Skills development push sees MICT SETA spend R1bn

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 30 Oct 2023
Matome Madibana, CEO of MICT SETA.
Matome Madibana, CEO of MICT SETA.

The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) spent close to R1 billion on grants aimed at skills developmentand new qualifications in the 2022/23 financial year.

This came to light during the organisation’s annual general meeting on Friday.

The expenditure funded discretionary and mandatory grants, according to MICT SETA, with close to R800 million and R200 million, respectively, disbursed during the period under review.

A discretionary grant is aimed at encouraging stakeholders to contribute towards skills development, such as projects linked to scarce and critical skills within a relevant industry, like media, information and communication technology. It also offers funding opportunities to support programmes aligned with the MICT SETA’s strategic objectives.

A mandatory grant must be awarded to each eligible applicant (generally a public sector entity) based on conditions defined in the authorising statute.

In the organisation’s annual report for the period spanning 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, MICT SETA CEO Matome Madibana says the entity received R1 billion in skills development levies income, a 10.83% increase from the previous year's R988 million.

This, he notes, is attributed to the improved economy within the sector, surpassing initial expectations. “We disbursed R188 million in mandatory grants, reflecting a 7.03% increase from the R176 million spent in the corresponding period.

“The payout ratio for the current year stands at 71%. The organisation spent R771.5 million on discretionary grant expenditure, marking a 76.29% increase. This growth can be attributed to enhancements in issuing service level agreements and the improved payment process.

“Included in discretionary grant expenditure is the MICT SETA’s 20% portion dedicated to implementing the UIF labour activation project, which was completed in the year under review. Additionally, R100 million was reallocated from the special projects budget to the discretionary grant budget.”

Clean audit

MICT SETA is an institution established in terms of the Skills Development Act of 1998, with a mission to generate, facilitate and accelerate the processes of quality skills development at all levels in the MICT sector in South Africa.

Over the years, the organisation has faced a number of corruption allegations, including issues with its past leaders. Between 2018 and 2021, it parted ways with two CEOs, as the result of corruption allegations levelled against them.

In the annual report, Simphiwe Thobela, MICT SETA board chairperson, acknowledges past troubles, but says the entity attained a clean audit for the 2022/2023 financial year.

This, according to Thobela, reinforced the organisation’s commitment to sound governance, financial transparency and operational efficiency.

The entity has achieved an overall performance of 95% against predetermined targets. The SETA’s performance improved over the years from 75% in 2020/21, to 90% in 2021/22 and 95% in the 2022/23 financial year.

Thobela says: “Our dedication to transparency and accountability has been pivotal in securing this clean audit outcome, signifying our continual pursuit of the highest standards of corporate governance.”

The 2022 JCSE – IITPSA Skills Survey revealed an increase in South African organisations recruiting overseas ICT skills, as the digital skills gap persists locally.

The survey indicated the number of local employers reporting they are recruiting ICT skills internationally increased from 38% in the 2021 report, to over 50% in the 2022 survey.

Similarly, earlier this year, an SAP Africa report showed there has been no improvement in SA’s chronic shortage of all types of ICT skills across almost all sectors, noting the most in-demand skills are those associated with emerging technologies.

Referencing the above findings, Madibana said core stakeholders – whose mandate is to deliver on digital skills – should ensure there is digital inclusivity and no one is left behind.

“We’ve got to double the effort in order for us to get to where we can reasonably say there is indeed digital transformation in our country.

“Any tech solution is a tool to solve a particular problem, no matter how sophisticated the tool might appear. If the learning within the skills context we facilitate to learners cannot harness or unleash the potential of our young to critically analyse the problems the nation is facing and bring forth solutions, it means we are not doing enough.

“We’ve got to get to a point wherein we become more innovative, in terms of solving a whole range of challenges facing the entire globe. As South Africa, we can’t continue to be a consumer state. We’ve got to get to a point wherein we export solutions that have been made locally by the young people we upskilled and reskilled.”

To date, MICT SETA has made strides in introducing occupational qualifications in areas such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, cloud computing, drone technology and blockchain, among other fourth industrial revolution occupations.

Thobela states: “By fostering collaborations with leading professional bodies, SMMEs, academic institutions and other government institutions, we have fostered an ecosystem of innovation and excellence, ensuring our endeavours remain pertinent and impactful.”