Progress in Thaba Chweu; Public Service snd Administration 2004/05 Annual Reports: Department briefing
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE
8 November 2005
PROGRESS IN THABA CHWEU: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
PUBLIC SERVICE AND ADMINISTRATION 2004/05 ANNUAL REPORTS: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Thaba Chweu Report to NCOP
Department of Public Service and Administration Annual Report 2004/05 (PowerPoint presentation)
Department of Public Services and Administration Annual report 2004/05 [available at www.dpsa.gov.za]
In November 2004, the Mpumalanga Provincial Council placed Thaba Chweu municipality under the supervision of an administrator in terms of Section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution. The administrator was mandated to look into financial and administration matters which both councillors and officials had allegedly violated. The Task Team appointed to intervene in the municipality reported considerable positive progress to the Committee. The Committee endorsed the Task Team’s recommendation that the Administrator be kept until March 2006 to deal with the findings of a financial audit, which could further implicate a number of officials.
The Department of Public Service and Administration briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for 2004/05. Members asked questions about the Government Employees Medical Scheme; policy and procedure on Incapacity Leave and Ill Health Retirement; an anti-corruption strategy and underspending by the Department.
Thaba Chweu Report to NCOP
The Chairperson said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the report and make recommendations.
Ms G Sibeko (Head of Department: Local Government and Housing) introduced the team from Mpumalanga as Mr P Mnisi (Administrator’s Task Team), Mr O Pilane (Department Special Interventions Manager), and Ms Grace Castle (Thaba Chweu Administrator). The report was jointly drafted by the Administrators and Mr Pilane. Mr Mahlangu had been unable to attend the meeting and had requested Ms Sibeko to accompany the team in presenting the report.
Ms Sibeko gave an overview of the report. In November 2004 the Mpumalanga Provincial Council placed Thaba Chweu under the supervision of an administrator in terms of Section 139(1)(b) of the Constitution. The administrator was mandated to look into financial and administration matters which both councillors and officials had allegedly violated. Senior managers were appointed and the Financial Manager commenced on 1 September 2005.
The Municipal Manager’s performance was re-evaluated and he was suspended on 14th September and resigned on 16 September, whereafter an Acting Municipal Manager was appointed. Financial statements for the four years 2001 to 2004/05 were submitted to the Auditor General. Thaba Chweu was in the process of implementing the Finstel Financial System. The municipality had consolidated all thirteen bank accounts into one as per the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), the primary account being with ABSA Lydenburg.
A service provider was appointed to implement a revenue collection and management system as losses of an estimated R1 million per month of revenue had been reported. Based on the report and findings of no internal controls in the Finance Department, the MEC for Local Government and Housing launched a forensic investigation, which was in progress with three officials already suspended.
The Acting CFO resigned after receiving his charge sheet. Disciplinary measures in the traffic department were in progress and the matter was also referred to the Special Investigating Unit for further investigation as there was reason to believe that a bigger syndicate was involved.
The Administrator was able to collect R126 063 of the R397 268 owed by councillors for cell phones and advances. Arrangements had been made with councillors that the outstanding money would be deducted from their pensions should they not be returned in the next government elections. Councillors had been implicated in numerous violations of the code of conduct, which included the abuse of council property and staff, abuse of vehicles and interference in administration. Details of these violations were listed in the report.
At a Special Council Briefing on 26 October 2005, councillors were served with notices informing them of the allegations against them. After consultation with the MEC, a Special Independent Committee was appointed to conduct investigations into the alleged issues. Thirteen councillors would go through this process and the committee would make recommendations.
In terms of service delivery, two major hindrances to Local Economic Development were identified as bulk water provision and electricity generation on a large scale. In total R18 million was required to address the electricity challenges, R71 million to address the water challenges and R31 million for short-term interventions.
