ATC210514: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on its deliberations on Budget Vote 4: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), dated 14 May 2021

Communications

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Communications on its deliberations on Budget Vote 4: Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), dated 14 May 2021

The Portfolio Committee on Communications (the Committee), having considered Budget Vote 4: Government Communication and Information System (herein referred to as ‘the Department’) and theAnnual Performance Plan (APP) for 2021/22 – 2023/24, reports asfollows:

 

1.         Introduction

Section 55(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, states 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; and (b) to maintain oversight of (i) the exercise of national executive authority including the implementation of legislation; and (ii) any organ of state. In terms of the Public Finance Management Act(PFMA), the Accounting Officers must provide Parliament or the relevant legislature with their respective institution’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and where applicable with its Annual Performance Plan.

The Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act was promulgated in 2009, and provides Parliament with powers to reject or recommend the approval of departments’ budgets. The Act also makes provision for the implementation of recommendations emanating from the committee’s oversight reports.

The Committee met withthe Department and the Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) on 12 May 2021, amidst the National State of Disaster in South Africa necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Parliament has had to adopt news ways of doing business. As such, the meetings with the Department and MDDA were held virtually.

 

2.         The Department’s APP 2021/2022 – 2023/24

An APP sets out what the institution intends doing in the upcoming financial year and during the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) to implement its Strategic Plan. The document sets out performance indicators and targets for budget programmes, and sub-programmes where relevant, to facilitate the institution realising its goals and objectives set out in the Strategic Plan.

 

2.1        Mandate

Section 195(g) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 forms the basis of the formation of the Department, where it stipulates that in order to foster transparency the public should be provided with information that is timely, accurate and importantly, accessible.

In 1998, the South African Communication Service was dissolved and the Department established by Cabinet, largely on the basis of recommendations contained in the report of the Task Group on Government Communications (COMTASK).

Government’s mandate requires that its communication be expanded to enhance access to information that enables the public to participate in the country’s transformation and in bettering their own lives; that it should bring the realities of our emergent and thriving democracy to the attention of the international community; and promote the African Renaissance, including regional integration and implementation of people-centred development programmes.

The primary responsibility of the Department is to ensure the democratic strength, success and security of the country through rapid, responsive and continuous communication of government’s achievements in meeting the mandate to rule given by the citizens of South Africa. The strategic intent speaks of necessity and therefore of the broad agenda of the manifesto of the ruling party.

Therefore, the Department is responsible for providing strategic leadership and coordinating a government communication system that ensure that the public is informed, and have access to government programmes and policies that benefit them.

3.         Situational Analysis

3.1        External Environment

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a National State of Disaster that placed South Africa on Level 5 of a national COVID-19 lockdown from 27 March 2020, precipitated significant shifts in the way government communications reached – and reached out to – different constituencies and communities in the country and elsewhere. Restrictions on the movement of people other than essential workers presented huge challenges in terms of how government would replace physical interaction with citizens, with alternative means of communications that would comply with COVID-19 health protocols.

 

Large public gatherings, including Izimbizo, distribution of pamphlets, face-to-face interaction with media and visits by members of the public to Thusong Service Centres (TSCs) were among the communication modes that came under pressure or became almost impossible to undertake under the most severe lockdown conditions. However, the Department responded to these unprecedented conditions rapidly by adopting technological platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams to enable remote meetings. The department also up-scaled online publishing of traditionally print products, including Vuk’uzenzele newspaper.

 

The adoption of new technologies was particularly crucial in the support the Department provided to the President who, in March 2020, had commenced a 12-month term as Chairperson of the African Union (AU). As the pandemic progressed, so did South Africa’s – and especially the President’s – prominence on platforms of the World Health Organization (WHO), thebroader United Nations, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and other international bodies which considered South Africa a strategic partner in the global management of the pandemic.

