South African Qualifications Authority, Council for Quality Assurance in General & Further Education &Training &Education Labour Relations Council Annual Reports: hearings

Basic Education

20 October 2008
Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The General Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of the Education Labour Relations Council briefed the Committee on the five key performance areas and financial performance of the organisation for the 2007/08 period.  The presentation included a briefing on the Council’s HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Treatment Access Project and the action taken on the incidents of fraud totaling R2.9 million uncovered in the organisation.  Total revenue for the period was R36.7 million, total expenditure was R27.7 million and a surplus of R9 million was declared.

The Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer of the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi) briefed the Committee on the seven key performance areas and financial performance of the organisation for the 2007/08 period.  Total revenue for the period was R36 million, total expenditure was R30.8 million and a surplus of R5.1 million was declared.  The organisation received an unqualified audit report for the ninth consecutive year.

The Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of the South African Qualifications Authority briefed the Committee on the key performance areas and financial performance of the organisation for the 2007/08 period.  The total budget for the period amounted to R72.1 million.  Expenditure totaled R67 million and a surplus of R5.1 million was declared.  The organisation received an unqualified audit report for the eleventh consecutive year.

Members congratulated the organisations on achieving sound financial footings but cautioned against the retention of excessive profits by public entities.  The action taken by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) with regard to the fraudulent activity was accepted.  Members’ questions pertained to the monitoring and early detection systems introduced by the ELRC to prevent future fraudulent activity, the disputes around the conditions of employment of teachers between teachers and school governing bodies and over appointments, the training of dispute resolution personnel, the impact of the teachers’ strike and the elimination of the backlog of disputes experienced by the ELRC.  Members’ questions to Umalusi dealt with the quality of facilities on the campuses of private colleges, the low quality of teaching in South Africa and the readiness of the Department of Education for the 2008 and 2009 final examinations.  Questions posed to SAQA dealt with the lack of research projects at previously disadvantaged universities, the standardisation of curricula, the increase in the number of applications received to evaluate foreign qualifications and the recognition of the skills of workers without formal qualifications.

 

Meeting report

Briefing by Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC)
Mr Mahalingum Govender (General Secretary, ELRC) briefed the Committee on the ELRC’s annual report for the period 2007/08 (see attached document).  The ELRC provided dispute resolution and prevention services to the public education sector.  The presentation included an overview of the organisation’s vision, mission, organisational values, principal activities, major achievements during the year and the applicable legislation.  Key performance areas included dispute resolution and support services (Programme 1), dispute prevention support services (Programme 2), negotiations support services (Programme 3) and executive services (Programme 4).  The presentation included details of the various programs and illustrative charts and graphs.

The ELRC launched an HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Treatment Access Project during the year (see attached document).  The purpose of the project was to reduce the number of infections and to address the impact of HIV/AIDS on educators and their families.  The project was funded by the President of the United States’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  Implementation partners included the National Professional Teacher’s Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), National Professional Union (NATU) and Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU).  The American-based American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Academy for Educational Development (AED) provided technical support, training and monitoring and evaluation.  The presentation included tables of the goals, key performance areas and achievements.  A grant of R6.045 million was granted but the funds were received too late for all of the objectives to be met.  Expenditure totaled R6.108 million.  The financial reports of the project were separate from those of the ELRC.

Mr Govender reported on the incidents of fraud uncovered in the ELRA.  Fraudulent payments for non-existent Labour Court transcripts were made by two employees over a three-year period, estimated at R2 253 010.  A report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers was submitted to the Committee.  Charges were laid with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the State Prosecutor.  The matter resulted in additional costs for lawyers (R78 000), PriceWaterhouseCoopers Forensic Division (R500 000), an advocate (R9000) and a Commissioner for the resultant disciplinary hearing (R3000).  The loss to the ELRA totalled

R2 975 676.

Mr Jeff Moshakga (Chief Financial Officer, ELRC) reported on the ELRA’s financial performance for the period ending 31 March 2008.  Total revenue amounted to R36.792 million.  The significant increase over the previous year was attributable to the increase in levies received from employers and employees.  Total expenditure amounted to R27.721 million.  The net surplus for the year amounted to R9.070 million.  Assets totaled R32.389 million, of which R23.527 were held in cash and cash equivalents.  Total liabilities amounted to R12 million.  The Transformation Funds reported a deficit of R714,789.  Mr Moshakga advised that the Transformation Funds were expected to be depleted by the end of 2009.

Mr Govender concluded the presentation with a summary of the challenges facing the ELRC.  The organisation continued to focus on developing the professionalism of the teaching profession and on developing standards of achievement for the various categories within the profession.

