The Minister and Department for Women, Children and People with Disability briefed the Committee on the Department’s 2011/12 Annual Report. There was full acknowledgment of the numerous weaknesses in this year, caused by a combination of institutional and resource capacity constraints, weak internal controls, mismanagement, non-compliance with financial guidelines and fraud. This meant that performance levels, overall, were at only 60%. There were significant levels of overspending across several programmes and items, amounting in all to R22.7m, with the bulk of this under administrative expenses. Staff had been hired at above the proper starting salary scales, and without regard to whether there was a budget for that appointment, and huge expenses had been incurred in relation to travel, not only of staff, but in taking delegates and representatives to events. Reports by the National Treasury and Auditor-General (AG) had confirmed that the former Director General and Chief Financial Officer were not capable of fulfilling their tasks. The report by the Auditor-General, and a separately-commissioned forensic investigative report, had disclosed serious transgressions in relation to staff appointments, payments for overtime and resettlement costs, as well as fraud and dishonesty. Eight senior staff members had been served with disciplinary charges or were being criminally charged, and the Department had taken advice on and would be pursuing civil claims recovery. Of these eight, three had since resigned, but were to be followed up on. The former Director-General had, at the request of the Minister, been transferred elsewhere.
The report nonetheless disclosed progress in some core programmes, and a description was given of national events held, some police frameworks and action plans launched, a women and children budget initiative and a draft National Disability Policy was developed. Much of the presentation was devoted to a description of the steps that had since been taken to try to address the problems. Despite the internal control weaknesses, the financial audit report was unqualified, but with matters of emphasis. A new, skilled Chief Financial Officer had been seconded from the office of the AG and Statistics SA was also assisting. Staff had been trained and business processes documents drafted in relation to various aspects, including Supply Chain Management, which had been particularly problematic. Monthly reporting and monitoring processes were put in place, and an Internal Audit unit set up. Action plans were drafted to address the audit findings. By the middle of the 2012/13 year, spending was almost on track, at 53%, with some anticipated underspending in the latter part of the year. Funding had been earmarked for critical staff positions, especially in the finance, supply-chain and risk management areas, from the additional allocation approved by National Treasury.
Members commented that it was unfortunate that the last financial year had seen so many challenges, but they were appreciative of the efforts made now to correct the situation. They stressed that collaboration was needed with other departments. A major question was how the DWCPD could drive other departments when it still had not completed the mainstreaming strategy and guidelines.
, how it would provide leadership and where it saw itself in ten year’s time. They questioned why the Turnaround Strategy was marked as ‘Confidential’, why the same problems had recurred despite efforts by the AG to address them in-year, and why some donor funding had to be returned. Several questions were asked around the mismanagement by former employees, how much was lost to fraud and corruption, why the problems had not been found earlier, whether those responsible for non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act would be held to account, and the status of the former officials, including why the Minister had not fired the former Director-General. They questioned if the Department had in fact achieved its core mandate, and if there was value achieved for the spending, and if the Department was implementing existing legislation to pursue rights properly, as well as building on formerly-adopted policies. Clarification was requested on the attendance of officials at a programme in New York and employees who performed outside work. Members wanted to know timeframes for the Turnaround and specific initiatives under this strategy.
The last question was more fully addressed in a separate presentation on the Turnaround Strategy, which set out the phases, the timeframes, the intended scope and the hope that the Department would be able to fully deliver on its mandate. An end-to-end process mapping was being done and budgets would be more aligned to implementation. IT and staffing would form a major component of the reviews. In the interim, measures had been put in place to cover the deficits and gaps, and regular reporting was instituted. The finance unit and its processes would be fortified and properly structured to avoid recurrence. Members were appreciative of this, and conveyed the Committee’s willingness to assist and need to be kept informed. They asked about career-pathing of staff, cautioned against duplication, and the need also to involve other departments in ensuring employment for women and improvement of the lives of rural women.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted that the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD or the Department) was established to lead government’s equity, equality and empowerment programme for women, children and people with disability. It was supposed to ensure that public institutions, state-owned enterprises and organs of civil society achieved national and international goals for gender equality and the rights of children and persons with disability. It should also ensure compliance with all necessary regulations and financial guidelines in doing its work. The Chairperson invited the Department to inform the Committee how it had allocated budgets to give effect to legislative mandates, and the extent to which it followed constitutional and legislative mandates to promote and fulfill these rights.
