Update on the state of governance in the higher education sector; Overall performance of Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) during the 6th administration

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

06 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation convened to receive a briefing from the Department of Higher Education and Training on the state of governance in the higher education sector as well as the overall performance of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) during the sixth administration.

The Department reported that there was an increase in the membership of SETAs by young people. SETAs are mainly targeted at the most marginalised members of society. Since 2021, no SETA has been placed under administration and audit reports have come back clean. Some SETAs have not performed well, notwithstanding the report that shows general improvement.

The Department has worked with the Committee to ensure that there is an increase in the apprenticeship programme membership, from 165 000 to 260 000, from 01 April 2021. The Department said it played an important role in meeting the State of the Nation Address targets, which had led to exceeding the 10 000 target to 16 000 this year. Last year, they had to increase the targets from 10 000 to 20 000 – meeting and exceeding the target. The Department also has put a lot of effort into expanding the post-school education and training opportunities for young people in South Africa. The SETAs have been massively investing in construction skills development centres, with two of the main ones being the Motheo Artisan Development Centre and the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre. Young girls are being encouraged to go into artisanal professions.

The Department stressed the importance of the vetting process of potential members of council. These council members contribute a great deal to the governing and managing institutions of higher learning. So, it is vital that members of these boards are qualified to do the work that they are supposed to do. It is also important that these board members are not given too much autonomy and that there must be an oversight body to oversee the work done by the council.

The Chairperson stated that there is a need to eradicate the patriarchy, chauvinism and sexism in the different SETAs. Women also need to be given equal opportunity in these positions. It is not difficult to see the work that women are able to do.

On the role that SETAs and skills development have to play in ensuring that more skills are generated, a Member said that it makes no sense that there is a high unemployment rate when so much focus is placed on developing skills. How equipped are TVET Colleges with their skills programmes, in order to ensure that they are aligned to the job market skills that are required? Regarding the number of bursaries awarded, what was the planned number of bursaries awarded? What are the targets based on? Were all these targets on bursaries achieved?

Members asked who was responsible for conducting the vetting process of board members. Was the vetting process conducted after the board members were appointed? Did all the board members meet the vetting criteria? If not, how many board members did not meet the criteria? Is there a standardised vetting process for all SETAs?

Another Member pointed out that certain white institutions are treated leniently by the Department when there are racist practices, as opposed to black institutions which are treated more harshly. How is this being fixed, as it comes across as the Department being unable to function on principle?


Meeting report

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting, and invited the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to account for governance in the higher education sector and the overall performance of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) during the sixth administration.

The Chairperson went on to state the importance of governance and management of institutions. This informs the Committee of its ability to fulfil the mandate of the institutions and ensure that young people have the adequate knowledge and skills to be active participants in the economy and active social participants in communities. When issues of governance and management are not addressed, institutions can get to the core business of teaching and learning.

The Chairperson stated that there is a view in society that SETAs are not fulfilling their duties, not meeting their targets or not doing what they are supposed to be doing in terms of upskilling, reskilling, and just generally skilling citizens of the country.

It would also be worthwhile to get an update on the state of governance in SA institutions of higher learning and get a sense of the state of the SETAs. This is also in light of the Committee concluding its term in the sector administration and wanting to see and hopefully seeing progress since the start of the sector administration in 2019.

Briefing by DHET: Update on the State of Governance in Higher Education and Overall Performance of the SETAs during the Sixth Administration
Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, Director-General, started the presentation by explaining the SETAs and their role. He mentioned that there are 21 SETAs in total, and they were established in terms of Section Nine of the Skills Development Act. For the period covering 01 April 2020 to 31 March 2023, these were aligned to the Higher Education, Science and Innovation Department with the National Development Plan.

He went on to explain that the National Skills Development Plan, which guides the disbursement of the skills development levy, was established on 07 March 2019. The DG then explained that his team would go through the presentation with the Committee.

The DG spoke about the number of outcomes that were set out. These included identifying and increasing the production of occupations in high demand, the DHET linking education and the workplace, improving the level of skills in the South African workforce, and improving access to occupationally directed programmes.

The DHET supports the growth of the public college system, skills development support for entrepreneurship and cooperative governance. The DHET covers the support of worker-initiated training, and this will include the support of career development services as well.

The SETAs are also guided by the strategic outcomes for the medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) for 2019-2025. This includes an expanded access to Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA) opportunities, improved efficiency and success of the PSETA system; improved quality of the said provision, and an excellent business operation within DHET.

This needs to be taken into account in the end for the 2020/2021 financial year and used as a background to explain how the Department can lead these initiatives—notwithstanding the reduction of R8 billion or 42% of its budget.

The contribution made by the skills development levy system was given to employers, and employers were given four-month skills development levy relief as part of the COVID-19 tax relief measures. This is also an indication that, as a department confronted with the pandemic, it introduced a set of measures that sought to deal with these matters.

The Department reported that it had subsequently revised the annual performance plans and targets, and presented these to Parliament in 2019. The targets were focused on the number of learners and students that were going to be placed in workplaces.

They also mentioned that, despite a general improvement in system performance since the pandemic, this improvement was not to the level of meeting some of the AP targets. They further stated that the performance targets were not revised for the subsequent years, owing to the continued implication of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The targets that required employee involvement included the workplace based learning in 2019 and 2020, which meant that what needed to be achieved was to get 158 651 students placed in the workplaces and in the 2020/ 2021 period.