Discussion
Mr R Van den Heever (ANC) congratulated the ELRA on the overall management of its budget and affairs.  The most glaring exception was the fraud that occurred but he was satisfied with the organisation’s response to the matter.  He asked what monitoring systems were implemented to allow early detection of irregularities in future.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) remarked that the issue of the conditions of employment of teachers was ongoing and asked what was being done to improve the conditions under which teachers were expected to do their work.  He asked what the reasons were for the decline in the number of cases referred to the Labour Court.

Adv H Gaum (ANC) asked if the employees responsible for the incidents of fraud were dismissed.  He referred to previous problems reported regarding the backlog of unresolved disputes resulting from inadequate staffing and asked if the matter was resolved and if disputes were being dealt with promptly.  He wanted to know what role the ELRC played to ensure that the professionalism of teachers was improved.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) expected that most disputes arose between teachers and the school governing body as the employer.  He asked if the Department of Education was involved as well.  He referred to instances where teachers were absent from their classes because they were involved in campaigning for political parties.  The school governing bodies did not encourage such absences and he wanted to know what interventions the ELRC took in these cases.  He requested further details on the 26% of disputes categorised as disputes over appointments.  He asked why SADTU were not involved in the implementation of the HIV/AIDS program.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) noted that only 50% of dispute resolution practitioners had completed the training provided.  She asked what the ELRC intended to do about the training of all practitioners and what the impact was if only 50% of practitioners had completed their training.  She noted a 40% increase in disputes related to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and asked what impact the strike had on learning in the affected schools.  She was pleased that the ELRC reported a healthy financial position but wanted to know why the bulk of the assets were in cash.

Mr R Ntuli (ANC) asked what action was taken to reduce the exceptionally high number of disputes reported in the Gauteng province.  He asked if the ELRC had a risk management plan in place to counteract fraudulent activity.

Mr B Mosala (ANC) asked for further details on the contribution made by other provinces to the collective agreements signed by KwaZulu Natal.  He asked whether a formula applied to the allocation of funding to shop stewards.

In response to Members’ questions, Mr Govender advised that the discovery of the fraudulent activities resulted in a review of the ELRC’s procurement practices.  More vigilance was required from the CFO and he undertook to carry out surprise internal audits.  For the fraud to be successful the collusion of the supplier was necessary and he was aware of the involvement of one employee of the particular supplier.  Dismissal hearings were held for the two ELRC employees involved.  One person decided to settle and had issued a statement that would be used in court.  The other person failed to attend any of the hearings and was dismissed.  The latter person appeared to be the major perpetrator in the case.  The discovery of the fraud was a shock and additional control measures were put in place.  Meetings were held with both the internal and external auditors as well as with suppliers.

Mr Govender agreed that the issues relating to conditions of employment of teachers, i.e. pay, remuneration, salary progression and performance needed to be addressed.  Concerning the professionalism of teachers, he said that even though South Africa was a developing country, it was necessary for teachers to provide learners with the best opportunities to progress even if the facilities were not of the best caliber.  He felt that a change in the mindset of a few teachers was needed.

Mr Govender said that the number of cases referred to the Labour Court for review declined as a result of the detection of the fraudulent activities.  In addition, the number of cases declined because of the quality control procedures that were implemented.

Mr Govender reported that the administration department was in the process of being restructured.  The post of a Managing Senior Commissioner was advertised.  Once appointed, the incumbent will assist with the appointment of a Registrar.  The department had three full-time employees and made use of the services of one CCMA Commissioner on a part-time basis.  The executive committee was expected to finalise the appointment of the Managing Senior Commissioner in the near future.  The backlog in disputes in the Gauteng province was the highest and a meeting was held with the Gauteng Department of Education to discuss the deployment of more than one person to handle the workload.  He said that one of the problems were that panelists were paid too little in the past.  Panelists were not paid the recommended CCMA hourly rate and the ELRC currently made use of provincial panelists to overcome the backlog.

The Chairperson curtailed further discussion, due to time constraints.

Briefing by Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi)
Dr Peliwe Lolwana (Chief Executive Officer, Umalusi) introduced the delegates from Umalusi.  Ms Eugenie Rabe (Chief Operating Officer, Umalusi) briefed the Committee on the vision, mission and goals of the organisation (see attached document).  Umalusi was tasked with developing and maintaining a quality assurance framework for the national education system.  Seven key result areas (Programs A to G) were identified.  The presentation included details of the goals set for each program and comments on the achievement of each goal.  The programs included the quality assurance of assessments (Programme A), the evaluation and accreditation of private providers and assessment bodies (Programme B), qualifications, curriculum and certification (Programme C) and research and development (Programme D).

