GCIS budget vote 2003 - Joel Netshitenzhe: Chief Executive Officer

25 March 2003

25 March 2003

I. Introduction

  1. This is the sixth GCIS presentation on its budget to the Portfolio Committee - which means that our fifth birthday is imminent and with it a time for medium-term stocktaking.
  2. One of the things we will surely be celebrating is our relationship with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications. We do know that we are being received, as government, by representatives of the people who share the basic premises of our work:

2.1 That our citizens in all their sectors and formations must have the widest access possible to reliable information about their government and its programmes in media and forms that they prefer:

  • In order that they can become active participants in programmes to improve their lives and the world we live in; and
  • in order that they can hold their government to account.

2.2 That the right of South Africans to freedom of expression, embracing the freedom of the press and other media and the freedom to receive and impart information or ideas should become a reality for all.

2.3 That the peoples and countries of the world should have reliable and accurate information about the realities of our country and the possibilities it offers so that they will be moved to strengthen their partnerships with us and our continent for development and growth; and that South Africans should be afforded a framework through which they can join in the effort build those partnerships with the rest of the world.

  1. On this last matter, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Marketing Council will brief the committee on the Brand South Africa campaign that is about to unfold, which will in the first instance harness the pride that South Africans feel in their country, as we engage with the world and its visitors to our land.
  2. This presentation will focus on the contributions we believe we have made and are planning to make on some of our core functions. The CEO of the IMC and the GCIS Managers will help elaborate on some of the issues.

II. Promoting access to communication

  1. It is just a few days short of one year since this committee completed the First Reading of the MDDA Bill. The work that was done here prepared the way for a smooth passage through the remaining stages of legislation and by July the MDDA Act had commenced.

5.1 In the time between this committee's nomination of six board members and the appointment of the board in December, work was done to consolidate the commitments by the media owners so that the President could indeed make three appointments "taking into account the finances of the Agency" - and so that the MDDA should begin its life with an assured funding base. GCIS has transferred to the MDDA the R3 million set aside for it for the financial year 2002/03 and will be transferring R7 million as soon as the next financial year begins. This has allowed the MDDA to begin the work of establishing itself without any delay.

5.2 GCIS has given, and will continue to give, the MDDA all the support that should be forthcoming from a department to a public entity for which it has responsibility. In this initial startup phase, that has meant extensive administrative support as the MDDA Board seeks to establish an agency that is fully compliant with the PFMA and have in place effective structures, systems and procedures that will give effect to the decisions and policies of the Board. It has meant passing to the MDDA the information and research accumulated over the years of policy development and legislative enactment. Beyond that GCIS will continue to do what it can to ensure that the MDDA draws maximum support from the various government departments and agencies with which it has to develop partnerships.

5.3 As the MDDA Board has indicated, it expects that the criteria it will be using for allocating support will be embodied in regulations by midyear putting it in a position to then solicit requests for support and to begin disbursing funds by the end of this year. As such, we are confident that, soon, the MDDA will start fully giving effect to the provisions of the Act. We also hope that the Portfolio Committee will regularly interact with the Board.

  1. The transformation of the advertising and marketing industry remains on course, within the framework of the Way Forward that concluded the hearings in November.

6.1 GCIS, the Department of Communications and the Department of Trade & Industry are busy finalising a report to Cabinet, with proposals on developing a framework for taking transformation forward. The Global BEE Transformation Charter and its associated guidelines will help facilitate this process. And the review this year of the consumer protection legislation should contribute to improving the regulatory environment.

6.2 As agreed at the November hearings, there is to be a midyear plenary gathering to take the transformation further forward. An interim plenary meeting held last week set in motion the preparation for the mid year gathering, including the gathering and analysis of information, which could inform discussion around the setting of benchmarks.

6.3 In the meanwhile, the signing by all stakeholders of the Values Statement produced in the course of the hearings, will be witnessed at an event to take place in the next few weeks. Industry bodies intend to cascade the commitment done by taking the Values Statement to their members for adoption. This should help set the scene for a productive midyear plenary.

