Commission for Gender Equality Amendment Bill [B36-2012], Department's and Minister's briefing on Turnaround, 2nd quarter 2012 expenditure, and UN Commission on Status of Women

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

28 November 2012
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Commission for Gender Equality Amendment Bill was presented to the Committee by both the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). The amendments were technical in nature and were intended to bring the CGE into alignment with the provisions of the 1996 constitution, to provide clarity on the appointment of Commissioners, to regularise the past difficulties in salary adjustments, and to correct references to legislation. The Preamble was amended to reflect wording in the 1996 Constitution. Clause 2 was amending a number of definitions. Clause 3 sought to bring the CGE Act in line with section 193(5) of the Constitution, which provided for the appointment of Commissioners for the CGE. CGE had proposed that ten Commissioners, inclusive of the Chairperson be appointed. Seven should be appointed as full-time Commissioners, and two may be appointed as part-time Commissioners. The appointment period would be for a renewable period of seven years. Structured remuneration levels would be set out, in line with those in other Chapter 9 institutions. The quorum was more clearly stated. Clause 4 amended section 9 of the CGE Act, to align it with the PFMA. Clause 5 amended section 11 of the CGE Act by correcting a reference to section 119(3) of the Constitution. Clause 6 amended section 19 of the CGE Act, corrected a reference to the short title of the Act, whilst clause 7 catered for cross-reference corrections. Clause 8 was amending the Long Title to correct the name of the CGE. Members raised questions around the salaries of staff, the question of full and part-time commissioners, the need for good continuity, particularly of strategic plans, and what would be done in the case of under-performance by the CGE. It was noted that the State Law Advisors would still take the Committee through the Bill, clause by clause.

The Department and Minister presented the 2012 second quarter performance review report. It was stressed that the results in this quarter had led to the decision that a turnaround strategy was needed, as the Department had achieved only 39% of its targets, with underperformance in all the programmes, and was hindered by shortage of skills. The Department suggested, and Members agreed, that a more detailed report on the Turnaround be presented in 2013. The Minister again summarised the reasons for the Turnaround, and stressed that those who were responsible for many of the problems had been suspended, and the positions of Chief Financial Officer and Director General were being advertised, with other disciplinary action also being pursued. She also reminded the Committee that it could call the former Accounting Officers to Parliament, and Members suggested this be done.
The Minister gave a brief summary of the 56th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. One priority theme had been empowerment of rural women. Another, following up on the previous session, had looked at financing for gender quality and empowerment of women. The Session in 2008 had called for increased investments into these areas, as well as strengthening of policy and advocacy. Gender equality was positioned as an institutional priority, and there had been increased investment, improved tracking systems for financing and better sex-disaggregated data. However, the access by women’s organisations to funding still remained limited, including the UN-Women itself, established two years previously, and tools to measure the quality and impact of development assistance were still lacking and, where they were in existence, were isolated from national systems, with the result that many organisations, particularly those at grassroots level, were unable to comply with requirements to access financing and report. Participants at this session had therefore recommended that the funding for UN-Women must be assured, to enable it to fulfil its mandate and that measurable targets for financing gender-equality must be set. Innovative options such as taxing financial transactions, or public-private partnerships, were to be explored, and organisations and donors were requested to reduce the burden of monitoring, using good practices reported upon by Austria, Cambodia and Morocco. The Minister stressed the need to engage all young people in gender sensitisation, and for young boys to be pointed to the good role models of many progressively-minded men. She stressed that all political parties should increase their gender awareness, provide youth with opportunities, and have women and youth committees. Members said that the system of traditional leaders, and some church and cultural practices needed to be reformed, stressed that the Sexual Offences Act should be monitored and pointed to the importance of food gardens in empowering women.


Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed Ms Lulu Xingwana, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Amendment Bill
Commission for Gender Equality briefing

Mr Kamraj Anirudhra, Parliamentary Officer, Commission for Gender Equality, set out the legal mandate of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and said that the Bill aimed to align the CGE Act with the final Constitution and to address past problems with the working of the Commission.