 

The growth in new communication channels and greater consumer use of social platforms enabled dissemination of public health information and other relevant information that could assist vulnerable individuals and groups to survive the devastating economic impact of the pandemic. Concomitant with all human endeavors, the growth in online media consumption in particular, also presented peddlers of misinformation and disinformation with the easily accessible and cost-effective means of communication to undermine scientific and official messages.

 

As a global phenomenon, fake news did not leave South Africa unscathed and in this event, the Department had to implement human and technological mechanisms to combat distortion, lies and contestation around various dimensions of the pandemic. The Department, along with the constituent departments in the government communication system, is indebted to the Solidarity Fund, Google, Twitter and mobile network providers for partnerships that enabled the data zero-rating of government information online, as well as the sponsored boosting of official information.

 

Like all crises, this period created and forced opportunities for government communicators to grapple not only with the muting and unmuting of new platforms, but also to gain new insights into the medical and economic dimensions of public health and pandemic management, as well as the delicate balance of saving lives and protecting livelihoods during the national lockdown.

 

For the public and international constituencies, certain communication practices enhanced public insight and participation in matters of science and the economy, and brought often unseen events and deliberations into people’s homes. In different settings, however, the inability for political leadership and officialdom to interact in person with stakeholders’ groups or audiences induced limitations and inhibitions that sat equally uncomfortably with creators and consumers of content.

 

The Department enters the period ahead with a focus on the national COVID-19 vaccination roll-out programme,and on mobilizing all sectors of society and business around economic reconstruction and recovery. The backdrop for the work that will be delivered in the 2021/22 financial year is government’s focus on: defeating the pandemic; accelerating economic recovery; economic reforms aimed at inclusive growth and job creation, and the twin objective of fighting corruption and building the capability of the State.

 

The period ahead comes with uncertainty about the shape of the pandemic and the likelihood of newwaves or strains of infection.These unknowns make it necessary for the Departmentto accept the new normal, and to retain many of thecommunication modes and methods conceived andadopted under the national lockdown.This will require the continued development of staff to remain adaptive, innovative and motivated, andalso entail continued vigilance and agility around theopportunities and pitfalls presented by new methods ofdeveloping and disseminating information.

 

The impact of the deadly virus has weighed heavilyon efforts to address the triple challenge of poverty,unemployment and inequality. COVID-19 has broughtinto stark focus the inequalities within our society.The economic growth slowed down with the growthforecast at 0,9 per cent for 2020 and the gross domesticproduct shrunk by 7 per cent while the unemployment ratebreached the 30 per cent mark. This restricted the amountthat could be allocated to the communication budget.The Department will build on its tried and testedproducts and services in the medium term to supportand shape government-wide communications.

 

Through public opinion research, analysis of mediacoverage and monitoring of media, the Department have beenencouraged by the general positive response to theCOVID-19 messaging it disseminated in the pastperiod under review.Public opinion research continues to supportthe development of government communicationcampaigns and also monitor their impact. It will use newtechnological approaches together with face-to-faceengagements to collect quantitative and qualitativeresearch that provides a better understanding of thework of government.

 

3.2        Internal Environment

As at 28 February 2021, the Department had a total staffestablishment of 473 posts, of which 431 were filled.This translates into a vacancy rate of 8.88 per cent, which iswithin the parameters defined by the Department ofPublic Service and Administration (DPSA). The postof Director-General (DG) was filled with effect from 1 June 2020. Theselection process for the filling of three Deputy Director-General (DDG) posts wasexpected to be concluded by 30 June 2021.

 

The Department continues to partner with institutionsfor persons with disabilities to recruit candidatesfrom under-represented racial groups and peoplewith disabilities in accordance with the approvedEmployment Equity Act, 1998 (Act 55 of 1998) and theDepartmental Employment Equity Plan. The targetsof 50 per cent for women at Senior Management Service(SMS) level and 2 per cent for persons with disabilities havebeen reached, and the Department strives to strike abalance across all occupational classifications.

