Committee Studytours to Kwazulu-Natal and Eastern Cape: briefing

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

24 AUGUST 2005

Mr P Gomomo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Committee observations on KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape visits

The South African Management and Development Institute (SAMDI) were absent because they were busy launching the Management Development Institute in Gauteng. SAMDI agreed to brief the Committee on 7 September 2005. The Committee therefore discussed their findings from their recent oversight visits instead. Due to the absence of information received from the group that had visited North West and Limpopo, only visit reports from KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape were discussed. The Chairperson had spoken to the Chief Whip about hosting a workshop on 31 August 2005, and they would thereafter produce a draft report for later tabling in Parliament.

The Committee had undertaken provincial visits to KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga. The idea of those visits had come from the Special Report No. 19 of the Public Protector, entitled ‘An Investigation into causes of Delay in Communication in the Public Administration’.

KwaZulu-Natal study tour observations
The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal was faced with challenges of communication among officials. The situation was made worse by the shortage of textbooks and poor infrastructure in many schools. While that Department was using a six-layered structure between the school and the Head Office, it was working on a turnaround strategy to correct disclaimers it had received from the Auditor-General on numerous occasions.

The Council of Traditional Leaders was a stumbling block in housing delivery. Councillors had raised concerns that the politicians should intervene and that there was a need to clarify roles of the traditional leaders from those of officials.

The Department of Health was facing staff misconduct cases, and a shortage of skilled workers as they were drawn to the private sector. By September 2005, the Department would eliminate all problems of misconduct, guided by the strategic plan they were currently formulating. Some hospitals were still dealing with imbalances in terms of gender, race and disability representation. At Greys Hospital there was poor staff retention and moonlighting was done outside of working hours without permission.

Both the Departments of Health and Education were causing serious problems for the Department of Public Works, as they were always submitting their design plans late and were slow in processing the payment of completed buildings. The Department of Public Works would give emerging entrepreneurs support in relation to the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Those who would not comply with the regulations of the building industry, would be sanctioned.

The Committee was satisfied by the work done by the Department of Social Development. The latter had outsourced security firms at payment points and were using services of consulting companies. There had previously been cases of fraud and corruption among officials in that Department.

Eastern Cape study tour observations
The Department of Education had shown resistance to the work of the Interim Management Team (IMT). Since the appointment of a new Executive, the Department was co-operating fully with the IMT team, except the SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU). The Committee viewed the unions as stumbling blocks in the development of the education system. The issue of sabotage by the trade unions of the work of the Department of Education required an urgent resolution at a political level.

The Department was one of the most under-performing in that province. The Department was not providing sufficient administrative support to schools as there was a 60% vacancy rate. While faced with those problems, it required a grant to deal with the 900 staff backlog, particularly in the former Transkei region. At Wongalethu High School, the situation was getting worse as the teachers were constantly sabotaging the plans of the principal. Both the teachers and pupils were coming late to school. Apart from the lack of co-operation between the school management and the principal, there had been a number of unfilled vacancies at management level.

The Eastern Cape faced similar problems to KwaZulu-Natal in terms of strained relations between traditional leaders and the Department of Housing and Local Government. That Department was also trying to clear slums by 2010. The similarities were also apparent in the complaints of the Department of Public Works as the Departments of Health and Education were always paying late and were not complying with the agreements.

After paying an unannounced visit to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in the previous Ciskei, the Committee had discovered that there was a serious shortage of staff, especially doctors. That hospital had showed clear signs of debilitation, though the staff always kept it clean. The Committee had praised the employees for showing commitment and passion in providing quality services. Issues that had emerged related to staff retention and shortages, and inadequate resources. }

After a meeting with the Premier, the Committee had decided that the Commission should be more distinct from the Interim Management Team (IMT). The Commission focused on financial management across all Departments, while the IMT focused on only five departments and had a broader mandate.

Mr Ntuli (IFP) said the Head of Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal needed to give clarity on the six-layered structure. They would urge the Speaker of Parliament to communicate with the relevant Ministers on moving service delivery in their respective departments.

Mr Gcwabaza (ANC) spoke on the poor organisational structures of some departments. The old style of inspection in schools should be brought back when there were issues that needed further investigation.

The Chairperson said bilateral discussions should be held with the Heads of Departments and Ministers. The Head of the Department of Housing in KwaZulu-Natal had raised concerns about the lack of commitment shown by officials. The issue of chiefs and traditional leaders needed to be dealt with as soon as possible, as this were hindering the process of building houses. The public were not aware of backlogs caused by chiefs, but blamed the government for slow delievery.

Mr Ntuli said traditional leaders should be engaged in debate and be updated on the programmes of the government, as well as be given clarity on their responsibilities. He did not understand why some departments outsourced some of their work to outside companies. He had been concerned about heists and said those Departments should not create opportunities for corruption and fraud. The Education Department in the Eastern Cape was not performing as expected. He also raised concerns about the imbalance of resources in state hospitals.

Mr Gcwabaza said the Redeployment Process had been concluded in 1998, but there had been no action taken since. That had resulted in a R600 million deficit in the Education Department of the Eastern Cape. There had been sabotage within schools and district officials were completely disempowered. He stressed the need to revisit those provinces. The teachers were teaching in vernacular languages but pupils wrote their exams in English, which condemned students to not excel.

The Chairperson said SADTU had not co-operated with the IMT officials. After a meeting had been held in Port Elizabeth between the Committee and SADTU, they still continued with their plan to disrupt examinations if the government did not meet their demands. The MEC had mobilised other stakeholders to support the policies of the government. He suggested they include the Commissioner in the workshop as he had information that would be helpful in putting the final draft together.

Mr Mzondeki (ANC) said in some cases, inspectors did not visit teachers for feedback and that was causing communication breakdowns between the schools and the department head office.

Mr Gcwabaza raised concerns about the role of the Commission. The IMT and the Auditor-General had already investigated into corruption and fraud in the Eastern Cape.

The Chairperson said that after a statement in the Daily Dispatch newspaper on Wongalethu, the MEC for Education had been alarmed to move fast on improving service delivery. A huge amount of money had been wasted on lawyers and consultants.

The meeting was adjourned.


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