The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) presented its strategic plan that spelt out its key strategic goals towards positioning itself as a global leader in electoral democracy. IEC Chief Executive Officer, Dr Brigalia Bam outlined the organisation's priorities for the coming financial year, highlighting the focus on enhancing the IEC's image and projecting it as an independent and impartial custodian of electoral democracy in South Africa. Details were also given of its international involvement. Each of the seven key priorities was described in detail. The IEC would continue to develop strategy, to monitor programme implementation and management, and to facilitate independent assurance processes to ensure effective and efficient functioning. It would maintain systems and procedures that would ensure an accurate and up-to-date national voters' roll. It would implement and promote effective electoral processes that would facilitate the participation of political parties and candidates in the management and delivery of free and fair elections, and deliver well-run elections, which produced results that were credible. One of its goals was to educate and inform civil society with a view to optimizing citizen participation in democracy and electoral processes. The IEC budget allocation reflected a deficit in terms of the budgeted rates for the payment of electoral staff during elections, which it was felt had to be increased to fairly compensate them for the long hours that they worked during peak periods.
Members appreciated the good work that had been done by the IEC in managing the 2009 elections despite the problems that had occurred, The Committee, however, interrogated the IEC's logistical planning in the management of elections and there were members who expressed concern about certain problems such as the shortages of ballot paper in the 2009 elections and the resulting controversy surrounding that incident. It was clarified that shortages had come about as a result of Section 24 (a) of the Electoral Act, permitting voters to vote at voting stations other than the one at which they had registered. The Committee also discussed issues around the consultation process, particularly with rural communities, the response from rural communities, the high numbers of non-voters, the transparency and confidence building should alternative voting systems such as electronic voting be used, and the IEC conflict and dispute resolution mechanisms. Further questions related to the upcoming elections and their targets, the need to educate learners, and the delays in paying remuneration. The Committee approved the Department’s strategic plan by a unanimous vote.
The Film and Publications Board's Annual Report for the 2007/8 financial year was presented to the Committee. The Committee also received a briefing on the Strategic Plan for 2009-2010, and the budget. The Chairperson of the Board found it lamentable that the Board’s work was treated as a “soft issue” as shown by the inadequate budget allocation that it received from National Treasury. The organisation was also experiencing high staff turnover at management level due to skills shortages in the industry and competition from the private sector. A further challenge was the fact that there had been a delay in the signing of the amendment to the founding legislation by the President and this had postponed the execution of many of the organisation’s strategic objectives.
The Board then reported to the Committee on its performance in the 2007/8 financial year, the FPB had set four main units aligned to the Board’s strategic objectives and core activities, namely child protection, which focused on civic education on child pornography; research, compliance monitoring and classification. Each of these was described in some detail. Challenges that the Board faced included technological innovations that created difficulties, particularly when it came to monitoring the internet and mobile platforms. Privacy considerations made it difficult to monitor mobile content, and the Board relied upon other informants. Legislation applied only to local platforms yet a number of international sites contained suspect content. The insufficient budget allocation was again mentioned, and there was a need to extend its revenue base. A substantial portion of the presentation was directed towards what the Board would be doing to educate and inform local people, including children, and tourists visiting the country, about the issues and legislation around child pornography, and this included an extensive campaign with the Department of Education and tourism authorities.
The Committee was concerned about the resignation of management staff and would investigate the delay in signing the amendment into law by taking up this issue with the Ministry. Members expressed dissatisfaction with the Board’s budget for the 2009/10 financial year, describing it as deplorable and lacking vibrancy, and complaining that there did not appear to be proactive steps taken to mobilise resources from other sources such as private donors. They also criticised the leasing rather than purchase of computer equipment. Other issues included the reasons for the resignation of top management, delays in making submissions, in contraventions of the provisions of the Act, and compliance mechanisms for content distribution, including in the rural areas.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC): Strategic Plan and Budget for 2009/2010 - 2011/2012
Dr Brigalia Bam, Chief Executive Officer, IEC, stated that the IEC had seven key strategic objectives set in order to position the IEC as a global leader in electoral democracy. Firstly, it wanted to project itself as an independent and impartial custodian of electoral democracy throughout South Africa. In that regard, it would be reviewing electoral legislation for the local government legislation by looking at the Municipal Election Act and considering whether amendments were necessary. The IEC also managed elections for other institutions in the country and were engaged in local liaisons so that they would have strategic alliances with other government departments, Chapter 9 institutions and all the relevant stakeholders who participated in elections. They engaged internationally to strengthen observer participation and to provide technical expertise to other electoral management bodies on the African continent, as well as liaison with electoral management bodies on the continent and the rest of the world through structured exchange programmes and study tours. This enabled the IEC to look at other models of elections elsewhere in the world, and consider whether there were lessons to be learned, particularly in this age of technological developments such as electronic voting. The IEC would prioritise study tours to countries such as Mexico that had electronic voting. It would also strengthen participation in regional and international institutions that enhanced electoral democracy. The IEC was a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Commissions Forum and organisations of the African Union (AU) such as the Association of Election Management Bodies and those of the Commonwealth in order to entrench themselves as a custodian of electoral democracy.
