Financial and Fiscal Commission briefing on Education Issues

Basic Education

15 October 2007
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Meeting report

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
16 October 2007
FINANCIAL AND FISCAL COMMISSION BRIEFING ON EDUCATION ISSUES

Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC) Report on Distribution of Revenue (DoR) 2008/2009
Department of Education input on FFC Report on DoR 2008/2009
National Treasury Framework for Managing Programme Performance Information

Audio recording of meeting

SUMMARY
The Financial and Fiscal Commission briefed the Committee on its observations and recommendations for the 2008 Distribution of Revenue. This report comprised supplementary submissions made during the course of 2006/2007, and research currently being undertaken. The report focused on key issues in education, such as the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), financing of Learner Support Materials (LSM), financing of school infrastructure, and budget performance of government departments. It recommended that the funding and implementation of the NSNP at the provincial level should be addressed, that there must be adequate provision of personnel and equipment, and that budget allocations be increased. Provincial departments should extend the programme to “no-fee’ schools. National norms and standards should be developed by the National Departments. Provincial departments should supplement the conditional grants. Finally there should be an increase in the number of feeding days. Learner support material should be split off into a separate budget. In respect of infrastructure, Provincial Infrastructure Grants should be used to support areas most in need and effective coordination of planning should be instituted. The Commission set out its five recommendations on budget performance.

The Department of Education noted that some of the concerns had also been identified by the Department, that there was improved monitoring and evaluation of the NSNP, and that provincial departments had adopted responsibility for the programme, although funding remained through the conditional grant route. Additional funding had been requested, to cover extension to the no-fee schools, and extra feeding days, but implementation was dependent on further allocations. The Department recommended that Schools Nutrition Programme continue to be funded through a conditional grant. Members raised questions of clarity on the extension and implementation of the nutrition programme, and norms and standards.

MINUTES
Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC): Briefing on Division of Revenue (DORA)
Mr Jay Josie, Deputy Chairperson, FFC, briefed the Committee on the Commission’s findings in regard to education issues. He focused on the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP), where the Commission undertook research on the funding and implementation. Comparisons with international best practices had highlighted inequitable implementation of the programme in some provinces, inadequate funding and equipment, lack of requisite personnel and skills needed for full time implementation of the programme, lack of nutritious menus, absence of uniform minimum norms and standards for monitoring and implementation of the programme, and breach or ignoring of procurement procedures.

The Commission recommended that the funding and implementation of the NSNP at the provincial level should be addressed. All provincial Education Departments (Pads) should adopt and entrench the NSNP as their full responsibility. Adequate equipment and appropriately skilled personnel should be engaged in the implementation process on a full-time basis. The Commission further recommended that budget allocations for the programme in primary schools be increased and that provincial departments should extend the programme to schools declared as “no-fee-schools” by the Minister of Education.

In addition, the Commission recommended that national norms and standards be developed by the National Department of Education to guide the implementation of the programme nationwide. It was also recommended that where necessary, Pads should supplement the NSNP conditional grant with funds from their respective budgets, and that there should be an increase of the feeding days beyond the current prescribed minimum.

Mr C Bow, FFC, delivered a presentation on the financing of the learning support materials (LSM) in schools. The Commission established that it was difficult to determine and monitor how much was spent provincially on LSM. The Commission recommended that LSM be better defined as stationery, textbooks, and learner and teacher aids, in line with international trends. Separate budgets should be established for LSM and for maintenance and repairs of equipment. This would help in monitoring of budgetary allocations and expenditure in each area.

On school infrastructure and educational outcomes, the Commission recommended that the Provincial Infrastructure Grants be used to support those areas most in need, and that effective coordination of planning for school infrastructure, including connectivity, should be instituted with immediate effect.

Mr Conrad Van Gass, Manager, Budget Analysis, FFC, informed the Committee that the Commission made five key recommendations on the budget performance of government departments. Firstly, it recommended that identified priority areas should grow at a higher than average growth rate. This was to ensure alignment between policy objectives and budget spending. Secondly, national and provincial treasuries should aim for stable budget growth paths. Thirdly, best practice project planning and budgeting methods should be entrenched. Fourthly, there should be adequate reporting on service delivery outputs by national and provincial departments. Finally, a methodology to measure socio-economic impact of government capital and spending should be standardised across departments and programmes.

Department of Education (DOE) responses
Mr Phillip Benade, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education, commented on the Commission’s observations and recommendations. He noted that some of the concerns raised by the Commission had also been identified by the Department. He pointed out that at there was improved monitoring and evaluation of the NSNP at the national level. However, at the provincial level, certain challenges existed, which should be addressed. He added that PEDs had adopted responsibility for the programme although funding remained through the conditional grant route.

To address some of the concerns identified, the Department had requested increased funding through the 2008 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The increased funding was proposed to cover expenditure on the extension of the programme to all no-fee schools. It was also to cover the proposed increase of feeding days to all school days. He however emphasised that the implementation of these proposals was subject to additional allocations to be received over the MTEF. The Department pointed out that the NSNP did not focus on poverty but was based on equity, and suggested that at this stage its funding should remain by way of a conditional grant.

Discussion
Mr B Mthembu (ANC) asked for clarification as to the Commission’s view on the issue of extension and implementation of the NSNP. He also asked to be clarified as to what the Commission meant by recommending that PEDs should entrench the NSNP as their full responsibility.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) asked if the Commission was recommending that the funding for the NSNP programme should come as part of provincial budgets and not as a grant.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) pointed out that the NSNP was being implemented in a haphazard manner in most provinces. He wanted to know what was responsible for this situation.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) asked to know at what level the Commission was recommending that the NSNP be monitored and implemented.

Ms S Sigcau (UDM) asked to know the reason why there no uniformity in the implementation of the NSNP at all levels.

Mr Josie responded that the Commission had found that it was feasible to extend the NSNP, but that it would be unwise to do so until all the problems currently identified had been tackled. This was the reasoning behind the observations and recommendations contained in the Commission’s report. He added that if funds were made available, the problem of inequity would be dealt with. On the issue of entrenchment, he observed that some PEDs had not completely entrenched the programme.

On the question of implementation, he observed that many problems had been identified. In some provinces it was discovered that the programme was being poorly implemented. He pointed out that it was not the function of the Commission to monitor the implementation of the grants. Ensuring proper use of grants was the function of the Auditor General and Parliament. He said the Commission’s role was limited to making recommendations, which it had done.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked for clarification as to whether there were existent norms and standards at the national level.

Mr Josie pointed out that there was a need to adopt minimum standards of implementation of the NSNP. He noted that at present there were no minimum norms and standards of implementation at the national level, although there was some minimum standard at the provincial level. The Commission recommended that coordination of the programme should take place at both the national and provincial levels.

Mr R Van Den Heever (ANC) asked why there was a shortage of funds for spending on textbooks and stationery.

This question was not answered directly.

The meeting was adjourned.

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