IEC Preparations for 2009 General Elections; IEC & Government Printing Works 2007/08 Annual Reports

Home Affairs

26 January 2009
Chairperson: Mr H P Chauke (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Independent Electoral Commission presented an abridged report on the activities of the Commission in the preceding year, the ongoing preparations for the 2009 general elections, which of necessity were provisional until announcement by the President of the election date, and the status of the voter registration.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Government Printing Works presented an amplified report on their activities and attempted to answer the questions raised by the Auditor General through the qualified Audit Report given to them by the Auditor General. The approach adopted by the CEO was initially not acceptable to the Chairperson and the CEO then amended his approach, focusing on the conversion of the GPW, which he emphasised did not amount to privatisation of the GPW.

Meeting report

Introductory Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson reminded everyone that the IEC was not a department or division of Home Affairs, but an independent statutory body in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution. It did not lose such autonomy by reporting to the Parliament
 

The Committee was particularly interested in the IEC preparations for the forthcoming general election. The announcement of the election date was anxiously awaited by all concerned.

Referring to the status of the ongoing voter registrations, he added that many parties (including the IEC) were trying hard to mobilize the voters to register, and he believed that the turnaround success of the IEC might prove to be a salutary lesson for the Department of Home Affairs. He was aware that the ANC had already embarked upon a campaign of door to door canvassing and he was interested to know what the other political parties might be doing in this regard. He added that there was a focus on registering the rural voters and the youth in both urban and rural areas, and so first time voters.

There had been reports that there was difficulty in accessing the municipal offices responsible for local registrations on behalf of the IEC. An additional feature was the internal migration experienced in the country, which necessitated renewed or updated registration of voters. He added that the weekend in February 2009 was the last concerted attempt at registering voters before the forthcoming general election.

A factor of concern to him was the loss of voters from the voters roll through death or other reasons. Currently it was reported in the media that certain political parties were approaching the courts to order that South African voters overseas be permitted to vote in the forthcoming elections, but his opinion was that such publicized attempts were nothing more than publicity for the parties concerned. He also questioned the time constraints in view of the court requirements and the fact that the election date was not yet published.

Another concern was the donation by the province of Mpumalanga of a reported R1 million to the IEC, which he felt, could far rather have been utilized for service delivery by the province concerned. He emphasized the independence of the IEC and added that the Department of Home Affairs had merely an oversight role. The IEC was not subordinated to the Department, difficult as it might be for people to understand and accept this concept. He added that this was the last meeting, at a very critical time and he found it very interesting.

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Annual Report: briefing
Ms Brigalia Bam, IEC Chairperson, thanked the Committee and submitted apologies from certain Commissioners who had been required to consider the response by the IEC to the court applications alluded to by the Chairperson in his introduction. She introduced the members of the team, adding that if the Committee members should visit the Offices of the IEC there would be gifts awaiting them. Ms Bam continued that the Adv Pansy Tlakula, IEC Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), would present the Annual Report. She apologized for the fact that as this was regarded as a work in progress the day’s presentation might differ somewhat from the hard copy report previously forwarded to the Committee.

The CEO reminded all present that the IEC was a Chapter 9 entity and had ongoing responsibilities, which were its legislative mandate and strategic objectives (see page 9 of the Annual Report for these).

She submitted that the IEC had exceeded its targets for it had officially observed four elections in African countries, marked its tenth anniversary, participated in quelling and investigating the recent xenophobic violence, organized and supervised elections for 60 organizations in the country, having been especially active in Gauteng, and were using the skills acquired and developed to deepen democracy. They had also participated in international operations and, most importantly, were updating the voters roll. The maintenance of the voters roll was important since so many voters were removed from it by reason of death, or internal migration. One of their strategic objective was to ensure maximum participation in elections. To this effect, 550 schools had been designated as voting stations.

There was an ongoing attempt to make the potential voters aware of their responsibilities and opportunities, and she submitted that the votes cast in the recent by elections were an indication of the success of this, especially as the number of spoilt (voting) papers was low.