The DG said that in the financial years 2020 to 2023, the placement achievement of 99 000 showed an increase, and this is the same with targets related to artisan development – like artisans found competent in the financial year 2019/20. The achievement was at the level of 24 000 and then dropped to 15 000 during the pandemic, but it has now spiked up to 19 000 which was still below the target by 4 400.

In the previous week, the National Artisan Development Academy in the Free State was developed at the tune of R250 million, which was commendable. In advent of democracy, the DHET had inherited a single training centre for artisans located in Pretoria and now there are 37 of these. Because of that, the DHET has reached 65% of the NDP targets around the training of the artisans.

The DHET has worked with its employers because this has been the focal point to encourage employers to turn their workplaces into training spaces. The DHET has worked with the Portfolio Committee to ensure that there is an increase in the apprenticeship programme membership, from 165 000 to 260 000, from 01 April 2021.

Upon the programme that was aimed at consulting social partners, these developments can be attributed to the introduction of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERP). This was established in 2020 as a response to the global health pandemic, and now there is economic recovery which is evident in placement numbers.

The DG stated that it played an important role in the meeting of the State of the Nation Address targets, which had led to exceeding the 10 000 target reaching 16 000 this year. Last year, they had to increase the targets from 10 000 to 20 000 and still and exceeded that target.

They recognised that placement was affecting graduates to workplaces; solving this would be an important and strategic initiative. However, the President had also made it very clear to the ministry that they had to look beyond just placing students but to ensure that job creation initiatives continued to yield the results that they had set out.

The DHET has a lot of effort in expanding the post-school education and training opportunities for young people of South Africa. The SETAs have been massively investing in construction skills development centres, with two of the main ones being the Motheo Artisan Development Centre and the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre. This link to the Sekhukhune TVET College in Limpopo was with their training held on 21 October 2021. These are symbols in communities where they have developed these centres. The centres are not just ideas, but they are monuments of progress that characterise the sixth administration. They are privileged to have been part of the journey to change in the lives of 1000s of South Africans through these initiatives currently serving our communities.

The DG expressed satisfaction, stating that the LG SETA (Local Government SETA) had emerged as one of the outstanding SETAs, particularly for not succeeding in finalising its audit outcomes. They attributed this to disputes regarding the findings of the AG, noting that such matters would be reported back through the normal process of the AG.

Certain SETAs have not performed well, notwithstanding the report that shows general improvement. The BANKSETA has received a qualified audit opinion on payables from non-exchange transactions. This Western Cape SETA received a qualified audit opinion on grants. KITA received a qualified opinion on skills development grants payable due to inadequate records. Education, Training and Development SETA (ETDP-SETA) received a qualified opinion on commitments. Due to inadequate accounting records, the Chippa Training Academy (CTA) also received a qualified opinion on discretionary returned commitments. The services seat received a qualified opinion on commitments, as the entity systems to process and maintain records relating to the projects that were not adequate.

The DG explained that those were the features they had been carefully examining through their monitoring systems. They emphasised the importance of ensuring that audit action plans were developed and that mitigation strategies were in place, ensuring that they continued to yield results.

Mr Zukile Mvalo, DDG: Skills Development, DHET, presented the medium-term strategic framework outcomes economic reconstruction and recovery plan.
He started off by mentioning that there had been a significant investment in Motheo College. They stated that they had contributed R450 million to one of the SETAs for the construction of the National Artisan Academy. They added that this investment was in acknowledgement of the support provided to centres of specialisation since their introduction in 2019.

Mr Mvalo referred to Section Nine of the Skills Development Act and highlighted the ongoing process of finalising the National Skills Development Plan. It was agreed upon that there was a need to stabilise the system. Previously, there was a national skill development strategy lasting five years, negotiated at NEDLAC and overseen by the National Skills Authority.

The proposal was to extend the lifespan of the strategy to 10 years in the form of the National Skills Development Plan, aligning it with the National Development Plan (NDP 2030). Thus, the NSTP would cover the period from 01 April 2020 to 31 March 2030.

Additionally, the Skills Development Act mandated the Minister to re-establish or amalgamate the SETAs as necessary. Whether five, twenty, or forty SETAs were needed, this ministerial establishment would continue the dispensation in place prior to the 2020 Italian escape until 31 March 2030.

SETAs have CEOs and accounting authorities, normally referred to as boards. They have a five-year lifespan in alliance with the National Skills Development Plan.
In 2020, the President introduced the ERP in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan targets particular sectors, such as infrastructure investment and delivery and localisation through industrialisation so that the economy can flourish.

Mr Mvalo stated that the Green Recovery interventions are a support structure for the recovery and growth of tourism creative and cultural industries. This area was destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are investing skills, especially working with the relevant SETA.

Mr Mvalo further stated that SETAs are mandated by the Skills Development Act to develop Sector Skills Plans (SSP). This SSP is structured into six and was developed by the DHET. This is the framework in which the plan must be developed.

Mr Mvalo mentioned that economic performance was very important and skilling the nation ultimately contributes to that performance. This indicates that there is a relationship between skills development and the economy. There is a need to understand employers in the economy. SETAs also need to be geared towards understanding what is happening in the country and not just the SETA itself.