 

The changed communication environment occasionedby the COVID-19 health protocols has necessitated thetraining programme to be changed to prioritize an Information Technology (IT)relatedcommunication mode. It has also fast-trackedupskilling of its workforce to align the organisation tothe occupational demands associated with the FourthIndustrial Revolution (4IR). Some of the traininginterventions include Drone-operating capacity and theaccelerated e-Learning capability for human resourcedevelopment.

 

Some of the training undertaken in the past year inpartnership with the National School of Government(NSG) includes Ethics in the Public Service; ERM;Strategic Planning and Management; Writing forGovernment; Presentation Skills; Monitoring andEvaluation; Supply Chain Management; EmotionalIntelligence; Customer Orientation; and TimeManagement and Facility Management.Information and Communications Technology (ICT)systems had to be upgraded to provide the capacityfor regular virtual/webinar meetings using variousplatforms. Internal Communication continues to sharethe information shared with the public with staff members, who are deemed as messengers ofgovernment information.

Some of the communication products include themonthly Let’s Talk newsletter and weekly Hot Newsleaflet. Knowledge Management (KM) continues tobe the key component of this area of work, with theKM unit hosting four webinars and producing eightnewsletters during the 2020/21 financial year.The ERM processes are growing in maturity andrelevance. The self-assessment conducted in October2020 shows a marked improvement with a final scoreof 3.9 and up from 2.8 of the 2019 assessment.The governance structures of the ERM Committee,Audit Committee and the BCM Steering Committeehave played a critical in ensuring the continuation ofoperations and service delivery despite the setbacksand closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Since being separated from the then Department ofCommunications, the Department has now created its ownlegal services capacity through the Directorate: LegalServices, which will assist in strengtheningits management of official contracts andother legal matters.To ensure compliance to the Institute of InternalAuditors’ (IIA) international auditing standards andto improve the combined assurance holistically –covering independent assurance providers such asInternal Audit, Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) and other regulatory bodiesof government – Internal Audit recently concludedits mandatory five-year external Quality AssuranceReview.

 

Internal Audit also continues to provide the last line of internal defense by ensuring material misstatements affecting compliance, financial and performance reporting are brought to the attention of management timeously so that corrective actions are made. This early warning system has contributed immensely towards the Department maintaining its clean audit outcomes for the past six financial years.

 

3.3        Key highlights in 2020

The Special Adjustment Budget of July 2020 resulted in an additional allocation of R60 million for the Department. This enabled the Department to drive the COVID-19 Communication Strategy in a more meaningful and effective manner. Using the centralised coordinating structure, a coherent message to educate and raiseawareness on the COVID-19 virus became effective.

 

An above and below line advertising campaign was done, supported by direct mass mobilisation at district level and media engagement through weekly media briefings.

Various existing content platforms such as the Government website (www.gov.za), Vuk’uzenzele newspaper, My District Today newsletter andGovNews, were also used to disseminate information on COVID-19. Community media, especially community radio, and direct communication with citizens through the distribution of pamphlets, were also used prominently.

 

A key finding of the survey was the level of public trust in government, both from a leadership and credibility of information perspective. The ERRP adopted in August 2020 continued to be a communication programme for the past financial year. Collaborating with the Economic and Investment Cluster role-players, an integrated communication approach programme was infused with COVID-19 messaging, especially as the country moved to the risk adjusted levels 3 to 1.

 

Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) messages continued to find expression in all the Department’s print products, online distribution and mass mobilisation at local level.

 

The District Development Model (DDM) announced in 2019 has deepened a development communication agenda through partnerships between the Department, andprovincial and local government communicators. The Department has spearheaded communications on various aspects of government’s priorities, including COVID-19 information.

 

The Department also supported the communication programme for the Third SAIC whichwas hosted in November 2020. The Department aims to build and maintainrelations with the media domestically and internationally. It will continue to strengthen this relationship working also with the international cluster. The strategic focus of the Brand South Africa (BSA) needs to be aligned with the strategic focus of the country internationally. Working with the International cluster the Department will seek a closer working relationship with BSA.