Mr Jeremy Thomas (Chief Financial Officer, Umalusi) briefed the Committee on the management and support structures (Programme E), the information technology systems (Programme F) and the finance, human resources and administration support (Programme G) of the organisation.  He provided a summary of Umalusi’s financial performance for the 2007/08 financial year.  Total revenue amounted to R36 013 566 and expenditure totaled R30 887 357.  A surplus of

R5 126 209 was reported.  A summary of the income, budget and grant from the Department of Education for the years 2000/01 to 2011/12 was included in the presentation.

Ms Rabe concluded the presentation with an overview of the way forward anticipated by Umalusi.

Dr Lolwana advised the Committee of her intended departure from Umalusi.  She elicited the support of the Committee for the strengthening of the public school system and expressed concern over the neglect of out-of-school matric candidates, the number of young people who were not in school and the high school drop-out rate.

Discussion
The Chairperson invited Dr Lolwana to continue to provide the Committee with input after her departure from Umalusi.  He asked if national examination papers applied to Grades 9 to 11.  Referring to Umalusi’s goal of promoting quality and standards for the education system, he remarked that South Africa occupied one of the worst positions in this regard.

Mr Mpontshane wished Dr Lolwane well in her future endeavours.  He presumed that the accreditation of service providers was linked to quality but the premises of some of the outlying Further Education and Training (FET) campuses were not up to standard.  He noted that the accreditation policy documents were re-submitted to the Minister of Education and asked what the current status was for approval of the policy documents.

Mr Ntuli referred to the Continuous Assessment (CASS) exam mark correlation research reported under Programme D (Research and Development).  A draft report was issued in July 2007.  He requested further details on the findings of the research.  He commented on the low quality of the output from Further Education and Training (FET) institutions and the need to apply external criteria to evaluate output.  He asked whether progress was made with regard to the benchmarking of FET institutions.  He congratulated Umalusi on achieving an unqualified audit report for the ninth consecutive year.  He noted that a surplus in excess of 10% was recorded but felt that much still needed to be done and that the funds allocated should be spent.

Ms Matsomela wanted to know what Umalusi’s assessment was of the readiness of the Department of Education for the 2008 national senior certificate and the 2009 national vocational certificate examinations.  She asked for further details of the areas for improvement referred to in the presentation.

Mr Mosala asked if the input of the Committee with regard to the quality of education was welcomed by Umalusi.

In response to the Chairperson’s question, Ms Rabe explained that exemplars were developed at the national level but the examination papers for grade 11 were set by the provincial Departments of Education.  National exemplars were used by private schools to set the examination papers for grades 10 and 11.  Grade 9 pupils wrote Common Tasks for Assessment (CTA) examination papers but were moving towards the general education certificate.  A pilot project will be launched in 2009 and will be marked externally.

Replying to Mr Ntuli’s question, Ms Rabe said that Umalusi had no mandate to intervene in the facilities of FET colleges.  However, campuses offering the National Certificate (Vocational) (NCV) in four provinces were visited during 2008 and visits to campuses in the other provinces were planned for 2009.  The assessment system of the NCV was evaluated with the Department of Education and an interim report will be issued in the near future.  The assessments were expected to highlight issues regarding the quality of rural campuses and the quality of delivery by the colleges.  Umalusi will engage with the Department on any issues arising from the assessments.

In response to Ms Matsomela’s question, Ms Rabe said that approval of the accreditation policy documents were sought since 2005.  Pending legislative changes however forced a review of the policy documents and the documents were withdrawn.  She reported that the Department of Education appeared to be on track with the 2008 and 2009 examinations and the situation was closely monitored by Umalusi.  The organisation was involved with the development of the computer system and research was undertaken on the standard and the cognitive level of understanding.  Comparisons between the curricula were being made and norms and standards were being developed.  The matter of delivery of the papers was routine.  The NCV was closely monitored and a report will be issued in November 2008, allowing time for corrections to the papers before the final examinations were written.

Ms Rabe reported that client surveys conducted by Umalusi indicated that the organisation could improve on its communication strategy and be more accessible to students.

In response to Mr Ntuli’s question, Mr Thomas explained that Umalusi had been frugal in the past and closely monitored expenditure.  He was however uncertain about the future and forecasts indicated that the organisation may need to dip into its reserves.  The financial implications of the expected new mandate were unclear.  As a public entity, it was critical that Umalusi kept a reserve but the organisation was fully aware that the funds available had to be spent.

