Expanded Public Works Support Programme


Client: The Business Trust
Sector: Unemployment & Job Creation
Services: Programme Support
Service Delivery Support
Research, Policy & Strategy Support
Date: April 2005 - March 2010


2003 and South Africa records one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Despite a number of government initiatives, unemployment continues to grow. The problem is critical and the urgency to implement initiatives to reduce unemployment increases.

Greater understanding of unemployment emerges through the availability of data and research. Unemployment emerges with the greatest impact on African people in rural areas, without or with limited skills and especially women and youth. It also becomes clear that unemployment is a function of structural unemployment - when the labour market results in fewer jobs than the number of the total labour force.

The Growth and Development Summit of June 2003 adopts the theme “More jobs, better jobs, decent work for all”. This results in a number of interventions to reduce household poverty and vulnerability, one of which is The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

“the EPWP can provide poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed to carry out socially useful activities. The EPWP will be designed to equip participants with a modicum of training and work experience, which should enhance their ability to earn a living in the future.” Growth & Development Summit Agreement, 2003

A dedicated team is established in the National Department of Public Works (DPW) and in 2003, the Expanded Public Works Programme is launched in President Mbeki’s State of the Nation Address.

The EPWP is established as a cross cutting programme to be implemented by all spheres of government and state-owned enterprises. The Department of Public Works is the coordinating department of the EPWP and is responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the programme, reporting to Cabinet; promoting linkages between sectors; putting in place support programmes and monitoring, evaluation, exit strategy and training frameworks.

The Department of Public Works set up a dedicated unit, the Expanded Public Works Unit, to fulfil its responsibilities. The programme has sector coordinating departments in each of the designated sectors, known as Sector Lead Departments: the Department of Public Works for the Infrastructure Sector; the Department of Environment and Tourism for the Environmental Sector and the Department of Trade and Industry for the Economic Sector.

The Department of Labour funds the training programmes. All Sector Lead Departments, the Department of Labour and provinces are required to set up EPWP steering / coordinating committees.

A Support Programme is set up

It’s agreed that the EPWP will benefit from a strategically focused and properly structured support programme to provide capacity and add extra value to its efforts.

The Business Trust, an organisation that “combines the resources of business and government in areas of common interest to accelerate the achievement of national objectives” is asked to assist the EPWP by procuring effective private sector support and participation, and establishing a dedicated support programme for the Expanded Public Works Programme.

The Expanded Public Works Support Programme, as it becomes known, is established in 2005 as a joint initiative between the Department of Public Works and The Business Trust to fulfil this function.

On the 9th February 2005, the Business Trust contracts Shisaka Development Management Services as the service provider to develop and implement the Support Programme.

The support programme is set up initially as a five year programme from 01 March 2005 to 31 March 2010 with a project value of R110, 64 million. R100 million is provided by The Business Trust and R10, 64 million by The Department of Public Works.

Programme Objectives

  • To provide support to the Unit in the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme
  • To mobilise public sector line departments and municipalities to support the Expanded Public Works Programme and
  • To mobilise private sector participation in the Expanded Public Works Programme

Programme Principles

Guiding principles for providing support are developed and influence how implementation is undertaken:

Support Only This support programme does not act as the principal, but enhances and compliments the EPWP Unit and Sector lead departments
Synchronisation Work undertaken is supplementary and complementary and not parallel, all work syncronised with EPWP Unit.
Building a relationship Relationship of trust between the support programme and the EPWP Unit critical
Prioritisation and focus Equitable in use of its resources and able to focus and prioritise. Focus on areas where success is achievable.
Direct Engagement Engage directly with stakeholders on the ground, focus on contract implementors
System driven IT system developed specifically for EPWP to assist implementation and measure results. Compatible with EPWP system
Incentives and recognition Operates on the basis of incentives and recognition for both implementors and EPWP staff.

Programme Approach

Key Undertakings of the Support Programme

  1. A Strategic Technical Assistance Fund of initially R15 million is established to undertake assignments to investigate blockages to effective delivery of the Expanded Public Works Programme with a view to resolving these.
  2. Support is provided to Municipal and Provincial Infrastructure Departments and State Owned Enterprises to increase their application of Expanded Public Works Guidelines and their ability to report work opportunities created
  3. Support to Provincial Health & Social Development or Education Departments is provided to implement the Home and Community Based Care and Early Childhood Development programmes and to report on both service and work opportunity outputs
  4. A pilot model is developed which aims to increase labour intensive domestic waste collection by municipalities and in so doing creating more job opportunities
  5. Linkages between jobs and training opportunities are investigated for workers on the Expanded Public Works Programme


The overall target is to be reflected in the number of work opportunities created. The target is to contribute to the creation of 398,000 work opportunities over the five-year time frame.

Specific targets are set for each of the four sectors.

Targets vs actual's


  • The Support Programme meets its overall target for every quarter.
  • By December 2008, 398 313 work opportunities were recorded.
  • The Support Programme meets its five-year target one year and one quarter ahead of schedule.
  • The Support Programme gains significant political support and buy in from all Provinces and Municipalities
  • This results in securing approval for the second phase at four and a half times the original scale with a huge budget.
  • R12,14 billion is raised as additional finance for the implementation of the EPWP.
  • The Support Programme makes significant contributions in terms of identifying and piloting innovations and new methodologies in respect of implementing the EPWP.

Key learnings

Key Lessons are learnt both in terms of implementing cross cutting national programmes and in supporting cross cutting programmes.
In addition, key components of an effective support programme are identified as follows:-

  • Clarity on purpose of support needed is critical; as well as clarity on roles and outcomes.
  • Flexibility on budget, approach and resources important.
  • Independent funding from beneficiary is important
  • There must be reasonable capacity within programme/entity receiving support
  • Joint decision making processes and accountability for delivery and action between client and support programme critical to success
  • The entity being supported must want support and must have strong champion and strong management team to receive and implement support
  • Critical to have effective relationship with client, and for client to find input and support valuable
  • Critical to success is the willingness to be innovative and creative in solution.


The Expanded Public Works Programme: www.epwp.gov.za
The Expanded Public Works Support Programme: www.epwsp.co.za
The Business Trust: www.btrust.org.za

Telephone: + 27 11 447 6388

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