Auditor-General South Africa assessment of Department of Arts and Culture 2015 Strategic and Annual Plans; Committee discussion on statues and symbolism

Arts and Culture

14 April 2015
Chairperson: Ms X Tom (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) briefed the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture on this office's review of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) Annual Performance Plan (APP) for 2015/16. It was emphasised that this was in the nature of a "pre-audit" where AGSA assessed whether the way in which departments were tackling issues was likely to affect the annual audit or negatively impact on their way to match targets and plans. There was a dual approach. On the one hand, AGSA would focus on understanding and testing the design and implementation of the performance management systems, processes and relevant controls, and on the other, would test measurability, relevance, presentation and consistency of planned performance information. Two programmes were selected for sample. From these, the audit had identified seven performance indicators that were identified as not well defined and verifiable, as well as three targets that were highlighted as not having been specific enough. Management had agreed with the auditors, and developed necessary changes to provide further clarity. The accounts inspected revealed also weak performance indicators, poorly defined and non-verifiable, but after input, they had been changed, to break down sub targets to enhance its accuracy and comprehension. Despite these weaknesses, there had been some progress since the previous year.

Members directed questions towards the reliability of these indicators, as well as the nature of the selection process, and asked for (and received) assurance from AGSA that there were no problems apparent in the other programmes not specifically selected for audit. Several said that they were not happy with the plans presented, but wondered if the revisions had made for improvements. The Committee would be questioning the Department on the plans in the following week.

The Committee Chairperson noted that the Committee had received several comments and questions in the wake of the debates about statues and particularly the removal of the Rhodes Statue from University of Cape Town. The Committee's Content Advisor provided a historical and legislative background to the current polemic, highlighting that statues had been erected and removed throughout history, as a historical and symbolic representation of control. Normally, they were removed after revolution or war. However, in South Africa, there had been a negotiated settlement, and the National Heritage Resource Act legally ensured the protection of heritage. However, it seemed that there was not a general understanding of what "heritage" was, as opposed to "history" The Act defined statues as tangible resources and various sections sought to protect them as part of the national estate, to be guarded against manipulation for sectorial purposes or political gain, and emphasised the importance of managing heritage to acknowledge communities’ right to take part in debates surrounding its position and legitimacy, as well as ensuring its protection. The current legislation seemed to be adequate. However, later Members noted that neither the media nor any of the political parties had sought to explain the Act and its aims and implications, and were agreed that whilst the Minister had a primary mandate to promote heritage, it was also incumbent on this Committee to issue a statement in which it notified the need to respect heritage and diversity and condemned destruction and vandalism, rather than people taking other more correct routes to express their grievances. Members outlined their views, and in some cases some moving accounts of their family history and experiences. Several were most concerned that the Committee had neither been notified of nor invited to the Ministerial briefing on 17 April.

The Committee briefly discussed the Pan South African Language Board developments. PanSALB had dismissed 42 staff, who had petitioned the Committee for their reinstatement. Members suggested that the Chief Executive Officer must appear to explain the issues, and some suggested that, firstly, a petitions committee be established and secondly that legal advice be sought on how the Committee should deal with the issue. 

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks
The Chairperson reminded Members of the core importance of this Committee in overseeing the actions of the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). She stated that oversight was concerned with asking the right questions. She expressed her hope that the presentation by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA) would be relevant, and she described how an effective planning must provide substantial information on time, money and location of the departmental action, as well as whether it would contribute to making the government accountable.

Department of Arts and Culture 2015 Annual Performance Plan: Review by Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA)
Mr Musa Hlongwa, Business Executive, AGSA, introduced himself and apologised to the Committee that his colleague had been delayed. He noted that this presentation could be seen as a "preliminary audit" of the DAC, by considering the predetermined objectives, performance information as well as by focusing on actors, responsibilities and roles within the Department.

He reminded Committee members of AGSA’s mission, which was aimed at strengthening the country’s democracy by enabling oversight, accountability and governance in the public sector through auditing, thereby building public confidence.  

Mr Hlongwa described how the interim audit of the 2015-16 APP included interim review of the draft of the 2014 and 2015 APPs, and this was done for all national departments, as well as nine provincial and sector departments. He stressed that the current presentation dealt with a pre-auditing process on the current expectations for the following year.