The Ehlanzeni District Municipality had made available R250 000 to assist with the Land Audit. Land was developed to cater for the housing needs of the mines. The municipality was also faced with the problem of land invasion and land invaders had been successfully moved to Ext 21. The administrator was looking at a housing development and resettlement of squatters on land donated by the forest companies.
Recommendation: The Executive Council recommended that the Administrator be kept until March 2006 to deal with the findings of the financial audit, which could implicate a number of officials.
Ms Castle drew attention to the fact that the collection rate had risen from 45% to 93%. There was a witness within the system.
The Chairperson suggested the Committee agree with the recommendation above as a matter of principle.
Mr Z Ntuli (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) asked for clarity why councillors were not paying now. With regard to threatening municipal employees, was the council still meeting to take resolutions? He asked whom Thaba Chweu fell under and how long the intervention by the MEC would be in place.
Mr D Worth (DA: Free State) said one of the original recommendations in regard to the indigent policy was an updated register. Had any comments been received? Would the Acting Municipal Manager sign a performance contract; and how long would consultants be employed at the municipality?
Mr J le Roux (DA, Eastern Cape) asked for clarity on whether the Municipal Manager who had been suspended had at any time during his period of service received a performance bonus; and whether councillors named in serious irregularities were still doing their jobs.
Mr A Moseki (ANC, North West) asked about the councillor who was an official – at what point did they discover this? The Act was very clear as to what should happen. There was a point under disciplinary measures that mentioned a special investigating unit. Was that internal or external as internal could arrive at a very subjective conclusion?
Mr L Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo) commended the Department on a job well done. There were other municipalities where intervention had not worked and some of the municipalities had to be dissolved. He asked whether the period until March was sufficient time? There was a time when the council was divided into two camps, with some councillors deliberately staying away from the council meetings so that a resolution could not be taken. Members of the same organisation were fighting amongst themselves and the situation was abhorrent and bad. He asked whether that situation was now normal.
The Chairperson asked how much was spent on the consultancy. He asked whether council meetings were functioning well and whether the subcommittees of the council were in operation at a political level. He also asked what was the intended outcome of the special independent committee. In administrative law there was a rule that you must allow another person to respond to allegations. This was a major process affecting a lot of people and was unprecedented.
He also asked what the procedure was on the matter of maximum expenditure on cell phones. He asked what the extent of fraudulent licences was.
Ms Sibeko responded to Mr Ntuli’s question on the link with Gert Sibande municipality. Mr Roodman was a very good accountant, and was requested to assist. He was looking at Gert Sibande to strengthen that municipality as a district/strong financial management municipality and put systems and training courses in place.
Regarding the behaviour of councillors, Ms Sibeko clarified that administrators did not preside on matters of politics. Certain administrative things needed to be addressed so that administration could be normalised. Support from the MEC was requested. She hoped that the MEC would be in a position to indicate that the issues were administrative and the domain of the administrator.
In response to the question of councillors paying and money being deducted when they left, they were aware some of the debts were higher than normal and could not be deducted within a short space of time, and were also aware that the term of office would expire, so it was a safety measure that money would be deducted from pensions. All were paying. They were going to look into the process and would request Treasury for special permission if re-payment exceeded the allowed period.
Ms Castle responded to the question of where the council was currently sitting. EXCO was also sitting. The committees were not sitting yet as they would first be attending workshops and would work through the process. There was a power battle between the office of the Mayor and the office of the Speaker. She confirmed that the register was being updated.
With reference to financial systems, in the past Thaba Chweu had worked with two financial systems and asked for quotations and presentations to see what was best and were also guided by the Acting CFO and current CFO. The consultants would only implement the system and transfer the skills.
The Financial Manager was not paid a performance bonus, which soured relationships as well.
The special investigating team was external and on request by the office of the MEC. It was a Special Investigating Unit from the Premier’s office.