Adv Tlakula referred to the slide on Strategic objective 3, which reflected the celebration on “National Days” and the colloquium for the Student Representative Councils (SRCs) at the universities. The slide on “Bi-elections” reflected the statistics from the bi-elections. The voter turnout measured by the votes cast ranged from 10.6 % to 47.6%, with the highest turnout being in KZN. The slide dealing with “Strategic objective 4” reflected the attempts at keeping open the lines of communication through the establishment of party liaison committees. There were currently 146 differing political parties, 101 being registered at national level and 45 registered as local political parties.

With regard to the floor crossing provisions, now outlawed, this had been administered by the IEC. The most active floor crossing had been in the provinces of KZN, Eastern and Western Cape. The IEC had rejected 30 applications to cross the floor.

In line with its strategic objectives, Adv Tlakula explained that the number of voting stations had increased to 18 873, thereby allowing for increased voter access (see page 33 of the Annual Report for more detail). There were also 932 temporary voting stations.

The IEC had obtained an unqualified audit report from the Auditor General (AG). However, the IEC was aware of certain questions or comments raised by the Auditor General and was working to answering these satisfactorily. Such concerned mainly the IT structures and the Systems Applications Products (SAP) system had been selected and implemented but with certain teething troubles. The IEC took its Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) obligations seriously. Of the 379 contracts they awarded, 253 of these (totalling R45.1 million) conformed to BEE requirements. Many contracts awarded also addressed SMME business concerns. With regard to obtaining further unqualified audit reports there were challenges. The IEC was attempting to implement Technology at all levels. To this end 30 000 zip-zips, or hand held portable bar scanning units (PBSU) had been purchased and were available.

As reflected on the slide titled “Communication” the IEC was targeting young people using every possible form of communication, especially pamphlets.

The IEC had made continued efforts to upskill the IEC personnel. In accordance with Strategic objective 8, the IEC was attempting to ensure that they would be regarded as an employer of choice. 805 posts had been approved and the current occupancy rate was 75.9%. The main shortages were IT personnel. The slides dealing with “Labour relations” reflected the IEC’s commitment to constitutional imperatives and employment equity.

Adv Tlakula explained that labour relations was dealt with in terms of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act. An agreement had been concluded with National Education and Health Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). There were 16 disciplinary actions which had been reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) and there were a further six cases of alleged unfair dismissal, all of which were determined in favour of the IEC.

As this concluded Ms Tlakula’s presentation, the Chairperson offered the Members the opportunity to make comment or ask questions before proceeding to the Financial Statements. The Members preferred to hear the presentation on the financial statements before exercising their rights.

Ms Noloyiso Ntandane, IEC Financial Manager, presented the Financial Statements because of the hospitalization of Mr Mafia, Challenged at the outset she stated that she was a Financial Manager at the level of Director. The Chairperson indicated that this was acceptable and she was allowed to continue with the presentation. Ms Ntandane explained that the auditing process was performed in terms of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, (GAAP) on a historical cost basis. The direct income was R485.20 million, another R1.3 million from donations and R27.8 million form interest and all had been received and accounted for.

The IEC had received an unqualified Audit Report. However, a question had been raised about an expenditure of R515 790, which had been made without approval by the National Treasury. In terms of National Treasury Regulations pre-approval by National Treasury had to be obtained, hence the question. The reason for this was that many of the temporary employees did not have bank accounts, and the IEC felt that it could not make possession of a bank account a prerequisite for employment by the IEC, especially not temporary employment. This regulation of National Treasury presented difficulties because all the IEC could did was encourage temporary employees to open or have bank accounts.

Slide 56 reflected the difficulties the IEC had had effecting payments within 30 days. The problem lay with persuading the providers of goods and services to produce documentation compliant with the IEC systems. Another problem arose from the requirement to reconcile the bank deposits daily. There were 260 bank accounts, and the reporting systems between such and the IEC were not sufficiently swift to achieve compliance with the requirement. National Treasury had been requested to approve weekly, rather than daily, bank reconciliations. That concluded the financial report.

The Chairperson referred to the non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and National Treasury regulations and asked why this was so, stating that he viewed it as problematic. He added that it seemed to him an elementary task to examine the PFMA and regulations and National Treasury regulations and to develop a checklist of requirements and then work throughout the financial year according to such checklist. He suggested that this elementary planning would lead to compliance with all regulations and he asked why it was not followed.

In response the CEO stated, as an example, that with the forthcoming General Election, 200 000 temporary employees would be employed, and not all of such would hold bank accounts. In addition many of these temporary employees provided bank account details, which later proved to be inaccurate and resulted in payment rejections.