Annual Report 2011/12: Briefings by Minister and Department of Women, Children and People with Disability
Ms Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disability, noted that the DWCPD had managed to present its Annual Report (AR) on time. It had achieved an unqualified financial report this year from the Auditor-General (AG). However, there were matters of emphasis and challenges in the Department, which were being addressing. She reminded Members that during a budget speech in May, she had noted that the Department had investigated cases of nepotism, fraud and mismanagement. The forensic report was ready and the Department had commenced the implementation of its recommendations as well as the AG’s findings. Several meetings were held between the Department and the National Treasury on the Department’s Turnaround Strategy document. One of the conclusions of the National Treasury, which was corroborated by the AG, was that there was no effective leadership in the Department.
Ms Xingwana had met with the Minister of Finance to request additional funding and to discuss the Turn-Around Strategy. He was satisfied with the strategy and gave additional funding of R90 million to assist with staff recruitment and ensure that finance, supply chain management, internal audit and risk management systems were put in place. An Internal Audit Unit and Internal Audit Committee were established, and an Internal Auditor was employed.
She summarised that the investigative report had noted serious transgressions in relation to staff appointments, payments for overtime and resettlement costs, dishonesty, and non-declaration of interests during recruitment. These contributed immensely to the current overspending, and the lack of expertise in the Department. They had thus directly affected performance. Most of those who were employed lacked the requisite skills for the corporate management positions they occupied. There were crucial vacancies for core business. The former Director-General, former Chief Financial Officer and senior officials in Human Resource and Resource Management Directorate were found to have been grossly negligent. Three of the eight senior staffs who were implicated in the investigative report left the Department, and disciplinary measures were commenced against the remaining five. There would be follow up also on those who had left. The Chief Financial Officer resigned in June before the audit could be completed, and resisted all entreaties to wait until the report was concluded, so that the DWCPD had to seek assistance from the National Treasury to finish the audit. The Statistician General also assisted. All recommendations from the audits would also be followed.
The Minister noted again that the Department had, in this year, been staffed with people who did not comply with requirements. Measure were taken to correct this situation. A verification of qualifications and a skills audit was conducted, with assistance from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The Department of Public Service and Administration was asked to do a skills audit in order to ensure that people were deployed to positions that match their skills. Management was required, regularly, t ensure that recommendations of the two reports were being implemented, and to ensure that reports on financial matters are reported on a monthly basis. There were monthly briefings from management on the turnaround programme.
Ms Thandeka Mxenge, Acting Director General, DWCPD, then presented the Annual Report. She too confirmed that there had been significant progress in addressing issues raised by the Auditor-General. The Department was aware of what needed to be done to put matters right, and was working hard. Austerity measures had been put in place to avoid irregular expenditure for 2012/13, and in this regard she reported that the Department’s expenditure was at 52% after the first six months of this financial year, although after the additional allocation of R12 million through the Adjustment process, expenditure now stood at 44%. Despite the challenges of the past two years, the Department was doing well. A thorough analysis of the baseline was done, to make sure that expenditure stayed within budget in the coming year. Budget cuts were introduced for the next three years.
Ms Mxenge noted that the main challenges in the Department related to skills and capacity. The National Treasury and Statistics South Africa (SSA) were asked to do an accurate analysis of the gaps so appropriate remedial action could be taken. The Accountant-General assisted in doing a risk assessment. Two workshops on risk assessment were held. A risk register was opened and the Internal Auditor worked through it to ensure that there was an audit plan to assist in checking controls. The goal was to achieve a clean audit for the 2012/13 financial year.
