

The Chairperson said the Committee was in the process of consolidating all the comments and submissions raised by stakeholders concerning the Convention. Once the process has been completed, the report will be sent to the Department.

The Committee said it was unhappy about the Department’s performance in the third quarter. It implored the Department to reflect on and review the external processes to which the performance was attributed, to look at where it was no longer working, and to strengthen it where necessary. Consequence management must always be implemented, as required. There were administration issues that should not be the case, and it hampered meeting the targets. The people responsible should be held accountable. The inability to meet targets versus the expenditure, meant the Department was not performing well, but the budget was exhausted.

Regarding loadshedding, under Programme One, it would assist in getting a sector’s approach to loadshedding. The Committee said this could be discussed further the following week. The DSI will also be consulted and engaged with for possible solutions.

The Community Education and Training (CET) enrolments must be upheld, and the CET Summit resolutions must be implemented.

Ms C King (DA) was concerned about underperformance and targets not being met. Questions were now being raised regarding the mitigation strategies being put in place to circumvent this, and the stabilisation of the vacancy rate at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. She was also waiting for a comprehensive funding model, but it was still not finalised. Members should get an update on the status of the model.

She noted concern about the various climate change factors such as drought and flooding; and if the Department had a plan for such eventualities at universities and TVET colleges.

On the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) mandatory grant, she asked how far the Department was in ensuring the employers were paid this grant, and if there were still any pending payments to be made.

She noted the Convention and how commendable it was to host it, however, she had received numerous complaints from students who could not register at Unisa because of not being recognised as proper matriculants. She asked if 23 was the compulsory age to get acceptance at a university, with Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs).

Ms K Khakhau (DA) was curious about the budget spent and asked if the Department had figures to meet the outstanding targets for the expenditure report for the current quarter.

Regarding the targets in Programme One, which dealt with disciplinary cases not yet being resolved in 90 days, she asked what the reasons were for the Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State, and Eastern Cape not finalising their reports; and what the detailed breakdown of the type of cases for each of these provinces was.

Thirdly, she asked how much of the budget has been reprioritised for the mitigation of Eskom faults or loadshedding.

She asked how far the student funding policy was, and if it could be expected at the end of the current financial year.

She asked for a breakdown of curriculum changes; the reasons for the delays; training of lecturers for the revised curriculum; which of the revised curriculum was active presently; asked for a status update of college lecturers’ appropriate qualifications; and asked how far the training of lecturers was going for the revised curriculum.

She further asked about the number of TVET college lecturers participating in the new training; the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Alive Skills; digital literacy; how South Africa has caught up; the workplace experiencing a delay in submission; the collection and finalisation of the report and CET enrolments; and completion of General Education and Training Certificate (GECT) Level Four. The two reasons provided were marketing and resources. There is a marketing plan, but not for resources.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) welcomed the Global Convention Report and said the Committee should support the Report of the Convention. She asked if TVET college applications would be included in the Global programme and appreciated the presentation by DHET. She acknowledged other programmes presented on targets achieved, but there was more to be done. The Department needs to work harder to ensure invoices are paid within the prescribed time or provide the Committee with a plan on how it will mitigate this matter.

The Committee must encourage the Department to do away with this culture of underspending. In areas where targets were not met, it is worrisome because Members know the institutions have competent people to implement what has been planned and targeted.

She asked for a written report from the Department on clarities she wanted to raise, but said she would do so through the Committee Secretary.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) spoke about the poor performance admitted to by the Director-General (DG). Members because would have wanted to drill down the substantive reasons for this poor performance. Where it concerns process, Members should be given a line-by-line elaboration on which parts of the process are an impediment to meeting targets within the system.

On external factors, he heard the Department saying certain things outside its control impacted its performance. He asked what those external factors were. For those within its control, he asked what the Department has done to ensure performance, within the constraints. There is a lot of initiative which must be taken by public servants to perform better. Wheels turn very slowly at the beginning of the year, as if there is an unspoken rule amongst public servants it will be able to catch up later. Quarter One (Q1) and Quarter Two (Q2) would have slow uptakes in performance and rarely would one see the performance at the beginning of the financial year sitting at the top tiers. This is not the correct culture to embrace because it makes the system susceptible to fiscal dumping. Failure to meet targets translates to non-spending, and it is an extreme burden and challenge to have spending happen towards the last quarter because people cut corners for payments to be made on the eve of the end of the financial year. The problem with performing late and meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) late is there will be fiscal dumping. This speaks directly to the planning of the Department and it must ensure implementation is directly linked to the spending.