With the tension in council and amongst councillors, it was hardly possible for Thaba Chweu to sit for a council meeting. They agreed to cooperate with the team but at first there was resistance from some councillors and the team had to learn to manage the situation and to work with them because they were there to stabilise and ensure people had access to service delivery. They were currently working with the team in a more conducive environment.
In response to the question on the imbizo, after local government elections Thaba Chweu would be back to square one. They had their own differences but whatever was done had to be for the well being of Thaba Chweu. What was also very disappointing was that all this influenced the community, and the community was split. The community was waiting for answers. This hampered service delivery.
Mr Mnisi responded further on the question on division. Most of the people belonged to one party and so engaged with that party and asked them to assist. The secretary of the party, together with the Chairperson of local government, went to Thaba Chweu and the party had agreed to employ an official to look at these differences and was succeeding in stabilising the situation.
Mr Mnisi clarified the issue of the special committee. At that stage councillors were given until 12 November to explain why the special committee should not recommend that they be suspended from council. A special decision taken by EXCO was that they be suspended. This was seen as interference with the disciplinary process. At the end of the day the committee headed by the Head of Department would have to make recommendations to the MEC and would have to look at the legislation. Clearly if there were allegations against councillors the committee could be constituted by the office of the Speaker, but in this instance the Speaker was also involved.
Mr Mnisi responded on the issue of collections. The administrator had drafted acknowledgements of debt for councillors to sign. They had also checked with the pension fund so that if the councillor was not re-elected they could liase with the pension fund to collect the debt. There had been an experience where the Acting Financial Manager owed R75 000 and had signed acknowledgement of debt. When he was dismissed, they liased with the pension fund to obtain the money.
Ms Sibeko responded on the question of the R751.11 cell phone limit. There were various ways of dealing with the issue if the limit was exceeded. There was an allowance to use the phone and they had to pay for the extra themselves. In other schemes X amount was paid into the account, and if the limit were exceeded councillors would have to pay the difference. Another option looked at was changing from contract to prepaid phones. It was important to ensure commitment was linked to budget.
Ms Castle said another option was as soon as they got to the maximum allowance to cut the phones immediately. Councillors were part time; in the event that they had to go over on official business they could be reimbursed.
Ms Sibeko responded to the question of the Municipal Manager. The MEC wanted to advertise the post immediately before elections so the new councillors could also participate. She acknowledged time was limited but the approach was to enable the new councillors to be party to the decisions.
The Chairperson reminded the team of his question on licences and corruption and also said that some people supported the Speaker in his activities of undermining the government. He asked whether that issue had been taken care of.
Mr Mnisi responded to the question of licences and corruption. There was a syndicate operating around Graskop and Ladybrand and disciplinary action had been instituted against those officials. That matter had been dealt with as far as disciplinary processes were concerned – some resigned and some were dismissed. The manager had assured that measures were in place to ensure the situation did not occur again. The licence scam would be dealt with by June.
Ms F Nyanda (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether the Traffic and Licensing Department had closed.
Mr Mnisi clarified the issue of the Special Investigating Unit and criminal prosecutions. Officials were being dealt with internally and where possible criminal charges were being formulated against those individuals.
Mr Pilane clarified why they hoped to be finished by March. After they instituted the forensic investigation in the financial department the findings were very interesting. Council was found to be losing an estimated R11 000 per day and the loss for one month amounted to R120 000. A lot of theft was from prepaid electricity. The officials were trying to divert attention from themselves to the councillors and almost had one of the offices burnt down trying to cover up some information. Fortunately this was discovered in time. Only one section had been investigated, but a number of sections would be investigated and more staff might be lost. With new managers and withdrawing administrators, the situation would collapse. It would be best to keep the managers until March to stabilise the situation.
Ms Sibeko agreed, especially with regard to the seriousness of the token system being interfered with. The token system fed the free basic electricity system, so that meant the people who should be getting tokens were not getting them where officials allocated themselves units. She felt this was one issue not only critical to sound financial management but also to service delivery. People were suspended. They were looking forward to completion of the investigation. Lots of criminal charges needed to be instituted.