The Chairperson suggested that the banks should be engaged to assist in overcoming this problem.

Discussion

Mr K M Morwamoche (ANC) commented on the differences between the strategic plan, the budget and the time frames and asked whether the time frames were not unrealistic. He added that there was also comment about irregular expenditure pertaining to 7 contracts and he asked for clarification.

Ms M L Matsemela (ANC) said that she was concerned that there was no compliance with the laws. She was also concerned about the reliance on electrical powered systems and asked why this is so. She also expressed concern about the relationship between the provincial infrastructure teams and finally the discrepancy between figures provided by the IEC and the census.

Ms M M Maunye (ANC) asked what the IEC intended should the non electrified voting stations not work according to plan and exactly how many new voters had been added to the voters roll.

In reply the CEO said that it was proving very difficult to achieve co-operation from other entities. Where acceptable infrastructure was installed frequently the intended operatives were not familiar with it and required further training. She reminded all present that the task of the IEC was to achieve voter registration, not to achieve voting. The voters were free to choose to enrol, and if enrolled, free to exercise their right to vote. There was no element of compulsion involved, anywhere in the process. Thus the IEC had an obligation to install the systems and make them available to voters, and that was where their obligation ended.

The installation and operation of the SAP system was proving difficult with teething troubles and user inability to conform to the requirements of the system. She suggested that this might have been a reason for the non-observance of National Treasury requirements by certain departments of the IEC. She added that the people at local levels presented challenges. The problem of an adequate infrastructure took time to address and it was frequently a question of sustainability. The IEC was putting pressure on those required to collaborate with it but this required a measured approach and she asked the Members to bear in mind that there were currently in excess of 19 000 voting stations. She conceded that Information Technology (IT) and IT personnel proved a problem. The nub of the questions is, does one employ IT specialists, who were in short supply, and then possibly have them unemployed or not fully employed for long periods, or engage consultants on an as needed basis. In this regard the decision had been made to freeze the personnel staffing until after the elections when a decision would be made based on lessons learned.

Mr M P Sibande (ANC) expressed concern about the fact that so many selected voting stations lacked the necessary infrastructure and asked why this was. He felt that certain communities were being selectively neglected.

The Chairperson intervened and said that with over 19 000 voting stations the question of suitable infrastructure was not to be laid at the feet of the IEC but rather at other institutions, being National, Provincial or Local Government.

Ms Ntandane then explained that Treasury regulations required a report within 10 days and with a budget of R27 million it was difficult, if not humanly impossible to make such reports timeously. The IEC had now made the required reports to National Treasury.

The Chairperson re-iterated his question as to why things went wrong, what had gone wrong and asked for clarity as to where the problem might be. He added that the IEC had been in existence for ten years, operating much the same system. He wondered whether petty questions were now being raised, for such questions painted a “bad ‘picture of a wonderful organization. He also wondered for what purpose such was done. There was a change in the reports by the Auditor General (AG) and he wondered to what effect such changes were made and why, for it seemed to him that the AG was now concentrating on petty issues.

In reply the CEO stated that the requirements of legislation and the ensuing regulations were always known to the IEC. There had been robust discussion of the requirements for compliance and the approach of the AG between the parties concerned. Previously there had been no research unit with the ability to did such research but such a unit had now been established and better statistics would be produced after the forthcoming election. The scanning facility in the zip zips would assist greatly.

The Chairperson then referred to the provision, or rather the lack of water, electricity and similar infrastructural desires at the voting stations.

In reply the CEO drew the attention of the Members to pages 14-21 of the Annual Report, which outlined the current and desired situation in this regard. She also added that the current time frames were established with regard to the financial year and also the non-disclosed date of the election.

Mr Morwamoche pointed out that the requirements of the PFMA were clear and that non-compliance therewith should lead to the perpetrators being charged in accordance with the Act. Additionally with regard to compliance with the provisions for Employment Equity women headed only two of the nine provincial offices of the IEC.

The Chairperson pointed out that Government policy with regard to employment equity was to be taken very seriously and he asked what the IEC was doing and planning in this respect.

