The Department of Public Works, gave a briefing on the Department’s budget and strategic plan for 2008/2009. Brief updates on progress from the last year were included. The Department’s strategic plan was based on the President’s "Business Unusual" policy as enunciated in the recent State of the Nation Address. The key performance areas per programme were outlined. These included the growth, development and transformation of construction and property units, contributions to the National and Expanded Public Works Programmes and management of State assets. Training would include appointment of interns and roll out of the National Contractor Development Programme. The asset management strategy was outlined. It was noted that the Department had an obligation to make all building and facilities accessible to all, including the disabled. Further operations relating to energy efficiency, prioritisation of capital and maintenance budgets, the chairing of the infrastructure arrangements for the Border Control Operational Coordination Committee, identification of assets and condition audits were detailed. There had been a budget allocation of R4.1 billion and the Department had the largest budget for capital expenditure. Members questioned the non-registration of some property on the asset registry, asked whether black economic empowerment companies had made progress in work allocated to them, questioned the renovation of schools built by the community and questioned the decline in standards of the Expanded Public Works programmes. Concerns were expressed about the identification of missing government property, and why this was not mentioned in the briefing, the filling of vacancies, the high drop-out rate, and the relationship with the Department of Health in the renovation of hospitals. Corruption investigations were also questioned, and Members enquired how monitoring was being done.
Department of Public Works (DPW): Budget and Strategic Plan 2008/09
Mr Manye Moroka, Director General (DG), Department of Public Works, gave a briefing on the Department’s budget and strategic plan for 2008/2009. Also included in the briefing was the progress from the past year and challenges faced by the Department. The Department’s strategic plan was based on the President’s "Business Unusual" policy as enunciated in the recent State of the Nation Address.
The key performance areas of the Policy Unit were outlined, including giving leadership for the growth, development and transformation of the construction and property units, best practice in the management of State assets, and contributing to the National Public Works Programme. The Department outlined the establishment of an incubator programme. It would target high levels of participation of emerging enterprises and individuals. It would, in conjunction with the provincial departments of Public Works, roll out the implementation of the National Contractor Development Programme, supported by the Construction Industry Development Board. It would be conducting reviews of policy and legislation and would be driving the implementation of the Government Immovable Asset Management legislation.
The Department would be conducting research on the initiatives that contributed to the National Public Works programme and would appoint at least ten interns during the year.
In relation to the Expanded Public Works Programme, Mr Moroka set out the key performance areas and described the outcome and outputs under each (see attached presentation for details). Similar details were presented in respect of the key performance areas for Asset Management. It was noted that the National Infrastructure Maintenance Strategy had been approved. This would require significant coordination within government to ensure that all State departments were operating effectively. It would be formally launched before June.
Mr Moroka noted that the Department had an obligation to make all buildings and facilities accessible to all citizens, especially those with disabilities. Access for the disabled would be mandatory in all new buildings.
The presentation went on to detail the operations under energy efficiency, prioritization of capital and maintenance budgets, the chairing of the Border Control Operational Coordination Committee, in relation to infrastructure at ports of entry. There was continuing identification of assets yet to be accounted for and enhanced, and the Department had embarked upon Condition Audits for State owned properties, which was expected to be completed in March 2009. It was researching an affordable system for property valuations. Client Value Propositions would be developed with client departments, to articulate service delivery standards and other products to be offered.
The Budget allocation for the Department, and its comparison with other departments, was fully set out, detailing a total allocation of R4.1billion for the 2008/9 year, with a note of the percentage allocation to each of the programmes. Over the Medium Term Economic Framework the budget of this Department saw the biggest growth in capital expenditure, and the major infrastructure projects were summarised in the presentation.
Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumulanga) noted that he was confused by the asset registry report. He said that some government property had not been registered and was under individual ownership.
Mr L Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo) raised the question of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) companies’ promotion and award of tenders for construction of government structures. He cited instances where BEE companies had not made any progress in work awarded to them, like the construction of a primary school in Thokoza and the complex in Palmridge. Mr Mokoena wanted to know what the Department was doing to deal with the matters, adding that the Department should provide the asset register that had not been forthcoming.
