Auditor-General South Africa provided recommendations for an effective implementation of the annual performance plan (APP) for the Department of Women in the Presidency for 2016/17 to ensure gender mainstreaming and gender responsive budgeting. For the Committee to gage the relevance of the targets in the APP, it would need to have a deep understanding of the DWP mandate and the anticipated view and expectations set out in terms of the National Development Plan (NDP) in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). Targets had to be achievable and time bound. However, historically the DWP had focused on financial compliance rather than performance. It was important, therefore, for the Committee to ensure that DWP and CGE did execute their mandate because if they did not, the promises made in the 2030 Vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) possibly would not be achieved. There had to be an alignment between the Director-General’s performance agreement and that of the Minister’s to ensure that the APP would be implemented.
In its review of the draft DWP 2016/17 APP, AGSA had compared the key initiatives set out in the NDP to ensure that they were aligned and taken through to DWP APP. It had noted that Outcome 14 of the NDP had not been initially included in the DWP Strategic Plan but that had been rectified. AGSA had also found misalignment between the APP and the Strategic Plan during comparison.
Key performance responsibilities in the DWP and CGE APPs:
- There had to be an action plan for those targets that were not achieved within the set quarter for achievement.
- Quarterly reports were most important for tracking supporting documentation throughout the financial year. Secondly these reports would highlight early enough when a target would not be achieved within the set quarter for achievement. The action plan would detail what would be done as a catch-up mechanism in trying to achieve that unachieved target by the end of the financial year. Eventually what had to be avoided was a situation where DWP and CGE had executed their full budget but their mandate was not sufficiently executed.
If there was a key new matter that had not been originally included in the original APP and Strategic Plan, the Strategic Plan could be amended with the approval of the executive authority and tabling to the National Assembly via the Portfolio Committee. Any other changes including the reduction or removal of performance targets because a Department realised it would not achieve such target, AGSA generally did not allow that in terms of its auditing standards; except when the reason was there was a transfer of function from one department to another. Another valid reason for underachievement could be delayed tenders where the Committee had to be made aware by DWP management.
The Committee’s concerns included that DWP had highly qualified personnel currently but it was still lamenting its lack of capacity; it could not be that in 2016 DWP was still spending the larger portion of its budget on administration; that DWP was purposefully vague in its targets so that those indicators could not be measured. It also asked if DWP’s organogram had been completed yet and if changes to the Annual Performance Plan mid-year needed to first be approved by Parliament.
Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) review of the 2016-17 APP
Ms Trudie Botha, Senior Manager: AGSA, said that she was responsible for auditing the Department on Women in the Presidency (DWP) and the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). The briefing was critical especially in terms of the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) which spoke to where government was going. Both CGE and DWP had received clean audits which meant that though there had been material adjustments there remained sufficient controls to ensure that financial statements had been properly prepared. This meant that adequate oversight was taking place. However, historically the DWP had focused a lot on financial compliance rather than performance. It was important, therefore, for the Committee to ensure that DWP and CGE did execute their mandate because if they did not: the promises made in the 2030 Vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) possibly would not be achieved. The presentation was based on the work AGSA had done on the already tabled Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2016/17 and the Strategic Plan of DWP.
Ms Botha said that there had been a complaint historically that AGSA evaluated and found concerns on Strategic Plans and Annual Performance Plans after they had been already been reviewed. The resolution was for AGSA to review APPs and SPs before they were tabled and that was occurring annually. The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) did a similar review before AGSA completed its own review.
Key Committee considerations when reviewing the APP
In order for the Committee to gage the relevance of targets in the APP it would need to have a deep understanding of the DWP mandate and the anticipated view and expectations set out in terms of the National Development Plan (NDP) in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). Targets had to be achievable and time bound. The Committee also had to ascertain from the DWP and CGE whether they had sufficient, skilled capacity that understood their mandate and was committed to executing that mandate. In the last engagement AGSA had had with Minister Susan Shabangu she had committed to decreasing the DWP 14% vacancy rate though she was also mindful of recruiting the most suitably skilled personnel for these vacant posts. In that regard there had to be an alignment between the Director-General’s performance contract and the Minister’s in terms of ensuring that the APP would be implemented. That alignment in performance agreements had to cascade down so that at the end of reporting, no one would be realising then that there had been no personnel assigned to a specific target.
