The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) briefed the Committee on the third quarterly report for both financial and organisational matters.
The Chief Executive Officer provided a presentation which outlined the core accomplishments of CGE over the past four months. The accomplishments highlighted included transformational meetings with universities, the creation of a Gender Barometer, the implementation of electoral monitoring, and public awareness campaigns.
The Chief Financial Officer reported that despite troubles in the past, the CGE had secured a level of stability in its finances. At the end of the third quarter, 80% of the budget had been spent. The budgetary breakdown of the distribution of funds in the organization showed that while some areas had come in on or under budget, a few areas had been over budget, particularly travel and accommodation and venues and catering.
Members expressed disappointment at the quality of the presentation and the overall lack of detailed information about the programmes and finances. They asked about self-evaluation, project implementation, and data reporting. On the financial side, they raised questions about the necessity for international trips, vehicle purchases, and outside contracting.
Due to time constraints, the CGE was unable to provide answers to all of the Members’ questions, but was instructed to provide a written report detailing the responses to the questions raised.
Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) briefing
Mr Mfanozelwe Shozi, Chairperson, CGE, thanked the Chairperson for inviting the CGE to present the third quarter report. He asked the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to present the report.
Ms Keketso Maema, CEO, CGE, said that for the third quarter, the GCE's internal auditors had indicated that 70% of the quarter's targets had been met, and their information provided a sense of whether it would be possible to achieve 100% of the planned work by the end of the fourth quarter. There were internal committees that were led by commissioners who conducted oversight to make sure the outlined goals were actually achieved. Some of the committees were administrative, but others looked specifically at the work done by the GCE.
Turning to Strategic Objective One, she said there had been transformational meetings in the Department of Education, and at the Universities of Pretoria and Venda. Ultimately, there had been some engagement with the universities and they were given recommendations and a timeframe to implement transformational matters. The CGE would monitor progress over the next few months. The educational transformational conversations would expand to other universities to look further at the issue of transformation.
In addition to meetings with educational institutions, there were employment equity meetings and gender transformation hearings in all provinces.
The CGE was busy putting a final report on the Gender Barometer together. It had undertaken ten policy dialogues in regard to the gender barometer report, with the focus on technology and policy. For this year, the CGE was looking to collaborate with the Departments of Arts and Culture and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Authorities with regard to the barometer. The CGE had finalised the draft report, and it could be seen from the preliminary findings that there was numerical reliance on gender equality, but it was also crucial to engage substantively on some of these issues.
In terms of the Political Parties Projects, the first phase had focussed on representation and the second on monitoring elections. The goal was to access the level of women's representation and participation in political parties in the May 2014 elections. As part of that, the various manifestos of the political parties were examined to see what gender issues had been highlighted. A number of voting stations were also observed to see whether there were any challenges and whether the voting stations took into account gender and disability aspects. The findings indicated there was no evidence of systemic discrimination when election processes were being undertaken. There had also been considerable progress in terms of women’s representation in governance and political parties. However, by looking closely at the report, it was apparent that there were serious issues involving party leaders looking at gender equality and rhetoric on political participation.
In terms of Strategic Objective Two, the CGE was creating files for gender-based complaints. At the end of the third quarter, 647 new files had been opened. There were campaigns looking at gender discrimination and the CGE was targeting specific interventions in the religious sector. The Commission had focused specifically on femicide, because it had observed the prevalence of intimate partner killings. The presentation provided a breakdown of files opened by provinces, and the specific matters that had to be dealt with. Maintenance was a big issue during this quarter. There were 29 maintenance matters, which was much higher than the other complaints that the CGE normally received.
During the third quarter, the CGE had held 31 legal clinics. There had been 110 during the first three quarters. Based on previous recommendations from the Committee, the CGE had highlighted the areas where the clinics took place in the report, and had indicated whether those were rural or semi-rural areas. The Commission was still working on recording the racial profiles of participants in order to give the Committee a clear picture. By gender, of the 31 clinics, 69% of the participants were female and 31% were male. Based on the findings, there had been a high incidence of gender-based violence across the country. Many complainants were calling for help to get protection orders. There was still a high prevalence of domestic violence. The SAPS had helped to ensure some of the orders were served properly.
The CGE had also fostered public awareness. There had been workshops, dialogues and campaigns, and educational awareness programmes on gender issues. One of the requests from the Committee was to highlight how many people the CGE was able to reach when doing dialogues. The presentation indicated that 6 800 people had participated during the quarter.
There had also been airtime on community radio stations and on SABC channels to talk about different topics and engage with different communities on issues of gender. Also, the CGE had coordinated the celebration of International Rural Women's Day in six provinces -- only six provinces had been included because of money constraints and the desire to target the rural areas. There was still a lack of awareness and mainstreaming of disability issues, so the CGE would continue to champion that. There was a need to engage seriously in terms of gender-based violence. There had not been a national election plan to deal with these issues, so the CGE needed to ensure that partnerships and engagements took place. The CGE had also been engaging men and boys in the Free State on the topic of domestic violence.