Mr Moroka said that the asset registry was based on information provided by the relevant officials, and that it took time to update it. He said that a team of officials identified properties and assessed their status and conditions. A consultation was carried out with the property occupier to find out how properties had been occupied. He added that property information on the database and the actual situations did not match, hence there was a need for a physical assessment. He said that the Department of Public Works did not have a mandate for all properties therefore there was bound to be a disparity in records.
Mr Mokoena stated that rural provinces had community built schools and asked what was done for the renovation of those schools. He stated that the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was impressive at the beginning but its standards were dropping.
Mr Moroka said that R2.8 billion was set aside to eradicate unwanted structures and renovate some others. He said the Department used a prioritization list as to which structures required urgent attention.
The Department’s Chief Financial Officer stated that the budget was affected by efficiency savings. He added that there was a decrease in intended growth of expenditure. The Department had identified ways to cut costs, like video conferencing to cut travel costs for meetings.
In response to the compliant around the dropping of quality and standards in infrastructure, Mr Bongani Gxilishe, Deputy Director General, DPW, stated that the quality was dependent upon management and supervision.
Mr Mokoena asked what was the Department’s intention per province regarding internship programmes.
Mr Mokoena raised concerns about the identification of missing government property and noted that it was not mentioned in the briefing. He stated that property had been grabbed by individuals since 1994.
Mr Moroka said there was a need for verification. He said that were some buildings occupied and their occupants could neither buy nor renovate them because of the need to verify ownership. He added that there were some overseas properties that were being traced as well.
The Chairperson pointed out that there was a consistent issue around the filling of senior manager posts and gender balance considerations.
Mr Moroka confirmed that some Level 12 senior positions were vacant and had to be occupied before June, adding that advertisements for the posts were in the media and interviews were ongoing.
The Chairperson noted that there was lack of understanding in terms of the purposes and intention by provinces on EPWP for recruitment and training. He said that the confusion should be cleared.
The Chairperson noted that most young people recruited did not last more than six months and dropped out just before deployment to areas where they were needed. He expressed the need for an investigation to find out the reason for the high drop out rate.
Mr Gxilishe said that the drop out rate of recruits varied across different areas and that social problems and matters of development were contributing factors to these drop out rates. He said that this could be dealt with by aligning training programmes with operations, adding that there was a need for interaction to avoid inactivity.
The Chairperson said that the drop out rate could be due to the fact that the long waiting period for deployment could be the reason for the drop out. The vacuum between graduation of trainees and deployment could be an instrument of demobilisation and he said there was need for improvement. The Chairperson also asked what was the relationship between the Department of Public Works and the Health Department in the renovation of hospitals.
Mr Moroka responded that there was an ongoing pilot project where both departments were engaged in renovation of hospitals.
Ms M Oliphant (ANC, Kwazulu Natal) stated that there had been a situation in Limpopo where senior government officials undervalued properties and then bought them without public advertisement. She asked whether this had been investigated and corrected.
Mr Moroka said the issue about corruption by the Limpopo senior officials was being investigated to avoid speculation.
Mr Mokoena wanted to know how BEE companies were monitored and how the public intervened in municipal and provincial issues.
The Chief Financial Officer responded that the criteria for monitoring BEE companies were based on risk assessment, which included registry and grading. Support of BEE companies was based on the meeting of certain standards that had to be met before registration. Intervention in municipal and provincial development issues was based on technical assistance for delivery in infrastructural programmes.
Mr Mandla Mabuza, Chief of Staff, DPW, added that the conditions of awarding tenders to BEE companies also considered contract participation goals, to assess whether a company would subcontract other companies so as to transfer skills and support development from a BEE perspective.
The Chairperson stated that the NCOP was grateful for the assistance provided by the presentation. He also said that problems could be better dealt with when information was available.
The meeting was adjourned
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