In this virtual meeting, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) met with the Portfolio Committee to present their fourth quarter performance reports.
The impact of COVID-19 on the tertiary education sector was discussed, and each department addressed the progress they had made since the national lockdown and the challenges the universities and tertiary institutions had faced while doing so.
The DHET's performance from the first to the last quarter had improved, with the fourth quarter seeing a 12% improvement. 42 of the 47 targets had been achieved.11 targets were not achieved, which were mostly oversight reports pertaining to infrastructure development.
DSI achieved 74% of its targets for the term under review.
Committee Members expressed concern over the provision norms for TVET colleges, as there was a recurring target that was not being met. They asked about the process of filling the vacancies and expressed frustration that women have been overlooked, despite the recommendations the Committee had made on numerous occasions.
Some Members said the Department seemed to undermine the resolutions the Committee provides every quarter, and rather blames the legislation for the failure of services not being conducted. The Department should focus on building state capacity.
Members were concerned about the challenge of unspent money and asked if the targets set by the Department were realistic. Both Departments were advised that their quarterly performance reports must be accompanied by a focused plan for achieving their targets.
Members were concerned about invoices were not paid on time.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and said two briefings would be presented. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) would present their fourth quarter performance reports for 2022/23.
She said that it had been great to see how, through the engagements of the last annual performance plans (APPs), it had been able to see a lot of what the Committee had recommended had come through.
She looked forward to the recommendations that would come from Members during this briefing.
Minister's overview of Department's performance
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation, said it was a great pleasure to him to present once again on the two departments’ performance. Over the medium term, the Department of Science and Innovation’s programme had supported signs of the outcomes that were identified in the Department’s 2022 to 2025 Strategic Plan, namely
- a transformed, conclusive and coherent national system of innovation;
- human capabilities and skills for the economy and for development;
- increased knowledge generation and innovation output;
- knowledge utilisation for economic benefit; and
- knowledge utilisation for inclusive development.
He said that in the 2022/23 financial year, the Department undertook initiatives to ensure that flexion projects, that provide South Africa's national system of innovation (NSI) capabilities, include a non-traditional national system of innovation participants. The Department was very proud of this because this was a very important contribution. Scientific inventions, as well as innovation, were often found everywhere. They also provided support for the development of high-end critical skills in economy-based science. He had managed to do this because he had also engaged the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) and instructed them that they needed to support high-end science, technology and innovation (STI)-linked skills. This initiative was taken when these two departments were assigned to one ministry. This was done in the form of specialised training interventions, which would include developing technical and artisan skills to support newly developed technologies and dissemination.
The National Intellectual Property Management Office had been established as the implementing agents for the Intellectual Property Act, and had a mandate to ensure that intellectual property (IP) from publicly funded research and development was identified, protected, utilised and commercialised for the benefit of the people of South Africa. Investments geared towards supporting the translation of publicly financed intellectual property had also been made in the last financial year.
The Minister said that international partnerships had also been pursued to strengthen international relationships and understanding of knowledge, particularly in Africa. He hoped that the Committee would take some visits outside of the country to give them an opportunity to engage in some of the platforms and institutions to better inform themselves. Today, the Department hosted the IST Africa Conference, which brings together senior representatives from leading public and private education and research organisations to discuss IST policy. This was one of the most of the important platforms for the digital economy of science and digitisation. Because of this, he requested permission to leave earlier. The focus of this conference this year was the increase of digitisation policies in the workspace and post-COVID-19, as well as how digitisation could support economies.
He said that over the medium term, the Department of Science and Innovation would directly support all nine of the Department’s outcomes as identified in the strategic plan. The Department would also share its learning on initiatives. The DSI would also be working closely with the South African Radio Astronomy Association and the Northern Cape government to ensure social economic benefits for communities that were near astronomical infrastructure like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and to enhance public awareness of the opportunities the project presents. South Africa was also actively participating in the world packages of the construction of the SKA phase 1. The Department would harness the potential of the narrator to realise economic, social and industrial benefits for South Africa.