Under Strategic Objective Three, the CGE focused on international compliance. While a lot of work had already been done, the CGE had looked specifically at the Africa Gender Development Index. A report had been finalized with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), but CGE was still exploring to what extend the CEDAW report matched what was happening on the ground. The report was supposed to have been ready in January, but was still in progress. That would have to be carried forward into the current financial year.
Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer, CGE, said that the outline included the budget overview, financial performance, financial position, cash flow, and other financial management matters. The budget had been allocated before the end of the last financial year. The national treasury allocation had been R67.2 million. Other income -- an estimated R2.7 million -- had been generated by the Commission, so the combined budget was R69.9 million. Up to 57% of the planned budget had gone to the core of the programme and to service delivery.
The cumulative spending for the period was R55.8 million, which represented 80% of the annual budget. The Commission estimated that for the third quarter, it would spend R15.8 million and in the fourth quarter, R17.3 million. The overall picture was that the CGE was consistent with its spending performance. Looking at the cumulative spending against the annual budget, it was R35.5 million against R46.4 million. Travel and accommodation had exceeded the budget by 22%, and venues and catering had also exceeded the budget by 22%. The CGE was under pressure, but it would implement stringent measures to make sure it stayed afloat. The Commission had had to pay R1.8 million to SARS, due to tax issues, but going forward, CGE was a fully compliant tax payer. In the third quarter, there was a 20% spending gap, mostly due to SARS fines.
The financial health of the CGE was sound and stable. Despite some funding challenges, the Commission was solvent and had assets that would allow it to deal with its liabilities. The CGE did not have many liabilities, but the biggest liabilities were provisions that had been made in relation to employment and staff issues.
With regard to cash flow, by the end of December 2013, there were cash holdings of R22 million, and at the end of December 2014, cash holdings were R12.4 million. The CGE had kept cash in the past, but it was now spending it on the acquisition of vehicles. Additionally, all loans had been repaid sooner than in previous years. Cash on hand was overall going down, but the CGE was very much liquid. Going forward, there would not be any excess cash or huge amounts of interest. Cash flow was something that needed to be managed quite tightly.
Addressing other financial management matters, Mr Putu said risk mitigation action plans were being regularly implemented by management and regular committee meetings were taking place. At meetings, all major risks were reviewed and discussed in-depth. One risk identified was electricity blackouts. Because of the budget cuts in regard to overall funding, the likelihood that the CGE would be directly impacted was high. There was always the risk of a fiscal loss of assets.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said it was obvious that targets were being met and the clinics had been successful. Most of the issues looked good. The Committee would like to lobby more for the CGE, but the Committee needed to understand what issues had been raised, what problems had been identified, and whether the CGE had had any impact. More than just slides, with numbers of participants, were needed. The Committee needed to know what challenges had been raised so it could be said it was worthwhile to give the CGE more money.
She asked about the specific role that commissioners played. What were their niche areas? What provinces were they representing? What were their key issues areas?
Ms Van der Merwe asked about the number of outstanding complaint cases. According to CGE, there were 526 cases that had not been finalised, and the Committee needed to understand why. Was CGE waiting on litigation, or assistance? Why were more cases being opened if others were not finalised?
On the topic of gender-based violence and maintenance, what was the next step? Was the CGE raising these issues at the national level? Had there been follow ups, and had they been resolved?
Ms Van der Merwe asked about the spending on venues and catering. How did the CGE plan on keeping its costs down?
Ms C Majeke (UDM) asked if it was possible to get more detailed information about the data and attendances for the different projects per district. She posed the idea of using an integrated approach involving other departments. She also addressed the issue of capacity-building. What did the CGE do to make sure that local projects were in place to sustain the work after it left the area? What were the outcomes of the consultations that happened before CGE left the area? She also asked if the CGE communicated with SAPS to deal with information relating to gender violence. Did the CGE get reports to make sure the issues of gender violence had been followed up on?
Ms M Chueu (ANC) noted that some of the slides on the finance presentation contained errors, and said she was unhappy with the mistakes and lack of proofreading. Some of the other slides were missing information and figures. It was important that the Committee saw all the information.
The CGE had mentioned that it was working with Public Works, but there was no other information about service delivery. The Committee could not help to solve problems related to service delivery if it did not know what the problems were.
In terms of placing stringent restrictions on travelling and accommodation, it was unclear why the CGE had taken five people to New York if the goal was to cut back on spending. Considering how much that trip had cost between accommodation and airfare, those were not stringent measures. In the future, the CGE should take only one or two people to advance the project and the conference.