The second strategic objective was to develop strategy, to monitor programme implementation and management and to facilitate independent assurance processes to ensure effective and efficient functioning of the Commission. The office responsible for this was the office of the CEO and internal auditors would report directly to the CEO. A strategic plan for the organisation would be developed and adopted as well as development of regular reporting mechanisms of the organisation. The IEC would develop and maintain implementation of the adopted project policies to ensure that implementation time lines were adhered to, and to ensure that the budget was managed competently. The internal auditors would make sure that the audit committee would deliver on the IEC's mandate and its planned objectives. The audit committee had agreed to the implementation of internal risk processes to be reported on quarterly, in accordance to the IEC's planned strategic objectives for that committee and National Treasury's requirements.
The third strategic objective, which spoke to one of the IEC's core functions, was to maintain systems and procedures that would ensure an accurate and up-to-date national voters' roll. The IEC would undertake targeted registration in specific geographic areas and population areas where registration figures were low. The IEC would also target specific categories, such as the youth, to encourage more young people to register. In that regard, voter registration facilities would be made available in 60% of High Schools and 100% of Tertiary Institutions across the country. The IEC had set a target of 23.4 million registered voters for the coming election. Access to voting stations would be improved so that voters did not travel long distances. The IEC also wanted to ensure that all voting stations were signed off by the municipal party liaison committees before the elections, and that the voters’ roll was verified against the national population register to ascertain its credibility. The IEC also aimed to improve the stability of its voting station network in the sense that the electorate should be aware at all times where voting stations were located. In this regard, 85% of the voting stations that had been used in the 2009 elections would be used in 2010. The number of temporary voting stations would be reduced by 5% to ensure that permanent structures were used. A target of 21 000 voting stations was envisaged for the coming elections.
The IEC's fourth strategic objective, again speaking to the core functions, was to implement and promote effective electoral processes that would facilitate the participation of political parties and candidates in the management and delivery of free and fair elections. The Act provided that the IEC had to maintain close links with political parties. To give effect to that, it had established Party Liaison Committees, which operated at local, provincial and national levels of government. A database of registered political parties would be reviewed constantly so that those parties who did not participate in elections could be removed as required by law.
The IEC's fifth strategic objective was to deliver well-run elections, which produced results that were credible. In terms of logistics and local office infrastructure, the IEC wanted to ensure that there would be 100% availability of warehouses at municipal and provincial level and the maintenance of a 90% stock accuracy rate in all warehouses. The IEC had experienced difficulty in maintaining a target of 100% accuracy, hence the 90% target. A target of 99% accuracy in the distribution of material and 100% in the provision of material and equipment for elections was envisaged. The IEC would ensure that all office infrastructure was procured in terms of municipal agreements and that all the municipal electoral officers were appointed. Vote counting and verification of results procedures would be reviewed in the coming financial year. The IEC would ensure that vote counting and results verification were 100% accurate and auditable. A 40% voter turnout was envisaged for the 2010/2011 local government elections. The IEC would ensure that election results were published within seven days as required by the law and would also deploy mediators to pro-actively manage election conflict. The transparency of the IEC's electoral processes would be enhanced through initiatives that had been introduced in the 2009 elections.