She reported that financial and human resource information was thoroughly and regularly analyzed, in line with the National Treasury prescripts, to ensure that management was properly informed about decisions. An audit policy and a fraud prevention plan were drafted. The Department would commence with fraud awareness workshops, as required by the National Treasury. An Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee was in place to guide the Department on assessment, information gathering and compilation. Managers would be trained in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). An action plan had been put in place to implement the AG’s findings. Management structures were also utilized to implement the findings and Internal Audit (IA) now verified progress. Regular management meetings were held and oversight was strengthened. The Department had agreed with the Auditor-General that a multi-disciplinary team would assist the Department on a regular basis.
Ms Mxenge noted that the financial and resource constraints in 2011/12 meant that the Department could only achieve 60% overall performance on planned targets. However, this was being addressed. Some of the targets in this year were not SMART, nor within its control, and there was a need to align individual performance to organizational performance, to motivate individuals to achieve set targets. The Department instated evidence-based performance information gathering, to ensure that actual performance was bench-marked, and the performance information was being continuously checked.
Ms Mxenge turned to highlights under the different programmes. Under the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) programme, the Department drafted the National Policy on Women Empowerment and Gender Equality and the Rural Women’s Development Strategy. It launched the Women and Budget Initiative, established an interim National Council on Gender Based Violence, successfully hosted a National Women’s Day and co-hosted the Ministerial sod-turning ceremony for the Coagula Community Centre that would house the Women’s Memorial Hall.
Under the Children’s Rights and Responsibility (CRR) programme, the Department hosted the inaugural Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament and the National Children’s Day, which was focused on children and climate change. In collaboration with UNICEF, it launched a report on Children and Climate Change. An Interdepartmental Committee on the Rights of the Child was established, and a Techno Girl Project was launched in the mining sector, with 200 girls participating. In partnership with the City of Twine, SAPS, Correctional Services and National Treasury, the Department hosted a successful sod-turning ceremony for Muskego Como Memorial Park
Under the Rights of People with Disability (RPD) Programme, a National Accessibility Awareness Campaign was launched and a Draft National Disability Policy was developed. A disability awareness month was conducted, and the Department coordinated and monitored the distribution of wheelchairs nationwide, in collaboration with Airports Company South Africa and Department of Health.
Ms Mxenge then moved to outline the specific drivers of over-spending. Staff were not employed at minimum entry level, but on higher scales, but this procedure had been halted, and henceforth all appointments would take place at minimum level, and none would be made without prior confirmation in writing by the CFO that funding was available.
The Department also had recorded overspending in transporting participants to national events, but this would reduce because all national day celebrations had become the responsibility of the Department of Arts and Culture.
There was overspending on leave gratuities paid to people who resigned. It was difficult to budget for such expenditure, because resignations were unpredictable. However, in the future, the Department would use past trends to prepare budget estimates.
There would, in future be significant emphasis on cost-saving measures. The AG was invited to do a performance audit for 2012.
Ms Mxenge reminded Members that there were internal control weaknesses as a result of inadequate capacity and non-familiarity with finance and Supply Chain Management (SCM) policies. An adequately skilled Acting Chief Financial Officer was seconded from the office of the AG to manage these functions. Additional skilled staff from Stats SA were also secured, on an ad hoc basis. The Department had reviewed and drafted policies and business processes, and staff were trained on SCM. A monthly In-Year Monitoring process was put in place, and an electronic financial management system would be developed.
After a painstaking recruitment process, the Department had now hired an Internal Auditor. An audit plan was being finalized. The Office of the AG was invited to do an internal Audit in October 2012 to determine how the Department had fared since April 2012, so that adequate attention could be given to fixing the areas that were not doing well before the end of the financial year. She reiterated that the goal was to attain a clean audit for 2012/13. The Audit Committee had met three times since it was constituted and had reviewed the Annual Financial Statement. There was an action plan to address all the issues that the AG raised.
