Committee Strategic Plan Workshop

Basic Education

05 June 2006
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 June 2006
COMMITTEE STRATEGIC PLAN WORKSHOP

Chairperson:
Prof S M Mayatula (ANC)

Document handed out:

Committee Business Plan 2007/8-2009/10: Part
1 & 2

SUMMARY
A strategy consultant briefed the Committee on the Business Plan 2007/8 – 2009/10. The aim of the process was for the Committee to finalise the business plan so that it would have a specialised budget for the following year.

As the processing of bills had taken a lot of time in the first 12 years of the South African democracy; there were currently many gaps in the programming of Parliament. In the next couple of years the Committee would focus more on ensuring that bills were implemented in the spirit in which they were passed: the focus was moving from processing legislation to oversight.

The budget was approved subject to the correction of the figure for airfares.

MINUTES

Committee Business Plan presentation
Mr M Frizlar (Strategy Consultant) briefed the Committee on the Business Plan 2007/8 – 2009/10. The aim of the process was for the Committee to finalise the business plan so that it would have a specialised budget for the following year. The Committee would then be able to approach Parliament’s finance department and ask them to come up with a unique budget for the Committee.

The plan should assist the Committee in drawing up its programme for the next couple of years, and was based on Parliament’s strategic plan. As opposed to previous strategic plans, the new strategic plan addressed the member side of the institution as well as the administrative side.

The first part of the business plan dealt with the strategy of Parliament, its mission and vision. Its aim was to align the business plan of the Committee with the strategy of Parliament as a whole. This meant looking at the vision of Parliament, the core functions of Parliament, and how the activities of the Committee related to these core functions. As the committees were the ‘engine room’ of Parliament, they were involved in all five of its core functions. The exercise was then to go through those core functions, and the activities the Committee performed in each of those functions.

The five core functions of Parliament were: to process legislation; oversight responsibility; public participation; cooperative government; and international participation.

Mr Frizlar continued with the mission of Parliament and what was sought through its core objectives. Function number one was to pass laws. When customising its business plan, the Committee would need to outline the actual activities that made up that function; and do the same for the other core functions.

Mr Frizlar then went on to outline the business plan proper for the Committee. He referred to the core objectives and briefly outlined the activities but went into more detail on the main tasks of the Committee. The main task was what the Committee performed on a daily basis.

Core functions
Core function number one was the process of passing legislation. There were various types of bills but it was not necessary to look at all of them. Bills were becoming less and less a part of the Committee’s daily activities. If the Department was to put a value on those activities, it would first need to establish how many bills or amendments were being passed. The Department would need a rough estimate based on past performance in order to predict, for the next three to four years, the number of bills going through the Committee.

The Chairperson asked Mr Frizlar to relate this to the Committee’s budget.

Mr Frizlar then referred to the activities column. The basic processes involved in processing legislation were: the briefing by the department, the research conducted by the Committee, the Committee’s deliberation, and formal consideration.

The end product of the process of public hearings was the budget. When a bill required public interaction, the Committee would need an advertisement, information materials, accommodation for invited guests, and transport. Once the meeting was held, the Committee would then draft its report and table that report in the House.

The following year the Committee’s job might be a bit easier, as it would only need to approach Finance and ask them to cast those activities for the Committee.

Core function number two related to oversight: the various sources of oversight, the questions in plenaries, annual reports, briefings, reports from stakeholders and departments, the budget process, and the physical site visits. A formal process for oversight was absent as bills had taken a lot of time in the first 12 years of our democracy leaving many gaps in the programming of Parliament.

In the next couple of years the Committee would focus more on ensuring that bills were implemented in the spirit in which they were passed as its focus was moving from processing legislation to oversight. While Parliament didn’t yet have a model for oversight, Mr Bapela was co-ordinating a task team to formalise one. Before this model was formalised, oversight still needed to happen in Parliament. The template started with a Department strategic plan for the next four to five years. When the Department briefed the Committee on its strategic plan, it would make sure that the plan was in line with government policy of the day.

The five steps in terms of oversight were:

The strategic plan was the starting point, along with the strategic intent of the Department.
The plans would be analysed by the Committee. The Committee could not track each individual item within that strategic plan so it should prioritise which items it wanted to track during the course of the year, or the next two to three years. The Committee should then draft a programming schedule, on which reports would be prepared.

The budget flowed from the strategic plan, because once the department had stated their intent it could ask for the money to follow through on that intent. The budget would be analysed by the Committee to ensure that the money requested was in line with the strategic plan. The Committee would then make recommendations and draft the report.