The sixth objective, which also spoke to one of the IEC's core functions, was to educate and inform civil society with a view to optimizing citizen participation in democracy and electoral processes. The IEC had indicated the number of nationwide civic education interventions that it wanted to do. For the past elections it had done 246 000 interventions. This figure would be increased to 260 000 in the run-up to the local government elections. It also wanted to continue with institutionalising formal voter education in schools through ongoing general education and training programmes in collaboration with the Department of Education (DOE). The IEC had suggested a curriculum for civic education to be introduced in all schools. However, it had not as yet been implemented. This project was continuing in a small number of schools countrywide, alongside other awareness campaigns and community education initiatives. Two research projects on electoral democracy would be conducted. The IEC would also develop a comprehensive research and knowledge generation initiative so that it would have a solid knowledge management strategy. In the area of communications, the IEC wanted to enhance communication internally by updating its corporate identity manual and through interaction with media through media workshop, media briefings and media releases. It was important to maintain constant engagement with the media so that they would be educated o the electoral processes to enable them to report accurately. There would be four external newsletters every year, two election launches, two result area launches and several thousand information fliers for the 2010 elections. A toll free call centre would continue to be made available towards elections. The IEC targeted a response rate of 80% calls answered in less than 20 seconds, whilst 90% of all queries received by call center agents would be dealt without them having to be escalated to a supervisor. For those calls that would be escalated to a supervisor, the turnaround time would be less than a minute. The efficiency of the call centres would also be improved by ensuring that the dropped call rate remained below 3% of all calls received.
A final strategic goal related to business processes (in respect of legal services, human resources management, support services, financial management, and information and communication technology services) in order to ensure the effective functioning of the IEC. In the area of legal services IEC would revise legislation for the coming elections and draft proposed amendments the would be tabled to Parliament by the Department of Home Affairs. It would also look at revision of the local government election regulations and ensure that there was compliance with the electoral timetable. The legal services section was also tasked with resolving all judicial disputes involving the Commission and arising from the running of elections. The IEC would also ensure that at least 50% of its vacancies would be filled in the course of the financial year so that at least 90% of the election registration staff were appointed for the 2010 elections. In this regard, the application of the approved employment equity plan would be monitored. Policies in the Employee Policy manual would also be reviewed so that they could be aligned with best human resources practices. Performance management for the organisation would also be implemented. Professional support would also be provided to the organisation's employees to cater for their well-being. In terms of skills training and skills development, the IEC would revise the registration guide and the registration diary in preparation for the local government elections. It would be developing training for the registration guide and develop facilitators' guides by the end of February 2010. The IEC expected to train over 100 000 election officials for the 2010/2011 elections. The Commission would use e-learning as a cost-effective method of training; this had been used for the training of the IEC's electoral staff and would now be rolled out to the training of party agents and security personnel. Training of the IEC's permanent staff would take place after performance evaluations had been carried out. The outcome of this evaluation would determine where there were gaps which would then direct the IEC's training needs to improve the quality of the services offered by employers. The organisation would also continue to offer bursaries to employees so that they could improve their qualifications. A National Operations Centre would be established, as had been done for the 2009 elections. Analysis in respect of office space and infrastructure would be done, as there was currently a shortage of office space as a result of the organisation's growth since occupying those offices 12 years ago. Financial management would ensure compliance with National Treasury regulations and the compilation of budgets for approved projects, in line with the organisation's strategic objectives as required by National Treasury’s guidelines. The IEC would develop and implement organisational budgetary performance measures both monthly and annually. IEC would enhance its IT systems to ensure that the were ready for the 2010/2011 elections.
The budget covered three financial year periods, from 2009-2012. The presenter highlighted what had been budgeted for the employment of electoral staff. There had been major problems experienced with the rates that were paid to electoral staff in the form of a stipend. This stipend had been quite low despite the long hours worked, which at times exceeded 24 hours (R2260 for 3 days work). There had been complaints from people and they had expressed unwillingness to work for the rate currently offered. The budget reflected this amount at the current rate but there could be need to review it after approaching Treasury for more money, otherwise it would be very problematic on election day if there was going to be dissatisfaction over payment. This was the only area where the IEC felt there was a deficit.
Mr J McGluwa (ID) congratulated the IEC on the tremendously good work that it had done in managing the 2009 and elections. He asked whether there was any fee that was charged for services rendered by the IEC to any stakeholder.
Ms Pansy Tlakula, Chief Electoral Officer, IEC, responded that the IEC was not doing any of this at a fee and the money came out of the Commission's civic education budget.
Mr McGluwa made a suggestion regarding the shortages of ballot paper at some voting stations during the 2009 elections. He thought that voters could vote in their restricted areas to prevent a recurrence of a similar problem in future elections. He commented that much had been done to alter negative public perceptions of corruption or controversy at the IEC. However, there was still much that needed to be done and he recommended that the IEC investigate the option of people being restricted to voting in particular areas.
Dr Bam responded that there were mediators at polling stations and the IEC relied entirely on party agents to be able to cope with those kinds of controversies that could arise at a voting station. In future, the IEC wanted to ensure that people must vote in the areas where they were registered, since this was how it allocated ballot papers. In the 2009 elections there had been a crisis, and the IEC was concerned that it did not have a mechanism to check for corruption on the actual day of voting. It mainly relied on political party agents to identify and record any corruption that could be taking place. Reports of corruption were not often received on time, and this was something that the IEC was working to improve.
