ATC170215: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training on the Fourth Quarter Report of 2015/16 and First Quarter Report Of 2016/17 of the Department of Higher Education and Training, dated 09 November 2016
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING ON THE FOURTH QUARTER REPORT OF 2015/16 AND FIRST QUARTER REPORT OF 2016/17 OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING, DATED 09 NOVEMBER 2016
The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training having considered the fourth quarter report of 2015/16 and first quarter report of 2016/17 of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on 31 August 2016 reports as follows:
1. Introduction and background
Section 55 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 stipulates that the National Assembly (NA) must provide for mechanisms (a) to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; (b) to maintain oversight of the exercise of national executive authority, including the implementation of legislation, and any organ of state.
Consideration of quarterly reports is one of the tools that ensures that organs of the state are accountable to Parliament. These reports are critical for in-year monitoring as they provide information on pre-determined objectives, which are reflected in the strategic and annual performance plans, progress against objectives and identifying gaps in implementation. This is to ensure that policies announced by government and authorised by Parliament are actually delivered.
As part of its in-year monitoring, the Committee convened a meeting with the Department to consider its fourth quarter of the 2015/16 and first quarter of the 2016/17 non-financial and financial performance reports. This report accounts for work undertaken by the Committee during performance assessment for the two quarters. The report further makes recommendations for consideration by the Minister of Higher Education and Training.
2. Overview and assessment of the performance information on the predetermined objectives for the fourth quarter of 2015/16 and first quarter of 2016/17
2.1. Programme 1: Administration
The purpose of this programme is to provide overall management and administration of the Department. There were no targets planned for this programme during the fourth quarter of 2015/16. There were also no targets for this programme for the quarter ending 30 June 2016.
With regard to capping of compensation costs, the Department noted that the capping impacted on the implementation of its organogram. Other functions adversely affected included the procurement of suitable regional offices and employment of subject specialists to support TVET Colleges and CET sectors. The Department reported that the vacancy rate as at 31 August 2016 was 6.8 percent. Of the 91 positions advertised during the year, 45 were filled. However, vacancies were created upon the employment of the internal staff.
The Department further noted that there had been a high attrition rate in Programme 5: Skills Programme, due to older staff members leaving the employ of the Department at the Institute for the National Development of Learnerships, Employment Skills and Labour Assessments (INDLELA). Programme 5: Skills Programme had a vacancy rate of 29.6 percent, followed by Programme 1: Administration at 10.4 percent and Programme 4: Technical and Vocational Education and Training at 2.79 percent. The Department appointed the Deputy Director-General for Programme 2: Planning, Policy and Strategy on contract basis and the process to fill the post permanently was underway.
2.2. Programme 2: Planning, Policy and Strategy
This programme was formerly the Human Resource Development, Planning and Monitoring Coordination, and was renamed Planning, Policy and Strategy in 2016/17. The purpose of this programme is to provide strategic direction in the development, implementation and monitoring of the department policies and Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa.
For the quarter ending 31 March 2016, the Department had seven targets, which three were achieved (43 percent). The targets that were achieved included the publishing of an Annual Post-School Statistical Report, conceptualisation of a flexible model of learning delivery and the development of an implementation strategy for implementation in 2016/17, the development of a prototype of learning management system for open learning system together with materials for two programmes identified to be piloted in 2016/17 and the development of a policy framework on disability. The other three targets, namely, to develop and gazette a policy and guidelines on articulation, to publish a policy framework on social inclusion and to publish an Annual Report on Skills Supply and Demand could not be achieved within the set timeframe.
With regard to publishing a policy framework on social inclusion, the Department reported that universities raised concerns regarding the cumbersome reporting protocols, and requested integration of social inclusion targets into their annual reporting. Engagements with universities on the matter were ongoing. The Department provided the revised timeframes for the three policies, 30 September 2016 for the publication of the Annual Report on Skills Supply and Demand, 30 September 2016 for publication of a policy framework on social inclusion and 30 September 2016 to develop and gazette a policy and guidelines on articulation.
