Independent Electoral Commission on its 2013 Annual Report

Home Affairs

10 October 2013
Chairperson: Ms M Maunye (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) presented its Annual Report for the financial year 2012/2013. Its hard work had resulted in an unqualified audit report with no emphasis on matter. The IEC had performed well and achieved, or exceeded, most of its targets in all its strategic outcome-oriented goals areas. It had promoted principles of peaceful, free and fair elections by working and establishing partnership with strategic national and international stakeholders. In this regard, it had confirmed its international prestige and recognition by hosting delegations from all over the world.

The IEC had improved its organisational efficiency and effectiveness by meeting its targets in the submission and publication of various quarterly and annual reports. In the area of managing free and fair elections, the Commission had achieved its targets, with monthly checks of the voters’ roll against the national population, and numerous meetings with the Party Liaison Committees (PLCs). It had also improved the timeframe of communicating electoral results. While by law results had to be announced within seven days, the IEC had exceeded expectations and had done so in only one day during by-elections held during the reporting period.

In the area of voter education, the IEC had over-achieved its target by holding 4 875 education events, against a target of 992.   Although media interaction targets had been reached, social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter needed further attention and work, especially in view of the 2014 elections and considering the registration gap among young people between the age of 18 and 29.

The IEC had performed well in supporting its own core business, by continuously training electoral staff. Despite this success, the IEC delegation noted that education and training remained an ongoing challenge in view of the upcoming elections and the implementation of democracy in South Africa.

The financial achievements of the IEC were also encouraging. The deficit of the previous financial year -- due to the timing of elections – had been reduced through the roll-over of significant funds. In the reporting period, the Commission had a surplus of R2.6 million, indicating that the IEC had achieved its expected financial outcomes.   It had ended the financial year with an under-spend of R43 million from its allocated budget, which would be rolled over into the current financial year.

Members of the Committee congratulated the IEC on the work it had done. They expressed concern over the registration process, and wondered if the IEC was relying too much on weekend registration events, in this way neglecting ongoing registration at local offices. Members also asked the IEC to comment further and clarify its work on the problem of ‘bussing’ -- voters moving their registration from one constituency to another, in this way influencing the outcome of elections -- and its strategies to prevent it from occurring again, especially in view of the upcoming elections. They asked how the IEC had addressed the problem of low youth registrations, and about the use of smart ID cards and ID books for registration and election purposes. They asked the Commission to clarify the use and dissemination of Braille material, and the reasons for delays in the area of Information Communication Technology (ICT). They also expressed concern over the increase in political violence, especially within higher education institutions.  They were worried about the functionality and unity of the IEC after the publication of the Public Protector’s report  on the alleged irregular procurement of the Riverside Park office building in Centurion.

Meeting report

Independent Electoral Commission Annual Report 2012/2013 briefing
Ms Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson, Independent Electoral Commission, presented the IEC Annual Report for the financial year 2012/2013. She was pleased to announce that the IEC had achieved 78% of the strategic objectives that the IEC had set at the beginning of the financial year. The Commission had received an unqualified report with no matters of emphasis from the Auditor General (AG). Even though the IEC was pleased with the results, she noted that there were still challenges to be faced.

The training of electoral staff remained an ongoing challenge and a crucial area of intervention. Electoral staff needed adequate training in order to interpret and apply the law correctly. Along with improving training, she also stressed the importance of providing reasonable and adequate stipends that would incentivise good performance.

The IEC needed to intensify its conflict resolution management abilities so that conflicts could be identified and solved before they escalated. It needed to address any complaint that might arise on voting days at polling stations, adequately and promptly.

Education was another area that needed ongoing attention.

During the reporting period, the IEC had been working on and researching the compatibility of the new smart ID cards to ensure that both the new and old systems could be accommodated during the process of registration and elections.

The IEC had received international recognition by hosting a significant number of delegations coming from the rest of the continent and the world, including Egypt, Uganda, Angola and Zambia.

The number of political parties had increased during the reporting period, and the number of by-elections had decreased.

The IEC conducted a survey on the state of democracy in South Africa, and had organized a seminar on e-voting.

Ms Tlakula said that the IEC was concerned with the registration gap that particularly affected young people between the age of 18 and 29.  Related to this was the need to communicate more with young people, and to take advantage of the social media platforms widely in use among the youth.

Mr Mosotho Moepya, Chief Executive Officer, IEC, announced that the organisational structure of the Commission had been improved with the appointment of Dr Nomsa Masuku as the new Deputy Chief Executive Officer, responsible for outreach.

