Department of Labour Strategic Plan and Budget: deliberations

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Labour

25 March 2008
Chairperson: Ms O Kasienyane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting took the form of a discussion and follow up on the Department’s previous briefing to the Committee on its strategic plan and budget for 2008 to 2011. Questions were posed as to why there were unspent National Skills Funds money at the end of the financial year, and concern was expressed that Programme 3 on employment and skills development was not fully functional. The Committee noted that it would be visiting the Manpower Development Authority of Bophuthatswana project in North West and still needed clarity on this from the Department. Details of funding on Extended Public Works Programme and social development projects must be sent to the Committee.  The Committee further requested an update, and the final report, once available, of the Kwazulu Natal Sheltered Employment Assmang investigation. Reports were requested also from the Department on the poorly performing Sector Education and Training Authorities, as it was expected to report on all public entities related to or administered by it. The Department was asked to give details on the verification process and filling of vacancies, and was further asked for a progress report to be provided by end June 2008. Further information was also called for in respect of the Umsombomvu Youth Fund and the allocations to it. The Committee requested details on the filling of the national roving inspector posts and plans to strengthen the inspectorate. The Committee also required the Department to brief it on the upcoming Bills. Finally it expressed concern about the series of qualified audit reports and expressed a wish for the Minister of Labour to explain the reasons.

Meeting report

Follow up on Department of Labour (DoL) previous briefing on Strategic Plan and Budget Vote
The Chairperson indicated that there would be no briefing by the Department of Labour (DoL) at this meeting, but instead the meeting would take the form of a discussion and a follow up on the previous briefing to the Committee on the Department’s strategic plan and budget vote.

The Chairperson indicated that the Committee wanted clarification on particular issues of concern following the DoL briefing on 4 March, including the grading of officials, filling of vacancies and timelines.

Mr Les Kettledas, Acting Director-General (DG), DoL, tendered apologies for the non-attendance of Mr Morotoba
and Ms Phasha, Deputy Director Generals who were responsible for some the programmes on which the Committee had sought clarity. He would deal with issues on their behalf.

The Chairperson asked to know why there was unspent National Skills Fund money at the end of the financial year.

Mr Kettledas replied that the DoL would always have unspent NSF funds at the end of each financial year, due to the fact that the programmes under the NSF commenced at different times during the year. Some of the programmes began in the middle of the year and would obviously overlap into the next financial year. He added that there was an Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programme that recently began in the Limpopo, which had received a R250 million allocation from the NSF fund and presently had an enrolment of 350 students. This programme would evidently overlap into the next financial year. It had received part of the NSF funds that were indicated as unspent in the financial report in the 2007/8 financial  year.

The Chairperson commented that Programme 3 -
Employment and Skills Development Services/Human Resources Development - of the Department’s Strategic plan was of paramount importance and key to skills development in the country. However, it appeared that it was not yet fully functional and was not being implemented to its fullest potential. In particular the Manpower Development Authority of Bophuthatswana (MANDAB) project in the North West Province, was still of concern to the Committee. She asked for clarification on the problems being faced in the MANDAB project. She added that the Committee would be visiting the North West Province to assess the progress of this project, would meet with the Premier, and would try to get clarity around the problems being faced.

Mr Kettledas replied that the DoL delegation did not have with them the exact details of the amount that had been spent on the programmes and projects. He however indicated that the MANDAB funds had been transferred to the Social Development Funds in the North West Province

The Chairperson asked to know how much funding had been spent to date on the Extended Public Works Programme and the Social Development projects.

Ms B Matebesi, Acting Chief Financial Officer, DoL, added that the delegation could only provide historical expenditure figures from last year. The up-to-date expenditure figures would be provided to the Committee in writing.

Mr M Mzondeki (ANC) commented that there had been an agreement after the meeting of 4 March that the DoL must provide the Committee with details on the grading of inspectors and filling of vacancies. He asked if the Committee could get an interim progress report on the programme meant to address the Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) Sheltered Employment Factory quandary involving Assmang, as well as the DoL’s strategy on addressing the issue.

Mr Kettledas replied that the KZN Sheltered Employment Assmang investigation had already commenced in KZN but was taking long because of the voluminous amount of information provided. The employers and employees each had their own legal teams who each had to go through the information. The hearing was thus postponed to two dates in April and two dates in May to allow the legal teams to analyse the information. The final outcome was expected by May, following which a  report would be given to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to determine if there was any basis to proceed with criminal investigations.

The Chairperson asked for more information on the poorly performing Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and how they were affecting the progress of the Skills Development Strategy.

Mr Kettledas replied that the individual SETAs gave their own reports and presentations outlining their performance to the Committee. He added that the New Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) was currently undertaking a review of the entire SETA landscape and scope. A report of the review, which would address the SETA’s funding, their mandate, performance, performance monitoring and the SETA Boards, would then be given to the Minister of Labour . It was decided at the Growth Development Summit to review the representation on the SETA boards, and to assess whether the members of the board had the most appropriate skills, experience and qualifications. He added that Sam Morotoba, DoL’s Senior Executive Manager for SETA Coordination, had previously indicated that there were SETAs that needed to improve significantly, in particular the construction SETA. The National Skills Authority (NSA) was advising the Minister in terms of the performance of the Manufacturing, Printing and Packaging (MAPPP) SETA and the construction SETA.

