CRL Commission & Local Government SETA Plans & Budget 2008

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

17 March 2008
Chairperson: Mr S Tsenoli (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Local Government Sector Education Training Authority (LGSETA) and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious, Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) briefed the Committee on their budgets for the 2008/09 financial year.
 
The LGSETA stated that in the period 2007/08 it had made significant strides in bringing key projects and programmes to fruition. These addressed the key strategic priority areas of training traditional leaders, a ward committee programme, and the organisation of the National Skills Colloquium to respond to the sector challenges around training and development. The budgets for Sector Skills Planning, discretionary funded projects, Adult Literacy and Council for the Property Valuers Profession were tabled. It was noted that there had been underspending across all categories. The bursary programmes were explained. There was a Memorandum of Understanding with its strategic partners Department of Provincial and Local Government and South African Local Government Association to ensure a cohesive approach to coordinating training. Skills gaps had been identified and addressed. The training programmes were set out. Discretionary grant funding was being applied to some areas, including training to address lack of capacity to apply the Municipal Property Rates Act. There were 25 registered providers and 24 registered qualifications. Challenges included the fact that the local government sector remained one of the most politicised environments, which tended to interfere with delivery of training.

Questions from Members addressed the shortages of property valuers, the lack of capacity to spend,
the learnership programmes, and the reasons why the concerns of the Auditor General had not been addressed in the briefing. Further questions were asked on the bursaries ad scholarships, the effectiveness of the cooperation between the Local Government Association and the SETA, the shortage of artisans, assistance by and cooperation with the Department of Provincial and Local Government, and the efficacy of the Internal Audit function.
 
The Commission on Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights set out its history, mandate and objectives. The budget was
R18, 7 million for the 2008/09 financial year, rising to R22, 9 million in 2011/12. The programmes had included recommendations on boys’ initiation hearings with the Houses of Traditional Leaders and others, investigations into virginity testing in Kwazulu Natal, a policy review on animal sacrifice, and work with the SPCA. There had been progress on the promotion and protection of African languages and mother tongues, with continuing dialogue on Sepedi, and the plight of the Khoe and San languages. A policy framework was adopted to recognise community councils. Poor monitoring controls, procedures and policies had resulted in areas of non-compliance and poor governance, but this was being addressed. The Charters developed were set out and explained. Members asked about the Commission’s capacity challenges and commented that the budget was too low and did not allow for it to undertake all the work. The relationship with the Department of Provincial and Local Government was raised. Other questions addressed the baseline that informed the budgeting, the need to give project and programme breakdowns, the role of Charters, the situation with the Khoe San and their name, the need for a holistic approach on this issue, and the need for further engagement with National Treasury.

Meeting report

Local Government Sector Education Training Authority (LGSETA): Budget Briefing
Mr Sidwell Mofokeng, Chief Executive Officer, LGSETA, briefed the Committee on the budgetary summary of the 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 financial years, programme purposes, objectives and measures for their main programme areas.

The SETA had also made some impact in the field of scarce skills by providing bursaries to young learners to study in fields that were the cornerstone of Municipal service delivery to the communities. These included electrical engineering, water services and civil engineering. An amount of R1 million had been budgeted and to date at least R197 000 had been allocated in the form of bursaries. LGSETA summarised the other courses that it intended to offer. These would be co-funded by the Institute of Municipal Finance Officers (IMFO), Institute of Fire Officers (SEASI), German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

In attempt to coordinate training and development matters within the sector, the LGSETA had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with its strategic partners DPLG and SALGA to ensure that a cohesive approach to coordinating training was achieved. The 2006/07 sector skills planning process identified skills gaps in the sector in the areas of  infrastructure and service delivery, municipal financial viability, community based participation and planning, management and leadership and Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET).

The year 2007/08 had been exciting in terms of the LGSETA achieving its target and it was hoped that by the end of 2010 the SETA would have complied with the service level agreement entered into with the Department of Labour and that the impact of the SETA initiatives would have changed people’s lives. The LGSETA had engaged in a series of discretionary grant funded projects to attempt to assist the sector in addressing these skills gaps through Recognition of Prior Learning, learnerships, skills programmes, internships, bursary and apprenticeships.

