PSC Report on functional accommodation for service delivery

Public Works and Infrastructure

25 October 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee was briefed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) on the Roundtable Report on Functional Accommodation. The report pointed to several inefficiencies in the work of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and its entity, the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE). It showed that the support was inadequate, largely because of systemic issues related to property and facilities, a high turnover of essential skills, and programmes not meeting expectations, with associated budget underspending at the PMTE.

Members of the Committee noted that the issues raised by the report were aligned with those that had been flagged by the report of the Auditor-General, as well as the concerns raised by the Committee itself over the past few years.

The PSC said it was committed to working with relevant structures and stakeholders to ensure progress in implementing the recommendations it had tabled. Regular meetings would be held with the leadership of the DPWI. The Commissioners requested the support of the Portfolio Committee to ensure the success of this process.

Meeting report

PSC on functional accommodation report

Opening remarks

Prof Mandlenkosi Makhanya, Commissioner, Public Service Commission (PSC), the lead commissioner for the flagship project, made some opening remarks, giving context to the report by the PSC. He said they had worked with a team from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which had brought professional built environment architects, land surveyors and other professionals with experience, into the project. The intention was to create a platform where knowledge could be shared, and to ensure collaboration amongst the stakeholders.

The primary focus had been on service delivery and how it was affected by the challenges presented. The Commission was pleased that it had been able to share the findings with key stakeholders, including the new Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure. The Commissioner noted that the Department had coupled the findings of the report with the issues raised by the Auditor-General (AG) for implementation, which the PSC found appropriate.

PSC presentation

Ms Irene Mathenjwa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Monitoring and Evaluation, PSC, said that through its various studies, the PSC had noted reports of inefficiencies with functional accommodation support and its negative impact on service delivery in the public service. The project's overall aim was to review the entire eco-system of the provision of functional accommodation to government, and to propose measures to ensure effective and efficient support within the public service.

The PSC hosted a roundtable discussion to understand the challenges faced by government and to identify short, medium and long-term solutions towards improved service delivery. The areas of concern, broadly, were the condition of immovable assets, lease planning and management, and institutional capacity and culture. The PSC report concluded that the support was inefficient due to factors such as systemic challenges in property and facilities, a high turnover of critical skills and underperforming programmes, with related budget under-spending at the Property Management Trading Entity (PMTE).

In 2022/23, the project's initiation began with exploratory and bilateral consultative discussions with key role players. This included efforts to obtain the acceptance and collaboration of such stakeholders as the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) Ministry and administrative leadership; the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), as well as the parliamentary Portfolio Committee. The report summarised the findings of the deliberations to be poor lease planning and management, a lack of joint procurement planning and management, inefficient financial planning and management, and inadequate capacity and processes.

The presentation concluded with key principles for the solution approach and recommendations.

(See presentation)


Mr W Thring (ACDP) commented that many of the findings presented were not new to the Committee, as they had witnessed some of the facilities, like the Telkom Towers. Challenges on the immovable asset register had been raised by the Committee before. He wanted to know, now that the report had been tabled, who was going to be responsible for ensuring that the recommendations by the PSC were followed through, and what systems were in place to ensure a turnaround?

Ms M Siwisa (EFF) noted that this was not a new department -- the only addition had been Infrastructure -- whereas Public Works had been there all along. The findings by the PSC explained why some departments in the public service wanted to take charge of their office accommodation responsibilities, pointing to the longstanding failures of the DPWI. The PSC had found that there was a lack of communication by the Department with its primary clients, the sister departments. The report also pointed to a lack of credible performance measurements, which meant there would be challenges with consequence management within the DPWI. She expressed concern that there were a lot of vacancies in strategic leadership positions within the Department, leading to instability and incoherence in its work as well as a lack of accountability. The latter affected such areas as budget management and spending. She hoped that the Department would use the reports of both the PSC and the AGSA to get its house in order.

Mr I Seitlholo (DA) enquired if the PSC had a methodology to monitor and ensure the implementation of the recommendations it had made to the DPWI. He recalled his earlier concerns about abandoned buildings and land parcels that were illegally occupied and continued to create an environment for criminal elements and affect citizens. The meeting of 7 June this year had seen the Acting Director-General present Circular 135, which would allow citizens to make submissions on the leasing out of properties across the country. Two weeks ago, the Acting DG informed the Committee that the Department would not open up this process again. The Committee had not received the promised list of properties that would be open for this, which had raised concerns about the validity of the said circular.

During the Budget Vote of Parliament, the Speaker of Parliament had expressed the intention to propose amendments to the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA) to allow the Secretary to Parliament to take charge of parliamentary assets. This raised the question of what the DPWI was doing to secure these assets, in light of the fire at Parliament, and the state of the accommodation villages of the institution. This seemed in line with the concerns raised by other departments on handling the assets by the Department and the PMTE.