The CEO replied by pointing out that the top management of the IEC was heavily weighted in favour of women and added that as and when appointments were made employment equity was and would be more seriously taken into account. There was no question of the IEC resting on any laurels in this regard. In amplification Ms Bam repeated the fact of the skewing of the top management of the IEC in favour of women and that with ongoing appointments at any level the intention was to favour, wherever possible and suitable, women in terms of the employment equity requirements. She however cautioned that some things were simply beyond the control of IEC.

Ms M Maunye raised a question about the burglary and asked whether this had been taken up with the police. Additionally she wanted to know whether the staff of the IEC on observer missions were adequately insured and protected so as to be safe.

Ms Matsemela said that she noted that it was claimed that funds were received and spent but nevertheless there was a question of a liability of R9 million and she sought clarity.

Mr Sibande said that he was a rural boy and it seemed to him that the rural areas were being poorly served. There seemed to be a concentration on establishing voting stations in urban or easily served rural areas and the real rural areas seemed to be neglected because of alleged inability of access and a preference for easily accessed areas. He conceded that this was a huge report but submitted that more communication from the IEC was needed and that was an infrastructural problem. Additionally he sought explanation about the court applications to allow those in foreign countries to vote in the election. He added that there was the question of dual citizenship and voting rights. As an illustration thereof he pointed out that there were allegedly voters who had cast their votes for Mr Obama and now wished to vote in the South African general election as well. Additionally there were still discussions about the split areas such as Merafong and Matatiele and the by elections and he wished to know whether there was a budget provision for this.

A member asked why there was such a concentration on the printed media and national television. He suggested that community radio stations better served the intention of conveying the message to the people and so should be used rather than expensive national television and printed media.

Ms Bam replied that the IEC was required to follow legislation and although there were developments regarding the changing of the provincial status of Merafong and Matatiele, the IEC was compelled to take into account that the inhabitants of these regions currently were still members of the provinces they wished to leave. Should any changes affecting such towns and any others be promulgated between now and the general election the IEC would make the necessary and consequential changes. At present the answer to the question lay, not with the IEC, but Parliament. With regard to the safety of the IEC observer missions there was a Memorandum of Understanding between the IEC and the Department of Foreign Affairs, which hopefully would cover this aspect raised. There were also engagements between the Department of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Organization (UNO) concerning safety and insurance of IEC observers at extra-national elections and other such activity.

The CEO added that the PFMA was unambiguously clear and the IEC took its obligations in terms thereof very seriously. The IEC followed up any irregularities as soon as they were apparent or disclosed through the internal audit procedures. The unit concerned was then called upon for explanations and rectification procedures.

Mr Morwamoche asked for clarification of the irregular expenditure.

The CEO referred him to page 103 of the Annual Report and suggested that this gave a sufficient detailed explanation of the situation emphasizing that there was no financial misconduct but only an irregularity.

The CEO then reported that the Freedom Front Plus had served court papers on the IEC in a Constitutional Court application and the Democratic Alliance court papers in a different Cape High Court application concerning the right of South African voters overseas to vote in the South African general election. She added that the IEC was not the main respondent in such applications but that the Ministers of Home and Foreign Affairs were the prime respondents. The IEC was however considering its response to such applications; hence the absence of certain Commissioners from the meeting, for the response was required by 12 noon (of the day of the meeting).

The Chairperson said that these applications were interesting and he felt that if the enrolled voters were so desirous of voting they could make arrangements to return in time to vote, for there was no attempt to deny such persons the vote. He was more interested in the maintenance of the Voters roll which was reportedly losing 35 000 voters monthly. In order to curb the death rate he felt that there should be encouragement for the population to adopt a healthy life style and that this of concern for all of us. He was concerned about the death rate among the PR Councillors, which he regarded as too high. In addition he felt that the Provincial and Local Governments should not be making donations to the IEC but rather using such funds to ensure service delivery, which was the stated policy of the Government.
 
Ms Ntandane stated that the donations reflected were received in the year 2006 and no such donations had been received in 2007 or 2008. He referred to the burglaries, saying that they were mainly confined to computers and similar electronic equipment and all had been reported to the police for action. Regarding the question of the R1.3 million he referred the Members to pages 107 and 93 of the Annual report and felt that the explanation afforded thereby was adequate. In essence R138 million had been received, R128 million had been expended leaving R10 million unaccounted for. Of this R1.3 million had been properly expended and thus R8.7 million was still retained pending proper documentation for its disbursement.