He then emphasised the different key roles within the auditing structure. The Minister was directly involved in the oversight of the Department, for his primary role was to ensure that institutions, under the audit’s control, developed appropriate performance information systems. Positions of accounting officers and Chief Information Officer bore the responsibility for establishing and maintaining the systems, to manage performance information. Moreover, the line managers’ responsibility, within the structure, was to be accountable for establishing and maintaining the performance information processes and systems within their area of responsibility. Finally, other officials were responsible for capturing, collating and checking performance data relating to their activity.

Mr Hlongwa described the role of the internal audit, relevant to performance information and management. He stressed that such an audit must necessarily include the monitoring of internal controls relating to performance information processes, the examination of the usefulness and reliability of performance information, and the review of critical performance management activities. He further emphasised the need to include, in the audit, a review of the actual compliance with laws and regulations relevant to performance planning, management and reporting, as well as a risk management assessment.

Mr Hlongwa described the current internal audit of the DAC as weak, underutilised and characterised by a tendency to wait for external audits to perform accurate assessments and develop recommendations. He argued that this internal audit’s shortcoming was a major weakness of most departments and institutions.

He then specified that the annual audit of reported actual performances was assessed against predetermined objectives, indicators and targets as contained in the annual performance report. This included the audit of financial statements, and aimed at evaluating compliance, usefulness and reliability at the Department’s level.

Mr Hlongwa argued that performance indicators ought to be reliable, verifiable, appropriate, as well as well defined, cost effective and relevant. They should relate logically and directly to the appropriate aspect of the institution’s mandate.

Mr Zipho Mdluli, Senior Manager, AGSA, entered the venue, and apologised for arriving late. He began to describe the audit process, by firstly referring to the audit criteria. These included compliance with regulatory requirements, usefulness and reliability. He stated that all criteria had been addressed, besides the one of reliability. He further asserted the dual approach of the audit, focusing on the one hand on understanding and testing the design and implementation of the performance management systems, processes and relevant controls, while on the other hand testing measurability, relevance, presentation and consistency of planned performance information.

Mr Mdluli addressed the audit outcomes of the DAC, and stated that a limited number of programmes had been selected for review, and this meant that the findings were also limited. The two sampled programmes were respectively referred to as Programme 3: Arts and Culture Promotion and Development, and Programme 4: Heritage Preservation and Promotion.

The audit had identified seven performance indicators that were identified as not well defined and verifiable by the auditors, as well as three targets that were highlighted as not being specific enough . He stated that management had agreed with the auditors, and developed necessary changes to provide further clarity.

Mr Mdluli then provided insights on the audit, presenting a second AGSA document (Communication of Review Findings from the Interim Review) .

Mr Mdluli articulated that the inspected mandate had revealed weak performance indicators, poorly defined and non-verifiable. The latter were changed in order to promote a better use and understanding of them. He referred as an example to the Art Bank, which, after the review and comment to the DAC, was broken down into sub targets to enhance its accuracy and comprehension.

As a second example he explained that targets of Programme 3 were assessed as not specific enough, and lacking in key performance areas. The audit’s conclusion thus indicated a change of target and indicators.

The Chairperson restated the importance of asking accurate and potentially ‘outside the box’ questions as the core of an effective oversight, ensuring the Department’s accountability to the Committee and to society as a whole.

She further expressed her view that the APPs were indeed not specific enough, lacking time information. She expressed, on behalf of the Committee, the need for more detailed operational plans.
Dr P Mulder (FF+) expressed his agreement with the Chairperson’s concern, for most of the indicators had been changed during the audit, bringing uncertainty now to the process. He asked whether these indicators had been changed for better or for worse. He said it was important for the Committee to be able to compare these indicators with the previous ones that had been modified.

Ms V Mogotsi (ANC) asked about the findings on Programme 1 and Programme 2. She questioned whether these programmes were on the right track, and asked that the presenters provide greater clarity on the matter.

The Chairperson asked how and on what basis the AGSA had sampled Programmes 3 and 4. She wondered if any of the programmes not displayed in the presentation were facing problems.

Mr J Mahlangu (ANC) stated that the Committee was dissatisfied with the Department’s APP, which was sent back for reconsideration. He asked to which extent this process had been done. He enquired about the programmes not detailed also, and asked whether any unclear indicators had also been identified in these programmes.

Mr Mahlangu addressed audit criteria, and questioned why the criteria on reliability had not received a greater focus.

