The Committee Content Advisor briefed Members on the Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report for 2015. Overall, the Department was not performing well. The Report did not mention how the budget was spent on the events hosted by the Department, or where it participated. Much emphasis was placed on expenditure, which was mostly spent on its employees rather than on its programmes. This was attributable to the top-heavy structure that the department had employed.
The Report further showed that the Department had about 33 outstanding targets to be met in quarters 3 and 4 respectively, which was viewed as highly impossible for the department to be able to meet those outstanding targets in that short period of time.
Members showed great discontent over the fact that the Department was focusing its mandate in the preparation and hosting of events instead of women and gender based programmes that had the real evidence based impact on the people in the ground. There was great discontent that the Department had not convincingly accounted for its budget, especially the donor funding. Some Members recommended that the donor funding which the department used to get from donors be forfeited, as there was no rationale for funding the Department, which was not focusing their activities on their mandate. Members even required the department to give a full report of its entire donor funding budget and what it had been used for.
All members dejected the top-heavy structure of the department, as they felt that it was failing to meet with the community structures and thus unable to come up with programmes that could benefit the communities. Some Members attributed failure of the Department to meet most of its targets to the top-heavy structure and recommended an immediate revision of the Department’s organogram. Some were even sceptical whether the department would be able to achieve the rest of their remaining targets whilst it had depleted its budget under the top-heavy structure it currently had.
Members were concerned that over and above the concerns that they had, the Minister responsible was not attending Committee meetings to give an account of the department’s performance and to answer the grievances the Committee had.
Women in the Presidency budgetary Review and Recommendation Report for 2015
Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Content Advisor for the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency, briefed the Committee.
The presentation focused on the implications of the President of South Africa’s State of the Nation Address implications on the Department of Women in the Presidency, promulgation of the new Department, budget review and the Committee’s recommendations for the Department of Women.
Overall the Department was not performing well, and this was attributable to the fact that they did not adopt an outcome-based approach; there was no evidence for their delivery targets or their focus areas.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) sought clarity on the approach adopted in dealing with questions and comments, whether they had to wait for the presentation to end or whether they could ask questions and or make comments along the presentation.
Ms D Robinson (DA) pointed out that there was no need in making comments, as the review process was already late as it was due for debate in National Assembly.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) emphasised that it was pertinent that the report had to be scrutinised, save that it would not be adopted in that meeting.
Ms Tseke was sceptical whether their recommendations were being taken serious as even the Minister of Finance had not replied to any of their past recommendations.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) had noted that in the report that restructuring of the Department had not impacted the performance of different programmes, including programmes focusing on children and disabled people. The rationale for the consistent performance was due to the fact that each programme was allocated its own budget; it was however startling that the performance of programmes focusing on women had declined.
Ms Tseke said the Department was in a difficult situation, which could be attributable to the fact that they had to be assessed on their two strategic plans which were focused on disability and children; which they had dropped without having accounted for the money they had been given under those programmes.
Ms Bhengu said the situation was not as bad as depicted by the report, the Department still had its own achievements which page 8 and 9 of the report did not mention as it focused mainly on the Department’s poor results. She asked for the removal of the phrase ‘but nothing else’ on page 5, bullet two.
Ms Tseke commented that the findings of the report that ‘the Department was focusing its mandate in preparation and hosting of events’ was to be deleted from page 6 as it was misplaced.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said the Department must be warned that it could no longer deplete its budget on hosting events instead of focusing on women and gender based programs.
Ms Tseke said Ms Abrahams had to table all the issues raised by the Auditor General so that the Committee could comment on them.
Ms Abrahams continued with the presentation and said there was no mention of how the budget was spent on the events hosted by the Department, and even where it participated there was no mention of how it spent the budget in those events.
Ms Bhengu sought clarity on the monitoring and evaluation findings on page 11 of the report.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said there was no mention of how beneficiaries of the programmes of the Department benefited from those programmes.
Ms Abrahams said the pertinent question Members had to ask themselves was whether the Committee was fulfilling its oversight mandate with efficiency.
Ms Tseke said the relationship the Department had with the people was one of event-based relationship and not programmes-sharing relationship, and that this should change. The people in Limpopo and elsewhere in South Africa knew nothing about the Department and its programmes.
