Department of Labour, Mining Qualifications Authority and MAPPP Seta: briefings

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LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE
9 November 2005
DEPARTMENT OF LABOUR, MINING QUALIFICATIONS AUTHORITY AND MAPPP SETA: BRIEFINGS

Chairperson:
Ms M Themba (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Labour presentation
Mining Qualifications Authority presentation
MAPPP SETA presentation
MQA Annual Report [available at
www.mqa.org.za]
MAPPP SETA Annual Report [available at
www.mappp-seta.co.za]

SUMMARY
The Department of Labour, Mining Qualifications Authority and the MAPPP Sector Education and Training Authority provided detail on their respective activities and training programmes. Important challenges were outlined including human resource development and financial management. Information was provided on external service providers and the integrated national skills development strategy. Detail was provided on operating units and the identification of scarce skills to be addressed. The level of spending on skills development was outlined.

Members asked various questions including the reasons for the poor performance of certain Sector Education and Training Authorities; the type of monitoring mechanism employed by the Department and the various Authorities; why underspending had occurred in certain Authorities; how operating deficits could be addressed, whether the unemployed youth received employment after training and whether the Authorities would focus on the needs of the disabled.

MINUTES
Department of Labour presentation

Ms M Xaba (Deputy Director-General) provided an overview of the Department’s management of the various Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) clusters. Certain challenges facing SETAs were outlined and achievements listed within each main division. Human Resource policy was explained and detail provided on information technology developments. Financial management focused on Employment Equity and compliance with Chapter 6 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The role of external service providers was outlined and information conveyed on the integrated national skills development strategy. The labour market policy was also discussed.

Mr Van Der Merwe (Department Chief Financial Officer) presented information on the latest expenditure within the five branches. A total of R133 million had been underspent on the fiscal allocation. Detail on transfers and subsidies was provided. The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) had recorded a significant turnaround in asset accumulation.

Discussion
The Chairperson requested a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding drawn up between the Department and all SETAs.

Mr J Sibiya (ANC) asked whether the two SETAs that had not performed to a satisfactory level had been merged into other entities. Clarity was sought on the reasons for the poor performance of the two SETAs. He asked why R58 million of the service delivery budget had not been spent given the dire need for such services. The child labour action plan should include a monitoring mechanism to ensure oversight.

Mr D Gamede (ANC) asked whether the Department followed up on expenditure within specific institutions and why under-expenditure had occurred in certain divisions. Reference was made to the Eshowe office that operated without adequate furniture and computers. More detail on subsidised work centers for the disabled was required. Department regional offices had to be made more accessible for the general public and should be situated in locations determined by extensive consultation with communities. Inspectors should play a role in protecting contract workers and ensuring maintenance of prescribed rights.

The Chairperson asked how the communication of decisions to the public transpired. Labour offices should be open for longer periods to improve accessibility.

Ms Xaba replied that a consultation process was followed when opening satellite offices. Municipal boundaries were considered as a base to decide on the location of offices. 20 mobile units had been launched in rural areas that provided real time access for job applicants. A service delivery strategy had been developed including offices and information technology methods. Certain visiting points were placed within shared venues and some could suffer from a lack of capital assets such as furniture. An extensive media drive had been undertaken to inform communities of mobile units. Research had been conducted prior to the campaign to ensure relevance.

Mr Pietersen (Department Executive Manager: Finances) added that the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) had been engaged to identify key areas where labour centres should be located. Four locations were identified and centres would be established in the short term. Satellite offices operated on a demand-based approach and advocacy programmes would be implemented to promote the use of offices by communities. Partnerships with civil society groups were created to support communication campaigns. Imbizos led by the Minister also contributed to information dissemination.

Mr Mkalipi (Department Executive Manager) stated that a research document identifying typical forms of employment and evaluating conditions of employment would be debated in the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). A NEDLAC report would be finalised early next year. The role of Inspectors with regard to temporary workers would be reconsidered. A child labour programme had been presented to Cabinet and new policy could be forthcoming. The situation of vulnerable children would be studied holistically to avoid creating additional problems. Labour Inspectors were involved in investigating cases of child labour on farms.

Mr Du Preez (Department Executive Manager) stated that the assessment of the performance of SETAs was based on clearly identified indicators and linked to specific outputs such as the number of learnerships instituted. Compliance with the PFMA was also a consideration that impacted on evaluation. Service level agreements were now in place between the Department and SETAs to guide programmes and ensure adherence to government policies. The Board capacity of SETAs would be strengthened and service providers would be instructed on acceptable levels of delivery. Respective SETAs were involved in Imbizos to gain valuable insight into community challenges and workplace needs. The activity of SETAs would be aligned to avoid confusion and create synergy. Service level agreements would be monitored to ensure implementation.

Mr Van Der Merwe (CFO) stated that underspending was problematic as it impacted negatively on service delivery. Various factors such as vacancies could impact on underspending. The acquiring of capital assets for offices involved the Department of Public Works and was a tedious process. A public-private partnership with Siemens resulted in the non-accounting of certain items that were reflected in the company’s books. The lack of furniture in certain offices was a concern given the rate of underspending.

Mr Pietersen stated that an audit procedure would establish non-compliance with the PFMA in SETAs. Procurement directives were in place that complied with standard accounting processes. Quarterly reports would be produced in adherence with Treasury regulations and reference to such reports would appear in financial statements.

Mr Pietersen added that a recent survey had indicated that 70% of respondents viewed SETAs in a positive light. 68% received assistance from Labour offices within 20 minutes.