Mr Mokoena referred to administration. Because of the two centres of powers of the Mayor and the Speaker, this would spill over into the community.
The Chairperson asked whether the Municipal Manager had given any reason for his resignation, whether any misdemeanours had been committed, and whether criminal or other charges could be laid against him. That included the CFO.
Mr Mnisi responded that he had not read the Municipal Systems Act but there was no provision in the old law for suspending a councillor. Was there any provision in law that said if a councillor was found to have committed a misdemeanour he could be suspended? If that were the case, what would happen to the allowances of part time councillors? He would respond to the question by asking who had the right to discipline a councillor in cases of violation of the Code of Conduct, the party or the institution? If the institution, it meant it had to be done by the Speaker’s office as the custodian of councillors.
Mr Mnisi responded that the Systems Act empowered the Speaker’s office to constitute a special committee in the event of misconduct by councillors. The Speaker was the Chair of the committee. Constitutionally the provisions of Section 139 did not provide for a situation where the Speaker was also implicated. Legal opinion was that the MEC had powers to form the special committee but its members had to be independent and the accused should be able to respond. The MEC would have to take a decision based on the recommendations of the committee
Mr Mnisi responded to the question on party discipline. Parties had their own constitutions. The constitution of the ANC was very clear on types of misconduct, and did not preclude the party from dealing with its own members.
As to whether a councillor could be suspended or not, reading the Code of Conduct, he believed Council could pass a resolution effecting the suspension of the councillor.
With regard to the Municipal Manager it was not necessary for the task team to look at the contract but it should focus on the appointment of Section 57 Managers. One of the things discovered was that he had lacked capacity. There was no performance contract. In May the Municipal Manager was to have signed the performance contract but had not. Mr Mnisi did not think there was misconduct or misdemeanour, which bordered on criminal prosecution, but it was a lack of capacity resulting in poor performance. The Manager was given the option of either resigning or facing disciplinary action. He went for legal advice. The administrator’s office then drafted charges and after discussion with his attorney he tendered his resignation.
The Acting CFO was charged in April; there were 35 charges against him. When the Disciplinary Committee was about to convene, he resigned. He owed R75 000 which has all been taken from leave pay and his pension fund.
Mr Pilane informed the Committee that only one month’s financial investigation had been done. Some other things could still arise from that investigation and the necessary action would be taken.
Ms Castle responded to the question of the two centres of power. It was being managed despite the different personalities of Mayors and Speakers. This would require a very strong Municipal Manager with strong leadership skills who would advise and guide both officers correctly because at the end of the day it had to be in the interests of sound corporate governance and service delivery. It was possible.
Ms Sibeko said all this had assisted the community to feel changes had taken place in the municipality. On occasions, events were shared with the public. When the different section heads were appointed the community was invited and the whole hall was full. This was an important community thing. They saw things being done by the task team to assist the community. There had been quite an issue about the interests of the mining houses around Thaba Chweu, including the fact that the mining houses were even thinking of settling for the Limpopo site. The whole issue of finding land was publicly reported upon. These were all social cohesion measures and people were excited about their work. At last month’s women’s event it had been heartening to observe staff being so excited about their work. Everybody was seeing the potential of this municipality, which could become the powerhouse of tourism, mining development and job creation.
Ms Sibeko thanked the Committee for inviting the Task Team to share progress reports and indicated that the report would be looked at and updated in line with the expectations and recommendations of the Committee. The lessons learnt in managing a Section 139 municipality were very interesting and the approach was a developmental one. They started to build with what little there was in that municipality and the experience gained actually highlighted what should be planned for in terms of the new municipalities that were going to come about. We should not be presuming systems were in place in municipalities and part of the oversight role and responsibility would be in terms of the Department doing its monitoring work. Thaba Chweu now had specific areas that were becoming beacons to be looked at for each and every municipality.