These six chapters in the SSP include a sector profile in chapter one which covers the key role players, economic performance and the labour market profile. Chapter two covers the key skills drivers which have to align with the national strategies and plans. Chapter three involves occupational shortages and skills gaps. Chapter four includes the sector partnerships, which are planned and existing relationships. Chapter five is the SETA monitoring and evaluation. Finally, Chapter six is the strategic skills priority actions – the findings and recommendations chapter.

In terms of the Skills Development Levy, any employer whose gross wage bill exceeds R500 000 per annum must paying one percent towards the Skills Development Levies. Employers must submit an Annual and Training Report (ATR) to their SETAs in their own sectors.

If SETAs have surpluses, then they must present a business plan to the Department on why this is. If the court is satisfied, then they can keep these funds. Otherwise, if the court is not convinced, the money would be placed in the National Skills Fund. Here, these funds will then be deployed to other areas of priority.

Mr Mvalo then spoke about the expenditure for the Administration; Mandatory Grant and Discretionary Grants for the period of 2019/20– 2022/23. He said that these numbers began to decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2021, these expenditures began to increase. The decrease in expenditure has an impact on what the SETAs can offer from time to time. The period of 2022/2023 had the highest expenditure in all of the critical items.

In the first quarter of 2020, there was a workforce of about 16.4 million. When the nation was affected by COVID-19, the workforce dropped to about 14.2 million. After COVID-19 this number went up to 16.7 million, which was higher than the pre-COVID period.

Mr Mvalo gave an overview of learners who were entering the artisanal trades. A total of 16 218 learners entered in 2019. In 2022, 14 379 learners entered the artisanal programme. This indicates that, over the years, there has been economy recovery. So, the employers have an appetite for opening up earlier.

In particular, the DDG mentioned Indlela which is not a training apprenticeship initiative but a trade testing centre. These are the people that would be going for the testing. In 2019/2020, this number was at 3 056. In 2020/2021 it was 1 849, and in 2021/2022 it increased to 2 895.

In terms of workplace-based learning, this went down in 2021. From 2022 to 2023, there has been an increase in this work-based learning, and this indicates that there is growth in the economy. Mr Mvalo stated that, even though these figures show an improvement, these are not meeting the current targets.

The targets which were set were for during the COVID-19 pandemic period. During the 2021/22 period, there was a total of 19 536 learners who participated in artisanal trades – a significant increase from the 2020/21 period, which had 15 106 learners who completed the artisanal trades. He stated that 23% of these learners are women, and this is where more work needs to be done. Young girls are being encouraged to go into artisanal professions. There are also a number of workers and unemployed who were either registered or certificated during 2018/19 – 2022/23. This shows that these SETAs have an impact.

In terms of the audit outcomes for the financial year that ended 31 March 2023, Mr Mvalo said that, for BANKSETA, certain interventions were put in place – such as quarterly monitoring of payables in accordance with the audit action plan. The DHET has also met with the Auditor-General on the implementation of the audit outcomes.

The DDG specifically touched on the AgriSETA, a SETA concerned with resource production, processing of food and the growing of trees. This sector also has the following subsectors: seed; pest control; fibre; tobacco; poultry; aquaculture; milling; pet food; animal food; sugar; horticulture; grain and cereals and red meat.

The DG concluded the presentation by stating that, in terms of the figures, progress has been made with the SETAs. In the 2019 period, five SETAs received clean audits, in the 2021 & 2022 period, six SETAs received clean audits. Between 2022 and 2023, eight SETAs received clean audits. This confirms that the internal control measures within these SETAs is improving. The DG also stated that there is no SETA which currently under administration, and this is due to the way SETAs have been governed and in their performance levels.

For context, the DG stated that, in 2010, three SETAs were put under administration. In 2011, one SETA was under administration; in 2013, one was put under administration; in 2014, one SETA was put under administration; in 2015 one SETA was put under administration. Lastly, in 2017 to 2019, there was no SETA put under administration due to poor performance.

In 2020, one SETA was put under administration. But from 2021, no SETAs have been placed under administration. This was due to the interventions that have been put in place. The DG reiterated that value has been placed on the monitoring of the SETAs. The SETAs are a significant factor in addressing the challenges facing the economy and society, such as unemployment and equality.

[See attached presentation for more details]

Mr T Letsie (ANC) lamented that the presentation was sent to the Committee late and so this made it difficult to understand the presentation. He also stated that the presentation did not include TVET Colleges and other branches, and that the presentation was just a summary that did not go into depth about the performance of the DHET.

The Chairperson noted the concerns raised by Mr Letsie. She then asked the Members if the DG could explain the performance of other branches like universities, skills development, the TVET branch and the CET branch. The Chairperson expressed that presentations need to be comprehensive enough to be understood.

Mr Letsie stated that the diagrams provided were not clear and so it was difficult to understand what they were illustrating. Mr Letsie asked that the graph be explained because it was unclear. He also went on to state other issues like providing due dates for reports that are due. He stated that there was no due date for the progress report to be provided by the administrator from the Mangosuthu University of Technology, as this university was placed under administration from October 2022.

