ServiceSETA requirement for agreement if learning material is purchased 20

Most developers of learning materials are probably aware that the ServiceSETA adopted a new procedure for accreditation earlier this year. Where they previously evaluated the online application for compliance and then arranged a site visit during which the evaluator evaluated both the QMS and learning programmes for programme approval, they now first do a desktop evaluation of the documentation before arranging a site visit. The provider has to submit the QMS and learning materials in hard copy to the offices of the SETA for evaluation before any site visit is arranged.

In their Accreditation guidelines for providers the SETA states: ‘It should be confirmed if the material was purchased. If this is the case, then an agreement of sale to use the material should be presented and submitted to ServiceSETA during the desktop compliance check and that this should be customised to suit the training provider’s specifications.’

My interpretation of this is that it opens the door for material developers to alert the SETA if a provider does not meet his/her commitments in terms of payment and does, therefore, not obtain legal rights to submit the purchased materials to the SETA for evaluation for programme approval. Relevant correspondence should be sufficient proof that the materials were obtained from a specific developer.

The statement also implies, in my opinion, that the developer of the learning materials should customise the materials to meet the requirements of the provider, i.e. contextualise the materials for the target group of learners and not merely ‘sell’ as off-the-shelf.

I am interested in hearing the views of other members of SkillsUniverse.

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20 thoughts on “ServiceSETA requirement for agreement if learning material is purchased

  • Steve Short

    @ Catherine while your sentiments and intent are noble, asking developers to give up their IP for a fixed sum and then letting it go is not a pragmatic option.  If you made a living from it, you would understand that the design/development of material is HARD work.  Would you expect Wilbur Smith write a novel, sell a single copy and his manuscript and walk away?  I’m sure that would keep the printers happy, but what does he do to make a living until he writes his next book?  
    While copy/paste merchants might be happy to share their ill-gotten material in this way, I could only imagine very well healed (philanthropic) design/developers doing this.  I’m all for ‘hand-up’s’ but definitively not ‘hand-out’s’ – IMHO I believe that most design/develop professionals believe the same.

  • Catherine Martin

    I hear what you say, Marie…but it is yet something else to do.  It is yet another delay.  It is yet something which SSETA’s clerks will not understand, and won’t be taught.  I’d rather see the utopia where learning materials are written from the heart, bought by DHET for a fixed sum, evaluated by trained educators/curriculum developers (not seta “experts”), and re-sold at no profit and with no copyright.

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Catherine, personally I see the requirement for an agreement as a positive move, both for the provider and the developer of learning materials. Their admin system and work processes need improvement, though.

  • Catherine Martin

    I know from experience that Services SETA will create obstacle upon obstacle to ensure that the system is unworkable.  This is a crime against the people of South Africa, yet no-one seems to notice, or even care.  If only we could value honesty and creativity, we would have transformed our country, attracted FDI by the billion, and raised the standard of living of every single one of our citizens.  Cry indeed, the Beloved Country!

  • Steve Short

    Spot on @ Hannes.  In my ‘previous life’ I did design/develop for a salary and, forgive me if it sounds boastful, my material was quality and unique.  There were less than a handful who could do it, so it was unashamedly copy/pasted (and even that wasn’t well done).  So I told them to acknowledge the source or remove it… at least that ensured recognition.  

    @ Marie yes they do that – a 20% change still makes it 80% of the IP of the originator.

    @ Sylvia fair comment, but also a sad indictment of a system when the owner of IP needs to engage in a paper war to protect what rightfully belongs to them.  There is no difference between stealing a wallet, car or cellphone and stealing the I” of somebody else.  Just as we need to prove that ‘tangible’ assets belong to us, providers should prove that the IP they use was purchased/created by them.  Now rectifying that would be worthy of a paper war.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Hannes, you are not the only one embarrassing themselves – I’ve just corrected my error in my posting – I’ve now corrected the DHET references, Minister Nzimande, Deputy Minister Manana and DG Qonde. My apologies.

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Hannes, so true what you are saying about corrupt practices. I have heard people say if you change 20% of a document, it is no longer infringement of copyright. I doubt that argument will stand in a court of law. We as developers need to stand firm and take the avenues available to us to protect our copyright and to report corruption. Interesting, brief summaries available at and

  • Hannes Nel

    There are two ways in which developers of training materials can do this:

    1. Develop the materials and have it evaluated and approved by the relevant QA body.

    2.Develop the materials and have the purchaser articulate the contents to their own needs, after which they submit the materials to the relevant QA body for approval.

    Sadly, no approach avoids corrupt practices. People will still steal your materials, sell it to their clients, not give recognition to you and many more. Imitation is the best form of compliment, they say, but when people erode your client base with your materials it becomes a bit much.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Thanks for that clarification Marie.  Agree yes all the providers are entitled to fair administrative action.  To give preferential treatment does not comply with that requirement.  

    Certainly that also should be reported to all the levels starting from the QCTO.  It would be interesting to know if the QCTO – or SAQA – or DHET maintains a list of such complaints.  

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Sylvia, thank you for explaining the levels of action to take – definitely valuable. Not sure if I created the impression of theft of my client’s intellectual property, which is not the case. The point I wanted to make is that if the former employee did achieve accreditation in two weeks, there was irregularity in processing applications according to dates of application and giving preference to some persons. I have no information as to where the person would have gotten the QMS and materials submitted for accreditation (and if it was declared as having been purchased) and how long ago he had left the SETA. I agree that matters of theft of intellectual property should be reported to the police and that any other forms of corruption should be reported and weeded out.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Hi Marie,  

    On the contrary I suggest that there is a great deal that can be done.