The Task Team also learnt ways of managing community values and sentiments that could be shared with other communities. It was also seen how the Province had rallied behind the municipality. Going through a Section 139 intervention took both administrative and political support. Within administration it took resources and if a Section 106 investigation was done they could work on recommendations. While developments were desirable in Thaba Chweu quite an expensive process had helped to turn the worst of situations into a workable situation in terms of budgets for municipal interventions. This had been a stabilising force that changed the position of the municipality and required a lot of resources to be able to do but could be done with the support of the province.
The Department learnt that intervening teams must consist of persons very strong in administration, people strong in legal background and also people like Mr Pilane’s administration and political help.
The Chairperson said repairs were expensive; preventive measures were cheaper. This was a lesson learnt even in communities and in provinces dissolving municipalities.
The Chairperson asked Ms Castle to look at the report and recommendations and come back to the Committee at the end of January with a progress report. He asked that she please e-mail that whole report for the benefit of the team.
The Chairperson thanked the HOD, Mr Mnisi, Mr Pilane and Ms Castle.
Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) Annual Report 2004/05
Dr R Levin (Director General: DPSA) gave an overview of the Department’s programmes, performance, achievements, and financial and Human Resource indicators. There were six programmes during the period under review, these being administration, integrated Human Resources, Information and Technology Management, service delivery improvement, public sector anti-corruption; and international and African Affairs.
Some of the key activities in terms of administration included the Minister’s regional and international activities, including the United Nations (UN) Committee of Experts, visits to India and Brazil, and in the case of Brazil anti corruption because of the fact that Brazil hosted the UN Global Forum on Anti-Corruption. South Africa would be hosting the next one in 2007. The Department was also involved in developing partnerships with countries on the Continent and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Democratic Republic of Congo to conduct a public service census and anti-corruption framework for the country. It was also coordinating the Governance and Administration programme of action, which led to some new areas of work, particularly around the review of capacity in the public service to achieve developmental goals. Within the programme it also developed the Community Development Worker Programme.
The Integrated Human Resources Programme dealt with some of the core issues of the DPSA, including remuneration and conditions of service. One of the major issues during the period under review was the Government Employees Medical Scheme fully mandated by Cabinet. The scheme would be up and running by 1 January 2006. Another important area of work has been the Policy and Procedure that was developed on Incapacity Leave and Ill Health Retirement. The State lost a lot of money on an ongoing basis due to an inability by departments to manage ill health retirement and incapacity leave, particularly in the South African Police Service and Department of Correctional Services. A framework was developed which included the introduction of health risk managers who supported departments in assessing these matters. A scarce skills framework was introduced.
In the area of Negotiations and Labour Relations during the period under review a multi-term agreement on improved salaries and conditions of service was successfully negotiated and concluded, and included a salary adjustment of 6.2% with effect from 1 July 2004. Excess employees were reduced from 13000 to 5000 by the end of 2004. The minimum standards for managing HIV and AIDS in the public service workplace were implemented.
Dr Levin outlined the areas of Human Resources development, Information Technology and Management.
In terms of service delivery improvement, which the Chair touched on his comments; there were a number of different activities in that area. The Department continued to manage an integrated support programme funded by UKDFID and 24 projects were identified and supported through this programme. External interventions were made in KwaZulu-Natal at the request of the Premier, which had included a review of several departments in the province, the organisational structures and the staffing. Support was provided to the DRC Ministry of Public Services in carrying out a census of public servants. To address the concern by the Chairperson, increasingly over the year the Department had realised that this kind of support had become more part of the business of the Department, so during the period under review they secured funds from the National Treasury to assist in implementing that support and in building the necessary internal capacity, allowing people to be deployed away from the Department into provinces and even abroad where a team of about 5 people was permanently placed in the DRC.