Research was conducted into the scarce skills within the sector and these findings were incorporated into the Sector Skills Plan update which was signed off by the DPLG and approved by the Department of Labour in February 2008. The basis for scarce skills research was the workplace skills plans (WSPs) submitted by municipalities and municipal entities. The LGSETA had a 90% submission rate of WSPs from the sector. In addition to training on the scarce skills guide there had been training offered on the use of the new WSP template, guidelines and quality criteria. A comparative WSP submission rate based on municipality type showed that metropolitan municipalities, in the 2007/08 financial year, had a 100% submission rate, followed by local municipalities at 93 % and district municipalities at 89%. A total of R29,3 million was distributed as mandatory grants over two quarters.

Contracts worth R1.8 million had been signed with North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, covering training of approximately 480 traditional leaders in community facilitation and local economic development. A new programme had been instituted on the training of municipal officials in infrastructure asset management, where approximately 600 officials were targeted. A feasibility study was commissioned and concluded on assessing the possibility of customised ABET programmes relevant to the sector’s specific needs. A tender was launched and awarded to a consortium comprised of UNISA ABET Institute, and the SA Institute for Distance Education. The 2006/07 Scarce Skills Plan (SSP) review demonstrated a lack of capacity within the sector to implement the Municipal Property Rates Act. Consequently, the LGSETA approved a discretionary grant funded project to contribute to increasing municipal capacity in this area. R7. 5 million had been committed to this project over a three-year period to provide bursaries for 50 students per annum and internships for 100 students over three years.

The LGSETA, in terms of the Skills Development Act (SDA) of1998 was required to establish, register, promote and administer learnerships in the local government sector. It must also ensure the development of qualification and skills programmes which addressed the needs of the sector, initiate a wide range of needs-oriented training interventions in the form of learnerships, skills programmes, apprenticeships or other types of structured learning, and ensure the disbursement of discretionary grants to municipalities. Furthermore, it supported the implementation of quality training by providing comprehensive training and support material to accredited providers.  A total of 766 officials had been trained through learnerships, and 196 through apprenticeship and artisan learnerships. The LGSETA had continued to fulfil its main primary functions on quality assurance of Education Training and Development within the local government sector.

The LGSETA had nationally rolled out six projects to ensure that there was a greater pool of Education, Training and Development providers, assessors, mentors, coaches, moderators and prior learning recognition. Advisors performed quality assurance functions, including accreditation of providers, quality management system, training of assessors and the roll out of the apprenticeship assessment systems. Traditional leaders were being trained in different provinces through 25 providers. There were 24 registered qualifications accredited to the LGSETA, and 96 training providers had been accredited across the provinces, except for North West.

The mandate of the Finance and IT Department was to plan, execute and to efficiently manage the finances of the LGSETA and ensure that a fair and transparent system was implemented.  There had been a  number of internal audits completed during the year under review. The reports of the independent Internal Auditors were submitted to the Audit Committee. The total skills Development levy Income of  the LGSETA as at 31 December 2007/08 financial year amounted to R125, 5 million. There had been a consistent surplus over the last five financial years, except in 2007/08 financial year where there was over expenditure of 4%. The major levy payers were also the major recipients of mandatory grants.

The discretionary fund comprised of 20%, and included income from the Skills Development Levy, interest and penalties paid by employers in the sector, interest accrued, unspent income for administration from previous years and unclaimed Mandatory Grant. An amount of R21 million had been disbursed from Discretionary Funds to the end of December 2007.

Given the challenges faced by the sector, in particular the continuous restructuring of municipal staff structures, LGSETA considered that it had achieved substantially in terms of training and development. However, a challenge was that the local government sector remained one of the most politicised environments, which tended to interfere with delivery of training, impacting upon achieving SETA targets.