Mr Gamede referred to the relocation of the Richard’s Bay Labour office away from local communities without any proper consultation. He recommended that the Department attend Integrated Development Plan (IDP) meetings within municipalities to keep abreast of community needs. The Department should be engaged in the inspection of harbour workers as significant exploitation occurred.

The Chairperson asked that the Department provide a written explanation on how each province had benefited from Department activities. Constituency offices should be informed of Imbizos and other similar events in future.

Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) presentation
Mr L Nengovhela (Chief Executive Officer) provided an overview of the Authority’s key responsibilities and objectives. The Board comprised five representatives from the Department of Minerals and Energy, five from organised labour and five from employers. The decline of the gold sector was adversely impacting on the industry in general. The role of women within the industry was a challenge that would be addressed. The entity studied employment trends per subsector and the qualifications distribution. A strategic overview was provided that sought to create uniformity in qualifications and ensure adherence to the Mining Charter. Empirical research had been undertaken that identified scarce skills. Six sectoral strategies were outlined to address prevailing concerns.

Mr C Smit (Chief Operating Officer) referred to five operating units and focused on key operational deliverables such as learnerships and project deliverables. Small-scale mining and mineral beneficiation were important components of the Authority's activities.

Mr Nengovhela stated that an increase in uptake of projects would result in a concomitant drain on resources. Projects and grants would have to be carefully prioritised. The impact of certain relevant information was outlined and the Authority would strive to provide learnerships to contribute towards beneficiation policy.

Discussion

The Chairperson noted the low number of women trainees and asked how the numbers could be increased.

Mr Gamede asked whether the vacant positions indicated on the organogram had been filled.

The Chairperson sought statistics on the number of graduates now in formal employment and the number of learners within the mineral beneficiation programme.

Mr Nengovhela stated that the placement of women in the industry remained a challenge but advances had been made. The decline of the mining industry tended to discourage women participants. The Authority was engaged in a marketing campaign to attract potential women managers and technical staff. Vacancies were evaluated at the end of each financial year and positions filled within a two-month period.

Mr Smit added that the graduate development and bursaries scheme focused on attaining a 50% attendance rate from women. Management and technical training were important components of the strategy. The Board and the Chamber of Mines concentrated on increasing the number of women within training programmes. Vacancies had been filled by project managers to enhance internal project management skills and reduce reliance on expensive consultants. Training programmes were divided between employed and unemployed learners. Additional skills were taught to the unemployed learners to encourage work opportunities outside of mining.

The Chairperson asked what criteria were in place to assess the internal efficacy of the Authority.

Mr Smit responded that the Board set criteria and established key performance areas for management such as adherence to the business plan and service delivery. The Board monitored the implementation of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) and certain stipulations within the Mining Charter. Management reports were produced on a quarterly basis for the Board and the Department of Minerals and Energy.

Dr Mkosana (Department Director-General) asked whether the R15 million allocated to the bursaries scheme had been focused on specific economic growth targets.

Mr Nengovhela stated that the bursaries scheme focused on scarce and critical skills to promote certain crucial qualifications within the industry.

The Chairperson asked whether the current deficit would be addressed.

Mr Y Omar (Chief Financial Officer) replied that using reserves accumulated from the previous financial year had ameliorated overspending. The Authority would ensure that reserves were not depleted to remain compliant with the PFMA. Project expenditure would be more circumspect in future.

MAPPP SETA presentation
Ms M Bernard-Fryer (CEO) stated that the SETA had received a qualified audit report from the Auditor-General. Certain sectors within the SETA ambit such as advertising and printing had to undergo transformation. A community development workers programme had been launched. 40% of member companies were situated in the three main provinces of Gauteng, Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal. The SETA Head Office had been moved to Johannesburg. Education quality assurance programmes were in place in each province. Skills development achievements were listed and certain areas of concern emphasised. Corrective measures were in place to address criticisms around qualifications standards. A Management Information System and Audit Committee had been established and an improved investment policy was in place.

Ms T Prasad (Learnership Manager) stated that seven chambers existed comprised of organised business and organised labour. Chamber managers analysed workplace skills plans that were fed into the main SETA plan. Chambers focused on small business development and grassroots initiatives.

Mr G Kemp (Acting CFO) provided detail on reserves and equities and liabilities. The Auditor-General's report was discussed. Irregular payments of discretionary grants were under investigation. Committed funds and projects were explained and factors impacting on delivery elucidated. Apprenticeships would be phased out. Key challenges for 2006 were outlined and an unqualified audit report would be achieved.

Discussion
Ms S Mabe (ANC) asked what relationship existed between the SETA and the advertising and printing sectors. She asked who reported to whom and how the system functioned. Clarity was sought on the location of companies that were outside the three main provinces. She asked which constituency offices would be used in youth development plans.

Mr Gamede asked where unemployed youths were placed after training.

The Chairperson asked whether the SETA would concentrate on the disabled in terms of skills development.

Ms Bernard-Fryer responded that the question of who reports to whom was a valid concern. Conflicts of interest had been identified within the SETA where owners of service providers sat on the Board and participated in financial allocation decisions. All provinces would be included in SETA activities irrespective of the number of member companies located within a province. Trained unemployed youth were being placed in employment positions. A new SETA constitution had been formulated last week to break the current situation where service providers made management decisions. The needs of the disabled remained a core component of the future strategy.

The meeting was adjourned.

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