Ms Mxenge noted that, owing to an accounting error, a R3 million debt was reflected on page 127 of the Annual Report. The debt was in fact incurred before the Department was created, and the AG had advised that it be taken back to the Presidency.
Mr Llewellyn Louw, Director: Finance, DWCPD, presented the expenditure analysis for the financial year 2011/2012. The appropriation for the Commission for Gender Equity (CGE) was not included in the analysis, because this money did not fall to be spent by the DWCPD, and the total budget was R87.997 million.
The total overspending was R22,7 million. The biggest overspending was incurred in Programme 1: Administration, which had overspent by R23.3 million. There had not been overspending in Programmes 2 (WEGE) and 3 (RPD). However Programme 4 (CRR) had overspent by R1, 825 million.
A more specific breakdown of the overall expenditure analysis showed that the budget for Compensation of Employees had overspending of R11.381 million, Goods and Services was overspent by R12.351 million and the overspending on Transfer Payments, such as leave and gratuities, was R99.000. There was under-spending of R1.117 million on Capital Expenditure. As indicated by the Acting Director General, additional funding had since been secured for compensation of employees, to address the carry-through and ensure that the exercise would not be repeated in the following financial years.
Under the Goods and Services line item, overspending stood at R13.517 million in Programme 1, and R582 000 in Programme 3. Total overspending was R12.351 million. The main cost driver in ‘Goods and Services’ was advertising costs of R6.468 million, which was spent on advertising the posts to be filled. The Department also spent R5.553 million on marketing, advocacy and awareness initiatives for national events relating to its programmes.
Other main cost drivers were consultants’ fees for business and advisory services, contractors’ fees, legal costs and travel costs. In all, the biggest cost driver was travel costs. R14.980 million was expended on domestic travel, but most of this went to transporting delegates from civil society, women and children to national events. R3.905 was spent on foreign travels for officials.
Mr Louw confirmed the earlier statement that by the middle of the current financial year, the Department had spent just over 50% and repeated also that it was implementing tight financial controls to avoid excess expenditure. For the second half of the current financial year, from October 2012 to March 2013, the Department was projecting a R6.002 million under-spending. The money would be earmarked for critical staff positions, especially in the finance, supply-chain and risk management areas. Overspending was expected in Goods and Services and possibly under Transfer Payments but any overspending would be capped. these would be capped. With the strict controls put in place, the Department would ensure that it stayed within the appropriated budget, and he reminded Members that it had received additional funding to achieve what it needed. There will be no overspending because it received additional funding for what had to be done.
Ms Mxenge summarized that the overall vacancy rates for all the programmes stood at 11.3%. Since Department now had additional funding, the vacant positions would be filled. With regard to the remuneration structure, most of the staff were at senior management level, even though actual staffing requirements were for skilled implementers. Future recruitments would address the gap.
Ms G Stake (ANC) thanked the Minister and Department for the presentation. It was unfortunate that the presentation had to start with addressing challenges in the Department instead of its achievements. The Minister had conceded that much more needed to be done, and further collaboration with other government departments and partners was needed to open opportunities for rural women and persons with disability, to participate in the green economy, solar energy, agriculture and other issues discussed at the previous meeting.
Ms Tseke noted that the Annual Performance Plan for 2011/12 showed that the Department intended, by the end of this year, to complete the gender and children’s rights mainstreaming strategy and guidelines. However, the Annual Report showed that this was not done. She asked how the Minister intended that other government departments could be held responsible for mainstreaming, without any measuring tools. She asked the Minister to give an indication, in view of the current challenges, of where she saw this Department in the next ten years. She was concerned as to how the Department would provide leadership to other departments and the private sector in pushing the agendas. She was concerned that so much documentation was still in draft, and she also asked how the Department intended to track and incorporate previous programmes or achievements to ensure continuity.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) questioned why a document of such immense public value as the Department’s Turn-Around Strategy was marked “Confidential”; despite this, she had received a copy before the briefing.