For the first quarter of 2016/17 financial year, there were no targets planned for this programme. However, the Department reported on progress towards achieving targets for the subsequent quarters, which would be reported on during the assessment of the second quarter performance report.
2.3. Programme 3: University Education
The purpose of this programme is to develop and coordinate policy and regulatory frameworks for an effective and efficient university education system and provide financial support to universities, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the National Institutes for Higher Education (NIHE).
For the quarter ending 31 March 2016, the programme had twelve targets and achieved ten (83 percent. The achieved targets included the Assessment Report on the effective use of infrastructure grants to 24 universities approved by the DG, the Assessment Report on the effective use of two universities earmarked grants submitted to the DG, the Annual Report on the research outputs of 24 universities published on the Department website, an annual monitoring report on Public Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs) compliance with the regulations approved by the DG, an annual evaluation report on the Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework (SSAUF) approved by the DG, institutional governance capacity development programme review report approved by the DG, a Teaching and Learning Development Capacity Improvement Programme approved for implementation by the DG, an Enterprise Architecture for the Central Applications Service developed and approved, the 2005 to 2008 first-time entering undergraduate cohort analyses report published on the Department’s website and a report on the 2015 BRICS Academic forum and Think Tank partnership approved.
The other two targets that were not achieved as planned by the end March 2016 included the annual report on the achievement of Ministerial enrolment targets approved by the Minister by March 2016 and the Revised Higher Education Act promulgated by end March 2016.
There were no targets for this programme for the quarter ending 30 June 2016, and a progress towards achieving the planned targets for the subsequent quarters was reported.
2.4. Programme 4: Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (VCET)
The purpose of this programme is to plan, develop, implement, monitor, maintain and evaluate the national policy, programmes, assessment practices and systems for TVET.
For the quarter ending 31 March 2016, the programme had four targets and it achieved three. The targets that were achieved included the development of governance and policies for the TVET colleges, a monitoring and evaluation report on Vocational and Continuing Education and Training (VCET) institutions was produced and the development of a protocol on the secondment of sector specialist to work in TVET colleges and lecturers exposed to the work place. The target that was not achieved within the set timeframe was the development of a macro infrastructure and maintenance plan for Community Education and Training Colleges (CETCs).
There were no targets for this programme for the quarter ending 30 June 2016 and a progress towards achieving the planned targets for the subsequent quarters was reported.
2.5. Programme 5: Skills Development
The purpose of this programme is to promote and monitor the national skills development strategy and to develop a skills development policy and a regulatory framework for an effective skills development system.
For the quarter ending 31 March 2016, there were 10 planned targets and the Department achieved six (60 percent). The targets that were achieved included the approval of a governance charter for SETAs, approval of the SETAs governance, approval of the reviewed SETA landscape, approval of a reviewed National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) and the national artisan learner trade test pass rate which was 52 percent (2 percent above the planned target). The targets that were not achieved within the set timeframe included the occupational team policy recommendations which were not yet available, a single national artisan development information system management designed which was not yet available, and the number of new artisan learners registered annually and new artisans qualified per annum.
For the quarter ending 30 June 2016, there were three targets and the Department achieved one. The target that was achieved was the approval of the SETA monitoring report on skills development. The targets that were not achieved included the decline of 2 percent in the national artisan learner trade test pass rate at INDLELA (target was 52 percent) and the average lead time from trade test application until trade test conducted at INDLELA which was160 days instead of the initial target of 120 days. The Department had appointed seven Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) assessors to facilitate the assessment of artisan through RPL.
2.6. Community Education and Training
The purpose of the programme is to plan, develop, implement, monitor, maintain and evaluate national policy, programme assessment practices and systems for community education and training.
There were no targets for this programme for the quarter ending 31 March 2015/16 since it was not yet active. There were also no targets for this programme for the quarter ending 30 June 2016. However, work was underway to develop the steering mechanisms, teaching and learning support and infrastructure / facilities maintenance report for the sector.
