Training Strategy for Lower and Middle Management: briefing by SAMDI

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


3 October 2001

Mr J Gomomo

Documents handed out:
Presentation on Training Strategy for Lower and Middle Management

The South African Management Development Institute Director General and his deputy presented its strategy for training middle and lower management in the public sector. This came in the light of increasing concern by Cabinet about the effectiveness of these two levels in managing their respective areas. The presentation covered the problems that had been identified as well as SAMDI’s programmes to address these, the objectives and goals of the Institute and other closely related issues.

Mr J Mokgoro, the Director General of the SA Management Development Institute (SAMDI), pointed out that SAMDI had been requested to make this presentation on training strategy for middle and lower management in the public sector by the Portfolio Committee following concerns from Cabinet.

Several issues had been raised concerning the effectiveness of those two areas of management and these included the concern that Directors General were not spending sufficient time on strategic issues in the various departments. It appeared that tension existed between the strategic and operational management and this has been seen as a result of the low quality of management, especially at middle management level. This strategic and operational tension seems to be linked to the Public Service Act and Public Finance Management Act. He raised concern that promotion up the ladder is fast tracked and the depth of management experience is as such not developed.

Mr Mokgoro noted that up to very recently, there was concern that although budgeting had improved, it was leading the planning process instead of the planning process leading the budgeting. He went on to add that strategic priorities were identified at their recent strategic planning session. These priorities include, developing and implementing a cost recovery strategy; extending the SAMDI’s services to local government; as well as accelerating middle and junior management staff.

Ms M Bernard-Fryer, the Deputy D.G, presented the rationale for training middle and lower managers.

She started off by saying that there is a tendency in the public sector to forget that middle managers are the implementers of policy, they are often the link between the senior and junior managers, but they are often the most neglected with regard to their own development. This training programme has been designed to equip this level of management. She pointed out that there were very few specialised training programmes like project and finance management, especially for the junior ranks. Thirdly she noted that gender representivity in the training programmes was prioritised. A quota was introduced so that any training programmes undertaken for government departments must include at least 50% women.

Ms Bernard-Fryer informed the committee that for the SMS programme, if a trainee holds a three-year degree, this programme gives the individual a direct access route to a Master’s Degree. She pointed out that the aim of the Human Resources Management Programme is to develop human resource management practitioners and managers who are skilled and competent in delivering quality service and advice. Regarding the issue of improving Service Delivery for operational managers, she noted that they had found that in some areas, skills for implementation and management of service delivery were lacking thus training in this regard was highly important.

Mr M Sikakane (ANC) questioned the presenters on the issue of tensions brought about by PFMA and PSA. He wanted to know how the lack of quality in management brought about these tensions. Secondly on the issue of finance, he asked if the presenters were saying finance is a constraint on their activities.

Mr J Modisenyane (ANC) wanted to be clarified on the usage of the concepts overstaffed and underemployed.

Mr M de Camara (DP) wanted to know what kind of co-operation the Institute had received from the various national and provincial departments and what amounts had been made available for this purpose.

Mr J Mokgoro responded to the first question and pointed out that regarding strategic and operational tension, this was an analysis from a study by the Forum for South African Directors-General (FOSAD). Managers are normally supposed to operate at strategic level but were forced to operate at an operational level due to legislation on the issue.

On the issue of finance, he informed the committee that post-1994, functional committees decided the amount and handed it over to the provinces. This meant that budgeting proceeded planning whereas it is supposed to be the other way around and as such whatever planning to be done was to be done within certain budgetary limits.

On the issue of the usage of the concepts overstaffed and underemployed, he noted that the former referred in this context to having a lot of employees who are not sure of what their role is and therefore are not fully used, thus they are underemployed.

On the issue of co-operation, Ms Bernard-Fryer responded by saying that generally all nine provinces and about 36 national departments were fully participating in the programme. In response to the budgeting she pointed out that it is quite difficult to pin-point a specific amount because of the various attendance patterns from the recipients. However an estimation of around R13 million was not far off.

Mr T Abrahams (UDM) asked how the attrition rate in the senior ranks compared with the upward mobility of officials. The member asked a second question and wanted to know how bad are the ABET levels which the DDG had referred to

Mr N Zulu (IFP) asked what the entrance requirements for the junior management programme were and also wanted to know if they regarded 3 and 4-year degrees in differently.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) commented on the issue of tensions and pointed out that perhaps the tension might be arising in policy interpretations and wanted to know SAMDI’s comment on the issue.

Mr M Maphalala (ANC) asked the presenters as to what programmes they had put in place to ensure that training programmes for disciplines like project management were sustainable.

Ms C September (ANC) asked the presenters as to whether within this programme they had identified a workplace change manual as a way of encouraging change in the workplace. Secondly, she wanted to know more about the programme for training managers and what kind of institutions was the programme targeting and is parliament included in those targeted.

Mr D Sithole (ANC) asked which was the problem - top management being overloaded or the lack of skills at this level. Secondly he also asked if the certificate programmes were the only links with higher qualifications and why would anyone want to do them instead of going straight to a higher qualification if they are not recognised as qualifications. Thirdly he also asked about the HRM training programme for women as to why is it focused solely on women, what happens to the men who work with them if they are not trained to work properly with women?

Mr Mokgoro in responding to the first question on attrition rates pointed out that he did not have precise figures on the attrition rate, but that one can say that South Africa has a younger job echelon which is very mobile because of better private sector opportunities and he went on to add that this is an issue which planners need to take into account when employing and training top level and even middle level managers.

On the issue of tension, he noted that the tension is not between the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Service Act but rather between the individuals themselves when they have to perform duties between the two sectors. He went on to add that the point is that, skills or not, one has to concern themselves about planning of particular departments and units over an annual basis.

On the issue of policy management and implementation, he noted that this needs further and more closely scrutinised arrangements. On the issue of project management training sustainability, he referred the MP to the certificate programme in Public Management as an example of a continuous training programme sustainable for a long period of time.

On the issue of institutions targeted, he pointed out that a number of parastatals have their own training units and SAMDI’s role here would be to consolidate on the knowledge already in place. However because they work on a cost recovery basis, they would also like to include the parastatals in their training programmes. On the issue of parliament, he pointed out that no arrangements are in place yet, but noted that they are in the process of setting up such arrangements with the Speaker.

On the question of HR training programmes for women, he concurred with the MP that it is a serious consideration which needs to be addressed urgently and they would prioritise addressing it.

On the ABET issue, Ms Bernard-Fryer informed the committee that literacy is adequate but functional literacy is the real problem. On the issue of the entry requirements of the junior qualification, she noted that with the new South African Qualifications Authority stipulations, a person with a std 6 or 4 can be admitted on the basis of work experience to the middle or even senior management training levels.

She went on to add that the distinction between a 3 and 4 year degree was no longer relevant as entrance to level 7 (masters) is now accessible to a junior degree holder. On the issue of a workplace change manual, she pointed out that there is an impact study by external assessors to see if the training has made any changes to the workplace arrangements in terms of managerial capacities.

Ms Mbulawa-Hans (ANC) noted that most of her questions had been answered as the other MP’s had raised them.

Mr R Baloyi (ANC) asked if there is anyway of tracking or re-evaluating the qualifications. Many people hold certificate programmes but seem not to have grasped the competency adequately.

Mr M Sikakane (ANC) commended the D.G on the issue of linking national practices to provincial and local government practices and expressed his happiness that the D.G had highlighted the issue.

On the issue of the qualifications held by an individual, the DDG noted that SAMDI has a continuous evaluation programme and no longer issue certificates as a once-off sign of approval to the trainees.

The meeting adjourned.


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