The Chairperson commented that even though the SETAs reported to the Portfolio Committee, the Committee still expected the DoL to report on all public entities that were related, initiated or  administered by the Department.

The Chairperson commented further that the issue of the DoL capacity had been raised with the Minister of Labour.

Mr Kettledas replied the DoL could not provide detailed information and responses to some of the Committee’s questions and concerns as the Department had not received prior notification of the exact agenda of the meeting or the issues to be discussed. He however indicated that the verification of the Department’s staff complement had been completed, as indicated at the meeting of 4 March. This had identified that there was a total of 7 475 posts in the department. The process had also identified the vacancies. As of 5 March the Department began a substantiation and clarification process of the vacancies identified in terms of the programmes, departments and provinces where the vacancies existed. This was completed, including the cost of filling in the vacancies. There had also been a process conducted to prioritise important posts, such as service practitioners in the labour centres, out of the 800 vacancies identified in the verification process. The Department intended to fill the prioritised posts by June 2008.

Mr Mzondeki asked for a commitment from the DoL to provide the Committee with a progress report on the filling of vacancies by the end of June.

Mr Kettledas replied that a progress report would be provided to the Committee by the end of June 2008.

Ms S Rajbally (MF) commented that the existence of vacancies in key strategic posts raised concerns about how the Department was currently coping. She added that there were skilled people leaving the country who could fill in these vacancies.

Mr Kettledas noted that work continued regardless of the vacancies, through the delegation of different tasks to the available incumbents and employees. He added that work-plans had continued to deliver the outputs in the time frames set.

The Chairperson indicated that the Department’s Programme 3 included Umsombomvu Youth Fund (UYF). She asked the Department to provide additional information over and above that given by UYF to the Committee, as to why the Fund only received a R5 million allocation from the Department of National Treasury.

Mr Kettledas replied that the UYF had requested substantial funds in their budget submission to National Treasury. National Treasury had initially indicated that the UYF would not receive any funding. It was nonetheless allocated the R5 million after vote 15, and correspondence with the Department regarding inflation adjustments and so forth. He added that the UYF was going to be merged into the National Youth Development Agency. The Minister in the Presidency had initiated a task team to oversee the merger. A report by the task team on the merger would be given to the Ministers of Finance and Labour to resolve the issue of funding. The task team had already commenced work even without funding.

The Chairperson asked to know the exact reasons for not providing funding to the UYF.

Mr Kettledas replied that National Treasury indicated that the UYF should use up their existing funds, after which a review of the expenditure and outcomes of the UYF programmes would be conducted by National Treasury, DoL and the UYF itself, and a decision for the continuation of the funding would be made.

Ms Rajbally asked to know how long the vacancies in the department had existed.

Mr Kettledas replied that the vacancies occurred over a period of time and that there would always be vacancies at any point in time. The Department had begun a verification process of the vacancies identified in terms of the programmes, departments and provinces where those vacancies existed. This was now completed and there was work in progress to fill  in the vacancies.

Mr Mzondeki asked to know if the six-month deadline on filling of vacancies would be met. He also asked to know some of the levels of the vacancies.

Mr Kettledas replied that it there was a directive from the Department of Public Service and Administration that vacant posts be filled within six months after they became available. The deadline did not require the Department to fill every vacancy within the next six months. He added that the vacancies included SR7 vacancies, which related to team leaders in the Department’s inspectorate division, but there were not many senior executive positions vacant.

The Chairperson asked for more information on the filling in of the ESP2 (
Employment Service Practitioner 2) and ESP3 vacancies.

Ms Siyanda Zondeki, Deputy Director General, DoL, replied that the information would be provided in writing by the end of the week.

Mr G Anthony (ANC) asked for more clarity on the moratorium to fill in the national roving inspector vacancies, the ESP2 and ESP3 inspectors, as well as the plans to strengthen the entire Inspectorate.

Ms Zondeki commented that the move to professionalise the inspectorate sought to improve the salary structure and the career development programme of the directorate. Currently the SR7 and SR8 were team leader posts. It was however impossible to upgrade them to higher grade levels such as SR14. She added that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (METF) plans nonetheless included a provision to upgrade the inspectors at the end of the year.

The Chairperson asked to know the timeframes behind the issues indicated.

Mr Kettledas replied that the Department had made a commitment to resolve the issues and problems involving SETAs with the relevant stakeholders by 4 April 2008.

Mr Mzondeki asked if it was possible to receive a report on the NEDLAC review of the SETA landscape.

Mr Mzondeki asked if the Committee could also receive the terms of reference in the report of the investigations on the KZN sheltered employment issue.

Mr Kettledas replied that the terms of reference would be provided once the investigations had been completed in May.

Mr Mzondeki commented that the Department needed to come back and brief the Committee on the upcoming Bill.

Mr Kettledas replied that the Bill was currently with NEDLAC, which would finish its review in May, after which the Department was willing to give the briefing to the Committee.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee would like to be given the briefing on the Bill at the beginning of May.

Mr Kettledas replied that there were recent changes in the regulations dealing with the processes through which a Bill must go, and thus the Department could informally brief the Committee on the Bill, even before the NEDLAC process was finished.

The Chairperson commented that the Committee was extremely concerned about the qualified audit reports which the Department was receiving and would like to have the Minister of Labour explain the reasons behind the continuously qualified reports.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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