Dr Lolwana said that Umalusi was considered to be a very frugal entity in terms of salaries and lifestyle.  She said that a major goal was for the organisation to be self-sufficient, to generate its own funds and to be financially healthy.  Such an outlook enabled Umalusi to purchase its own premises.  She said that the process of continuous assessment was important but disadvantaged schools experienced difficulties in that regard.  She advised that the organisation would welcome public hearings on the issue of inspections.

The Chairperson said that the Committee required responses to the questions asked.  He suggested that Members study the reports submitted and that issues requiring further clarification were forwarded to Umalusi for later reply.

Briefing by South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
Mr Samuel Isaacs (Chief Executive Officer, SAQA) introduced the delegation from South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and gave an overview of the organisation’s presentation to the Committee (see attached document).  He outlined SAQA’s involvement in formulating the new legislation on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), the building of research capacity and revision of the research agenda, the efforts made to advocate the NQF, the information services provided, the areas of international liaison and the conferences hosted by SAQA.

Mr Joe Samuels (Deputy Executive Officer, SAQA) briefed the Committee on the setting of standards, quality assurance, the evaluation of foreign qualifications, the national learners’ records database, the development of employees, the employment equity report and the information technology utilised by the organisation.

Mr Mark Albertyn (Chief Financial Officer, SAQA) presented a summary of the financial management and administration of SAQA. The organisation received an unqualified audit report for the 11th consecutive year.  A breakdown of the budget and expenditure per program for the 2007/08 financial year was submitted.  Actual expenses totaled R67,004,744 against a budget of R72,131,626.  An analysis of the source of the surplus of R5,126,882 was provided.

Mr Isaacs concluded the presentation by outlining five strategic imperatives for the future, research projects in progress and upcoming learning seminars with leading international experts.

Discussion
Ms Matsomela noted that the six research projects at universities excluded the previously disadvantaged institutions.  She asked what criteria were applied to select universities to conduct research for SAQA.  She wanted to know what progress was being made with regard to the setting of standards for the curricula of learning institutions.  She noted that the number of applications for evaluation of foreign qualifications had virtually doubled and asked when South Africa was expected to have developed its own skills to the extent that reliance on foreign skills was eliminated.

Mr Ntuli commented that many black people performed skilled technical work but lacked formal qualifications.  He asked what involvement SAQA had with labour unions to develop recognition for such skills and experience.

Mr Mosala noticed from the employment equity report that SAQA had no employees of Indian extraction.

In response to Ms Matsomela’s questions, Mr Isaacs explained that SAQA selected a university that had the necessary capacity to conduct research and where work was already being done in the particular subject.  With regard to the building of capacity, he reported that there were five black women completing their honours degrees at Wits University.  Universities had guidelines on how capacity among the black population had to be built.  SAQA will accept research projects from any institution and had an open policy in this regard.  The organisation was under pressure to deliver results in a short period of time.

Regarding the standardization of curricula, Mr Isaacs explained that universities resisted the concept and wanted to retain their academic freedom and autonomy to develop their own curricula.  However, SAQA felt that a student should be able to continue his studies at another university if curricula were standardised.  He pointed out that Umalusi was responsible for the standardization of curricula in schools.

In response to Mr Ntuli’s questions, Mr Isaacs said that the Department of Labour had approved accreditation for the Quality Control for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), which was expected to assist with the recognition of skills, knowledge and experience.  The NQF was standardised and the challenge was for South African qualifications to comply with international standards and be comparable to the qualifications acceptable in other countries.  He said that the benchmarking of qualifications was one issue but bringing learners to the desired level of understanding was another matter.  Learners displayed some areas of excellence but could be weak in other areas of competence.  SAQA attempted to address the issues of quality assurance.

Mr Isaacs explained that all countries were obliged to offer an evaluation service for foreign qualifications.  The increase in applications received was attributable to the influx of Zimbabwean nationals wishing to work and study in South Africa.  He said that the phenomenon of the migration of skills around the world was being studied by SAQA.

Mr Isaacs reported that work was being done with the labour unions but SAQA had little understanding of the politics of the workplace that governed the employment of skilled but unqualified workers.  Issues included lower rates of pay for skilled workers without formal qualifications, reluctance to take on students as Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) candidates and the lack of acceptance of the results of trade tests because the candidates were not considered to be artisans.  He said that the systems were in place but workplace politics intervened.

Responding to Mr Mosala’s question, Mr Isaacs explained that Indian employees had left the organisation to take up positions elsewhere.

The Chairperson asked what the specific target was for the goal set for published papers.

Mr Isaacs explained that a number of research articles were completed but there was no guarantee that the will be published.  He noted the point made by the Chairperson that the goal had to be quantified to be measurable.

The Chairperson congratulated SAQA for achieving an unqualified audit report for the 11th consecutive year.

The meeting was adjourned.

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