He further asked whether the university was on track to appoint a new vice chancellor as this process takes some time. There were further unclear sections in the presentation slides which Mr Letsie sought clarity, on such as the violent occurrences at the University of Fort Hare. Furthermore, a matter is being investigated at the University of Mpumalanga, but this did not include who exactly would be conducting the research.

Regarding the appointment of new councils at TVET Colleges, the terms of a number of councils have ended, but there is no indication of new council members being appointed or if there are any interviews being held to fill these positions if applicable, or if the term of office has been extended.

Regarding the outcomes of the SETAs, Mr Letsie stated that the SETA which has had the most engagements with the Committee is the services SETA. And in terms of the slides, the services SETA was the only one which has continued with its qualified audit opinion. He stated that there is a serious problem with that SETA, and this issue needed to be addressed. Mr Letsie sought to find out whether there has been any monitoring of this SETA, and what work was currently being done with this SETA; whether there is any progress in this SETA; if the allegations of corruption have been investigated. How far is the stabilisation of this SETA going? There are also safety issues and so all the officials in this SETA have bodyguards with them. What safety measures have been put in place to guard against this danger?

He also commended the SETAs’ performance, especially in the 2022/23 financial year. He also stated with the SETAs that some are not making full use of the budget that they have been provided indicating underspending and this brings into question whether funds are being effectively used.
He asked what the targets were for enrolling unemployed persons in the entrepreneurial and digital skills programmes. Were these targets achieved? If not, how many persons were enrolled? What were the reasons for not achieving the targets?

Regarding the number of bursaries awarded, what were the planned number of bursaries awarded? What are the targets based on? Were all these targets on bursaries achieved? If not, what could the low application be attributed to? Regarding the funding surpluses, what are the reasons for incurring these surpluses? Mr Letsie also asked what plans have been put in place to curb these surpluses. As these funds are meant to be used to lessen the unemployment rate in the country, perhaps they can be shifted elsewhere to where it is required.

Lastly, he asked who was responsible for conducting the vetting process of board members. Was the vetting process conducted after the board members were appointed? Did all the board members meet the vetting criteria? If not, how many board members did not meet the criteria? Is there a standardised vetting process for all SETAs?

On the role that SETAs and skills development have to play in ensuring that more skills are generated, Ms C King (DA) said that it makes no sense that there is a high unemployment rate when so much focus is placed on developing skills. How equipped are TVET Colleges with their skills programmes to ensure that they are aligned to the job market skills that are required? As it stands, it does not seem that what is required is what is currently being supplied.

Ms King went on to state that some institutions, like UNISA, were not ready to fully adapt to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Furthermore, many tertiary institutions are still struggling to cope with the advancement of digital technology which is taking place. This is the function of councils, as they can ensure that transitions take place quicker and more effectively.

Regarding the apprenticeship programmes, what relationship do these programmes have with the Department of Basic Education? Ms King mentioned that there needs to be synergy between TVET, CETs and schools to make sure that skills are not just reaching matriculants but also individuals who do not have matric.

Ms King also noted that the DG did not mention the challenges brought on with the load shedding, which are disruption of connectivity and learning. The DG should have shown how teaching and learning could go on unhindered. Ms King also questioned whether universities are autonomous, given that when there are issues with university councils, the government needs to get involved, and then it becomes a political issue. She also stated that what the presentation lacked was a policy review, such as an HR policy and transformation policy, which is in line with what is expected of institutions by 2030.
She also made mention of the composition of university/TVET councils as not all universities follow the same structure when it comes to whether members of the SRC form part of the council or if it is just university/TVET staff members forming part of the council. She suggested that the composition should be the same for all tertiary institutions, and this should be should be government gazetted.

Ms King pointed out that many of the board members do not have the necessary skills required for the SETAs that they are supposed to be leading. She mentioned that, without a skilled workforce, there will not be levies. These board composition, Ms King said, would need to be re-examined to ensure that political alignment is not the main focus and people in these sectors have experience so that SETAs can be steered into the right direction. This is especially with the financial sectors where there needs to be skilled personnel to manage the SETAs finances.

Ms K Khakhau (DA) agreed with Mr Letsie and stated that the presentation lacked quite a lot of information which needed to be given. She asked, regarding the projects created: how much money was spent? What are the outcomes and the benefits of these projects? Were the funds worth spending on these projects? Are there failures or improvements? The presentation simply contained a summary of the administrative processes.

Ms Khakhau also highlighted that there is a fear that SETAs have become a dumping ground for ‘sub-rejects’ who did not perform well in school, and that is why SETAs are not meaningful and do not have useful projects. She asked the DG whether there was any truth to these sentiments. What is being done to ensure that the quality of people who have completed the SETA programmes are qualified to do the job that they are doing? Is there any audit of the current administration? When last was this done?

How many of the unemployed individuals who participated in the SETAs were employed after participating in the SETAs? There is no tracing of where the individuals are and in which industry they get employed.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) commended the DG for the declining number of SETAs that have been placed under administration, given that there had been poor management within SETAs. Since the inception of the SETAs, there needs to be an examination of the effectiveness of SETAs. Is it necessary to have all the boards that there are, as some of the people on these SETAs are not qualified to be on the boards?

