Tag: costs

By Nivashni Nair for Times Live

Parents were dumbfounded when Roseland Primary School sent them a letter claiming it couldn’t afford to print their children’s reports.

The management of a Durban school may have skipped the logic class when it sent out notices to parents telling them that it’s too poor to print report cards.

“Why couldn’t they just print the report using the same paper and ink that they used for the letter?” one parent asked TimesLIVE.

In the letter dated March 12, the principal of Roseland Primary School in Newlands invited parents to school on April 11 from 4pm to 6pm to view their children’s academic progress.

“The school is unable to print any reports due to the financial constraints the school is faced with. We will not issue any information before 4pm. You may come to school to fetch a letter for your employer to dismiss you early on the date,” the principal Brenda Davids said.

The mother of a grade 5 pupil told TimesLIVE that she was in utter shock when she received the letter.

“I have never heard of a child not receiving a report,” she said.

She then started to question how the school management could afford to print letters to send home to every pupil and for parents to take to their employers but were unable to issue report cards.

“I can’t wrap my head around their logic. I have a file where I keep all my child’s reports, school photos and everything she does in the year like cards and things she achieves in school. Now I won’t have the first term’s report,” she said.

Another parent said she understood that the school was financially strapped due to non-payment of school fees however she had paid her grade 3 son’s fees.

“I think we are more angry because we know this could have been rectified by simply printing the report card instead of wasting paper and ink on letters informing us that there are no report cards.”

“How can they not see how silly this whole thing is?”

The principal could not be reached for comment, however KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesman Kwazi Mthethwa called on her to immediately release the pupils’ results.

“As a department we do not get involved in the day to day running of a school. That function belongs to the school. No one is allowed to withhold results of any learner. We are calling upon the school to be reasonable and give learners what is due to them.”

Mthethwa said he wasn’t aware of the letters that were sent home to parents.

“We have not seen any letters. But if it is true, how can the school claim that they don’t have resources to print any documents but they are printing another document. It’s a serious contradiction,” he said.

He added that school reports can be printed on cardboard or paper.

“No one needs glossy reports. A report is a report whether its on cardboard or paper. If it comes to a push, print it on paper,” he said.

Cash-in-transit heists cost SA R1bn

By Kyle Cowan for News24 

More than R1bn has been “lost” as a result of cash-in-transit robberies in the eight years between 2008 and 2016, according to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

The DPCI, or the Hawks as they are more commonly known, granted a Public Access to Information Application (PAIA) lodged by News24, providing a five-page document that is apparently part of a presentation on cash-in-transit robberies.

According to the document, the highest cash losses were reported in 2014, a total of R213.9m and R187.7m in 2016.

“A total of R 1 071 430 410 cash amount was lost to the illicit market for the period under review,” the document reads.

It also provides a year-by-year breakdown of the various types of robberies committed.

Cross-pavement robberies were the highest reported with 1 163 incidents in the same period, followed by robberies on retail premises at 606 incidents.

Vehicle-on-road incidents total 180 in this period.

Military precision

“CIT (cash-in-transit) robbery networks are highly organised, well-resourced and operate with military precision,” the document states.

“CIT networks can form and dissolve according to the nature of the mission they are undertaking.”

The document adds that the cash-in-transit networks are usually orchestrated by a mastermind, or kingpin. The heists are usually planned well in advance and mostly rely on insider information.

“CIT robbery networks are loosely structured, dynamic and flexible networks as opposed to the traditional structured or hierarchical mafia-type groups. Except for the mastermind and a couple of trusted confidantes that may be repeatedly involved, the foot soldiers will rarely be repeatedly involved in every CIT robbery,” it continues.

It also details that, according to circumstantial evidence, cash-in-transit robbery networks in South Africa operate on a national level and a few groups or networks are responsible for the majority of cash-in-transit robbery incidents throughout the country.

Irresponsible disclosure

CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre Kalyani Pillay told News24 the institution works closely with the Hawks and its statistics on record were similar to those presented to News24 by the Hawks.

