CRL Rights Commission on its Annual Report 2011/12

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

05 November 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Nlhengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities briefed the Committee on its annual report for 2011/12.

The Commission said there were no Commission offices in the provinces.  It had submitted a budget of R51m so that regional offices could be opened as there were complaints that the Commission was not accessible or visible.  Government had provided only R22m of the requested budget and the Commission had incurred a deficit of R673 000. The Commission had received R228 000 from the Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Leaders (COGTA) and had made savings of over R500 000 in audit fees.  Salaries had been decreased to 57.28% of the budget.  Irregular spending had totalled R304 844, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R539 had been incurred.

On the operations side, the Commission had set itself 121 targets, of which only 86 had been attained because of constraints in funding and human resources. It had received an unqualified audit report. It had developed a five-year turnaround strategy, was working on a possible amendment to the Public Holidays Act, on the recognition of Rastafaris, on school dress codes and wanted to handle more cultural complaints. The Commission had been pleading for funds to hold a National Consultative Conference (NCC) to establish a mandate. It had received R11m, and the conference was scheduled to be held from 14 to17 February 2013, in Centurion.

The Commission, in conjunction with Unisa and other stake holders, was organising an Ubuntu Conference for 28-30 November 2012, and the Commission was thinking of starting an Ubuntu Academy.

Members asked what cultural attire had to do with schooling.  Why did the Commission have a deficit?  What targets had not been achieved?  What interventions had taken place regarding the Islamophobic killings in the North West Province?  Why had the Commission set targets so high, when they knew they had a limited budget?  What impact did the Commission’s reports have?  How many community councils had been established and what was their purpose?  How did the community councils interact with the public?  What marketing strategy did the Commission have?  Were there internal controls in place to avoid contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act?  How was the saving in audit fees achieved?  Could the Commission provide further clarity on the matter of staff members’ declarations of interest? Was the Auditor General satisfied with the performance targets being “smart”?  What human resources were needed for the Commission to achieve its targets and what would it cost?  What concrete work was being done on the ground to resolve conflict?  When had the five-year turnaround strategy been decided and where was the Commission currently?  Was there a Community Council in Gert Sibande district municipality?

Members were not convinced that an increase in the budget would see an improvement, and felt that the Commission’s website was not very informative. Members had not received any of the Commission’s studies or reports.  Members questioned whether the Commission had the legislative mandate to establish regional offices.  The Ubuntu Academy the Commission was thinking of establishing, was not part of any of its plans or budget. Members said budgetary constraints had been the reason a National Consultative Conference had not been held before, but now one was to be held in February. Why was this so?  Members said that the Commission had, as one of its objectives, recommending the establishment of community councils when in fact they were a legislative mandate. Why had they not been established already?  Members questioned the fact that there was a line item for catering for events, but no line item for the events themselves. Further explanation on the irregular expenditure was wanted, as well as more information on the operational achievements of the Commission.  Were the targets to be achieved in a period of one year or five years? Members asked how the Commission had interacted with the parties involved in the case, where women wearing miniskirts had been targeted at taxi ranks.


Meeting report

Briefing by Commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission)
Dr Wesley Mabuza said that although the Commission had many Commissioners, this was negated by the fact that they were not provincially aligned, as there were no Commission offices or presence in the provinces.   There was a review taking place to assess the number of Commissioners required. The Commission, in conjunction with Unisa and other stake holders, was organising an Ubuntu Conference for 28-30 November 2012, as material on Ubuntu was not collated. The Commission was thinking of starting an Ubuntu Academy, as people talked about Ubuntu but could not describe it. It was also looking at the ethical aspect of the country’s values, which had been “thrown to the ground”. It feared that in the past 30 years, the youth had lost respect for the elders. The Commission had been pleading for funds to hold a National Consultative Conference (NCC) to establish a mandate. It had received R11 m to plan for the conference, which was scheduled to be held from 14 to 17 February 2013, in Centurion.  Representatives from community councils and traditional leaders would be invited. The rest of the money would assist in completing the backlog in the Commission’s work.

Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC) questioned the rationale for Centurion being a central location in the country.

Adv Pheagane Moreroa, the Commission’s CEO, replied that Bloemfontein, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape and other locations had been considered, and a report had been drawn up on why Centurion had been chosen.

