Concerned Providers Interest Group – QCTO/SAQA/SETA/DHET

SAQA retrench over 50% staff – State favors SAA over SAQA

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    Lynel Farrell

    In the news! This article have left me speechless, we are in trouble for sure.

    Sunday Times: Journalist Prega Govender

    ‘A travesty’: Well-run parastatal has to slash staff by half to fund SAA bailout.

    Devastation as state favors SAA over vital entity. And to add insult, the retrenchments happened on Workers’ Day

    A government entity responsible for verifying the authenticity of South African qualifications for employers is retrenching more than half of its staff because of budgetary constraints.

    The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which had 169 employees, confirmed on Tuesday that it will be retrenching a total of 88 employees, as its new staffing structure could only accommodate 81 posts.
    SAQA has been described as one of the better functioning parastatals, with a history of clean audits. It falls under the department of higher education and its functions include overseeing the National Qualifications Framework; registering qualifications on the NQF; maintaining the national learners’ record database; and evaluating local and foreign qualifications.

    If a government department or a private company wants to check whether a prospective employee’s qualifications are valid and authentic, they go to SAQA.

    Last year, Treasury took away R2.6bn from the department’s budget and channelled R1.1bn of it towards the SAA bailout.

    A former chairperson of the SAQA board, emeritus professor Shirley Walters, described the retrenchments as a “travesty”.

    “A very sad day for any understanding of an integrated education and training system that takes lifelong learning, as a philosophy and approach, to heart. One of the better functioning parastatals with clean audits throughout — a travesty.”

    A total of 53 employees were e-mailed a month’s notice of termination of their services on Workers’ Day. It informed them that their last working day was that day and that they would be paid in lieu of notice. A further 35 will be retrenched on May 10.
    Those retrenched on May 1 included employees who did not apply for posts in the new organisational structure, and those who were unsuccessful in interviews for director and deputy director posts and who did not apply for specialists posts and levels below.

    An e-mail dated April 28 outlining the retrenchment process stated that all unsuccessful candidates below management level would be retrenched on May 10.

    A notice of termination of service due to retrenchment, dated May 1, which Sunday Times Daily has seen, stated that SAQA had implemented a process of “organisational redesign to streamline its staffing structure and to reposition itself to become a more sustainable entity”.

    The termination notice, addressed to an affected staff member, stated: “It is unfortunate that we could not find any feasible alternatives to retrenchment, nor accommodate you in any of the positions in the new board-approved organisational structure.”

    In a letter dated February 11, the acting CEO, Julie Reddy, informed staff that SAQA had hired a redesign specialist, who found the current staffing structure “bloated and inefficient”.
    She stated in a seven-page document that between January and March “SAQA continues to be in a precarious financial position” because 56% of its income came from a government grant that does not even cover its annual personnel costs.

    “The balance of the 44% of SAQA’s budgeted income must be generated primarily through its income-generating services.”

    SAQA received R69.8m as a government grant and generated a further R50.9m from charging fees for verifying local and foreign qualifications during April 2019 to March 2020.

    Reddy said it was not able to raise additional money “due to the ongoing global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its second and more pernicious wave, which resulted in the closure of our borders and a reduced demand for SAQA income-generating services”.

    Reddy told Sunday Times Daily that SAQA had no alternative “but to restructure and reduce its salary bill to remain viable”.

    Responding to a query from Sunday Times Daily that staff from its foreign qualifications evaluation and advisory services unit and verification unit had been reduced from 91 to 17, Reddy confirmed that the new structure could only accommodate 17.

    “However, during the first three months of implementation, we will evaluate the situation and, if needed, increase the number of staff in this unit. Currently, the unit is not busy enough to warrant additional staff.”

    She said that staff will operate across functions “to ensure that we multi-skill staff and manage workload across the organisation”.

    “In the short-term, we will make use of staff who have been retrenched, on short-term contracts if required. The situation is not ideal but we have no option until we are on a better financial footing.”

    Reddy said all staff had to apply for positions in the new structure and were interviewed for these positions.

    “It is unfortunate that we had to retrench staff on Workers’ Day, but the process should have been completed by March 31.”

    She said that due to delays during the Section 189 negotiations with the staff association and labour union, the retrenchments were delayed to May 1.

    According to SAQA’s 2019/2020 annual report, there was a R15m cut in the government grant for the 2021/2022 financial year which started in April.
    The report stated that operational costs have been “cut to the bone”.
    Former SAQA CEO Joe Samuels, who was “absolutely devastated” by the retrenchments, said: “Those people that are meant to be looking after the interests of SAQA have failed dismally in their responsibility.

    “The very fact that they sent letters of retrenchment on Workers’ Day displays the height of insensitivity.”

    Samuels said the suggestion that SAQA was a bloated and inefficient organisation that needed to be downsized was “absolutely outrageous” and “did not make sense”.

    “I don’t think SAQA will be able to perform the functions that is outlined in the National Qualifications Framework Act. Furthermore, the new design will not deliver on the legal mandate of the organisation.”

    He accused the department of higher education of contributing to saving SAA “rather than SAQA”.

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    Des Squire

    What can I say?????

    Lynel Farrell

    I am with you Des, we did not see this coming. I wonder if there are going to be retrenchments in the Councils and SETAs? I see in the news today, that SARS was not even able to pay salary increases, due to financial reasons.

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