Commission for Gender Equality 2012 Strategic Plan and Budget; Committee's Report on the Departmental 2012 Strategic Plan and Budget

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

09 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission of Gender Equality (CGE) briefed Members on its 2012 Budget, Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan. The Commission recorded its concerns at the lack of a chairperson, a post that had remained vacant since 2009 and the lack of commissioners. The number currently stood at only two, and this was having a negative impact on the Commission.  Another concern was the inferior grading of the Commission by the National Treasury and negative on budget allocation and resources. The Commission was concerned that it was being portrayed in the media as a drain on the Department’s resources where in reality it was actually allocated its own budget from National Treasury. Successes and gains included the Commission's frequent engagements with the Portfolio and Select Committees on Women, Children and People with Disabilities. Another success noted was the clean audit for 2010/11.

 African National Congress Members asked why the Commission's budget was structured for the full 12 commissioners when there were only currently two, questioned the delay in the appointment of commissioners, and asked what the Commission's position was on the elimination of harmful and discriminatory traditional practices. A Democratic Alliance Member had asked the Minister about the shortage of commissioners but had yet to receive a response. She also wanted more elaboration on the distinction between the Department and the Commission.

The Committee, after much discussion, adopted with corrections, its Report on the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Strategic Plan and Budget.

Meeting report

Commission for Gender Equality 2012 Budget and Strategic Plan presentation
Ms Janine Hicks, CGE Commissioner and Acting Chairperson, noted the CGE's first concern, the lack of a Chairperson, a post that had remained vacant since 2009. She noted a lack of commissioners. The number currently stood at only two, and this was having a negative impact on the Commission. She questioned why the filling of the vacancies was taking this long when vacancies in other Chapter 9 institutions, like the Office of the Public Protector and the Independent Electoral Commission, were filled timeously. Another concern was the inferior grading of the Commission by the National Treasury and the negative impact this was having on its budget allocation and resources and therefore quality of staff. She requested this be corrected. She was concerned that the CGE was being portrayed in the media as a drain on the Department’s Resources where in reality the Commission was actually allocated its own budget from National Treasury.

Ms Hicks was worried about that the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions [the Kader Asmal report} and its recommendations had not been debated and was still not before Parliament. She was hoping to engage with the House on the Commission's views on the report.

The Chairperson noted Ms Hicks' concerns and said that she could respond to the concern about the lack of commissioners that Parliament had completed its process.

Ms Keketso Maema, CGE CEO, gave an overview of the mandate and powers of the Commission. She noted it was important that the distinction between the Commission as an independent Constitutional body and the Department as an executive arm of Government be made clear. 

She addressed the major issues the Commission felt faced South Africa in terms of gender equality which included, inter alia, disempowerment of rural women, illiteracy, teenage pregnancy, poverty, unemployment, HIV/AIDS and gender based violence.

Ms Maema looked at international trends regarding gender equality. She briefly outlined the critical legislative imperatives or critical areas that needed to be addressed by a legislative framework that came out of the international trends identified.

She turned to the strategic objectives of the Commission and noted they were largely the same as outlined in last year’s report. Three of the objectives were programme-based while one was an objective internal to processes of the CGE. 

Ms Maema listed the thematic areas of the Commission and said many areas were disbanded as there were too many areas and committees for only two commissioners to be looking at.

She went through the sub-strategies for each strategic objective. She noted that, in the sub-strategy for the first strategic objective, the Commission would not be undertaking as many research reports as it had before as the Commission did not have the time to go back and engage with different policy makers in terms of recommendations made in these reports. 

In the sub-strategy for the second strategic objective, she looked at the collaboration of the CGE and other bodies around specific issues.

The sub-strategies for the third strategic objective centred on monitoring work of the CGE.

Ms Maema looked at the sub-strategies of the fourth strategic objective which dealt with the efficiency of the CGE itself. The strategies outlined where to maintain a qualified audit, revamping information technology (IT) infrastructure, and looking at human resource strategies as happy personnel were imperative. Other strategies were to look at a long-term funding model from National Treasury and other donor agencies, to look at dire issues related to the budget, to engage with other international organisations to fund projects, and to work on a coherent communications strategy to promote a positive public image of the Commission.