Ms Lamoela noted that in one year the Auditor-General (AG) had held four meetings with the Department’s top management, in which burning issues affecting the Department were raised, and the solutions were discussed. She asked why then the same problems were still not addressed.
Ms Lamoela asked for details of the overall donor funding for the Department’s programmes, and why the Department had refunded R3.038 million to Sweden. She also wanted to know for what programmes the donor funding was intended, what the outcomes were, and whether there reports to certify the outcomes of the donor funding.
Ms Lamoela wanted to know how the Department planned to address the problem of recruiting on top notches. She questioned why the Department had not adhered to remuneration rules. Another issue was whether performance bonuses were paid, and how much was paid.
Ms Lamoela wondered how the Turnaround Strategy would be implemented, given that the Department was already in deficit.
Ms Lamoela also asked how the Department was implementing resolutions that were made at the 2001 National Women’s Conference.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) asked for a statement on how much was lost to fraud and corruption in the Department.
Ms van der Merwe noted the reports of non-compliance with section 39 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and asked if the Department was intending to pursue legal action against the official who was responsible for that non-compliance.
Ms van der Merwe wanted to know what was being done about the drivers of overspending, especially in the high risk areas, and whether correct procedures were followed in relation to SCM, which was a high-risk area.
Ms van der Merwe wondered if the Department had really achieved its core mandates. Much of the overspending related to ceremonies and events, and she enquired what the tangible outcome of those was. She wanted to know the current status of the National Programme of Action for Children, and the sanitary dignity campaign, and how many schools and girls were reached in this programme in this financial year. Overall, she questioned if there was value achieved for taxpayer’s money spent.
Ms van der Merwe asked if there was a time frame for the skilling and recruitment process.
Ms van der Merwe wanted clarification on the status of the Director-General, who, at different times was reported to have been on sick leave, or to have been placed on special leave.
Ms E More (DA) asked when top management positions, such as the Director-General, CFO and Human Resources Manager would be filled.
Ms S Paulse (ID) asked if, and to what extent, allocations were made to implement legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act and the Children’s Act. He wanted to know how the Department was using legislation to fulfill its mandate to mainstream the rights of women, children and people with disability\.
Ms E More observed that overspending in this year was more than double the excess expenditure for previous year, and she hoped the Department had now put measures in place to avoid over-expenditure of this magnitude in the future. She asked how, given the overspending, the Department would compensate for the deficits in the following financial year.
Ms M Tlake (ANC) wanted clarification on the discrepancy between a statement in the AR that three people had attended a programme in New York, and media reports that a large delegation had attended. She also asked, given the degree of networking amongst departments, why other departments were not co-funding travel costs for national events, and why the provinces and municipalities did not bear the travel costs for their delegates.
The Chairperson drew attention to the fact that the Department said it would prioritise staff training, performance monitoring and evaluation. She asked who was taking decisions about priorities, and what timeframe was adopted for implementing activities.
Ms C Diam (COPE) asked for an explanation about employees of the Department who performed remunerative work outside the Department, and for details of their names, what services they had provided and what they earned.
Ms Diam believed that events should rather be taken to targeted groups rather than transporting people to national events.
The Minister said that when she assumed responsibility for the Department, the offices of the Director General, Chief Financial Officer and Human Resources manager were not held by competent people. National Treasury and the Auditor-General had both made this finding. The incumbents, at that time, did not discharge their responsibilities, did not implement the AG’s recommendations, and were antagonistic, defiant and dishonest for more than a year. There were daily violations of the PFMA prescripts. If the Minister tried to intervene she was accused of interfering. Even the former CFO wrote a report that advised the Director General to comply with the PFMA, to no avail. Responsibility for implementing the Department’s programmes rested on the Director General so that no progress would be seen if commitment there was lacking. The Minister had to write letters to the Presidency, the Minister for Public Service and AG, and eventually the DG was transferred, and the AG was invited to do an investigation.