Mr Hlongwa responded to concerns on the lack of specifics, and said that this was precisely what the AGSA had noted, because they had acknowledged the need for more accurate indicators. He stated that it was for this reason that AGSA had urged the Department to enhance its internal audit capacity

Mr Mdluli answered that the new indicators were more precise and specific, and were subjected to a general expansion, so the changes of indicators had been positive. Speaking to the comments on the narrow selection of only two programmes for the presentation, he explained that AGSA’s methodology was not to look at every programme, but to always sample, along criteria of core business and administration. He further assured Members that the programmes which had not been selected were not facing any financial issue.

He stated that he was not able to assert with certainty whether the changes requested had actually been applied by the Department. He stressed that DAC was strongly encouraged to do so, and that he was relatively hopeful that this had been done.

The Chairperson focused on the quarterly activity report, and asked what the actual meaning of the amended performance indicators was. She felt that the data, not being associated with any specific targets, were meaningless. She urged that AGSA should develop a benchmark to accurately assess the data, because focusing on specificity would be the key to the Department’s development.

Ms Mogotsi asked whether the previous year’s recommendations to the DAC had been applied. She argued that last year’s report was of a better quality than the present one, which was unclear and difficult to understand.

Mr Mdluli stated that the targets corresponding to the indicators could be found within the APP. He argued that auditors were constantly encouraging clarity.

Mr Mahlangu expressed his hope that AGSA’s officials understood the insistent pressure from the Treasury for greater accuracy in the data.

Mr Hlongwa argued that the review of the previous year had proven to be quite successful. He noted that this year’s audit had revealed issues on reliability, yet none on usefulness, as a major improvement from last year’s performance. He thought the AGSA's input had made a serious difference. He furthermore stated that if the report was not considered conclusive enough, Members should please bear in mind that this was only a preliminary review at the moment, with limited assurance until the full audit had been completed.

Mr Mdluli also reminded Members that this was a pre-audit, setting the premises and providing potential preventative mechanisms in respect of discrepancies, for next year’s actual audit.

The Chairperson expressed her satisfaction towards the proactive attitude of AGSA. She asked that AGSA provide Members with last year’s action plan, as a basis for evaluation. On behalf of the Committee, she warmly thanked AGSA’s officials for their input. She hoped that auditors would support oversight.

Other Committee Business
Minute adoption

The Chairperson brought forward the consideration of minutes from previous meetings. She mentioned the importance of the Committee remaining constantly dynamic, and recommended that close track must be kept of which documents were required and still awaited by Members. She would be raising issues with the Department on 16 April, and one would be its habit of not providing Members with the required information. She stressed that if this trend was to carry on after that meeting, she would be forced to write personally to the Minister to ensure that it was resolved

The minutes of 10 March 2015 were adopted.

The minutes of the 24 March 2015 were adopted, with a correction to the spelling of Dr Mulder's name.

Issues of statues and symbolism
The Chairperson stated that she had received numerous e-mails, messages and phone calls about the current debates and events on statues and symbolism in the country. She had said that the Committee would take a stance on the matter during this present session.

Mr G Grootboom (DA) told the Committee that the Minister of Arts and Culture was hosting a meeting on the matter of statues and heritage on Friday 17 April 2015, and inquired as to the nature of the meeting.

The Chairperson described that although this meeting had been extensively mentioned in the media, the Committee had neither been informed of, nor invited to the meeting. This was of concern, as Members needed to be part of this process. She would make enquiries of the Minister.

Ms S Tsoleli (ANC) expressed similar concerns over the lack of invitation, and urged the Chairperson to ensure Members’ participation in the meeting on Friday. Furthermore, she noted the increasing importance of the current controversy on statues and heritage, and the degradations which resulted from it. She urged the Committee to adopt a common stance promoting communication with constituencies.

Dr Mulder also mentioned the Friday meeting, saying that this constituents were urging him to take an active stance on the matter. Emotions were running high on this topic, and it was the Minister’s role to handle such pressure. He stated that he had taken part in the debate on the same topic between 1994 and 1999, and that the South African society was still in the same situation as it was then.

The Chairperson explained that since issues around statues were within the Committee's mandate, the Committee had a duty to address them and to craft a public statement on the matters. She additionally express the need for a briefing on the current legislative framework.

Mr Mxolisi Dlamuka, Content Advisor for the Committee provided a historical and legislative background to the current statue polemic.

He argued that the ‘Rhodes must Fall’ movement had highlighted a sensitive but interesting matter, while it was necessary also to consider that statues could not be divorced from South African history making. He defined the latter as a historical representation and symbolisation of control, which stimulated political discussions in contemporary South Africa.