Firstly, the Bill set out additions to the Preamble of the CGE Act. Three new paragraphs would be added, the first referred to past discriminatory policies and practices that had perpetuated gender stereotypes, which had bequeathed a legacy of gender related inequalities in South Africa. The second noted that section 181(1) of the Constitution had created a range of independent institutions to develop and ensure stability of the democratic order, inclusive of the promotion of gender equality by a Commission for Gender Equality. The third noted that the independence of the Commission for Gender Equality, as provided for in terms of Section 181(2) of the Constitution, was required for the fulfilment of its constitutional mandate of promoting respect for gender equality, and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality without fear, favour or prejudice.

Under clause 2, new definitions were proposed for “Act”, “Chairperson”, “Commission”, “Commissioners”, “Compliant”, “Gender”, “Gender Equality”, “Gender Equity”, “Gender discrimination”, “Investigation”, “Organ of State”, “PEPUDA”, “Plenary”, “PPR and R”, “Premises”, “Secretariat” and “Sex” (see attached presentation for details). 

Clause 3 addressed the proposed number of Commissioners to be appointed. CGE proposed that a total of ten Commissioners, inclusive of the Chairperson be appointed. Seven should be appointed as full-time Commissioners, and two may be appointed as part-time Commissioners, and the Chairperson should be appointed for a minimum period of seven years, which could be renewable, meaning that the term of office could be rolled over for a further period of seven years, on expiry. The CGE had proposed a reduced number of Commissioners, in line with structured remuneration levels that prevailed in other Commissions. However, CGE did not support proposals under clause 3(d) for the deletion of section 3(3) of the CGE Act, which provided for public participation in the appointment process of Commissioners.

CGE felt that the current wording of section 3 allowed for untenable appointments of Commissioners and must be amended to ensure the smooth operation of the Commission. Mr Anirudhra read out the proposed amendments to section 3(4)(a), referring to the “fixed term of seven years by the President” and noted that section 3(4)(b) was to be worded as “no more than seven full-time and no more than two part-time Commissioners and a Chairperson shall be appointed”.

A new subparagraph was also to be added, as section 3(4)(d), to state that: “the Minister of Finance must make funds available for all determinations that have been finalised by the Commission”. This would ensure that the appropriate remuneration was paid to staff, and should address the untenable delays in the past in having increases and remuneration levels addressed, as well as amending conditions of service for Commissioners. In addition, this should ensure that the remuneration and conditions of service of staff and Commissioners were set at levels that would attract high calibre individuals. These amendments would also ensure that decent conditions of service and fair contractual terms were extended to Commissioners, would avoid the extension of unilateral conditions of service inclusive of untenable remuneration levels for Commissioners, and would allow for the remuneration levels of highly skilled staff required within the Secretariat to be determined by the Commission, when necessary.

Mr Anirudhra also read out a new provision under section 3 to read: “The Commission may request the President to appoint a part-time Commissioner as a full-time Commissioner, or a full-time Commissioner as a part-time, where such vacancies exist and in circumstances where it is deemed necessary, and the President shall appoint such Commissioners as full-time or part-time Commissioner for the unexpired period of the Commissioner’s term of office, within 30 days of such a request”.

Section 3(9)(a) was to be amended, to state “A Chairperson of the Commission shall, as often as it becomes necessary, be appointed by the President, and a Deputy Chairperson by members of the Commission, with such additional remuneration and benefits that are deemed necessary, and such appointment shall be tabled in Parliament within 30 days of such appointment”. Mr Anirudhra said that the reason for this was that it would bring the appointment process of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson in line with those that applied in the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). It would ensure that the Chairperson was not given additional remuneration or benefits for additional responsibilities, which was the case with the SAHRC. The choice of Deputy Chairperson by the Commissioners enhanced their independence and accountability.