The Committee had to ensure that both DWP and CGE completed quarterly reviews so that DWP could ensure a strengthened internal audit unit to do a preliminary review of its indicators, so that achievement could occur. AGSA was not involved in that process. However, it did assess what kind of findings the internal audit would have found during DWP and CGE’s internal review.
Key performance responsibilities in the DWP and CGE APPs
- There had to be an action plan for those targets that were not going to be achieved each quarter.
- Quarterly reports were most important for tracking supporting documentation throughout the financial year. Secondly, the quarterly reports would highlight early enough when a target would not be achieved within the set quarter for achievement. The action plan would detail what would be done as a catch-up mechanism in trying to achieve that unachieved target by the end of the financial year. Eventually what had to be avoided was a situation where DWP and CGE had executed their full budget but their mandate was not sufficiently executed.
If there was a key new matter that had not been originally included in the original APP and SP, the SP could be amended with the approval of the executive authority and tabling to the National Assembly by the Portfolio Committee. Any other changes including the reduction or removal of performance targets because a Department realised it would not achieve said target, AGSA generally did not allow in terms of its auditing standards; except when the reason was there was a transfer of function from one department to another. Another valid reason for underachievement could be delayed tenders where the Committee had to be made aware by DWP management. All over and underachievement had to be justified to the Committee and AGSA so that if the former occurred, the Committee could ask whether that was a result of setting targets too low. And if there was underachievement, would that not be because the targets were too ambitious from the onset. Eventually what had to be recognised and realised was that targets had to be set at the appropriate level.
Comparison between current year and prior year budget
Ms Botha said that normally what AGSA advised departments to do was to limit the money going to administration so the bulk of the budget would go to the key mandate of a department. Critical for the Committee to note would be whether that 60:40 split towards administration could be turned around by DWP.
Review findings on draft DWP 2016/17 APP
AGSA had compared the key initiatives set out in the NDP to ensure that they were aligned and taken through to the DWP’s APP. It had noted that Outcome 14 of the NDP had not been initially included in DWP SP but that had been rectified. AGSA had also found misalignment between the APP and the SP during comparison.
After revision of the Technical Indicator Description (TID), AGSA was also concerned about the definition of indicators. For example, the majority of the indicators would say: ‘we will implement initiatives’. The question following such a definition would be ‘what initiatives’. An initiative could be as random as: one would send an email to someone else. Essentially an indicator had to be well set-out to say for example: ‘I will send an email; after that I will have a follow up meeting; after which I will have strategic session so that I can have a key person in a particular office that will drive the achievement of the set target’.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) said that most of the concerns that AGSA had with DWP were the same the Committee had previously when it was still the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). For example, it could not be that in 2016 DWP was still spending the larger portion of its budget on administration. Concerns about technical skills, vacancies, administration budget versus actual performance on programmes, targets not being well defined had been repeatedly raised by the Committee over the years. She was of the sentiment that DWP was specifically being vague in its targets so that those indicators could not be measured eventually. What else could AGSA recommend the Committee do to see the changes it wanted from DWP because they had not been happening since prior to 2014.
Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) said that the DWP APP had originally had four programmes but they had been reduced to three. However, the budget of the most important programme, Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment, had not increased. Speculatively, one could assume that the budget from the removed programme had been diverted to administration which was highly concerning. More concerning was that the DWP had highly qualified personnel currently but it was still lamenting its lack of capacity. During the transition period from DWCPD to DWP, there had been an opportunity to ensure that DWP retained its skills.
The Chairperson asked if it were not procedural that if there was going to be a change at DWP, that the Committee had to be informed, since it had approved the budget. However, when changes were made, the Committee had not been notified. The Committee was now at a loss, because when people asked it what was actually happening at DWP, it seemed that there was no direction at all.
Ms van der Merwe reiterated the Chairperson’s sentiment as to whether it was allowable for DWP to make changes to its APP without consulting the Committee. As it was, DWP had spent almost its entire budget on administration with only 14% achievement on some targets. Could the DWP not be made smaller with fewer staff so that the money could go towards its key mandate?
The Chairperson asked whether the DWP organogram had been completed yet.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) wanted clarification on why there had been a review of the draft APP 2016/17 because the DWP had presented an APP and SP for 2015/16. What was the relevance of that exercise?