Discussion
Mr P Smith (IFP) wanted to know why there had been a persistent shortage of property valuers and why LGSETA could not rely on the private sector.

Mr Smith said that lower levels of expenditure were pervasive through out the presentation, indicating lack of capacity to spend.

Mr Smith asked whether the R2 million set aside for Skills Audit was meant to cover 21 municipalities alone. He also sought clarity on the learnership programmes.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) praised LGSETA for an improved budget and strategic plan presentation within a ‘politicised environment’. He pointed out that there were problems within municipalities of passing the buck to junior staff. He said there was need for the Committee to be furnished with an in-depth skills programme to understand exactly what was happening in municipalities. He also proposed that it would be wise for the Committee to visit LGSETA to understand their training practices and compare whether there had been improvement in the quality of work by municipalities.

Mr Mshudulu bemoaned the inherited system fostered by apartheid where black engineers were not given the same experience and opportunities as their white counterparts.

Mr Mshudulu expressed concern as to why the presentation had not addressed concerns raised by the Auditor General.

Mr W Doman (DA) praised LGSETA for an honest presentation. He however expressed concern at the raiding of trained property valuers by the private sector.

Mr Doman asked LGSETA what it was doing to alleviate the situation through awarding bursaries and scholarships. He wanted to know the effectiveness of the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SALGA and LGSETA.

Mr Doman questioned whether municipalities were taking seriously the issues of Infrastructure Asset Management, given its importance in improving asset maintenance.

Mr Doman asked for the training programmes intended for municipal police, given their perceived incompetence in a number of areas.

A Member highlighted that money was a means to end and not an end in itself. He expressed concern at the shortage of artisans when there was overwhelming evidence of under spending. He asked LGSETA to proffer possible recommendations and solutions to these perennial challenges. He wanted to know whether LGSETA had engaged the Ministry of Education and local Councillors to identify possible trainee artisans. He castigated the inherited Western education system for producing academics who were functionally incompetent to fit into modern industrialised societies.

Mr M Likotsi (PAC) disagreed with LGSETA’s argument that the cost per student in universities was expensive, noting that the reverse was true. He questioned the Authority’s bonding strategy to halt the current trend of brain drain with the local government sector.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) asked whether LGSETA considered women traditional leaders in their training programmes.

Mr Mshudulu wanted to know the kind of help LGSETA was receiving from the DPLG

Mr D Kekana (ANC) wanted to know the interest of disabled persons in the training workshops and the statistics of those trained to date. He also wanted clarity on the scope of the training mandate of LGSETA.

The Chairperson highlighted that municipalities had a lot of challenges. He asked for the progress of the community based training and its major beneficiaries.

The Chairperson wanted to know why only one service provider was accredited in Mpumalanga.

The Chairperson also sought clarity on the efficacy of having an internal audit unit reporting to the Audit Committee. He questioned the independence of the former.

Mr Mofokeng, LGSETA, responded that the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) process was an impediment to training since there was a need to identify the requisite skills to factor into the WSP and Employment Equity Planning. He said the SETA had developed a plan to train IDP practitioners, targeting those in finance and engineering. He added there was need for a mind set change within municipalities to achieve intended goals. He pointed out that in as much as the local government arena was highly politicised, some municipal problems were self-inflicted. He clarified that the R18 million budget for CBP was meant to train 30 000 ward committees.

Mr Mofokeng revealed that the DPLG had been funded to the tune of R120 million, which would go a long way in streamlining their activities and ensuring quality. On the issue of accreditation, he said it was easy to find service providers for soft skills such as finance but difficult to find those for specialised services such as water treatment. He added that as a result those areas with many training providers –typically the metropolitan areas - tended to benefit at the expense of remote areas. He highlighted that in the case of Mpumalanga most of the service providers had not reached the level of accreditation.