To address the high unemployment rate, especially among the youth, the Department, through the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), has been implementing the DSI internship programme. As part of the human development process, in particular with emerging researchers, the Department had financed the funding in the previous financial year for students to further their studies if they came from disadvantaged, working class backgrounds, as well as for students with exceptional academic progress and students with disabilities. The Department would continue with the South African Women in Science Awards and the South African Research in Change initiative.
The Minister was pleased that the DSI had achieved 82% of its annual targets. The remaining 18% of targets that were not achieved would be addressed in the presentation. The Department’s overall spending had reached 99.7% of the budget appropriated by the end of the fourth quarter. The university programmes remained the largest expenditure, amounting to R88.8 billion, which included R45 billion which was transferred to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The spending on NSFAS priorities was important for the Department, as it reflected its efforts towards ensuring access to education and training for the youth and others.
The Minister said that he was very proud of the Department's efforts, despite the claims that it did not spend money on advancing access to resources. For instance, in the 2021 academic year, a total of 826 000 students at both universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges were funded through NSFAS. The Department is currently finalising the report for 2022/23, and they would soon provide the figure for bursaries for students in the 2022/23 academic year. He expected an improvement in the 2023 figures. He was also pleased to announce that the feasibility studies on the two new universities -- the University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni and the University of Crime Detection in Hammanskraal -- had been completed. As indicated in the Minister’s budget vote speech, the Department would finalise the construction design, as this report had also been taken to Cabinet.
Today, the DHET has invested over R3.7 billion into the maintenance and repairs of TVET colleges and infrastructure through its capital infrastructure and efficiency grant. This grant was also used for the upgrading of information technology infrastructure in institutions. Maintenance had been prioritised over the medium term to ensure that the backlog was reduced before new capital expansion programmes were implemented. In addition to this, the Departments had also made special capital allocations to 11 identified TVET colleges.
During the quarter under review, the Department had also achieved a few more targets, such as creating 87 new posts for the new generation of academic programmes, which had been filled by the university, 40 scholarships were provided to students from universities through the emerging scholars' programme, and 55% of university lecturers now hold doctoral degrees. More than 4 580 students were placed in pre-vocational learning programmes to improve success in TVET colleges. This was a huge achievement, because a number of students were unable to gain access to TVET colleges because they did not have the necessary minimum qualifications.
Ms Thembisa Futshane, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Community Education and Training, DHET, said she was pleased to announce that the DHET had displayed an improvement in the fourth quarter, even addressing the fact that the expenditure in this quarter was relatively lower than the previous quarters. This indicated that there was no fiscal dumping of the Department in the last quarter of the financial year. She appreciated the encouraging comments made by the Chairperson, and commented that the Department always strives to meet the commitments set out in the APP. A lot of the work that the Department did, particularly on the operational side, was not included in the APP.
DHET fourth quarter performance report
Mr Reineth Mgiba, Chief Director: Strategic Planning, DHET, said that the Department always tries to remind the Committee of what their medium to long term aims are, but also reflects on the areas of focus, such as the funding of the sector. The Department had identified four key outcomes -- the expansion of access to opportunities; improving academic success; improving the quality teaching; and improving its responsiveness to changing curriculum needs.
These outcomes aimed to increase participation among the youth and the opportunities provided to them, but also to ensure that the funding injected into the Department was adequately allocated. He said that as funding was injected into the system, the system was able to reciprocate, and this was seen in the enrolments that were taking place in the universities and TVET colleges. The Department was able to fund over 826 000 students through NSFAS bursaries to date.
Regarding improving success, it was fulfilling to see that for the 2021 academic year, over 223 000 graduates were produced in public universities. The 2022 academic year statistics were still being consolidated. Over 19 000 students completed artisan courses in 2021 and 2022.
Significant progress has been made in improving quality. The proportion of lecturers that hold PhD’s is currently at 48%. Lastly, the responsiveness and improvement in the TVET college sector have seen additional occupational skills programmes introduced in collaboration with the sector education and training authority (SETA).
The DHET's performance from the first to the last quarter had improved, with the fourth quarter seeing a 12% improvement. 42 of the 47 targets had been achieved. He provided details of the achievements of the six programmes against their targets.
