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SELECT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SERVICES
26 October 2004
EXPANDED PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME PROGRESS: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape)
Documents handed out:
Expanded Public Works Programme: Overall Progress Report
Expanded Public Works Programme: Department Quarterly Report (offsite rink)
The Department briefed the Committee on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Their briefing included an outline of the general purpose of the programme; progress regarding crosscutting issues; a summary of progress per sector, and significant conclusions and recommendations. Following this, the Department discussed the labour-intensive contractor learnership programme. The Members then raised a number of questions of clarity, and concerns about the nature and scale of employment expected, and financial support and administration of the programme.
Mr Sean Phillips (Department Chief Operations Officer) presented an outline of their general objectives, progress regarding crosscutting issues and a summary of progress per sector. He pointed out that in the initial months of the programme, most of the major contributions would come from already existing projects such as Working for Water, Zimbambele and Gundo Lashu. Many of the provinces and municipalities were not yet complying with the labour-intensive guidelines stipulated in the Division of Revenue Act. He then briefed the Members on the labour-intensive contractor learnership programme.
The Chairperson indicated that he had received apologies from the Minister and Director-General explaining that they could not attend the Committee meeting, as they were required by the Cabinet.
Mr C van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) pointed out that extensive capacity building was required before the EPWP could generate positive results. He queried the functionality of some of the SETAs involved in supporting the programme.
Ms C Makunike (Department Training Director: EPWP) indicated that some of the SETAs had been slow to respond to the EPWP, but they had welcomed the programme in principle.
Ms J Msiza (Department DIrector: Social Development) added that in terms of the social sector of the EPWP, the programme had received much support from the SETAs concerned.
Mr N Mack (ANC, Western Cape) queried the nature of the employment expected and suggested that the programme should focus on permanent job creation. He also requested clarity on the issue of nodal points. There were widespread problems in procuring financial support for project tenders.
Mr Phillips answered that the EPWP should not be seen as a solution to the national unemployment problem, as it was only one of a wide range of strategies and had limited operating capacity. In response to the concern about the temporary nature of the work, their skills-building programme ensured that beneficiaries would be more employable on the open market. If the programme proved successful, it would stimulate economic growth and therefore create more employment opportunities. With regards to the issue of financial support for tenders, the Department had approached the problem through the construction and transformation charter process.
Ms H Matlanyane (ANC, Limpopo) asked for details concerning the number of jobs that the EPWP had created to date, particularly for women.
Mr Phillips replied that the Code of Good Practice introduced by the Department of Labour, had stipulated that 60% of employees in special public works programmes had to be women. Although this quota had not always been met, the Department was working to ensure its implementation.
Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) requested an update on the advertised post of Deputy Director-General, and inquired about the financing and maintenance of the EPWP especially with regard to municipalities.
Mr Phillips explained that the Department was not involved with financing the municipalities. The R15 billion allocated for the EPWP was part of the normal municipal and provincial infrastructure grant, provided that it was used labour-intensively. About 80% of the EPWP posts had been filled, although the position of Deputy Director-General had not been filled as no suitable candidates had emerged from the application process.
The Chairperson inquired about the Youth Foundation and its relation to the EPWP.
Mr C van Rooyen asked whether, in light of deficiencies revealed in the Auditor-General's report, the municipalities and provinces had sufficient capacity to deal with all financial aspects of the EPWP.
Mr Phillips responded that the Saldanha Youth Development Foundation was not part of the EPWP. With regards to the Department's relationship with the Auditor-General, the EPWP was only concerned with whether municipal and provincial projects were implemented labour-intensively.
The meeting was adjourned.
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