Ms Tlakula added that the IEC had not run out of ballot papers. The difficulties in the allocation arose through the Section 24(a) of the Electoral Act, which allowed people to vote in areas other than where they were registered. This provision made it difficult in terms of planning and predicting the possible number of voters who would turn up at a voting station. Section 24(a) was one of the legislative amendments that would have to be looked at in preparation for the 2010/2011 elections.
An ANC member also congratulated the IEC for a job well done. He asked whether the consultative process leading to the development of the strategic plan had included rural communities and how this had been communicated to them.
Ms Tlakula responded that the consultation had taken place in the form of debriefing with political parties, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders. There was an internal debriefing that was still to be held to monitor the progress of how the IEC had performed in the 2009 elections.
The ANC member also wanted to know if the rural communities had responded satisfactorily. He also asked whether the IEC had now fully reconciled the names appearing on the voters roll with those on the population register.
Ms Tlakula responded that if a name did not appear on the population register then the IEC would not register that name for voting. It was the responsibility of the person concerned to check on their status with the Department of Home Affairs.
A Member asked whether apart from the registration process, there were any other reasons for the high numbers of vacancies.
Ms Tlakula responded that there had been a high number of vacancies as a result of the restructuring of the organisation and not all the vacancies had been filled in time to focus on the 2009 election. Because of the cyclic nature of the organisation, the IEC had to be strategic in the filling of vacancies otherwise there would be no point in filling up posts and leaving people with no work to do.
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) commented that despite the fact that there had been a terrible perception during the 2009 elections, the IEC had nonetheless managed to restore the public confidence even though there were many flaws. Generally speaking, all the election monitors, including those from the African Union (AU) and SADC, had commented that the elections were free and fair. Although he had some complaints he felt that this meeting was not the appropriate forum to address such issues.
Dr Bam responded that in regard to complaints, there was a unique arrangement where political parties participated with the IEC, and it would encourage as many parties as possible to raise their complaints at the process, so that they could be discussed. On the election day itself there was a process that enabled a party to register a complaint and to register an objection. The electoral laws made provision for a system by which all complaints and objections could be received. The IEC did not wait to deal with complaints after the election period since in South Africa there was a good system of objections in the form of an electoral court that could deal with such matters.
Mr Mnqasela commented that South Africa therefore continued to be a role model in terms of the conduct of elections in Africa and other parts of the world. He noted that a target of 23.4 million had been set with respect to the number of persons expected to register to vote in the upcoming elections. This seemed to indicate a form of apathy from the IEC and he wanted to know why such a low target had been set despite the IEC's desire to increase participation in elections.
Dr Bam responded that voting patterns indicated that there was very little interest in local government elections. Interest was extremely low especially with young people since it was not common practice for political parties to appoint young people to political offices.
Ms Tlakula also responded that the 40% target had always been the benchmark for local government elections. .
Mr Mnqasela commented that he had also seen that there was an attempt to go to schools and educate learners. He commented that there had to be a sense of urgency in provinces to try and support the Memorandums of Understanding. Each province could start aligning its budget with these objectives.
Ms Tlakula responded that the IEC’s civic education in schools was very important. However, this needed the buy-in of the Department of Education. The problem was that that Department had indicated that they had a lot of competing priorities to consider, alongside the IEC's proposals, from other organisations who also submitted their proposals for programmes such as HIV and AIDS education.
Ms D Mathebe (ANC) also congratulated the IEC for rising above any doubts that anyone would have wanted to cast over their ability to manage elections. She described the 2009 elections as one of the most “electrifying” since 1994. She asked whether there were any plans to convert the voting system to an electronic one, in line with the IEC's strategy for enhancing its information technology systems. The issue of printing the voters roll as well as dispatching the material was problematic, as shown in the 2009 election. It could therefore be a way of reducing perceptions about IEC materials falling into the wrong hands.
Dr Bam expressed surprise in the common belief that electronic voting solved every problem. She pointed out that the experience of a number of countries around the world had shown that there were a number of problems. Technology was not always understood by everybody. South Africa had a very high percentage of people who had no access to technology, such as in rural areas. As had been shown in the United States, where both manual and electronic systems were used, there were people who wanted to touch the actual ballot and place it in a box to believe that their vote had been registered. Electronic voting therefore did not solve any of the problems of budget or transparency. Transparency was very important and with the use of technology one had to be absolutely sure that every person was technology-literate. South Africa had, however, developed one of the best systems in the world, in terms of the manual verification of results.
