South African Civil Aviation Authority Annual Report 2006/07: briefing

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21 November 2007
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

21 November 2007

Chairperson: Mr J Cronin (ANC)

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)
South African Civil Aviation Authority Annual Report 2006/07

Audio recording of meeting

The Civil Aviation Authority briefed the Committee on its Annual Report. It was noted that the objectives of the Authority were to control and regulate civil aviation, to oversee functioning and development of the industry in civil aviation and to control, regulate and promote civil aviation, safety and security. The organization had been dysfunctional in 2006 but due to a recovery plan had experienced a turnaround. The annual report focused on supporting the national goals of the country, with a specific reference to national logistics systems with a strong safety and security oversight system. The main performance areas and strategic priorities were set out and discussed. The internal institutional reorganization, implementation of project based management systems, and development of retention strategies to keep staff were also described. It was noted that there was an unqualified audit report, and that the Authority had less of a deficit than the previous year. The reasons for the recent incidents highlighted in the media were explained.

Members expressed their concerns over the recent incidents but acknowledged that, given the number of flight registered with the authority, the accident rate, in percentage terms, was low. Further questions addressed the inspections and their frequency, whether the Authority took a proactive role, the reasons for using the Israeli systems as a benchmark on safety and security, the reasoning behind having one runway at the airport, the causes of employee morale and the strategy of attracting highly skilled personnel, the gender and race composition of the staff and the surveillance programme. Further questions were asked about the postponement of inspections on aircraft, the methods used to headhunt to fill vacancies, and the role of the South African Air Force. The Chairperson noted that the issues around definition of the roles, which were raised as a challenge earlier, would require a thorough assessment of the current model and comprehensive legislative reform.

South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Annual Report Briefing

Mr Duke Moorosi, Chairperson of the Board, CAA, and Mr Zakes Myeza, Chief Executive Officer, CAA, gave the presentation. They noted that the governing legislation set out the objectives of CAA as being to control and regulate civil aviation, to oversee functioning & development of the civil aviation industry, and to control, regulate and promote civil aviation safety and security. They outlined that when the current CEO took office in March 2008 he inherited an organization that lacked capacity, was dysfunctional and non-compliant. There was conflict between management and unions, a misaligned structure and poor systems and processes leading to low employee morale and poor customer service.
A project was launched in June 2006 to turn around the organization, to raise standards of aviation safety and security, to transform CAA into a professional, efficient and effective organization, to deliver superior customer service and attract good skills. The goals were divided into short and medium term.

There were four main
strategic areas of operation, and the presentation gave the specific focus of each, achievements and challenges. The minutes will focus on the overview instead of the detail content issues per department. The organizational structure had been redesigned. The overall reporting line was to the Minister of Transport, but it was noted that there was a performance agreement with the Department of Transport that defined the performance contract of CAA over a period.

The first area was Air Safety Operations, whose main function was to carry out a variety of safety oversight activities within the civil aviation industry. It had performed well in this area in the last year. It had undertaken all the aerodrome inspections and surveillance, inspection of air traffic services and dissemination of required aeronautical information to the aviation community. Aviation Security focused on overseeing aviation security in South Africa across all airports. It had achieved ICAO standard compliance, which regulated aviation security internationally, and its undertook a security audit that was conducted by US transport Security Administration, which was very positive and confirmed the compliance of the South African standards to international standards.

The second strategic objective covered Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) compliance, involvement in the Southern African Development Community region, Corporate Social Investment, which included promotion of aviation careers to previously disadvantages individuals, and skills development, where there was cooperation with a number of bodies.

The third strategic objective centered around Corporate governance. The CAA was pleased to report that all necessary meetings of the Board had been convened. There was increased financial discipline through improvement of internal control systems.

In respect of the strategic objective of achieving customer satisfaction, there had been hosting of a CAA Day, an industry liaison forum was operative, and it was working on a customer tracking system.

In respect of performance management, it was noted that the Board had successfully implemented a new performance management system. An HR transformation strategy was developed, together with a governance framework, service delivery and employee relations. These changes had their own challenges, but the overall impact was that it changed the attitude of the staff towards their work and place of work. In terms of the corporate social responsibility, CAA had limited funding to pursue any vigorous programme in this area, but had undertaken a public education programme about aviation to rural dominated provinces.

The presentation then moved on to discuss the financial statements. The CAA had received an unqualified audit report which demonstrated compliance to good governance principles and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). CAA was reporting a deficit of R5,5m, compared to a deficit of R5,3m in 2006. This was due to the A1 project, a 15% increase in labour costs due to performance bonuses and increased staff numbers, infrastructure costs, a 34% increase in repairs and maintenance and increased costs of premises. It had participated in other audit processes, as set out in the presentation.

Critical success factors were that the tariffs had been kept stable since 2004, but before the change soon to take effect there had been better consultation with industry, and the Minister’s approval was obtained The increase in tariff would enhance CAA’s safety and security oversight of the industry
. The recruitment drive was already showing inroads.

