Parliament's Research Unit presented to the Committee its analysis of the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) on the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). It highlighted the expenditure on administration and, in the light of the Department's failure to meet its targets, criticised the various high performance bonuses awarded. The lack of employment of persons with disabilities in the Department was also criticised. The Department was said to be lacking leadership and thus under-performing.
The researchers observed that the Department’s objectives, targets and indicators had still not been aligned and were not measurable and attainable; several reports on programme specific initiatives were outstanding and had not been delivered to the Committee; the nature of the working relationship between WEGE and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) was unclear in so far as programmes and activities were concerned; several of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA)'s recommendations for 2010/11 were not implemented; the Department continued to undertake activities that fell outside its core mandate; it was unclear what the status of resolutions undertaken at the conference and national initiatives were and progress in this regard was needed; the Department had, as a matter of urgency, to finalise outstanding country reports; and the Department had yet to provide the Committee with copies of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed with provinces and other Government departments. The Committee had commended the Department in developing the turnaround strategy which would address challenges raised by the AGSA and would stabilise the Department. The Committee, however, had noted with concern the challenges and recommendations by the Auditor-General and encouraged the Department to expedite the implementation of its turn-around strategy.
Members said that the turnaround strategy should inform the Committee why there was such a high turnover of senior management and asked if there were exit interviews reflecting the reasons for leaving. Members asked why the performance bonuses were awarded if most of the Department’s targets were not achieved, because performance bonuses were linked to exceptional performance. Awarding high performance bonuses was a fundamental error. Members sought clarity on the allocation of funds to address the Department's shortfall. A DA Member said that it was within the Committee’s mandate to ask for details of remuneration in the Department, namely, who was paid, how much and for how long and reasons for leaving the Department, and emphasised the importance of such information for assessing the Department’s future performance. The Chairperson replied that Committee was entitled to ask for details but that she was concerned that waiting for the details would delay the submission of the Committees report to the National Assembly for debate. An IFP Member asked whose role it was to check how the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE) spent its money and whether the Committee had oversight over the CGE. A Member asked if there was no way the Committee could enforce time frames on the Department for the submission of reports.
Women, Children, and People with Disabilities Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR): Briefing by the Researcher
Ms Crystal Levendale, Researcher, Parliamentary Research Unit, and Ms K Abrahams, Committee Researcher, presented their analysis of the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR) 2011/12. The BRRR was divided into six parts, namely: introduction, strategic priorities and measurable objectives of the Department, analysis of the annual report and financial statements of the Department, consideration of reports of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), consideration of other sources of information, reports of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), and the annual financial statements.
Part I: Introduction
The mandate of the Committee was to legislate, conduct oversight of the Executive, promote public participation, facilitate international agreements, and review matters of public interest in relation to the Department. Reference was also made to Sections 5(1) and 5(2) of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act (No 9 of 2009).
In order to enable the Committee to take informed decisions on the Department's performance, it consulted, considered and analysed Section 32 reports of National Treasury, annual reports, reports of the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA), the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the State of the Nation Address, and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC)’s presentations.
The purpose of the Department for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities (DWCPD) was to drive the Government equity, equality and empowerment agenda with regards to marginalised groups and historically disadvantaged communities in each of the three sectors.
The Department must comply with the Public Finance Management Act (1 of 1999) and National Treasury regulations, and table an annual report within the stipulated time frame, and adhere to financial guidelines.
Part II: Department’s Strategic Priorities and Measurable Objectives
Strategic plans of the Department
The Department’s strategic objective was aligned to the following programmes: women, empowerment and gender equality; children’s rights and responsibilities; and rights of people with disabilities.
Measurable Objectives of the Department
The Department sought to achieve its objectives through its main programmes, and also through three sub-programmes.
Policy and Planning for Gender Equality
This sub-programme aimed to conduct research and analysis on Gender related issues to develop appropriate legislation that was sustainable and could be implemented.
The Committee had raised concern with regards to how sustainable this programme was in light of the fact that more than half of the programme budget had been allocated to the remuneration of the staff complement. Moreover, the Committee wanted to know the extent to which the Department would be able to achieve its mandate in light of a limited budget available for programmes.
Mainstreaming and Capacity Development for Gender Equality
Again, more than half the budget had been allocated to the compensation of employees.
Monitoring and evaluation and research for gender equality.