Mr Mofokeng said that the accreditation process was an onerous one requiring adherence to set standards and guidelines. He however said that LGSETA was in the process of capacitating training providers with toolkits and knowledge of developing assessment tools. He added that LGSETA had gone beyond its mandate in trying to help service providers to meet the required accreditation criteria. He noted that there were three levels of accreditation - eligibility status, self-evaluation stage and the verification stage.

Commenting on the audit function, Mr Mofokeng noted that the internal audit function was required to be independent. Its main functions included monitoring, compliance checking and risk assessment. It also advised the Board on the way forward on these issues, although it remained accountable to the Audit Committee as required by the law.

Mr Mofokeng pointed out that it was the mandate of LGSETA to train previously disadvantaged local government members of staff who had not acquired the relevant training within their areas of operations. This was aimed at building capacity and a skills base. He concurred that the demographics of their trainees showed male bias, although the SETA was trying to ensure gender equity. He added that most municipalities had able-bodied personnel due to the nature of their work, although disabled persons were not barred from applying.

He clarified that on the training of traditional leaders the equity approach was applied, however most training programmes had remained male biased.

Mr Mofokeng commented on the linkage between DPLG and LGSETA, saying that the collaboration was working, as evidenced by the latter’s five strategic themes that were derived from the former’s strategic priority areas.

Most universities did  not deal with the eleven areas of competence that LGSETA required. He cited the University of Pretoria, who only dealt with five and the University of Witswatersrand, which dealt with three, hence falling short despite cheaper cost-per-student fees. He noted that based on the current costing model it cost R17 000 per year to train one student.

Mr Mofokeng pointed out that the issue of brain drain was a natural phenomenon permeating all industrialising societies. In Australia, New Zealand and Dubai the attrition of skills had been more pronounced. He added that incentivising skilled personnel remained the only viable strategy.

Ms Janet Davies, Sector Skills Planning Manager, LGSETA, revealed that all recipients of bursaries signed contracts undertaking to work for local government for a period of three years after completing their studies. However this practice was being manipulated by the private sector, which undertook to pay back the bursary funds on behalf of the students, thus buying them out of the contracts.  She bemoaned the current salary levels where the public sector was offering between R8000 to R12000 for engineers when the private sector was paying R25 000 for the same engineer.

Ms Davies said that the R2 million was spent upfront for research based interventions. She added that about 15 municipalities were currently on a pilot study to assess the skills audit. She said the lack of mentors within municipalities hindered the implementation of the internship programme. She expressed concern at the Property Valuers Professional Board’s failure to mobilise sufficient numbers of mentors to complement their internship programme.

Ms Davies noted that the figure of R20 million was for artisan training, through apprenticeship grants and supporting skilled personnel with trade tests fees. She revealed that the Department of Labour had gazetted new regulations on artisans training, thereby paving the way for simplification of the outdated South African System of Apprenticeship, which was last reviewed in the 1930s. She said this would go a long way towards overhauling the training of artisans in the country.

She said the MoU with DPLG was working, especially in the area of traditional leaders training.

On the issue of the qualified report from the Attorney General, she said the LGSETA had received one qualification, on which it had already engaged the AG. Currently the AG had agreed that there was a good explanation and this qualification should not have been given.

Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural Religious, Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) Briefing
Dr Mongezi Guma, Chairperson, CRL Commission, chronicled the foundation of the Commission, noting that it was a constitutional institution established in terms of section 181(1)(c) of the Constitution. It was mandated to promote respect for the rights of cultural, linguistic and religious communities, and to promote tolerance among such communities. He outlined the enabling legislation and international instruments, mandate, functions and powers of the Commission, vision, mission and objectives.

The CRL Rights Act outlined the objectives of the CRL Rights Commission. These included promotion and development of peace, friendship, humanity, tolerance and national unity among and within cultural, religious and linguistic communities, on the basis of equality, non-discrimination and free association. It should also foster mutual respect, promote the right of communities to develop their historically diminished heritage, and recommend the establishment or recognition of community councils.

