Speech by the Honourable Zondi Silence Makhubele on the debate of Skills Development Amendment Bill (B 16 - 2011) in National Assembly

24 November 2011

Honourable Chairperson
Ministers
Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members
Ladies and gentlemen

Hon. Members, one of our major roles is to process and pass laws which aim to improve the lives of our people. The amendment of the Skills Development Act is no exception. Major aspects of the Skills Development Act of 1998 need to be amended and new provisions inserted for a seamless skilling system of our people - proportional to the spending available within the SETA system.

We are gathered here today to debate the Skills Development Amendment Bill which seeks to amend the Skills Development Act, of 1998. We are all aware that the Skills Development Act was assigned to the Minister of Higher Education and Training as from November 2009 with the aim of creating possibilities for a long-overdue improvement in articulation between universities, further education and training colleges as well as the work-based education and training.

Ladies and gentlemen

The Bill before us today amends the Skills Development Act so as to define certain words or expressions and to delete certain obsolete definitions; to amend provisions relating to the establishment, amalgamation and dissolution of the SETAs; to provide for the incorporation of a subsector of one SETA into another SETA; to provide for the composition of an Accounting Authority; to regulate the eligibility to become a member of an Accounting Authority; to provide for a constitution for every SETA; to regulate the conduct of a member of an Accounting Authority, or of a member of the staff, of a SETA when engaging in business with the SETA; to require members of accounting Authorities to disclose any conflict of interest with the relevant SETA; and to repeal or amend certain provisions which became obsolete as a result of the transfer of the administration of the said Act to the Minister of Higher Education and Training; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

We appreciate the efforts by the Minister of Higher Education and Training and his Department in providing a framework for the SETA constitutions. The SETA sector has been plagued with problems of poor performance, weak and uneven governance and management. As the African National Congress we are not advocating a one size fits all system but we do need some form of regulations to ensure the smooth governance and management of all SETAs.

We noted that the Skills Development Act has undergone many amendments and this is an indication that there are things that are not working as expected. We do acknowledge the fact that the Bill in its current form is not addressing the fundamental challenges affecting the skills development sector. Honorable Minister, we are eagerly waiting to engage with the green paper process that will address main issues of concern and challenges in this sector. We however, appreciate the steps that the Department of Higher Education and Training is taking to address some of the issues that will improve the functioning of the Sector Education and Training Authority to fulfill their mandate of skilling and re-skilling the South African citizens by producing qualified and competent workers for the economic growth of our country. It is not a secret that the image of the SETA out there is not good and there are public concerns about SETA performance. But we know that they have a key role to play.

One issue that we noted with keen interest was the "Disclosure of Conflict of interest" section. The ANC supports the insertion of the section 11B Disclosure of Conflict of interest to prohibit members of Accounting Authority to do business with the SETA. Similarly, they must declare their interests. Conflict of interest leads to conflict of commitment where the interest is no longer on the core business of the SETA but on financial gains. The aim here ladies and gentlemen is to detect and voluntarily defuse any conflict of interest before any corruption occurs and to prohibit members of the SETA Accounting Authority and other staff to exploit their positions in some way for their personal benefit.

Honorable Minister, we have noted with concern that SETAs are established for a period of five years however there are some SETAS with Chief Executive Officers and probably some staff members whose contracts go beyond the SETA life span or what is called indefinite employment contract. This is a situation that needs urgent attention.

Thank you