“Unfortunately, we do not disclose losses as they are subject to rigorous audits so that they can be sued in an aggravation of sentence. This means that the values are subject to change, depending on the outcome of the audit,” Pillay said.

“In addition, we believe it is irresponsible to disclose losses, as it only serves to stimulate the criminal’s appetite to perpetuate this type of crime,” she added.

At the time of writing the Hawks had not respocfnded to detailed questions over whether it had the necessary resources to deal with the cash-in-transit robbery networks its own background document referenced.

Poor families starved by the price of food

By Sizwe Sama Yende for News24

Poor families have been cutting down on buying proper nutritious food by as much as 26%, and need another R1 062.38 a month to be able to afford it.

The August 2018 Household Affordability Index was compiled by NGO the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group. It is in response to the government-commissioned panel of experts’ report on VAT, released last week, in which additional items were recommended for zero-rating. Currently, 19 items are zero-rated for VAT.

The Pietermaritzburg organisation warns that families can no longer afford to eat properly and that no amount of “tinkering around the edges of our economic framework” is going to change this.

It wants all VAT charges to be removed from food in light of the price hikes that have occurred since government increased VAT from 14% to 15% in April.

“If there is a need to recover revenue from food, then it is better if it be recovered off luxury foods, which working class households do not buy and the wealthy do buy,” the organisation’s report found.

“Food is not a commodity. It is better for all of us if we are all able to eat properly and be healthy. Without proper nutrition none of our developmental outcomes will come to fruition. Our education outcomes will continue to be dire, our health sector will continue to collapse as more and more people get sick and – with very little money in the pockets of the majority of South Africans, and child stunting levels at 25% for girl children and at 30% for boy children under the age of five years – we can have no future workforce or political stability, or reasonable economic recovery.”

The VAT panel released its report to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene on August 6. It recommended zero-rating white bread, bread flour, cake flour, sanitary products, school uniforms and nappies, including cloth and adult nappies.

The panel also recommended that government should expedite the provision of sanitary products to the poor and ensure that zero-rating did not benefit producers, but rather, accrued to consumers.

Other options

Julie Smith, a researcher at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, said the country faced a crisis of affordability and suggested options that could be explored if VAT remained the same.

“We are saying government must remove VAT completely. However, there are a number of options that should be looked into. The income levels are too low because of the legacy of apartheid and workers must be paid a living wage. The government can also look into how it can increase the old-age and child social grants,” she said.

“Another option is that government should look into how it reduces the cost of goods and services. Transport to work takes a huge percentage of household incomes. Can we have a way of reducing fuel prices and have a public transport system? In South Africa, transport is privately owned.”

The ever-increasing cost of electricity, said Smith, also had a direct impact on poor households. Zero-rated foods still had to be cooked. “Unless the cost of electricity is looked into, people may have food but they cannot cook because they cannot afford electricity.”

Families need R1 062.38 more a month to be able to afford nutritious food.

The index shows that the cost of foods in the household food basket, a basket designed with women living on low incomes, was R3 009.65. But the median wage for black South African households is R3 000.

The difference in cost between the foods which families living on low incomes try to buy each month, and the foods which families would like to buy and should buy to meet their basic nutritional needs, amounts to R1 062.38.

The food that families need to buy to meet basic nutrition costs R4 072.38 a month.

The situation is worse for families surviving on the R400 monthly child support grant because it is below the poverty line of R531 per person per month. Also, the child support grant is below the cost of a nutritious diet for a child aged between 10 and 13, which is R569.98.

VAT on the household food basket in August, the index found, was R215.77 – or 7.2% of the total household food basket.

“If white bread and cake flour are zero-rated in line with the panel’s recommendations, the savings on the household food basket would be R40.81 a month (R31.46 on 25 loaves of bread and R9.35 on 10kg of cake flour),” the report found.

