Tag: government

Source: News24

Treasury has decided to grant an extension of the reduction in the general fuel levy, which will soften the fuel price hike on Wednesday.

The petrol levy was cut by R1.50 a litre for April and May as government sought to relieve the economic stress of surging fuel prices. Around R6 billion of the state’s strategic oil reserves were sold to fund the levy cut. But the sale will not entirely fund the extension.

The R1.50 relief will be extended from 1 June until 6 July, followed by a downward adjustment to the relief for the second month – to 75c per litre from 7 July until 2 August.

It will be withdrawn from 3 August, according to a joint statement from National Treasury and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on Tuesday afternoon.

Without an extension of the cut, petrol prices would have been hiked by almost R4 on Wednesday, pushing prices of 95-octane unleaded petrol to above R25 per litre – an increase of just under 20%.

“Due to this significant monthly price increase, the Minister of Finance has today submitted a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, requesting the tabling of a two-month proposal for the extension of the reduction in the general fuel levy,” the statement said.

The revenue foregone from the extension is estimated at some R4.5 billion.

“Unlike the previous announcement, this proposal is expected to have an impact on the fiscal framework, as it will not be fully funded through a sale of strategic oil stocks,” the statement said.

It said that from 1 June, the DMRE will remove the demand side management levy of 10c per litre for inland 95 ULP, and that after a review and consultation by the DMRE, “it is proposed that the basic fuel price also be decreased by 3c per litre in the coming months”.

The initial hope was that oil prices would cool by the end of May, when the levy was supposed to fall away. Instead, Brent crude oil was trading above $120 per barrel this week, around its highest levels in two months.

Oil prices have been soaring in recent months amid the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia is the world’s third-largest producer of crude oil, and the expectation that it will be locked out of the market has caused a surge in oil prices.

South Africans have seen fuel prices rise by a third over the past year, and more expensive transport costs have knock-on effects on the prices of almost all products, especially food.

This is contributing to a cost-of-living crisis, which are forcing households to make hard spending choices.

At the same time, government finances are also constrained, as it battles a debt burden of R4.3 trillion. The loss of the tax revenue from the petrol levy will exacerbate its problems.

Big online car licence renewal headaches

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

The government’s new online payment facility for car licence discs and driver’s licence card renewals has been riddled with technical issues.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) launched the service to much fanfare from the Department of Transport on 17 February 2022.

It was initially set to go live in October 2021 but was delayed to meet certain legal and technical requirements.

The system allows motorists to renew and pay for their vehicle licence discs, driver’s licence cards, and vehicle registration documents online.

Barely a day after going live, the website went offline for several days.

While it has since become available, many complaints from users online suggest that it is having significant teething problems.

Among them, MyBroadband readers have complained about the system, particularly about a lack of communication following payment for disc renewals.

In an emailed response to one of these complaints, the RTMC admitted the vehicle licence renewal service was experiencing “challenges”, including a delay in printing paid licence discs.

The printing has since commenced, and the RTMC said the complainant could expect notifications for delivery from the South African Post Office’s Speed Services within the “next few days”.

It also acknowledged an issue where customers would be stuck with a “Transaction Pending” message after making a payment.

It said a technical team had fixed the issue but advised the customer to only log back into their profile from Monday to see the change.

“You should get a popup message indicating that you have a transaction pending,” the RTMC said.

“Continue to click on it, and this will proceed in the background to clear the transaction. You should be able to proceed with your login.”

“A receipt will be available for successfully paid transactions and expect delivery in the next few days,” it added.

If the payment had failed, the RTMC advised the customer to try making the payment again or go to a Post Office to do the renewal.

Post Office

Many Twitter users have also vented their frustration with the system.

“The eNatis online vehicle license renewal system does not work, takes your money but does not renew. Very frustrating as there is no way to reach anybody at RTMC via any phone number present online,” stated user Jaco van Wyk.

Others complained of problems registering an account on the system.

Consumer sentiment gauging platform Hellopeter was also filled with bad reviews about the system.

“I, unfortunately, used this system to renew three car license discs, to be delivered within three days. Payment [was made] on 22/2/2022. So far, no disc.”

“No access to the system. Zero response to various numbers or emails. Nothing appears to work,” they added.

Another said they were not receiving replies to emails while the call centre helpline was not answered after 40 minutes of waiting. They labelled the service “beyond pathetic”.

MyBroadband contacted the RTMC for comment on the issues but did not receive feedback by the time of publication.

 

Spectrum auction set to happen next month

By Siphelele Dludla for IOL

South Africa’s spectrum auction will finally happen within the next month after more than a decade, as the government begins to embark on a widespread campaign to cut the red tape and improve the ease of doing business.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a sweeping review of economic policy and regulatory framework as part of the government’s efforts to implement structural reforms.