Dr Boshoff also mentioned that he is not in favour of changing the SETA curriculum, which has been in place for 20 years, as this could cause instability. He stated that it is difficult to obtain workplace experience when employers are reluctant to employ people who do not have much experience. He explained that a job seeker is in that position because they have not been given a chance to gain experience. The onus is placed on the employee to prove that they are the right person for employment. How can political parties contribute towards the sort of qualifications that are needed when individuals seek to go into the job market?

Ms N Chirwa (EFF) asked about the issue of the double dipping of funds from one source and receiving funds from another source, given that the funding provided by government is insufficient. How is this classified? Is it double dipping? Should it be stopped? How will the DHET work towards dealing with this issue?

Regarding the vetting process of SETA boards, Ms Chirwa mentioned that there could be a larger underlying issue, such as nepotism and exploitation. How can the Department conduct an investigation into this?

With governance, Ms Chirwa stated that certain white institutions are treated leniently by the Department when there are racist practices, as opposed to black institutions that are treated more harshly. How is this being fixed, as it comes across as the Department being unable to function on principle?

Certain recommendations have been made, but they have been ignored while others have been applied. With the current investigations taking place in certain institutions of higher learning and others being placed under administration, does the Department consider the independence of the individuals conducting these investigations?

Mr B Yabo (ANC) asked why there are vacancies for chancellors, vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors at universities.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) reiterated that the DHET needed to do the presentation again and submit it to the Committee within seven days, with all the missing elements addressed by the other Members present. Ms Mananiso agreed that progress has been made with the SETAs, but she also stated that there are still SETAs that face problems. What is the DHET doing to ensure that these SETAs perform adequately and perform as they should? The seventh administration needs to make sure that the SETAs perform adequately, as they target the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. No SETAs should be left behind.

Ms Mananiso said that governance in terms of the vacant positions creates instability and that there needs to be an indication of when these positions will be filled. Ms Mananiso stated that on 23 October 2023, the Auditor General stated that the local government SETA had not submitted its financial statements and asked for an update on this issue.

Ms Mananiso also stated that project management has always been a challenge with some of the SETAs. So, they struggle to produce commitment registrations that are complete. She wanted to know how this was being addressed. How is the monitoring and evaluation of these SETAs? Are there designated people who are monitoring these SETAs?

Furthermore, Ms Mananiso also stated that most SETAs were affected by budget cuts. So, she asked how the budget cuts affected the SETAs and how this was dealt with. She also emphasised the need for a spreadsheet to indicate how many people from the learnerships, apprenticeships, and skills development training have been employed, and their location (rural/urban). She expressed her contentment with the artisan training programmes. She suggested curriculum guidance documents for all the artisan programmes, so that even people who do not have access to the internet would still be able to access information on the particular SETA.

Ms Mananiso further went on to speak about an integrated ICT system so that activities within the SETAs (legal/illegal) can be monitored. She told the Committee that this new system be created to oversee work being done and can be used to curb corruption in the SETAs.

The Chairperson stated that the presentation should have given the Committee a sense of how the SETAs are performing. This has mainly been done through the SETAs governance and management. So, this means that the Committee does not have the opportunity to look into the progress of the work that has been done through the SETAs.

The Chairperson stated that the Construction SETA was presenting on the flooding which occurred in the Free State, Kwa Zulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape, and a question arose as to whether there is adequate building capacity to assist with rebuilding of infrastructure. This SETA’s CEO stated that they are not responsible for the building of the fallen structures; they just delegate the tasks at hand.

This means that the CEO did not take into consideration that they need to ensure that the funding the SETA receives is put to good use. These funds are generated to create adequate skills, and the question is whether, through tax payers' money, the desired outcome was being produced. The Chairperson stated that the desired outcome is building skills, which would lead to the betterment of society. The Chairperson also commended the work that has already been done in the SETAs but also asked what is causing the stagnation of some of the SETAs.

The Chairperson stated that the presentation should have also included a slide on the leadership breakdown of the SETAs and TVET Colleges. Furthermore, how does the DHET communicate with individuals on the progress of their application to be part of the council? It is vital to place people in these positions for stability in the SETAs, TVET Colleges, and universities. The Chairperson also mentioned that the PSET community must also be included in these meetings.

The Chairperson also stated that patriarchy, chauvinism, and sexism must be eradicated in the different SETAs. Women must also be given equal opportunity in these positions. It is not difficult to see the work that women can do. The leadership of SETAs needs to be more intersectional and representative, and this starts with including women in these spaces.

Regarding university councils, the Chairperson spoke about the composition of councils. It is usually made up of non-academic staff, organised labour and academic staff. The Chairperson asked the DHET if they could find a way to bring in external labour in these councils without taking away the autonomous nature of the councils. She explained that there should be intervention instead of interference in these councils – so that they can actually work towards bringing about change in communities.

She insisted that, at times, the Committee and DHET members may take a relaxed approach when it comes to dealing with things. She said that the DHET can play a mediatory role in supporting institutions. She also went on to state that institutional autonomy cannot be used bar co-operative governance. The DHET can also assist with the institution, as this can lead to institutions being placed under administration when they actually need assistance in their governance. She also mentioned that the Minister had previously spoken about a review of the Higher Education Act, which sought to find tools to support institutions in overcoming governance and management challenges.