Key to the promotion and protection of rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities was the need to acknowledge the history of South Africa and the aspiration to bring the provisions of the Constitution to reality. The diminished heritages must be recaptured, documented and publicized. The identities of the diverse communities should be developed and safeguarded. There was a need to foster mutual respect and friendship to build a unified nation in diversity. Key instruments to building a new nation included conflict resolution, identification of CRL rights, education, public awareness, advocacy of CRL rights and community engagement in the promotion and protection of rights.

Ms Pumla Madiba, Chief Executive Officer, CRL Commission, highlighted the responses to the Annual Report of 30 October 2007, the Auditor General (AG’s) reports of 2005/06 and 2006/07 and the progress on the matters of emphasis. She then set out highlights of the 2007/08 financial year, business plan for 2008/09 financial year, detailed budget for 2008/09 and budget estimates from 2008 to 2011.

She tabled a budget of R18, 7 million for the 2008/09 financial year with R16, 4million going to meet staff costs and the rest covering administrative, audit fees, depreciation and other operating expenses. The budget was expected to increase marginally to R20, 6 million in the 2009/10 financial year, rising to R22, 9 million in 2011/12 financial year. A large proportion of the budget was financed through transfers from government entities while the remainder was covered by the income.

In its Annual Report presentation on 30 October 2007, the Commission had discussed recommendations on boys’ initiation hearings with the Houses of Traditional Leaders, Departments of Health and Arts and Culture, traditional healers and municipalities. It had found out that virginity testing in KZN was an institutionalised practice. Submissions had been made on legislation. The Commission had recommended a policy review on animal sacrifice in rituals by respecting the right to cultural and religious practices, whilst preventing cruelty to Animals as espoused in the Animal Protection Acts, and the constraints of the Animal Health Act and Slaughter of Animals Act. The CRL Commission recommended humane treatment before and during slaughter in terms of transportation, adaptation to environment, feeding, expertise and instruments used. In partnership with the SPCA the Commission encouraged communities to be aware of upholding the value of humaneness, while promoting and protecting their rights to cultural and religious sacrifices.

Ms Madiba noted that there had been considerable progress on the promotion and protection of African languages and mother tongues. Mini conferences and dialogues were held, and these had registered a noticeable development in developing African languages in terms of technical terminology, dictionaries and constitutional review. There had been continuing dialogue on whether Sepedi was a national language or a dialect, and on the plight of Khoe and San languages. The Commission aligned itself to the position of the Ministry of Education that 2008 was the year of languages. The Commission had been active in the promotion of mother tongues in partnership with the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) and in participating in programmes and policy formulation with the Language Services section of the Department of Arts and Culture. A policy framework had been adopted to recognise community councils and a draft framework had been submitted to the Ministry of Provincial and Local Government for promulgation. Staff stabilisation measures and strategic filling of posts had been rolled out to arrest the high vacancy rate and staff turnover of the Commission.

The Commission had identified that poor monitoring controls, procedures and policies had resulted in areas of non-compliance and poor governance. The internal audit function had performed four quarterly audits during the 2007/08 financial year. Policies had also been reviewed and new policies drafted to enhance control. The 2006/07 Annual Report had begun to implement the recommendation of submitting performance information for audit. The recruitment of additional staff had enhanced the implementation of public awareness activities.

Highlights for 2007/08 financial year had included research and policy development of Charters especially on cultural rights, religious rights and linguistic rights, public education and advocacy, and community engagement. This included the Khoe-San communities’ mini-conference in Bloemfontein, nine provincial mini-conferences and dialogues with cultural, religious and linguistic communities on specific areas.

Discussion
Mr B Solo (ANC) wanted to know the capacity challenges the Commission was facing in discharging its work. He described the budget presented by the Commission as a disaster mitigation budget. He questioned why the Commission was not well funded. He said the budget was too little to address the activities of the Commission, especially on virginity testing in KZN.

Mr Solo wanted to know the Commission’s strategic role in the teenage pregnancy issue, given that this had cultural and religious connotations.

Mr Solo asked what the DPLG was doing to help the Commission.