When the Minister received the AG’s report, she had instituted an investigation into allegations of nepotism, fraud and mismanagement by the DG. Disciplinary processes were also instituted against officers who were indicted by the forensic report, and five of them were suspended.
The Minister said that the current leadership of the Department had the will to address the challenges. The Department had taken legal advice on how to recover the funds that were mismanaged, and would pursue legal claims. She reiterated that relevant authorities were asked to assist the Department with a skills audit and assessment of qualifications so that actions could be taken, within the boundaries of law. The positions of the Director General and Chief Financial Officer were advertised. The positions of suspended managers could not be advertised until disciplinary proceedings against them were resolved, but contractors could be hired, in the interim, to serve in those offices.
Ms More interjected to ask if the Department had a Performance Monitoring System (PMS) in place to address issues of non-performance. She wanted to know why the Minister did not simply fire the former Director-General.
The Minister said that Directors General were hired by Cabinet, so she had no power to fire.
Ms Mxenge confirmed that the Department did have a PMS now, and quarterly and annual assessments had been instigated. However, there was a need to ensure that performance agreements spoke to the requirements of the specific work that the official would perform.
The Minister added that PMS emphasised some of the weaknesses of the HR unit, and the PFMA issues. Leadership could not act without evidence, backed up by a report from the AG and the independent report.
Ms Mxenge said that the Turn-Around Strategy document was marked “Confidential” because it was still under development and consultations were taking place. She confirmed that the Turn-Around Strategy was intended to stabilise the Department. Additional funds were received, so the Department was not currently running with a deficit. She reiterated that the over-expenditure problems were related to the 2010/11 and 2011/12 years, and it was hoped that this would be condoned. As the Department was currently standing, it was not projected to overspend in the 2012/13 financial year. To keep it within budget, no recruitments would be made, or goods and services contracted, unless funding for that purpose was specifically confirmed to be in the budget. Appointments that would stabilise the finance unit would be completed by December 2012, or by the end of the financial year at the latest. Recruitment errors that started new employees at top notches had also been rectified. Henceforth, recruitments would be at minimum-entry level. Regular cash flow updates were provided.
Ms Mxenge said it was not yet possible to quantify what had been lost on fraud and corruption, but more investigations were being conducted. In relation to the donor refund, she explained that donor fund agreements typically stipulated that audit reports must be submitted for funds utilised, but one of the recipients had failed to submit an audit report, and therefore government was obliged to refund the money.
Ms Mxenge said that the performance monitoring policy would be focused on how the Department would manage organisational planning processes, how indicators would be decided, how evidence would be collected for measuring performance, and how to ensure the integrity of information collected.
Ms Mxenge said that the Department would be seeking expert help with training, which should be completed by December.
The Minister clarified that a delegation of seven people, not three, had attended the New York event. In relation to the cost burden of national events, she said that generally were no proper budgets for women, children and persons with disability. The Department’s own budget was insufficient. Provincial budgets for them were also insufficient, and municipalities had no budgets for these focus groups. That was the reason why the Department was promoting the mainstreaming women, children and people with disability in all budgets.
The Minister said that officials of the Department who received external remuneration had all been asked to clarify what they had received, and disciplinary action would be taken, if necessary.
Ms S Mone, Chief Director: CRR, DWCPD, answered the questions on the status of the National Plan of Action for Children. An Action Plan, comprising 120 pages, had been finalised, after input from other departments. It had gone to the different Clusters for approval. The Department’s social campaigns had also had an impact in fulfilling the core mandate of promoting the rights of children and creating awareness, such as the programme on children and climate change was held. With every social campaign, the Department ensured there was a theme to share with children, and that campaigns broadened the knowledge and understanding of people on related issues.