Mr B Yabo (ANC) pointed out the trend of TVET Colleges and SETAs becoming reserves and said there perhaps should be a fund created where the SETAs can take funds from these reserves and put these monies into the created fund. There is a consistent return of funds by institutions to National Treasury. This means that the issue is not a question of the lack of money, but rather a question of whether there is a lack of leadership to adequately manage funds.

Regarding governance, Mr Yabo stated that perhaps certain powers must be taken away from the councils. Where there is an issue with the actual council itself, it should not also be the same council to appoint judges to investigate the council itself as it creates distrust. Furthermore, this council should also not be allowed to be the ones to decide whether or not it will apply the recommendations given by this panel of judges. Is this what institutional autonomy means? Does council only accounts to itself?

Mr Yabo then mentioned that SETAs should be better regulated to prevent service providers from sharing their list of beneficiaries, and there is no way for the SETAs to know that this is occurring. These service providers behave like banks for SETAs. There is no training for the service providers, and there is no tracking of how these funds are being distributed or spent. This is why there needs to be some sort of regulation of these SETAs.

He went on to state that when entities are appointed to investigate indiscretions, recommendations are made. Are these recommendations applied? Can empirical evidence be provided that placing universities under administration works and brings solutions? If this has not been proven to work, then should different solutions be provided?

Mr Yabo then went on to ask about how one can become an assessor at a university. Is there a cooling period for when one can become an assessor after being on the university council? He mentioned that the process for appointing members of a new council is left with the outgoing council to appoint the new council, and this is flawed given factionalism. Are the members of the council fit for office so that a university is not placed under administration due to the collapse of governance?

The Chairperson reemphasised that the questions posed by the Committee Members are critical. Even if some of the questions cannot be answered in the meeting, the DHET has to recognise that the Committee highlights major problems. Many of these problems stem from statutes and policy. This directly speaks to the DHET as they are the ones who create the policy so that it can be implemented. The Committee has been voted in by the citizenry to check that the DHET is doing the work that they have been appointed to do.

Members of the DHET need to hire people who are qualified to perform their duties. People on these SETAs need to understand the direction in which these SETAs are heading into so that they can effectively work towards that goal.

DHET’s Response
The DG started off by conveying his apologies to the Committee for the presentation lacking the required information. He stated that there is a difference between governance in smaller SETAs and larger SETAs. He addressed the Education White Paper Three based on the questions related to transformation in higher education.

The discourse discussed in the paper was not simply ideological; it was practical in its application. These principles were applied to a racism incident that occurred at the University of Stellenbosch. A DG of the DHET was sent to the university to address the issue of transformation in the institution. A judge was appointed to investigate the urination incident.

The investigation led to the appointment of a new chancellor. It was decided that these kinds of recommendations should not just be applied to this university, but they should also be applied to other universities where similar incidences have occurred. The DG thanked Members of the Committee for these questions on transformation and governance and for the measures that have been put in place to eradicate these incidences.

On the presentation itself, the DG stated that there were certain elements left out, as the TVET Colleges had previously been covered in the presentation, and the presentation should now focus on SETAs. He explained that this is why the presentation was presented as such and that this would be further explained when the specific questions by the Committee Members would be answered.

The White Paper on Education was greatly useful in realising the department's goals. He admitted that the DHET has certain shortcomings and that certain changes could have been made.

This paper also deals with issues around governance and the need to make changes to it. It was also significant that the DG pointed out that the framework has also managed to establish a single and well-coordinated system. The DHET’s job would be to deal with the problems and errors in the system. The DG stated that the DHET is committed to the work that they have been mandated to do.

Dr Marcia Socikwa, DDG: Universities, DHET, explained that the diagrams which were used were the standard set by the American Universities Professors Institute. The diagrams will be reviewed and simplified if needed. Regarding the report due by the administrator at Mangosuthu University of Technology: the report is due in March. The DHET is still awaiting the report from the administrator to determine when the university would be able to function on its own. The appointment of the vice chancellor is on the way. Regarding the vacant vice chancellor position, Dr Socikwa explained that there has been a lack of interest, as they had not received a lot of applications for this position. People do not see the value of applying for these positions. Regarding the investigation at the University of Mpumalanga, Dr Socikwa said that DHET is the body that conducts the investigations.

Regarding Ms King’s question on a policy for institutions, Dr Socikwa said that there has been one put out for public commentary because of the interest shown by the public. She added that the policy will also link to the review of the Higher Education Act, and the review is currently underway. In addressing Ms Chirwa’s question on whether different institutions are being treated differently, she stated that this question would need further research. However, women are supported as much as possible. The DG has met with every female vice chancellor and advised them.

The report into the investigation on racism at the University of Stellenbosch will influence how similar incidents are treated at other universities. The chancellor has condemned the matter and said that this matter will soon come to conclusion.

On the question of transformation, the DHET has used UCT as a starting point for what kind of measures they have put in place for transformation at the university.

Regarding the reserves that universities have, she said that this is for when these institutions face a particular crisis and need funds for this. The Reserve Bank and National Treasury have raised questions about these reserves that universities create. Universities have approached departments on how best they can deal with this matter.

