Minister quells Seta concerns

Friday, July 22, 2011
Francis Hweshe

Cape Town - Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande, has allayed some concerns within the Sector Education Training Authorities (Setas) that his reforms would take away government funding.

He said that he had no intention to "micro-manage (Setas)" and committed to consultation.

However, the minister did not shy away from his plans to clean up the mess in the industry and ensure quality training of the youth and creating better employment opportunities.

"I'm not going to grab money from Setas," he said, outlining that had other challenges to address in the National Skills Fund (NSF).

He strongly challenged poor training by some Setas, saying they were reproducing "apartheid cheap labour."

Nzimande was addressing the Services Seta in Cape Town on Friday while on the third leg of his road show sessions to clarify issues with Setas around the country.

Recently, he said that he had been to KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces on the same mission.

Nzimande said that 20 000 students produced by Setas last year remained at home unemployed.

The minister said R9.1 billion currently in the hands of these training institutions was being used largely to pay private consultants.

"Seta money is public money and not private money," he said, adding that Setas should collaborate with government instead of being run only by organised business and labour.

He decried corruption in the industry, saying that board members of some Setas had companies which sourced contracts from the same organization they worked for, therefore amounting to conflict of interest.

Other Setas had board members running up to 50, he said, indicating that a standardised constitution for the industry was in the pipeline.

He also said that a board with 15 members to represent the industry at large had been set up.

The board was made up of 15 members, six from labour, six from business and three from his ministry.

Calling for accountability, Nzimande said that in future, candidate CEOs of Setas would be submitted to Cabinet for approval.

He said that apart from the industry's need to partner with Further Education and Training colleges (FETs), they should also pay attention to improving the situation in the rural areas.

He said that those who did not want to work with FETs were "thinking through their stomachs."

Because of rampant corruption within the Setas, some in the ANC had wanted the institutions shut down. But instead, Nzimande said that he had reduced them from 23 to21.

His address was largely welcomed, but concerns were raised as to whether his department had the capacity to drive this transformative project.

In response to that, he said that capacity was a challenge which they were currently addressing within and outside the department.

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