He raised further concern about the number of properties the Committee had enquired about, and had not received feedback from the Department. This included the dilapidated state of the Excelsior Court in Durban and the Odendaalsrus Police Station in the Free State Province. Coordination and consultation mechanisms needed to be attended to by the Department.

Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) echoed the concerns of her colleagues, and commented that these were old challenges that had been raised by the Portfolio Committee, which had pointed to the leadership instability that was identified as an area of great concern. She wished to know how far the Department was with appointing a Director-General, to create stability at the top. Improvement needed to happen in the area of communication with line departments – what was the Department’s plan here? There needed to be more collaboration for innovation between the DPWI, line departments and entities. She further solicited the views of the PSC on its findings related to the unintended consequences of the procurement system, which had led to the tendering of the state, resulting in the loss of critical skills to the private sector. What was the way forward? She raised more concerns about the reported theft and vandalism that affected public buildings across the country. She asked how closely the Department worked with law enforcement to deal with these challenges.

Ms L Mjobo (ANC) enquired about the utilisation of facilities by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in terms of police stations, per province.

The Chairperson echoed the views of the Committee Members, that these were issues they had grappled with over the years. They were of the view that the Department had the potential to deal with them if it were to commit to these and other recommendations. She asked if the line departments that the PSC had assessed made use of the User Asset Management Plans in place, and if these had been submitted to the DPWI and the National Treasury.

PSC's response

Ms Mathenjwa responded to the question on the responsibility for implementing the report’s recommendations. She said the DPWI had presented the implementation plan at a meeting with the Minister. Structures like the Forum of South African Directors-General (FOSAD), amongst others, would be crucial in ensuring the implementation. The PSC would continue to monitor the activities around this. She requested the support of the Portfolio Committee to ensure ongoing oversight over time. Line function departments would also be brought on board. The Committee was advised to call the DPWI to account for progress, perhaps on a quarterly basis.

She remarked that departments were frustrated with the situation, hence they had asked for the devolution of asset responsibilities. The PSC had cautioned, however, that departments would need to be capacitated to take on this responsibility in the long run, so the conversation around this had to continue. She thought the proposals on alternative accommodation, like temporary structures, were welcome. The government still needed to be innovative on how services were provided, and to explore how citizens could access these where possible without physically going to offices, with the use of digital mechanisms. User asset management plans were there in the Department, but the people in charge of them did not have a sense of what business they were in due to a lack of capacity and proper organisational planning.

Ms Carmen Domingo-Swarts, Chief Director: Service Delivery and Compliance Evaluation, PSC, commented on the space utilisation audit. She said this should be undertaken, but suggested that buildings on the register needed to be categorised. This should include an audit of whether the bigger buildings were optimally utilised by occupants so that better allocation was done, and space was released for those departments that desperately needed the space.

Prof Makhanya said that the delegation had listened attentively to the views of the Committee. The conversations would form the basis for the planned quarterly engagements with the leadership of the DPWI. The Department would then have to finalise its implementation plan and time frame out of this. He emphasised the request for the support of the Portfolio Committee to monitor and ensure implementation. On the question of site visits, also articulated by Members of the Committee, he agreed that these needed to happen, including consultations with those involved at the national, provincial, and local levels of government. A new model was needed. The PSC needed to investigate the organisation’s state and capacity, and use its given powers to intervene where necessary.

Ms Yasmin Bacus, KZN Commissioner, PSC, observed that the qualitative research done by the PSC was aligned with the findings of the AG, which spoke to the credibility of the PSC investigation and report. She thanked the Committee for embracing the report. The PSC would undertake site visits and would take issues to the quarterly consultations with departmental leadership. She agreed that the leadership instability in the DPWI was not good for service delivery and efficiency. Efforts to build an ethical state must continue, to rid the public service of corruption. New models for this kind of work must be explored to build a developmental state.

Mr Seitlholo enquired about the vacancies in the PSC in three provinces, and when they would be filled. 

Prof Makhanya responded that despite the vacancies, the work was ongoing while the appointment processes were underway. He also enquired if the Department was represented at the meeting.

The Chairperson commented that she had not seen anyone from the Department and committed to follow up on this. 

In her closing remarks, the Chairperson commended the work of the PSC. The Committee would continue with its oversight work to ensure its recommendations were implemented.

Committee Minutes

The Committee Secretary tabled the minutes of the meeting of 10 October.

Mr Seitlholo moved the adoption of the minutes. Mr Thring seconded. The minutes were adopted.

The Committee Secretary tabled the minutes of the meeting of 18 October.

Ms Njobo moved the adoption of the minutes. Ms Van Schalkwyk seconded. The minutes were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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