While the values of the Commission, its constitutive and legislative mandates had remained unvaried over the reporting period, the strategic outcome-oriented goals had changed and improved. The IEC’s five goals and key performance areas were:

• Promote the principles of peaceful, free and fair elections;
• Improve organisational efficiency and effectiveness;
• Manage free and fair elections;
• Strengthen electoral democracy through education for public participation;
• Support the core business of the Electoral Commission.

In terms of promoting peaceful, free and fair elections, the IEC had held 24 meetings with relevant stakeholders (against a target of 25), and 36 meetings with international stakeholders (against a target of 12).  The slight underachievement in meetings with relevant stakeholders was due to the postponement of a meeting from the end of the financial year to the beginning of the new financial year.

The IEC had improved organisational efficiency and effectiveness by meeting its targets in various areas.  Four quarterly reports had been submitted, the annual report compiled, and one risk-based annual internal audit plan had been approved.  The IEC had worked on the adoption of a consolidated process for monitoring legal compliance.  While this work had begun during the reporting period, it would be finalized during the current financial year.

On managing free and fair elections, Mr Moepya said that the IEC had achieved its targets with monthly checks of the voters’ roll against the national population. It had held 1 325 meetings with members of party liaison committees (PLCs) at national, provincial and local levels (against a target of 1 234). This achievement was particularly important in view of the upcoming elections. The IEC had also achieved the targeted number of disbursements to political parties.   Parties whose financial situation was in order had been provided with disbursements, and those which were not had been urged to comply. Once they had done so, parties had been provided with the necessary funding.

Even though the law required a maximum of 90 days from the date of a vacancy to the date of an election, the IEC had exceeded expectations by undertaking the task within 67 days. The same excellent result had been reached in the number of calendar days required to replace proportional representation seat vacancies. While the law required that this be done within 35 days, the IEC had managed to do so in 15 days. The release of electoral results was another area of success. If, by law, results needed to be announced within seven days, the IEC had provided results of by-elections in one day only.

Mr Moepya admitted that the IEC was still busy researching ways in which they could adequately and meaningfully report the proportion of registered voters who actually voted. The IEC hoped to find a way to monitor this in the current financial year.

The IEC had assured compliance with the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA), as every electoral event had had a steady bill of materials.

In the area of voter education, IEC had over-achieved its target.  It had set a target of holding 992 voter education events and had exceeded expectations with 4 875.  This target would need revision to avoid such a high variance. The IEC also planned to have 50 projects with strategic partners and had over-achieved, with 70 projects undertaken.

Mr Moepya said that the IEC had not achieved its target in the quantity of education material disseminated. The IEC had planned to print and disseminate 2 million, but the actual achievement was only 454 566.  This discrepancy in printed material had been compensated for with the dissemination of other kinds of material. He also noted that the issue of Braille material had been delayed due to a delayed sign-off between the IEC and the Braille authorities.

The IEC had conducted more research projects than planned. Among others, it had focused on issues of electronic voting.

The number of planned media interactions per annum was achieved. Particularly successful were seminars on e-voting.   However, he admitted that online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter still needed attention in view of the upcoming elections.

In supporting the IEC core business, Mr Moepya said that in the area of training electoral officials, the IEC had underperformed, with 1 071 officials trained against a target of 1 920. This was because the IEC had anticipated more by-elections than those that had actually taken place.  It had exceeded expectations in the constant training of electoral staff, with 924 trained against a target of 450.  This was an area of ongoing attention and improvement, with regular revision of training methodology.

He said that the IEC had prepared monthly compliance reports, and this had particularly contributed to the receipt of the unqualified audit report with no emphasis.

Financial Report
Ms Fiona Rowley-Withey, Chief Financial Officer, IEC, presented the financial outcomes of the financial year ending 31 March, 2013.  She reiterated that the IEC had achieved an unqualified audit opinion for this reporting period with no emphasis on matter paragraphs; no additional matter paragraphs; no findings on the usefulness or reliability of predetermined objective information; no material instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations; and no deficiency in internal control that was significant enough to be reported.

She said that the IEC had faced some challenges in order to achieve such a good report. In the reporting period there had been no significant electoral events or major registration weekends or elections. This meant that one of the areas in which the IEC risked underperforming was in the employment of large numbers of electoral staff.   However, the IEC had shown its ongoing focus on this key area, especially in view of the upcoming weekend registration events planned for 9-10 November 2013 and the 2014 elections.