Dr Socikwa said that is an issue which needs to be dealt with the many stakeholders involved, such as the universities and Treasury, to determine how much stock a university can build over time and how they build this stock that should be allocated for certain operations.
On the question of the review of the Higher Education Act, Dr Socikwa mentioned that this is currently underway, and it is in conjunction with the NSFAS Act which is also being reviewed as the two are related.

On the fitness of members of council, Dr Socikwa averred that the DHET has been in engagements with the Institute of Directors, which vets all directors who become part of their membership. The DHET is seeking to draft an MoU to recommend a panel to represent the ministry, which will be sourced from the Institute of Directors. These will be members who have been vetted, tested and cleared of any wrongdoing. The Act also states that the DHET must embrace members who have experience in the higher education environment.

Mr Letsie clarified his concerns about the diagrams on the provided slides. He explained that the problem was not about the diagrams being too technical; it was mainly about the incomplete presentation. Regarding the diagrams, they were not visible enough, so the formatting of the diagrams was the problem.

Dr Sishi sought to add to Dr Socikwa’s comment on the reserves. He reported that the DHET has been engaging with National Treasury, and the issue of reserves was viewed as a major concern. A task team would be set up that would look at all reserves and figure out whether the reserves could possibly be put to better use when the country needs it. This task team would include staff from TVET Colleges, universities and community learning programmes. This report will be shared with the committee once it is ready.

This reserve issue is one that requires time and scientific research to see how these funds are currently being sped in universities. This research must also not undermine the autonomy of universities in raising funds for their particular needs.

Mr Sam Zungu, DDG: TVET College Education, DHET, spoke to the questions of governance, the appointment of council members, and the appointment of principals. In relation to the appointment of principals, with support from corporate services, an update on all the vacancies for principles and vice chancellors should be provided by the next meeting with the Committee.

On the appointment of council members, Mr Zungu said that all processes had been concluded as required. The process that takes the longest is the vetting and verification of the members. To address the issues raised by the previous council, it is vital that qualified people are put in these positions to improve the state of corporate governance in institutions.

These vetting and verification processes are done by external parties, and this is what causes delays. But the report by the Mangosuthu University of Technology was for early March as the ministry requested for this time frame. After consultation with the ministry, an exact date will be provided for when the report can be viewed by the Committee.

With building the capacity of councils, there will be an induction in mid-March. Thereafter, a meeting will be held on how to continuously support councils while also engaging with the Institute of Directors. There will also be programmes which council members would need to be part of to maintain good corporate governance in institutions.

Regarding the relationship which the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has with DHET, there is constant engagement between the two departments. Recently, the two held talks on the three-stream model which talks to the vocational and technical streams as well as mainstream (universities). This is especially important with technical high schools established through the DBE.

Mr Zungu said that the Gauteng Department of Basic Education has set up centres for specialisation. These centres have the same support structures as the DHET. This will increase the number of learners who go into artisanal sectors. Previously, the problem with TVET Colleges was that there was no clear feeder system for the learners to go into. The DBE constantly engages with the DHET to ensure cooperation between the two departments.

Ms Thembisa Futshane, DDG: Community Education and Training (CET), DHET, explained that the current term of the councils in CETs will expire in 2025, and their performance is being monitored. Where gaps are found, capacity-building programmes are put in place. There are also constant meetings held to monitor progress. Regarding council vacancies, these posts have been advertised and have been prepared for the Minister’s consideration. There are not a lot of vacancies in the community colleges. This sector is stable.

Mr Mvalo clarified some issues regarding board members, as there is a clear process for the appointment of members to the board. He said that the Higher Education Act stipulates that, three months before the term of the accounting authority ends (the board members), the Minister needs to communicate with the SETA CEO regarding this, and then the SETA CEO will submit a list of candidates to the Minister.

The members of this accounting authority must represent the interest identified in the national skills development strategy. This representation includes gender representation, demographic representation, representation of the disadvantaged and individuals with a blend of knowledge and experience drawn from that sector for the appointment of board members.

Mr Mvalo explained that it is only with the appointment of a chairperson of the SETAs where the post will be advertised in the Government Gazette to invite suitably qualified candidates to be part of the boards of SETAs.
Regarding Dr Boshoff’s question about legislation for when one completes the national skills development strategy, he said that there needs to be a way of fast tracking the amendment of the legislation, especially at present, where the DHET has a White Paper on Post-School Education and Training.

This means that any piece of legislation needs to be in line with the White Paper on Post School Education and Training. This white paper was approved by Cabinet in November 2013. The latest amendment in the Skills Development Act was done in 2011.

Mr Mvalo then moved to answer the question on how different institutions can play a role in the SETAs. This is dealt with in the white paper. It states that a restructured national skills authority will be set up for the monitoring of SETAs. This would be an expert body with high level monitoring and evaluating skills. There is already work that is being done on this front to prioritise the setting up this body.

The DG reemphasised Ms King’s point on the regime for TVET Colleges in higher education, involves levy grant system. This also involves how TVET Colleges can function properly for what they were designed for. During a Bricks Summit, it was found that the strategy must include equipping TVET colleges to perform well, and they need to be fit for purpose.

On how institutions coped with the energy crisis and connectivity issues, the DG stated that solutions are provided through DSI and CSIR. Most institutions that are located in rural areas have many energy challenges which then leads to the overpricing of energy sources. So, the DHET is doing all that it can to ensure that the TVET Colleges can still function in spite of the issues it faces. The DHET will compile a report on the results of the work that is being done.