Ms L Pretorius, Chief Director: RPD, DWCPD, acknowledged that it was important to question how the Department would monitor compliance with the core mandate, without the necessary framework tools, and she told the Committee that the Department shared the Committee’s frustrations. Human capacity constraints had hindered the Department in finalising the strategies and guidelines. At the moment, she conceded that the monitoring tools were weak. However, the approach had been to advance a mainstreaming strategy that built on the Constitution, sector regulations and Conventions. DWCPD challenged other departments as to how they were inculcating the international Conventions in their activities, and what their targets were, and the responses to these questions were being used to develop M&E tools that would include non-negotiable benchmarks. The Department would then be able to hold departments fully accountable to rights-based indicators.
Ms Pretorius noted that the Department was constantly shaping old and existing tools into new tools that were designed to ensure continuity. The tools were being shaped “on the job”. Measures were also taken to address institutional memory loss. The archives were being revisited. A lot of the work had been about changing behaviour, attitudes, and actions. Tools were being developed to help the DWCPD to measure how these changes were being achieved. Baselines were lacking, but these would be set along with the tools, using international best practices.
Ms Pretorius said that there was no single report in South Africa on attitudes to persons with disability. Tools should be able to address this gap. The Department wanted to be able to measure the individual impact of attending events, and how that impact fed into the larger community.
The Minister added that the DWCPD was currently building on all the tools and policies that were adopted after 1994. The National Gender Policy Framework, which was adopted in 2000, was under review. The WEGE policy, which was based on the 2000 policy framework, was being finalised, but it would be contextualized to address current challenges. The Gender Policy had informed the drafting of the Women Empowerment and Disability Bill that would be tabled before Parliament. Work was in progress on the Disability Policy, and this was based on the Disability Framework that was adopted by the Office on the Status of People with Disability. Part of the challenge was that significant consultation was needed for all of these policies. The same was apparent in the National Children’s Action Plan, which had reviewed the National Children’s Plan adopted in 1999, after South Africa had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) drew attention to the need for a system that would prevent a state official who had underperformed, such as the former Director-General, from simply being transferred to another department.
Ms Nxumalo observed that nothing had been said in the Department’s report about employment for persons with disability
The Minister responded that the Department had a 5.7% minimum employment rate for persons with disability. It was promoting the national minimum rate of 2%.
Ms Pretorius elaborated that a roadmap was in place. The Department exerted much pressure on other Departments to explain why they were not achieving the minimum targets. The aim had been to shift the onus to employers, to explain why they could not employ persons with disabilities. DWCPD wanted to achieve a reasonable accommodation policy, that it would then monitor, and it hoped to pressurize departments to comply by naming and shaming those who failed to show reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. The Department was also aware that it had to do more than just maintain the minimum rate, but ensure an active increase in those with disabilities. The final goal would be equitable employment
Turnaround Strategy for DWCPD
Ms Mxenge said the Turn-around Strategy was about changing the way the Department worked. It was not a quick process, because it would have to be done thoroughly. The Department would have to assess the process, put appropriate remedies in place and get everybody’s buy-in on the need for change. The key aim of the Turnaround Strategy was to achieve a clean audit for 2012/13 and beyond, and improve organisational performance.
The strategy would have three phases. The current phase was crisis management, but the second phase would be to stabilise and move towards sustainability, whilst the third would consolidate growth and performance. The Department identified the need to review its strategic plan and thoroughly investigate the reason for its existence. It was determined to focus on rights and empowerment. Discussions were still taking place. The first target of the turn-around was achieved, with the receipt of an additional R12 million which was requested from National Treasury to enable the Department to stabilise and move forward without overspending. The Department was now making sure that it was on the same page with the AG in trying to achieve a clean audit, address the challenges and improve its image.
