GCIS budget vote 2000: Transformation and corporate issues

 7 March 2000

GCIS has gone through an intensive transformation process, involving a review of its structures and its work procedures. Business planning and budgeting processes are more closely integrated, and a range of improvements have been made to the department’s corporate governance

1. Transformation of structures and personnel

GCIS has been involved in a long but systematic process of reviewing its activities. Our presentation to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications last year was based on a SWOT analysis carried out within GCIS and our regional Government Information Centres (GICs) during the first few months of 1999.

Our aim is to transform GCIS into an efficient and effective organisation, which will deliver on its mandate to provide information to the public, with a focus on the poor and disadvantaged of our country.

We continued throughout 1999 and into the new year with this process of transforming GCIS:

  • We have been through a process of scenario planning, where we considered what the most important factors to affect the future of government communications would be. The aim was not to predict with any accuracy what the future might hold, but to ensure that our strategies take into account the various possibilities that may emerge.
  • We held a GCIS bosberaad in May 1999 where we frankly and openly tried to clarify our role and identify areas for urgent attention. These priorities were grouped around structure, competencies and the budget, and a transformation agenda was established.

The current focus of our programme is around diversity in our organisation where we look at issues of race and gender relations. We also have in place a programme to deal with issues that have arisen out of a climate study within GCIS, and are creating a "learning organisation" to ensuring continuous improvement and development.

The transformation of GCIS has progressed well and we will continue to focus on the areas that require our urgent attention, such as

  • training of staff;
  • an incentives system;
  • our internal communication strategy; and
  • implementation of our Seamless Project recommendations.

2.  Restructuring

One of the most significant changes made to our structure was to establish a project desk under the Deputy CEO, with the function of ensuring that GCIS deals with requests from our clients in a systematic and efficient manner. All requests that are cross cutting and not line function responsibilities are referred to the Project Desk for attention. Given the large number of projects that GCIS works on at any given time, we implemented a training programme in project management for GCIS management during 1999.

We renamed the Chief Directorate: Government & Media Liaison and created a new directorate for International Liaison and Marketing, dealing with co-ordination of international marketing strategies.

We also increased the size of our Provincial & Local Liaison chief directorate from 85 to 116, given our priority programmes around the development of GICs and one stop government centres.

We also realigned our Corporate Services structure by upgrading the IT function to the level of directorate; upgrading the Internal Audit function; grouping all the Human resource functions in one directorate and all the finance, provisioning and auxiliary functions together to ensure greater coherence.

The CSA chief directorate was separated from Corporate Services and training for government communicators included in the functions of the CSA.

No significant changes were made to the Policy & Research chief directorate.

The old structure of SACS had approximately 504 posts in February 1995. By January 1998 SACS had approximately 230 staff, following the large-scale exodus through transfers or voluntary severance packages. There were approximately four directors in the entire GCIS with no chief directors, and the directors had to ensure the necessary continuity in the department.

We have finally adopted a new structure for GCIS with 383 staff of whom 116 are in the Provincial and Local chief directorate, with the majority based in the provinces to staff the existing and proposed GICs.

We have however decided to operate within our current personnel budget allocation of R37,7 million and will fill posts incrementally, with some of the posts earmarked as unfunded vacant posts.

We are also managing a Corporate Services Improvement Project which aims at:

  • evaluating and re engineering the work processes within the confines of the public service regulations
  • addressing the overall size of Corporate Services through redeployment, retraining, internal lateral transfers; natural attrition and by encouraging early retirements

In terms of representivity in GCIS, we have passed the minimum national standards set by the White Paper on Transformation of the Public Service:

  • 75 % of our management is black
  • 40% of management are women
  • 1% of our staff are people with disabilities.

3.  Budget

The GCIS mandate has been extended to include:

  • Development information which entails developing a more grassroots based network of communicators
  • Better application of advances in IT so that the public has better access to government via the Internet, specifically the Government website
  • Playing a proactive role in projecting the country internationally
  • co-ordinating the work of all government communications – through clusters of national departments or through provincial governments.