The revision of the Higher Education Act needs to consider the lessons that have been learnt in the sixth administration. The DG thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to deliver the presentation which covered the current state of affairs with giving an overview on governance in the sector. The DHET also updated the Committee on how funds are being used.

UNISA is an institution which has seen many changes. While the ministerial task team was looking at a possible merger, it was important to look at how different institutions had changed and how different institutions had come together to form new institutions. With the work conducted with these task teams, many things have been established at MUT, it is the organisational culture that needs to change. After programmes have been set up at that institution, there is a need to establish a multidisciplinary institution to get it on track. This would be generated through the myriad of interventions.

The DG reiterated that no SETAs have been placed under administration, and there is stability within TVET colleges.

In the slides, there is reference to the date of termination of members of council. The DG admitted that the DHET has not put its best foot forward when it comes to the process of replacing members of boards, as this only starts when a council’s term is about to end. The recruitment process should start prior to the termination of the contract of the council members. The processes for the appointment of council members are not perfect. So, those who want to take advantage of these process may influence those part of these processes.

The DG stated that the DHET is committed to putting in steps to curb people taking advantage of these processes. The DG also mentioned that the Minister met with the council chairpersons of all universities to discuss the remuneration of vice chancellors. In this meeting, other issues of governance were also discussed.

The DG appreciated the support that they receive from the ministry, student governance and student unions. National Student Fund (NSF) is showing positive outcomes in terms of its audit reports. Creative interventions have also been put in place for students to still be able to learn where programmes have not been able to accommodate them.

The DG also reported that the DHET was building a new university of policing and another university of science and innovation, as shared with Cabinet. The Department also presented a plan on the student funding model. The implementation of the first phase of the comprehensive student support system. The DG stated that students have been invited to be part of this model.

Mr Letsie sought a response from the DHET on some members of council who were appointed without being vetted as this was not properly answered. Who is responsible for the vetting process of board members? Was the vetting process conducted for these board members? Did all the board members meet the vetting criteria? If not, how many board members did not meet the criteria? If there was no vetting process, then why was this the case? Is there standardised vetting process?

The Chairperson remarked that at times that departments do not fully answer questions posed by Committee Members. She allowed Mr Letsie’s questions to be answered.

Mr Mvalo said that on the appointment of council members in the SETAs, the DDG stated that the current council members were appointed from 01 April 2020 until 31 March 2025. The Auditor-General made findings on the procedure for appointing council members and found that the process did not comply with the Skills Development Act.

It was found that no criminal record checks were made prior to the appointment of the applicants. No qualifications were checked to verify qualifications, and no declaration of interest checks were performed. This was during the COVID-19 period. Thereafter, an independent body was appointed to do these verification checks.

The DDG stated that the SETAs needed to be informed of this, as these board members were appointed through an irregular process which did not comply with legislation. The determination test outcomes were put in place. The members who were not vetted for the positions were found not guilty of any wrongdoing, and these investigations were conducted in 2019 and 2020.

Mr Zungu then explained the vetting process for TVET colleges, which is through outsourcing and the quality assurance of this process. The TVET colleges send out adverts with the minimum requirements for the candidates applying for positions to meet to serve as members. They are then appointed by a group comprising of various structures. They get nominated by certain structures. Once this is received, then the terms of reference are set for the committee which constitutes as senior members of the branch. The candidates that make it through the first process go through the vetting process which is outsourced because of the capacity within the Department. This vetting process includes the verification of the candidates’ qualification. The candidates also need to show how they can contribute to society. A list of candidates is then sent to the DG with recommendations to the ministry, thereafter awaiting a response for who can would be the best candidate for the position.

Dr Socikwa then explained that the vetting process for universities is that five ministerial appointees are permissible on the council of each university. The members are often nominated by the universities and then recommendations are made to the ministry. She also explained that the DHET opted to engage with the institute of directors instead of using the list by the universities. This list provided by the Institute of Directors provides continuation without the need for evaluation of any of the candidates. The preference is to provide a proper framework for this in the Higher Education Act. This means that council members need to pass a certain test to determine if they are fit for purpose. They have to declare that they have no criminal record, have not been in prison, and not been declared insolvent. There is also proper evaluation of the boards by an independent committee. This would be a better evaluation rather than a self-evaluation. The prerogative on the appointment of council members sits with the Minister.

The Chairperson stated that the work of this sector is immense, and it is difficult to get through everything in one Committee meeting. So, where written responses were requested, these responses must be sent to the Committee. The Chairperson implored the DG to get into conversations with the NSFAS as it reflects poorly on the Department as a whole. The Chairperson requested that an invite be shared for the induction of new council members.

Strengthening accountability measures will give council members the opportunity to share their expectations of the Committee and vice versa. The Committee will be able to see the work conducted by council and also be able to see their shortcomings. The Chairperson welcomed the DG’s admission of the late recruitment of new council members in the TVET Colleges. This means that for future appointments, there need not be delays.

The Chairperson announced that next week, there would be a meeting to consider the Science and Innovation’s legacy report. The meeting on Higher Education will be held the following week.

The meeting was adjourned.


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