The Commission had requested a budget of R51m so that regional offices could be opened, as there were complaints that the Commission was not accessible or visible. Government had provided only R22m of the requested budget and the Commission had incurred a deficit of R673 000.

The Commission had received R228, 000 from the Department of Co-operative Government and Traditional Leaders (COGTA) and had made savings of over R500 000 in audit fees. It had tried to cut down on salaries, which now stood at 57.28% of the budget. Irregular spending was R304 844, down from the R2m last year. The irregular spending had been because staff had not made the necessary declarations. Fruitless and wasteful expenditure of R539 had been incurred because of the late payment of car licences, down from the previous year’s R60 000. On the operations side, the Commission had set itself 121 targets, of which only 86 had been attained because of constraints in funding and human resources. It had received an unqualified report and had developed a five-year turnaround strategy.

It was working on a possible amendment to the Public Holidays Act, on the recognition of Rastafaris, and on school dress codes.   The Commission also wanted to handle more cultural complaints.
 
Discussion
Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked what cultural attire had to do with schooling. Why did the Commission have a deficit?

Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) asked what targets had not been achieved.  He said the Commission’s website was not very informative. What interventions had taken place regarding the Islamophobic killings in the North West province? He was not convinced that an increase in the budget would see an improvement.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) said that the Commission had received an extra R11m, but only 71% of its targets had been met. Why had they set targets so high when they knew they had a limited budget? She said the Commission had done reports and studies, but she had not received any.  What impact did the Commission’s reports have? How many community councils had been established and what was their purpose?

Ms C Mosimane (COPE) asked how the community councils interacted with the public. What marketing strategy did the Commission have? Were there internal controls in place to avoid contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act?

Mr P Smith (IFP) questioned whether the Commission had the legislative mandate to establish regional offices. He said the Ubuntu Academy, which the Commission was thinking of establishing, was not part of any of its plans or budget.  He said budgetary constraints had been the reason that a national consultative conference had not been held before – but now one was to be held in February. Why was this so?  How had the saving of R500 000 in audit fees been achieved? One of the Commission’s objectives was recommending the establishment of community councils, when in fact they were a legislative mandate. Why had they not been established already?  He questioned the fact that there was a line item for catering for events, but no line item for the events themselves. Could the Commission provide further clarity on the matter of staff member’s declarations of interest?  Was the Auditor General satisfied that the performance targets were “smart”?
   
Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) wanted further explanation on the irregular expenditure, as well as more information on the operational achievements of the Commission.  When had the five-year turnaround strategy been decided, and where was the Commission currently?

Dr Mabuza said the Commission realised that Ubuntu was a life skill.  They wanted to capture information on it, as this was part of their mandate because it was part of their culture. The Commission wanted to support traditional affairs and moral regeneration through the establishment of the Ubuntu academy, consolidating various efforts in this regard. Many people used the word Ubuntu, but did not realise what it meant. 

A Committee member asked how Ubuntu would be used in an intervention, and how its meaning would be spread.

Dr Mabuza said that at the conference in November, one would hear what Ubuntu meant and what would be done in terms of establishing the Academy.

The Commission had been trying very hard to stage the National Consultative Conference (NCC), and the funds it had received were for this purpose.

The Culture, Religion and Languages (CRL) Commission was the last Commission to be established. The Commission’s staff budget was for 17 commissioners, two of whom were full time.

On the issue of the dress code, Ms Julia Mabale, Deputy Chairperson, said that the Commission’s intervention was to promote tolerance for other peoples’ cultures and beliefs. The Commission had talked to school principals in particular cases about accommodating pupils’ requests to diverge from the school dress code, and was holding dialogues on the matter.

The Commission had sent out media releases two to three times per week, and had appeared on numerous radio stations and national TV.

She said the Commission had to hold a NCC to get a mandate on the work of the Commission, and to set targets.  The purpose of the community councils was to get community-based representation which would act as the extended arm of the Commission. The community councils would send representatives to the NCC. Every province had established community councils. It had taken a long time to set up an NCC owing to financial constraints.

Several members of the staff of the CRL had resigned to go to greener pastures.

The Commission had an outreach program which targeted schools in the community, traditional leaders and religious groups. It was trying to conscientise the youth in the work of the Commission, and also distributed pamphlets in eleven different languages.  During school visits, it learnt of the real cultural problems experienced by pupils.