The IEC had a decentralised procurement process at the municipal, provincial and national levels that helped to identify areas of weakness, and had implemented necessary controls to prevent and detect non-compliance. This had been done through carefully balancing expenditure dedicated to administration and service delivery.

Ms Rowley-Withey said that financial statements had been prepared in accordance with rules and regulations of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and relevant accounting standards, with no change in accounting policy.

The deficit of the previous financial year, due to the timing of elections, had been reduced through a rolling over of significant funds.  In the reporting period, the IEC had a surplus of R2.6 million, indicating that the IEC had achieved its expected financial outcomes. The IEC had ended the financial year with a budget under-spend of R43 million that had been rolled over to the current financial year.

In terms of assets, she noted that the planning and procurement process for the upcoming registration and elections had started happening towards the end of the financial year. The overall asset basis was stable, but there was a need to ensure a more regular asset management demand and procurement process. This was because the IEC was still a relative young organisation and suffered in asset replacement cycles. This area would need attention in the future.

Discussion
Mr M Mnqasela (DA) congratulated the IEC on their work and expressed confidence in the smooth running of the upcoming elections. He mentioned the issue relating to people living in one constituency and registering in another. In the previous briefing on the IEC Annual report 2011/2012, the IEC had had no position on how to address the matter and no strategy to prevent it from occurring. Voters could not be moved around to influence the results of elections. He asked the IEC delegation what their plan was to tackle the problem.

Another matter of concern, in view of the upcoming elections, was the political parties’ engagement with their communities. While at the national level, political parties’ communication was taking place, this was not occurring at the municipal level. He expected that engagement happened at the local level too, and wondered why the IEC had not yet engaged their PLCs.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) expressed doubts whether the registration process was as effective as it could be. It seemed that the IEC was relying extensively on the two registration weekends, neglecting the ongoing registration process.   For a long time, for instance, people in Khayelitsha had had to travel to Mitchell’s Plain to register because of the lack of an IEC office in Khayelitsha. He asked the IEC if there had been any improvement on this regard.

While Mr Gaum did not wish to raise the issue of the acquisition of the Riverside Office Park building, which was under investigation, he expressed serious concern, especially in view of 2014 elections, that this matter was affecting the functionality of the IEC, as reported by the press. He asked the IEC delegates to comment on the way in which this matter was compromising its work, and urged them to address it properly.

Mr G McIntosh (COPE) wished to discuss some issues related to the “Provision and maintenance of office accommodation and infrastructure” at page 43 of the Annual Report and “Compliance with laws and regulations” at page 53.   He said that the section on “Provision and maintenance of office accommodation and infrastructure” stated that “To enable employees to perform their daily duties in a secure environment, appropriate office space is secured with active lease agreements in place”. He asked whether the reporting period covered the time in which the IEC had moved its offices from Sunnyside to Centurion.

Mr McIntosh then noted that the “Compliance with laws and regulations” paragraph on page 53 read “A detailed review of all procurement process and documentation was undertaken in the 2011/2012 financial year”.  He said that such a review did not include the ways in which the IEC leases had been obtained in Pretoria and in the rest of the Republic of South Africa. He asked the IEC delegation to clarify these points.

Mr M de Freitas (DA) congratulated the IEC on their excellent work. He expressed concern, however, over IEC officials acting inappropriately by, for instance, not allowing independent candidates to register. He asked if any investigations had been undertaken on how and why this had happened. Was this due to a lack of training of electoral staff?

He expressed worries on the youth registration that continued to be low. He thought that social media platforms needed to be improved, and asked if more was being done on this matter. He also agreed with Mr Gaum, and said that perhaps the IEC was relying too much on the November and early 2014 registration weekends. The IEC needed to clarify with the electorate that registration could actually happen all the time.

Mr De Freitas asked clarification on the use and dissemination of the Braille material, and asked about the purpose of this material. Was it training or balloting material?

He then commented on electronic voting. Whilst he expressed excitement about introducing this new system in South Africa, he also doubted that all South Africans might be keen on it.  He asked if surveys had been undertaken in rural communities and urged the IEC to explore whether e-voting would actually be welcomed.

Mr De Freitas wondered if there were problems with the information and communications technology (ICT) and asked for clarification on delays in this area.

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) expressed satisfaction with, and appreciation of, the IEC work. She asked the IEC to clarify the reasons for the delay in the delivery of the Braille material and in the contractual signing-off between IEC and the Braille authorities.

She asked the percentage of people with disabilities were working for the IEC and asked the IEC to explain why this information was continuously neglected in IEC annual reports.