He said that the Independent Communications Authority of SA(Icasa) will be spearheading the rolling out of the spectrum to boost investment and create jobs.

Spectrum has been one of the major hurdles for investment in South Africa.

Delays in rolling out new spectrum auctions have been caused by fighting between Icasa and the Department of Communications.

“The auctioning of high-demand spectrum is expected in three weeks by Icasa. The auction is expected to reduce data costs,” Ramaphosa said.

“Icasa will facilitate the rapid development of broadband infrastructure. This will reduce the cost of digital communication.

“There are too many regulations in this country that are unduly complicated, costly and difficult to comply with. This prevents companies from growing and creating jobs.”

Ramaphosa said these reforms should ensure there was an agreement that fundamental reforms were needed to revive economic growth, address the immediate unemployment crisis and to create conditions for long-lasting development.

He said he would be accelerating far-reaching structural reforms to reduce the cost of doing business, increase competitiveness and heighten economic growth.

“While structural reforms are necessary for us to revive economic growth, they are not enough on their own. This year, we are undertaking far-reaching measures to unleash the potential of small businesses, micro businesses and informal businesses,”he said.

Ramaphosa said the government would be dealing with the energy crisis by acquiring additional generation capacity, and fix the functioning of the ports.

To regulate all of these reforms, Cabinet approved amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act for public comment.

 

 

By Paul Vecchiatto for Bloomberg

A South African law-enforcement agency said its investigation into some of the health-equipment contracts awarded by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic found almost two-thirds of them were irregular.

The Special Investigation Unit probe found that 2,803 of 5,467 deals worth 14.3 billion rand ($935 million) were improper, according to a statement emailed by the presidency on Tuesday. President Cyril Ramaphosa authorized the investigation into the contracts in mid-2020.

“It is unacceptable that so many contracts associated with saving lives and protecting livelihoods were irregular, unlawful or fraudulent,” Ramaphosa said in the statement. “This investigation demonstrates our determination to root out corruption and to deal with perpetrators.”

The National Prosecuting Authority and other law-enforcement agencies may use the SIU’s investigations to file criminal charges against people in the public and private sectors, the presidency said.

 

ANC’s majority in question

The 2021 local government elections are set to take place on 1 November 2021, and political analysts say the vote will test whether the current ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is able to maintain its grasp on the majority vote.

  • Business Tech spoke to political analyst and professor at the University of Johannesburg, Mcebisi Ndletyana
  • The elections will not only be the ultimate test for the ANC, but also for president Cyril Ramaphosa, where his popularity among the electorate will also be gauged
  • Ndletyana said the elections will also provide a strong indicator of how contesting parties will perform on a national level
  • South Africa’s next national elections are expected to take place in 2024 – with room for political manoeuvring to take place in the interim.
  • There may be changes to the ANC’s leadership at the national conference scheduled for 2022.
  • In the run-up to the elections, the ANC has pegged its campaign on reform and ‘doing better’, promising supporters that the party is cleaning out its closet and vowing to fulfil the many promises it has made over its 27 years of power
  • The messaging has been met with a cold shoulder in many areas of the country, as disgruntled and disillusioned voters voiced their displeasure at the way the party has left many promises unfulfilled
  • More than 13-million South Africans who are eligible to vote haven’t registered for 1 November polls
  • Historically, South Africa has had a voter turnout of around 70%. The 2019 elections draw a historic low of just 65% of voters turning up. For the 2021 ballot, 26.2 million of an eligible population of 40 million have registered to vote (66%).

South Africans to pay 12% of earnings into fund

By Helena Wasserman for News24

South Africans may be required to contribute up to 12% of their earnings to a new government-backed fund, according to new proposal from the Department of Social Development.

On Wednesday, it gazetted its Green Paper on Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform, which proposes the creation of a new National Social Security Fund (NSSF) – a government-managed fund which will provide retirement, disability benefits and unemployment benefits.

All employers and employees will initially be obliged to contribute up to 12% of qualifying earnings – up to a ceiling, which is currently proposed as R276 000 per year. In effect, this means South Africans will pay up to R2 700 a month to the fund.

The first 10% of this contribution will go to the mandatory fund, rather than to a retirement fund. The next 2% will go towards unemployment insurance.

Higher-income workers are expected also to contribute to traditional pension funds.

The paper proposed that government should subsidise the contributions of low-income workers. Those who earn less than R22 320 per year won’t have to contribute, but a government-backed annuity product will be designed for them.

“A simplified contribution arrangement for self-employed individuals and informal workers will also be established,” the paper states.

The green paper expects that workers who earn higher incomes will “divide contributions” between the NSSF and private-sector funds.