A further amendment was proposed to section 4, with the addition of new sections 4(3)(c) and (d). These provided, in turn, that the Commission may request that an appointment be made in terms of Section 3(6), so as to enable a part-time Commissioner to fulfil the duties and functions of any full-time or another part-time Commissioner. Then, the Commission could also request that a full-time Commissioner be appointed as a part-time Commissioner wherever any vacancies or other circumstances made this necessary. The new sections would specify that any request for appointment in terms of this section may commence immediately after any Commissioner had submitted his or her resignation to Parliament, or within 30 days of a request being made in terms of this section. He explained that this would cover the situations where a Commissioner resigned, and it was necessary to make arrangements for that Commissioner’s responsibilities to continue to be filled, by making a suitable appointment. The Commission itself could take action swiftly. It further promoted independence of the CGE. A check was provided by allowing for reference to the National Assembly (NA).

The final amendment, to section 5(3), related to the quorum and would read: “The quorum for any meeting of the Commission shall be the majority of the total number of Commissioners appointed in terms of Section 3(1) and (2), or the full complement of Commissioners, where vacancies exist and have not been filled, alternatively the number of Commissioners available and agreed upon as constituting a quorum by the Committee”. The rationale behind this was that it was necessary to provide for quorums still to be established even where the full complement of commissioners was not available or had not been appointed.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) questioned the amendments to the full-time commissioners and motivations of the CGE for proposals on salaries of staff.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) questioned the continuity of the strategic plans. She also felt the Committee needed more time to process these matters.

A Member raised issues on the underperformance of the CGE.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) was concerned about the CGE’s proposal for a second term for Commissioners.  She said the suggestions needed to be scrutinised to ensure the CGE fulfilled their mandate. 

Ms Lulu Xingwana, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said there were other processes taking place that also needed to be considered. She explained that the standardisation of Chapter Nine Institutions was being looked at by the Office of the Speaker, and was being tested through a pilot project by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. She supported the general technical amendments, such as the definitions. 

Mr Mfanozelwe Shozi, Chairperson, CGE, noted the importance of amendments to the CGE Act.

Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, Deputy Chairperson, CGE, noted that it was of concern that the “Asmal Report”, following the full investigation into the Chapter 9 institutions, was only being discussed now. In terms of the continuity of strategic reports, she explained there would be an overlapping of terms.

Prof Amanda Gouws, Commissioner, CGE, said she was not sure of what was happening in Parliament with the Asmal Report. The CGE was trying to align itself with what was happening with other Chapter 9 Institutions, as the CGE had been treated differently from other such institutions.

Another official from the CGE spoke about part-time Commissioners changing to full-time positions. She said the Act should also allow for full-time Commissioners to act as part-time Commissioners.

Mr Anirudhra said the drafting of the CGE Act initially had been very poor, especially the section that dealt with the remuneration of staff, and amendments were clearly needed particularly to this section.

Ms Lamoela raised a question of clarity around the appointment of Commissioners.

Minister Xingwana said the Act stipulated that some Commissioners were part-time while others were full-time. She said that the question of salaries was not a legal matter, but a matter of budgets. The remuneration would also be dictated by whether the Commissioner was full-time or part-time. She thought there were other ways to deal with these issues, rather than trying to set them out in legislation.

The Chairperson felt the CGE proposals were reasonable and reflected some of the recommendations made in the Asmal report. She suggested that the recommendations contained in that report, as having been made by the Ad Hoc Committee that considered the Chapter 9 institutions, should be adopted, so as not to hold back any process.

Department of Women, Children and People with Disability comments
Minister Xingwana said the emphasis of the amendments was to ensure the CGE complied fully with and was in line with the final Constitution.