Mr Mshudulu observed that there had been an unfortunate trend that certain people would try to interpret issues on behalf of the Commission.

Mr Mshudulu wanted to know the baseline information that informed the budgeting in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). He proposed that the Commission’s engagement with the Committee had to be long enough to find common ground and iron out the problems bedeviling the Commission.

Mr Smith expressed concern at the perennial problem of the Commission presenting a budget without baseline estimates.

Mr Smith sought clarity on the role of Charters and their effect.

Mr Smith asked what was the politically correct terminology for the Khoisan, given the fact that there are concerns that there had been some derogatory associations with the name. He wanted to know the progress of recognizing the Khoe San chiefs as traditional leaders.

Mr Mogase sought clarity on what the Commission meant by humane slaughtering of animals since slaughtering practices varied across cultures and religions.

Dr Guma, Chairperson, CRL Commission, responded that most countries did not have Charters recognising the significant role played by cultural practices. He said the Commission was trying to negotiate rough edges in South African cultures. He said that given the United Nations processes recognising minorities and indigenous people South Africa should not be silent on these international declarations. He said that South Africa had moved away from minorities to considering a diminished heritage, and was addressing substantive issues previously sidelined, instead of continuing to play the numbers game. The issue of social cohesion had not been addressed and this had impacted upon the relationship between the Commission and the DPLG. There was a need to create bridges to enable the two institutions to act in a complementary way.  He revealed that the Commission had no jurisdiction to come up with budget baselines and salaries. He clarified that ACALAN was an African Union initiative meant to address cross border languages.

Ms Madiba, said the identity of the Commission was not clear in many circles and although their parent institution was supposed to be DPLG the accountability was problematic. She highlighted that there was a communication problem. She added that the Commission had tried to engage National Treasury on the budget baseline, but the response had been that Treasury relied on historical budget estimates to determine yearly budgets. She urged the Committee to help the Commission to ensure that something was done to address their budgeting process. She noted that the reliance on previous budgets was misleading because it did not address current funding needs.

Ms Madiba said the issue of Khoe San was complex because studies had constantly revealed more sub-divisions within the Khoe San tribe. She said a holistic approach was needed to unpack the whole issue once and for all.

Dr Guma proposed that there was need to engage the Commission soon after the National Conference to deliberate on the way forward, based on lived experiences.

A representative from the DPLG added that the issue of Khoe San was being attended to as a matter of urgency. He added that their inclusion as traditional leaders would be ascertained once the current investigations were completed. DPLG had developed a discussion document on who should qualify as a traditional leader. He promised that before the end of this year the Khoe San issue would have been addressed.

DPLG agreed that the funding of the Commission remained an issue of concern, however it urged the members to continue engaging the National Treasury. DPLG believed the problem as the use of the cluster method, which grouped entities according to themes. He said that the same problem affecting SALGA and the Municipal Demarcation Board. He added that the Commission had cross cutting strategic areas, hence the need to ‘ring fence’ from the Department of Arts and Culture, Department of Education and DPLG.

Mr Likotsi said alarm bells should have rung long ago. He cited the current budget and asked how could the Commission deliver on its mandate with such a small budget to cover operating expenses and staff salaries.

The Chairperson clarified that initially the Commission was supposed to a be a complaints resolution institution, yet social cohesion was a cross cutting issue and seemed to be at the core of their mandate. He said listening to people’s complaints was not enough, there was a need to harmonise the different cultural, religious and linguistic communities. He pointed out that the function of social cohesion was only possible in an environment of sufficient funding.

Mr Solo expressed concern at the failure by the Commission to provide the Committee with programme costing, despite this being required under the Act. He said this was not the time for excuses as to why the Commission failed to do its work properly. He urged the Committee to ensure that the Commission did its work in the spirit of ‘business unusual’, for them to deliver on their mandate.

Ms Madiba said that the PFMA dealt extensively with relationships between public entities and their parent institutions. She identified the problem as the Commission’s definition as a public entity, which further complicated their budgetary processes.

The meeting was adjourned.

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