The Department also received numerous requests from departments, including national departments, to assist them with organisational design and development, matters pertaining to Human Resource Management, and so on. This could also be extended to the Sudan and they had a visit from the Ghanaian Minister recently in which he indicated that he would like a collaborative programme developed.
A discussion document was also developed on the outsourcing of state functions. In terms of Batho Pele, Cabinet had approved proposals on the revitalisation of Batho Pele in 2004 and one of the most successful activities related to these was Project Khaedu. Project Khaedu was implementing one of the decisions by Cabinet that senior managers need to spend a certain period of time every performance cycle at the coal face of service delivery, so a pilot project was developed with Mpumalanga Province, in which many of their managers participated.
Another successful area in the Department was Learning and Knowledge Management. In the area of anti-corruption, the implementation of the Public Service Anti-corruption Strategy had been consolidated, a Public Service Anti-corruption Training Strategy was developed; and visits had been undertaken to provinces to ascertain the level of compliance with the minimum anti-corruption standards. A project on the training of judicial officers was implemented, and an assessment of the anti-corruption capacity of the Department of Correctional Services was conducted, and support was provided to the public sector representatives on the National Anti-Corruption Forum. The Department was also involved in international and regional anti-corruption work.
Dr Levin outlined the Department’s role in International and African affairs.
Corporate performance in the area of financial management was set out. Professional and special services showed an increase with the employment of consultants during the period of review, partly to compensate for capacity deficits. The Department needed to improve on performance expenditure. Anti-corruption spent almost all the money. Challenges were greater efficiency and improved performance around budget allocations.
HR performance indicated a vacancy rate of 22.6%, which was misleading. Over 99% of the personnel allocation had been spent. On creating new posts, old ones were abolished. Vacancy rates in the public service were inaccurate because departments did not manage organograms adequately. The high rate of employment of consultants was partly attributed to the fact that the Department did not have the capacity to perform the work and had to outsource some of it. Additional funding had been secured from Treasury for the next financial year. Challenges to filling vacancies were that people declined employment offers after the Department had spent months trying to recruit, and terminations of service occurred faster than posts were filled. Three foreign workers were employed. Employment equity targets were being achieved.
Mr K Mokoena (ANC, Limpopo) asked for clarity on scarce skills. Government was supposed to be creating jobs in other sectors, yet the Department had reduced excess employees from 13000 to 5000. On the other hand there was the complaint that people were losing their jobs. He asked which people were being targeted. Departments were complaining that they were not getting good service from Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs); what was the experience of the DPSA? He asked which State functions were being outsourced. There was a need to avoid privatisation. In Limpopo the MECs of Education and Health were trying to root out corruption. How rife was corruption in our departments and how was it being dealt with?
Mr Z Ntuli (ANC, KZN) asked how far implementation of the single public service concept in local government had progressed. He also asked how many employees in total were employed in the Public Service, and whether there were any temporary employees. He asked for clarity on the employees of the Education Department. He understood teachers/educators were not government employees.
Ms F Nyanda (ANC, Mpumalanga) queried the successful study tour to India and asked whether those people were from all the provinces or from only one province, and what criteria were used to select the 29 people. She also referred to visits to provinces that were conducted to ascertain their level of compliance with minimum anti-corruption standards. She was from Mpumalanga, where corruption was very high. She had read in the paper that a certain department gave themselves bonuses for six months.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) asked for clarity on the management procedure for incapacity leave and ill-health retirement. He asked how incapacity was determined and whether a doctor’s certificate sufficed. He also asked how the Department worked in conjunction with the Commissioner. Who determined the salary adjustment of 6.2%? He asked for an explanation of Project Khaedu. He was very happy with the report on corruption and training. He asked how this training was being conducted and whether it occurred in all provinces. He also referred to the three foreign workers and asked why they had been engaged. He understood that some were highly skilled but was it necessary to seek those skills if we could produce them?