He stated that statues had been created - and removed - throughout history, starting with the Jewish exodus, as quoted in the Book of Kings, when Roman statues were removed as being a former sign of oppression. However he also argued that removal of statues had always been preceded by revolutions.

The South African scenario was different from this pattern, on the basis that there had been a negotiated settlement and constitutional draft in the 1990s. He argued that the national Heritage Resource Act (NHRA) legally ensured the protection of heritage, while it faced a key juxtaposition of the values of negotiated settlement and the movement generated by certain major groups in society.

He described how the current debate was driven by a will for transformation. He further stated that lawmakers must accurately define what "heritage" was, for that was what the country chose to celebrate, rather than "history" characterised by its general and objective stance. He argued that if this core concept of "heritage" was not defined accurately, Nelson Mandela’s statues could also be toppled in the next few years.

Mr Dlamuka then focused on the NHRA Act, which defined statues as tangible resources. He quoted section 3(2) of this Act, which emphasised the fact that statues are part of the national estate. In addition, section 5(1)(d) stipulated that heritage must be guarded against its manipulation for sectorial purposes or political gain. The Act further underlined the importance of managing heritage to acknowledge communities’ right to take part in debates surrounding its position and legitimacy.

Section 27 said that no person may destroy, damage, alter, remove or change any public site without a permit. The Heritage authorities were responsible for these sites. There was also further emphasis that no person may damage any structure that was part of the national heritage.

Mr Dlamuka thus argued that the NHRA provided security as well as room for debate. He referred to one case at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where a statue representing a former apartheid statesman was replaced in a peaceful and transitional manner by the statue of Nelson Mandela.

He concluded his presentation by noting that the current legislation had been working well so far and that the general public should be made aware of it.

Dr Mulder describing the atmosphere within the Committee as more peaceful than external public debate. He stated that he had been part of the 1994 discussion on statues and symbols, and that he considered himself as a historian. Moreover he expressed his pride of his own strong Afrikaaner identity, and believed that he belonged forever in South Africa, unlike other African colonies from which European settlers were removed. He stated that after the discussions of 1994, many names of public spaces were changed (such as the many references to Botha or Verwoerd) to implement the NHRA. He then referred to Kenya or Ghana, which would apparently rename every public space every time a change of leadership occurred. He personally disagreed with this stance.

He then explicitly stated that Paul Kruger was "his hero", while he had little sympathy for Shaka Zulu. He stated that many may not agree with his view, but it could be explained by the fact that South African individuals came from different backgrounds.

He then addressed the current actions taken against statues across the country as vandalism, and even pure racism. He also expressed his" hatred" towards John Cecil Rhodes, who was, according to him an evil figure, notably for fighting Afrikaner people more than a century ago. However, he argued that historical figures were inherently controversial, including Nelson Mandela. In his time, Botha had attempted to protect the Zulu people, yet their King Dinuzulu was imprisoned under the British leadership. He further argued that Botha liberated the Zulu king in 1910, and gave him land. He encouraged South Africans to use this story as a perfect case of reconciliation.

Dr Mulder then shared a last personal and moving story. His grandmother was in the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war. He described the inhumane conditions of the camp and how prisoners whose relatives were still fighting would only receive half a ration of food. At the time his grandmother was 15 years old at the time and tried to protect her younger brother, but he had died in her arms one night due to the outrageous conditions of detention. That young boys’ name was on one of the monuments currently targeted by the violent protests.

Ms Tsoleli began her statement by noting that the elders had compromised extensively. She then indicated her opposition towards any person destroying or damaging statues. She stressed that there had been major changes in the country's heritage in the past 21 years, but the process seemed to have slowed down recently. She asserted that history always changed over time. She wondered what exactly the Portfolio Committee could do to address this matter. She believed that the role of the media, highlighting opportunistic behaviour leading to degradation of statues, had not helped. Not one of the media houses, nor indeed any political party, had quoted the legislation on the matter, showing a significant failure of both these institutions to educate the general public. She claimed that the time would come when everything had to change and said she meant the remnants from the colonial and apartheid eras. She concluded by stating that the ANC had compromised too much during the transition.