Mr Mgiba said that the Department would be able to report on its procurements that would have been allocated and directed towards women instead of measuring expenditure only, because the Department now had a preferential policy procurement framework that was passed in 2022, but it took effect only earlier this year. Regarding network connectivity, the target of 98% was almost achieved, at 95%. This was due to load-shedding challenges and city outages. In Programme 2, the report on the feasibility study for the establishment of a satellite campus in Ulundi had been approved, and the report on social inclusion and gender equality and the gender-based violence (GBV) policy framework had all been approved by the Director-General (DG). The policy brief on e-learning strategy was also approved by the DG.
11 targets were not achieved, which were mostly oversight reports pertaining to infrastructure development. These targets were supposed to report on how the Department was faring in terms of the implementation of integrated infrastructure development.
Programme 3 had achieved 11 of its 15 targets. The internship positions allocated to the universities through the Exceptional Emerging Scholars programme and the awards given to the Professors programme had all reached their target. There were eight universities where the Department intended to implement the Student Inter-focus Development Programme, but at the time of reporting, more than 20 universities had been able to implement this. Targets that were not achieved in this programme were, among others, the University Capacity Development Programme and the compliance of higher education institutions. These could not be achieved because of the lack of capacity within the university branch.
Programme 4 achieved eight of its targets, with an additional target being achieved after this report. This was in stark contrast to Programme 5, which had achieved only three of its targets for the quarter. COVID-19 had had a retrospective impact on the Department’s performance, since all the achievements pertained to the 2021/22 financial year. The annual report would reflect the preliminary information pertaining to 2022/23. Most of the targets that were not achieved were due to capacity constraints, external factors, process factors and poor planning. This information was being used to improve performance going forward.
Ms Pretty Makukule, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DHET, said that the Department had funding from two sources. The budget for the year was R130.5 billion, and R107 billion of this came from voted funds. Six programmes were under review, and all benefited from the funds the Department received. Specifically, Programme 2 had received a significant adjustment to its budget. There was equitable distribution of resources in the Department’s sector. The University Education branch remained the branch with the largest budget. The Department had a remaining budget of 0.3% which amounted to R460 million. These remaining funds mainly stemmed from vacancies within the Department and delays in the TVET colleges. The budget for the compensation of employees could be moved only in the mid-term adjustment budget. The Department had embarked on a process of restructuring its committees which had also affected the process of other tenders, where processes had overlapped into the following financial year.
There were some claims from the colleges from the last quarter of the financial year, therefore these claims were not submitted as projected. The total remaining funds that would be surrendered back to the National Revenue Fund (NRF) was R462.9 million, and the biggest portion of this stemmed from Programme 4 with TVET colleges. Most of the vacancies were within the TVET colleges. One of the main reasons for variances under the administration programme was that the Department had set aside some funds for its relocation. It had been under the impression that they would relocate in the last quarter, but this did not occur as hoped. The Department applied for further funding to assist with the relocation costs later this year.
She acknowledged that the funds that were to be surrendered were a relatively large amount, but these financial ratios gave the Department a better understanding of the numbers as opposed to absolute numbers. The spending on compensation of employees was just less than 4%, and by looking at these figures concerning the Department’s budget, one could see that it was not material.
Transfers comprised 91% of the Department’s budget. The analysis per quarter showed different quarters and different areas of economic classification. The spending trend in the Department showed that there was no fiscal dumping, or straight-lining of the budget. The presentation was a true reflection of the Department’s operation sector. Many national examinations occur in November and December, particularly at colleges, and the Department accounted for some of those operational costs. This was why there was an increase in expenditure in the goods and services sector in the third and fourth quarters.
The Department allocated a lot of funding to universities in the first quarter to make up for the three months of the academic year, specifically concerning NSFAS. This was another factor attributed to the variation in the transfers expenditure in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter.
