Department of Women & Commission for Gender Equality 2014/15 performance: Auditor-General & DPME assessments

Women in The Presidency

13 October 2015
Chairperson: Ms P Bhengu (ANC) (Acting)
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Meeting Summary

Summary
The Office of the Auditor-General explained that the Department of Women and the Commission on Gender Equality both audits had findings, and it gave recommendations to the Committee to raise with these entities in their meeting with them on the following day.

Members were concerned as many of the issues raised in this audit were raised in the previous year’s audit. They questioned the Minister’s ability to control this department as well as the existence of performance bonuses and performance contracts.

The Department on Performance, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) provided an evaluation of the Department of Women.

Members were concerned with the timing of DPME assessment as it seemed out-of-date. They suggested that DPME reevaluate timing so that this report could be more helpful. Questions were also raised about the timing and framework for action plans for struggling departments.

DPME agreed to reevaluate its timing. Currently, these reports are created when they are, to assist departments as they prepare to move into the next financial year. DPME explained what it is doing to assist struggling departments and discussed timelines for action plans.
 

Meeting report

Audit outcomes of the Women’s portfolio for the 2014-15 financial year
Mr Yusuf Essack, Senior Manager: Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA), reflected on the audit performed by AGSA on the Department of Women (DOW) and Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) for 2014/15 in order to assist the Committee in its oversight role of assessing the performance of the Department of Women.

Mr Essack explained the scope of the audits, and then showed the the results for the six key focus areas. He reported that both the DOW and the CGE did not comply with legislation in multiple areas.

He reported that there were three main root causes of these failures that should be addressed. First, the audit found that there was a slow response by accounting officers and senior management in addressing the root causes of poor audit outcomes for both entities. Next, the audit found a lack of consequences for poor performance and transgressions; however, the departments had improved in this since last year. Finally, both the DOW and the CGE were not filling vacancies in key positions quickly enough.

He recommended that action plans needed to be put into place with strict timelines. The audit committee should review these plans at least quarterly. In addition, the internal audit committee should assess if the implementation of these actions plans achieved the required outcome. AGSA recommends performance assessments should be conducted more frequently, and employees should be reprimanded if improvements are not made. Leadership must also ensure that employees who do not comply, face consequences. Finally, AGSA recommends that both the DOW and CGE should work to fill vacancies in key positions as soon as possible. However, these positions should only be filled by people that possess the necessary skills and experience.

Discussion
Ms M Khawula (EFF) asked what the entities told AGSA when asked why the vacancies had not been filled.

Mr Essack replied that he believed that representatives from DOW and CGE would be able to answer that question better, and the Committee is set to meet with them the next day.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that at times it is disheartening when each year the Committee learns that the Department is facing the same challenges as it did in the previous year’s audit. She agreed that it is time to engage with them and implement action plans with strict time frames. She asked why the vacant positions were not filled and why this was not a priority.

Mr Essack told Members that if the necessary positions do not exist on the establishing of the department, then it is considered a vacancy. He thinks the Department of Woman was slow in filling these vacancies because of the restructuring of the department. The law requires each department to have an internal auditor. Therefore, if they do not have that position, then it will be considered vacant. In addition, because they had no timeline as to when they are required to fill these vacancies, they did not do it before the audit took place.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) referred to chapter 7 of the DOW Annual Report. She asked why it is not up to standard with its financial statement and what measures can be put in place to ensure that this does not happen again.

Mr Essack advised the Committee to monitor on a quarterly basis any action plans that management says they will implement. He told the Committee that it had to be very clear in what it wanted and set very firm deadlines. He referred to the suggestions at the end of the presentation. 

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi also noted that there had been a lot of reallocation of funds within the department.

Mr Essack pointed out that there is a limit on how much a department can reallocate funds from the original budget, and this was taken into consideration during the audit.

Ms D Robinson (DA) said that she recognized the need for more skilled people to be appointed to these vacancies, however it worries her that all of these management structures are so top heavy. Most of the money is going to support top management, and a lot of this money is going to training them. While it is good to continue intense training, she would like to see better outcomes. She wondered why the departments are not appointing people who have the capacity to do their jobs already so they do not have to spend so much money on training them.

Mr Essack replied that the training is necessary because departments are not always able to fill vacancies with someone who is already completely competent. When looking at professionally qualified people, they are usually only trained in their field. Therefore additional training must be done to make sure they develop their skills to fit the exact needs of the department.

Ms Khawula was concerned about the Minister’s ability to control the department. It concerns her that the Minister does not attend these meetings, and that if she does not completely commit himself to this department, there will be a serious problem.

Ms van der Merwe noted that supply chain management seems to be a problem across all departments. This should not be a problem since there are guidelines on how this should operate. She asked why departments continue to disregard these regulations.

Mr Essack replied that this could be due to a number of factors including laziness and a lack of accountability. He is not able to understand why this happens.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) referred back to the Annual Report, and asked about the indication that employees have been receiving performance awards. She wanted to know who was not performing their job consistently well, and why they were giving these awards.

Mr Essack replied that this is a hard question to answer from an audit point of view. In a lot of cases there is a criterion that a person must reach in order to receive a bonus. What needs to happen is that unqualified audits need to be translated into performance contracts so that people are held to a more consistent standard.

Ms van der Merwe noted that there was mention in AGSA’s findings that only senior managers did not sign performance agreements, yet there are a lot of other employees that get bonuses. She asked why the department is giving out bonuses, because it is not supposed to do so if the individual has not signed a performance contract.

Ms Robinson asked why there were even performance bonuses if people have not performed their job correctly. She said that surely it should not be based on the audit alone, but it should not be based entirely from performance. When she asked this question last year, she was informed that these bonuses came based on the contract. She believes that bonuses should only come for something beyond the call of duty.