“This would bring the cost of the household food basket down to R2 968.84 a month. This amount is almost equivalent to the median wage for a black South African household, and this is just food – not transport or any other critical household expenses.”
Removing VAT from peanut butter, an excellent source of protein and fats on children’s sandwiches, the organisation argues, is not going to send the economy into the ashes.

Neither will subsidising eggs, maas, brown bread and maize meal.

Nor will regulating the retailers and the prices on supermarket shelves.

“We are facing probably our greatest crisis, and we are still unable to conceptualise the problem within the broader political economy and deal with its cause. We cannot deal with our food affordability crisis by limiting analyses to losses to the fiscus and evaluating a few chosen goods and services within such a narrow framework of evaluation,” the report found.

“It is not useful to approach problems in isolation or by using the entry point of analysis as ‘whether we can afford this’ or ‘what will the loss to the fiscus be for us?’.”

By Allison Jeftha for Fin24 

Fin24 went shopping at South Africa’s leading retailers to see who has the lowest prices on products exempt from the increase in value-added tax (VAT).

The VAT hike from 14% to 15% came into effect on April 1, after an announcement by former finance minister Malusi Gigaba in the 2018 Budget.

There has been a widespread backlash to the impact it will have on South African consumers’ pockets, especially those of the poor.

Only 19 items have been excluded from the VAT hike.

The current list of VAT-exempt items comprises the following items:

• Brown bread
• Maize meal
• Samp
• Mealie rice
• Dried mealies
• Dried beans
• Lentils
• Pilchards/sardines in tins
• Milk powder
• Dairy powder blend
• Rice
• Vegetables
• Fruit
• Vegetable oil
• Milk
• Cultured milk
• Brown wheat meal
• Eggs
• Edible legumes and pulses of leguminous plants

When Fin24 conducted a snap poll among users to share their views on the VAT increase and to tell us which items they would like to be added to the current VAT-free list, we were inundated with responses.

The message was clear: the current list of items is not enough.

Fin24 previously reported that Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said government will continue to hold talks with stakeholders in a bid to soften the blow of the VAT hike on the poor, and is prepared to look at expanding the list of zero-rated goods.

Fin24 filled some trolleys at Pick n Pay [JSE:PIK], Woolworths [JSE:WHL], Spar [JSE:SPP], Checkers and Shoprite [JSE:SHP] to get an idea of what the basket of goods would cost.

Here’s what we found:

  • Pick n Pay – Total Price: R363.64
  • Woolworths – Total price: R592.19
  • Spar – Total price: R400.55 spar
  • Shoprite – Total price: R331.08
  • Checkers – Total price: R403.17

The winner is Shoprite, with Pick n Pay not far behind. To be fair, Fin24 compared house brands, and where there weren’t, we chose the cheapest comparable items.

Where the quantities of comparable items in-store differed, we checked for the prices of the like-for-like items of the respective retailers online. The only two retailers that had different size packaging were Pick n Pay and Woolworths. The comparable sized items were found on their websites.

The cost of a data breach in South Africa

Source: IBM

In 2017, the average total organisational cost of data breaches in South Africa was R32.36-million. The average per capita cost was R1 632 ZAR.

These are the major takeaways from the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study: South Africa, the second annual research conducted by IBM Security and Ponemon Institute.

The 2017 study examines the costs incurred by 21 South African organisations from nine different industry sectors, following the loss or theft of protected personal data and the notification of breach victims as required by various laws.

An increase of 12% in the total cost of data breach was recorded compared to the previous year, while the cost per lost or stolen data record went up by 5%.

The report identified the most common root causes of data breaches in South Africa, and pointed to trends in practices to reduce the risk and consequences of a data breach.

Source: IBM

High data costs hit low-income households

By Avantika Seeth for City Press

The high cost of data is seriously stifling the growth of South Africa’s lower-income households, leading to the digital divide leaving many behind in the fast paced world of information access and communication.

This is according to community advocacy organisation Amandla.mobi, who yesterday made submissions at the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) public hearings in Sandton.