Ms Tlakula added that there were a lot of challenges associated with electronic voting such as the issue of how to deal with spoilt ballots, since once a vote had been cast online it could not be reversed. There were therefore issues of confidence building and transparency that would require a huge financial outlay. In terms of printing of the voters roll, it was difficult to produce hard copies since there were more than 30 million names on the roll, which would require large amounts of paper. Political parties were provided with compact disc versions of the roll, as this was more cost-effective. The IEC therefore made both hard copies and a CD, which could be made available to relevant stakeholders.
Ms H Makhuba (IFP) commented that she was pleased that the IEC was doing something about the remuneration of electoral staff. She asked what was causing delays in payments as there were some electoral staff whose payments were still outstanding.
The IEC responded that the delays were as a result of National Treasury's requirement for payments to be processed using transfers to bank accounts. In some instances there had been errors in the entry of account numbers by either the IEC's staff or employees, who provided inaccurate information or bank details of accounts that had since been closed. Using the banking system also disadvantaged persons who resided in remote areas where access to banking services was limited and required them to travel long distances. It also disadvantaged the unemployed who could not maintain bank accounts for long periods. The IEC intended to engage with the banking sector to try and address these problems.
The Committee voted on and approved the IEC's strategic plan and objectives.
Films and Publications Board (FPB): Briefing and Presentation of the Annual Report for the year 2007/8
Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, Chairperson: Film and Publications Board, stressed the importance of the Film and Publications Board (FPB) to the Committee and expressed dissatisfaction with the budget allocated, which she said lacked seriousness. The FPB worked with people in the filming industry as well as the games market and the print industry. This sector was one in which the industry players were very clear about their rights and, in this regard, it was a cause of some concern to the FPB that the Films and Publications Act had not been signed to date. It had taken a very long time to have the relevant Films and Publications Amendment Act signed. This was a major challenge because the new Act would establish a council that would make the governance much more productive in that the Board would have more people from the sector and a diversity of views. The other challenge faced was that of a high staff turn-over. The former CEO had left the Board partly due to the huge pressures of the job, but people would also leave in order to develop their careers. The economic climate was affecting the industry, and this affected the Board because it depended on income from the industry. The FPB was regarded in the budget as a soft issue and it therefore was not awarded enough finance.
Ms Mpumlwana expressed the hope that the Committee would have an opportunity to visit the FPB to get an “FPB experience” in terms of the work that it did in reviewing and classifying films. She again stressed that there was need for urgency in the signing of the FPB Act. The Board was anxious to establish an industry task team that would provide advisory services to the FPB. With the 2010 World Cup tournament on the horizon, the FPB was uneasy about the issue of ensuring that children were protected from harmful content in films from abroad.
Ms Yoliswa Makhasi, Chief Executive Officer, FPB, took the Committee through the presentation on the Strategic Plan and achievements for the past financial year. She reminded the Committee of the FPB's legislative mandate in accordance with the Film and Publication Act, 1996, as amended in 2008. The amendment process had been initiated in 2007, and the Act currently awaited the President's signature before it could become operational. The FPB performed functions, exercised powers and discharged their duties according to the Act's objectives, which entailed regulating the creation, production, possession, broadcasting and distribution of films, interactive computer games and certain publications. The FPB provided consumer advice to enable adults to make informed viewing, reading and gaming choices, both for themselves and for children in their care. It protected children from exposure to disturbing and harmful materials and from exposure to adult experiences, and made the use of children in pornography a punishable offence. Legislation was also in place that made bestiality a criminal offence.
The FPB's core activities comprised mainly classification of films, videos, DVDs and games for both children and adults. It would do compliance monitoring throughout the country and would also undertake research to ensure it influenced the public policy platforms regarding the protection of children and also to ensure that the work remained continuously relevant to the values and norms of South African society, via surveys to gauge the public's reaction to the classifications made by the Board in terms of age ratings. It would protect children, mainly with regard to exposure to harmful materials such as pornography.
The FPB's vision was to be a visible and credible content classification authority. Its mission was to balance the rights and freedoms of content providers with the need to maintain societal values and protect children from harmful media content. The Board contributed to crime prevention through partnering with South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African Revenue Services (SARS) in the fight against piracy and copyright infringement. Piracy was a major concern in the industry, and this was frequently highlighted in meetings with distributors who were always complaining about declining sales volumes as a direct result of piracy. FPB also directed anti-child pornography campaigns and efforts for the creation of a database of content providers in the industry.