The slow spending trend in Q1 and Q2 needs to be stopped as soon as possible so the Department can register green achievement from inception. This will assist the Department in exceeding its own targets.

Ms N Marchesi (DA) said the ratification of the Convention is a move in the right direction. During oversight, she noticed South Africans are leading in the science research fraternity, but a lot more people are coming from outside the country.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) must encourage students to take science subjects. There is a far smaller pool of students participating in science subjects.

She asked about vacancies because it is concerning to see the inability to fill these vacancies; she asked if this has been highlighted in the Department’s risk register; and how it is going to be mitigated. She also asked what this means regarding performance, and how it impacts the Department’s Annual Performance Targets (APP’s).  

Finally, she asked which colleges were going to embark on the 2025 target for disability students and what the targets set for these students were.

Ms N Chirwa (EFF) asked how many graduates were in the pool of graduates the 16 000 placed graduates came from. She was disappointed by the Department’s performance and said it has become obvious this is the ANC’s modus operandi. There is a general regression across the board, but it is discouraging to see the hub of knowledge creation is not exempt from this regression, and there is no outline for intervention to address it. There is no space to fail, or not to reach the targets. Performance is so low because of the supervision crisis in the Department, where people are supervising themselves. A leader can spot regression in reaching targets, even with quarterly targets. In a place where targets are not being reached, it means supervision is off the mark. Management must take responsibility for the performance of the Department and must ask itself how it is planning to account for the fact it did not supervise enough to ensure the targets set were reached.

She also wanted to know about the shortfall of targets under Programme Three. It was not clear what the targets were; how Covid-19 prevented the Department from reaching this target; the reasons why colleges are under-resourced and marketed under Programme Six; and if the targets reflected demand.

Mr T Letsie (ANC) noted the Department’s poor performance and its failure to pay invoices within the prescribed period of 30 days. This contributes to the extensive challenges many small and bigger businesses experience during these difficult economic times. He asked what the combined number of unpaid invoices in the third quarter was; if the unpaid invoices in the third quarter were settled yet; and if the quality of invoices submitted had issues.

Members suggested the Department should be proactive in educating its suppliers about what the invoice should contain to process the payments quicker, and to stop saying some invoices submitted were not up to par.

He asked about the Department’s position regarding institutions that warned about going on strike.

On the matter of TVET colleges not sending information on time, he asked what the Department was doing to ensure there was consequence management for the colleges falling short of this; asked if there was any irregular and fruitless expenditure in the third quarter; and if so, if the investigations were done.

In the last quarter, the infrastructure grants were not paid; and he asked why these payments were not made.

Ms D Sibiya (ANC) wanted to know about the changes in the fiscal distribution of the higher education vote, and asked if the Department can address the problem; how much is required; what the progress was regarding spending on infrastructure projects in TVET colleges; strategies and plans responding to the mobility limitation of students and researchers; and how the global Convention improved the articulation of the country in comparison with other nations, as well as the failure to fill the vacant posts.

The Chairperson said some questions required in-depth information and the Department could respond in writing. The Department should bring Members into confidence on how the Convention will eliminate some of the concerns Members raised. It is important to look at mechanisms which will strengthen monitoring to eliminate the trend of failing to meet targets. The dip in performance was a concern for all Members, as well as the reasoning around why some of the targets were not being met.

Dr Sishi said presenting a report like this is painful, but the Department will act upon it. Letters have been written and sent to the relevant colleagues who are to be held accountable. The TVET branch has provided leadership to ensure principals submit the outstanding data to the Department.

There is a system called Libalela in the Department, which processes performance information. It does not accept reasons. It does not provide room for explanation. The presented results are 100% accurate. The reason why the Department seems to perform exceptionally in the fourth quarter is because time management ensures all outstanding information was gathered manually and captured accordingly in the previous quarter.