During the course of the year the Committee could summon the Director-General or the Minister to report on the progress made on the plans to date.

The last step in the process was the physical visit to make sure that those structures had actually been put in place.

While Members might not be concerned with outputs, it was very important that they should be concerned with outcomes. An output was building 100 schools by 2007, but an outcome was how those 100 schools would make better lives for the people of South Africa. The one related to physical structures, and the other was related to how the lives of the people were enhanced by these structures. Members should be concerned with outcomes.

Core function No. 3: related to public participation. Very seldom did committees engage the public simply for the purpose of soliciting viewpoints on an issue. Committees usually engaged the public when there was an agenda in front of them for either a bill or an issue relating to oversight. Public hearings took a lot of logistical effort out of committees. Public participation in terms of action was very simplified, entailing an advertisement, the actual event, the logistics relating to the event, and the report coming out at the end of that.

Core function No. 4 related to co-operative government, and Committee involvement in such responsibilities as approving any international agreements, appointing public office bearers, and statutory functions.

Core function No. 5 related to international participation. The main task was registering representatives on international bodies, and being aware of developments in education in the international arena.

Key objectives
The Department had contracted a consortium of tertiary educators to provide formalised training. A certificated degree course for Members of Parliament would be starting next year. All Members would be invited to this course, which would include modules such as oversight visits, processing legislation and basic parliamentary issues. Greater economic issues would be built into this course. Stellenbosch, the University of Cape Town (UCT), and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) had been contacted to set up this course.

The key objectives were what the Committee wanted to do to improve the environment in which it worked, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Committee in the years to come.

Discussion
Professor Mayatula asked Members to go through the budget. Members had been going through this for a long time. Was it was really worth having all these templates as nobody took the budget seriously? This time next year, the Committee would be getting the R400 000.

Mr Frizlar responded that the ‘one-size fits all’ approach was restrictive in terms of activities and also in terms of support. While some committees spent that R500 within the first three months of the financial year, others didn’t even spend half. In conjunction with Finance, and with the sanction of the House Chair for the National Assembly, the Committee had embarked on this exercise.

So far where things had come undone was the fact that Finance was saying that while they had customised the business plan specifically for the Committee’s requirements, they now needed to work out the allocations for the activities planned for the next couple of years. It was once again a problem in the area of administration and support.

The Department was there to ensure the Committee was given all the resources required to perform its responsibilities. This often meant that the Committee brought in outside consultants at huge expense to provide the knowledge and information that should have been provided within the parliamentary context.

Professor Mayatula agreed that the Committee would have to move from legislation to oversight, and spend more days in constituencies. All those days spent in the constituencies were not recognised. The Committee was regarded as working for the whole financial year in 192 days. Time spent in constituencies was not regarded as work. Members were away from their homes while Members of Parliament were paid to be here: either in Parliament making legislation or out in the field seeing what was happening.

The budget had to be implemented, so Members should look at it and pass it on.

Mr Frizlar submitted that the closing date for this year’s budget was 2 June. The Committee would engage Finance for next year’s budget.

Professor Mayatula asked Members to vote on what was contained in the budget.

The Committee would have about 35 meetings of this nature. When public hearings took place the only people who could fly down were the directors. Other structures and institutions (such as Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges) would not be able to fly down and make representation.

Some structures could arrange for transport and accommodation on their own, but there were structures on the ground that could not. Allowances needed to be made for three flights and accommodation.

Mr Frizlar responded that one of the projects his department would be running within the administration of Parliament was on Parliament Democracy Offices in the most rural areas of each province. Four areas had been identified, as well as structures in four pilot provinces. The idea behind the democracy office was to help Members to get to the rural areas. These offices would be maintained by parliamentary support staff which would help the Committee with the logistics of engaging the public in the various provinces. For the next year or two the Committee might have to fly invited guests down, but after that it would be easier for Members to go to those offices and hold the public hearing in those areas.

Professor Mayatula referred to flights for MPs, and noted that the budget only included domestic rather than international travel. It accommodated about five conferences and workshops.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) felt that the amount of R5 500 for airfares could not be correct.

Mr R van den Heever (ANC) also noted that in the previous copy of this budget the total was R707 670, while in this copy the total was R690 000.This difference in figures was due to the error in airfares and needed to be corrected.

The budget was approved subject to the correction of the above figures.

Adoption of Minutes
Minutes of meetings held on 29 March and 23 May were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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