Ms Maema turned to the Annual Performance Plan and mentioned which activities the Commission was involved in and which different stakeholders they were engaged with. She especially mentioned the new activity under the legal and research category.  This was the introduction of policy briefs on CGE research reports to thoroughly engage with these reports. This would ensure that research reports were not just produced but were actually engaged and followed up.

Ms Maema noted the large successes and gains made by the Commission. This included the Commission's frequent engagements with the Portfolio and Select Committees on Women, Children and People with Disabilities. Another success noted was the clean audit for 2010/11.

The CGE also gave an overview of the process of the strategic plan and noted the importance of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). It highlighted that the budget for the Commission grew 6% from R55.1 million in last year’s budget to R58.5 million in this year’s budget. It outlined how the budget was structured to fund the programmes and sub-programmes of the Commission. It outlined the nature, shape and structure of the Commissions budget, and highlighted that the greatest resource to the Commission was human capital and this explained why most of the budget went toward this expense. The CGE emphasised that the budget was structured for the full 12 commissioners the Commission was meant to have. The growth for the budget per programme was to cater for targeted inflation and the rising of costs. This growth was quite moderate.

The Chairperson noted the Committee had been very angry with the Commission but she now commended them for their turnaround strategy and great improvement made.

The Chairperson questioned why the budget was structured for the full 12 commissioners when there were only currently two. She questioned what happened to these salaries. She also requested to know why the research activities were the same as in the last financial year. She was interested in hearing more about the nature and content of complaints the Commission received.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) questioned the delay in the appointment of commissioners and what role the Committee had to play in fast tracking this matter. She said there was a need for the CGE to act with the Ministry and for the relationship between the two to be improved through meetings to address the issues raised by Ms Hicks in the beginning of the presentation.

A Member questioned if the targets of the previous annual performance plan had been achieved and if not, why.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) asked what the Commission's position was on the elimination of harmful and discriminatory traditional practices.

Ms E More (DA) requested to know why 12 commissioners were budgeted for when there were only two in office and what happened to the funds saved from this. She also wanted to know if the Commission had a complaints management system and wanted more information on the time frame between laying a complaint and a response received from the CGE. Lastly she questioned the compliance of the CGE with international conventions. She remarked on the great plans for implementation activities planned for the year by the Commission but she wondered if the budget would accommodate these plans.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) presented a follow-up question regarding reports and the engagement between the CGE and the Department and what time frames were set for this engagement. She noted her concern about the lack of commissioners. She said she had presented a written question around this issue to the Minister but had yet to receive a response.  She asked what impact the end of terms of employees and non-appointments was having on the Commission. She also wanted more elaboration on the distinction between the Department and the CGE.

Ms Hicks noted the concerns and questions. She thanked the Chairperson for her congratulations and appreciated the rigorous oversight the Committee held over the Commission. 

The CGE responded to the concern on the budgeting for 12 commissioners and said the savings or surplus from these vacant salaries would be reflected in the annual financial statements. The PFMA permitted for the diversion of saved money through proper internal process but the CGE noted that not more than 8% could be diverted and it became burdensome for the Commission to account for this. The budget was planned around the prescript that the Commission ought to have 12 commissioners and if Parliament or the President appointed more commissioners the budget could absorb that. He highlighted that there would be fewer CGE research activities so the money saved would be diverted. R 2.1 million was earmarked for researchers' salaries and full time employees while the remainder would go to courier services, printing, telecommunications, travel and accommodation. The CGE reminded the Committee that the bulk of the money was fixed for personnel salaries and could not be moved.

Ms Maema responded that many activities where the same as in the last financial year. She also noted that certain activities were on-going like the monitoring of the Victims' Charter and gender barometer in different departments and provinces. She said flexibility was needed in the budget for these monitoring processes and the following up of reports. Regarding a complaints management system, she said no such system was in place due to the bigger problem of obsolete information technology (IT) structures which was highlighted as an objective in the annual performance plan. She said the current IT structure could not carry a system for managing complaints. She noted that provinces provided quarterly reports on complaints and their nature to head office. These reports were then taken to a national level for a full report to be compiled. She noted that time frames were in place for complaints lodged but not for closing a file as it was difficult to ascertain when a case should be closed especially when engagement with other stakeholders was involved. She said that time frames where used to ensure matters were dealt with efficiently.  She stated there was an outreach strategy in place where the Commission was able to engage with communities around certain issues.