Dr Marcia Socikwa, DDG, University Education, DHET, replied on the issue of loadshedding and said from the responses the Department received from universities, 50% of the universities are relying on generators to support their system. Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) will be approached for further possible options which it can procure. DSI is a player in this field and competes with other suppliers. The first meeting on this issue has been held with DSI and it will participate in the workshop.

Once the outstanding work is completed with the banks on the ‘missing middle’ students, the Department will provide the final report to the Committee. It held consultative engagements with various stakeholders and banks.

Every institution is entitled to develop a disaster management plan if the auditors in the institutions are doing their job. In some instances, institutions do not have the funds to even go there. The fee regulation is in place and the work has been completed, although it came two weeks late.

On the protests at various institutions, the Department has engaged the University of Cape Town (UCT) extensively and other teams are engaging other institutions in other provinces. No unhappiness was sensed at the time, but DHET found that UCT management had made decisions that did not align with the ministerial guidelines. Those decisions were not made in consultation with the Department, but it will monitor them.

The Department is trying to determine the depth of the issues at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) from the registrars. The Department will meet with the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and UCT, monthly, in response to the problems it faces. It is planned to meet with the UCT management and Council on the present afternoon.

On infrastructure grants, there was certainly a challenge. Universities accrue interest and delay these projects, but not all institutions. UWC is one of the institutions performing well. Those who do not spend these funds will be penalised and the funds will be retracted. Some are not able to roll out infrastructure due to security challenges.

All universities have been invited to a security workshop.

Mr Sam Zungu, Deputy Director-General (DD): TVET College, said the Department was not pleased with the poor performance in the third quarter. The same thing happened in the same quarter the previous year, but the Department caught up in the fourth quarter. The TVET branch was amongst the top-performing branches at the time. Most of the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) branch targets were linked to the TVET branch at the head office. The Department engaged the Senior Management and the Planning branch to assist. The composition of most of the targets falls within the institutional level. Engagements with college management took place to unpack the requirements for reporting performance management. After several engagements, all required information was subsequently submitted later than the specified date. The Department is now trying to ensure it improves the deadlines and implements consequence management.

The failure to meet these targets is related to the poor Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems at colleges, but the Department will use state funds to build the ICT infrastructure for colleges to report accurate information, as required. Capacity for ICT skills poses a challenge, and the skills attracted at colleges are not always at the required levels.

A skills gap analysis will be done to combat the inability to attract these skills, which is related to conditions of employment in the public sector. There is a plan for filing all the vacant posts within the TVET sector, and it has already started in the Eastern Cape. Three interview processes have been concluded, and the Department will move to the next province. 

Ms Thembisa Futshane, DDG: Community Education and Training (CET), acknowledged with appreciation the improvements which have taken place in the Community Education and Training College (CET) sector. There is a need to implement the resolutions of the CET Summit, which is underway. The process of implementing these resolutions has already started. Last year there was a dedicated meeting with the Committee on the Summit resolutions, related to moving the CETs out of the basic education schools. The Department is moving it into TVET colleges, and acknowledges more work needs to be done.

The Department has committed R1 billion towards infrastructure for CET colleges. This money will be available from 1 April. There is support from Sector Education Training Authorities (SETA) and one SETA has committed R60 million to construct a building for a CET college.

The enrolment targets are very high because the baseline for this target was already high. When the baseline target was set, the students did not exist. However, the Department implemented consequence management for all the principals, which inflated the baseline targets. The Department was not allowed to change those targets by the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME).

The under-resourcing of CETs has been a long outstanding issue. The Department is looking at an intervention to broaden the funding for CET colleges, although the National Treasury said no new funding is available. The Department is exploring other avenues for funding. There is a commitment of R200 million for CETs, with an additional R50 million from the TVET branch for the compensation of employees. There is also an additional R1 billion from 1 April for infrastructure development for CET colleges.

There was about R508 million received by CETs from SETA for various programmes. These funds have already been secured. We also received far more than the current funding, but the DHET must find sustainable funding for CET colleges.