Ms Petersen-Maduna asked what the reasons were for the low capacity in the ICT operations.

Ms S Bothman (ANC) expressed appreciation for the IEC’s work and the new annual report and said she recognised a considerable improvement in its performance compared to previous years. However, she was concerned with voter education and asked the IEC how it planned to improve this area. Related to this, she mentioned the issue of moving of registrations around different constituencies. She doubted that this phenomenon was only due to political parties’ calculations and recognised that people mighty want to change their registration from their place of origin to another place because of work reasons and new residence. Voter education was a key area of intervention. Voters needed to know that if they moved from one area to another, they needed a new registration.

She then talked about IEC electoral staff and their temporary positions. It was important that the IEC used the same people so that staff could build expertise and deliver excellent performance. She also suggested that staff had to be constantly trained so that they could be updated on changing conditions, rules or circumstances that could vary between one election and another.

Ms Bothman mentioned the IEC Outreach Program.  She urged the IEC to send its program to the constituencies so that members could participate in it.

Mr McIntosh advised Ms Tlakula to consider her position carefully after the publication of the Public Protector‘s report. While he praised her work and person, he urged her to consider discussing the matter with Minister Pandor and the President himself. He also invited her to consider a possible resignation or withdrawal from the IEC, in order to avoid controversies during the election period.

The Chairperson advised Members to avoid discussing the Public Protector’s report during the meeting. The matter was being dealt with by Parliament and an investigation was being undertaken. She said that Ms Tlakula would not respond to these questions until Parliament had completed its investigation.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) agreed with the committee members and congratulated the IEC on obtaining an unqualified report from the AG. She raised concerns over the use of smart cards and ID books, and invited the IEC to clarify this matter.

Mr Mnqasela mentioned that there were Student Representative Council (SRC) elections taking place. He noticed that young people were becoming increasingly interested and active in politics in their own education institutions. Political parties were using this platform to engage in discussions on a range of issues in these institutions. The problem was that administrators of these institutions were taking political positions and guiding the electoral process of student voting. He requested the IEC to consider engaging more in the higher education arena and to ensure that these institutions ‘do not become a battleground for political parties’. He also expressed concerns over violence taking place, involving those taking political sides.

Ms Tlakula appreciated the recommendations received by the members of the committee. Addressing the issue of registration raised by several members, she affirmed that the IEC was not relying on the general registration weekends only. While the IEC relied on registration weekends, local offices continued registration. The problem was that local IEC offices were opened during office hours and for people working, it was difficult to register during that time. The IEC was trying to have registration weekends before elections especially to overcome that problem and to improve the registration process. She agreed that despite these efforts, this was an area that needed further attention.

Regarding the problem of ‘bussing’ (people registering in different constituencies to affect the electoral results), Ms Tlakula said that this was a widespread phenomenon and said that political parties needed to assist the IEC and also intervene to prevent this from happening again. She had noticed that independent candidates also orchestrated bussing. Meanwhile, she said that the IEC was continuously communicating with the electorate urging voters to register where they ordinarily reside. The IEC was also making clear that bussing was a criminal offence, and for this reason the police needed to intervene too.

On the Public Protector’s report investigation, she reiterated that the matter was being investigated and that the present meeting was not the appropriate forum to discuss it. However, she reassured the Members that the IEC was not distracted by this investigation and that it remained focused on the 2014 elections. There was a unity of purpose within the Commission and that no division within the organisation was taking place.

Regarding the Tlokwe judgment, Ms Tlakula said that the IEC had received the court order. The IEC had implemented some of the orders. The IEC was undertaking an internal investigation into the conduct of IEC officials and would take the necessary steps to ensure high standards of efficiency.

Ms Tlakula said that the IEC had about 250 000 electoral staff. While the IEC tried to retain them for each election, she also stated that those who did not meet IEC standards of conduct and performance were not engaged again.

PLCs not working properly at the local level remained an area that needed attention. But this was a challenge shared with political parties, as the latter tended to send different staff to attend PLCs. Political parties should ensure that the same people attended the meetings.

On the matter of SRC and traditional councils’ elections, Ms Tlakula said that this was an ongoing challenge. The IEC could assist at universities, as long as their involvement came at an early stage. IEC could help universities in setting up their constitutions and guidelines, or running the elections. But if the IEC came too late, the outcome of elections could be compromised and along with it the IEC’s credibility.

Ms Raenette Taljaard, IEC Commissioner, responded to some of the issues raised by Committee Members and said that some of the concerns expressed needed to be addressed by the IEC and political parties too.