The Board's strategic objectives were then set out. It aimed to ensure an enhanced, integrated and constitutionally sound regulatory framework, so as to enable informed choices about media content whilst creating a healthy and child safe media environment. It would develop and maintain organisational capacity and capability to ensure effective management and implementation of the Act. It would enhance leadership and management of the Film and Publication Board, resulting in sound corporate governance and compliance. It would ensure that the business and work of the FPB reflected contemporary norms and values, by forming and maintaining national and international partnerships and coordinating initiatives that supported the business of the FPB. It would position the FPB as a visible, credible, professionally run organisation that regulated media through classification of content.
In 2007/08 it was indicated that the main highlights included many activities and outreach in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of creation of the Board. The Board had achieved several of its objectives.
The four units of the Board housed the core activities of the organisation: namely child protection, research, compliance monitoring and classifications.
In terms of classification, 7097 films, publications and interactive games had been classified during the financial year. Research had been conducted in the form of audience participation research to inform the Board's classification guidelines. The Board had also explored the FPB classification guidelines and viewing choices of children researched on a performance management system for examiners. Ms Makhasi indicated to the Committee that as part of the classification process, the Minister was mandated to appoint an advisory panel that was tasked with the recruitment of examiners, who should be people who embraced the accepted societal values and norms, drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds encompassing race, gender, and religion. They were not necessarily staff members of the Board. This not only maintained their independence but also ensured that their classification decisions were not interfered with by the FPB's management. Although they were paid out of the FPB budget, their appointment was independent.
The FPB had formed collaborative relationships with broadcasters, and with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in particular, and with other regulatory organisations in the sector, such as the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).Three Appeals had been held, and the Review Board had upheld the FPB’s rulings. The classification process and the content ratings were briefly explained and graphs showed the numbers of content examined, which had increased over the last year, and the classifications given. There had been a surge in submissions of content rated X18 (adults only) and also an increase of Age 18 ratings for games. Ms Makhasi wondered if these statistics said anything about society's values. There was also content that was classified as banned content such as child pornography and bestiality, and that would not be able to be distributed legally.
The Child Protection Unit, which had been established in July 2008, intensified stakeholder relations with law enforcement agencies, key industry players, and Non Government Organisations (NGOs) dealing with child abuse. The Board had appointed and trained Internet Content Analysts (ICA) who constantly monitored the worldwide web and cellphone content for harmful content and kept open a hot line to allow the public to report any offensive content. If offensive content was reported, the ICA could speak to a local internet service provider (ISP) and alert the SAPS. Support, advice and training was also given to police and prosecutors. The FPB had also intensified community outreach programmes and at the level of research they had looked at the incidence and impact of sexual abuse of children through cellphones and internet. The FPB had not been sure of what sort of research results to package for the Committee and they wanted to have an opportunity to continue engaging with the Committee in this regard. About 3000 calls received via the FPB anti -pornography hot line had resulted in three cases being referred for prosecution; a number of calls were not related to child pornography and these would be referred on to other agencies where appropriate.
The Board had increased compliance monitoring activities and capacity. There had been joint raids with police, resulting in the confiscation of over 60 000 illegal materials. Partnerships had also been made with other government departments and industry players to improve compliance and prevent the proliferation of illegal distribution outlets. The FPB had identified a need to improve the work done by local government, who would at times approve the registration of an adult store without checking to see whether it would be located too close to a school, church or even Parliament, as had happened before. There had been low levels of compliance by internet service providers, Bollywood and Nollywood (films from Nigeria) distributors. These film production lines were quick and this required special processes to ensure their compliance. The FPB had also conducted research into compliance monitoring.
The FPB itself had consolidated policies and procedures and had built a specific focus on risk management, as a result of interventions by the audit committee. The FPB was expected by the audit committee to report not only on its financial performance but also on risk management within the organisation. A huge organisational review had been done, resulting in an enhanced structure and the implementation of business systems and processes. The ICT infrastructure had been upgraded and many partnerships had been formed with NGOs that worked in children's issues, as well as academic institutions that assisted the FPB with research. The brand and communications strategy was under continuous development.
Some of the challenges that the FPB faced included technological innovations that created difficulties, particularly when it came to monitoring the internet and mobile platforms. Privacy considerations made it difficult to monitor mobile content. The FPB had therefore to rely on the back end providers of information in relation to mobile content such as ISPs and other platforms. Legislation in this area was only applicable to South African ISPs and yet there were plenty of international sites that could not be regulated like Youtube, Twitter and other platforms where young people had access. Ms Makhasi suggested to the Members that they could visit some of these platforms such as Facebook. The FPB had a presence as an organisation on Facebook.