Ms Lulama Mbobo, Corporate Service, replied to the disciplinary cases and said there is a concern about the delays in certain provinces. Out of 67 cases in the third quarter, around 49 are in the two regions. The reasons would vary but in the main, the Department is holding regional managers accountable. Reporting to the Director-General (DG) quarterly on misconduct cases is required. Two regional managers retired recently, which had a vacuum impact on the target. The letters are already on DG’s table to send to all the managers.

The issue of postponements is the reason why there are delays in the finalisation of these cases. These are cases of bribery, theft, negligence, and a few cases of sexual harassment. There were five cases of sexual harassment in the third quarter. The Department could share the report of the Department without disclosing the names of the parties involved.

The issue of loadshedding is also encompassed by the SITA network failure and the impact is severe in regional offices. Some of the regional offices are sharing offices with other government departments and cannot solely come up with its own solutions, such as generators. A generator has been procured but EXCO decided to relocate from the current premises because of the ongoing power cuts. The Minister approved relocation. This is the decision the Department of Public Works took. There is no loadshedding where the Department is going to be moving to as there is solar power at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) campus.

Mr Zungu replied to the issue of the disability units, and said the Department started with a pilot project setting up at one college, and the rest of the colleges will follow. The target was exceeded because the Department was able to set up four colleges. These units also run efficiently, but the units must adhere to a national standard. More funding allocation has been set aside for this. 10% of the College Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant (CIEG) funding is dedicated towards infrastructure for students living with disabilities, and the Department was encouraged by the work which has taken place so far. There has been an improvement in the funding allocation for TVET colleges and a massive investment in the TVET college infrastructure. The Department had only one trade test centre in line with the 2030 National Development Plan (NDP) targets, but it was now sitting at 35 throughout the colleges. These centres are housed by the TVET colleges, which makes it easier for the communities to access them. It has been decentralised to make it more accessible.

Regarding the protest at uMfolozi TVET College, the Department has been engaging with the college. A report was submitted saying the issue is related to water shortage where the campus is situated. It is a municipal crisis, but the college sourced the water through water tanks. The Department was told the protest was allegedly about a service provider who was not paid, but the branch is confident the matter will be resolved soon.

Dr Socikwa said universities are required to indicate why targets are not achieved and the common reference point was Covid-19 concerning the graduate output. The reason is inadequate, but she saw it was clear universities seem to not have preceded with the requisite diligence around implementing the foundation programmes. Universities have become complacent in this regard.

Ms Poolman replied to the comment about unpaid amounts within 30 days, and said it was R7.9 million out of the R34 billion which was spent in the quarter, out of an amount of 25 000 invoices. At the end of the third quarter, the Department was sitting at 61% for Goods and Services. Including commitments, these targets will be met by the end of the financial year. The Department also has a huge amount of exam moderators for November and December examinations. This happens in the last quarter, and it is not fiscal dumping but seasonal, because exams are also seasonal. The spending to date is at 94%, including commitments.

Dr Sishi said some issues will be addressed in writing, such as the matter relating to mitigation strategies. Institutions and regional offices seem to have poor mechanisms for data collection. He was pleased consequence management was emerging strongly across the board. The Department has made interventions for the poor performance and governance in Gauteng, Western Cape, and Northern Cape provinces.

Ms Futshane said there was R200 million in the contracting phase for colleges, as part of the Ministerial CET Skills Summit, and colleges will soon be contracting for this. Three out of the nine colleges were not approved for the National Skills Fund (NSF) funding from the R200 million because in its financial reporting, the DHET picked up instances of financial mismanagement and weaknesses in oversight functions of the Council. As a result, the Northern Cape Community College, Western Cape Community College, and Gauteng Province Community College were not approved for the NSF funds.

Directives were also made for what needs to be done to improve financial management. Engagements were held with each of the colleges and plans on corrective measures for financial mismanagement at the colleges was developed and submitted.

In the last financial reports, the Department saw a marked improvement in performance and the areas highlighted by the Department. The Department made it clear, where there is financial mismanagement, the college will not be given any funds and the allocated funding must be well managed.

Dr Sishi thanked the Members and said he hoped in the next engagements, the Department would demonstrate a position of handling all these matters well.

The Chairperson thanked the Department for the engagement and said there were still outstanding questions for further engagements. Any written responses must be submitted within the prescribed period.

The meeting was adjourned.


No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: