Expanded Public Works Programme Progress Report

NCOP Public Services

22 February 2005
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Meeting report

PUBLIC SERVICE SELECT COMMITTEE

PUBLIC SERVICE SELECT COMMITTEE
23 February 2005
EXPANDED PUBLIC WORKS PROGRAMME PROGRESS REPORT

Documents handed out

Expanded Public Works Programme PowerPoint presentation: Progress Report
EPWP Second Quarterly Report of Financial Year 2004/5, 1 July-30 Sept 2004
Implications of the State of the Nation Address for the Public Works Department

SUMMARY
The Expanded Works Programme (EPWP) of the Department of Public Works, presented its progress report, the utilisation of available funds, and the related skills training by the Construction SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority). Envisaged programme outcomes included training the unemployed; improvements to national infrastructure, and strengthening the emerging sector. The EPWP had experienced unforeseen spin-offs, such as buy-in from the private sector in the form of seed capital, and the interest shown by some mining companies. The Committee was concerned that the report was not quantified; that some trainees could not get jobs; and about the poor communication between the Department and municipalities.

MINUTES

Expanded Public Works Programme briefing
Mr Sean Phillips, Chief Operations Officer, said that the EPWP was a deliberate attempt to use public sector expenditure on goods and services, to create additional work opportunities for the unemployed. The unemployed could thus gain work experience and training while earning. The Department of Labour had provided much training, with the help of the Construction SETA. The projects were funded via the infrastructure grant, directly to provinces and municipalities. The Department’s role was to set the conditions for grants, such as EPWP tender and design guidelines, which were also endorsed by the SA Local Government Association (SALGA). The Department was also lobbying other infrastructure players to become partners in the EPWP, such as example Transnet, the Department of Housing, and Eskom. EPWP guidelines emphasised that contractors should use labour-intensive methods. The Construction SETA would take two years to train emerging contractors, and the trainees would graduate with a National Qualifications Framework qualification and get access to seed funding for equipment. In eThekwini, Coega, Klipfontein, and Mpumalanga, the emerging sector had already been training on-site.

The labour-intensive contractor learnership programme would ensure that emerging contractors were likely to win tenders for the EPWP projects. This would give them work experience, credibility, and the ability to employ more people. The Water Boards, Department of Housing and mining companies had shown interest in the way the EPWP was executed. The expenditure of the whole project would cost about R15 billion, creating jobs for 750 000 people. Challenges included widespread prejudices against the use of labour-intensive methods. The EPWP would be expanded to other sectors such as the social and the economic sectors, with training on home- and community-based care provided by non-governmental organisations. In the economic sector, the Department was lobbying government bodies to roll out ‘venture learnerships’. They needed to ‘change the mindset’ of contractors that labour-intensive methods did not translate into inferior quality.

Discussion
Mr A Watson (DA) asked what the Department had done to inform municipalities. He made an example of municipalities in Kwazulu-Natal where most officials knew nothing about the EPWP. What had been done to bring in the big mining companies? The state should play a greater role in ensuring that the private sector ‘bought into’ the programmes of government.

Mr Phillips replied that some mining companies had approached the Department about adapting the EPWP to their plans. The private sector had been impressed by the tender guidelines and the potential to create jobs.

Mr Van Rooyen (ANC) commented that the report was vague and lacked specifics on the progress made. What were the results compared to projections? The report was not quantified to reveal the bottlenecks.

Mr Philips replied that quantitative data from municipalities and provinces would be made available for Members in the third quarter. The EPWP was a highly decentralised programme which made it difficult to report for every single project, but monitoring and evaluation would be done for all projects. From April, case studies would be done on projects that reflected the overall profile of EPWP and results would help the Department in drafting a way forward. Comparing projections with results was a good idea.

Mr N Mack (ANC) said that most contractors still relied on machines instead of using labour-intensive methods, and this alienated communities that were supposed to be benefit from the projects. Sometimes the majority of people who were trained on a project, could not get jobs afterwards.

Mr Phillips replied that the Department had been trying to change the perception of the contractors on the benefits of using labour-intensive methods. Exit strategies had been devised for the people who had received training for them to become self-employed or to get jobs elsewhere after gaining experience.

Ms H Matlanyane (ANC) asked what payments and measureswere taken by the Department when labourers were not working, such as during the unavailability of building supplies. What steps would to taken sort out those problems? Workers felt ‘short-changed’ and contractors made more money in the process.

Mr Phillips replied that the intention was to train people so that they could have skills and qualifications while earning something. Monitoring and evaluation methods would be used gauge successes and the problems encountered.

The Chairperson commented that even though most provinces had Steering Committees, officials on the ground knew nothing about the EPWP. In Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, local officials had asked the provincial officials about EPWP. To what extent did the Department educate the people about EPWP and its objectives?

Mr Phillips replied that the Department had worked with the Government Communications and Information Systems (GCIS), and appointed Kagiso TV and Community Media, which would do the second phase of communications. The Department had also set aside a budget for communication that would target government officials.

Mr J Maseko commented that the programme also needed ‘political will’ from municipality leaders. Possibly the forthcoming elections would bring in new leadership with a fresh mandate to give momentum to the EPWP. He appreciated the oversight role played by Members that had exposed the discrepancies.

The Chairperson said the Committee had acknowledged that the majority of projects were successful. He suggested the use of Community Development Workers to liase directly with the Department, and holding a workshop on this. Mr Maseko said the idea of the workshop would be taken up in consultation with the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

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