    I have a great deal of respect for what the DHET Minister Nzimande has achieved in the post-school education & training landscape.  I personally don’t believe for one minute that he, or his Deputy Minister Manana or his DG Gwebs Qonde would support such behaviour – what from the accounts appears to be blatant theft of intellectual property.  The Minister appoints the Accounting Authority Chair and that is the next person to approach – in writing.

    Then if there no action, as I said before this should follow the levels and be brought to the QCTO CEO’s attention, and then the SAQA CEO as SAQA is ultimately responsible for the QCTO.

    Then if there is no action, I do believe it should be brought directly to the DG and Minister’s attention.

    And finally if nothing is done to stop what appears to be blatant theft of intellectual property – then an advice to the chair of the PPC Ms Phosa, for whom I have utmost respect. 

    I don’t think that we should succumb to all the media: “everything is corruption and nothing can be done” message – corruption only succeeds if people don’t have the courage to take it up.

    Of course as it is alleged theft it should be formally reported to the police and a case number obtained.

    Maybe there is a lawyer who would be prepared to take it up – pro bono. 

  • Corne Koelewyn

    Marie maybe i could be of assistance in finding out what is going on in regards to your clients desktop evaluations and why it is not attended to. if their is a case that one of the seta staff members boast about her accreditation then i would love to catch them in this act and expose them for the fraud that he/she is.  They are obliged by restriction of trade in their contracts that they may not either apply or become a provider in a certain amount of years after fired or resigned. if you want me to assist you i will do so gladly, you can email me at

    Kind Regards,

    Corne Koelewyn

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Sylvia, interesting that you mention this. I am assisting clients with accreditation with ServiceSETA. With two clients we have been waiting since 12 February for the relevant department in the SETA to arrange for desktop evaluation of the documentation so that the necessary site visits can be arranged. We have been advised that they are very busy with a large number of applications. We do not receive responses to our e-mails or voice messages left with the staff. E-mails to the CEO to ask for follow-up on progress on our applications land dead-ended with the PA and no responses are received.

    One of the clients informed me that a former employee of the SETA had boasted with her that he achieved his accreditation within two weeks. He is no longer answering her calls. I am of opinion that the matter should be reported but what I have is only hear-say and if calls and emails to the CEO are blocked by the PA, there is no chance of getting any further.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    I receive many messages and I cannot from where I have this information: but someone told me that a person who was employed by Services Seta had “acquired” the material of a training provider and used it to set up in business for themselves.  As I recall they were no longer with the SETA.

    I wonder whether this is one part of the problem – a highly knowledgeable and experienced material developer is required to present their information to a relatively junior clerical staff member, who cannot help by see the opening for business for themselves and does not respect the concept of intellectual property?

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Tass, yes, I also prefer to trust clients, especially those with whom I have worked earlier. I have not had problems not being paid at all in the past 5 and a half years, but it is frustrating that some providers hold back for very long periods on the last payment – because their own cash-flow situations. This has often happened and it does hamper one’s own cash flow if more than one client does that. I trust and expect clients to meet their commitments according to what they have agreed to once I have delivered according to my promises. While many providers who have bought substandard materials in the past may be so ‘conditioned’ to receiving poor materials and may not trust what they will be receiving, I have decided to stick to my term of providing non-editable materials (and that does not mean PDF files because anybody can unlock those) for the provider to evaluate and to only make the final editable version available once final payment has been cleared by the bank. That way at least the materials cannot be processed further and be submitted to a SETA while I am waiting for my payments.

  • Tass Schwab

    I think that you might have hit the nail on the head here. Earlier this year I developed material and was simply not paid despite delivery. I think that even though I have been burned a few times, I am still naive and expect payment especially when it comes to people I have worked with once or twice before. SLA’s stipulating all the terms need to be clear, and the fact that delivery only takes place once all has been paid raises an important issue. It would be great if the SETA’s could implement some sort of follow up too. Given that this has only happened to me twice in my four years of being on my own its still good going though. The trauma of not being paid after months of work, (I only do one project at a time) and the loss suffered to regain moneys again is simply overlooked by those who pay for our services. 

  • Marie Smith Post author

    Steve, naturally the SETA can only follow up if the provider is honest and submits an agreement. But if the agreement clearly states which materials the provider obtains the rights to use, there should not be a need to follow up. There must have been situations that gave rise to the SETA’s decision to implement this requirement, which cuts both ways –  protecting the developer and an endeavour to have materials contextualised for target groups.I have in mind providers who have complained on this forum that examples in health and safety materials purchased were totally inappropriate for the type of work environment of learners. Something providers could include in SLAs when purchasing materials. The developer could include in the SLA when developing materials that the right to use the materials is only transferred once full payment has been cleared by the developer’s bank and a letter to that effect has been issued by the developer. The latter is, however, also based on the premise that submitted materials do meet accreditation requirements (which should be determined by a suitably qualified moderator).

  • Steve Short

    It should be standard protocol for all SETA’s @ Marie.  It also protects the IP of legitimate developers should also protect providers from ‘shonky’ developers.  One wonders though if the Services SETA follows up with the developer whose material is being used.  

  • Corne Koelewyn

    this is very true i am currently obtaining accreditation for a client, but guys please do note that this is very big for our seta’s, this is to protect both providers and developers, i see it fit in the bigger picture and opening the possibilities of more providers being presented. as far as material developers goes i have seen horrific material that has been purchased by clients and then i have to fix the alignments and ratifications of learner guides information. please if the developers sells material remember you have learners at stake here that needs to gather the right information to stimulate their brains and to effectively do their careers. i think and wrote to all seta’s that this must be implemented as a policy for new up coming providers.