More than half the budget had been allocated to the compensation of employees. The Department had also indicated that it intended to comply with treaty obligations under this sub-programme. The had Department indicated that it would continue to meet the 2 per cent employment target for people with disabilities under this sub-programme and had developed a strategy to deal with the target.
Part III: Analysis of the Department‘s Annual Report and Financial Statements
Administration programme performance 1
Details were given of this programme. According to the Financial and Fiscal Commission (2012) this programme achieved 63% of its targets.
Apart from Administration the Department had three core programmes. These were Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE), Children’s Rights and Responsibilities , and the Rights of People with Disabilities programme.
Objective: To draft laws and regulations for the Department
Target not achieved: Draft Women empowerment and Gender Equality Bill.
Objective: To provide comprehensive security and safe complaint accommodation, to implement Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Governance and to improve budget planning.
Target not achieved: Development of a health and safety policy for the Department, implementation of the ICT Governance Framework and Development of a financial Procedure manual. The concern was after nearly three years the Department health and safety financial procedure manual and ICT Governance Framework had not been implemented.
Objective: To conduct, commission and analyse new and existing research towards evidence-based planning and implementation relevant to women, children and people with disabilities.
Target not achieved: Department Research Agenda. The concern was that the annual report indicated that this was not achieved because it was not approved. It was suggested that Members should enquire why this was not approved.
Objective: To develop, implement and evaluate strategies for stakeholder collaboration and participation.
Target not achieved: Develop, implement and evaluate an inter-sectoral and international co-ordination framework. The concern was that this target had not been prioritised and achieved given that the Department had not yet provided any international reports since its establishment.
Objective: To provide efficient, executive and administrative support to the Minister Deputy Minister and Director General.
Target not achieved: Development of an electronic monitoring and evaluation system. The concern was that a continuing paper-based or a manual approach was not only inefficient but also not cost effective.
According to National Treasury, between 2009/10 and 2011/12, overall expenditure for this programme increased significantly. This was primarily attributed to additional funding for capacity to provide financial and administrative support to the programmes and the Ministry. More than half the overall budget for this programme was allocated to the compensation of employees. Travel and subsistence constituted a tenth of the overall goods and service allocation.
Administration Budget and Expenditure as per Annual Report
The Department had indicated that over expenditure was due to the insufficient allocation to the compensation of employees and the commitments that Department had to meet in line with its mandate. The concerns were that this magnitude of over-expenditure could have been avoided with sound financial planning and management.
Programme 2 Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) budget and expenditure
The WEGE programme had a total of 27 identified targets to achieve its strategic objectives. Of these 10 had been fully achieved, nine partially achieved and eight targets were not achieved. Details were given.
Programme 3: Rights and Responsibilities programme performance
Objective: to mainstream children’s rights considerations into government’s policies and governance processes.
Target not achieved: to finalise the development of the Children’s rights mainstreaming strategy. This strategy was not finalised. The reason for this was not clearly stated in the Annual Report.
It was noted that the following targets even though not noted as achievements or partially fulfilled by the Department still required scrutiny as the level of implementation remained unclear:
The National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC); the Sanitary Dignity Campaigns; the Mother to Child campaign, Education campaign, international and National Children’s Day.
Achievements requiring Scrutiny: Children’s Rights Machinery Meetings conducted.
The Department noted this as a partial achievement for having drafted a Terms of Reference document.
Objective: to provide institutional support and capacity building for the mainstreaming of children’s rights and well-being into government policy and programmes
The only indicator related to the co-ordination of the 365 Days National Plan of Action. The Department noted this as an achievement. The Department had explained that over-expenditure for this programme was incurred as a result of local and overseas travel for seconded officials. No further explanation had been provided in this regard.
Programme 4: Rights of People with Disabilities programme performance
Objective: to mainstream disability considerations into Government’s policies and governance processes.
Target not achieved: finalise the Disability Mainstream Strategy and Disability Responsive Budgeting Strategy (Legislation). Strategy was not finalised because consultations had yet to be concluded.
Achievements requiring scrutiny
These included the national disability summit. It was acknowledge that this summit was successfully hosted and that the recommendations from this were integrated into the National Disability Policy draft. However, concerns were raised that it was unclear what the outcome of the resolutions were and how these were incorporated into a draft policy. There were concerns that no indication was given when the Disability Job Fund would be launched.
Objective: To monitor and evaluate the mainstreaming of disability considerations into Government’s policies and governance processes.