Ms Makhasi said that, as had been pointed earlier by the Chairperson, the budget allocation from National Treasury was insufficient, and there was need for more effort to be put in place to expand the FPB’s revenue base. Although the global downturn had affected the industry, there were potential revenue sources in events such as SEXPOs, Film Festivals, and Games Arcades located in shopping malls. The games in those arcades were not classified and the FPB was still in the process of developing a strategy, together with the owners of those games, to ensure that they were classified.
The FPB's internal systems and processes were continuously being improved to ensure organisational efficiency. One of the issues raised by content providers and distributors was that they were unhappy with the tariff structure, which was not responsive to certain peculiarities in the industry. There were large industry players such as Ster-Kinekor and Nu Metro, as well as very small time players such as single proprietor businesses who relied on DVDs that they downloaded from the Internet, who did not want to enter into any agreement with the major distributors to acquire distribution rights. This raised several issues including piracy and the need for an equitable tariff structure that took into account the different circumstances of industry players. Major industry players had, for example, approached the Board asking them to first determine the ownership of distribution rights before classifying content. However, this was difficult for the FPB, simply because this would encourage the monopoly of distribution rights by big players in the industry, at the expense of smaller players. A recommendation had been made to the Committee that perhaps the Minister could form an advisory panel, which would also include the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) to formulate ways of addressing some of these matters.
Mr Jonas Poshoko, Acting Chief Finance Officer, then provided an overview of the FPB's finances to the Committee. He noted that the funding model comprised three main sources: a grant received from the Department of Home Affairs, monies received from classification fees for content, and monies received from the registration of distributors of content. The FPB also received a grant from the Department of Public Works to cover its rental expenses. The FPB had registered a deficit of R2.4 million in the 2007/08 financial year, largely due to the setting up of the new Child Protection unit, and decline in revenues from the classification of content. A grant had been received from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to the value of R19.2 million, which was 24% lower than that received in 2006/07. Regulation Fees of approximately R12 million were collected as a result of increased material submitted for classification, about 50% higher than collected in the previous financial year. Operating expenses had increased due to their expansion and the introduction of new infrastructure. Personnel expenditure had therefore increased in line with the approved organisational structure and filling of key positions. The Committee was also shown diagrams of the FPB's balance sheet and its personnel expenditure and other operating costs.
Mr Joe McGluwa (ID) expressed concern about the resignation of top management from the organisation. He wanted to know the reason for these resignations and whether there had been an intervention by the Committee to investigate the matter. He also asked if any exit interviews had been conducted.
Ms Mpumlwana responded that people wanted to grow their careers, especially in an industry where there was a human capital shortage. This meant that there was a lot of fluidity. Efforts had been made to try and keep the former CEO, but the offer she had received had proved to be a lot more lucrative than the FPB could afford. An approach was made to National Treasury to try to increase her salary but this would have exceeded the budget cap. The FPB now had a system in place to restructure the organogram so that responsibility was shared at senior management level, to close the gaps if one senior manager left the Board. It was difficult to keep people in an industry where there were scarce skills
Mr McGluwa commented that the Committee had to take very seriously the delays in promulgating Section 53 (1) of the Film and Publication Act. He was however, concerned that there had been no indication of any clear targets in the FPB's Annual Report.
Ms Makhasi responded that the Board was revisiting the strategic plan according to set targets at the beginning of the financial year, to be able to report against specific quantifiable targets at the end of the quarter.
Mr McGluwa also commented that there had been a contravention by the Board in that submissions were not made within the two months required by the Act and asked for the reasons for the delay.
Mr Jonas Poshoko responded that there had been an initial submission on time, but there had been problems which had required a second submission, resulting in this being made after the deadline imposed by the Act.
An ANC member wanted to know what compliance mechanisms had been developed for content distribution in rural communities.
Ms Makhasi responded that there was a system of compliance monitors located in all the provinces. The number of monitors in a particular province depended upon the level of film industry economic activity. In a province such as Limpopo, for instance, where such activity was low, there were fewer monitors than in Gauteng, where activity was much higher.
Ms Mpumlwana added that the Board was aware of its limitations and had approached NGOs to establish a parallel structure to deal with related issues to exercise this responsibility. An additional measure that had been put in place was to educate cinema staff about all of the applicable FPB regulations regarding cinema content. The FPB relied on the cinema staff to monitor since the Board did not have sufficient capacity to monitor all cinemas. Members of the public were also being educated, so that parents and children could be informed about the classifications and ratings of cinema content and other content.