 

The 2019-2024 MTSF is the current implementation plan of the National Development Plan (NDP). The primary mandate of the Department aligns with Priority 1 of the MTSF. The approved NCSF2019-2024 provide a framework to capacitate the whole government communication system. A partnership with the NSG will assist in capacitating the communicators to implement their respective mandates.

 

The process to appoint the MAC Charter Council has commenced. In 2021/22 the Department will prepare for the drafting of the Media Transformation and DiversityCharter. The charter will ensure the implementation of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) for the mainstream print and digital mediaindustry.

 

The Department continues to run a media production capacity through the Chief Directorate: Communication Service Agency (CSA). For the past financial year, it provided media-buying services to other departments to the value of over R300 million. The process to review the MDDA Act, 2002 (Act 14 of 2002) to align it to key technological developments and good corporate governance practices is underway and expected to be the key legislative programme for the department during the 2021/22 financial year.

 

3.3.1     Focus Areas

Despite growing budget cuts, the organisation continues to deliver against its predetermined objectives. The outcomes in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan have beenreviewed and the number revised from nine to five. The five streamlined focus areas have been aligned accordingly with the mandate and purpose of the Department.

The outcome areas are:

  1. Sound corporate governance;
  2. Informed and empowered citizens;
  3. Transformed mainstream print and digital media, advertising and community media;
  4. Improved relations with the media; and
  5. Well-functioning government communicationsystem.

 

These outcomes succinctly demonstrate themandate and strategic intent of the organisation,and will contribute to measuring the overall impact ofgovernment’s communication agenda expressed in theDepartment’s impact statement of “Informed citizens and anintegrated communication system.”

 

4.         Annual Performance Plan 2021/22 – 2023/24

The Department’s appropriation over the 2021 MTEF period is R749.7 million in 2021/22, R710 million in 2022/23 and R711.9 million in 2023/24. Compensation of employees comprises on average 38 per cent and transfer payments in respect of the appropriation to two public entities – BSA and MDDA – comprises 35 per cent of the budget over the medium term.

 

Over the medium term, theDepartmentwill continue to focus on providing and facilitating strategic government communication, and encouraging active citizen participation. It will support all government departments in conceptualising cohesive campaigns, developing communications strategies and content, disseminating information, and engaging stakeholders. The Department will enhance its delivery of these core services by harnessing various communications structures, such as social media, to reach and provide information to more South Africans.

 

The Department is committed to sourcing its goods and services from black-owned businesses operated by designated groups of women and youth. The 2021/22 Procurement Plan will be finalised in support of this government-wide effort on economic transformation.

 

The 2019/20 Audited Financial Statements (AFS) were submitted to National Treasury and the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) on 31 July 2020. The AGSA issued another clean-audit report on 30 September 2020. Performance against predetermined objectives was at 93 per cent. For the last three years, the performance report has been maintained at above 90 per cent.

 

Graph below highlights the Department’s performance against pre-determined objectives for the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years:

 

In 2020/21, the Western Cape and North West provincial offices were relocated to improve staff working conditions, access for the public and address security-related issues. Owing to the nature of the department’s operations, security audits initiated with the State Security Agency (SSA) focused on both physical and information security to establish threats as well as risk assessment before and after the relocation of the offices. Processes are underway with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to relocate the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Office to a new suitablelocation in 2021/22.

 

The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) provided substantial bandwidth increases for the Department to be able to perform more effectively. Upgrades were also done on the Microsoft environment, including email and operating systems. The Department has embarked on a technology upgrade of its electronic office equipment that are at the end of their useful life – computers, printers and laptops. This will continue to be informed by operational needs.

 

Parts of the wide area network infrastructure is undergoing a hardware upgrade by replacing old end-of-life servers. Other areas of the infrastructure will be considered for a technology upgrade, subject to the availability of funds.

 

Skype for Business was extended within the Department to host virtual meetings and reduce the need for face-to-face interaction. Additional virtual meeting tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have also been deployed in the GCIS to facilitate remote working and online meetings. This was complimented by the migration to the SITA VPNra remote connectivity tool allowing staff working remotely access to the Department’s enterprise systems and digital processes.