Owing to these increased responsibilities, we submitted a request during 1999 for an adjustment to the baseline of our MTEF allocation. Our budget for 1999/2000 was R47 279 000 and we requested additional operational funds for 2000, based on the decision by Cabinet on 8 October 1997, that as operations get under way GCIS may request a larger budget or additional funds.

We were finally allocated a budget of R60.7m, of which

  • R37.7m is for personnel expenditure and
  • R23m is for operational costs.

The budget can be broken down to:

Programme 1: Administration R16,2
Programme 2: Policy & Research R11,0
Programme 3: Government & Media R 8,2
Programme 4: Provincial & Local R14,0
Programme 5: CSA R11,3

We have centralised our overall running costs for the whole of GCIS and our regional GICs and this totals R5 million, which covers administrative costs of telephones, cells, fax, photocopiers, stationery, GG cars, SITA and Govnet,

The major expenditure items are as follows:

Programme 1: Administration (Corporate Services)
Major priorities are:

  • Meeting our fixed running costs
  • IT equipment and software, especially for the network
  • Training all GCIS staff
  • Advertising costs to fill vacant posts
  • Improving security measures

Programme 2: Policy & Research
The priorities in this programme are:

  • Management of Government Online, GCIS’ entry point to all government websites
  • Production of directories for government, contacts, media etc
  • Media monitoring

Programme 3: Government & Media Liaison
The priority is co-ordinating the international marketing of South Africa. Additional priorities are:

  • Production of Bua Online, which will provide daily news package service to community and selected mainstream media
  • Briefings to diplomatic corps to South Africa
  • Improving technology
  • Use of SAPA

Programme 4: Provincial & Local Liaison
The priority is the establishing and maintenance of one stop government information centres throughout the country.

Programme 5: Communication Service Agency
The priorities in this programme are:

  • The production and distribution of material for the Opening of Parliament
  • Proper facilities for the radio unit, given our emphasis on the need to make more extensive use of radio -- particularly community radio.
  • Production and distribution of the SA Year Book

In conclusion, it is critical to note that GCIS adds value or contributes to savings within government through:

  • communication research, which covers the communication environment, media impact analysis; as well as pre- and post-testing of campaigns, making expenditure cost effective
  • providing communication advice to Ministries and assisting departments in developing communication strategies
  • rendering an accessible and professional media support service to Parliament and Cabinet
  • providing an effective news dissemination service on behalf of government nationally, provincially and to international missions
  • providing a cost effective agency type service for departments through the Communication Service Agency which produces and copies material ranging from large exhibitions to video and audio cassettes
  • producing radio programmes in all eleven languages in support of government campaigns for use on national, regional and community radio
  • providing print and production services and advice to departments and playing a central role in developing a corporate identity for national government
  • producing and marketing the SA Year Book, the official window to South Africa
  • developing our section for bulk-buying of campaign advertising space, which will result in a saving for government. Once this is in place we will look at extending bulk buying to other aspects of communication
  • our skills initiative for communicators which provides professional training and advice to national and provincial government communicators will act as a major cost saver to government
  • ensuring sound relations among communicators at national, provincial, and in future at local government level, which will ensure savings in the long run
  • compiling and delivering development-centred information programs and campaigns through Government Information Centres. The aim is to move away from urban centred offices that GCIS inherited from SACS, to Government Information Centres located at district level. GCIS is working in collaboration with several departments to establish one-stop government information centres (Multi Purpose Community Centres) throughout the country at a local level
  • Research conducted to determine the need for government information amongst the South African population nationally is an example of projects executed for government. The results of this research are currently being shared with national departments and provincial communicators so that the information needs of the South African public are met
  • FAQ Project: We estimate that the Frequently Asked Questions Project will last up to two years. The aim is to identify the most frequently asked questions by the South African population, consult relevant departments to formulate the answers and distribute the answers through the Post Office, and other government institutions. This project will involve all spheres of Government -- national, provincial and local, making their communications cost effective
  • providing a support service and advice to departments on their request, or per directive from Cabinet, such as the launch of the HIV/AIDS Partnership, arms package, voter registration, elections, inauguration, anti-corruption summits.

Ilva Mackay Langa, Chief Director: Corporate Services, GCIS