ATC200715: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on its Deliberations on the Implications of the Supplementary Budget on Vote 4: Government Communication and Information System, Dated 14 July 2020

Communications

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON COMMUNICATIONS ON ITS DELIBERATIONS ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET ON VOTE 4: GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEM, DATED 14 JULY 2020

 

The Portfolio Committee on Communications (the Committee), having considered the supplementary budget on Budget Vote 4: Government Communication and Information System(GCIS), reports as follows:

 

1.         BACKGROUND

On June 24, 2020, Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni tabled the 2020 supplementary Budget and delivered the supplementary Budget Speech. The Public Finance Management Act, 1999 read together with the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, 2009 empowers the Minister of Finance to table an adjustments budget, when necessary. The tabling of the 2020 supplementary Budget was necessitated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn in the country.


2.         INTRODUCTION

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is defined as an illness caused by a novel coronavirus now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was initially reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 31, 2019. On January 30, 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global health emergency. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, its first such designation since declaring H1N1 influenza a pandemic in 2009.

The COVID-19 pandemic required global action by all nation states to draft and implement a variety of mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to and impact of COVID-19.  The responses by individual countries to the pandemic was critical in influencing the trajectory of national epidemics.  This has included stringent lockdowns, travel restrictions and the closure of schools and non-essential businesses.

In South Africa, the number of cases as of March 15, 2020 remained relatively low (61 confirmed cases; 0 deaths).However, President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that ‘urgent and drastic’ measures were required to mitigate the spread of the virus and address the emergency. The President declared a State of Disaster on March 15, 2020, which gave the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr N Dlamini-Zuma the power, in accordance with the National Disaster Management Act, 2002 to limit certain rights and freedoms in South Africa.

A series of regulations, specific to respective sectors, was promulgated, which restricted, among other things, the movement of persons, goods, prohibiting foreign national form high-risk countries (WHO definition) from entering South Africa from March 18, 2020, as well as a hard lockdown, which prohibited the movement of citizens.[1]

To minimise the economic impact of COVID-19, South Africa, on April 21, 2020, introduced various fiscal and monetary stabilisation measures, such as direct cash transfers to households and businesses through a R500 billion fiscal support package. This included spending on priorities in the containment of the COVID-19 virus and to offset the economic impact of the pandemic.

On April 30, 2020 National Treasury published on the “Economic Measures for COVID-19”, outlining an R500bn response, as well as identifying the funding sources for the package. Part of the funding sources for this package is a R130 billion baseline reprioritisation in the 2020/21 financial year.

Section 16 of the PFMA: Use of funds in emergency situations. The Minister of Finance may approve the use of unappropriated funds if it is for spending of an exceptional nature. This happens if postponing the spending to a future parliamentary appropriation would seriously prejudice the public interest.

The special adjustment budget provides for changes in the main appropriation owing to the categories of expenditure specified in Section 30(2) of the PFMA, by programme and economic classification.

All other adjustments not included in this special adjustment budget will be tabled in the October Adjustment Budget.

The Minister of Finance subsequently tabled the 2020 Supplementary Budget on June 24, 2020 along with the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill [B9 – 2020] and the 2020 Adjustments Appropriation Bill [B10 – 2020]. All other adjustments not included in this adjustments budget will be implemented in the October 2020 adjustments budget, with the details outlined in the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure.

The Supplementary Budget sets out the initial economic and fiscal response from Government to the COVID-19 pandemic. It fast-tracks processes to provide resources to frontline services, provincial and local government, as well as businesses and households, with a specific focus on the most vulnerable South Africans. Furthermore, the Supplementary Budget sets out a roadmap to stabilise debt, improve spending patterns, and creates a foundation for economic recovery.

 

3.      OVERVIEW OF THE IMPACT OF THE SUPPLEMENTARY BUDGET ON THE DEPARTMENT:GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SYSTEM

In line with National Treasury guidelines, departments were mandated to assess and prioritise their allocated budgets to contribute to the R500 billion fiscal support package, as well as addressing challenges in dealing with COVID-19.  The GCISsubmitted to National Treasury a proposal on where appropriated monies could be shifted or suspended.  Having reviewed the proposal, National Treasury thereafter submitted feedback and proposed the following:

The Department received a main appropriation of R720,5 million in February 2020/21which had been earmarked for various projects.