 

The Departmenthas embarked on a review of Information Systems in use by all business units with the intent of identifying new technology and systems requirements. The Information System Review will assist in the review of the Information Technology (IT) Strategy in line with the Department’s business requirements.

 

The Departmentwill build capacity on Business Intelligence Reporting and Data Analytics and create a repository for reports on SharePoint to support organisational decision-making. An electronic memo (e-Memo) submission solution was implemented to reduce the use and movement of paper and accommodate remote working.

 

IT infrastructure will be upgraded to improve systems performance to handle more data and automation of business processes such as e-Leave, e-Requisition for procurement, performance contracting and assessment, and an electronic organizational performance reporting system to track achievements of targets set in the APPs.

 

The annual software licenses for its Electronic Office Applications continue to be renewed accordingly. It will also explore an online sourcing of human capital through e-Recruitment in line with DPSA prescripts. In 2021/22, the intention is to automate the training request and approval process.

 

5.         Departmental budget allocation and programmes

5.1        Expenditure Analysis: R749.7 million

As mentioned above, GCIS is allocated R749.7 million in 2021/22, R710 million in 2022/23 and R711.9 million in 2023/24. Compensation of employees comprises on average 38 per cent of the budget over the medium term.Transfer payments to public entities – BSA and the MDDA are included under Programme 2: Content Processing and Dissemination and amount to R246.4 million 2021/22, which comprises 35 per cent of the budget over the medium term, R252 million in 2022/23 and R253.6 in 2023/24, see table below:

 

A total of 75 per cent of the allocation over themedium term is jointly spent in the core branchesProgramme: Content Processing and Dissemination,and Programme: Intergovernmental Coordination andStakeholder Management. The remaining 25 per cent of thetotal departmental appropriation is allocated to the Programme: Administration.

Expenditure for these activities is within the medium‐term allocations to the Content Processing and Dissemination programme (R1.3 billion) and Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management programme (R375.4 million), which together account for 75.6 per cent of the Department budget over the medium term. Transfers to the entities account for 34.6 per cent (R751.9 million) of its total budget over the period ahead.

 

The Department’s funded establishment is expected to be 467 permanent posts. Spending on goods and services over the medium term is expected to be primarily on operating leases, which comprise mostly of the lease of office accommodation, operating payments that relate mainly to the publication and distribution of the fortnightly Vuk’uzenzele newspaper. Further spending on goods and services is for travel and subsistence, which relate mainly to the covering of events of the President and Deputy President, and computer services in respect of transversal systems, data lines, software licences and subscriptions.

The Department will focus over the medium term on coordinating and professionalising government communication and making it as cost-effective as possible.

The Department will keep communities and stakeholders abreast of government’s progress with the implementation of the district development model, which aims to improve the coherence and impact of development in 44 districts and 8 metropolitan municipalities across the country. To this end, the Department will hold 1 140 community and stakeholder liaison visits and 1 140 development communication projects per year over the MTEF period. Spending for these activities is largely driven by goods and services items, which account for 16.9 per cent (R62.4 million) of the total budget in the Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management programme.

The Department’s outreach programme makes use of talk shows on community radio and television stations, activations at taxi ranks and malls, commuter train blitzes, Imbizos, and door‐to‐door campaigns. These activities allow it to interact with communities, and often provide an early warning for any societal issues or discontent.The outreachprogrammeisallocated R6.3 million in each year of the medium term in the Provincial and Local Liaison sub-programme in the Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management programme. An amount of R50 million is further allocated to the Products and Platforms sub-programme in the Content Processing and Dissemination programme for the COVID‐19 Vaccine rollout campaign in 2021/22.

To make the public aware of the opportunities created bygovernment, in line with its key priorities, the department plans to publish 15.3 million copies of the Vuk’uzenzele newspaper per year over the medium term at an estimated cost of R75 million in the Products and Platforms sub-programme in the Content Processing and Dissemination programme.