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that it seemed that the Committee was being drowned in paper and she was most concerned that the Committee was not being consulted when changes were being effected. What could the stakeholders with an interest in DWP do to make the constant changes stop? She was also concerned that the Minister was not coming to the Committee enough so as to account for the concerns that the Committee together with AGSA were having.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) noted that Minister Shabangu had recently returned from a United Nations meeting abroad and as such the Committee had not been able to invite her to this meeting. Some of the questions Members had raised were not really for AGSA as they would be better responded to by DWP. Were the rectifications to the APP made by DWP or had AGSA made them?
Ms Robinson said that she was not aware of the UN visit and that was something she had asked about before. Why was the Committee not informed about such engagements by the Executive Authority?
The Chairperson said that possibly Ms Robinson had missed that communiqué as the Committee had been informed about the meeting at the UN.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) said that the Committee would deliberate and pass a resolution about matters concerning the DWP. What one later found though was that the resolution would not have changed anything at DWP.
Other issues were the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007. Could the Committee explain to her what was going on with that? She understood that it was not part of the discussion that day but it was a concern. There was also the matter of accessibility for disabled persons at their places of work, what was being done to better accommodate them?
Ms Bhengu said that the matter of sex workers was an issue being handled by the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services and that of disabled persons and their accommodation was also being sorted through the Portfolio Committee on Social Development. Ms Khawula would recall that the Committee had had a joint sitting with that Committee where it had raised the concerns with the Department of Social Development (DSD). There had been responses in that regard though some members had not been satisfied with the responses. The Committee would certainly invite DSD to check on the progress made on the recommendations about disabled persons. Additionally, any further questions not relating to the Committee specifically, those could be submitted in writing to the relevant parliamentary committees.
Ms Khawula would request the Committee to invite the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to come and explain the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007.
The Chairperson elaborated that male sex work was not a novelty as some members would know that during apartheid male chefs in hotels and white households had been sex workers then. She said that when the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Bill was promulgated, it had been taken to all provinces for public hearings and there were representations by various groups. Essentially the Act was to protect individuals from illnesses such as HIV/AIDS.
Ms Botha said that AGSA had been fortunate enough to have met with Minister Shabangu in the last week of March 2016 and had raised its concerns with her. She had been able to explain and contextualise why there were so many challenges with the transition and why there was a challenge with understanding the mandate. Therefore it would certainly be better if the Committee invited Minister Shabangu to respond to the Committee’s questions, though she would try and give context to some of the questions by the members.
In terms of what else could be done, the Committee would recall that the DWP had gone through quite a few transitions resulting in leadership instability. Going forward, Ms Botha said she trusted that things would go better provided there was leadership stability. All the Committee could do was to continue its oversight with more engagements so that it was kept in the loop about developments. Certainly it was up to the Committee to sanction certain recommendations from AGSA’s reports.
Indeed there had been a 2015/16 APP tabled but it had been amended in December 2015 from four to three programmes and AGSA had received a final draft of that APP in March 2016 with the original four programmes. AGSA’s recommendation was that if APP was changed, it had to be reviewed and there had to be Committee oversight on that process. However, if an APP and a SP had been revised and approved by the Minister, AGSA used that approved version as the final document legislatively.
DWP’s skills audit had been finalised in December 2015 which was also why the Department had wanted to decrease the programmes to three as it wanted to realign its organogram to be in line with the three programmes. However, realising that the budget for 2016/17 was for three programmes they then had to go back to four programmes for 2015/16. Going forward though, DWP would have three programmes.
One thing about skilled personnel was that if there were people that had worked with the old mandate it possibly could be a challenge to change the mindset of individuals. Certainly the Minister would be better placed to answer that question. The organogram had been completed and was being implemented.
The rectifications made in the APP were made by DWP with the exception of Programme 2 (2.1 & 2.2) as the transformation mechanism was still misaligned at the time of AGSA’s second review.
Ms M Matshoba (ANC) said she was concerned about a female individual that was living on the street just outside the parliamentary precinct; she wanted to know what the Committee was doing to assist that female?
The Chairperson replied that assistance had been offered to the lady in question by Members of Parliament. However, she had refused. Further details on the matter would be entertained at the next meeting.
The meeting was then adjourned.
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