Ms Modjadji Seabi, Deputy Director-General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, said that the proposed amendments were of a purely technical nature, and were not related to the establishment, composition, powers and functions of the CGE. She stressed that the amendments were firstly aimed at bringing the CGE Act in line with the 1996 Constitution. She pointed out that there was a substitution of references, in the CGE Act, to the Exchequer Act No 6 of 1975, with references to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) Act No 1 of 1999.

The amendment of the Preamble similarly was more in line with the provisions of the 1996 Constitution. Clause 2 was amending the definitions. Clause 3 sought to bring the CGE Act in line with section 193(5) of the Constitution, which provided for the appointment of Commissioners for the CGE. Clause 4 was amending section 9 of the Act, to align it with the PFMA. Clause 5 essentially amended section 11 of the CGE Act by correcting a reference to section 119(3) of the Constitution. Clause 6 amended section 19 of the Act, corrected a reference to the short title of the Act, whilst clause 7 catered for cross-reference corrections. Clause 8 was amending the Long Title to correct the name of the CGE.

Minister Xingwana reiterated that these were purely technical amendments and did not go into substantive matters, because of the ongoing deliberations and discussions around the Chapter 9 institutions. Further and more substantive amendments would be tabled, once the discussions in Parliament were completed.

The Chairperson thought that this being the case, and because there was no question of the amendments tampering with the functions of the CGE, public hearings were not needed.

Ms van der Merwe agreed, but stressed that if any substantial changes were made to the make-up and actual composition of the CGE, public hearings would be required.

Ms Lamoela felt that these amendments should be subject to public hearings.

The Chairperson said the Committee would sit with the State Law Advisors to go through the amendments clause by clause, before adoption.

Ms Lamoela felt the Committee needed to be clear on this matter.

Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities: 2nd quarter 2012 performance and expenditure report
Minister Xingwana noted that she would be unable to attend the meeting on the following day, as she would be attending an event for the 16 Days of Activism against Violence to Women and Children, but the Acting Director General and other officials could present the rest of the reports to the Committee.

Ms Thandeka Mxenge, Acting Director General, Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD or the Department), noted that the presentation was short and focused.

Ms Xingwana said there was a lot to report on the turnaround, and requested that the Department be permitted to present a detailed report to the Committee early next year.

Ms Lamoela agreed with this, and requested that the Chairperson allow the Department to give the details of the turnaround strategy, over the past three months, at that stage. 

Ms Mxenge went through the performance review of the Department for the 2nd quarter of 2012. She noted that the overall performance of the Department was 39%, which was not good, and which had prompted the decision that a turnaround strategy was needed. She highlighted the fact that staff had been appointed at management level. She said the risk management policy had been developed, that there were consultations with National Treasury, and said the finalised policy would be presented to the Committee shortly.

Ms Mxenge further conceded that the performance information, per programme, was not strong in this quarter. Due to problems of capacity, many of the targets were not met and the way in which these targets had been articulated made it difficult to gauge achievement. Posts were being advertised, and the recruitment process was under way.

The Chairperson said the figures by themselves meant very little to the Committee, and more information on the specific programmes were needed to provide a context.

Ms Lamoela asked if that would not be covered in the detailed briefing that the Department should be giving to the Committee, when Parliament opened next year. 

Minister Xingwana explained that in the meeting to discuss the Annual Report, it had been fully explained why there was a need for a Turnaround Strategy. The Department had specifically considered its problems in conjunction with National Treasury. She reminded the Committee that the previous Accounting Officer had failed to manage the Department properly. She also highlighted that in the past, the Department had lacked staff in key positions, that many of the staff were not properly qualified to do their jobs, and that the Accounting Officer had resigned in June, before the audit by the Auditor-General (AG). There were numerous problems with non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and allegations of fraud and nepotism in the Department. She assured the Members that the necessary disciplinary and legal steps would be taken against those responsible, and that the Department would be rebuilt. She said that advertisements for posts in supply chain management had been placed, and the Department now had an Acting Director General. The Department was also working with National Treasury to fix the problems and comply with the recommendations of the AG.