With regard to the tax issues, the CGE needed to be aware that SARS had introduced more measures, and it was responsible for knowing what those measures were to ensure that mistakes did not happen again.
Referring to Ms Maema’s presentation, Ms Cheue said it should have included more information on the Employment Equity Act and on the need to address gender equality. When the CGE indicated that more work needed to be done with regard to gender equality, it was unclear what “more” meant. It needed to be explained in depth. In South Africa, people thought it was the norm to oppress people, and it was the CGE’s responsibility to change that norm and show the people what to do and what not to do.
There were also issues that needed to be raised about maintenance in rural areas. Had the CGE gone to the appropriate departments to raise the issues? Were changes happening? If changes were not happening, it would never be known if conditions were improving for people in rural areas.
Ms Cheue then addressed the CGE Chairperson, and asked if it had become the norm to present vague reports at Committee meetings. The CGE had not mentioned which provinces had the most issues. Even when reference had been made to a province, no reference had been made to which area in the province. In the next report, there needed to be more elaboration so the Committee could understand the summaries provided in the presentation.
Ms D Robinson (DA) agreed with Ms Chueu and Ms Van der Merwe. She said that the CGE had taken better control of the budget even though there were still issues. However, when it came to report writing, why did there need to be someone else who wrote the reports externally? Why could a current CGE employee not write the reports? That would be one way to cut down on expenses.
The Committee needed more information about the legal clinics. How were they conducted and what did they do? There also needed to be more information on the role of the commissioners. How was their performance assessed? What was the follow up, what was their role? In the presentation, there had been some mention about bonuses not being paid. Why did people have to be paid bonuses to do their jobs? Bonuses were not necessary. Since it was not a profit-making entity, bonuses should not be applicable.
When talking about using public media, the CGE should provide a list of the community radios that it was using. There were some that the CGE did not know about that some of the Members could recommend. Every corner of the country needed to hear this information.
Echoing Ms Chueu’s sentiments about travel to New York, Ms Robinson also addressed the length of the trip, and said that the amount of time was too long. The constituents were asking why the CGE always travelled. What did the CGE do when it travelled? What did they bring home?
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked about the 720 targeted gender-related complaints. How many files were finalised in the second quarter? The information for the third quarter was also not clear. An explanation was needed on the 529 files pending – were they related to the financial year and how were they related to the backlogs?
Ms G Tseke (ANC) also addressed the filed complaints. Were the 466 pending files in 2013-2014 part of the 529 reflecting in the third quarter? Why did the Eastern Cape have the highest number of pending files?
In terms of the legal clinics per district, it was confusing. Could the CGE explain what Rural 1, Rural 2, Rural 3 and Rural 4 meant? If the CGE was referring to districts, they had actual names. There were also geographical and typing errors.
There has been a decline in women’s representation in political parties. There needed to be a set of laws that allowed the government to enforce equal representation. Could the CGE help to promote this change?
Ms M Matshoba (ANC) asked about the issue of supply chain management. What criteria was the CGE using to inform all the provinces about the tenders? Were disabled women given a chance to get to the tenders?
The Chairperson asked about the purchasing of cars -- how many, what type, and how long would they last?
The Chairperson mentioned that the meeting had run out of time, and suggested that the responses be written and sent to the Committee, due to the time constraints.
Ms P Bhengu proposed that Ms Maema and Mr Putu summarise answers in 2-3 minutes.
Ms D Robinson said that she agreed with the oral summary, but it must be ensured that a written summary gets completed.
Mr Shozi, CGE Chairperson, began the summary by addressing the international travel issue. Before 2008, the CGE had not been engaged in international work. It involved important for work, like CEDAW. There had been only two international trips in the last financial year.
Regarding the work of commissioners, it was very important. One should not get the impression that commissioners were not working. Commissioners worked with the secretariat, and gave reports on the variety things the CGE does. There was also an internal committee that was checked by the commissioners. They also made their own presentations. The final report would include more work on the commissioners. There would also be a handbook about how the CGE works with the secretariat at the provincial and national levels.
Ms Maema addressed the issue of summarisation on the presentation. There was a wealth of information, so it became hard to put a presentation together. The CGE would provide a Word document to the Committee before the next presentation, to accompany the Powerpoint slides. The CGE had a 66-page report, and it was hard to turn that into 36 slides. There was specific information about specific stakeholders and specific topics.
The Chairperson reminded Ms Maema that some of the questions posed were just to probe issues and provide considerations to take into mind. The relationship between the Committee and CGE was one of friendship, not one with animosity.
The Chairperson thanked the CGE delegation and repeated the importance of providing detailed information.
The Chairperson asked the Committee to read through the minutes so that could be addressed at the next meeting. Due to the time constraints, the minutes could not be voted on now.
Ms Robinson seconded the suggestion.
The meeting was adjourned.
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