The Chairperson made the observation that the Annual Report was very broad for the time allocated. Output and performance did not tally with expenditure or with the strategic plan. The Department had managed to train and people had completed learnerships and was expected to deploy 20840 by March next year. There was also the situation of dates – were they at the point of completion or beginning of the task?
Further, the Department had under spent by 11.7% and had outlined the reasons. The greatest concern was the outsourcing/privatisation of functions (internal audit). He asked for an explanation of the under-expenditure. The Chairperson also asked for clarification on the issue of vacant posts. R1, 1 million had been under spent because of those vacancies - in South Africa with such a high unemployment rate?
He asked who accounted for the + £2, million that the DPSA had been given for the integrated provincial support programme, the British or the province and whether there were any systems in place to ensure accountability?
Dr Levin responded that they needed to, perhaps during a strategic planning meeting, identify some specific areas of compliance, like performance management, recruitment, discipline, anti corruption, and jointly with the Public Service Commission undertake audits and on the base of those audits summon departments and engage with them and provide support. One of the big challenges of the decision to decentralise the HR management framework was that there were no mechanisms to support compliance. It would support the Department if Parliament came in at compliance level, and forced departments to account for their lack of compliance with the HR management framework. A joint programme of that nature would be welcomed.
Dr Levin continued that outsourcing/privatisation was sometimes just for a certain piece of work. The whole issue of outsourcing work was a complicated question. There was a need to look at the nature of the function that was being outsourced. Certain functions leant themselves to that operation, others would not. He would try to put forward a discussion document on which functions had been outsourced.
Dr Levin commented on the Department and skills. They were strict on the employment equity side. It was very important to stick to targets for employment equity. This was a challenge, but one that could be overcome. The Department was focusing on recruiting black women in the period under review. On the skills side, the Committee should not underestimate the level of skills in the Department. In the Auditor-General’s report on compliance there were clear limitations in HR capacity in the Department. There were complex matters such as adjustments and allowances, for example. IT management regulation across the public service had highly skilled employees. They were looking only where there was clearly a scarcity in South Africa.
Mr Govender responded on the issue of excess employees. The reason this had been reported as an achievement was because when they started restructuring they had a large number of excess employees. In September 2003 they had 13000 employees in excess. These were reskilled, retrained and reemployed - none were retrenched or dismissed. They were redeployed mostly to the Eastern Cape to the Education Department. The current group of excess employees had generally very limited skills, but the Department was still trying to accommodate them. None had been retrenched.
With reference to the single public service, the policy statement had been accepted in the sense that Cabinet had announced the need to move towards a single public service or a single system of public administration for all spheres of government including public entities as the arms of service delivery in the country. They hoped to go to Cabinet before the end of this year with a very clear implementation strategy. The main thing was to finalise the financial implications of moving towards a single public service, particularly around HR costs, conditions of service, and the enabling environment. This was on track.
Replying to the question of how many employees were in the public service, Mr Govender said as at August 2005 there were approximately 1.056 million employees. It was interesting to note that for the four-year period 1998 to 2002, there had been a steady decline due to the process of consolidation, restructuring and aligning. But since 2002/2003 there had been a steady increase.
The Department did have temporary employees. They were classified as contract employees appointed for a limited period on a contract basis to do specific work. These were largely used in the Department of Education where there could not be a classroom without a teacher and they needed replacements for people on sick leave. Unfortunately in Education, they also had a category of permanent yet temporary employees. Public servants were equal but had specific legislation for categories of employees. Educators were one of these, so although part of the public service and defined as such, there was separate legislation governing their conditions of employment. They had a separate Minister determining their conditions of service, personnel and administrative measures which were slightly different to public service employment practice. Generally salary and macro benefits were still governed centrally and they still formed part of the uniform salary structure.