The NSSF pensions will be based on career earnings and the duration of contributions. The disability and survivor benefits will be based on salary at the time of injury or death. The NSSF will also pay a flat-rate funeral benefit, and provide income protection benefits for all workers and their families.

“However, those earning above the tax threshold will need to contribute to supplementary retirement savings and insurance arrangements to ensure an adequate replacement income.”

The paper proposes automatic enrolment to encourage workers to contribute to supplementary retirement and insurance arrangements.

Interested persons and organisations are invited to submit comments on the paper by 10 December.

Other proposals in the Green Paper include:

A universal income grant to the working age population

The Green Paper suggests that a basic income grant should be launched at a level “that will at least lift the individual out of poverty”.

It also favours a universal grant instead of one that is means tested.

“Administratively, it is a lot easier for SARS [SA Revenue Service] to recoup the grant paid to a wealthy individual with a technical adjustment to the tax brackets than for Sassa [SA Social Security Agency] to interview millions of applicants to determine whether the applicant qualifies based on income. A universal grant is therefore potentially more efficient, cost effective and better targeted resulting in fewer exclusions,” the paper says.

“The key benefit of universal benefits is that it promotes social solidarity and buy-in to the system; and it is administratively much simpler to administer with fewer exclusion challenges. It reduces stigma of the poor and discontent amongst the wealthy who feel that they are the ones funding the system.”

It says that the country’s tax system is “significantly more advanced” than Sassa, “hence relying on the tax agency ability to test income is likely to be a lot more effective than through Social Security Agency.”

“It will also be much easier to implement a reform that will require a significant adjustment to taxes as it willbe easier for government to sell an increase in taxes on the working age population with an increased transfer to that same population.”

Regulatory reform of the pensions and life insurance industry

Higher-income workers will be encouraged through tax incentives to contribute to pension and insurance plans, in addition to the NSSF.

But the new paper proposes a new framework to approve funds which can qualify for these tax incentives. One of the proposed qualifying criteria is that they meet certain cost-efficiency standards, including caps on fees.

“Such funds will need to meet stringent standards of care, prudence, governance, fiduciary responsibility, transparency and control of costs.”

“Proposals for an individual retirement funds framework include portability with no early termination penalties; greater product standardisation and disclosure; limited charge structures; and stronger investment regulation, including limitations on individual investment choice.”

The paper was critical about the costs associated with certain retirement products, imprudent investments and poor governance and administration – which all reduce the value of a worker’s lifetime savings.

The extension of UIF benefits

Currently, the Unemployment Insurance Fund provides unemployment benefits for up to eight months at a replacement rate of between 38% and 60%, depending on a worker’s salary. Credits are accrued at a rate of one day for every six worked.

The paper proposes that credits will be accrued at a rate of one day for every four days worked and the long-term unemployed will receive a continuation benefit.

This means that workers who have exhausted their full UIF benefits, will be paid at a lower rate to protect workers from having to draw down their retirement savings.

Road Accident Benefit Scheme

The proposed scheme will replace the current Road Accident Fund, and provide income replacement benefits on a similar basis to the Compensation Fund, with the benefit dependent on the injured worker’s capacity to earn. It has not yet been decided what assessment tool will be used.

Means test phased out

It is proposed that the means tests for social grants be phased out through the alignment of social assistance with the structure of personal income tax rebates.

The objective is that all dependent children, the disabled and the elderly should be eligible for a grant, regardless of their income or assets. For families with incomes above the tax threshold, tax rebates will replace social assistance entitlements.

The department said that the green paper’s recommendations will take several years to implement, and that a phased-in implementation approach is proposed.

 

By Edwin Ntshidi for EWN

Talks between public sector unions and government have deadlocked.

This comes after marathon talks between state negotiators and the Public Servants Association (PSA).

The association, one of the largest parties at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council, tabled a wage demand of over 7% – with government saying it cannot afford the demand.

Government proposed a 0% increase but has been willing to talk.

The PSA and government negotiators met until late last night in an attempt to avert a strike that could see over 200,000 government workers downing tools.

However, the parties could not find each other as the association’s Ruben Maleka elaborates.

“It is regrettable that last night we could not find each other with the employer. The employer would not revise its offer of 0%.”

Wage negotiations stalled after the government did not accede to public servants’ wage demand of CPI plus 4%.

Instead, the government said the demands are out of sync with the Fiscal Framework.

With talks now deadlocked, this paves a way for unions to declare a dispute.

Should the strike go ahead, it will result in public servants in the public sector embarking on industrial action while the country faces the COVID-19 health crisis.

What will happen next?