See attached for full presentation
DSI on fourth quarter performance report
Mr Robert Shaku, CFO, DSI, said the Department had published 62 papers, including high profile genres like nature and science. One of the research infrastructures that was included in the South African research infrastructure roadmap was the South African population research infrastructure network, which conducts studies on reproductive health, the impact of COVID-19 on reproductive health rights in rural populations, COVID-19-related mortality and excess mortality due to the pandemic, and multi-mobility in low-resource areas.
The Department had also worked closely with the Department of Tourism at a national and provincial level to position South Africa as a world class astro-tourism destination. This document was in the process of being completed, and would then be submitted to Parliament. As part of the programmes the Department runs, there was a wheat-breeding programme which was a flagship programme in the agricultural programme. Over 200 genotypes had been identified for distribution which would increase the breeding pipeline and hopefully, this objective of minimising the importation of wheat would be met. This programme would also work with cotton balers, in partnership with CottonSA, where the idea was to assess the tabling equipment to assist these farmers in saving costs on harvesting and transporting cotton and maintaining high quality produce.
In February of this year, the DSI held a technology and innovation workshop, and this centre also facilitated access to technological information. He said the Agricultural Bioeconomy Innovation Partnership Programme (ABIPP) played a vital role in revitalising agriculture and promoting sector growth. The Minister of Finance had announced an extension of the Recession Development Incentive until 31 December 2033.
The Department funded the space programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), where the astrophysics proportion space programme focuses on sub-orbital launch vehicles, as a range of applications needed this low altitude capability. There had been successful Phoenix rocket tests, with a low-altitude rocket carrying experimental payloads, and a higher altitude rocket reaching a 25km altitude over the Indian Ocean.
For inclusive development, the Department and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have been looking at how unmanned aircraft technology could be used to foster space monitoring. The Department had acquired a commercial-grade unmanned aircraft. It had recruited a small enterprise, and the training and licensing of remote pilots had taken place. The programme had been scaled out to support unemployed graduates and to empower the participation of graduates in this growing industry.
The DSI had hosted successful workshops that focused on preparing innovation laboratories. The European Union (EU) was funding a programme at a total cost of R48 million, which the Department had been promoting. The DSI had also been working with the Department of Tourism, collaborating with the Technology and Innovation Agency, where 15 tourism technology products had been launched. This was held during the National Youth Commission Youth Month events on 23 June, and the ideas looked at product innovation and commercialisation. There had also been reports that the Minister had launched the construction of 3D technologies at the University of Johannesburg, working with the National Department of Human Settlements (DHS) and the department of human settlements at UKZN.
(A portion of the meeting was not recorded due to connectivity issues. See presentations for details)
Ms C King (DA) expressed her concern regarding the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Amendment Bill, but was pleased it had been approved. She asked if the feasibility studies conducted for the two new universities could be completed before the discussions in the National Assembly took place and if the Committee could receive an update on the progress of these studies. She expressed her concern over the provision norms for TVET colleges, as there was a recurring target that was not being met. What measures were being put in place to ensure that these colleges complied with the post-provisioning norms (PPNs)? What was the lecture:student ratio per course in these TVET colleges? What cost would the institution incur if they brought teaching staff onto the PPN system?
Ms D Sibiya (ANC) asked if the DSI had set timeframes for implementing the plans with the Department of Tourism, as mentioned in the presentation. She also asked how the Department would ensure that the process of filling the vacancies was adequately planned for. What were the examination outcomes of the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on reproductive health rights in rural populations? How was the Department dealing with the impact of this research?
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) asked DHET to provide the Committee with the findings of the report on gender equality and the GBV policy framework approved by the DG on 16 February. He also asked that the Department give the Committee a list of the new subject curricula at TVET colleges.
Ms N Chirwa (EFF) noted that the DHET needed to look into the continuous pattern in their Programme 1, and not simply provide the Committee with recommendations on how it would be fixed. The Department seemed to undermine the resolutions the Committee provides every quarter, and rather blames the legislation for the failure of services not being conducted. The Department should focus on building state capacity. She also asked the Department how many women applied for tenders, and what the reason was for overlooking these women applicants. She expressed her frustration that women have been overlooked, despite the recommendations the Committee had made on numerous occasions. As for Programme 5, she asked the Department what the reason was for employers closing down and being unable to take in graduates. More employers needed to shut down not necessarily due to COVID-19, but because of loadshedding. What was the Department’s contribution, beyond just placing learners in employment, but being active in building collaborative working environments?