When the President declared the State of Disasterin March 2020 as it related to the COVID-19; GCIS was directed to (i) co-ordinate the messaging to the public. Key to the directive was to co-ordinate messaging across all spheres of government; and (ii) to drive the paid for advertising toeducate and raise the awarenesson COVID-19. A costed budget was submitted to National Treasury for the purpose.

Key deliverables on the basis of the costed budget include:

  1. Educate society about COVID 19;
  2. Provide information on prevention on the spread of the disease;
  3. Dispel the myths occasioned by continuous disinformation; and
  4. Create general awareness message on the new normal as we continue to live with the virus.

A summary of the adjustment budget of COVID-19 Campaign equals a total of R60 million that was allocated through Special Adjustment Budget:

 

 

 

There has been a proposed upward revision of the budget to R752 million for the financial years in question. A total of R30 million is allocated to COVID-19 purposes. There is also a virement[2] of funds to the tune of R39 million (see table below):

 

As illustrated in the table above, a total of R26.1 million was allocated to COVID-19 purposes in the Content Processing and Dissemination Programme of the Department, while only R3.9 million was allocated for COVID-19 purposes in the Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management Programme.

Virements were mainly impacting on the Goods and Services Economic Classification to an amount of R39,251 million which was used for mainly two Programmes of the Department, namely (i) Administration (R9.251 million); and (ii) Content Processing and Dissemination (R30 million).

 

3.1        Media Buying Update

Media buying in support of the COVID-9 government intervention was implemented in two phases, each comprising of strategic variables of media platforms. For Phase One, targeted media platforms included the radio, community radio, television and leaflets and posters.

For an example, under leaflets and posters a total budget of R372 thousand was used for the design and translation of leaflet content whereas in Phase Two, there were 69 thousand posters printed and 3 million printed leaflets.

The added value during Phase One included Public Service Announcements, through business for South Africa and private sector, ran a number of campaigns with government messaging on stay home. Collaboration with the Department of Health with the printing and distribution of leaflets and use of over 80 roadside screens flighted for free as added value for seven weeks were among the initiatives by the department. Electronic screens (Ranks and in Taxi television) were also installed under the added value and partnerships. Lastly, significant discounts were negotiated with all broadcasters including the SABC.

Phase Two expanded on the strategic media platforms variables by including billboards (with a total budget of R12 million, wall murals totaling R2.2 million and electronic screen in taxi ranks totaling R3 million.

 

3.2        Public Service Announcements (PSAs)

Public Service Announcements(PSAs) have been used successfully and they form part of a very key suite of communication platforms; while they are regulated via ICASA, there has been a high willingness amongst broadcasters to receive PSAs in a more coordinated and targeted manner.

A total of 19 radio stations were targeted under the PSA initiative, consisting of all media suppliers including the public broadcaster, Primedia, Medimark, United Stations, MSG Group Sales and YIRED; totaling R11 million.

For television, the main media platforms that participate are eTV and the SABC announcements. However, these PSAs have ended according to the department.

There are also various social media outlets that the department utilizes to convey the government message on the COVID-19 pandemic including on Twitter, Facebook and government’s websites presence.

Legacy projects post the COVID-9 pandemic include the Sentech discussions for dedicated line for community radio broadcasts, the digitization of Vuk’ uzenzele publication and radio studio live streaming capabilities.

 

3.3        Key revised allocations by economic classification

In terms of Economic Classification, Goods and Services accounts for 24 percent of the total budget at R171.8 million. Compensation of Employees, Transfers and Subsidies and Capital Assets account for 76 percent of the total budget at R295.4 million; R249.2 million, and R4 million respectively.

 

4.         IMPLICATIONS OF SHIFTED FUNDS ON PROGRAMMES OR PROJECTS

There is a downward revision of R30 million from Brand South Africaas a result of funds reprioritised for COVID-19-related expenditures. This is the monies that were transferred to the Content Processing and Dissemination of GCIS.

A total of R9.251 million from Goods and Services for the suspension of non-essential goods and services such as travel and subsistence, catering, and venues and facilities, and reprioritisation of funds towards the department’s office accommodation costs. This is presumably assumed that these monies that were transferred to the Administration Programme of the GCIS.

Lastly, there is a reallocation of R69,251 for Brand South Africa as a result of the revisions and virement of –R30 million from BSA and R39.251 under Goods and Services. –R30 million was deducted from Transfers and Subsides for the purpose.