2.7. Overview and assessment of financial performance
The overall spending rate at the end of the fourth quarter of 2015/16 was 99.9 percent (including Direct Charges). The spending rate on compensation of employees was 98.9 percent and 100 percent for Examiners and Moderators. The limitations on funds for operational expenditure, including the funding of Examiners and Moderators caused the Department to apply virements across programmes to ensure that no overspending was incurred. Due to the uncertainty of the actual cost at the time of the function shift at the beginning of the 2015/16 financial year, the Department overestimated compensation costs, as detailed personnel information received from the previous provincial function was incomplete and inaccurate to inform credible estimates. Also contributing to the overestimation on compensation costs was that the performance assessments of the 2014/15 financial year of all staff in the 50 public TVET Colleges were not received on time, meaning that pay progressions for the staff that migrated to the Department with the function shift had not been effected in all applicable cases. The programme therefore had the remaining 19 percent of the compensation of employees’ budget as projected savings. The final outcome of the 2015/16 financial year was an unspent amount of R84 million due to the slow filling of vacant funded posts, as a result of the function shift of the TVET and CET sectors.
The overall spending rate at the end of the first quarter of 2016/17 was 39.1 percent (including Direct Charges). The reasons for the high spending rate was due to the uneven transfers made to universities and TVET colleges as well as to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The average spending for normal activities including the compensation of employees was 22.5 percent. The average spending on goods and services were normal for this time of the financial year. The spending rate on compensation of employees was 22.7 percent.
3. Committee observations
The Committee, having assessed the fourth quarter report of 2015/16 and first quarter report of 2016/17 of the Department, made the following observations:
- The Committee commended the overall performance of the Department for the two quarters under review.
- The Committee was concerned about the delay in the construction of the other nine TVET college campuses, and the finalisation of the procurement processes which had been slow.
- The Committee was concerned about the impact of capping of compensation costs on the operations of the Department.
- It was noted with concern that most TVET colleges did not have Wi-Fi for easy access and connectivity to the internet for students.
- The decline in the number of new artisan learners registered nationally and new artisans qualified per annum was raised as a concern, given the huge demand for artisan skills to sustain the economy.
- The Committee noted that some of the targets set by the Department were not SMART and legislative processes towards achieving them were also beyond its control.
- It was noted with concern that there were outstanding vacancies that had not yet been filled, especially the two DDG posts.
- The recent burning of University infrastructure was highlighted as a serious concern given the high costs involved in repairing damaged infrastructure. The Committee noted that the destruction of the already existing infrastructure was not acceptable, and the Department needs to prioritise the issue of safety and security of University campuses.
For the quarter ending 31 March 2016, the Department achieved 23 (70 percent) of the 33 planned targets. 96 percent of the targets for the 2016/17 financial year were due for the subsequent quarters and there were very few targets for the quarter ending 30 June 2016.
The Department indicated that the savings from compensation of employees would be allocated to TVET Colleges as subsidies. The Department experienced a high attrition rate, especially in Programme 5: Skills Development as a result of staff leaving INDLELA. The Department had been very slow in the finalisation of the procurement processes for the construction of the remaining nine TVET college campuses and this was a concern for the Committee.
The Committee having assessed the fourth quarter performance of 2015/16 and first quarter performance of 2016/16, recommends that the Minister of Higher Education and Training consider the following:
- The construction of the remaining TVET college campuses should be fast tracked;
- The roll-out of Wi-Fi to TVET colleges should be expedited to assist students with greater freedom to access information for learning;
- The Department should expedite the completion of a report on the financial health of universities in the 2015 academic year, because of the funding challenges experienced by universities;
- The filling of outstanding funded vacancies should be prioritised;
- The safety and security of universities should be prioritised; and
- The Department should be SMART in the setting of its targets, in particular, those that are related to the publication of policies and regulations.
Report to be considered.
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