She asked about the Department’s reasoning behind the target set in Programme 6, and what impact it had by not being achieved at all. She also asked the Department to elaborate on the support they provided to the grade 12 science and mathematics learners.
Mr B Pillay (ANC) congratulated the DSI and DHET on the achievements they had made. His first question was directed at the DSI. He expressed concern that only 18 out of more than 1 000 interns had been people with disabilities. Was this just trying to meet the employment quota? How could the Department go above that? The same applies to the funding of students. In Programme 1, who made up the selection committee on underperformance? Why could the targets they had set not been achieved? The delays in the presentation caused by several reasons were vague. What were the reasons for these delays?
He noted the importance of capacity building, and that this needed to be achieved. What was the plan to change this? Were there any discussions on how the Department could have avoided forfeiting the research development and innovation (RDI) projects due to non-expenditure?
He expressed his concern that the DHET had serious challenges around TVET colleges. Regarding the 0% statistic of accredited community learning centres, what was being done to empower them?
Mr B Yabo (ANC) said that it was encouraging to see the DHET had been able to spend 99% of its budget, but it had also acknowledged the fact that most of the budget was disbursed to parties within the Department. In the Department’s report, there was a common thread of compensation of employees and the challenge of unspent money. The bulk of it rested with TVET colleges. This looked to be a problem that had existed for a while. When did the Department anticipate this would be resolved? What actions have been taken to resolve this problem? Many of the targets that had been missed were due to the chief directorates being under-capacitated. Capacity refers to available human resources. This problem had a knock-on effect on targets that were not achieved. The Committee wanted to see the Department taking a hands-on approach to resolve this.
Mr Yabo appreciated the fact that it was difficult to aggregate the performance of the Department. The university programme was the best performing in the quarter, but he wanted to know what initiatives had been taken to ensure that the programmes were brought on par with this. Were the targets set by the Department realistic? The Minister pushed for the NSFAS to move into higher-end skills to ensure that these higher-end skills were prioritised. The Committee would like to see aggregated reports on this, with a breakdown of demographics of sectors that were targeted with this funding. The demographics would tell that those with a base income would be keener to enrol in postgraduate training as opposed to those who did not have a base income, as they would rather go to work. The Department should make the incentive attractive to those who do not have a base income.
His next question was regarding the Department’s three-year agreement with the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) to develop information communication technology (ICT) skills for youth. How many benefited from this programme and the workshops? What was the focus on rural and township youth?
There had been reports of traces of cholera found in water, which was a problem because many rely on the water from the Vaal River water system. Did the Department have a plan to respond on the water contamination crisis? Was there technology that the Department could deploy for wastewater treatment that could help with this crisis?
Mr W Letsie (ANC) advised both Departments that the APPs they had presented were not supported by a focused plan of how they would achieve their targets. He explained in detail the importance of having a focused plan to ensure these achievements were met, to avoid being accused of fiscal dumping. He referred to the dismal performance in the fourth quarter regarding the DHET’s programme 5. He asked what the eight other targets would have been.
He congratulated the Departments on being transparent with their reports, but urged that they use the media to share their good and bad progress with the public.
If the DHET’s individual branches did not execute their plans, there was no way that the Department could spend 100% of its money. These programmes were attached to the budget. His issue with this lay with the CFO’s department regarding the payment of invoices within 30 days. Last quarter, the CFO was asked why these invoices were not paid on time, and the CFO provided an unsatisfactory answer. He asked the CFO to provide a better answer to this question this time. He said that this was extremely important because the day of this meeting was the last day of the month, and employers were expected to pay their employees, so the end of the month was very stressful. He asked the CFO to tell the Committee why the Department took so long to pay these invoices, because this would negatively impact the small businesses that served the Department.