The IEC was used to dealing with political parties and the presence of independent candidates in by-elections represented a new challenge. The IEC needed to understand the ways in which independents could be incorporated, so that proper assistance and information was provided.

She also agreed that political violence threatened democracy. On this matter, the IEC needed to think more about political tolerance.

On questions of youth registration, she noticed that youth utilised social media, but that there were also other important factors to consider. A Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) study conducted for the IEC had explored young peoples’ engagement with political institutions and questioned their interest in politics. This not only affected issues of registration, but posed a challenge to everyone and, in particular to the IEC, which  had to understand how to address young voters.

Regarding the Public Protector’s report, Ms Taljaard assured that IEC was following all the recommendations of the Public Protector. But she also admitted that this situation did not constitute an ideal environment in which to work comfortably. She reiterated that there was unity of purpose and that the IEC was focused on the upcoming elections.

Mr Moepya responded to the issue of bussing. He said that IEC interventions to prevent this from occurring fell under three categories. Firstly, educational programs were in place to make sure that voters know that bussing is a criminal offence that would be prosecuted. Secondly, the IEC engaged with political party committees. Parties were supporting the IEC’s actions against bussing. Thirdly, internal investigations were being undertaken. The IEC had identified the persons that had been bussed and it was sharing the findings with the PLCs and the police. Other measures that had been taken included the use of scanners registered and allocated to each member of the electoral staff.

Addressing the issue of moving offices, raised by Mr McIntosh, Mr Moepya reassured the Committee that the period of the report did not cover the move, as this had taken place in the previous reporting period. On compliance with laws and regulations, the IEC had improved compared to previous reports.

On the issue of the Braille material, Mr Moepya said that the IEC had an arrangement with the SANCB (South African National Council for the Blind) that material developed for educational purposes would be translated into Braille printing. However, this depended on the capacity which this small entity had. Some of the educational material was very voluminous and it was not always possible for SANCB to deal with such quantities. However, he assured the committee that the IEC was constantly cooperating with SANCB, also for the translation of training programs.

Responding to the question of surveys on e-voting in rural communities, Mr Moepya said that the IEC had not yet undertaken any survey to investigate the matter further and that at this stage, the IEC had limited itself to engagement with stakeholders.

Mr Moepya then talked about the Outreach Program for constituencies. He said that at the beginning of the year, the IEC had established a national consultative forum, with stakeholders in civil society across the nation at all levels. In these forums, the IEC shared its programmes.

Mr Moepya also responded on the matter of the smart card.  The IEC was clear in communicating that the smart ID was only one of the means used for registering voters. The IEC would keep on using ID books and temporary identification certificates as well. However, it was important for the IEC to keep on conveying this information.

Mr Moepya emphasised that on the PLC issue, the IEC and political parties seemed to have found an agreement, as the parties had asked the IEC to enforce attendance by keeping a register and communicating absences to the parties. He stressed the importance of PLC meetings at the local level also, not only in view of the 2014 elections, but also for the 2016 municipal ones.

Mr Norman du Plessis, Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Corporate Services, IEC, responded that page 65 of IEC Annual Report dealt with permanent IEC staff, including people with disabilities. In terms of electoral staff, the IEC thoroughly promoted the engagement of people with disabilities and had always reached the target of 2%.

On ICT, Mr du Plessis said that the IEC had always been a leader in the use of technology and that it had done well in this area by reaching its targets. From a functional perspective, the IEC was doing good work, as demonstrated by the ongoing addition of new facilities, programmes and projects that were ICT-based. He added that there was still scope for improvement in the documentation of this process.

Mr De Freitas wondered if the registration of young people could be linked to the Home Affairs’ provision of an ID book.

Mr Gaum said that he was relieved to hear that there was unity of purpose within the IEC, that there was no division and that the IEC was focused on the election, despite the ongoing the investigation.

Ms Tlakula said that there were already joint campaigns with Home Affairs. The IEC ensured that when the IEC registered people, Home Affairs officials joined IEC officials to issue ID books. There were also other organisations who wished to join the IEC, including Proudly South African, in popularising the use of smart cards.

Mr Moepya reassured the Members of the Committee that the IEC was also focusing on young people for the upcoming 2014 national and provincial election campaigns.   There were a number of initiatives in schools.  In March and April 2013, the IEC had worked closely with the Department of Education on events such as the School Democracy Week. Youth remained one of the challenges for the IEC.

The Chairperson concluded the meeting. She thanked the IEC for their work and recommended that they stay united and focused on the elections.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

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