 

5.2        Programme 1: Administration:(R176.0 million)

The purposes of this programme is to providestrategicleadership,managementandsupportservicestothe Department.

The programme’s function are organised into the following five sub-programmes:

  • SM is responsible for developing and implementing SM processes, procedures and systems in compliance with relevant legislation. These include coordination the development and implementation of the Department’s Strategic Plan and APPs, performance monitoring and reporting, and implementing an enterprise risk management plan for the department;
  • HR is responsible for strategic leadership in the implementation of the Department’s HR management strategy;
  • IM&T is responsible for the establishment and support of IM&T systems in the GCIS;
  • The CFO provides the Department with overall financial and supply chain and facility management services, and guides management in complying with legislative requirements, budget planning and administration; and
  • Internal Audit improves governance, risk management and control processes.

In keeping with the pursuit of sound corporate governance for the Department, Corporate Services will over the next financial year strengthen internal controls and compliance with prescripts and legislation applicable to the Department’s operational environment. The Departmentwill in the 2021/22 financial year appoint three external members, including a Chairperson, to the Departmental ERM Committee.

The IM&T sub-programme will ensure that the availability of the IT infrastructure and information management systems are maintained within the threshold, tolerance levels and service standards that have been predefined in support of the Department’sstrategy and mandate. The IT systems and infrastructure availability statistics will be reported quarterly to the IM&T Steering Committee and the Audit Committee, both of which form part of governance structures.

The recruitment and retention of a suitably qualified, capable and skilled workforce remain a priority and the Department will strive to maintain the vacancy rate below 10% as prescribed by the DPSA. The attainment of employment equity targets will be pursued through more directed recruitment (ring-fencing of a certain number of posts specifically for designated groups) as well as active management of partnerships with institutions representative of people with disabilities.

Management will also strive to maintain the unqualified audit opinion for both financial and performance information as per the last three financial years. The 2021/22 Procurement Plan will also designate the targets for procurement from women, small, medium and micro enterprises and youth-owned enterprises in line with the Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Audit Framework of the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities.

 

5.3        Programme 2: Content Processing and Dissemination: (R449.0 million)

Provide strategic leadership in government communication to ensure coherence, coordination, consistency, quality, impact and responsiveness.

The main objectives of this programme are to:

  1. Provide strategic leadership and support in government communications by conducting research on public opinion and analyzing media coverage to understand the communications environment and inform government messaging over the medium term;
  2. Increase the share of government’s voice and messaging in the public domain by producing government communication products and services over the medium term; and
  3. Improve the dissemination of information by providing effective and efficient marketing and distribution services, cost-effective media bulk-buying services, and media products and services for government on an ongoing basis.

The programme has the following sub-programmes:

Programme Management for Content Processing and Disseminationcoordinatesstrategic planning for communications in the Department and other government departments, and ensures adherence to standards for government communications;

Policy and Research conducts research to assess the information needs of the public and how government should address these needs; monitors media coverage of issues affecting government and the country, provides analysis of how the media interprets and reports on government policies and programmes; formulates policy proposals; assesses public perceptions on government performance; and oversees the process of reviewing government communications policy by monitoring its implementation and facilitating workshops;

Products and Platforms develops content for the Department; provides languages services for products that require translation; conducts editing and proofreading; manages the Department’s and government’s websites; produces government publications; provides social media and news services; and develops the national communication strategy.

Communication Service Agency provides media bulk-buying services and media production services to all spheres of government; develops distribution strategies for all government communications; oversees the outsourcing of distribution services to service providers; manages government’s corporate identity; and provides marketing services for the Department and other government departments.

The operational budget baseline allocation in Programme 2: Content Processing and Dissemination is directed to conduct research, monitor media coverage of government programmes and develop content for departmental communication products such as Vuk’uzenzele newspaper; the PSM magazine; articles for SANews.gov.za; official websites, the SAYB and Official Guide to South Africa, translations, social media, and to provide leadership in the development and production of communication services.