 

5.         OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Portfolio Committee on Communications, in interrogating the presentation by the GCIS,observed and derived recommendations to the Minister comprising the following:

 

5.1        Observations

The Committee noted:

  1. with concern that some citizens are not complying to the government regulations;
    1. that the combating of the disease is by and large, dependent on GCIS and an increased budget allocation;
  2. that the R60 million was used for media space (electronic and print) products and distribution and advertising agencies; and
    1. further noted that the adjusted amount was well spent and that due to the important work done by the Department during the pandemic, that it should be given a bigger budget;
  3. that emphasis of government campaign is primarily about behavioural change in order to combat the spread of the disease;
    1. and note that such change usually happens over a long period of time and requires more financial resources than what has been already allocated;
  4. and commended GCIS for the sterling job to communicate government’s messageand ensure that all citizens, young and old, stay informed;
    1. and further commended the alignment and mobilisation of all sectors around government’s message;
    2. that this energy should be sustained beyond the epidemic;
    3. andpositively acknowledges the utilisation of political constituency offices to communicate the government message;
  5. and welcomed the unconventional communication methods deployed by the GCIS in townships and rural areas to ensure the message reaches everyone which would include;
    1. the use of loud hailers; and
    2. the use of drones;
  6. and commend the appointment of a permanent Director-General of the Department
    1. and look forward in anticipation to the advertisements for filling of all vacant DDG posts;
  7. and welcome the upward revision of the GCIS budget for proper communication, particularly to communities that would ordinarily not receive mainstream news;
    1. however, note with concern that the allocated budget is not nearly enough for the purpose;
  8. with regret the retrenchment of employees at Media24 as a result of the pandemic;
  9. that GCIS is in discussions with the industry to encourage branding of government’s COVID-19 message on food parcels;
    1. and commend GCIS for utilising partnerships to supplement the government funding so as to communicate the government message on COVID-19;
  10. with great concern that the youth is finding it hard to change their behaviour in response to the message; thereby infecting older members of communities who are more vulnerable to the pandemic;
  11. with greater concern that the SABC is not receiving any compensation for broadcasting government information about the pandemic;
    1. that the pandemic should not serve as justification to cripple a key government entity such as the SABC; and
  12. with appreciation that the revised budget will go a long way to help leverage partnerships of the GCIS with the industry at large.

 

5.2        Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the Minister should ensure that GCIS:

  1. continue to lead by exampleto communicate the message without compromising good governance;
  2. finalise the appointment of senior and critical posts urgently;
  3. ensure that community broadcasters receive compensation for broadcasting government’s COVID-19 message;
    1. continue to encourage provincial and local government to utilise community media as a platform to communicate government messaging;
  4. provide a breakdown of estimated budget figures on the types media spent in rural and urban areas;
  5. ensure continued and sustained branding of government’s COVID-19 message on all food parcels;
  6. ensure that media houses are better supported in order to reduce job losses;
  7. engage National Treasury on ways to increase its budget allocation in order to fulfil its mandate;
  8. must consider having an input in assisting the budgeting for the unfunded mandate of the SABC considering the strategic role it play with its unfunded mandate;
  9. must direct advertising and other support for the community print and broadcasting media;and
  10. continue to reinforce communication platforms of traditional leaders to communicate government message about the pandemic.

 

5.3        Conclusions

The Committee resolved that it would:

  1. continue to support the crucial work of GCIS during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. continue to engage Sentech in order to ensure that the role of community media in propagating government information, particularly to rural areas, is not compromised;
  3. continue to encourage private sector companies as well as government to think out of the box during these trying times; and
  4. invite theMDDA soon to report on supporting community media programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Committee reiterated that no government-branded PPEs should be partisan at any given time, and should rather focus on propagatinggeneral government messagesto fight the pandemic.Lastly, the Committee urges the public to desist from stigmatisation of the pandemic and instead provide necessary support to all impacted persons.

[The Democratic Alliance reserved its position on the report.]

 

Report to be considered.

 

 

 


[1]The Social and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on South Africa, sourced at: https://www.silkroadbriefing.com/news/2020/04/16/social-economic-impact-COVID-19-south-africa/ - 9/07/2020

 

[2]Virementis the process of moving money from one financial account or part of a budget (a plan for how the money will be spent) to a different one. For example, within the Government where one department (in this case an entity) underspends and another department needs more funding, the funds can be procured through virement

Documents

No related documents