Ms Abrahams continued with the presentation, focusing on the financial programme of the Department. Much emphasis was placed on the Department’s expenditure, which was mostly spent on its employees rather than on its programmes.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) pointed out that it was pertinent to note that empowerment programmes on women raised a legitimate expectation that after the implementation of the programmes, there should have been pointers to show that the programmes had empowered women.
Ms Tseke said that she was aware that about R2 million had been used by the department in the 2014/15 financial year, but there was no mention of it anywhere, not even in the Department’s annual report.
Ms Abrahams said the Committee had to ask the Department to give a full report of its entire donor-funding budget and what it had been used for.
Ms Tseke sought clarity on what constituted ‘goods and services’ as it seemed that much of the cost drivers of the Department emanated from ‘goods and services’, she believed that the ‘goods and services’ figure was hiding a lot of discrepancies and fraud on the part of the Department and thus sought the figure to be broken down to single items.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) sought clarity on why the Minister responsible was not in the meeting to answer the grievances of the Committee. There was no any evidence as to what the Department had achieved, and that continued to affect the poor people, as government expenditure was not reaching its beneficiaries, poor people. Even the Department of Social Development was failing the poor people on the ground.
Ms Bhengu assured Ms Khawula that the Committee was there to perform the oversight function on how the monies were spent in these government institutions, and that the Department of Social Development had to account on what it had done with its budget and the impact to the poor people.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said the Minister not attend the meetings was an issue of concern; even where the annual reports were presented she was nowhere to be found, and no apology received for her absence.
Ms Abrahams said it was pertinent for the Committee to have noted that the overall financial performance of the Department depicted that the Department had spent its entire budget without having achieved 90 % of its targets; overall cost drivers of the expenditure being compensation of employees and goods and services expenditure.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi was sceptical whether the Department would be able to achieve the rest of their remaining targets whilst it had depleted its budget.
Ms Tseke said the Department was not smart in setting targets, and should not complain when they were measured against the targets that they themselves had set.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi stated that the donor funding the Department had had to be forfeited, as the Department did not focus their activities on their mandate. There was no rationale for funding activities that were not empowering beneficiaries of the funding.
Ms Abrahams reported that the department had about 33 outstanding targets which were to be met in quarters 3 and 4 respectively, it was highly impossible that the Department would be able to meet those outstanding targets in that short period of time.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said there had been repeated complaints against the top-heavy structure of the Department which spent so much money on its employees; however, the said complaints were not addressed when the Department did its restructuring.
The Chairperson responded that the Department’s defence was that it was not a project driven department; she sought clarity on what that could have meant.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said there was no mention of what the Department had inherited from its predecessor and no explanation as to why the Department was not enforcing the gender policy that had been approved.
Ms Tseke, on problems posted by the top-heavy structure of the Department, emphasised that it was failing to meet with the community structures, and this was unjustified. The Department even failed to adopt the monitoring and evaluation framework that had been finalised by the previous Department; and this was done without consultation with the Committee and it was not even in line with the mandate of the Department.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said she was aware that the Department had complained that the gender policy had gaps, but stated that their complaint was without merit as they could not have identified the gaps without having implemented the policy to check whether it worked or not.
Ms Tseke emphasised that the Department was a very small department managing a very small portfolio, and as such there was no justification as to why it was under performing.
The Chairperson said that the performance of the Department was so wanting that even if a layman asked her for a briefing of the Department’s activities, she would not be in a position to answer.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that the department’s campaigns were not within its mandate.
Ms Khawula pointed out that the top-heavy structure was good for educated people who would be in a position of conducting research and office work, but the nature of the Department was that it needed people who were able to perform on the ground levels; there was no need for the top-heavy structure which deviated monies from the poor to the employees.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi pleaded that the Department should not be given any additional money going forward as it was unable to spend it on appropriate programmes that talked to its mandate.
Ms Bhengu said the Department also had a mandate of monitoring other departments in terms of what they were doing on social development, but if the Department was unable to manage their primary mandate, it was a serious issue of concern.
Ms Tseke emphasised that the Department’s organogram needs an immediate revision.
Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said that if could be better if more money was given to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) as they were more effective in their mandate, and if given a wider mandate with more financial resources, they would be able to perform efficiently.
Ms Abraham reported that she had received the Department’s replies to the issues raised previously by the Committee, together with the requested reports and contributions from Members. The draft report would be amended and circulated to Members. She believed the amended report would be ready for adoption by members on 27 October 2015.
The meeting was adjourned.