Adv Moreroa said it had submitted a budget of R51m because it wanted to establish regional offices for increased visibility and for marketing purposes. The deficit had arisen when finances, which were monitored quarterly, reflected that there would still be some money left and they had worked with those funds. Some of the invoices for this latter work were received only after the financial year had ended.

Regarding achievement of targets, a business plan had been drawn up from the strategic plan, which informed the work plan which had to be implemented. There was monthly and quarterly monitoring in place, using an internal auditor. 

The Chairperson asked how often the Auditor General’s office was invited.

Adv Moreroa said it was invited quarterly.  He added that the deficit had also been incurred because of unanticipated contingency costs during the course of the year.

Mr Cornelius Smuts, CFO, said that the R11m was for use in the current year’s budget, not for the year in review.  Of this, R4m would be used for the NCC. He said that R539 000 had been cut from the approved budget in February, which meant that the Commission had had to reduce the targeted work it had set itself. This was also why the Commission could not achieve the mandatory number of Commission meetings. In this regard, it had received an amount of R228 000 from COGTA.

On the deficit, he said that the CRL accounted on an accrual, not on a cash, basis.  This was why there was reported over-expenditure, but it was not actual over-expenditure.

Adv Moreroa said that in the current financial year it had adopted systems where contact with the Committee would be accompanied by any reports the Commission had generated. He said the Commission’s reports had had an impact.   For example, in the case of KwaZulu-Natal, where Sotho students had not been allowed to speak their language, they were allowed to, after the Commission’s intervention,. Other instances involved initiation in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, animal slaughter for ritual purposes and Rastafarian persecution, which had subsided.

Staff resignations had occurred because the staff had gained exposure through working at the Commission.

He said the legislation said ‘recommend’ the establishment of community councils, but the Commission realised that they had to establish community councils.

The catering line item in expenditure was collectively for all dialogues, seminars and meetings organised by the Commission, as well as by some communities which were very poor.    This was a way for the Commission to support them.

The Chairperson wanted to know if there was a community council in Gert Sibande district municipality.

Adv Moreroa said he could not say, but that there were community councils in Mpumalanga.

Ms Mabale said the Commission’s expertise was available to all political parties.

Adv Moreroa  said the auditors had said the performance targets were not time-bound.

The irregular expenditure of R304 000 had occurred because staff submissions had not been accompanied by signed declarations of interest. 

The five-year turnaround strategy was part of the strategic plan. The Commission was working hard on improving its visibility and being accessible.

They did have internal audit control measures in place.   These had made a big difference to the annual reports and financial statements of previous years.

He said that when he had joined the Commission, its vehicles had not been functional for a year and their licences had not been renewed, so they had incurred licence renewal penalty fees.

Mr Smuts said the audit fee savings was because the Auditor General had estimated a budget of R1.5m, but fewer audit hours were actually used, resulting in the savings.

Ms W Nelson asked why their website was not functional enough, as a very limited amount of information was accessible.

Mr J Steenhuizen reiterated his initial questions. He asked whether the targets referred to were to be achieved in a period of one year or for five years. What human resources were needed for the Commission to achieve its targets and what would it cost?

Ms C Mosimane asked how the Commission had interacted with parties in the case where women wearing miniskirts were targeted at taxi ranks.


Dr Mabuza said that persecution was relative. Where one person would say it was not persecution, someone who felt persecuted would feel differently.  What people were saying needed to be heard. He said social cohesion could be likened to a tapestry and that a tapestry was about weaving different strands together without cancelling the different strands out.  The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) had also spoken on the matter. It was a remnant of the past which haunted the present, where the oppressed people oppressed those less strong than themselves. If the Committee said that this was a matter for the Commission to take up, then it would approach the CGE and the Commission for Human Rights to work with them.

Adv Moreroa said that the Commission had issued a media statement expressing their outrage and condemning the attack, and had opened a file on the matter so that follow ups could be made.

The budget of R51 m that it had prepared would allow it to reach its targets, including the establishment of regional offices and the required human resources.

Mr Steenhuizen said part of the Commission’s mandate was to facilitate resolution of conflict in communities. Opening a file and issuing media statements would not resolve the conflict. What concrete work was being done on the ground?

Dr Mabuza said it was a criminal case in the hands of the police. It would cause problems if the Commission generalised an incident where two people had been out of order, and painted the whole community with the same brush.

The meeting was adjourned.

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