An inquiry into high data costs was launched by Icasa last year, with the second draft of public hearings into the “end-user and subscriber service charter amendment regulations 2016” ending on Friday.

Amandla.mobi, who made submissions to Icasa on why data costs should be reduced, say that greater transparency of communication services needs to happen.

“What we are saying is that low income consumers are paying disproportionately higher charges and are in turn not seeing benefits of competition in comparison to high-income consumers who are able to buy larger quantities of data. The low-income consumers actually end up paying more for their data bundles,” Koketso Moeti, executive director of Amandla.mobi told City Press.

Moeti believes that the high cost of out-of-bundle data rates contributes to the general public, particularly those from lower income households, not benefiting from the online space.

“These days, more and more things are happening online. To apply for school, it has to be done online. To register a business, it has to be done online. Even government responsiveness happens more and more in the online space and the inability to access data holds people back from accessing these very basic, but necessary services,” Moeti said.

Moeti explained that two recommendations made in the submission need particular attention: the option of consumers to opt in and out of out-of-data bundle packages and that a restriction on the maximum difference allowed in pricing per megabyte between small and large bundles be implemented.

“Ultimately, those who are only able to afford smaller data bundles pay a higher rate per megabyte, than those users who purchase larger data bundles. A practical example is the Vodacom out-of-data bundle rate from 2017, which basically equates to a user paying R990 per gigabyte of data,” Moeti said.

The out-of-bundle rate, Moeti said, was based on Vodacom’s current 99c per megabyte out-of-bundle rate which came into effect on October 15 last year.

“As table 1 shows, out-of-bundle prices are 10 times higher than prices for 1 gigabyte and this in fact understates the problem. There is significant competition at the top of the market with promotional offers that offer higher-income contract consumers data at 0.03c or less. This means that those consumers who are using small data bundles or using data ‘out of bundle’ may be paying 50 times what richer consumers are paying,” Amandla.mobi said of the table.

Moeti added that some of the mobile providers such as Cell C and Telkom do provide good value packages for smaller data purchases.

Other industry players who also presented submissions included MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, and Telkom.

In 2016, Tariffic, the company that helps companies and individuals determine if they’re spending too much money on their cellphones, conducted research into the data costs within South Africa.

Tariffic found data prices in South Africa to be 134% more expensive compared with other Brics nations.

“Tariffic’s analysis shows that, once prices were converted to rands and re-based for the cost of living, South Africa was consistently the second most expensive for one, two and three gigabyte data contracts, with Brazil being the most expensive in all three cases. Data prices for South Africa were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group,” the report said.

“Data prices are comparably rather expensive in South Africa and there has been no major movement to reduce these prices, specifically for the low-value data bundles, which are in very high demand,” Tariffic chief executive Antony Seeff told City Press.

“Even though there is work to be done across the board with regards to data prices, if people are tired of high data prices, they can move networks to where prices are more affordable,” Seeff said.

By Avantika Seeth for City Press

Back-to-school stationery price shock

The average stationery list for a primary school child starting Grade 1 has a total cost of between R700 and R1 000 and, while parents would want to compare prices to get the best deals, schools are prescribing certain brands for parents to buy.
Many schools offered parents the option of paying the school for the stationery or purchasing it themselves.

Most parents who spoke to the Daily News on Monday while doing their last-minute stationery shopping felt some items on the list were “overboard”.

Parents believed items such as a box of tissues and toilet paper should be provided by the school.

Different types of crayons, glue sticks and paper reams were some of the items schools required on the first day, but parents said this added another expense to the already exorbitant price of getting children back to school.

The price of a ream of A4 paper of 500 sheets is about R47.99 and some schools stipulated which brand they wanted parents to buy.

Grade R pupils were no exception. A stationery list for Grade R pupils at a Durban North public school with 18 items cost R615.22, excluding an extra R200 for a swimming bag, a chair bag and a library bag.

Five-year-old Thando Mokwena of Westville is attending Holy Family College this year and was busy shopping for stationery with her parents on Monday. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/ANA
A mother of a Grade 1 pupil said she thought being told to buy 17 exercise books for her child was a bit too much.