Ms Mxenge said that ideally the DWCPD would be one that fully delivered on its mandate of empowering women, children and people with disability, ensured that they enjoyed their full rights in the Constitution, and that the money allocated to the Department was prudently used to fulfill the mandate. The AG’s report was used as a basis for addressing the problems, but the Department had also done its own investigations and was aware of what had to be done. It recognised the need to do an end to end process mapping of all support areas, to decide what positions were needed, what processes should be followed, and, when recruiting, what specific skills were required, compared to what was currently being done. The same type of process-mapping was also needed for finance and SCM. The Department wanted to make sure that budgets focused more on implementation. At the moment, the Internal Audit would focus on payroll audit, IT governance, donor funding, and job descriptions. The Turnaround would also involve a review of the organogram, to ensure that people who could implement strategy were on board. Information management would also be reviewed.
Interim measures focused on covering deficits were put in place. The additional funding received was part of this effort. The Department needed to make sure that there was adequate funding to back the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, up to 2016. Regular internal reporting, including reports on finances, had been instigated and the Department was fully conscious of the need for proper change management. In the past, a contributory factor to irregular expenditure was the fact that managers did not know how much was allocated to their programmes. Managers were now receiving reports on a regular basis, so that they could monitor expenditure and have responsibility. Incorrect bank and cash information also contributed to over-expenditure. The finance unit and its processes would be fortified and properly structured to avoid recurrence. Overall, the Department would embark on necessary staff recruitment and other process and institutional requirements, to achieve its targets. Finally, the Turnaround would also address issues of ethical leadership.
The Chairperson wanted to know when the Turnaround Strategy document would be completed. She conveyed the Committee’s willingness to help, and emphasized the importance of keeping the Committee regularly informed about developments in the Department, which meant that the Committee and Department would need to meet regularly. In future, the Audit Committee would also be included in the meetings, and could make recommendations.
Ms Mxenge said that completion of the Turn-Around Strategy document was a priority. Work on it had begun in June 2012 and it would be completed by the end of October 2012.
Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) commended the Department for its work, particularly its intended focus on rights and empowerment. She said that unemployment among women should not be forgotten, but emphasised the need to guard against the duplication of activities across state departments.
Ms van der Merwe asked what timeframe was attached to the Turnaround, and what the involvement of National Treasury would be.
Ms More asked whether the Department had developed a career pathing system to identify specific skills, and to encourage staff to give of their best. She also wanted clarification on issues of corruption and fraud in the Department.
Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked why Managers were saying that they did not know how much was allocated to them. He remarked that budgets typically were supposed to be clear and leave nothing to doubt.
Ms More advised that internal communications should be improved so that these kinds of claims would not arise again.
The Minister said that the confusion arose from the former CFO’s and Director General’s leadership management style. These problems had been addressed and in future managers would be responsible for their own budgets.
Ms Mxenge agreed that the Department was addressing controls in the budget
Ms Tlake suggested that it would be useful if timeframes were allocated to each step of the Turnaround Strategy. She suggested “prioritising within priorities”.
Ms Mxenge responded that recommendations about employment issues would be implemented and career pathing issues would be addressed. Records management would be enhanced by preparing content lists for personnel files, and efficient filing and file storage systems would be developed. She noted that the Department needed an information audit in order to know how much information it had.
She commented, in regard to timeframes, that the Turnaround strategy envisaged a 24-month process but by the time stability was achieved, the Department would have progressed to a point beyond turn-around.
The Minister said she expected stability within six months after the adoption of the strategy. Implementation would commence immediately after adoption. Instructions had been given to advertise the vacant positions, and measures would be put in place for a smooth take off. The Department was in possession of the R90 million needed to fill critical posts. Once these critical positions were filled, it should allow for major progress by the end of this financial year.
Ms Nxumalo (ANC) emphasized the need for strong team work.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation and acknowledged that the Department started off with serious challenges. Given the tension that preceded the meeting, she was pleased to hear of the impending stability. The Department had learned from its mistakes and must be commended on the systems it had already put in place, and the sense of direction and willingness shown. However, it must remember the need to keep the Committee informed of developments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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- Turn-Around Strategy: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities
- Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities 2011/12 Annual Report
- Annual Report: Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities presentation
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