The conflict or overlap between the functions of the Commissioner of Civil Aviation and those of the Chief Executive Officer had been raised in both the ICAO and FAA safety audits, and this was a matter needing urgent attention. The independence of the Air Safety Investigations department has been raised as an issue of concern in the ICAO audit.

The presenters then raised the three recent aircraft incidents and gave the facts of each. CAA believed that the incidents were isolated and consistent with global trends, which were also tabled and described. CAA could learn from other regulators, its technical inspectors were on high alert and ready to respond to incidents, and there was increased visibility of inspectors.

The Chairperson suggested that Members engage specifically on the airline or aircraft accidents so that when Members were confronted by either the media or members of the public they would be well informed about the about the incidents.

Ms N Khunou (ANC) sought clarity whether the authority had waited until after the accident before undertaking an inspection on other Boeing 737-200 aircrafts, and whether inspections of aircrafts were undertaken on a regular basis. She also sought information on the precautionary measures that the authority has undertaken to prevent such incidents or accidents in the future.

Mr Moorosi indicated that Boeing 737-200 was the most successful and popular aircraft in Africa. The incidents were isolated cases with very little significance to the economy and the country. CAA was working with the manufacturer to establish the reasons for these incidents. The manufacturer, whose reputation was at stake, did not have serious concerns and they were after all the specialists in the area. There had been an inspection to all other Boeing 737-200s as a precautionary measure.

A Member asked whether the authority was reactive or proactive in their inspections .

Mr Myeza indicated that the authority was proactive in their safety and security oversight role, because no aircraft would have air access without a airworthiness certificate issued by the authority. The condition attached to the certificate was that the aircraft should undergo inspection as often as possible. In addition, the inspection team of CAA often undertook ad hoc inspections to a number of aircraft, unannounced, and would revoke the licence of any aircraft or airline found not to be compliant.

A Member, sought clarification on the rationale for using the Israeli security system as a benchmark.

Mr Myeza indicated that, due to political unrest in the Middle East, Israel was extremely security-alert and could easily detect threats on aircrafts.

Members enquired the reasoning behind having one runway at the airport, commenting that it had a cost to the economy.

Mr Myeza indicated that the issue of infrastructure development at the airport was the responsibility of Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA). He was unable to comment on their plans.

The Chairperson expressed his gratitude at the handling of the recent Nationwide Airline incident, when the airline sought to exonerate itself by indicating to the public that the falling of the engine was due to an external technical problem, so that they would not take responsibility. CAA had disputed the Nationwide Airline assertion, in a public statement, indicating that it was a technical fault in the engine and not an external problem. He applauded that transparent approach and recommended that the outcome of the investigation on the cause of the technical fault in the engine be made public too.

Ms Khunou asked the causes of employee morale and the strategy of attracting highly skilled personnel. She also indicated that she had an interest in the gender and race composition of the staff. Lastly she sought information on the surveillance programme.

Mr Myeza indicated that the previously low morale was due to a dysfunctional organisational structure, a legacy of the past. This was the reason for instituting a human resource transformation strategy, to boost the morale and retain the technical skills base much longer. CAA was also considering entering in a memorandum of understanding with the industry to ensure investment in skills across the board.

Mr Myeza explained that the surveillance programme had to be overhauled because it was poorly conceptualised and it was not meeting the international standards.

The gender composition of the labour force was 59% Black women and 54% white males, but that might change because the area of technical skills is dominated by white males and currently the authority had appointed 47 technical staff. There was a lot of investment that needed to be done by the country in developing technical skills bases.

A Member enquired whether there were any serious implications when aircraft owners requested a postponement on the inspection of their aircraft due to financial constraints.

Mr Myeza indicated that the consequences of postponing the inspection were that the aircraft would not have air access, and CAA could ultimately revoke the certificate of airworthiness.

A Member sought information on whether the authority was head hunting to fill the vacant positions and what kind of media were being used to advertise.

Mr Myeza indicated that CAA had advertised in both print and online media for the vacant position. The authority was also using international platforms to advertise, like industry journals. The real challenge was the salary. Because the technical skills were globally scarce, it had become very costly to hire staff because their demand was high and the supply of such skills was low.

A Member sought clarification on the role of the South African Air Force.
Mr Myeza indicated that the South African Air Force was a standalone unit within the authority. It was inherited with the old CAA, and currently was self-funding. This unit was still relevant to remain with CAA from the revenue perspective, because it had a number of airports and aircrafts.

Ms Khunou sought the views of the CAA management on the precautionary measures on global warming.

The Chairperson indicated that the issues around definition of the roles, which were raised as a challenge earlier, would require a thorough assessment of the current model and comprehensive legislative reform. For the moment CAA and the Department of Transport would have to consider a solution to resolve the structural conflict. He noted that the CAA had been doing well in terms of the international compliance regulations.

The meeting was adjourned.


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