“I have a problem with the school asking me to buy so many exercise books. I know that times have changed and that children these days do more than I did in my time, but I think 17 books are just too much. Asking for four items of glue stick, which cost R56.49 each, to be bought at the same time was inconsiderate,” she said.

She said it would be reasonable for schools to instead ask parents to supply one of each item which could be replaced when they ran out.

Sizakele Mthembu, a parent of a Grade 2 pupil attending a private school in Durban, said she had a problem with schools dictating which brands parents should buy.

“There are retail shops with cheaper options on items such as pencils, glue sticks, wax crayons, rulers, paper reams and ballpoints, but schools ask for specific brands,” she said.

A Grade 6 pupil said: “I find myself having to ask my parents to buy me more glue stick, pens and pencils by the end of the first term. They are stolen,” she said.

Khethiwe Ndlovu, a parent of a Grade 3 pupil, said last year she had dropped off all the stationery on the first day of school and was told not to remove the items from their packaging. That was the last time she saw the stationery.

“The children are made to keep the books at school and only take their homework books home,” she said.

She suspected that schools were supplying other children who did not have.

“I understand the kind of poverty that some pupils come from and, if that is the case, then the school should make us aware of such challenges so that it can be done properly,” she said.

Ntombizodwa Zungu, a mother of a Grade 9 pupil, had the choice of buying her daughter’s stationery from the school but instead opted for shopping around at different retail shops, saving R350.

“Checking for prices beforehand helps and, although it is a lot of work, my secret has always been to buy early and have a proper shopping plan. The last-minute rush would always work out to be expensive,” she said

Vanessa Chetty said she found exercise books were not expensive, but it was the extras, such as dictionaries and crayons, that were.

She said that while they could be used for more than a year, she was forced to buy them twice a year.

Vee Gani, South Durban chairman of the KZN Parents Association, said stationery was expensive and schools and parents should have discussions about making cost effective purchases.

He said when it came to schools’ choice of brands, there was no choice as some cheaper brands were useless.

“I can understand why parents are sceptical about sending more than one item to school for risk of it being stolen or lost.

“But teachers also want to prevent a situation of items being forgotten at home,” he said

By Sne Masuku for IOL

Tech costs ‘likely to rise’ in SA

Information technology (IT) hardware is likely to become more expensive in SA because of the weak economy and rand, according to Mark Walker, associate vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa at the International Data Corporation.

“SA is looking at a growth rate of 0.7% to 1.5% [in 2018]. Many organisations are pricing this weak economy into their discussions as it means that hardware and imported equipment will be more expensive.

“There are also murmurs around adding VAT to petrol and potential increases in taxes, so the technology sector could very well be an easy target from a tax point of view.”

As a result, IT was expected to become more expensive, particularly hardware, and this was likely to prompt “an acceleration into cloud-based computing”, Walker said.

Further, if the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference was not well received, the market would weaken further and this would further fuel the rise in IT costs.

Innovation and investment could be affected by the lacklustre economy, he said. “We have started seeing a trend emerge where you have individuals and organisations innovating locally, but then taking those ideas overseas because they are not able to unlock investment in the local market.”

However, a favourable elective conference outcome would be a boon for the local IT sector.

“The perception that SA is back on track could herald in a period of release of pent-up demand, investment spend on innovation and rolling out the infrastructure to enable broadband in rural areas, fibre and others that SA gravely needs.”

Source: eNCA

Vodacom slashes out-of-bundle data costs

Network provider Vodacom has announced that it will “significantly reduce” out-of-bundle prices for all customers from mid-October.

“For pre-paid and customers on top-up packages, the out-of-bundle rate will drop by as much as 50% once the new 99c per megabyte tariff comes into effect on October 15.”The out-of-bundle rate for post-paid customers was reduced from R1 per megabyte to 89c on October 1,”  the company said in a statement.