  • Unions are finalising declaring a dispute after the deadlock
  • Then the matter will be conciliated
  • Should that fail, unions can apply for a strike certificate

Earlier in the week, Public Service and Public Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu described this year’s wage talks as “the most difficult negotiations” the country has ever faced.

He urged government and labour representatives to put the public service first and not treat each other as adversaries.

The bad state of the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for drastic changes in the public service are just some of the reasons Mchunu listed as factors that have made this year’s talks the most difficult.

National Treasury aims to cut about R300 billion from the public wage bill in the next three years as it becomes ever more apparent that government cannot afford to foot the bill as the pressure on the fiscus increases.

However, trade unions are equally under pressure to appease their members who have gone without wage adjustments in the past year.

 

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadband

Around 35% of senior managers in government do not have the necessary qualifications or credentials for their position.

This was revealed by the Minister of Public Service and Administration Senzo Mchunu in a written response to a parliamentary question posed by the Democratic Alliance.

Senior managers in South African government require at least an NQF Level 7 qualification, which is equal to a Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Diploma.

According to information captured in government’s Personal and Salary System (PERSAL) as of 15 February 2021, however, there were no records of such qualifications for 3 301 of the 9 477 senior managers in the public service.

  • 5 447 of government’s senior managers operated at national level
  • 1 987 did not have a record of a suitable qualification
  • The largest number of those were in the police department, which accounted for 228 unqualified senior managers
  • The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development follows with 227
  • The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has 189
  • 1 314 out of 4 028 senior managers at provincial government departments did not have the required qualifications
  • Gauteng accounted for the highest number among the provinces, with 381 senior managers lacking the necessary qualifications for their jobs – the largest number of these were in the Health department
  • KwaZulu-Natal has 246 unqualified senior managers
  • The Eastern Cape has 185 unqualified senior managers

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The government has launched its online vaccine registration platform for citizens, called the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS).

Using this system, South Africans who qualify for phase 1 of the national vaccine rollout plan can register online for a COVID-19 vaccine using either their ID number or passport.

This system was announced by the Department of Health last week, with the department’s COO Milani Wolmarans explaining that the EVDS is linked to supply chain management to ensure that there are enough doses to inoculate the vaccines when they arrive at the local vaccination service site.

In order to get an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination, users will have to register on this platform, which will be available on mobile devices and desktops.

Registering for a vaccination
In the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out only medical healthcare workers will be allowed to register, with the portal requiring users to enter their occupation, employer, whether they are patient-facing, and medical aid information before proceeding.

Those who qualify will be sent a notification through SMS informing them of the time and place that the vaccine will be available. It will also come with a unique code that patients will be required to show to their vaccinator.

The registration portal notes that registering online for a vaccine does not guarantee that you will receive one.

It also states that “eligibility of the vaccine will be determined by the National Department of Health based on priority population groups”.

The department added that information submitted through the vaccination portal will be used for the following:

  • Identifying eligible vaccination beneficiaries
  • Planning supply of vaccines and ancillary items
  • Allocating beneficiaries to their nearest available service point
  • Communicating with enrolled individuals about the vaccination programme
  • It is expected that the vaccine registration portal will be opened up to broader population groups once the national vaccine rollout plan has progressed

Currently, the national plan for COVID-19 vaccination comprises the following priority phases:

  • Phase 1: Frontline and healthcare workers.
  • Phase 2: Essential workers, institutionalised persons, and the elderly.
  • Phase 3: The remaining adult population.

South Africans who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine during phase 1 can register on the EVDS self-registration portal.

Source: MyBroadband

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) says it has revoked a section 30A directive granted to Karpowership SA Pty Ltd for activities linked to the emergency generation of electricity.

When the company had initially submitted its request, it had indicated that the country’s electricity supply was under threat because of the increased pressure on the healthcare system as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The motivation for the request was to ensure an uninterrupted supply of energy to the healthcare sector, something which Eskom was unable to guarantee.

The department verbally approved the request on 26 June 2020. Following receipt of confirmation that all environmental requirements would be met, the directive was confirmed in writing on 6 July 2020.

“It has subsequently emerged that the company had applied for the verbal directive in advance, in preparation for the possible implementation of the government’s integrated resources plan and in the event that the company would be selected as an emergency power producer.

“However, this information was not disclosed to the department when the company motivated for the verbal directive to be issued for the Section 30A activities, which are, in essence, an emergency provision,” the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement.

“In light of the fact that it has now emerged that there was in fact no emergency situation, the department has withdrawn the verbal authorisation and subsequent written directive for the commencement of activities listed in terms of Section 30A of the National Environmental Management Act on 13 August 2020,” the department said.

The company has since accepted the notice and indicated that it does not intend to challenge the department’s decision to revoke the verbal directive.

 

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