Target not achieved: audit concluded and report available. Concerns were raised that the audit was not completed. Eight provinces were still conducting the audit. The main reasons given for non-fulfilment was due to financial year-end constraints as having had delayed the process of completing questionnaires in some provinces. The Department would be submitting the survey report by the end of May 2012. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) country report t was not submitted.
Achievements requiring scrutiny
Monitoring tool developed and implemented: This was cited as a partial achievement as the tool was still in progress.
National Disability Machinery Meetings: the Department was meant to host four quarterly meetings. Only one meeting was held in the period under review.
Campaigns: the Department had noted its involvement in several campaigns but it was unclear as to what the tangible outcomes of these initiatives were and their feasibility.
Objective: to coordinate institutional support and capacity development programmes.
Targets not achieved: The concern was that the workshop was not conducted. The Economic Employment Policy Framework was not achieved due to capacity constraints. There was under-expenditure on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
Part IV: Considerations of Report of the Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa)
During the year under review 2011/12 the Department had not appeared before Scopa and so no reports were available in this regard.
Part V: Consideration of other sources of information
A number of sources were used to analyse the strategic and operational plans of the Department, including:
the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the reports of the Standing Committee on Appropriations.
Part VI: Report of the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) and the Financial Statement
The AGSA indicated that the Department received an unqualified audited opinion with findings. The AGSA had indicated that there had been no improvements in the audit outcome of the Department when compared to the previous year. The AGSA had findings in various areas including supply chain management, pre-determined objectives, usefulness of information, human resources, information technology controls, material errors/omissions in the annual financial statements (AFS) submitted for audit, and financial health status.
The AGSA made key recommendations on supply chain management, pre-determined objectives, human resource, information technology controls, and material errors/omissions in the AFS.
The Committee made the following observations in terms of engagement with the AGSA: the Committee noted the finding and recommendations as presented by the AGSA and the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC).
In response to AGSA’s concerns the Department had responded as follows: the current year monitoring report had been complied on a monthly basis and submitted to the Director-General’s office for review.
In its presentation to the Committee on its turn-around strategy, the Department had indicated that the key message and objectives of the turn-around was to ensure a clean audit for 2012/13 and beyond and improve organisational performance. The approach in implementing the turn-around strategy would be in three phases, namely crisis management, move towards sustainability, and entrenched growth and performance.
The Department had indicated that the turnaround strategy would focus on the following:
Organisational strategy and mandate
The Department did not have a legislative mandate as it was created by means of a presidential proclamation. In this regard the Department indicated that it had embarked on a strategic review process and this had resulted in an overhaul of the current strategic plan with more emphasis on the rights and empowerment of women, children and people with disabilities.
The current organisational structure would be revised once the strategy had been revised to ensure alignment with the approved strategy addressing budget challenges. The Department had indicated that it was currently operating on deficit due to misalignment between the allocation, the approved organogram and the strategic plan. The issue of addressing budgetary challenges would be addressed in two ways namely; submissions to the National Treasury through the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure process in August 2012 and in the expenditure estimates for the 2013 the Medium Term Expenditure as informed by the new strategic plan.
The revised organogram would require a process of skills audit to determine of alignment of current skills to the new organogram; however, it might be necessary to source external support to ensure an objective analysis of skills.
Financial Management improvement
The finance unit required an extensive overhaul to ensure avoiding a repeat of the audit findings that had been recurring over the past three years. The appointment of an appropriately skilled chief financial officer was a critical component of financial management improvement within the Department. To date emphasis had been made on the need to reduce expenditure on travel and events. The delegations had been reduced on international trips to ensure that the least number of employees travel and that those who travelled perform more than one role during the trip. Workshops would be arranged internally to unpack the Public Finance Management Act and Treasury Regulations for senior managers and to clarify supply chain management processes. All expenditure had to be supported and confirmed by the Director of Finance and Deputy Director-General.
Management of oversight
There was a need to revive the management forums to enable continuous and timely monitoring and evaluation of organisational performance and also to reflect on strategic and operational matters. The reporting template would also include a column on “corrective measures” so that management was able to assess if the corrective measures existed and whether they were sufficient. The PFMA checklist would be included as part of quarterly reporting, to enable early detection of none-compliance and a decision on corrective measures.
Management of absenteeism
The Department would determine if absenteeism was due to annual, sick and special leave. This analysis would enable branch heads to assess the extent of attendance and compare it to performance strengths with a view to making the necessary changes where applicable. An automated leave system would be developed to ensure integrity of the leave management system.