Group CEO of Vodacom Shameel Joosub said the company needs to expand 4G coverage and keep pace with an increase of more than 45% in sustained data traffic demand.

“Both of these come at a cost, and we have invested some R32.7bn over the last four years. However, lack of access to spectrum is hampering our ability to drive down infrastructure costs and in turn, enable us to pass savings to the consumer,” said Joosub.

Vodacom previously told Fin24 that it is committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after regulator Icasa said it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce the country’s high data costs.
Vodacom joins Cell C, which recently responded to Icasa’s regulation of data by dropping out-of-bundle rates and extending bundle expiry.

In August it was announced that Icasa wanted to amend the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations by introducing “out-of-bundle billing practices” and other “expiry of data practices”.

Previously, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce high data costs.The probe will be conducted over four phases and will be completed in March 2018.

Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Top tips to cut business costs

Business owners are constantly under pressure to reduce costs – but the things that are losing your business money might take you by surprise.

Here are a few practical tips on how to identify areas where small changes could bring about big savings:

Smart cover
Insurance is vital in securing the costly assets that assist in running your business. Compare quotes to find the cheapest, most comprehensive insurance plan that meets your business needs. When speaking to insurance brokers and agencies don’t be afraid to negotiate – ask for multiple quotes to compare and find what you need.

If it’s viable, try a multiple policy option – different types of cover from one service provider – as this often results in a discounted overall premium. Also consider consulting your bank for insurance options. Periodically review your coverage to ensure it’s still appropriate for your business’s needs – if it’s not, change it.

Go digital
There’s nothing more costly than an inefficient workforce – and studies show employees spend 30-40% of their time looking for documents. A document management system stores and processes documents electronically, so employees don’t waste time searching for paperwork. They can spend time on what’s important, instead of getting bogged down with admin. This is especially beneficial for businesses having to cope with limited staff resources.

Explore digital tools that can assist with archiving, providing remote access to documents and streamlining workflow, like Nashua’s Managed Document Services.

Check your charges
Stay on top of bills to avoid penalty costs. Keep track of upcoming payments by using online banking and scheduling payments ahead of time. Remember to factor licences and permits into your annual budget to avoid unpleasant surprises. Be selective about subscriptions and memberships – only pay for what you need now. A journal subscription may have been useful at one point in time, but is it still a must?

Switch to green
Staying on top of what you’re spending on expenses like printing and stationery can save a considerable amount and help make your office ‘greener’. One way to eliminate wasteful printing is to manage print jobs digitally in one central hub, banish duplicate prints and audit the size of your device fleet, to downsize where possible. Nashua offers Managed Print Services (MPS) which can help significantly reduce printing costs.

Assign one or two people to manage office supplies like stationery and keep track of what’s being used. Make the process transparent and urge employees to use stationery conservatively and reuse where possible. For example, make it a rule in your business that all internal documents should be printed on reused paper.

Power down
Be mindful of devices to reduce your electricity bill. Remember, power is still drawn if machines are switched off but plugged into a live outlet. Wherever possible, use natural lighting and invest in power saving or solar-powered light bulbs – they often last longer too.

Replace desktops with laptops – they use less power. If you can’t use laptops throughout the office, aim to introduce energy efficient desktops. Look out for Energy Star qualified hardware – it’s engineered to consume less energy when performing regular tasks and automatically switches to a low-power mode when not in use.

Trim travelling
Increased connectivity means employees don’t have to be in the same room to hold an important meeting. Assess all planned business trips and eliminate the unnecessary. Ask yourself: does this actually require face time? Can it be done over the phone or via conference call? If so, can the trip. If you can’t avoid an out-of-office meeting, try carpooling with team members or use services like Uber, Ryda and Snappcab.

Consider switching to an IP-based telephony service – because calls are all routed via the same line, it can drastically reduce your call costs. Nashua Voice offers this kind of cost-cutting technology – it also means you’ll be able to switch to virtual fax, virtual boardroom and virtual conferencing to further reduce costs.

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