The Department was currently working closely with TVET management to ensure that all the necessary human resources (HR) requirements were implemented and met. There was also an under-spending in programmes 1,2,3 and 6. Which posts were vacant in the TVET colleges, and why were they vacant? He asked that the Minister provide this information in detail in writing. These vacant roles had a purpose, and they needed to be accounted for if employees did not fill them. He noted that this was not the first time the TVET colleges had experienced delays in filling vacant positions. He proposed that the Department formulate a plan to ensure this did not happen and that the Committee follow up on this in the future.
On behalf of Ms J Mananiso (ANC), who was not able to attend, Mr Letsie asked the Department what strategies it had in place to ensure that examiners and moderators adhered to the submission timeframes. Did the Department authorise irregular expenditure? If so, how much was incurred through this wasteful expenditure? She had also wanted to know in which branch this wasteful expenditure had taken place.
Minister Nzimande requested that the Chairperson excuse him if the meeting exceeded the expected time, as he had other commitments. In reference to the reports that the Committee had requested, he said the Department could not share them with the Committee until they had been submitted to the Cabinet.
The Minister had given the University of South Africa (UNISA) ten additional working days for their report, on top of the initial 14 days they had been granted. He did not want UNISA’s response to be submitted on the closing date, because he wanted the Department to have an opportunity to assess the report before it was brought to the Committee and Cabinet’s attention.
As for incentives provided in terms of energy by the DSI, the Department was leading the hydrogen society roadmap, which was an alternative energy source. There was also carbon capture work that was taking place.
The Minister addressed the concern over SETAs coming in on high-end skills, and made it clear that despite the problems that came with this, there was a lot of good work that these SETAs were conducting.
DDG Futshane asked the respective heads of branches to provide the answers to their respective questions.
She addressed questions on programme six regarding the non-accreditation of community college centres. She indicated that this target was concerning the fourth quarter. The non-accreditation was mainly due to not meeting the requirements for health and safety, and the Department was addressing this. The next question was about which SETAs worked with which colleges. All SETAs worked with all colleges, and there was a database that provided specific indications on this matter.
Ms Lulama Mbobo-Vava, DDG: Corporate Services, DHET, responded to the question about the generator that had affected the Department’s ability to meet the target of 98% connectivity, and said the Department had started the process to acquire a generator. However, when the Department was informed that it would relocate to the CSIR's premises, this process paused because the Department would not need a generator at this location. At the moment, the DHET has two generators utilised during loadshedding.
The year 2020 was meant to be the first year for implementing the provisioning norms approved by the Minister, but they had to be deferred to 2021 as most colleges were not ready for their implementation due to the lockdown. In 2021, the implementation took place in six colleges, which overlapped into 2022 due to disputes within the colleges. The remaining 24 colleges received the implementation in 2022. This year, the focus was filling vacancies and advertising these posts. The Department would submit a report with details pertaining to each college’s vacancies and the necessary information related to this.
Mr Mgiba addressed the matter of invoices not being processed. He said that only four invoices were not processed from two suppliers, mainly because of issues pertaining to validity.
The question from Ms King related to the progress of the NQF Amendment Bill. This had already been submitted to the President, and the Department awaited the President’s feedback.
Ms Makukule started by responding to the question about the percentage of procurement spent on women-owned businesses. She stated that the President pronounced this target in 2020 on Women’s Day. Unfortunately, her connection was lost at this time.
Mr Sam Zungu, DDG: TVET Branch, DHET, acknowledged that some responses from the TVET branch were going to be responded to in writing. Concerning the results that students receive for their assessments and examinations in TVET colleges, the students were given an opportunity to appeal these results if they were not in line with what they expected. The outcome of the results required a period of appeal before certificates were printed. Government printing of these certificates also took time because these printers were used for various departments. These were some of the reasons why this area experienced delays.
Over the past two years, there were a number of programmes that had been reviewed. The release of these programmes would be provided to the Committee. Some of these programmes had already been reviewed -- for example, mechanical drafting and electronics.
Issues around the alignment of examination cycles within the TVET colleges had formed part of the discussions that were going to be taking place at the seminar in August. A committee was looking into this, but it would come with its own issues, such as resources that needed to be employed.