Human Resource Quarterly Report
The Department would monitor all areas of human resource and provide monthly reports on indicators such as appointments, promotions, resignations, disciplinary matters, grievance and dismissals.
Improvement in Financial Management
The Department had been experiencing challenges in managing its financial resources and this was evident in the irregular and unauthorised expenditure incurred. The Chief Financial Officer would review all financial delegations and ensure that responsibility managers had accurate delegation letters with clear guidance on the conditions under which the delegation should be exercised. Updated allocation letters would be sent to ensure that all budget managers were aware of their total allocations for the remainder of the financial year.
The Director for Internal Audit assumed duty on 1 July 2012; it was however necessary that a co-sourced internal audit function was created by appointing an external service provider to work with the new incumbent. Once funds had been secured and the service provider identified an audit would be conducted on payroll, IT governance, donor funding, job descriptions vs incumbent and review of irregular expenditure. It was anticipated that the Director would focus on the progress report on addressing audit findings by compiling an audit finding’s register, verifying and updated on a regular basis.
Institutional memory was a valuable asset to an entity and therefore it was critical that proper and accurate record keeping was maintained. The audit process highlighted serious challenges with regard to record management especially those that related to personnel and finance. Lack of proper record keeping was also identified within the core business units with regard to performance information. There was a need to inculcate a culture of collecting filing evidence for achieved targets both monthly and quarterly. It was a serious risk for the Department as it created an enabling environment for non-compliance and fraud.
The Department had been receiving both positive and negative media coverage. To some extent, the negative media coverage was not related to the work of the Department but referred to soft issues that ideally should not be in the public domain. A re-branding exercise would have to be embarked upon, wherein the turnaround process was conveyed to the public and various media campaigns were embarked upon to improve the image of the Department. An improved compliance environment would also be a significant catalyst for an improved public image. A media monitoring feedback system would then be utilised to assess the impact of the re-branding.
The Committee noted with concern the investigation currently under way within the Department and that the lack of leadership with the Department was concerning, hence it would appear that there was no guidance provided to support officials with the Department for the period under review.
In terms of financial observations, the Committee noted with concern that the over-expenditure had double since the last financial year. The Committee noted with concern that the Department contravened the PFMA by not following the proper tender processes.
The Department had indicated that seven officials had in fact attended the UN Commission on the status of women and not three as indicated in its presentation. This was established only once the Committee sought clarity in this regard.
The Committee noted with concern that the National Treasury had approved an allocation of R19 million to address the shortfall currently faced by the Department.
The Department indicated that the posts of Director-General and Chief Financial Officer were vacant and had been advertised. The Committee was concerned as to when these would be filled. The Committee noted with concern that the human resource plan was not adequately budgeted for nor adhered to.
The Committee was concerned that the Department had spent more money on campaigns and events. It noted that the Department did not have a mainstreaming strategy in all programmes and was concerned as to how it would guide other departments in the absence of the tool.
BRRR 2010 Recommendations
The Department should implement the appropriate financial management systems; expedite filling of vacancies to assist in improving the performance of the Department and adhere to its strategic plan and ensure that specific time lines and targets were assigned to each objective.
More emphasis was to be placed on women, children and persons with disabilities than on commemorative events and attending conferences. The Department should clarify its mandate and translate that into a plan of action that was achievable within the budget allocated in order to motivate for more funds. The Department must comply with PFMA and National Treasury regulations.
2011 BRRR Recommendations
The Department must address concerns as highlighted by the Committee and report on progress accordingly in terms of the in-year monitoring reports. The Department’s objectives, targets and indicators should be linked accordingly to clear time frames bearing in mind the overall mandate. The targets should be reviewed so that they were more specific and narrow.
The Department should strengthen relationships with Government departments and civil society through engagement with the national gender, children and disability machinery.
The Sanitary Dignity Campaign required review insofar as the Department’s role of co-ordination was concerned. In addition, the impact of the campaign should be assessed to determine its sustainability and effectiveness. The dignity, privacy and respect of the beneficiaries must be ensured.
In terms of the target for education for all children in South Africa, the Department had to consider focusing on measurable and achievable targets. In terms of this target, the Department should assist with monitoring and evaluation of its outcomes.
The Department needed to provide clarity on the status and nature of the various MOUs it had signed.
