Department of Communications Annual Report 2006/7: briefing

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Meeting report

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE

LABOUR AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES SELECT COMMITTEE AND COMMUNICATIONS PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
6 NOVEMBER 2007
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS ANNUAL REPORT 2006/7: BRIEFING

Chairpersons: Mr G Oliphant (ANC).
                         Ms M Themba (ANC, Mpumalanga)

Documents handed out:
Department of Communications 2006\7 Annual Report [available shortly at www.doc.gov.za]
Department of Communications presentation

Audio recording of meeting
 
SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed on the Department’s performance over the past years as contained in its Annual Report, and outlined its efforts to fulfil its key objectives of achieving higher rates of investment in the economy, increasing the competitiveness of the economy, broadening participation in the economy, contributing to building a better world and also contributing to the capacity of the State to deliver. The financial statements for 2006/7 were provided and explained, as well the challenges faced by the Department going forward.

During the discussion Members sought clarity on the existence of the Department’s asset register, its internship programme, the relationship between Sentech and Infraco, the recoupment of funds spent on the 2010 FIFA World Cup preparations and its policies on ICT cables. .

MINUTES
The Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises and the Portfolio Committee on Communications decided to convene together since they both needed to be briefed by the Department of Communications on the same day. The meeting was officiated by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Mr G Oliphant (ANC).

Department of Communications presentation
Ms Gerda Grabe, the Acting Director General of the Department of Communications, briefed the Committees on the Departments performance on its strategic focus areas and projects. She outlined the Department’s achievements in reporting higher rates of investment in the economy, the policy directives which increased the competitiveness of the South African economy, the multi-lateral agreements in place that were aimed at providing telecommunication services to all South Africans and the mechanisms that now improved the State’s capacity to deliver services and certain special projects such as those targeting the youth sector.

Mr Harry Mathabathe, the Deputy Director-General: Finance and ICT Enterprise Development, briefed the Committees on the Department’s budget for 2006\07 and its performance. He outlined the Department’s financials over the last two financial years, the appropriation statement, details of transfer payments to entities falling under the Department and funding requirements for the 2008 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

Challenges facing the Department included difficulty in providing universal access to and availability of ICT infrastructure, especially broadband, the high cost of telecommunication services to the South African public and the limited local content due to a lack of capacity.

Discussion
Ms S Vos (IFP) asked if an analyses had been done on how to recoup monies spent by the Department on the 2010 FIFA World Cup preparations.

Mr Botlenyana Mokhele, Chief Director: 2010 Broadcasting, responded that no analyses had been done regarding the costs. He explained that recouping the costs would be based on the operational costs, but that had not yet been finalised.

Mr R Pieterse (ANC) asked if Sentech and Infraco were complementing each other, or if Sentec was now being neglected.

Mr Mathabathe responded that Sentech was not abandoned. Funding of Sentech had been approved. The Department was working on that with National Treasury.

Ms M Smuts (DA) sought clarity on government’s policies on ICT cables, and when the problems associated with it would be resolved.

The Acting DDG: ICT Policy Development, Mr Norman Munzhelele, responded that the Department was currently working on finalizing its policy guidelines on cables. The Department has decided to increase ownership and control of submarine cables.

Mr S Kholwane (ANC) sought clarity on the Department’s assessment of the agencies under its jurisdiction. The Department’s Annual Report was not properly structured so as to give Committee Members a firm grasp of what was currently happening.

Ms Gerda Grabe apologised and promised that the next Annual Report would be more detailed.

Ms Themba asked the Department to explain its internship programme.

The Department responded that opportunities for internships with the Department were first advertised before a final selection was made. Interns received training and mentoring throughout the internship, which lasted for twelve months now.

Mr S Mxumalo (ANC) asked whether the Department currently had an asset register and a policy on disposal of its assets. He also asked if the asset register could be produced on request.

Mr Mathabathe responded that the Department did have an asset policy and that it would forward it to Members.

The meeting was adjourned.

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