Civil Aviation Authority: Budget and Strategic Plan 2007/8

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14 March 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

14 March 2007

Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Transport

The meeting was meant to deal with the Civil Aviation Authority’s budget and strategic planning for 2007, as well as the adoption of minutes. However members expressed outrage at the fact that the documentation had only been made available to them at the meeting. They agreed to continue, reserving the right to receive replies to further questions in writing from the CAA. The three year strategic plan espoused by the CAA intended to rejuvenate the CAA and bring it in line the requirements of an International Civil Aviation Organisation audit conducted in 2006. Many of the issues facing the CAA were due to skills shortages in the industry. The issue of the independence of the Commissioner was discussed. The Committee appreciated the honesty of the CAA in terms of its shortcomings and hoped to receive updates and further discussion concerning the progress of the rejuvenation strategy.

Presentation of Civil Aviation Authority Strategic Plan for 2007
The Chairperson remarked that this was a budgetary hearing but that the document before him seemed to be predominantly concerned with a strategic plan. He remarked that the Committee was a way for the Civil Aviation Authority to explain itself to the public.

Mr O Mogale (ANC) stated that the last time that the Committee had interacted with the CAA was in 2005. Due to the late delivery of the document in question by the CAA, he felt that there was insufficient time for the members to evaluate the document and they would therefore be unable to provide effective oversight. He moved that the committee should not entertain the CAA presentation that day, and that in future the CAA should furnish the Committee with documentation in a timely fashion.

Mr S Farrow (DA) suggested that they continue, with the Committee reserving the right to furnish any questions in writing to the CAA for further responses.

The Chairperson indicated that they had the two aforementioned options and asked for a consensus.

Mr M Moss (ANC) suggested that they hear what the CAA had to say.

Mr L Mashile (ANC) stated that this was hindering their ability to act effectively and do a thorough job – the CAA should be called back.

Mr M Swathe (DA) suggested that they use this opportunity to hear about 2006, seeing as the previous meeting had been in 2005.

Ms B Thomson (ANC) stated that they should not continue as the CAA needed to adhere to their rules.

The Chairperson ruled that they should proceed, despite this problem. The CAA would be allowed to make their presentation and the committee would make an assessment at the end of the meeting. He apologised to unhappy members.

Mr D Moorosi (CAA Board: Chairman) apologised to the committee for the late dispersal of the document.

Mr Z Myeza (CAA: CEO) stated that the presentation was primarily focused with the strategic plan and not really concern the budget. He read through the presentation. Of particular note was an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit that found the CAA lacking. These shortcomings were believed to be symptomatic of a skills shortage in the organisation. A three year plan was discussed which hoped to address this issue – the primary focus was on skills development within the CAA and the hiring of foreign skilled personnel to provide a skills transfer. The CAA was also investigating hiring retired personnel to fill the gap.

The Chairperson suggested that they use their time to agree that the report had been tabled.

Mr Farrow asked if they could use the time to clear up any outstanding CAA matters.

Mr Mashile sated that there was not enough “flesh” on the document and that they needed to be furnished with a complete strategic document plan, not a summary. He felt that the CAA should be provided with another opportunity.

Mr Myeza replied the full Strategy Document had been submitted.

The Chairperson agreed, but felt that they should use the opportunity despite the lack of clarity on the issues. He was of the opinion that it was a much more honest report from the CAA, particularly with regard to the ICAO audit. He requested a copy of the report. It seemed to him that the problems faced by the CAA were derivative of the “fluxative” tenure of CEOs in the past. The negative points seemed to be caused by a skills deficit.

Mr Myeza replied that a copy of the ICAO audit would be supplied. Furthermore, the skills shortage was endemic to the entire industry with Middle Eastern airline operations enticing critical staff with lucrative financial contracts – the competition for skilled individuals was now global.

Mr Mashile asked how the remedial Survival Strategy of September 2006 was linked to the proposed strategy. He enquired about the proposed action concerning the rest of the staff.

Mr Myeza replied that the 2006 strategy dealt with issues that needed immediate action whilst the 2007 strategy encompassed a total rejuvenation of the CAA.

Mr Farrow stated that he was not aware of the ICAO audit. He asked what the eight critical elements identified where and requested that they be put in writing. He enquired as to the staff vacancy status and whether training was focused abroad or locally. Mr Farrow questioned whether the amalgamation of the role of Commissioner and CEO corroded the independence of the former and thought it was not a factor of good governance.