Mr Essack replied that in terms of contracts, there are 25% that did not have them. He said that this is an issue that needs to be taken up with management, because AGSA does not have any input as to what the contracts say. He agreed that logically the bonuses should be given based on performance, and suggested that there should be a clause stating that a performance bonus is not automatic, so if the organization ends up in a deficit the person cannot have a bonus because funds are not available.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) asked if AGSA has meetings with the Minister.

Mr Essack replied that he believed their last meeting was about a year ago, but he would need to confirm that to be sure.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Essack and AGSA for presenting this to the Committee, and told members to take this into consideration when they meet with the DOW and CGE the following day.

Department of Women MPAT 1.4 results by Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation
Mr Henk Serfontein (Chief Director: Management Performance Assessment, DPME) explained that the Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) was introduced in 2010 that aims to give impetus to the entrenchment of monitoring and evaluation practices, with a specific focus on the monitoring of management practices within an organization. He explained that the MPAT focuses on management practice in four key performance areas: Strategic Management, Governance and Accountability, Human Resource Management, and Financial Management.

He broke down the scorecard for the Committee, and explained that a 1 is not a good score, while a 4 is more ideal. He compared scores from previous years with the most current scores, which showed that the DOW had downgraded in many categories.

DPME recommends that departments need to develop improvement plans, and DPME can assist with its Integrated Support Programme to assist the struggling department. In addition, the DOW should consider reviewing certain policies that may be hurting its scores.

Discussion
Ms van der Merwe asked for clarity. She brought up the fact that it is DPME’s job to look at the representation of women in senior management positions. She noted that there is a lack of women senior managers. She had written to the departments to get this information and it is looking bad. Also most departments do not comply with the quota of employing 2% of positions with people with disabilities.

Ms Khawula said that women’s empowerment is concerned with women across all disabilities and all colors, which she does not believe is reflected in the employees of the departments.

DPME apologised if he misspoke but he said that it was his impression that the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) is responsible for looking after diversity within the public service, however DPME does monitor it. In addition, DPME does engage with departments to try and understand why they are not meeting their diversity targets. He said that there seems to be a correlation between departments reaching their diversity targets and performing well on audits. He figured it is about the culture of the work environment.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that she has a problem with the presentation as the report is supposed to cover the 2014/15 financial year, yet the report was mostly from 2014.

Ms M Matshoba (ANC) asked if DPME could elaborate on the last quarter and asked why there was a delay in the findings.

Mr Serfontein agreed that his department should assess the time period for which they present their findings. He indicated that each department also does self-assessments year round, and he is not at liberty to share those results. He recommended that if the Committee wanted different assessments they could ask departments for their self-assessments. He agreed to work on finding a process that allowed DPME to give Parliament more recent results.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that it appears that the department is improving, which contradicts the information in the Annual Report. She asked if next time DPME could give the Committee a more accurate reflection of what is actually happening.

Mr Serfontein replied that he was not aware that he was presenting in a way that indicated that things were good in the DOW. He said that 1 and 2 are not acceptable scores. It was a goal to have most categories receiving a level 3 score, which is acceptable, however level 4 is ideal.

Ms Khawula said she was pleased that DPME follows the performance of all departments, because this is very important work. She asked if anyone from DPME has gone to the departments to find out why there is a lack of compliance, and why issues are not being resolved.

Mr Serfontein replied that they do try to engage with departments on what is causing them not to comply. He said that in some places policy is very difficult to comply with, so they are working on resolving some of the policy issues. He said that there will be discipline within departments for people who are not operating at a level 4. In its engagements with departments, DPME provides assessments and indications as to why it believes the department is not meeting the standards, and they encourage the departments to respond.

The Chairperson asked if there is a timeframe for the recommendations that the department has made at the end of the presentation.

Ms Tseke followed up by asking when DPME is going to implement an Integrated Support Programme.

Mr Serfontein replied that they are continually providing assistance through workshops and events. The DPME is working on a cluster of programmes that will hopefully go on line next month to provide additional support to the more challenging departments. He said that he could check on the timeframe.

The Chairperson reminded Members to ask these questions directly to the DOW and CGE the following day. She asked if DPME had a list of each department’s performance, and if so, how does the DOW compare to the rest.

Mr Serfontein replied that there is a ranking of departments. He apologized for not knowing the DOW’s exact ranking, but he recalled that it is in the bottom half. He agreed to forward this information in writing to the Committee so that they will have the information for the meeting with the DOW the following day.

The Chairperson asked how DPME could assist departments that are not meeting their disability targets, and how should departments budget for this.

Mr Serfontein said DPME is working with the DPSA to come up with a framework and requirements for departments to have a reasonable access policy in terms of funding and capability. He said that in his opinion not employing persons with disabilities is not necessarily an issue of money. He said that department culture has a huge role to play with this issue. However, it is appropriate to consider adding to budgets where necessary.

The Chairperson asked if DPME considered releasing this information on a quarterly basis rather than an annual basis.

Mr Serfontein said that to his knowledge DPME has not considered this, because they do not have the capacity to do so.

Ms Tseke said that in reviewing the budget they would take recommendations from these reports. She said that since this can have a huge impact on the budget, the timing of the release of these reports is crucial, and for her, this timing is wrong. She asked why DPME cannot release these reports in conjunction with Parliament’s budget review.

Mr Serfontein replied that he will relook at the budget review process and its timing. DPME releases this information at this time to allow the departments to have it before they create plans for the following year. It is important that they have this information in going forward with their personnel budgets and action plans. He said that he would look into a way in which DPME could continue to do this and better assist Parliament as well.

The Chairperson thanked DPME and hoped that next time there would be better findings. She told the Committee to use this information to prepare questions for the DOW and CGE.

She adjourned the meeting.

 

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