The programme is also responsible for entity oversight and the transfer of budget allocations to Brand SA and the MDDA. The gradual increase over the medium term is mainly due to inflation adjustment.

 

5.4        Programme 3: Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management: (R124.7 million)

The purpose of Programme 3 is to implement development communication through mediated and unmediated communication channels, and foster sound stakeholder relations and partnerships.

The programme has the following objectives:

  • Improve interdepartmental coordination to ensure that all government messages are coherent and aligned by jointly planning messaging and sharing communications functions across the three spheres of government over the medium term;
  • Ensure that citizens are informed and empowered on government’s policies, plans, programmes and achievements, and increase public participation in government’s activities by engaging with stakeholders over the medium term; and
  • Implement a proactive and reactive media engagement system by building, maintaining and improving relations with the media, and driving government’s communications agenda over the medium term.

The programme has the following sub-programmes:

Programme Management for Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management ensures a well-functioning communications system that proactively informs and engages the public, and manages and oversees the implementation of development communications. It does this by building sound stakeholder relations and partnerships, and ensuring that the public is informed about government policies and programmes.

Provincial and Local Liaison ensures that the national communication strategy is aligned with provincial and local communication strategies; procures advertising on media platforms to promote local government messages for the public; promotes the Thusong Service Centres; and coordinates the imbizo programme.

Media Engagement leads and drives interaction and communication between government and the media; ensures effective liaison between Ministers and the media; manages government’s liaison services by providing information; establishes, strengthens and maintains relationships with foreign and independent media; and establishes relations with South African missions to disseminate government information and key targeted messages;

Cluster Supervision (Human Development, Social Protection, and Governance and Administration) provides strategic cluster communications advice and support to national departments and leadership on key cluster communication issues and campaigns; and coordinates Cabinet cluster communications and the development of government’s communications programme. This sub-programme also develops communications strategies and key messages for the campaigns of departments in these clusters;

Cluster Supervision (Economic and Infrastructure, Justice and International) provides strategic cluster communication advice and support national departments and leadership on key cluster communication issues and campaigns; and coordinates Cabinet cluster communications and the development of government’s communications programme. This sub-programme also develops communications strategies and key messages for the campaigns of departments in these clusters.

The operational budget allocation in the Programme: Intergovernmental Coordination and Stakeholder Management is directed to the interface of national government communication with provincial communication programmes as well as effective liaison between Ministers towards coherent communication strategies for national government.

It also seeks to promote and facilitate media’s understanding of government’s agenda. The gradual increase over the medium term is mainly due to an inflation adjustment.

 

 

6.         Entities of the Department

The Department has two entities reporting to it: BSA and MDA. However, the Committee has oversight function over the MDDA and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) oversees the work of BSA.

 

6.1        MDDA: (R32.3 million)

The MDDA was set up in terms of the MDDA Act (2002) to enable historically disadvantaged communities and individuals to gain access to the media.

The core activities of the MDDA are to provide financial and non-financial support to community broadcast and small commercial media projects, with an emphasis on promoting indigenous languages and contributing to community development and the alleviation of poverty and inequality. Over the medium term, the agency its focus on serving communities that are typically sidelined by the mainstream media, and addressing pressing societal issues.

An estimated 39.7 per cent (R111.7 million) of the agency’s budget over the medium term is earmarked for grant funding to be distributed to 60 community broadcast projects. An additional R6 million in grant funding is earmarked for 18 community and small commercial media projects.

To ensure the sustainability of the community media sector, the agency will ensure that there are initiatives in which it invests in to support skills development and social upliftment. To support this aim, R2.9 million over the MTEF period is budgeted to impart skills in key foundational areas such as governance to a targeted 120 projects.

The agency will also invest in three research projects per year over the medium term to develop a sustainability model for community and small commercial media projects. This is expected to result in expenditure of R8.6 million on contractors to carry out studies. Total expenditure over the MTEF period is expected to be R281.9 million.