Ms Maema said, regarding time frames for policy engagements, that the full process would be used for the full financial year for thorough engagement on research reports. Looking at the annual performance plan, she said 95% of the work the Commission had set out for itself had been completed.

Ms Hicks said that repeated attempts for role clarification with key stakeholders in the Ministry were made. In terms of distinguishing the roles of the CGE and the Department, the Commission addressed gender equality whereas the Department was mandated with representing Government’s interventions relating to women, children and people with disabilities while the CGE, as an independent institution, also monitored Government. The delays in appointments impacted policy negatively and hampered the decisions taken by the Commission especially at a policy level. Thematic areas were, as a result, not thoroughly looked at, matters were not escalated when they needed to be, profiles were not raised, subpoenas could not be applied for, provinces were not adequately supported, and critical oversight was lacking. She requested that Parliament fast track these delays in the Office of the Presidency. She conveyed her concern about the non-prosecution by traditional leaders of discriminatory traditional practices and comments made toward gays and lesbians. She said the Commission was engaged with and was collaborating with traditional leaders and memoranda of understanding had been negotiated.

Ms Kenosi Meruti, CGE Commissioner, responded on the state of the international conventions. The three reports of international covenants and protocols, namely, the Beijing Report, CEDO, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were worked on. She noted improvements and gains were made in the political environment around issues of representation. She expressed her worry over harmful traditional practices toward women The lack of productivity to empower and promote women in private and public sectors was largely because of a lack of policy and protocols. She was also concerned that the concept of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting remained a foreign concept in the civil service and she questioned how transformation could be achieved if this was not understood or taken seriously. She cited the Public Service Commission's report on this matter.

Advocate Kamraj Anirudhra, CGE Parliamentary Officer, spoke broadly about the nature of complaints by outlining instances where women were discriminated against and did not receive the legal assistance due to them because of this discrimination. He used personal instances to illustrate his point.

The Chairperson said matters such as those presented were interesting and should be brought before the Committee as it was within its line of responsibility.

Ms Lamoela remarked that instances of gender discrimination were rife in rural areas where women had no representation.

The Chairperson thanked the Commission for their presentation and concerns, especially those related to the lack of commissioners, would be looked at.

Committee's Report on the Departmental Strategic Plan and Budget
 Ms K Abrahams, Committee Researcher, had communicated with the Department regarding an incorrect figure. The Department had informed her that an exact amount could not be given at that moment but it would return with the correct figure at a later stage in writing. She reiterated that the figure in the report was a typing mistake.

The Chairperson said this typing mistake must be mentioned as the report needed to be adopted in time for the debate.

Ms C Blaai (COPE) was worried and felt it would be better to wait for the Department's response before adoption as it reflected badly on the Department.

Ms Lamoela said the Department should have had an amount set out.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee moved for adoption or not.

Ms Tseke felt the Committee should adopt the report as the Department was accountable to the Committee. She also noted the debate to be held on Friday.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) said the report should be adopted and the Department could be called again for the correct figure.

Ms B Thompson (ANC) said the Committee should wait on a meeting with the Department and see what the outcome was before adopting the report.

The Chairperson suggested the bullet point in the paragraph be removed from the report.

Ms Lamoela felt the point could not simply be removed.

Ms Blaai said the report should be left as it was and a concern should be raised in the debate. She felt this would prompt the Minister to respond with the correct amount. This was if the Department did not come back to the Committee on that day.

Ms More felt this was a good suggestion and that the report should be left as was.

Ms Abrahams said that the figure should be reflected accurately and the concern should be raised as an observation. Furthermore, a recommendation could be posed where the Committee could call for the correct information.

The Chairperson felt the matter should not be complicated and should be left as it was.

Ms Crystal Levendale, Committee Researcher, suggested that the Committee make a recommendation to request the specific information.

The Chairperson said the point was already reflected in the recommendations.

Ms Lamoela requested the updated recommendations and observations from the researchers.

The Researchers said they would provide the updated version to the Committee.

The Chairperson recommended that the Committee move for the adoption of the report with the noted corrections.

Ms More noted her concern that information should be validated in future before submitting reports so that the situation was not repeated.

Ms Tseke suggested that in the Committee’s recommendations she wanted the typo to be a point of concern.
The Chairperson said the Committee would not be coming together again and wanted the Members to move for the proposed corrections.

The report was adopted as it was, with the corrections.

The meeting was adjourned.


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