On the relationship between the Commission and DPSA, Mr Govender clarified that there were three categories of determining salary adjustments. Firstly there were the senior management services; the Minister for Public Service and Administration determined their salary adjustment on an annual basis in consultation with the Ministers. Secondly, the salary adjustments of all those employees below level 13 non-senior managers were determined through a collective bargaining process, together with the unions every three years. Thirdly, the adjustments for Commissioners – office bearers, political and others, were determined by an Independent Commission and the President made the necessary announcements.
With regard to the issue of the SA Management Development Institute (SAMDI) and scarce skills, DPSA was responsible for the policy with regard to HR development while the Public Service SETA (PSSETA) was responsible for developing learnerships and developing the required qualifications. SAMDI was a service provider for training. They also had provincial training institutes such as the Western Cape Academy for Training. Similar bodies had been established in the Free State and in KwaZulu-Natal. Public servants had to be trained in quality assurance and policy. The Department was still battling with synergy. SAMDI was still in the process of consolidation.
Mr S Ntombela responded on the question of the anti-corruption strategy. A compliance audit had found that the Department complied with 67% of anti-corruption requirements. They would only be able to get a clearer picture in the coming financial year.
Mr Ntombela also clarified that training was basically with regard to judicial officers and prosecutors and would only be conducted in the coming year. Assistance was given to all departments to meet the anti-corruption law.
Mr Ntombela clarified ill health and incapacity. There were three scenarios of normal sick leave. Over a three-year cycle sick leave was exhausted and affected an employee’s capacity to perform. He would then be granted incapacity leave. If that were no longer sustainable, he would then go on to ill health retirement.
In response to the question on foreign workers, there were three employees in the Department. Foreign employees were treated differently, but those who had residential status were treated the same and could not be discriminated against. The Public Service Act said no foreigner would be appointed to a public service position when there was a South African available. There had to be evidence that a South African was not available and therefore it should be a critical and scarce skill for a department to employ a foreigner.
D Levin clarified that Project Khaedu was a challenge for managers to go out and spend time at the coalface of service delivery.
Mr Shaw responded on the delegates on the Community Development Workers (CDW) study tour. The delegation was probably made up of people from Gauteng. 22 were people in learnerships but only Gauteng got to the stage of actually appointing CDWs; a further 990 were expected to join. The target of March was likely to be met. Mr Shaw undertook to find out the information on the delegation on the study tour and get it to the Chair.
The Department’s experience with PSSETA was not different to what other departments had gone through, but over the past year or eighteen months they had begun to see stability in terms of where PSSETA was going. A key issue was that their services were very expensive.
On the question of under spending, especially in relation to outsourcing, this went back to the definition of scarce skills. The internal audit function was one of those scarce skills capacities, especially with the private sector offering attractive salaries. There was a huge challenge around the internal audit function in the public service. In some provinces this was shared between various departments where it got centralised and there was a need to share resources. One of the misconduct cases was poor performance. They could not continually talk about internal auditors performing poorly; it was better to co-source to jointly bring in some sort of partnership for a year. By 31 March 2006 they expected the internal audit function to have capacity to carry the Department through.
The Director General had spoken about the vacancy rate. Posts were not abolished when new ones were created.
Mr Ntombela responded to the question on foreign donor funding – the amount of £2 million allocated had all been spent. There was full accountability to National Treasury and the Director General was also accountable to this Committee as to how the funding was spent.
Dr Levin referred to the question of alignment saying this was also recognised as a problem and a challenge for the Public Service. A Senior Programme Manager had been appointed whose chief responsibility was to get better alignment
The Chairperson concluded that in the light of limited time, the Committee would give more attention to the discussions. The DPSA must enter into contracts with universities to develop and source scarce skills.
Dr Levin thanked the Chairperson and said the Department saw itself as a learning organisation trying to improve all the time. They tried to be frank concerning weaknesses and through a process of engagement would be able to identify areas that could be improved. They could conduct a joint workshop around compliance and the Public Services Act, for instance.
The meeting was adjourned.