Mr Grootboom thanked his colleagues for the discussion and input. He was looking forward to taking part in the forum organised by the Minister. He emphasised that the University of Cape Town (UCT)'s students were not part of the apartheid era, and how their anger was thus directed towards the symbolism of the statue, and the low level of in-depth transformation achieved in that institution. He stated that, now that the statue had been removed, students would necessarily target something else.
He referred to the widespread public inquiry on why people did not fight against the government rather than against these symbols. He answered this question by saying that he believed it was that the ANC represented the democratically elected government of citizens. However, if these core issues of transformation were not addressed, protest would rise and society would witness an 'African Spring', similar to the revolutionary wave that spread through many Arabic countries from 2010. He described the defacing of statues as a criminal offence, and expressed concerns over the illegal nature of the removal of the Rhodes statue. Finally, he emphasised the importance of teaching the youth about the past, and promoting studies of history at school.

Ms Mogotsi asserted that the current events around the statues across the country created tensions between the Afrikaans and African communities. She expressed the concern of the country's youth over issues of transformation. She firmly declared that as long as the ANC was leading South Africa, this country would not face any revolution. She noted that the protesters were not affiliated to any political party, and emphasised the importance of supporting the Department in its attempt to find solutions to the current rise of racial tensions. She suggested that Members should all agree to condemn the defacing of any statue, and make this position clear to the public, by publishing a statement in the media. She emphasised the importance of keeping the Ubuntu spirit alive. Finally, she affirmed that the statues matter should not be linked to poverty and issues of service delivery.

Mr Mahlangu thanked the Chairperson for introducing such a relevant topic. He too was convinced of the importance of appreciating historical backgrounds, and the need to condemn the destruction of property, for it was a crime. He suggested that charges should be laid against the individuals and parties involved in such activities. He cited the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in this regard, as bearing the responsibility for some of the attacks on statues. He described such actions as hooliganism.

He praised the re-emergence of such an important debate on transformation, while also acknowledging that the ANC had made perhaps too great concessions during the negotiated transition of 1994. He urged the public to work towards a single South African identity. He argued that as long as the present circumstances remained, there would not be equality in South Africa. He expressed his agreement with Dr Mulder on the fact that Afrikaaner people indeed belonged in South Africa, while urging the need for every community to tolerate each other. He stated that the re-naming of every public item was impossible, and would lead to revolts. He moreover affirmed the importance for the Committee to speak as one united voice, and to promote national dialogue. He said that he was moved by Dr Mulder's testimony, yet he saw his story as incomplete, and the accounts of the Anglo-Boer war were a distortion of history, for many Africans also died on both sides of the conflicts, yet none of them had been commemorated. Finally he repeated that he denounced the EFF party for its links to the defacing phenomenon, and urged South Africa to rewrite its history.

The Chairperson thanked every Member for these constructive inputs. She asserted that everyone had "their own truth", depending on the various cultural backgrounds of Members. She emphasised the importance of creating a platform to effectively discuss and address these issues of transformation. She agreed with the Members that the Committee needed a united view and must unanimous condemn defacing of the statues. However, she believed that there was also a need for the Committee to further discuss issues of transformation and trusted that a compromise would be reached. She emphasised the importance of encouraging society to use the legal processes already in place to address these issues of change and transformation.

Dr Mulder asserted his agreement with the Chairperson's wisdom and recommendations, and acclaimed the Committee's capacity to understand diversity. He invited each Member to visit the War Memorial in Bloemfontein, which he described as also addressing black people's losses during the Anglo-Boer war.

The Chairperson concluded that a public statement would be released expressing the Committee's unanimous condemnation of defacing of statues, and encouraging society to use the existing legal framework to express its concerns and contesting opinions.

Pan South African Language Board issues
The Chairperson noted that the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) had recently dismissed 42 of its members. The affected people had signed a petition in order to be reinstated, and had urged that Members deal with their situation. A copy of the petition would be made available shortly to Committee Members.

Ms Tsoleli, later supported by Mr Mahlangu, argued that there should be a Petitions Committee within Parliament. She also underlined the positive influence of involving officials in discussions with the Committee. She suggested that the Chairperson seek legal advice on the matter, and record each individual's statement under oath, to better address the disputes.

Mr Grootboom argued that the Committee should invite PanSALB's Chief Executive Officer to present his version of the dispute and detail his arguments. He explained that a decision could only be made following the appraisal of all issues raised by all parties.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that additional information, as well as a presentation would be provided to Members on Thursday.

Committee invitation
The Chairperson noted that an invitation was sent to the Committee to attend the Johannesburg Ballet on 17 April 2015, but no budget had yet been approved and she asked Members to indicate whether they were interested in attending.

The meeting was adjourned.

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