Mr Morwamoche asked what the exact status was on the donations by Provincial and Local Governments.

The reply was that such was refunded on receipt of a request but retained, if no such request was made, which is why certain sums were retained by the IEC. The Members were asked to remember that the report was post fact.

The Chairperson then asked the IEC delegation to report on preparations for the general election.

The CEO then set out that a Voter registration campaign had taken place over a weekend in November 2008 and another was about to take place over a weekend in February 2009. The Annual Report gave details of the “zip-zips” acquired. These instruments were able to contain the voters’ roll for the whole country. She added that the target for registration was 22 million voters and the targeted age group was the youth or first time voters.

Over the weekend in November 2008 there had been 3.6 million enquiries which had led to 1.7 million new registrations and 1.8 million re registrations of voters changing districts. She added that the IEC was close to its target of 22 million voters and asked if they exceeded such target whether they would be eligible for a performance bonus!

She stated that voter registration had increased by 11 % but that in a breakdown there were 55.1 % women registered and only 44.9% men registered. The age of registration was declining with the age group 30-69 being the most active but the 70 plus group was inexplicably increasing. To date there were 21.6 million registrations but she cautioned voting was not compulsory and many people registered but some reason did not exercise their vote and so a concentration on the rural areas was being made. A study of the results would become available after 4 February 2009.

It was noteworthy that there was an increasing voter registration in all provinces, despite the negative reports in the media about the November exercise. The systems installed were working well, despite not being able to handle the traffic engendered by the November registrations. Since then there had been upgrades of the systems, including improved access to the website. There were now 19 726 voting districts and voting sites and as 9.9 million registered voters were still in the same voting districts it was perceived as a stable system.

However, despite the drives, such as November 2008 and February 2009, there was an effort to maintain a continuous drive to achieve registration by voters. Slide 30 showed the new voting districts and Slide 31 was an example of a break down in a district. It was expected that the registration process in an urban district should take about five minutes while the expected time in the rural area was about fifteen minutes. IEC employees, whether permanent or temporary could not be aligned with any political party and this message was slow to be understood by the people concerned and the political parties. It seemed that the idea of impartiality was difficult to grasp. However, parties were able to object to presiding officers and in the recent by elections there were about 100 objections, of which only 18 were upheld. Amendments to the regulations were discussed with the political parties so that there was an understanding of the requirements.

With regard to overseas voting there were 120 SA missions throughout the world. At the last election there were 1 568 voters in 105 missions. Of these 1 379 were voters in government service and 156 not in government service and so the cost did not seem to be justified.
Currently there were 151 political parties and it was expected that there would be more closer to the election. However not all such parties were expected to participate in the election for participation in an election required a payment of R500, 500 registered voters and a deposit of R540 000. Another R180 000 was needed to participate in the election for the National Assembly. The presentation provided detail of the IEC’s outreach attempts.

Mr Morwamoche asked about the provision of travel allowances for IEC officials.

Mr Sibande sought clarification on why schools were pre eminently chosen as voting stations, and further why recourse was not had to the Tribal Authority Offices and Tribal leaders. He also commented that there were hundreds if not thousands of Namibians who held dual citizenship and asked what arrangements were being made for such people.

Ms M M Maunye (ANC) asked what the cost of including voters overseas might be.

Mr Mothlanthe asked why women predominated.

Ms Matsemela asked why the IEC did not have 50 % of the population registered as voters as per the census figures. Would the field workers employed by the IEC be fully trained?

Mr W M Skosana (ANC) asked what arrangements were being made to accommodate the special needs of the blind and deaf to vote. Further, certain prominent personalities had declared publicly that they were not going to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming general election and he wondered whether other prominent people could not be persuaded or utilized to publicly affirm their intention of using their right to vote, a right which had been achieved through such a costly process.

The CEO then advised that the IEC had a strict policy with regard to travel arrangements and allowances; which was that no employee, from the Chairman to the lowest level, could claim these benefits. The IEC was unable to provide such.

Ms Ntandane then added that women were more interested in voting and the perceived benefits and were more active. He was not able to explain the reluctance by the men to become involved or interested but it was a fact of life. Unless they were active in political life men did not seem to be as interested in politics as were women.