The Department’s objectives, targets and indicators had still not been aligned and were not measurable and attainable; several reports on programme specific initiatives were outstanding and had not been delivered to the Committee; the nature of the working relationship between WEGE and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) was unclear in so far as programmes and activities were concerned; several of the AGSA's recommendations for 2010/11 were not implemented; the Department continued to undertake activities that fell outside its core mandate; it was unclear what the status of resolutions undertaken at the conference and national initiatives were and progress in this regard was needed; the Department had, as a matter of urgency, to finalise outstanding country reports; and the Department had yet to provide the Committee with copies of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed with provinces and other Government departments.
In conclusion, the Committee commended the Department in developing the turnaround strategy which would address challenges raised by the AGSA and would stabilise the Department. The Committee, however, noted with concern the challenges and recommendations by the Auditor-General and encouraged the Department to expedite the implementation of its turn-around strategy.
Committee's general recommendations
The Department should take heed of matters of emphasis as highlighted by the AGSA, as well as promptly implement recommendations and corrective measures as set out by the AGSA . It should address the concerns raised and recommendations made by the Committee and expedite the implementation of its turn-around strategy, that is, within six months after it had been adopted. The Department should report to the Committee on a monthly basis on progress made with regard to the implementation of the turnaround strategy and provide financial statements on a quarterly basis. The Department must provide the Committee with all outstanding reports that relate to initiatives within the core programmes. Moreover, the Committee required the Department to provide reports on the implementation of resolutions from conferences, workshops and campaigns and progress in that regard.
The Department’s internal audit committee must provide an initial report within a month of the adoption of this report to indicate progress made in implementing AGSA's recommendations. Hereafter, the Committee required the Internal Audit Committee to provide quarterly reports on outcomes of meetings held. The Department must guard against over-expenditure in the future.
The Department should finalise the human resources plan based on the approved budget which should be implemented accordingly; the Department should also include a career path in the human resource plan and speed up the process of appointing the CFO and the DG.
The Department should finalise its strategies for mainstreaming, monitoring and evaluation, and work tools which would assist other departments in implementation on issues relating to women, children and people with disabilities.
Ms H Lamoela (DA) asked that an explanation be obtained from the Department regarding the R2 million expenditure on a single woman’s day event. How many people attended the event, who got the contract? Such details were important as such huge expenditure would not be tolerated in future. She also questioned the high travel and transport costs of the Department and said a detailed breakdown of these was needed as the Department appeared to be using travelling as a scapegoat for high expenditures. She highlighted strongly the serious concern that the Department had limited staff in the lower positions and many in senior management positions and that almost no persons with disabilities were working in the Department. She raised concern on the spending proportions in relation to children’s programmes versus administration. She questioned the Department’s sick leave policy and sought clarity on it.
The Chairperson referred to the Department’s turnaround strategy where the Department had said that it would work on the organogram and she suggested that the Committee should rather make recommendations and look at the Department’s turnaround strategy as she was not confident that it would get the answers that it wanted.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) stated that the turnaround strategy should inform the Committee why there was such a high turnover of senior management and asked if there were exit interviews reflecting the reasons for leaving.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) asked why the performance bonuses were awarded if most of the Department’s targets were not achieved, because performance bonuses were linked to exceptional performance and not given out ‘willy nilly’. Awarding high performance bonuses was a fundamental error.
The Committee sought clarity on the allocation of funds to address the Department's shortfall.
An explanation was provided that R12 million was for the compensation of for employees and R7 million for the Deputy Minister’s accommodation.
The Chairperson noted that if the Committee wanted details of remuneration in the Department, namely, who was paid, how much and for how long and reasons for leaving the Department, the Committee might be acting out of its mandate.
Ms Lamoela replied that such information would be for the Committee’s attention and asked whether this meant that the Committee was not allowed to ask for details relating to names and payments. She understood the Committee's mandate to include such a right to ask and emphasised the importance of such information for assessing the Department’s future performance.
The Chairperson replied by stating that Committee was entitled to ask for details but that she was concerned that waiting for the details would delay the submission of the Committees report to the National Assembly for debate.
Ms Van der Merwe asked whose role it was to check how the Commission on Gender Equity (CGE) spent its money and whether the Committee had oversight over the CGE.
The response confirmed that the Committee had oversight over the CGE.
A Member asked if there was no way the Committee could enforce time frames on the Department for the submission of reports.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting.
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