Presentation of the FPB's Operational Plan and Objectives for the 2009/10 financial year
Ms Mmapula Makona, Chief Operations Officer, FPB, presented the Operational Plan, which she said mainly focused on the implementation of amendments to the Act (if passed). The delay in the passing of the Act had hampered progress and there were a number of objectives that the organisation was not able to put into effect and were being carried over from year to year in the Strategic Plan for each year. The Board intended to embark on a huge information campaign targeted at key stakeholders to familiarise them with the amendments. It would also be reviewing the systems and processes to align them with changes as result of the legislation. The Board also wanted to have its monitors appointed as peace officers in order to give them search and seizure powers in relation to their compliance and monitoring duties, since at the moment the lack of these powers was a major limitation. The FPB also intended to develop a labeling system for classified material, ensuring a uniform display of the FPB logo, to avoid confusion by the public and fraudulent misrepresentation by unscrupulous content distributors. The labeling system was designed to protect children from exposure to harmful material. It would also assist in addressing the tariff challenges because at the moment, there were some distributors who did not reveal the true figures of their distribution.
The FPB also intended to implement its Programme of Action (POA) on child pornography. This had been developed in 2007 when an indaba was held with industry and other stakeholders including members of the Committee. The FPB had been rolling out the POA over the past financial year and were beginning to see major improvements in handling the problem of child pornography in South Africa. It had also embarked on an awareness programme in schools throughout South Africa reaching an audience of about 40 000 children. In 2009 it would change focus, because of the expenses involved in traveling to schools and limited financial resources. FPB hoped to penetrate rural communities through the institutions of traditional leadership, religious institutions and through engagement with the moral regeneration movement. It would not totally abandon the schools programme, however, and would work with a life orientation educator in about 1000 identified schools to ensure that young children were educated about pornography. The 2010 World Cup Tournament posed certain dangers to children who could be exposed to foreign tourists who were intent on abusing young children. The FPB hoped that the education programme would help alleviate such dangers.
The FPB was also engaging with the workplace environment and had conducted a study on child pornography in the workplace, which had revealed high access figures. The FPB would be engaging with industry human resources practitioners to try to educate people in the workplace around these issues. It wanted the issues to be included in the Department of Education’s curriculum. Since 2007 the FPB had hosted an internet hot line, which had also been improved, where members of the public could report pornography. About 48 reports were received in 2007, which was apparently in line with global reports. Website participation would be improved with Facebook, and also by expanding into Twitter and other platforms popular with young children. An Industrial Theatre Programme had also been developed in the form of a play on child pornography, which had been used throughout South Africa's schools to educate young children. It would be put onto a DVD that would then be distributed to various schools, industry stakeholders and NGOs.
An information campaign would target tourists who would be coming into the country for the 2010 soccer tournament, informing them about the legislation around child pornography, the age of majority, and other issues, and an in-flight educational video would also be developed. The Board was working on training workshops with the Tourism authority and embassies. It also hoped to engage SADC on child pornography issues to continue their leadership as the first African nation to join the Global Body Of Internet Hotlines. The Board was also involved in training of law enforcement officers and prosecutors on issues of child pornography and would continue to do that in the coming financial year.
The Acting CFO then presented the Board's allocation of the budget for the 2009/10 financial year (see attached document for details).
An ANC Member expressed concern about the lack of a vibrant plan or an extensive drive to mobilise resources from private donors despite the FPB's yearly complaints about receiving a small budget. There possibly were many international bodies that had a passion for the type of work that the FPB was doing. He had expected that FPB would show the Committee what they were also doing in this regard.
Ms M Maunye (ANC) commented on the issue of the training of law enforcement officials. She said there was an indication that there was progress. She suggested that the Committee take up the issue of the enactment of the Amendment Act with the Ministry so that it could be speeded up. If there were any problems then this Committee could try to assist to ensure that the new Board was appointed and was in operation.
Mr Joe McGluwa (ID) commented that the submission from the Board as far as the budget was concerned was deplorable. He suggested, in regard to the lease of computer equipment, that it would make more sense to buy it. However, he did congratulate the board for achieving an unqualified audit report.
The Chairperson affirmed that the issue of the amendment to the legislation would be taken up with the Ministry, and he would find out what challenges were delaying the President's assent.
The Committee voted on and approved the Board's operational plan and budget for the 2009/10 financial year.
The meeting was adjourned.
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