A Member made a proposal that both the officials who had been responsible should be suspended pending investigations, as they were linked to each other.

Minister Xingwana said the Department had advertised for their positions and was in the process of recruiting

Ms Lamoela was worried about the Department not being able to meet the goals in the Turnaround Strategy. She asked if there were any officials who were dismissed by the Department who had taken up other positions She was worried that the current vacancies caused a vacuum that could result in the Department not being able to achieve its turnaround goal. She asked if the people implicated in the problems were still being paid. She expected the Department to achieve the goals set out in the Turnaround Strategy. 

The Chairperson was worried about the admission that there were unqualified personnel, asking if they would be dismissed to make way for competent staff.

Ms van der Merwe thanked the Minister for her frank assessment. She asked what would be happening with core programmes, and what was being done to fill critical vacancies in these core programmes. She felt it would be difficult to achieve the goals in the core programmes whilst key positions remained vacant.

Ms C Diemu (COPE) asked why it was so difficult to bring the officials, especially the former Accounting Officer, before Parliament in order to account. She asked what timeframes had been set to deal with all these issues.

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) asked what had happened to certain documents that were requested in the past, and suggested that the Department must return with a more comprehensive report.

Ms Ditshetelo asked about the current position of the Department. She too did not think the Turnaround Strategy could be achieved without critical staff, and suggested that perhaps the staff needed to be put in place first, and then the Turnaround considered in more depth.

Ms Xingwana said she shared the concerns of the Members. She noted that sometimes intervention by the Minister was seen as interference in the Department, especially when it came to issues of employment and the work of the Accounting Officer. She stressed that the DWCPD had been working with the Department of Finance and Statistics SA, since June, to fill the vacancies, especially those in the finance division. Other core vacancies were being advertised, and interviews would be held as soon as possible, and the Department had received extra funds to fill these vacancies. The Department was doing a skills audit to check the qualifications of the personnel. Some staff had been suspended in September 2012 but, because of the labour laws, they had been suspended with pay. The Accounting Officer was currently working for the provincial government in Mpumalanga. Parliament, however, had the right to call any persons to account for their actions, according to the Constitution.

The Chairperson asked Members to comment on whether the Department needed to return to give a more detailed report.

Ms Lamoela reiterated her request for an honest and detailed report, so that Members could assess the work of the Department. Many issues still needed attention, as highlighted during the public hearings. Further steps needed to be taken to get the Department in shape, so that it could address the requirements of women, children and people with special needs.

Ms van der Merwe agreed that the Department should be given more time to draw another Report. She suggested that the Committee must call the former Accounting Officer to appear before the Committee, as this was its Parliamentary role and Constitutional duty. This kind of behaviour by officials was failing the Minister, the Department and the most vulnerable people in South Africa. 

Members discussed a suitable date for another presentation, noted that the State of the Nation Address was scheduled for February, and agreed that the last week of February would be suitable.

Ministerial Report on the South African Delegation’s Participation in the 56th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women
Minister Xingwana noted that she would give a brief summary of the UN Commission on the Status Women, 56th session, but a full Report would also be made available to Members.

She noted that the priority theme had been the empowerment of rural women, and outlined the discussions on that (see attached presentation).

Minister Xingwana then looked at the financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. International organisations and multi-lateral development partners played a part in the implementation of the agreed conclusions. The agreed conclusions of the 2008 Commission session had called for increased investments into gender equality and the empowerment of women, which resulted in a range of responses from international and multilateral organisations, to expand resources committed to gender equality, increase capacity to track such resources, and strengthen the impact of the financing. They also called for strengthening of the scope of policy and advocacy and partnerships among stakeholders. The progress had therefore been to position gender equality as an institutional priority, to increase investment towards achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women, and to increase the amount of bilateral aid focused on gender equality, which had reached 31% of sector allocable aid in 2011. Development of, and tracking systems for financing for gender equality had improved, and this had contributed to the availability of sex-disaggregated data and gender-specific information.