With regard to the discrepancy with census figures on voter registrations, Ms Ntandane said that this could be explained by the fact that the age of a voter was 18. Perhaps the newly installed research unit could provide an answer but at the moment he did not have an answer to the question. However, it did seem that perhaps 20% of registered voters would choose not to exercise their right to vote.

With regard to those persons with disabilities the watchword used by the IEC was “nothing about us, without us” and everything conceivable was being done to persuade persons with disabilities to register, and vote. He assured the members that all voting stations, even where there was almost saturation, would be open over the registration weekend in February. It was felt by the IEC that even one more voter was worth the trouble and the cost. Cost was an inhibiting factor but not the only consideration.

Mr Morwamoche asked whether the IEC was ready for the as yet unannounced date for the election.

Ms Bam gave the members the assurance that the IEC was ready and would be able to fine-tune their preparations once the date had been announced. She informed the Committee that legislation required the President to consult with the IEC on the date of a general election and that this had still to take place. This consultation would apprise the IEC of the need to finalize its preparations. She added that although a an Identity Document was a prerequisite both for registering and voting, the production of Identity Documents was the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs and not that of the IEC.

She said that the IEC was required to be independent and accountable and she felt that the IEC was so, as far as humanly possible. Further, that as the budget of the IEC came from the central Government the IEC’s obligation to be disciplined with regard to the spending thereof did not compromise the required independence and accountability. Also, the IEC worked according to existing legislation covering the Electoral laws devised by Parliament and interpreted by the Constitutional Court. She gave as example the role played by the IEC both in floor crossing and the registration of prisoners and the ongoing activities in voter education in the democratic process, which was more, and required more, than simply making a cross on a voting paper.

She continued that the IEC had experienced a huge learning curve and although the situation was not perfect, she doubted whether it ever would be. It was as good as it was humanly possible to create. She added that the funding of the political parties whilst not within the mandate of the IEC was a question, which requires answering. So too, she added, was the question of developing a true appreciation of the concept of impartiality. She hoped that in due course the universities would produce degrees and diplomas in impartiality so that these graduates could join the IEC and ensure true professionalism in the approach to elections and democracy. As for now the important task was to verify the Voters Roll. Important lessons had been learned from the event in Kenya and Zimbabwe and so for the time being the IEC was hanging everything on 15 April 2009, well aware that this might not suit whatever date was announced for the election.

The Chairperson announced himself very much satisfied with the report by the IEC

Government Printing Works (GPW) Strategic Plan finalisation
Mr T Moyane, Chief executive Officer of the GPW introduced his team adding that Mr Barnard, the acting Chief Financial Officer would lead off.

Mr Barnard said that he would be brief and would address the comments and queries raised by the Auditor General. For example he stated that the outstanding debts had now been reduced from an average of 140 days to 77 days and that this was improving. The departments had begun to appreciate that unless they paid for it they would not have their printing requirements met.

The Chair person interrupted and stated that nothing was being addressed and certainly not in a procedure known to, and acceptable to Parliament. He added that the AG had raised eight points and that such were not being addressed. He added that the Committee wanted to hear how the GPW intended to handle the strategic plan for corporatization. He added that since this Committee as presently constituted might be meeting for the last time, the presentation should be done in such a way that the similar committee as constituted after the election would have no difficulty in observing past discussions and following on in their work. The concern of this Committee, and the Auditor General, was that unless there were proper valid systems in place taxpayers’ money might simply disappear. He pointed out that the AG’s report touched upon doubtful debt, receivables, VAT, Inventory of assets, Plant and Machinery, Property and Monies payable. The GPW is a unique and very difficult institution with structurally imbedded problems. The conversion to a corporatised entity was exacerbating this.

Mr Barnard apologized and referred to the condensed report of 8 pages. He added that as policy and procedure had been non existent a draft policy and procedure strategy had been drawn up and was being implemented. This was exacerbated by the fact that with the old homelands there were 11 entities now being rolled into one, which was neither a strictly government agency nor a privatized agency, but was a sui generis agency unique and questionable. As an example new software system had been selected and was being installed and the cut off date for this to be working was 31 March 2009, the last day in the current financial year.