The issue around the recruitment processes was still being investigated in the colleges, and once this had been concluded, the Department would provide the Committee with a conclusive report. As for measuring the progress of the implementation of reviewed programmes, he said that now would be too early to provide feedback on this matter. The Department normally gave it a three-year period before measuring the impact.
Ms Makukule was able to rejoin the meeting. She said that the target that the President had announced on Women’s Day in 2020 had been incorporated into the Department’s strategies. At the time, the Department had preferential procurement regulations that had been promulgated in 2017, and these regulations allowed organs of state to set aside procurement for the purpose of transformation. This included setting aside procurement from women-owned businesses. These regulations were still applicable when the target was set in 2020.
The Department had made considerations during the budget adjustment process after the state of implementation of the PPN policy. The Department quantified the value of the composition of those colleges in this adjustment. As a result, they requested R206 million to be moved to TVET colleges to allow these colleges to continue paying salaries. A further assessment was done, and it was realised that the challenges that colleges faced were specifically that the budget adjustment period had already passed. Neither the Department nor Treasury had the power to approve an extension. This could be approved only by Parliament. Because of this, the Department’s hands had been cut off with this under-spending.
Ms Makukule said she thought she had provided adequate responses to Ms Chirwa’s questions, but if there was anything left out, she would be happy to answer these in writing.
Mr Letsie had raised an issue about the invoices with a 30-day delay, which Ms Makukule had acknowledged was a concern. The Department was equally concerned about this target. Most of the invoices mentioned by Mr Mgiba had been delayed due to closures of buildings around June and July. This made it difficult to continue with business as normal. She admitted that the Department faced many challenges with these invoices from different service providers, but acknowledged that it was not an excuse, and that the Department continued to strive to better this.
The Department was unaware of any wasteful, fruitless or irregular expenditure incurred during the fourth quarter. As for the annual compliance on expenditure, today was the last day to submit the statements to the Auditor-General. No irregular or wasteful expenditure had been detected based on what had been submitted already. However, there was one transaction that was awaiting review that may fall into this category.
Mr Zukile Mvalo, DDG: Skills Development, DHET, explained that SETA's board governance standard had 13 indicators that tested if the SETAs met the governance standard. These included audit action plans, minutes of the accounting authority (AA) meetings and audit committee meetings, declaration of interests and approved codes of conduct. He also indicated that the SETAs know that they need to provide the Department with reports quarterly. Sometimes there was a delay with these report submissions. This information was relatively simple, so there should not be any challenges in this regard, but the Department issues non-compliance letters to these SETAs regardless.
With reference to businesses closing down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the President announced some tax relief measures during this time. One of these measures was the skills levies, so for the period of four months, the skills development system had implemented this. They had expected to receive R19 billion, but due to the delay from the skills levies, the revenue had gone down to R12.4 billion. That was the Department's contribution to the skills and levies systems for employers.
In 2021, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation increased the grant that would be paid to employers hosting apprentices, from R165 000 to R260 290 as of 1 April 2021. This incentivised the employers to open their workplaces to apprenticeships. The Department has seen positive results from this, having seen an increase in the number of artisans competing in the economy currently.
As for programme 5, it was difficult to set high targets for the future because of its quantitive nature. The economy played a vital role in this as well.
Mr Mvalo said that the graduate unemployment rate in South Africa was currently at 10.6% and had been stagnant since 2022. Graduate unemployment was not the country’s biggest challenge at this time, but if one were to look at other tertiary qualifications, unemployment stood at 23.5%. This has increased since the third quarter review. The majority of these graduates then ventured into learnership programmes. Approximately 37.6% of youth with no matric qualification were unemployed, and about 798 000 unemployed individuals had tertiary education. He said a staggering 3.2 million unemployed South Africans had no more than secondary school education. Those who had not completed secondary school education were just over one million unemployed individuals. The Department needed to forecast and catch up with this number. The Department needed to handle Programme 5 and its targets.
The Chairperson asked members of DSI to package their responses to address them in the following meeting. She apologised for the meeting running later than expected.
The meeting was adjourned.
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