6.4 We noticed that the cover story in the latest edition of The Media features the Honourable Chair of the Portfolio Committee, gently chiding government for the pattern of its expenditure on advertising. While we would say that the difference between government and the private sector is considerably more significant in statistical and policy terms than is often acknowledged, we are busy addressing the need to shift our expenditure patterns. This will form part of our recommendations to Cabinet. In the meanwhile government is strengthening our bulk-buying procedures; interacting with parastatals regarding procurement; and examining the new Media Group Measure produced by SAARF as a possible instrument for shifting and tracking adspend.

6.5 Without waiting for these things we are also checking our own practice each time we purchase media space in order to ensure the widest and most representative reach. We have taken to heart the justified criticism of government in this regard.

6.6 For example, the single biggest communication campaign of each year is the dissemination of government's programme of action following the President's State of the Nation Address. Comparing 2002 and 2003, the breakdown shows a marked shift towards media and modes of communication more effective in reaching all sections of the population than are print media on their own. Amongst the initiatives behind these figures was the live link up with 48 community radio stations for the President's State of the Nation Address, as well as consultation with organisations representing those with disabilities, to publish the information in Braille and on tape. The event was also broadcast live (as part of "outreach") at Multi-Purpose Community Centres and satellite points across South Africa through the "Big Screen" programme which saw 58 community-based Imbizo events bringing the Address directly into the most rural communities.

  Distribution Print Radio Outreach People with disabilities Total
2002 6,5% 70,0% 17,0% 6,5% 0,0% 100%
2003 14,0% 32,0% 36,0% 16,0% 2,0% 100%

 III. Bringing Government closer to the people

  1. These figures also bear on our intensified efforts to bring government closer to the people.

7.1 The increased importance of distribution and outreach, (including production of material) like that of radio represents attention to trying to ensure that information about government's programme of action does reach all citizens. Needless to say all languages are being used. We are however aware that the character of the language used in our publications needs attention to ensure it does communicate clearly to everyone, and we are giving that matter attention.

7.2 These changes have been informed by research that tracks the reach of our communication efforts and public wishes and preferences about what they wish to know of government and how they would like to receive that information. In this regard it is a priority for this coming year to strengthen our distribution system to ensure that the material and the information we disseminate does reach citizens everywhere in our country.

  1. The rollout of the Multi-Purpose Community Centres has passed the halfway mark, with 36 operational out of the 61 planned for the first phase of the programme that will see one in every district of the country. All the evidence is that the MPCCs are making an enormous impact, even beyond what we might have anticipated, on the lives of people for whom previously access to government services was extremely difficult and sometimes prevented by the inordinate cost of transport to do things which those in well-resourced areas take for granted, like getting a form to register a child's birth.

8.1 We have undertaken a pilot project together with DTI at one MPCC, to ensure availability of government information on opportunities for micro and small business, with a view to extending it to all MPCCs.

8.2 As we look forward to the next phase in this process we are doing so within the framework of government's drive towards Integrated Service Delivery, together with other departments, in particular Public Service & Administration; Communications; Public Works; Arts & Culture; Science & Technology. Such an approach will ensure the most effective impact of resources devoted by various departments to extending the physical and ICT infrastructure for bringing government services and information to citizens.

8.3 The first fruit of this approach will be the launch this year of the first phase of the DPSA's Batho Pele Gateway project, with MPCCs providing the home of some of the pilot projects. Gateway will in time offer all citizens a one-stop electronic entry point to government services and information, an initiative described by President in his State of the Nation Address as "akin to an electronic MPCC".

8.4 We are examining possibilities, in the context of preparations for the Growth and Development Summit, to significantly strengthen partnership with the private sector. This will inform both the modernisation of infrastructure and the setting up of MPCCs in all municipalities. Consideration is also being given to extending this partnership to the delivery of such services as provision of business skills.

  1. The Imbizo programme has gone from strength to strength in the two years since the President initiated it with his visit to Limpopo Province in April 2001. It has become an integral part of government communication and has expanded rapidly in response to public enthusiasm for the opportunity to engage directly with the executive.

9.1 Apart from the Imbizo visits to provinces by the President and Deputy President and regular provincial and local outreach initiatives, the National Imbizo Focus Weeks have progressed from involving 170 events in October 2001, to 300 in April 2002, and 320 in November 2002. Response to preparations for the Focus Week beginning on 31 March suggests that this Focus Week could be even bigger.