With regard to fixed assets or property, a register had been established and all items reflected thereon valued, and depreciated in accordance with GAAP and this was an ongoing exercise with which the GPW was busy. The debtor’s book had received attention and now customers were aware that unless, and until, their accounts were brought up to date no work would be done for them. The bulk of the debt came from the top 21 companies and this was being monitored daily.

There had even been incorporated accounts established between August and November 2007. This new approach had meant receipt of between R60 and R70 million per month and so the debtors book was now reduced from 148 days outstanding to 79 days and reducing.

With regard to the inventory this was also receiving attention and again the deadline date was 31 March 2009 but this was regarded as a work in progress. He referred to payables and said that a new system was in the process of being established. Creditors were advised of what they were required to provide in order to meet the demands of the installed system and this too was a satisfactory work in progress.

 

Discussion

The Chairperson then expressed satisfaction of the changed reporting style.

The CEO interposed and stated that 11 different systems and procedures were being combined into one workable system and the ‘dashboard’ system of reporting reflected the difficulties and the progress being made. He added that without proper systems installed and working the exercise would be futile.

Mr Sibande wanted to know why there was the constant reference to 31 March 2009 as this meeting was taking place in January, which left a bare two months to achieve the implementation. Further he wanted to know why the AG had been concerned about the Chief Operating Officer (COO) being the acting Accounting Officer and lastly why there was no observance by the GPW of the provisions of the PFMA Act.

Ms Matsemela pointed out that the GPW had had two or three months to attend to the questions and queries raised by the AG and now it stated that it was hoped to have them answered by 31 March and she felt that this was not giving this Committee a proper chance to hand over to the Committee post the general election.

The Chairperson stated that this Committee must get a proper final report.

Mr Skosana said he could see a plan of action being implemented but expressed his reservations about its efficacy for it was seemingly adopted but not implemented.

Mr Morwamoche said that he had expected an item-by-item reply to the AG’s queries and that both the AG and the PFMA required much from the GPW. There had been no comment upon the opinion by Judge White, which he felt, deserved a reply. Also, there had been no comment on the human relations, which was dealt with by Home Affairs.

The CEO stated that cognizance had been taken of Judge White’s opinion regarding the merging of the Government Printers from all the old homelands entities into the GPW but that for more progress in this regard the Minister needed to make a judgment call. They were all awaiting such decision, and until then could not do anything further.

Mr A Radhakrishna stated that all the requirements of GAAP and Generally Recognised Accounting Practice (GRAP) had been taken into consideration. The issues which were expected to be ongoing, were determined. He drew to the attention of all concerned that the Government fiscal year ended on 31 March and began 1 April, hence the importance of 31 March.

Arising from the merging of 11 entities into one there were obvious delays, and whilst everything humanly possible was being done to overcome such delays some were more persistent than others. GPW was attempting to address these issues, but this required focus and planning. Over the last couple of months there had been a great deal of work, and success, in stopping the bleeding, but this was a work in progress. It was a question of capacity and although much still needed to be done a lot also depended upon the AG. As an example the CEO had acted as accounting officer, as do many other CEOs but as this was without specific approval by the Department, the AG had questioned and queried this. The required approval had been obtained and now this was not a question.

Mr Sibande wanted to know whether targeting 31 March was practicable.
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Ms M M Maunye wanted to know about the lack of skills in the GPW and wanted clarification.

Mr Barnard replied that this was in the IT field where there was a notorious shortage but using the available skills, already the asset register was completed, the VAT reconciled and it was shown that SARS owed the GPW refunds. He conceded that there were certain capacity issues but these were being addressed and were not specific issues.

The CEO interposed and stated that there was everywhere an attempt to reduce risk.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee had to be satisfied with the report.

Mr Radhakrishna thanked the Members and stated that the GPW were a unique creation and very sue generic. Valuable lessons were being learned and that in time the GPW would be a model for other South African entities and international entities created with the same purpose in mind. He added that although there remained a lot to be done the GPW was fully operational and remained an organ of State.

The Chairperson stated that he was pleased to hear this because the GPW held a unique and special position because it produced Identity Documents, without which no one could open and operate a bank account or vote. He wished the GPW well in their task.

The CFO stated that it was always a pleasure to appear before the Committee which was regarded as a valuable source of management information and criticism which was greatly appreciated. They wished to be an asset to South Africa and halt the scourge of fraudulent documentation which so bedevilled the country.


The meeting was adjourned.

 

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