Government Communication and Information System: 2007 Strategic Plan briefing

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Communications

26 March 2007
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COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
27 March 2007
GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEM: 2007 STRATEGIC PLAN BRIEFING

Chairperson:
Mr G Oliphant (ANC)

Documents Handed Out:
Government Communication and Information System Strategic Plan 2007 – 2010
Strategic Plan Summary 27 March 2007: briefing
Government Communication and Information System 2007 Budget Analysis

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed by the Government Communication and Information System on the strategic plan for the period 2007 to 2010. The detailed presentation emphasised the building and enhancing of the Government’s communication system. Priorities for the programmes were based upon the mandate to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, achieve 6% sustainable growth, plans for the 2010 World Cup and the five-year plan to combat HIV/Aids. Major challenges included building communication partnerships, expanding access to opportunities, promoting continental institutions and programmes, and enhancing the government’s communication systems. The key initiatives in the building of partnerships between government and civil society were detailed. It was to expand access to opportunities in all areas of South Africa. There would be wider media reach and the creation of platforms and products with a wider appeal, which were fully detailed.  The promotion of continental institutions and programmes would be achieved by increasing awareness. Efficiency would be improved by addressing structural issues, strengthening the working interface between government and the media, and understanding that an integrated and disciplined interface depended on an efficient government communication system. The budget allocation showed a 28% increase to R375.8 million in 2007/08. Spending in the previous year showed a 1% saving. All budget increases would be allocated to the necessary projects. Members raised questions on the write off of the debt, the need for better communication between government and citizens, the appraisal of the South African media environment, and the need for more proactive work. Further questions related to partnerships with
other Departments, links with local government, the advertising in the magazine publications, and the 35% increase in compensation of personnel.

MINUTES
Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Strategic Plan briefing
Mr Themba Maseko, Chief Executive Officer: GCIS, provided a comprehensive account of the GCIS’s strategic plan for 2007 – 2010. The priorities for the government programmes in the medium to long term were informed by a mandate to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, achieve the 6% sustainable growth anticipated in the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA) by 2010, plans for the 2010 World Cup and the five-year plan to combat HIV/Aids. The major challenges for the GCIS included building communication partnerships, expanding access to opportunities, promoting continental institutions and programmes, and enhancing the government’s communication systems.

Key initiatives in the building of partnerships between government and civil society included the partnership against Aids, 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children, the ASGISA programmes, hosting the 2010 World Cup, Imbizos and the Marketing, Advertising and Communication Transformation programme. The GCIS was positive about the challenges that lay ahead and felt that it had adequately addressed the required budgets and implementation of these initiatives.

 

An important task for the GCIS was to expand access to opportunities in all areas of South Africa. Information would be disseminated to increase participation in public affairs and improve the lives of South African citizens. There would be wider media reach and the creation of platforms and products with a wider appeal. Initiatives that addressed expansion included the 16-page magazine Vuk’uzenzele supplement, providing communication about the second economy through mass communication campaigns and workshops, and the creation of Thusong Service Centres that aimed to provide information to each municipality by 2014.

Mr Maseko noted that promoting continental institutions and programmes would be achieved by increasing the awareness of institutions and developments. It was imperative to create a mutual understanding between government and civil society by informing the public about South Africa’s actions on the continent and its intention to improve the image of the continent through the 2010 World Cup. Improvements in efficiency would be made in addressing structural issues, strengthening the working interface between government and the media, and understanding that an integrated and disciplined interface depended on an efficient government communication system.

The budget expenditure had taken place as planned and there was a 1% saving. The allocation for the Department increased by about 28% from R294.6 million in 2006/07 to R375.8 million in 2007/08. Budget increases were expected over the next few years and those increases would be allocated to the necessary projects. The GCIS had made a concerned effort to improve its human resources by increasing employment and offering internships in 2006 and 2007. Government’s communications systems had to be strengthened to meet Government and the public’s information needs.

Discussion
The Chairperson asked for clarification regarding the write-off of the GCIS’s debt being written off.

Mr Maseko responded that interaction had taken place with the Treasury and that the GCIS was in the process of writing off its capital debt. The process should be completed by 31 March 2007.

Mr R Pieterse (ANC) noted that Vuk’uzenzele was an excellent publication and he hoped that it could be distributed countrywide as soon as possible. He stated that there was a problem with the availability of the yearbook at the beginning of the year. He noted that Department officials had to go to the municipal centres to assist citizens and that facilities should be made for deaf people. He was concerned that there was still too low a level of communication from the Government toward its citizens.

Mr Maseko responded that the GCIS was intent in increasing circulation of its publications but had not had sufficient funds to do so. The GCIS was attempting to attract advertisers to increase funds. He noted that the GCIS had to be careful to strike a balance between advertisements and the magazine’s content.

Mr Maseko stated that the yearbook was only published in March and therefore was not available at the beginning of the year. Distribution of the yearbook was slow. He noted that service centres had to be improved. GCIS was attempting to get commitments from the Departments that it would be available at the service centres. He noted that opportunities for the deaf would be explored. He stated that plans were being made for improved communication about South Africa’s involvement on the continent, but this was hampered by lack of interest from the media.

Mr R Mohlalonga (ANC) asked how the GCIS dealt with issues that were not in their context but related to communication issues. He questioned the appraisal of the South African media environment. He stated that communication regarding development was central to the Committee’s strategy. He noted that Government media officers were not playing a proactive role in terms of communication work and encouraged more involvement.

Mr Mohlalonga asked whether there were partnerships with other Departments, and if the GCIS was creating capacity at the level of local government. He asked how far the development of a model of communication for local government had progressed.

Mr Maseko responded that progress was being made in local government interactions and that resolutions had been signed at a recent conference. He noted that costing of the potential model had been troublesome, and therefore there was an effort to regard communication as a strategic issue with a well-formulated model. A meeting was to take place with Ministers regarding the model, and then it would be taken to Cabinet for final endorsement. Training was one of the major challenges that lay ahead.

Mr Maskeko added that the role of Government media officers was being addressed and structures were being put in place. He stated that each cluster in the Government had to have a communication mechanism. Communications in South Africa were highly decentralised. H added that he had not intended to suggest that the media was not interested in development at all, but rather that sensational news was their priority. He proposed that a workshop take place between the Government and media to address respective frustrations and problems.

Adv P Swart (DA) was concerned that 70% of citizens felt that they had not received sufficient information. He noted that GCIS was not necessarily to blame but that the issue had to be resolved. He asked into what categories the advertisers fell. He questioned the 35% increase in compensation that was stated in the budget.

Mr Maseko responded that the increase in compensation was a result of the second economy campaigns. He noted that the money was related to ASGISA, and aimed at addressing citizens who had not previously received information. He noted that the GCIS was trying to create a multifaceted platform to inform all South African citizens. The financial increase for personnel was linked to the debt being written off and the National Skills Fund contribution of 15,4%. There had also been a contribution from the National Treasury. The advertising would seek a balance between Government and non-Government advertisers, and would be limited to 5 out of 32 pages in the magazine. He noted that it was important that the advertisements match the reader’s interests. The advertisements had included services and had excluded classifieds.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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