Mr Myeza replied that the ICAO requirement was that the skills within the CAA had to be at least equal to those of the industry being overseen. He admitted the need to hire external (foreign) experts to meet and serve the industry despite the high costs of hiring personnel at dollar competitive rates in order to ensure essential skills transfer.

Mr Moorosi interjected that the CAA was evaluating using retired personnel to receive the ICAO skills transfer, who would in turn mentor a new generation of skilled personnel.

Mr Myeza stated that the CAA was not a profit based entity and that it was user-funded. As a result the financial reserves were in fact intangible as they represented an allocated amount of funding necessary to the provision of services that were part of the CAA mandate. With regards to the eight critical elements alluded to, Mr Myeza referred Mr Farrow to the “Objective 1 Outcomes” in the presentation.

The Chairperson asked for clarity on the staff vacancy issue.

Mr Myeza replied that 70 vacancies had been identified out of a total staff complement of 320. This had been due to a skills shortage. In the flight operations section critical roles had been filled and individuals were having their skills upgraded.

Mr Farrow asked how they dealt with other sections and questioned the impact that this had.

Mr Myeza responded that the airworthiness section was not as bad as the flight operations section. He stated that flight operations made sure that airlines adhered to regulations.

Mr Mashile stated that he had still received no answer as to how the CAA planned to deal with uncommitted staff; he asked whether there was an exit strategy.

Mr Myeza replied that a performance management programme was in place that included coaching and focused on engendering a high performance attitude amongst the staff – with putative mechanisms in place for lack of adherence to performance guidelines. With regard to the Commissioner role being occupied by the CEO (Mr Myeza himself) he stated that the Commissioner waappointed by the Minister, whilethe CEO was elected by the CAA board. He stated that some functions executed by the Commissioner needed to be transferred to a CAA line function. The Commissioner was tasked with an arbitration role as well as managing the CAA. Mr Myeza expressed a desire that this office be transferred to the Department of Transport in order to leave the CAA in sole charge of its functions. The CEO/Commissioner status was an interim solution that was being rectified.

Mr Mashile stated that the two positions needed to remain separate in order to stem corruption.

The Chairperson agreed that the Commissioner should remain independent.

Mr Moss asked about the progress of their disabled persons target as well as the potential operation of a database between various industry players, especially the South African Air Force (SAAF) concerning potential employee applicants. The question of accidents was also brought up.

Mr Moorosi replied that they had tried to network with the SAAF in order to recruit unsuccessful SAAF applicants but this had not succeeded.

Mr Myeza showed a graph depicting accidents for 2005-2006, all concerned small private aircraft.

Mr Mashile asked whether this reflected accidents or incidents.

Mr Myeza replied that serious incidents that could have been accidents were reflected in the graph as accidents.

Mr Farrow stated that, with regard to the issues that arose in the press during 2005, he has failed to receive any response from the CAA. The issue of the grounding of UH-1 Huey helicopters operating out of Cape Town was mentioned as a grounding order had been issued in 2004, yet they were still operating.

The Chairperson stated that the Department of Transport (DT) needed to be questioned about that.

Mr J Bierman (Director: Infrastructure, DT) replied that these issues would be followed up and replied to.

The Chairperson stressed that this as an important issue and that the Hueys were licensed in Zambia.

Mr Myeza replied that the CAA and other government agencies were engaged in a High Court case against the operator and were challenging the operator with all their might.

Mr Moss asked for a response to his question on employment equity.

Mr Myeza replied that the disabled had not been factored into the process yet and that in terms of the development of the industry in this regard he did not have the relevant statistics.

Mr Moss responded that the above answer sounded like an insult and that he had got the impression that the disabled were viewed as a non-essential group.

Mr Mashile remarked that the CEO’s plan was very ambitious, especially as the majority of actions seemed scheduled for the first year.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) asked for progress reports so that the committee could evaluate the CAA’s progress.

The Chairperson stated that in a sense this was better than a budgetary hearing. He felt that getting a clean ICAO bill of health was essential to South Africa and stressed the need for a bolder budget in order to attain this – including more industry competitive salaries.

Mr Myeza agreed with the Chairperson and stated that they had priority issues that needed to be dealt with immediately. Phase 1 of the strategic plan would begin during April 2007.

Mr Mashile cautioned Mr Myeza on the boldness of the three year strategy on the grounds that it may be to optimistic. He stressed the need for a realistic approach.

The Chairperson wished the CAA delegation good luck.

Mr Myeza thanked the committee.

The meeting was adjourned.



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