The agency is set to derive 35.7 per cent (R100.9 million) of its projected revenue over the medium term through transfers from the Department and 60 per cent (R168.8 million) from the mainstream community broadcast sector as donations deductible from the Universal Service and Access Fund (USAF) levy.

 

7.         Observations

7.1        The Department

The Committee commended the Department’s rapid response in adapting to alternative means of communicating with the public at large, following the President’s announcement of National State of Disaster in March 2020, whilst complying with the new Covid-19 Health protocols.

The Committee noted the impact the Level 5 National Lockdown had on the Department’s areas of communications, such as public gatherings and face-to-face interactions, and commended the Department for introducing technological platforms (Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams) as new means of communication with the public. However, it remained concerned that citizens who had no universal access missed out on governments’ most crucial information during that period.

The spread of fake news remains one of the Committee’s major concerns. As such, the Committee commended the Department for its implementation of human and technological mechanism to combat fake news. It further noted and appreciated the partnerships formed between the Department and the Solidarity Fund, Google, Twitter and mobile operators. These partnerships led to government information propagation on social media platforms and further commended that mobile operators have enabled zero-data rating of government information on their platforms.

The Committee further noted the reported growth by the Department in the use of the new technologies, which had enabled dissemination of crucial public health information to vulnerable groups of the population and welcomed the announcement by the Department that it had capacity to translate such public information in all official languages. 

The Committee noted the undertaking by the Department to ensure that young South Africans, including those living with disabilities, would form part of the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. The Committee was of the view that the inclusion of the youth in the implementation of the plan would assist in the fight against the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

The Committee encouraged the Department to continue working together with various institutions supporting Persons Living with Disabilities when recruiting for staff members and appreciated that the Department had met the target of 2 per cent of employment ofPersons Living with Disabilities.

Lastly, the Committee noted that the Internal Audit unit of the Department had concluded its mandatory five-year Quality Assurance Review. Furthermore, it noted the reporting on the contribution of the unit, towards the Department maintaining its clean audit.

 

7.2        MDDA

The Committee noted that the MDDA had set aside an estimated amount of R111.7 million or 39 per cent of its allocated budget for grant funding to 60 community broadcast projects and that an estimated amount of R6 million was earmarked for 18 community and small commercial media.

The sustainability of community media projects remained one of the Committee’s key priorities; as such, the Committee noted the undertaking by the MDDA to ensure that it invested in initiatives that sought to support skills development in key foundational areas such as governance of its projects.

The Committee further noted the commitment by MDDA to invest in three research projects per year over the medium term, in order to develop a sustainability model for community and small commercial media projects.

 

 

 

 

8.         Recommendations

8.1        The Department

The Committee therefore recommends that the Minister in the Presidency should ensure that:

  1. the Department continues to communicate government information effectively and such information reaches all citizens;
  2. there is proper monitoring of the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme and provide regular updates to the Committee;
  3. as per the undertaking made by the Department, the Youth and Persons Living with Disabilitiesare at the forefront of the implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan;
  4. the Department provides a presentation to the Committee on its State of Readiness for the forecasted 3rd wave of COVID-19 pandemic;
  5. COVID-19 public information remains of paramount importance and it is vital that the Department presents to South Africans credible information at all times; and
  6. in executing its functions, the Department adheres to COVID-19 Health protocols at all times.

The Committee will continue to monitor the COVID-19 vaccination rollout programme of the Department and is satisfied with the assurance that all COVID-19 health protocols are adhered to during the Departments’ on-going implementation.

 

8.2        MDDA

The Committee therefore recommends that the Minister in the Presidency should ensure that:

  1. a sustainability model that seeks to assist community media projects is finalised and presented to the Committee; and
  2. there is proper monitoring of the grant funding allocation of R117.9 million for community media projects and the R6 million earmarked to assist small and commercial media projects, and report quarterly to the Committee.

 

The Democratic Alliance reserved its right on the Budget Vote.

The Committee recommends to the House that the Budget Vote: 4 Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)

 

Report to be considered.

 

Documents

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