There were still gaps and challenges in implementation. Over the last four years, access by women’s organisations to funding from bilateral and multilateral partners remained limited. UN-Women was still significantly below the target for funding, despite the fact that it was established two years ago. Tools were still lacking to effectively measure the quality and impact of development assistance, including evaluations, audits and reviews. Reporting, monitoring and tracking systems adopted by bilateral and multilateral donors, and by UN entities, remained largely isolated from national systems, which increased the burden of reporting for recipients. Many women’s organisations, especially small grass-roots organisations and service providers, lacked the technical capacity to comply with the complex requirements for accessing the larger grants offered by different donors.

Minister Xingwana said that therefore, on the basis of the experience and good practices, participants recommended that funding for UN-Women must be assured, to enable it to fulfil its mandate effectively, to set measurable targets for financing for gender equality as a share of official development assistance, and to invest in the development and use of tools to assess the impact and results achieved in gender, with support provided by UN and multilateral programmes. Other recommendations were to explore innovative approaches to financing for gender equality, such as taxation on financial transactions or public-private partnerships that were balanced and centred on gender equality goals. Organisations and multilateral and bilateral donors should reduce the burden of monitoring and reporting for recipient governments and civil society organisations. Austria, Cambodia and Morocco presented good models in implementing the agreed conclusions of the 52nd session.

Minister Xingwana then spoke about the need to engage young women, men, girls and boys to advance gender equity. The responsibility of involving youth, including involving them in planning, in the successful development of the country, lay on the shoulders of many parties. This would include government, the private sector and civil society, all of whom must help the young communities evolve into economically productive people who were gender sensitive and nationally responsible. It was very important for political parties to give special attention to involving youth and women, in order to promote gender equality. Political parties could provide a lot of opportunities in giving public speeches, actively participating in decision making, travelling and meeting people and involvement in campaigns. It was equally important to increase gender awareness in the political parties, especially at leadership level. Parliaments must be sensitised to gender issues. The inclusion of a clause, in the Political Party Act, to insist upon a Woman’s Wing in each political party, would ensure that women could play more active roles in political parties. Youth and women’s committees could also play a vital role.

A Member thanked the Minister on an excellent report. She was frustrated that Traditional Leaders were not doing enough and suggested this be monitored more carefully, as was done with the Traditional Courts Bill.

Ms Lamoela said that the Sexual Offences Act was an important piece of legislation, although this Department was not the implementing department. Cooperation of all departments was needed.

Ms Lamoela thought that the creation of food and communal vegetable gardens was making a difference to the lives of many women in particular. She felt that the Minister should highlight this fact.

Minister Xingwana realised there was a problem with some Traditional Leaders, but said the whole system needed to be reformed. She said this Committee could follow up and monitor on certain issues involving sexual offences. The DWCPD was already working with other departments, like Department of Justice, but this Committee had more power to call people such as Director Generals to account. She agreed that vegetable gardens were very important, and this should be encouraged in the constituencies through a “one household, one garden” campaign. Her Department would continue to report to the Committee on the implementation of the resolutions of the UN Commission.

A Member pointed out that in churches, equal treatment also needed to be promoted. Sometimes the rules were applied to women and not to men.

Minister Xingwana said that the same applied to certain cultural practices. She agreed that a strategy was needed that would rid of any practices that oppressed women. However, it must be recognised that culture and religion could not be changed overnight. She also made the point that there were many progressively-minded men, and young boys needed good male role models.

The Chairperson said the issues were huge and numerous and there was great resistance to change. Responsibility for promoting gender equality did not only rest with this Committee. The UN Report could be used as a tool for engagement with other departments.

The Chairperson noted the report was presented and adopted by Parliament.

Members agreed to adopt the Minutes at the following day’s meeting.

The meeting was adjourned. 



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