9.2 One consequence of the rapid growth in Imbizo is the challenge of processing those concerns that are not immediately dealt with on the spot. To address this GCIS is developing an information management system to which provinces will have access, and which will collate issues raised at Imbizo, in order to promote effective follow-up and feedback.

9.3 At the same time it should be recognised that the principal impact of Imbizo is the difference it makes to how government operates once the executive interacts directly with the public. The two-way interaction acts as a catalyst both for responsive government and for more participation by the public in programmes for change - it nourishes partnership for development and good governance.

IV. Fostering a climate for partnership and implementation

  1. Promoting the building of partnerships with government across society has been and continues to be a priority for GCIS. Since hope and confidence in the possibility of joint action and democratic governance to eradicate poverty are also critical to building partnerships for change, communicating achievements and correcting misperceptions are also priorities.
  2. During the past year, whether it was the Partnership Against AIDS; the Social Grant Registration Campaign; Imbizo; the World Summit for Sustainable Development; the Sixteen Days of No Violence Against Women and Children; or various other campaigns to foster letsema and the spirit of vuk'uzenzele, the themes of shared responsibility and joint action for change, have been at the heart of our communication campaigns.
  3. In the coming period the Growth and Development Summit and the post-TRC process amongst others will demand such attention.
  4. That such communication is consistent with the public mood was reflected in a more positive turn-of-year mood in the media and trends in public opinion compared to previous years. This suggests an end of the downward "mid-term" trend in public mood. Long-term confidence in our democratic system to fulfil the aspirations of our people continues to be reflected in surveys.
  5. Consistent with these trends is the evidence of the impact of government programmes on the life of South Africans, as reflected in the holistic picture from various surveys by Statistics South Africa. While partial data and focus on single points in time may attract shallow claims of "no delivery" and "increasing poverty", a contrary conclusion follows from a rounded picture of trends including the "social wage", tax relief and social grants, over and above cash income from employment.

V. Five years on

  1. To implement the programmes described above and to effect communication that brings government closer to the people, that broadens access to communication and that creates a climate for partnership, GCIS has had to transform itself from what it was five years ago when it was established. It has had to develop and consolidate a government communication system that could answer to these needs. This is not the occasion for a review as such, or to anticipate what the challenges of the next decade will be, but it may be of interest to note some highlights.
  2. Looking at GCIS as an organisation:

16.1 The composition of the staff has been transformed to meet the requirements of the Employment Equity Act targets. Currently 71,4% are African (EEA target for 2005 is 70,5%); 9,2% Coloured (target 7,8%); 2,7% Indian (target 3%); and 16,7% White (target 18,7%). Those with disabilities form 2,1% of the staff (target 2%).

16.2 The budget for the financial year 2002/03 was R153,7 million (including allocations to the IMC and MDDA), rising to R176 million in 03/04, compared with R60,2 million for the first year 1998/99. For this increase, reflecting the fact that GCIS has been entrusted with additional functions, we should thank the Portfolio Committee.

16.3 In addition to the head office in Pretoria, nine provincial offices and one satellite office that existed in 1998, there are now also 62 Government Information Centres (GICs) across the country, 34 of them within MPCCs.

16.4 The Government On Line Web Site, launched in 1999, has been visited over 4,3 million times.

  1. Looking at the government communication system:

17.1 Today there is an increasingly integrated system of communicators clustered to match the clustering of governance, and working under the strategic guidance of Cabinet, co-ordinating national and provincial governments.

17.2 Following the first-ever conference of local government communicators hosted by SALGA in June 2002 with GCIS support efforts are being made to enhance communication capacity in the local sphere of government.

17.3 The SANEF-Cabinet Indaba in 2002 laid the foundation for improved working relations between government and the media in the public interest. Amongst other things, the Presidential Press Corps is about to be launched.

17.4 GCIS is making increasing use of multi-media initiatives and promoting direct two-way communication between government and the public.

17.5 We have also started more systematically to develop our relations with our counter-parts in Southern Africa and further afield; and we are working closely with the NEPAD Secretariat on various NEPAD initiatives.

  1. These are simply a few reflections of the changes that have been made in a process in which the Portfolio Committee, as already noted, has been a supportive participant, and which is slowly but surely taking us closer to the realisation of the vision of a society of informed citizens who are active participants in improving their own lives and the well-being of the nation.

Presented by: Joel Netshitenzhe, CEO: GCIS


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